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Poor Will's Almanack: March 13 - 19, 2018

two goldfinches in the spring
Flickr Creative Commons

The Ducks-Scouting-for-Nests Moon wanes through it fourth phase this week, becoming the new Golding Goldfinch Moon on March 17. Rising in the morning and setting in the evening, this Moon passes overhead near midday, then sets near Venus. At midnight, the Big Dipper is overhead, Orion sets in the west, and Libra (along with Jupiter) rises in the east.

Under the darkling Golding Goldfinch Moon, goldfinches begin to lose their winter beige, the first mosquito bites and the box elders and silver maples come into bloom. Foliage of lupine, phlox, columbine, coneflower, yarrow, sage, sweet pea, mallow, wild parsnip, goldenrod, snow-on-the mountain, New England aster, Queen Anne’s lace, pyrethrum, bleeding heart, lamb’s quarters and evening primrose is coming up across the countryside.

Water striders breed in the ponds and rivers. Mock orange leafs out beside the new honeysuckle foliage. In the wetlands, ragwort starts to bud when weeping willows glow yellow-green. In the woods, toad trillium pushes up through the leaves. The mass flowering of violets and dandelions now occurs in the South and will cross the Ohio River in three or four weeks, move all the way to the Canadian Border in eight weeks. 

Turkeys start to gobble in preparation for mating time, and the pre-dawn morning robin chorus moves well up into the northern states. Chickens will soon be laying more eggs. Fish continue to become more active as the weather warms the water. Lawn growth is now perceptible – about three weeks before grass is ready to cut. Horseradish, dock and dandelion roots are ready for digging.

March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, a traditional time to plant peas and potatoes. This week’s new Moon offers some of the very best lunar seed starting of the entire year for those vegetables and for almost everything you care to plant under the warmth of grow lights.

And Early Spring is only the sum of its parts. Even though I am only aware of a minute number of events taking place in the world around me, the recognizing and tracking what I can see and hear and smell, all these hidden windows that open onto time, and are reminders of how little I understand and what I still might learn.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fifth week of Early Spring. In the meantime, open the windows of your mind to see and hear and smell the gathering 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.