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INTRODUCTORY NOTES TO POOR WILL’S ALMANACK FOR 2012
Poor Will’s Almanack for 2012 is the most extensive of Bill Felker’s annual almanacks. It contains two or more of Bill’s essays for every month, many reader stories, weather guides and a daybook entry for each day of the year. Except for 2012 information on the planets and the moon, this Almanack can be used throughout any year.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
Poor Will’s Almanack for 2012 is divided into 14 chapters (November 2011 through December 2012). Each chapter contains the following sections:
Essay by Bill Felker
Notes on the Season
The Gregorian Calendar for the Month
The Sun’s Progress
The Phases of the Moon
The Sun’s Progress
Shooting Stars for the Month
The Location of Major Planets
The Name and Phases of the Moon
The S.A.D. Index
The Allergy Index (March through October)
The Weather Systems
Peak Activity Times for Livestock, Fish and Game
The Almanack Daybook
Almanack Literature (reader stories)
The Sckrambler Puzzle
Essay by Bill Felker
INDEX OF SEASONAL ESSAYS AND SPECIAL FEATURES BY BILL FELKER
November: The World Is Flat, Seasonal Ups and Downs
December: Mice in the Mug, Landmarks for the Progress of Spring
January: The Secret Passion of the Camel Cricket, a Schedule of Cardinal Song
February: The Romantic Garden, The Daily Rhythm
March: A Spring Visitor, A Schedule of Robin Song
April: Spring Fever, The Pulse of the Earth
May: In Suspense, The Motion of Spring
June: Strawberry Synecdoche, The Days and Nights of the Moon
July: The Catbird, Late Summer, Late Summer Zeitgebers
August: Talking Mosquito, Tracking the Waves
September: Kiser’s Daybook, Signs of the Winter to Come
October: The Jug of October, Notes on Daily Savings Time
November: Invulnerable Leaves, Telling Time by the Stars
December: 2012: The End of an Era, The Season of Far-Off Spring
INDEX OF ALMANACK LITERATURE
November: A Backhouse Surprise by David Cassenheiser
December: A Lesson for Teacher by Lillie Shaffer
January: Prayer Power by Lois Rivard
February: Lying in Wait by Mary Zigler
March: Solving the Problem by Charles Kruse
April: A Joke on Uncle John by Dora DeHart
May: The Possum and the Pot by Susan Perkins
June: A Surprise Package by Bob Christianson
July: Our Cat and her Buddy by Bill Wiseman
August: Dyno-Mite Love by Rick Donahoe
September: The Cherry Bomb Kid by Donna Shiver
October: The Electric Pumpkin by Susan Perkins
November: A Smelly Romance by Patricia A. Wise
December: The Troublesome Burl by Elias Keim
NOTES ON USING THE FLOATING CALENDAR FOR THE TWELVE MOVEABLE SEASONS OF THE NATURAL YEAR
Throughout the continental United States and Canada, the seasons follow the standard calendar less than they do the dictates of elevation and latitude. Although almost all deciduous trees between Maine and Florida have lost their leaves by January 1, the variation in temperature between the northern and southern states at the beginning of the year can be more than fifty degrees. Within that broad geographical context, the advance of the seasons is highly varied; nevertheless, certain patterns are visible that are applicable to much of the country.
One way to delineate these patterns is to characterize them by what is going on in nature. Under this kind of organization, a season such as Early Spring has certain traits, but may occur in Louisiana in January but take place in northern Minnesota as late as the beginning of May. A floating calendar, one that is generally applicable to events rather than to specific dates, allows the observer to identify the season by what is actually going on in the local habitat rather than by the standard Gregorian calendar.
Under such a floating system, the seasons truly are moveable in that they advance at different rates in different parts of the country. And within the broad guidelines sketched here, the Almanack traveler can watch not only the landscape change with the passage of the miles, but the time of year and seasons, too.
In Poor Will’s Almanack for 2012, I have divided the year into twelve seasons and have noted how they take place in different ways and at different times in the different parts of the country. Although I have kept the basic monthly sequence in the organization of information, I have noted the months during which a specific season might be likely to occur in different regions. These are broad strokes of the phenological pen, but they allow Almanack readers to not only see what is going on in their area but in other areas, as well.
