Dec. 3-9, 2018
As December begins, so truly does a new year. Even though plenty of remnants hang on in the land around me – a few pear, beech and lilac leaves, some forsythia and Japanese honeysuckle – there is not enough to keep me looking for the past in this present, not enough to keep me from plotting the beginning of another cycle.
The Starling Murmuration Moon becomes the new Flowering Jessamine Moon at 2:20 a.m. on Dec. 7. Although Jessamine flowers are not a fixture of northern areas, their appearance in the South opens the long encroachment of new life against the frozen barrier of winter.
Sunset remains at its earliest time of the entire year through most of the week, but then as December’s second half approaches, sunset actually starts to occur later in the day – a shift which starts the end of winter before it even officially starts.
Mars, in Aquarius, lies against the western horizon after dark. Venus, in Libra, followed by Jupiter in Ophiuchus, rises from the east before dawn.
Overhead in the night sky, the constellation Cassiopeia – looking like a very small dipper – lies a little south and west of the North Star in the Milky Way. According to mythology, Cassiopeia was the mother of the Princess Andromeda, and the god Poseidon placed Cassiopeia, her husband Cepheus, along with Andromeda, in the sky as a punishment for their pride.
The Geminid meteor show will peak on Dec. 13-14 near Gemini, with the crescent moon interfering only a little with meteor viewing.
At the arrival of the first and second December cold fronts, leaves often fall overnight from the silver maple, pear and beech. Early winter, the first period of consistently cold temperatures before solstice, often begins about this time. Tomorrow’s new moon increases the chances that the entry of that season will be strong.
When you get home from work around suppertime, your energy level could be lower than it was after work during the summer. That’s because your mind-body clock says it’s time to go to bed and conserve energy against the dark and the cold. And the early sunset time will be starting your melatonin flow as the sky darkens.
If you schedule a balanced snack between 3-4 p.m. and then do some form of exercise before or after dinner, you may be able to reset your physical and mental clocks and get a second wind. Of course, if you can sneak in a nap after your snack, that’s even better. Best of all, go to bed early!
Field and garden
Feed trees and bushes after leafdrop is complete. Fertilize the fields after harvest with organic matter, phosphorus and potassium to reduce soil compaction. Prune fruit-bearing bushes.
Bring in oregano, rosemary, parsley and thyme for winter seasonings. Stake weaker shrubs and trees. Mulch strawberries with straw. Prepare to transport goat and sheep cheese, Christmas cacti, dried flowers and grasses, poinsettias, mistletoe and ginseng to market.
Take care of winter maintenance before full moon (on Dec. 22). The week is also excellent for all livestock maintenance activities, especially worming, vaccinations, crutching and facing ewes, dipping for parasites and trimming feet.
Fish, wild game and birds: In the woods, whitetail deer enter their secondary rutting period, which lasts approximately two weeks. Crows flock to winter roosts. The new moon passes above fish and game in the middle of the day, making that time a fine lunar time to seek those creatures, especially as the cold fronts of Dec. 8 and 15 approach.
Marketing notes: Dec. 2-10, Hanukkah Festival of Light – this festival is eight days long and offers many possibilities for marketing.
The natural calendar: Except along the Gulf Coast, nearly every deciduous tree is ordinarily bare. Milkweed pods are open, their disheveled seeds drifting in the wind. Osage fruits are yellowing, broken and scattered by squirrels or opossums.
Even though this is one more week of endings, it is not a week of stagnation. Spruces are growing new needles in the parks. Caraway and henbit can be flowering in the sun, and a dandelion or a periwinkle will open in scattered fields and lawns.
Fresh chickweed, which sprouted at the end of the summer, is blossoming here and there. Catnip grows back beside thistles, moneywort, chickweed, wild geranium, leafcup, henbit and yarrow.
How Much Tissue Can a Woodchuck Chuck?
Last fall, late one day, I drove into my driveway and saw something odd moving back behind my barn.
I have a compost pile along a fencerow. The wife always has to have pink paper towels and Kleenex, and I dump this waste paper on the pile, together with the compost.
So here was a big, fat woodchuck gathering up these big pink things with his mouth, and he had a big grapefruit-size ball of these on each side of his mouth. He finally took off for his den, an odd sight to witness, and I haven't seen him since.