By Bill Felker
Nothing is more certain than the burrowing
larvae of beetles and cicadas and hibernating
crickets and the underwater nymphs of dragon
and damsel and mayflies,
and vegetation’s peridot riot—
that will spin another ring on every tree and woody shrub:
In August the air will reverberate with their racket once more. — John Blakelock
The Third Week of Late Fall
Astronomical Data and Lore
The Manger Moon, new on November 15, waxes throughout the week, entering its second quarter at 11:46 a.m. on November 21. Rising in the middle of the day and setting at night, this moon passes overhead in the afternoon, encouraging fish and dieters to be more willing to bite at that time, especially as the cold front of November 20 approaches from the west.
Sunset is within just a few minutes of the earliest of the year; it will remain close to its earliest time until the second week of December, when it starts to set later in the evening.
The sun enters Sagittarius on or about the 22nd, having travelled more than seven-eighths of its way from autumn equinox to winter solstice. During this period, late-season tornadoes often move across the Great Plains, and sundogs appear in the sky.
An hour or so before sunrise, the stars foretell their evening early spring positions: Orion fills the west, and Sirius now promises April instead of December. Overhead, Cancer and Leo announce the March blooming of Azaleas across the South, and Regulus advises the setting out of cabbages and the greening of winter wheat throughout the Border States. In the east, Arcturus foretells daffodils and tulips, and the Corona Borealis wakes summer fireflies in Florida.
The sixth cold front of the month, arriving around the 24th, often brings rain or significant snowfall as it approaches. After the 25th, the percentage of cloudy days almost doubles over the average for the rest of November. Overcast conditions begin to increase the likelihood for seasonal affective disorders and contribute to complications with harvest. This November 24 weather system also marks the decline of average highs below 50 degrees and the end to any reasonable chance of a day above 70 throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.
Notes on the Progress of the Year
Along the highways, ironweed seeds are soft and white when witch hazels bloom. Goldenrod and thimbleweed are tufted like cotton, their foliage deep chocolate brown. Most of the milkweed pods have opened. A few blackberry bushes are bare; others are still red and purple.
Although many of the Osage orange, maples, oaks, beech, pears and sweet gum continue to hold on, the latest ginkgoes lose their leaves. The final white mulberry foliage comes down. Scarlet rose hips and the buds of pussy willows stand out. Mock orange, honeysuckles and forsythias are thinning; their leaf-fall measures the progress of the last phase of autumn.
Driving south from Chicago, you can still find Early Fall, catching up with the best of leafturn in Arkansas. Along the Gulf coast, the trees still hold their foliage, and colors haven’t even reached their peak. By the time you go south far enough to recapture Deep Summer, the monarch butterflies will almost be getting ready to start back north from Michoacan, Mexico, and robins will be restless to leave the Caribbean.
By the time the frost reaches Mobile, Alabama, it will be just about time for it to recede. By the time Second Spring is halted by snow and cold in Indiana, it will be reaching its fulfillment in Georgia. By the time the last leaves fall in the southern Appalachians during mid December, the first leaves will be emerging in Florida. The last day of harvest in Ohio will be the first day of planting a thousand miles south where the last wildflower of one year will be blooming beside the first of the next.
In the Field and Garden
Remove tops from everbearing raspberries. Cut back mums. Stake young shrubs and trees. Wrap young transplants to protect them against frost cracking and rodents. Bring parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme indoors for winter seasonings.
Work gypsum into the soil where salt, used to melt winter’s ice, may damage plantings. Fertilize pastures for improved winter hardiness and stimulation of growth in early spring.
Try to save your best quality feed supplies for the colder months. Use lower grade feed early in November, gradually increasing nutrient value and quantity throughout the winter.
The canopy of leaves continues to shed, revealing the high branches as well as the skeleton of the undergrowth. Deer, squirrels, turkeys and crows should be easier to spot in the daytime, opossums and raccoons at night. In the South, mistletoe appears in the tall trees.
Before supper, Ranger, my border collie, and I walked a corner of the park for the first time in several years. The fields there were white and gray with goldenrod seed heads. In the woods, the undergrowth was shedding, wood nettle all gone to seed, its bare umbels like antlers reaching above the tattering undergrowth.
Crows, hawks, blue jays called occasionally on the other side of the trees far off. I followed the river downstream, looking closey, well aware it was the same river and shore I had first walked along over forty years ago. The water was low and clear, most of the stones at the bottom visible.
My feelings: nostalgia, familiarity, loss, home, gratitude, confusion, peace. The future seemed part of that landscape, too, unimaginable in the same way that the decades of memories were indistinguishable, the repetition of walks over time blurring the past, closing its pores, making the present so dense.
Now You See Him
Now You Don’t
By Alice Killinger, Orrville, OH
Long before I came along, scandal appeared in my farming community. Appeared in the form of a naked man. Never when the men were home, mind you, but let them be away, and he would come out of the woods, across the field. Several of the farm wives saw him. Buck naked. At this farm and that.
Everyone was up in arms. Not just a scandal, but a threat to the safety of the whole township.
My great-grandfather heard the talk. He was pondering the situation as he drove his buggy back home from town. Jeb Stone was walking along up ahead, so Granddad stopped to give him a ride.
Jeb just burst out “Have you heard about the naked man who’s scaring eerybody?”
“Somebody’s got to do something about it,” Jeb continued.
Another nod from Granddad.
Trying again, Jeb asked, “What do you think about it?”
“I think,” Granddad said, “I know who it is.”
“You do? Who?”
“I think it’s you.”
I never heard about the rest of that conversation, but know what? The naked man was never seen in those parts again. Hmmmm.
Answers To Last Week’s Sckrambler.
In order to estimate your Sckrambler IQ, award yourself 15 points for each word unscrambled, adding a 50-point bonus for getting all of them correct. If you find a typo, add another 15 points to your IQ.
This Week’s Rhyming Sckrambler
HEOCERTN AETNRP VNETREP MOMCTEN
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