POOR WILL’S ALMANAC FOR 2016 contains Bill Felker’s journal, positions of the planets, dates for meteor showers, new names and phases of the moons, notes on the forty-eight seasons of the year, the calendar of flowering plants, the S.A.D. Stress Index, the Allergy Index, holidays for farmers and homesteaders, descriptions of every cold front expected in 2016, and twenty-four reader stories (Almanack Literature).
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Samples of Poor Will’s Almanack for 2016
Here are no stories told you of what is to be seen at the other end of the world, but of things at home, in your own Native Countrey, at your own doors, easily examinable with little travel, less cost, and very little hazard. This book doth not shew you a Telescope, but a Mirror, it goes not about to put a delightful cheat upon you, with objects at a great distance, but shews you yourselves.
Joshua Childrey, 1660
Poor Will’s Almanack for 2016 offers a nature-based outline of the year in which what happens to plants and animals can be used to tell time.
All seasons are constructs of individual events and objects. Without those parts, there is no whole. Seasons are also like moveable feasts that change according to latitude and altitude. For example, although early spring comes at different times of the year in different locations, that season usually displays many markers or events that are similar from place to place. The daffodils bloom in Georgia earlier than in Wisconsin; however, daffodils are markers of early spring in both locations.
In an attempt to bring the happenings of time-in-nature in sync with calendar times, Poor Will’s Almanack is divided into 48 seasonal chapters, each chapter offering notes on 48 different phases of the year, and each chapter for each season lists suggested dates for those seasons at average elevations along the 40th Parallel.
Readers who live in southern states will find that many of those dates can be moved up by between two and six weeks. Readers who live in northern states and at high elevations will find that most of those dates are quite optimistic, and so they should move them back two to six weeks. And like the Almanack’s Calendar of Blooming Plants, the dates given here propose sequence and context rathern than exact accuracy. Although the reader will necessarily make adjustments for his or her location, the 2016 format will show patterns that can be applied throughout North America.
The first section of this book offers a reference overview called The Outer Framework of the Year. This section contains a standard Gregorian calendar, a description of the 74 cold fronts of the year, a S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Index, an Allergy Index, lunar phases and names of the moons, equinox and solstice times, a guide to meteor showers and position of the major planets, a calendar of religious and ethnic holidays for homesteaders, and a list of estimated dates for the first bloom of plants, shrubs and trees at average elevations along the 40th Parallel.
The Periodic Seasons of the Year section is divided into 48 chapters, each one focusing on one phase of the year. Every chapter contains a brief seasonal quotation, notes on the progress of the natural year, Bill Felker’s journal, and, in every-other chapter, an “Almanack Literature” contribution by one of Poor Will’s readers.
THE OUTER FRAMEWORK OF THE YEAR
The weather estimates in this Almanack are based on my charts of fractal weather patterns made between 1978 and 2015. Readers of my weekly and monthly columns throughout the United States have used these estimates successfully since 1984. For best results, readers in the East should add 1 to 2 days to specific days mentioned in the overviews. In the West, subtract 1 to 2 days.
Major high-pressure systems cross the United States an average of once every five to six days, and nearly 80 highs cross the Mississippi River in a year. Fronts move more quickly in the colder months; October through March can bring up to eight waves of high pressure every 30 days. The warmer months between April and September are more likely to have six or fewer fronts; June, July and August sometimes only produce two or three significant systems.
This regular pulse that characterizes the planet’s atmosphere was first recorded in detail by 16th century almanackers. It still forms the basis for annual predictions in today’s commercial almanacs, and can be used by anyone who keeps a weather journal to gauge the likelihood for rain or sun, heat or cold on any given day.
The Major Cold Fronts of the Year
Note: Weather near these dates is likely to be more severe when the arrival of high-pressure systems coincide with new moon, full moon and lunar perigee.
January 1: The New Year’s front is usually one of the most severe systems so far in the winter, and it is preceded by sleet or snow as far south as northern Florida. After its passage, temperatures are typically quite cold. A secondary disturbance often causes additional precipitation on the 2nd and 3rd.
January 5: As the year’s second major front approaches, milder temperatures and more precipitation are likely; thunderstorms are not uncommon in the South. After the January 5th high passes through, however, the cold returns with a vengeance, and the 8th and 9th are associated with some of the most chilling weather so far in the winter.
The S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Index
Current medical opinion suggests that the human brain may need a certain amount of sunlight for maximum wellbeing, and that seasonal fluctuation of hormones and of the body’s natural clock can often bring on shifts of mood. Sometimes lack of sunshine and seasonal mood swings can be debilitating; when they are, the problem is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.).
