Poor Will’s Almanack
By Bill Felker
The days and months are long
the world is vast
and idleness is happiness – Kuan Han-ch’ing (c1250 A.D.)
The Moon: The new Strawberry Moon waxes through the period, ripening strawberries and reaching apogee, its position farthest from Earth, on May 26. It enters its second quarter at 11:23 a.m. on May 27. Rising in the morning and setting after midnight, this moon passes overhead in the afternoon.
The Planets: Moving retrograde into Cancer, Venus is still visible at sunset, and Mars, remaining in Cancer shares the horizon with Venus after dark. Saturn in Aquarius is visible in the east before dawn. Jupiter in Aries, rising after Saturn, is the brightest Morning Star.
The Stars: At 10 p.m., Virgo is due south, and bright Arcturus, the largest star in the central sky, is almost overhead. When you go outside before dawn, you’ll see the Milky Way above you and the Great Square moving in from the East, fertile Pisces right behind it. To the far west, the spring planting star, Arcturus, is the brightest setting star.
The Shooting Stars: The Eta Aquarids are still active through May 28. Look for them in the east before dawn.
Weather Trends: The last of spring’s 23 cool fronts arrived on May 24, typically preceded by rain. The May 24 high-pressure system is usually the last frost-bearing front to northern gardens, and the days following its arrival are unseasonably cold one year out of three. After its passage, the chances for frost fall to almost nothing. Unstable meteorological conditions are likely to precede the last cold front of May (on the 29th).
The Natural Calendar: This is the time when the smell of cut hay fills the countryside, when strawberries, cherries, and wild black raspberries ripen. Fireflies glow in the yard. Red, white, and yellow clovers flower. Pie cherries, mulberries and black raspberries are ready to pick. The fat Moon should make them extra juicy.
Pollen from grasses reaches its peak as bluegrass, orchard grass, timothy, red top and Bermuda grass all continue to flower.
Climbing roses and tea roses open before Japanese beetle season begins. When you see your first rose, look for wild parsnips and yellow sweet clover in the fields, poison hemlock in the wetlands, pink spirea and privet bushes blooming in town, catalpas and panicled dogwoods flowering beside them, river willows and angelica blossoming near the rivers, poison ivy blooming in the woods.
Most warblers have flown north by this time of the month, and almost all other spring migrants have either arrived or have passed through the area. Spring turkey hunting closes throughout much of the region; update your turkey journal, noting which dates and weather conditions were the most successful.
In the Field and Garden: Fertilize asparagus and rhubarb as their seasons end. Side dress the corn. Blackberries and wild black raspberries are blooming along roadsides of the Lower Midwest. That is when sunflowers are in full bloom in California, and spring wheat and oats are just about all planted in the North. When you see nettles waist high, then check the garden for cutworms. And when Canadian thistles start to bud, check for alfalfa weevils, armyworms and corn borers in the fields. When you hear spring crickets sing, look for leafhoppers in the garden and snapping turtle eggs along the rivers.
Heat stress can slow the rate of gain in livestock. Protection from the weather, plenty of water and adequate feed and supplements may help to reduce weight loss.
Countdown to Late Summer
• Just a few days until the first mulberries are sweet for picking and cottonwood cotton drifts in the wind
• Two weeks until wild black raspberries ripen, until fledgling robins peep in the bushes and fireflies mate in the night
• Three weeks until bee balm blooms and beckons all the bees
• Four weeks until the start of day lily season and cicadas chant in the hot and humid days
• Five weeks until thistles turn to down
• Six weeks until sycamore bark starts to fall, marking the center of Deep Summer
• Seven weeks to the season of singing crickets and katydids after dark
• Eight weeks until ragweed pollen floats in the wind
• Nine weeks until blackberries are ready for jam and brandy
• 10 weeks until aster and goldenrod time
The Best Mother
By Mrs. Iola Creamer, Jamestown, Ohio
I grew up on a farm, and my mom always set her own hens to hatch her baby chicks. She would usually set 10 or 12 hens with 15 eggs each.
We had this little bantam hen who showed signs she wanted to set, so Mom gave her seven or eight regular hen eggs this one and only year.
My job was to help Mom get our chickens coops ready. We had a little wood wagon with iron wheels we used to move our coops in the barnyard closest to the house.
These coops had been made by my dad from scrap boards. The roof on them was slanted from front to back and covered with tin so they wouldn’t leak. The floors for them were loose boards sawed to fit each coop. A large stone was placed on the top of each coop so it wouldn’t blow over.
So this year a coop had to be made for Mrs. Bantam and her brood. My brother made a coop for her out of a wooden box. When the day came to put the baby chicks out, Mrs. Bantam’s coop was placed in the middle of the line of coops. A small opening door was in the front of each coop, and for a few days a brick was put in the door to keep the hens in but allow the little ones to go out.
Later a small piece of twine string fastened to a nail on the coop was tied to one leg of each hen to keep her close by. It wasn’t too long before they got their freedom to venture out. It’s hard to believe, but these hens always knew which coop was hers and which chicks were hers.
Mom always went out as dark was nearing to shut up the coops with a board and the brick as a precaution from varmints. This one particular hot night, she decided to check some of the coops and found out some of the hens didn’t have all of their chicks under them.
In checking Mrs. Bantam, she found that the little hen had “clucked” into her coop all of the missing chicks. Mom said she was “full to capacity.” What a wonderful little mother hen she was!
I am now 88 years old, and this is one of my many cherished memories from my childhood.
This story appeared in Poor Will’s Almanack on August 28, 2008.
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. Yes, you are a genius.
THIS WEEK’S RHYMING SCRAMBLER
Follow the summer with Bill Felker’s A Daybook for June in Yellow Springs, Ohio and A Daybook for July in Yellow Springs, Ohio. These daybooks contain all the nature notes used to create Poor Will’s Almanack. Order yours from Amazon, or, for an autographed copy, order from www.poorwillsalmanack.com. You can also purchase Bill Felker’s new book of essays, The Virgin Point, from those sites.
Copyright 2023 – W. L. Felker