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views and opinions: Seasonal stress most likely to start falling after Feb. 20 
 

 

Feb. 18-24, 2019

In February, if the days be clear,

The waking bee, still drowsy on the wing,

Will guess the opening of another year

And blunder out to seek another spring.

-Vita Sackville-West

After the supermoon (full moon combined with lunar perigee, when the moon is closest to Earth), the moon wanes throughout the remainder of the week, entering its final quarter at 6:28 a.m. on Feb. 25.

This moon comes overhead before dawn, making sunrise the best lunar time of this week for angling and listening for birds. As the cold fronts of Feb. 20 and 24 approach, the falling barometer will encourage morning fish to bite and birds to sing even more.

Weather trends

Although high pressure sweeps across the nation around Feb. 20, the low that precedes that front often brings some of the warmest temperatures of the month. Even when it passes through, the system rarely brings major difficulties to travelers or farmers.

And as the barometer drops before the next front, it sometimes makes Feb. 22-23 some of the gentlest days since early December.

However, after the benign days of February’s third week that often force snowdrops and aconites into bloom, the chilly Feb. 24 front almost always pushes Snowdrop Winter across the lower Midwest. Since this high often clashes strongly with the moist air of early spring, snowstorms, flooding and tornadoes are more likely to occur now than at any time since Feb. 15.

The natural calendar

Feb. 18: Today is Cross-Quarter Day, the date on which the sun reaches half of the distance to spring equinox, entering the early spring sign of Pisces at the same time. The night has shortened by 90 minutes through the space of the last 60 days, and the speed of the change reaches real spring levels now, the remaining gain of 70 minutes occurring between Feb. 18 and equinox.

And the sun, which took 60 days to travel the first half of the way to equinox, suddenly doubles its speed, completing the second half of the journey in only 32 days.

Feb. 19: This is supermoon day; expect cold weather and increases in Seasonal Affective Disorder. But today should be the last of the worst of S.A.D. for most people.

Feb. 20: The cold front marks the end of the snowiest part of the year throughout the region. The likelihood of seasonal stress begins to fall steadily throughout February. Even though clouds usually continue to deprive the human brain of the benefits of sunlight, the length of the day complements the slowly improving temperatures.

Feb. 21: The violet and golden flowers of snow crocus, the white blooms of snowdrops and the bright yellow blossoms of aconites often begin their seasons during the last week of February. Those seasons last through the middle of March, if the weather is not too warm, and they are parallel to the season of red and silver maple bloom.

Feb. 22: The Delta Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak directly overhead in the early-morning hours.

Feb. 23: Although February and March still have plenty of clouds in store, the frequency of brighter days now shows a slow but steady advance.

Feb. 24: After Snowdrop Winter (between Feb. 23-27), geese follow the lead of blackbirds, marking ownership of the more favorable river and lake sites for nesting. More migrant robins join the sizeable flocks that overwintered in the exurban woodlands.

Field and garden

Broadcast clover in the pastures, and spread grass seed in the lawn after snow has melted and the moon is dark. Spread phosphate and potash as needed in your pastures. Pull back some garden mulch to allow soil to dry out and warm up.

As the new moon approaches, plant rows of peas, onions, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, asparagus crowns, spinach, turnips and carrots on milder afternoons. Then take cuttings to propagate shrubs, trees and houseplants; experiment with forsythia, pussy willow, hydrangea and spirea.

All summer-flowering plants like rose-of-Sharon and butterfly bush can be pruned in February or March. Trim back ornamental grasses, too.

From this point, it is:

•Just a few days to major pussy willow-emerging season and the season of salamanders mating

•A week to crocus season and owl-hatching time and woodcock-mating time

•Two weeks to the beginning of the morning robin chorus before sunrise

•Four weeks to daffodil season and silver maple blooming season, and the first golden goldfinches

•Five weeks to tulip season and the first wave of blooming woodland wildflowers and the first butterflies

•Six weeks until golden forsythia blooms and skunk cabbage sends out its first leaves, and the lawn is long enough to cut

•Seven weeks until American toads sing their mating songs in the dark and corn-planting time begins

•Eight weeks until the Great Dandelion and Violet Bloom and the peak of wildflower season begin

•Nine weeks until all the fruit trees flower

•10 weeks to the first rhubarb pie

Best of the Almanac

A Big Surprise

In the 1930s, before electricity and indoor plumbing, Halloween was very different than it is now. All kinds of pranks occurred, and things appeared in the most unlikely places. Maybe a goat was tethered on a porch roof, or a buggy atop a shed. Any movable object might be found across the street, in another yard, on the ball field or cemetery.

Those were tough times in the Depression years, and moving things was tolerated, but destruction of property was not, and if vandals were caught, they suffered unpleasant consequences.

In small towns, every home had a "necessary house" at the end of a worn path to the back edge of the yard, often next to an alley. They made it a tempting target for toilet-tipping. How frustrating for owners to find their outhouses lying with the fronts to the ground when they were really necessary!

After being a victim several times of that kind of tipping, one of our relatives decided to put a stop to it, or at least he was going to try. So, as evening darkness set in, the outhouse was moved a few feet forward. Then our relative hid, where he could wait and listen, no matter how long it would be.

About an hour later, he heard movements and snickering in the alley, then running footsteps.

What followed were surprised yells and moans of disgust. Their dirty trick had backfired on them. As they were likely wearing the only pair of shoes they owned, their fun was definitely over.

I don't know if he learned who the boys were, but he had the last laugh. It must have been a good lesson because the next year, his outhouse was still upright the morning after Halloween.

2/14/2019