Knowledge is perhaps the best defense against S.A.D. The progressive shortening or lengthening of the day is easily measured. Major variations in the weather are as predictable as the course of the seasons. The average amount of sunshine for any given month is a matter of record.
This S.A.D. Stress Index is simply a way of measuring those natural phenomena which are assumed to be related to S.A.D.: the day’s length, the percentage of probable sunlight, and the weather. In order to create the Index, each of those factors was given a value from zero to 25, and then the three values were combined onto a scale of one to 75. Interpretation is simple: the higher the number, the greater the stress.
Index readings are most useful in combination with a record of your own moods. Reference to the Index when you feel out of sorts may be a way of getting a feel for how seasonal affective disorders influence your life.
Key for Interpreting the S.A.D. Index:
75 – 65: S.A.D. Alert: Severe Stress for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorders
64 – 50: Severe to moderate stress
49 – 35: Moderate stress
34 – 25: Light to moderate stress
24 and below: Only people with extreme sensitivity to S.A.D. experience seasonal affective disorders below an Index reading of 24.
Day Clouds Weather Dayl Totals
January 1: 25 22 25 71
January 26: 25 20 22 67
The Allergy Index
Estimated Pollen Count
(On a scale of 0-700 grains per cubic meter)
Major pollen source: box elders, maples, pussy willows, flowering crabs and cherries.
April 1: 10 April 10: 50 April 15: 100
April 25: 200 April 30: 400
The Moons of 2016
December-January 2015 – 2016: The Sparrow Flocking Moon
New moon 2nd quarter 3rd quarter 4th quarter
Dec 11: 5:29 a.m. Dec 18: 10:14 a.m. Dec 25: 6:11 a.m. Jan 2: 12:30 a.m.
January – February: The Skunk Mating Moon
New moon 2nd quarter 3rd quarter 4th quarter
Jan 9 8:30 p.,m. Jan 16, 6:26 p.m. Jan 23, 8:46 p.m. Jan 31: 10:28 p.m.
The Sun in 2016 (EST)
Perihelion . . January 2: 6:00 p.m.
Equinoxes . . …March 19: 11:30 p.m. . . . . . . September 22:10:21 a.m.
Aphelion . . . July 4: 11:00 a.m.
Solstices . . . .. June 20: 6:34 p.m. . . . . . . December 21: 5:44 a.m.
Meteor Showers in 2016
Meteor showers usually occur after midnight.
January 3-4: The Quadrantids (near Bootes)
April 21-23: The Lyrids (near the Summer Triangle)
The Planets in 2016
Jupiter remains in Leo from the end of 2015 all the way until August when it moves into Virgo and moves with that constellation until 2017. Rising from the east, it shadows Regulus, the keystone star of Leo, through the night until the middle of September – after which it disappears for a month and reappears as a morning star.
A Calendar of Religious and Ethnic Market Dates
February 8, 2016: Tet, Vietnamese New Year and Chinese New Year
February 9, 2016: Mardi Gras
A Floating Calendar of Bloom for Wildflowers, Weeds, Garden Perennials, Shrubs and Trees
Most of the notations about natural history in Poor Will’s Almanack are based on my observations over more than 30 years at average elevations along the 40th Parallel. The flowering dates in this calendar are approximate, but I have tried to show a relatively true sequence of first blossoming times during an average year. Although the dates on all flower calendars are somewhat arbitrary (and may vary by up to 60 days between the Canadian border and the South), this Almanack’s “floating calendar” can be used throughout the country by adjusting the sequence to fit the climate. For example, if snowdrops bloom in your yard on March 20th instead of February 20th, all the following blooming dates will follow more or less in the order given, but on later dates.
February 15: Skunk Cabbage (symplocarpus foetidus)
February 20: Snowdrop (galanthus nivalis), Aconite (eranthis)
February 22: Snow Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus)
February 23: Iris Reticulata
February 25 Silver Maple (acer saccharinum)
March 3: Baby Blue Eyes (nemophila)
March 4: Common Chickweed (stellaria media)
March 5: Small-Flowered Bittercress (cardamine parviflora)
March 8: Snow Trillium (trillium nivale)
March 9: Purple Deadnettle (lamium purpureum)
March 10: Mid-Season Crocus
THE PERIODIC SEASONS
OF THE YEAR
A Guide to Living in Harmony with the Earth
Each chapter for each season in Poor Will’s Almanack for 2016 lists suggested dates for those seasons at average elevations along the 40th Parallel. Readers who live in southern states will find that many of those dates can be moved up by between two and six weeks. Readers who live in northern states and at high elevations will find that most of those dates are quite optimistic, and so they should move them back two to six weeks. And like the Almanack’s Calendar of Blooming Plants, the dates given here propose sequence and context rathern than exact accuracy.
