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Poor Will's Almanack: January 5 - 11, 2021

winter cardinal
Jen Goellnitz
Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the Second Week of Deep Winter, the Fourth Week of the Stell Moon (when livestock owners often need to provide stells or shelters for their animals), the third week of the Sun in Capricorn.

On hillsides, the springs and brooks are clear and the watercress bright even in the darkest of January days. Under snow, new chickweed covers parts of the bottomland. Basal foliage of sweet rocket and leafcup is lush and tall.

In fields and hedgerows, leaves of thistles, mint, leafcup and mullein remain undamaged by the cold. The curled cones of skunk cabbage are open just a little in the wetlands.

When the snow melts, the landscape appears part early spring, part late autumn, the grass greening in patches, October leaves darkening in decay.

Pale green Osage fruits have become speckled with age, many of them shredded by squirrels and raccoons. Coralberries are becoming paler. Bittersweet hulls and red winterberries lie all about the ground. Purple deadnettle has expanded into mounds. A few pussy willows have cracked. A few snowdrops and crocuses have started to push up through the mulch, even under snow.

Sometimes male cardinals and tufted titmice make tentative mating calls. Downy woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers feed in the trees. Kingfishers scream along the river. Overwintering robins cluck in the crab apples. Sometimes the last sandhill cranes fly overhead, the last of the migrants to the South.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of Deep Winter. In the meantime, listen to the silence of the winter mornings. In just a couple of weeks, the predawn birdsong will begin.

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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.