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Poor Will's Almanack: January 29 - February 4, 2019

garlic bunches
Flickr Creative Commons

After the Groundhog Day Thaw is over next week, weather history says these should be some of the coldest days of winter. In many years, however, crocus, daffodil and tulip foliage emerges.  Garlic planted in November has sometimes pushed out of the ground; cloves set in early October are already several inches high. Sometimes more than half of the pussy willows have opened. All along the 40th Parallel, people are getting ready to tap maples for sap. 

Signs are accumulating, spring a matter of quantity, number of sprouts, number of leaves and birds, landmark after landmark. Swept up by warm southwest winds, more robins and bluebirds reach the Great Lakes.  Starlings whistle and chatter close to sunrise; the crows and cardinals and doves join in. Flies and bees look for skunk cabbage when temperatures warm to 50 degrees.

Even the remnants of the autum are harbingers of spring. Berries from the hackberry trees have fallen to the snow, leftovers from flocks of winter starlings. Stalks of astilbe, hosta, aster, Jerusalem artichokes are still erect, but their heads hang broken. Black seeds of hosta lie across the snow. The last petals of oakleaf hydrangea and the rust brown seeds of the redbuds separate from their dry flowers, making way for the new life to come

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Late Winter  and the first week of the Skunk Courting Moon. In the meantime, Late Winter is decaying all around you. Watch for the signs.

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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.