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Poor Will's Almanack: December 28, 2021 - January 2, 2022

Cincinnati - Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum - Cornelian Cherry Dogwood “Winter & Spring Collide”
David Ohmer
Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for first week of Deep Winter, the first week of the Tufted Titmouse Moon, the second week of the sun in Capricorn.

At the end of December, it can seem that winter will never end. But the sluggish motions of the season are more easily measured now than in the chaotic blooms and leaves of summer. This is a simpler place to begin to know the year.

January scatters the final wildflowers, or it feeds them to the chickadees and sparrows. Last year’s plants give way to the weather, leading the landscape back toward the sun.

Almost all the goldenrod and aster seeds are gone. Only a few wingstem and ironweed kernels still hang to their stalks.

The hulls of last June’s sweet rockets and August’s wild cucumbers are empty, brittle and delicate like shed snakeskin. The Japanese knotweed leaves hang like huge russet cocoons. Milkweed pods are stained and empty.

The dried flower clusters of purple coneflowers and zinnias, tough and unyielding a month ago, crumble between your fingers.

Bittersweet and euonymus berries still hang to their branches, but their firmness is gone. Osage fruit is darkening quickly, breaking down, becoming squashy.

Each change is transformation, measuring the progress of Earth toward spring.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Deep Winter. In the meantime, check the wildflowers and the weeds, creating the way to March and early spring.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.