May 14 -20, 2018
The seasons, like greater tides, ebb and flow across the continents. Spring advances up the United States at the average rate of about fifteen miles a day. It ascends mountainsides at the rate of about a hundred feet a day. It sweeps ahead like a flood of water, racing down the long valleys, creeping up hillsides in a rising tide.
-Edwin Way Teale
The Swarming Termite Moon, becoming the Daddy Longlegs Moon on May 15 at 6:47 a.m., waxes throughout the period, reaching powerful perigee (its position closest to Earth) on May 17 and entering its second quarter on May 22 at 10:49 p.m. Rising in the morning and setting in the evening, this moon is overhead in the afternoon.
By May 21, the sun reaches about 90 percent of the way to summer solstice. The period between that date and the first week of July is the most stable solar time of summer.
Find Jupiter traveling with Libra in the southwest after dark. Saturn in Sagittarius is visible in the early-morning sky until the end of June.
At midnight, walk under the Summer Triangle, easily identified by its most prominent star group, Cygnus. Shaped like a cross or a swan in flight, this constellation foretells middle summer and the Dog Days heat of July.
The Eta Aquarids are still active through May 28. Look for them in the east before dawn.
Average highs climb into the upper 70s this week, and lows reach the middle 50s. Chances for an afternoon below 70 degrees decrease as the sun reaches its early summer position in Gemini by the weekend. A day in the 80s takes place eight years in 10, while frost wilts your uncovered tomatoes only 10 or 15 times in a century.
The days surrounding the May 20 cool front are some of the most turbulent of May, often marked by rain, tornadoes and high winds. The May 20 system also brings the threat of frost to the northern tier of states, but it typically spares tomatoes and eggplant in the lower Midwest.
The natural calendar: All along the 40th Parallel, the canopy of leaves closes within the next week or two, with maples and box elders coming in during late spring, sycamores and oaks at the beginning of summer.
Throughout the country’s midsection, cottonwood cotton is in the wind, signaling the start of elderberry and chicory blooming season. Honewort blossoms in the woods, cow parsnip in the wetlands.
Late spring takes on momentum as spiderwort, scabiosa, lupine, small-flowered mallow, day lily, stella d’oro lily, fire pink, yucca, blue flax, foxglove, achillea, swamp iris, wild grapes, cow vetch and lamb’s ear start flowering in the field and garden. Along the roadsides, blackberry brambles come into bloom. In the city, Kousa dogwoods flower.
Clover season spreads throughout the country this month. Relatives of alfalfa, the small black medic, purple vetch and the weedy yellow and white sweet clover take over the roadsides as well as the pastures in all but the northernmost states.
Field and garden
Be sure all building ventilation systems are in good order. Water and salt should be readily available wherever your livestock is located. When the first day lily opens, you should have all your corn in the ground, and it should have sprouted, too. If you don't have day lilies, the first thistles bloom at the same time.
Potatoes and commercial tomatoes and pickles have all been set out by the end of the month along the Great Lakes. By tomorrow, winter wheat will be at least a foot high across the central states and will soon be pale golden green below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Nature’s horoscope for planting is ideal this week: Under the dark moon, seed metabolism is higher in plants and sprouting improves. Human metabolism may rise as well. Bleeding is often heavier under the new moon, so be extra careful castrating new kids and lambs. And lunar lore and at least one study suggest that more females than males are born under the new moon.
Marketing notes: As Memorial Day approaches, prepare wreathes and flower baskets for farmers’ markets and your roadside stand.
Fish, game, livestock, insects and birds: When the clovers bloom, flea season begins for dogs, cats, goats and sheep. It’s time for Canadian and nodding thistles to flower too, starting in the South and moving up to the Midwest and up the West Coast by the end of May.
Flea beetles and leafhoppers start bothering the garden during clover season, too, and slugs reach their early peak, Flies bother the cattle, and ticks roam the brambles.
The third and final major wave of songbird migration reaches the Great Lakes in the last days of May, dominated by female magnolia, Canada and bay-breasted warblers, the American redstart, indigo buntings, the vireos and flycatchers. By the middle of June, virtually all migrations are complete, and nesting has begun in the marshes.
After locust trees are done flowering, then snow-on-the-mountain blossoms and sweet Williams, clematis and spiderwort open and white-spotted skippers and red admiral butterflies visit the garden.
The waxing moon will be overhead in the afternoon this week, making that time the best lunar time of all for catching fish, scouting for game and looking for migrating songbirds. The cool fronts of May 20 and 24 should improve fishing as they approach; however, after they pass through, fish often feed less. Birders could find or hear nighthawks, Acadian flycatchers, yellowthroats and more warblers.
What Are the Chances?
Last summer, my son, a farmer, was starting toward his house at lunchtime when he was startled to see a huge bird on the walk between himself and the kitchen door. He immediately thought of stories he had heard of ostriches that could deliver swift and dangerous kicks when encountered.
Retreating into the barn, my son used his cell phone to call his wife to look outside. By the time she got there, the bird had moved farther away, and together they decided it was an emu.
When the children heard of it, they called their neighbor friends to come see the exciting new bird that was, by that time, mingling with the cattle in the pasture.
At evening chore time, the family was at the barn when something swished past their heads and lit on a rafter. It didn’t seem to be the usual sparrow or pigeon they often saw. And it just sat there and looked at them.
The boys climbed up and found a parakeet that had obviously been a pet, for it allowed them to catch it and put it into a cage.
The next day, the rural mail carrier who had seen the emu on my son’s farm called to tell them their bird was a few miles east, and he thought they might be looking for it. A few days later there was an emu reported north of the farm. We never learned whose it was or if it found its way home.
The parakeet, however, delighted the children. They brought it to my house to show their grandpa and me. They took it to a youth function at church to show the children.
One day, my son’s former college roommate and his wife visited. The wife fell in love with the little bird, and since the children were becoming tired of caring for it, she took it home with her. It now lives in luxury near Zanesville, Ohio.
What are chances of two exotic birds finding their way to the same farm on the same day?