Springfield News-Sun

As temperatur­es warm, sap runs in the maples

- Bill Felker lives with his wife in Yellow Springs. His “Poor Will’s Almanack”airs on his weekly NPR radio segment on WYSO-FM (91.3).

In February, if the days be

clear, The waking bee, still drowsy on the wing,

Will guess the opening of another year And blunder out to seek another spring.

- Vita Sackville-west

In the Sky

Along the 40th Parallel, the days now lengthen at the rate of 60 seconds every 160 minutes. Crows and doves and cardinals (and sometimes robins) are up by 6:45 in the morning. At 7:30, there is really a chorus of cardinals, blue jays, song sparrows, crows and titmice filling the landscape with sound.

The pointers of the Big Dipper are positioned northwest/southwest about 10 p.m.. When they point north-south at that time of night in a few weeks, Middle Spring will spread across the nation’s midsection.

The Delta Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak directly overhead in the early morning hours. Although February and March still have plenty of clouds in store, the frequency of brighter days now shows a slow but steady advance.

Phases of the Opossum Mating Moon and the Termite Migration Moon

Feb. 9: The Opossum Mating Moon is new.

Feb. 16: The moon enters its second quarter.

Feb. 24: The moon is full March 3: The Opossum Mating Moon enters its final quarter.

March 10: The Termite Migration Moon is new.

March 17: The moon enters its second quarter.

March 25: The moon is full.

Weather Trends

Although high pressure sweeps across the nation around Feb. 20, the low that precedes that front often brings some of the warmest temperatur­es of the month. Even when it passes through, the system rarely brings major difficulti­es to travellers or farmers. And as the barometer drops before the next front, it sometimes makes the 22nd and 23rd some of the most gentle days since early December.

However, after the benign days of February’s third week that often force snowdrops and aconites into bloom, the chilly Feb. 24 front almost always pushes Snowdrop Winter across the Lower Midwest. Since this high often clashes strongly with the moist air of early spring, snowstorms, flooding and tornadoes are more likely to occur now than at any time since the 15th.

The Natural Calendar

The cold front that arrives near Feb. 20 marks the end of the snowiest part of the year throughout the region. The likelihood of seasonal stress begins to fall steadily throughout February. Even though clouds usually continue to deprive the human brain of the benefits of sunlight, the length of the day complement­s the slowly improving temperatur­es. The violet and golden flowers of snow crocus, the white blooms of snowdrops and the bright yellow blossoms of aconites often begin their seasons during the last week of February. Those seasons last through the middle of March, if the weather is not too warm, and they are parallel to the season of red and silver maple bloom.

As temperatur­es warm, sap runs in the maples, partial to new and full-moon times. Horned owlets hatch in the woods. And between the third week of February and the middle of March, sandhill cranes often pass through southweste­rn Ohio on their way north to nesting sites, and grackles join the starlings at feeders across the Lower Midwest.

After Snowdrop Winter (between Feb. 23 and 27), geese follow the lead of blackbirds, marking ownership of the more favorable river and lake sites for nesting. More migrant robins join the sizeable flocks that overwinter­ed in the exurban woodlands.

The Robin Chorus

The earliest dates I have for the beginning of the robin chorus: Feb. 20 in 2018, Feb. 21 in 2023, Feb. 22 in 2017, March 2 in 2011, March 3 in 2004, March 4 in 2020, March 7 in 2012, March 9 in 2013 and 2021, March 10 in 2010, March 15 in 2008, March 16 in 2009 and 2019, March 17 in 2003 and 2005.

Countdown to Spring

Just a few days to major pussy willow emerging season and the season of salamander­s mating

A week to crocus season and owl hatching time and woodcock mating time

Two weeks to the beginning of the morning robin chorus before sunrise.

Four weeks to daffodil season and silver maple blooming season and the first golden goldfinche­s.

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

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

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

Eight weeks until the Great Dandelion and Violet Bloom and the peak of wildflower season begin

Nine weeks until all the fruit trees flower

Ten weeks to the first rhubarb pie

In the Field and Garden

Broadcast clover in the pastures, and spread grass seed in the lawn after snow has melted and the Moon is dark. Spread phosphate and potash as needed in your pastures. Pull back some garden mulch to allow soil to dry out and warm up.

As the new Moon approaches, plant rows of peas, onions, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, asparagus crowns, spinach, turnips and carrots on milder afternoons. Then take cuttings to propagate shrubs, trees, and houseplant­s; experiment with forsythia, pussy willow, hydrangea and spirea.

All summer-flowering plants like rose-of-sharon and butterfly bush can be pruned in February or March. Trim back ornamental grasses, too.


“The fisherman dreams of fish, till he can almost catch them in his sink spout.” - Thoreau, Journal, November 4, 1858

The backstream­s a few hundred yards from my home town are quiet in January. There’s ice along the shorelines. The water is dark, reflecting the cold skies and the black trees. The bluegills and rock bass, carp, suckers and small-mouthed bass that I sometimes catch there in the summer are either gone or fasting. Only chubs save me from Thoreau’s sink spout.

It is common knowledge that no fisherman who has a positive self-image will seek the ubiquitous river chubs, the least of the finny brethren. Little boys like to catch them, but they never bring them home. Well, if they do, they show them to their mothers but never to their dads. And suburbanit­es who are trying to get back to nature will sometimes settle for chubs.

There is no closed season on these fish. There is no limit on the number of them you can catch.

You can keep any size chub you want (anything longer than nine inches is special). You don’t need a license to pursue them. They are not protected because only large-mouthed bass and snapping turtles eat chubs on a regular basis.

But in January, I sneak away whenever I can, dressed up like a hiker, fishing pole telescoped into my backpack, canned corn, dough balls and pork rind hidden under a roll of toilet paper. On a good day, at a my favorite fishing hole, catching river chubs offers absolutely no challenge. No skill is needed. I love it. They bite on almost every cast. Even with the barb filed off the hook, I can catch supper in maybe a half an hour. Then, smuggled into the car in a plastic bag, secretly filleted and slipped into boiling oil with a little garlic, they are their own reward.

There is, as well, a level of fantasy in my excursions. Since no one cares about chubs, there are no serious records on chubs. The person who caught the biggest chub of the century probably threw it back in disgust. In fact, chubs may grow to giant proportion­s. Who would know or care? It may be that the 15 and 20 pound chubs, the ones that probably hide out along the gulf coast during the summer .... it may be that, right in the middle of January, they finally make it as far north as the meeting of the Little Miami and Yellow Springs Creek.

Then, if you give them just the right sized dough ball, on a small silver hook, they’ll strike like a shark, tear up the water, break the tip off your pole. They’ll charge the bank, burst up and bite the hell out of your boots...

Thoreau knew.

 ?? ?? Bill Felker
Bill Felker

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