THE WEATHER IN POOR WILL’S ALMANACK
A modern calendar measures passage and movement in months, weeks and days, neglecting other gauges like star time, sun time, moon time and weather time. Among those alternate systems, the last one may be the most neglected.
The elements of weather time are the 65 to 70 major high-pressure systems that traverse the country, like deep breaths of the planet, between one winter and the next. These fronts move more quickly in
the colder months (October through March bringing up to eight waves of high pressure in each month). The warmer months between April and September are more likely to have six or fewer fronts apiece.
Every season and every year bring a similar number of cold or cool waves, and these are usually predictable within a few days. Lunar position strengthens or weakens the fronts. Changes in plants, animals and even people keep pace with those weather systems events and can be measured by them. The natural year unfolds, then, as a dynamic metronome, a resource of cadence and balance.
When all the fronts of the year have passed across your property, the seasons are set to come back again. Of course, the calendar can easily tell you what day it is, but it can’t really let you feel your place in the turning clock of the world. The weather – if you will only count and keep track of its breaths – can! Each monthly chapter of Poor Will’s Almanack lists the dates that the major fronts of the year will cross the Mississippi River in its WEATHER PATTERNS section.
THE ALMANACK AS A FISHING, HUNTING & DIETING GUIDE
Although successful fishing is influenced primarily by the type of bait used and the location of the bait in the water, the times of day, month and year are also significant. Lunar position has been shown in some studies to be a contributing factor to fish and game activity, but the approach of weather systems (high-pressure systems typically preceded by low-pressure systems) is usually a more decisive factor than the moon in influencing fish to bite and animals to feed.
In addition to the moon and the weather, water temperature and other seasonal factors play a role in how fish respond to your bait. One of the best ways to measure those factors is to keep a journal of conditions and of what is happening during your outings. And an almanack may be helpful in making you aware of what is going on in nature. This is especially true for hunting, since conditions in the fields or woods have a direct impact on creatures living there. For both fish and game, however, your personal observations, connected to your results in the wood or on the water, form the true baseline for future activities.
All that being said, the monthly section, PEAK ACTIVITY TIMES FOR LIVESTOCK, FISH, GAME & DIETERS, provides a list of pivotal dates for the arrival of high-pressure systems, which can be helpful in planning your outings. Fish, game, livestock and people tend to feed more and are more active as the barometer is falling one to three days before these weather systems.
In addition, many people find that fish and game are more active (and dieting is more difficult) when the moon is overhead: at midday when the moon is new, in the afternoon and evening when the moon is in its first quarter, at night when the moon is full and in its third quarter, in the morning when the moon is in its fourth quarter. Second-best lunar times occur when the moon is below your location, 12 hours before or after those times noted above.
ABOUT THE S.A.D. STRESS INDEX
The S.A.D. Stress Index in each monthly chapter of the Almanack is one way of measuring those natural phenomena which are assumed to be related to seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.) — the day’s length, the percentage of probable sunlight, and the weather. In order to create the Index, each of those factors was given a value from zero to 25, and then the three values were combined onto a scale of one to 75. Interpretation is simple: the higher the number, the greater the stress. Index readings are most useful in combination with a record of your own moods. Reference to the Index when you feel out of sorts may be a way of getting a feel for how seasonal affective disorders influence your life.
FARMING AND GARDENING WITH THE ALMANACK DAYBOOK
Each DAYBOOK section of Poor Will’s Almanack for 2012 contains notes on the application of lunar lore and weather patterns to farming and gardening. In general, planting crops that bear their fruit above the ground is recommended when the moon is waxing. Plant root crops, flower bulbs, trees and shrubs to promote root growth when the moon is waning.
According to a number of studies, the moon exerts less influence on ocean tides and on human and animal behavior when it comes into its 2nd and 4th quarters. Therefore, it might make more sense to perform routine maintenance on your flock or herd near the date on which the moon enters its second or fourth quarter. On the other hand, tidal lunar influences have been proven to be greater at full moon and new moon times. You might expect more trouble with your animals, therefore, on or about new moon and full moon.