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Poor Will's Almanack: May 28 - June 3, 2024

Elderberry bushes with white flowers in bloom
U.S. Forest Service
Elderberry bushes with white flowers in bloom

This is Poor Will's Almanack, for the time of early summer, with the sun in Gemini, and the moon now the fledgling moon, under which young birds leave their nests.

On May 20, 1852, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal:

"Perchance the beginning of summer may be dated from the fully formed leaves, when dense shade begins. I will see.”

This final week of May, the dense shade has moved up all the way from its source along the Gulf of Mexico to high in the northern United States and across the flats and piedmont of the East Coast as leaves continue to expand.

In the South, under the closing canopy of the Midwest, columbine, wild geraniums, ragwort, chickweed and catchweed lie back, their yellowing foliage dividing May from June.

Out in the sun, elderberry bushes show white flowers, and giant bull thistle bloom.

Blackberries set their fruit. The corn has sprouted in the fields, and farmers are taking the first cut of alfalfa. When the canopy of leaves is complete, then beetles attack you beet greens. Damselflies and dragonflies hunt the ponds. Flies are bothering the cattle, and ticks are roaming the brambles.

Cricket song grows louder, and the earliest fireflies flicker in the lawn. Tadpoles turn into toads and frogs and finally move to land with their new legs. Almost every gosling has hatched throughout the country.

Along the Georgia and Florida coasts, male alligators bellow out their courtship calls beneath the full, high trees.

We see it like Thoreau saw it, and more.

This is, perchance, summer for sure.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with more notes on the seasons. In the meantime, watch the final trees fill in, telling you it really and truly is summer for sure.

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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.