Dayton Daily News

End of winter always appears in the eye of the beholder

- Bill Felker Poor Will’s Clark County Almanac

So when you come to those dark February days of doubt, you go and listen to the maples, feel them, let their slow, impalpable pulse of soil and sun flow into you…. And you know that things are waking up down at the root of this tree. Sap is getting ready to work its way upward. You know, just as sure as you know what day it is.

— Hal Borland Lunar Phase And Lore The Skunk Courting Moon waxes throughout the week, entering its second quarter at 5:26 a.m. on February 12. Rising in the early morning and setting in the evening, this Moon crosses the region during the afternoon. Lunar position favors the pursuit of fish and game after lunch, especially as the weather systems of February 6 and 11 approach. The dark, waxing Moon also favors the sprouting and growth of seeds planted under lights this week.

Weather Trends

February 7, 8 and 9 frequently bring dangerous weather to the nation’s midsection and produce some of the most frigid mornings of the entire year. The third cold wave of the month, ordinarily the last severe system of late winter, arrives near February 11, bearing a high chance of precipitat­ion and sunless skies. But as this system moves east, the chances of milder weather become substantia­l.

The Natural Calendar

February 8: Cardinals began their mating calls before dawn in the last week of deep winter. Now they are in full song by eight in the morning, sometimes sing all day.

February 9: Depending on the year, growth occurs on ragwort, dock, sweet rocket, asters, winter cress, poison hemlock, sedum, mint, celandine, plantain, poppies, pansies, daffodils, tulips, crocuses, aconites, hyacinths and strawberri­es.

February 10: The pollen season, which ended with Early Winter, has now begun again across the South with the blooming of mountain cedar, acacia, smooth alder, bald cypress, American elm, red maple, white poplar and black willow. Bluegrass, which stopped flowering in midsummer, revives and starts its seeding cycle. As the February thaws bring moisture and warmth from the Gulf of Mexico, they also bring the pollen from all these flowers to the North.

February 11: More than half of the pussy willows have opened in a typical year. And all along the 40th Parallel, people are getting ready to tap maples for sap.

February 12: The day’s length is a full hour longer than it was on December 26. Azaleas bloom in Alabama. In the lowlands of Mississipp­i, swamp buttercups, violets and black medic are open. In the Lower Midwest, skunk cabbages are opening.

February 13: Owlets and young bald eagles grow inside their eggs. Riding the southwest winds, meadowlark­s, starlings, cedar waxwings, snow buntings, eagles, killdeer and ducks of all kinds migrate, accelerati­ng the appearance of spring.

February 14: When you see small brown moths on warmer afternoons, then you know that ducks are looking for nesting sites. Striped bass are often biting in lakes across the Lower Midwest as the sun warms the shallows. When you see tulip foliage emerging from the ground, then horned owlets hatch in the woods and sweet corn is coming up along the Gulf coast. Redbuds and azaleas are in full bloom in northern Florida, rhododendr­ons just starting to come in.

Countdown to Spring

■ Just a week until the first red-winged blackbirds arrive, and skunks prowl the nights and to the first snowdrop bloom and the official start of early spring – a time when maple sap season can begin at any moment

■ Two weeks to major pussy willow emerging season and the time during which salamander­s mate in the warm rains

■ Three weeks to crocus season and owl hatching time and woodcock mating time

■ Four weeks to the beginning of the morning robin chorus before sunrise.

■ Five weeks to daffodil season and silver maple blooming season and the first golden goldfinche­s

■ Six weeks to tulip season and the first wave of blooming woodland wildflower­s and the first butterflie­s

■ Seven weeks until golden forsythia blooms and skunk cabbage sends out its first leaves and the lawn is long enough to cut.

■ Eight weeks until the peak of Middle Spring wildflower­s in the woods

■ Nine weeks until American toads sing their mating songs in the dark and corn planting time begins.

■ Ten weeks until the Great Dandelion and Violet Bloom begins

In the Field and Garden

When the first knuckles of rhubarb emerge from the ground, then it’s time to seed your cold frames with spinach, radishes and lettuce.

When trees bloom early but the flowers are killed in the cold, then feed your bees to take up the slack.

When the first snowdrops emerge from their foliage (but are still not open), then be sure your cabbages, kale, Brussels sprouts and collards are sprouting under lights.

When aconites bloom, then spread fertilizer in the field and garden so that it can work its way into the ground before planting.

Tree tapping for sap is favored between the 15th and the 20th as redwinged blackbirds burst into song and the moon is fat and round.


The exact end of winter comes well before the thaws, arriving unseen in the coldest weeks of the year when the March and April bulbs follow their own subterrane­an schedules and push up through mulch beneath the snow.

Walking through the neighborho­od, I find evidence of that movement, find that some daffodil stalks have reached two inches high, and a few tulips and hyacinths are up at least an inch. Snowdrops and aconites are almost ready to bloom. Lilac buds are swollen, fat green and gold. On the pussy willow branches, a few catkins are cracking. Garlic mustard, wild mallow and henbit are growing new leaves. Chickweed is spreading quickly. Wild strawberri­es, celandine, wild onions, hollyhocks, sweet William, lamb’s ear, lungwort, dandelion, motherwort and great mullein have remained intact from fall and are waiting for a little more sun.

Spring, of course, is as much a state of mind as a state of nature. The beauty of a seasonal inventory is that there is never a correct number of things to find. The end of winter always appears in the eye of the beholder. Critical mass for the arrival of spring rests less on the total quantity of observatio­ns than on one crucial scent or sight or sound that tips the scales of private time. Each person encounters that pivotal event at a different moment and in a different way. And whenever that one event occurs, then the entire scaffoldin­g of the old year collapses, and all the pieces of the new year take on meaning as they fall into place. “Poor Will’s Almanack for 2019” is still available. You can order your autographe­d copy of the Almanack from www. poorwillsa­ All orders are sent priority mail. Or you can order from

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