Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack

Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack


Bill Felker's almanack for the WYSO listening area, Southwest Ohio and beyond.More from Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack »

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Poor Will's Almanack: July 26 - August 1, 2016

The speed of summer seemx to be accelerating with the heat of Dog Days. I rest in my yard, holding the day close, binding it together with what lies around me. In my garden pond, the three-petaled flowers of the arrowhead opened overnight, a few days before they did last year. The yellow coneflowers are a week ahead of schedule. The zinnias and the Shasta daisies I planted from seed are finally blossoming, bright oranges and reds joining the white phlox and the pinks of the petunias. The lilies are almost done blooming now. Tent caterpillars hang from the apple tree, like they do every year about this time. The cabbage butterflies cluster at the purple loosestrife, up to a dozen at once, joined by the bees and a tagalong spotted skipper. Dragonflies weave back and forth, a giant black and white skimmer, three or flour big blue-tailed skimmers, a few needle thin bluets or short-tailed damselflies, too. A hummingbird visits the rose of Sharon. The young daddy longlegs are growing up,

Poor Will's Almanack: July 19 - 25, 2016

The year is 200 days old this week. Between the one-hundredth day and the two-hundredth day of the year, the land completes middle spring, passes through late spring and early summer, then enters middle summer. By the two-hundredth day, the cardinals sleep late. Katydids and crickets call in the damp, warm nights. The field corn is tall, the sweet corn and tomatoes are coming in, and the wheat harvest is complete. Only a few varieties of wildflowers bloom now under the dense canopy: leafcup, tall bellflower, wood nettle, touch-me-nots. The fields and fencerows show most of the color: bouncing bets, St. John's wort, teasel, milkweed, gray-headed coneflowers, white vervain, wild lettuce, heliopsis, germander, skullcap, great Indian plantain, blue vervain, wingstem, bull thistle, black-eyed Susans and small-flowered agrimony. In town, phlox and coneflowers have replaced the daffodils and tulips and lilies of the first one hundred days. Rose of Sharon is flowering instead of pear and

Poor Will's Almanack: July 12 - 18, 2016

Before eight o'clock this morning, crows and grackles were screeching in the mulberry tree. Sparrows were feeding heavily, black-capped chickadee weaving in and out of their flocking. Cicadas began to whine as the sun came up over the trees, hummingbirds came to the feeders. Spicebush swallowtails, skippers, cabbage butterflies, hummingbird moths, tiger swallowtails all explored the garden.Bundled in these and so many other events, the yard, the neighborhood – and, I suppose, my life – have passed some kind of high-timber line of summer beyond which the greener treasures of the center of the year grow thin. Looking about, I see that leafturn has started now in the undergrowth. At the park, hemlock, parsnips, and many dock plants are withered and brittle. June's clovers and grasses are past their prime.The astilbes are about gone; the ditch lilies are done; the Indomitable Sprit hydrangea's large, pink blossoms are browning; the spiderwort still blooms, but its foliage is discolored and

Poor Will's Almanack: July 5 - 11, 2016

My wife and I planted dozens of daylilies during the 1980s and 1990s, and each summer morning we counted the plants that were blooming. I still count lilies in the mornings like I have for over thirty years. This morning, there were forty-five plants in bloom. Others have long bud stalks, and I have sprayed them against the deer that love to eat them. Last year, the lilies started at the end of May. The greatest number of them in bloom at one time was sixty on the 10th of July. By the third week of August, only one or two remained. I will keep counting to the end. The trajectory of lilies follows so many other trajectories: the bloom and decline of mid-season hostas, bee-balm, and hydrangeas. It follows the pre-dawn robinsong that fades into silence by the third week of July. Lilies watch the late summer flocking of starlings, the buzzing and rising crescendo of cicadas, the commencement of the cricket chorus, the diminishing of fireflies. If counting one thing is always about counting

Poor Will's Almanack: June 28 – July 4, 2016

The Raspberry Moon wanes throughout the week ahead, reaching perigee (its position closest to Earth) on July 1 and becoming the new Coneflower Moon on July 4. As the Coneflower Moon waxes and wanes through July, it brings on the black-eyed Susans, gray-headed coneflowers, showy coneflowers, and the white, purple and red coneflowers. When their blossoms disappear, early fall will be fast approaching. The 4th of July is not only new moon day but the day on which the Sun reaches aphelion, its position farthest from Earth. Having begun to move lower each day on June 23rd the Sun has already traveled a little more than five percent of its distance to equinox by Independence Day. And throughout the month, the sun drops slowly from its solstice declination of 23 degrees 26 minutes to a late-summer declination of 18 degrees 29 minutes about a fourth of the way to autumn. The Sun may be weakening, if you believe the statistics, but the Dog Days dispute the facts. Sirius, the Dog Star is right

