By Bill Felker
In her suit of green arrayed,
Hear her singing in the shade - Caty-did, Caty-did, Caty-did! — Philip Freneau
The Moon and the Sun
The Buzzing Cicada Moon reaches apogee, its position farthest from Earth at 3:00 a.m. on August 2. It continues to wane through its fourth quarter until it becomes the. Restless Billy Goat Moon at 8:50 a.m. on August 8. Rising in the morning and setting in the evening, this moon passes overhead in the middle of the day, encouraging creatures to be more active at that time, especially as the cool fronts of August 4 and 10 approach.
As August begins, the Sun begins to speed up its apparent descent to equinox, its declination falling half again as fast as it did a month ago. By the start of the second week of August, it will be one third of its way to autumn.
Nights grow longer in August, almost one hour and fifteen minutes longer by the end of the month. The first week loses two minutes in a day; by the last week, the loss is up to three minutes every 24 hours. Even though the days shorten, the average percentage of possible sunshine per day increases to near 80 percent, the highest of the year.
August 3, 4 and 5 are the last days of the summer on which there is a 40 percent chance of highs in the 90s, and chances of highs in the 80s are steady at around 50 percent. Cool days do occur 15 to 25 percent of the years, and afternoons only in the 60s are occasionally recorded between August 2 and 11. Morning lows are typically in the 60s, although one fourth of the nights carry temperatures in the middle 50s. A nighttime temperature in the 40s is possible now for the first time since the first week of July. The likelihood of rain increases to 60 percent, the highest since the 3rd of July, and the second highest of the summer. Clouds block the sun all day three years in a decade.
(Events in Nature that Tell the Time of Year)
Honeysuckle berries ripen, and hickory nuts and black walnuts drop into the undergrowth. Arrowhead is in full bloom along the shores of rivers and lakes.
This is the first week of ragweed time, and the first week of late summer. Golden and purple coneflowers, and white, pink and violet phlox still dominate the gardens. Red trumpet vine still curls through the trellises. Mums appear in the dooryards. The red stonecrop pushes out.
Green acorns fall to the sweet rocket growing back among the budding asters. Black walnut foliage is thinning.
Robin calls increase, short clucking signals for flocking, fledgling guidance and migration. Starlings and warblers become more restless. Hummingbirds, wood ducks, Baltimore orioles and purple martins start to disappear south; their departure marks a quickening in the deepening of late summer.
Mind and Body
The S.A.D. Index, which measures seasonal stress on a scale from 1 to 100, rises into the moderate 40s this week because of the powerful new moon and Dog Day heat. Milder temperatures that often accompany the August 10 cool front should bring some relief.
In the Field and Garden
Potato diggers have usually dug about one in ten summer potatoes by today. Half of the field corn should be in dough.
Regional farmers have cut up to three-fourths of the second crop of alfalfa.
More than half of the soybeans could be flowering or setting pods. Oats and the second cut of alfalfa, running neck and neck, are ordinarily three-fourths harvested, and the third cut of alfalfa hay is well underway.
Growers are accelerating the harvest of processing tomatoes and peppers. The peach harvest peaks, but will continue until the end of the month in cool years.
The harvest of winter wheat and oats is complete throughout the nation.
Surprise and Surprise Again
By Pliny Fulkner, Happy Times Farm
The Catholic seminary I attended as a young teenager brought together a wide spectrum of young men, and very few of us were really called to the priesthood. In the process of discovering our lack of vocation, we acted like regular boys and played a lot of tricks on one another.
When I was a sophomore, my archenemy was a cool guy named Crosby. He was always making wisecracks about me and hassling me.
So when I killed a six-foot water snake in the sloughs of the river down below the seminary building one Saturday morning, I knew just what to do with it.
Now all of us sophomores slept in one big dormitory room full of beds, and I was able to sneak into the dorm in the afternoon and tuck the snake into Crosby’s bed, putting its body mostly under the pillow, and propping the head just right so that when he pulled back the covers, it would look like the snake was going to strike.
And when it was time for bed, and all our group prayers were said and hymns sung, we filed into the dorm and got ready for bed.
Suddenly, there was a scream from Crosby’s side of the dorm. Everyone rushed over to see cool Crosby making a girly face and pulling the bloody snake out from between his sheets. Nobody knew who put it there, and I felt pretty good.
That is, until the next day when I opened up my desk to find a giant, gruesome snake bleeding all over my books and papers, its head appearing ready to strike.
Did we ever grow up?
Well, yes we did. Crosby was the first to realize that God was not calling him to the priesthood. He left the seminary at the end of his sophomore year. Maybe the snake urged him to consider his options.
It took me a little longer. I went through a year of false piety, then fell victim to a blue-eyed brunette.
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ANSWERS TO LAST WEEK’S SCKRAMBLER
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THIS WEEK’S RHYMING SCKRAMBLER
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