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Celebrating the importance of worms in song and verse


March 5-11, 2018

The world’s great age begins anew,

The golden years return,

The earth doth like a snake renew

Her winter weeds outworn.

-John Davies

Almanac horoscope

The Ducks-Scouting-for-Nests Moon wanes throughout the week, entering its final quarter on March 9 at 6:19 a.m. and reaching apogee, its position farthest from Earth, on March 11 at 4:13 a.m. Rising near midnight and setting in the morning, this moon moves overhead throughout the darkest hours before dawn.

The sun: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. on March 11.

The planets: Watch the far west after sundown. Venus will appear this week very close to the horizon in Pisces. Find Jupiter and Mars just above the southeastern horizon before dawn.

The stars: When you go walking in the dark before the sun comes up to hear the first of the robin chorus, find the Big Dipper in the west, Cepheus (shaped sort of like a house) in the east.

Weather trends

The last or second-last major snowstorm of the first half of the year sometimes strikes the Middle Atlantic region this week, and the March 9 cold front is often the most dangerous and the coldest high-pressure system in the first two-thirds of March.

Mild spring temperatures not only contribute to improved moods, they also may help memory. Researchers have observed signs of better memory when the barometer is rising and the sun is shining in the spring. A study by Matthew C. Keller also suggests that “broadened cognitive style” expands as a person spends more time out-of-doors in the spring.

Unfortunately, sun, a high barometer and mild weather may not translate to better memory or cognitive ability during other seasons of the year.

The natural calendar: Worms cross the sidewalks in the rain. Pussy willows are often completely open, a traditional signal for the end of maple syrup time. Wild violet leaves start to grow as the day's length approaches 11.5 hours. Aster leaves appear. Horseradish leaves are usually an inch long this week. Virginia bluebells emerge from the ground.

Field and garden

Graft and repot houseplants. Dig fence post holes while the ground is soft and wet. Put in oats or ryegrass for quick vegetative cover. This is also a good time to seed and fertilize the lawn.

Warm-weather crops like tomatoes should be ready to set out on the first of May if you start them under lights this week. Try cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, squash and all delicate herbs or flowers indoors, too. Set out flats of pansies, cabbages, kale, peas, collards and Brussels sprouts as large-flowered crocuses bloom.

This is an early date for cherry trees to be in bloom in Washington, D.C., and the average date for flower and garden shows throughout the East.

The earliest daffodils come into bloom. Nettle tops are ready to pick for greens. Chickweed and dandelions flower in the woods. Honeysuckle leaves open. Wolf spiders hatch in the sun. Henbit blossoms. Day lily foliage is 4 inches tall. Buckeye buds are swelling. Raspberry and rose bushes sprout new foliage. Wild onions are getting lanky.

Fish, game, livestock and birds: The full spring robin chorus now begins before sunrise. Soon, song sparrows join in. Male red-winged blackbirds (that arrived about two weeks ago) sing in the swamps as females join them in their nesting areas.

Throughout the Midwest and North, crows pair off and select nesting sites. Purple martins arrive. Winter juncos depart. Peregrine falcons lay their eggs. Bald eagle chicks hatch. White tundra swans land along Lake Erie. The migration period for Canadian geese now peaks throughout the lower Midwest. Ducks arrive from the South in their most attractive mating plumage.

Fish become more active as the water gradually warms in the sun. With the moon overhead before dawn, early-morning angling may be most successful, especially at the approach of the March 9 cold front.

Marketing notes: Process or purchase night crawlers and redworms for retail markets (and your compost pile). This is the time to get your worm business growing.

Singing worm week

The first week of March is traditionally Singing Worm Week throughout the region. As the ground warms toward 40 degrees, earthworms become active and begin to use their beautiful voices. Some readers (who wish to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) have even written poems to celebrate this occasion.

In order to appreciate these verses, one vocabulary note may be helpful. An “annelid” is a member of a large class of segmented worms. There – so now you’re ready. Here’s the first poem, which explores the multifaceted dimensions of worm melodies:

It is quiet, it is hid:

The singing of the annelid.

Some are sweet, some are bittah:

Choruses of annelidah.

People are often surprised at night by singing worms. The following verse tells about such an experience:

All through the night, the sounds did swell

Like teeny voices from heav’n or hell.

I crept up to the garden wall

And peered inside, my ears a-ringing:

Oh my! I saw ‘twas WORMS a singing!

In addition to being good singers, worms are quite smart. The worm’s analytic ability is celebrated in the following pun-verse:

Now let’s salute the thinking worm:

His annelidics make me squirm!

Since worms continue to sing throughout the spring and summer, Poor Will invites readers of this column to submit appropriate singing worm verses. Send your poetry to Poor Will, P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, OH 45387, and $2 will be paid to the author of any verse printed in this column.