Poor Will's Almanack: June 21 - 27, 2016

Summer solstice is history now, and on June 23rd, the sun begins its six-month descent to winter solstice. Middle summer typically begins this week along the 40th Parallel, and it lasts until the Dog Days weaken in the first of the late summer high-pressure systems, about August 10. In these six to seven weeks, approximately an hour is lost from the day's length and the year turns toward autumn. Even though night lengthens in this middle season, the amount of possible sunshine reaches its zenith, and the percentage of totally sunny days is the highest of the year throughout almost all of North America. And between now and the end of the first week of August, average temperatures vary just one degree.Warmed by the waning sun, the Raspberry Moon wanes through the remainder of June, entering its final quarter on the 27th, ripening raspberries throughout the East, reddening strawberries in the Northwest, turning blackberries black in the South. Coming up late at night and setting in the

Poor Will's Almanack: June 14 - 20, 2016

Having entered its second quarter on June 12, the gibbous Raspberry Moon waxes throughout the week ahead, reaching apogee (its position farthest from Earth) and becoming totally full at 6:02 a.m. on June 20. Summer solstice takes place on the same day, at 6:34 p.m. Now is high tide in the year, and the berries grow fat and sweet beneath the glowing moon. "Taste the sugar berry sugar purple berry," I once wrote under the influence of a little mulberry wine, "sugar wild hot sugar sunning sugar berry, sugar in the sun." And now is high tide not only for the sugar sweetness of raspberries but for making mulberry wine – and pie , the purple berries practically harvesting themselves, falling to the ground across the South, ceding to berry pickers in the North. All across the nation's midsection, high tide is not only sweet but lush with shining yellow sweet clover and parsnips and moth mullein and birdsfoot trefoil and meadow goat's beard, with violet cow vetch and pink crown vetch. Cattails

Poor Will's Almanack: June 7 - 13, 2016

Events in nature generally occur in a fixed sequence, based on precipitation, the declination of the sun, and the effects of warm or cold days. And, usually, if something happens once, it will happen again. Now certainly history and daily life are full of events that did not or cannot happen again. On the other hand, neither human nor beast, fish nor fowl, would venture out into a world in which repetition did not occur. Frozen by uncertainty and unknowing, no creature would risk its existence in constant novelty. Observation would make no sense because who could draw conclusions from what occurs if the occurrence could not be repeated? Scientific method would implode. To the observer, matter would be an endless string of isolated, unreferenced, linear constructs, formed by the witness-mind. Comforted and encouraged by patterns of replication, however, we can make sense, shaping a universe rich in experiences which never occur in isolation, which are parts of the whole and which are

Poor Will's Almanack: May 31 - June 6, 2016

A few afternoons ago I was sitting in the back yard enjoying the mild weather and the sun. By chance, I happened to look up into the tall locust tree at the edge of my property. There, high on a branch, I saw a small yellow butterfly which appeared to be attacking a robin. The butterfly left its place on the branch, flew quickly at the bird, then away from it and returned to the tree. In a few seconds, it repeated the pattern. After three such assaults, the robin left, and only the insect remained, perched victorious and unmoving on the locust. The whole incident was over in less than a minute. Now, other than my personal observation, there is no evidence that butterflies can drive off robins.. Like stories of frogs aggressively guarding their territories against huge pike and carp, my bird-butterfly tale lies on the fringes of natural history. Still, the incident seems more than just an illusion created by my ignorance or by my distance from the ostensibly feuding creatures. In the

Poor Will's Almanack: May 24 - 30, 2016

The Mulberry Moon wanes throughout the week, coming into its final quarter at 10:29 p.m. on May 29. Rising near midnight, setting in the late morning to early afternoon, the moon will be overhead before sunrise. As the moon comes up, the Milky Way fills the eastern half of the sky, running from the north and "Z" shaped Cassiopeia, through Cygnus the Swan, then through Aquila and finally to Scutum and Sagittarius deep in the southeast. Although summer solstice occurs in the third week of June, the sun has already completed most of its midyear ascension by the end of May. All across the United States, the night is as short as it will ever be—about eight hours along the Canadian border, about nine hours in the central states, a little more than ten hours along the Gulf of Mexico. And under the sun or stars or moon, what goes around comes around: "One has only to sit down in the woods or fields or by the shore of the river or lake," writes naturalist John Burroughs, "and nearly everything

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