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Views and opinions: Fireflies light up the sky and cricket song adds ambience


June 11-17, 2018

All through the long, bright days of June

Its leaves grew green and fair,

And waved in hot midsummer’s noon

Its soft and yellow hair.

-John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Corn Song”

Almanac horoscope

The Daddy Longlegs Moon, becoming the Turtle Hatching Moon on June 13 at 2:43 p.m., waxes throughout the week, reaching perigee (its position closest to Earth) on June 14 and entering its second quarter on June 20 at 5:51 a.m. Rising in the afternoon and setting after midnight, this moon passes overhead in the evening.

Between June 19-23, the sun holds steady at its solstice declination of 23 degrees, 26 minutes, and the day’s length remains virtually unchanged. The stability of the relationship between Earth and sun during these days creates the shortest nights of the year. Summer solstice occurs on June 21 at 5:07 a.m., the sun entering the middle-summer sign of Cancer at the same time.

Following Jupiter, Saturn is visible in Sagittarius in the early-morning sky until the end of the month. By chore time in the early morning, the sky has moved to the way it will appear on an October evening: Hercules is setting, the Summer Triangle shifting into the far west, Pegasus almost overhead and the harbingers of winter, the Pleiades, appearing on the horizon.

Weather trends

This week of June always brings an increase in the likelihood of highs in the 90s, and the average percentage of afternoons in the 80s rises above the average percentage for 70s for the first time in the year.

Highs in the cold 60s are rare, occurring just 5 percent of the days. This week also brings more sunshine than almost any other week so far in the year; 85 percent of the days have at least partly cloudy skies.

After perigee on June 14, the influence of the waxing moon diminishes for the remainder of the period. Sunshine and relatively mild summer temperatures combine with reduced lunar influence to eliminate seasonal stress for most people.

The emergence of fireflies and the calls of the spring field crickets help to improve the evening. Winter wheat is golden-green, the corn is growing tall and, if a person only sees what is close at hand, he or she might think that all is well with the world.

Field and garden

Throughout the country’s midsection, harvest beans and squash, strawberries, pie cherries and the first black raspberries. New moon time (this week) is favorable for pruning shrubs and trees that flowered earlier in the year.

Put in the last of the hot-weather vegetables (like tomatoes, squash, eggplant and peppers). The new waxing moon also favors the continuing harvest of spring vegetables. Throughout the East and Midwest, lily season creates a crescendo of color that peaks in 4-5 weeks.

The natural calendar: Catalpas and privets and hawthorns and pink spirea bloom now, and the number of fireflies grows in proportion to the number of thistle blossoms in the fields. The first chicory, first daisy fleabane, the first great mullein, the first Asiatic lily and the first tall meadow rue open.

The first raspberry reddens, and the first orange trumpet creeper blossoms. Bindweeds and sweet peas color the fences with pastels.

In the wetlands, it is the time for poison hemlock and angelica. In the shade, poison ivy, fire pink and honewort are flowering. At the edge of the forest, wild plants include blue-eyed grass, silver yarrow, yellow sedum, bright moneywort, fire pink, daisies, yellow sweet clover, wild roses, wild iris, dock and smooth brome grass.

In the garden, blue veronica, yellow coreopsis, deep purple loosestrife and the first wave of the floribunda roses come into flower.

Marketing notes: Plan to offer lamb and chevon for Independence Day cookouts or tailgate parties at parades and celebrations.

Fish, insects, livestock and birds: As the morning birdsong quiets, young blackbirds join their parents to harvest the ripening cherries and mulberries. Painted turtles and box turtles are out laying eggs.

Now is the time for insect infestations to reach the economic threshold. Cucumber beetles come to the pumpkins, melons, squash, gourds and cucumbers. Look for rose chafers and two-spotted spider mites on your rose bushes. Japanese beetles start to attack ferns. Chinch bugs hatch in the lawn, and powdery mildew becomes a problem in the garden phlox.

Monarchs, tiger swallowtails, red admirals, sulphurs, blues, question marks, cabbage whites, fold-winged skippers, silver-spotted skippers, tortoiseshells and buckeyes could be arriving at your flowers.

In lakes and rivers, fish are stimulated by the afternoon and evening moon and by the falling barometer before the cool fronts of June 15 and 23.

Almanac classics

A Joke That Backfired

This is a true story that happened in my family more than 100 years ago. My Aunt Meg was a small but feisty woman. Her husband decided to play a joke on her. It backfired, and he had the bruises to prove it!

Aunt Meg was afraid to stay alone at night. One evening, her husband and a friend decided to go ‘coon hunting or something. The friend brought his wife to visit Meg so she wouldn’t be alone.

For some time, the ladies sat visiting quietly by the fire. Suddenly, they were startled by a loud knock at the door. The frightened ladies called out, “Who’s there?”

They were even more frightened when there was no answer. The knock came again. They finally decided that they had to answer the door.

Aunt Meg, armed with a sturdy stick from the wood-box, stood ready while her friend opened the door.   In walked their husbands. As Aunt Meg was beating him, her husband cried, “Meg! It’s me, it’s me!”

While continuing the beating, she answered, “I know it, doggone you!”

I’ll bet he never tried to scare her again.

(This story originally appeared in the Almanack in May 2005)