In addition to the division of the year into seasonal phases, this section of Poor Will’s Almanack offers a quotation that attempts to be representative the period; a brief summary of major events in each phase (Notes on the Progress of the Year); and a selection from Bill Felker’s Journal. Every other chapter contains a story by one of Poor Will’s readers, Almanack Literature.
AN INDEX OF THE SEASONS IN THIS ALMANACK
Phase 1: January 1 – 10: When the Last Cranes Fly South
Phase 2: January 11 – 16: When Owls Nest and Skunks Seek Mates
Phase 3: January 17 – 23: When the Fruits of Autumn Decay
Phase 1: January 24 – February 2: The Time of the Great Thaw
Phase 2: February 3 – 9: When Doves Call
Phase 3: February 10 – 17: When Dragonflies Hunt the Everglades
The First Phase
January 1 – 10
When the Late Cranes Fly South
Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw;
whether the eve-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast;
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining in the quiet moon.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Notes on the Progress
of the Year
Deep winter is the coldest time of the year throughout the United States. In the North, precipitation falls in the form of snow; rivers and lakes and the ground freeze solid. The last migrant stragglers, including the sandhill cranes, cross the 40th Parallel on their way to warmer areas. In the South, the final leaves come down, and new growth immediately begins again.
Around 3:20 in the afternoon, I took Bella, my border collie, out to Ellis Pond. As we began to walk, I thought I heard sandhill cranes. I looked up but couldn’t see anything, walked over towards where I thought the sound was coming from, but still couldn’t see cranes. And then the calls stopped.
But when I got home, I had a phone message from Michele at the Tecumseh Land Trust. She reported a flock of sandhills over the pond there at about 3:00 p.m., possibly the same birds that I tried to find.
A call and note from John filled out details of the sandhills’ visit to the sky over Yellow Springs:
“Sometime after 3:00, I heard the sound,” he wrote. “I ran inside and called my mom and said they were passing to the east—I couldn’t see them. I went back outside and still heard them, but was disoriented.
“Finally out in the intersection of Winter and Union Streets, I saw the flock: seventy-one (we counted them from Jane’s photos). My neighbor, Laura, was walking her Papillon. ‘Do you hear them? It’s the cranes!’ she said.
“We watched the flock circling for a good ten minutes, roughly over Dewine’s Pond. A small crowd formed in the street. My mom was also engaging passersby on her street to behold their passing. She said two had gone over very low just after I had called.
“After the main flock climbed several hundred feet, to maybe a thousand feet, they headed off to the southwest. Interestingly, while they had been circling, they were very chatty, as if checking in, commenting on their progress; but they really quieted down after they resumed their migration. My neighbor also noted this behavior.”
John closed with an original haiku:
On rhythmic wing beats,
slow, majestic—not geese! Calls
more heavenly bleats.
John Blakelock, “New Year’s Cranes”
The Tale of a House Lamb
By Graham Robertson
It was many years ago, so I do not recall all the details, but we had a ewe lamb which, for one reason or another, was raised in the house. Obviously against health codes, but shepherds are flexible.
She started out in the usual cardboard box next to the heat register. As she got a little older, she graduated to Pampers with a hole for her tail. She had the run of the house, and she fell into a routine where after her bottle she would curl up in front of the TV. Perhaps waiting for Animal Planet to come on.
At around two in the afternoon, she would move to a spot in the living room where the sun was shining down. She also enjoyed her lap time when she would fall asleep in my lap while I worked on my laptop.
When hungry, she made it quite obvious with loud baa’s, pleading that she was all bones and wool, and asking me to hurry with the bottle before the angel of death came. This phase lasted for several weeks until she outgrew the coverage of Pampers, and much to her dismay, was banished to a 6 x 6 foot pen in the garage.
As she grew, she was allowed out daily to roam the front yard, and she seemed to enjoy having races around the house with my son. Finally, when she required less frequent feeding, she was moved to the barn with the rest of the lambs. This became something of a challenge, as if she saw me leave, she would try to follow me back up to the house. No doubt she had the
understanding that “she was a house lamb.”
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