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Winter’s Wiles 14/10/2016

Posted by zoidion in forecast, fruit, herbalism, homesteading, urban agriculture, Weather.
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[Old Highway 61, Red Wing, Minnesota]

And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61
– Bob Dylan, “Highway 61 Revisited,” 1965

Twin Cities ephemera: The cycle of the yard landscape continues, gradually becoming bare. With some help. The ferns, long since dried up and turned brown, are now a shadow of their spring lushness. In their midst, the three ironwood saplings that I transplanted in early spring, now show that they have taken root.

The paved path through the backyard is passable again, without goose-stepping — especially since harvesting the spaghetti and  Amish pie squash: fifty-two in all. Too much for home use, many have gone to a local food shelf. The volunteer hybrid butternut squash — with a mottled dull-orange-and-green skin in the familiar bulbous shape — that took over one of the compost bins yielded fifteen.

Another obstacle is now temporarily tamed: the great leaves and sagging stems of the two clumps of elecampane, started from seed last year. I dug up one clump, washed and dried the roots, and started another tincture.

The view toward the alley is slowly returning, as the elderberry bushes drop their leaves, and especially since I clipped all of this year’s growth of the hops vines back to the ground; it’s amazing how much shade the hops give, as they grow as much as twenty feet in this northern climate. I hadn’t used any of the hops before, but after offering their aromatic strobiles — that’s what their papery scaly globes are called: neat word, eh? — via a community gardening listserv and having one young man come to harvest a bit, I was properly motivated to begin brewing. My first one-gallon batch, using the “apple crisp ale” recipe in the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book, is ready for bottling today.

Oh, and did I mention the pear harvest? Back in August, when I found one of the three fruits from one of the two trees on the ground, I picked the others but found them juicy but mealy. Week after further week went by as I monitored the one fruit on the other tree, said fruit being dark brown, rough-skinned, fissured — and hard. At last I figured it was high time to pluck it. Then it sat on the kitchen counter for a couple of days. When I finally braved learning the inner truth of it, I discovered it to be both juicy and tasty. Juicy fruit from both trees I expected: Thus far, 2016 has been the wettest year on record for most places in the upper Mississippi River region. (No surprise there, thanks to astrometeorology.) But tasty, from one at least, has been a relief. I’ve been talking to both trees about greater production of quality fruit next year. For pear cider?

What are the prospects for winter, you wonder? Well, in several crucial respects, the indications are similar to those for the summer just past.

That’s because the meridian and horizon in the winter solstice (Capricorn solar ingress) 2016 chart are nearly identical to those in the summer solstice (Cancer solar ingress) 2016 chart — and those for the spring equinox (Aries solar ingress) chart. Why is that? I don’t know, but it’s typical.

(A couple of years ago — a couple of years into my study of astrometeorology — I put together a table of such information, starting with the year 2000. I found that with great consistency, the zoidia — Greek for zodiacal signs, plural — on the meridian and horizon are the same for all the ingresses in a given year, with the exception of the Libra ingress, when the previous zoidion appears on each.)

Thus, once again for the coming winter, the water zoidion Pisces appears on the lower meridian of the chart cast for this location, and the water zoidion Scorpio appears on the ascendant (eastern horizon). In addition, Neptune — another indicator for wetness, from fogs to floods — is in Pisces and close to the lower meridian.

[The chart is rendered with Placidus houses, rather than with whole-sign houses generally used on this site, in order to make meridian and horizon more readily apparent.]

This time, Mars is also in Pisces, near the meridian, making for a more interesting — probably in the Chinese sense — mix of phenomena. George J. McCormack, in his 1947 classic Text-Book of Long-Range Weather Forecasting, wrote:

“The Mars-Neptune configurations . . . are more extreme [than Venus-Mars combinations] and productive of freak changes. . . . Temperatures rise, peculiar calms ensue and are followed by squally storms of short duration . . . Barometric pressure falls rapidly.”

Since in the season chart Mars is approaching Neptune, and eight degrees away, such phenomena will be more prevalent during the period from the solstice through the first days of January. Not a good time for travel in the midsection of the continent. Freezing rain and temperatures hovering near the freezing point will be more problematic than usual: Snow and cold we can deal with, but ice is treacherous.

The general forecast: a wet, chilly, but not particularly cold winter — not in the same category as the most recent “real, old-fashioned” winter: 2013-14. (Neptune was exactly conjunct the ascendant in the chart for that season.)

The wettest portion of the winter will match the period when Venus moves through Pisces: early January through early February.

Another notable interesting period: late February – early March 2017, around the time of the New Moon (actually, an annular solar eclipse) on 26 February. An unseasonable warmup is likely to result, in northern regions, in flooding, while in the south, unusual atmospheric turbulence challenges business as usual.

Times to be risk-savvy.


[ Currently reading: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water (sequel to A Time of Gifts), recounting his journey, mostly on foot, across Europe in 1934. ]

Halfway House 19/09/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, forecast, Photography, urban agriculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Most of my time is spent in the polar half of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s an odd thought, admittedly, and not one with much time and energy invested in it, either. Yet there it was, bouncing around through several thought bubbles, soon after waking.

That’s because the forty-fifth parallel of latitude passes through North and Northeast Minneapolis, and my place is a couple of miles to the north. And just a couple of miles south of forty-five, the Mississippi River — greatest on the entire continent — rushes over the most significant falls of its entire length. Curious.

This is one of those periods of the year, after all, for reflecting on such facts: halfway between solstices, when day and night are equal, when Sun rises and sets at east and west points of the horizon. The Full Harvest Moon, occurring six days before the equinox (Libra solar ingress), also rose and set approximately on the east-west axis.

On the evening of the Full Moon, M and I went to Indian Mounds Park, on the east side of St. Paul overlooking a great bend in the river, in hopes of seeing the moonrise more or less in line with the mounds. The sky had cleared in the afternoon, so there was some prospect of seeing it on that account. But trees are another matter.

As places along another transition zone — between eastern hardwood forest and western grasslands, with boreal forest just a little further north — much of the Twin Cities area was prairie when settlers arrived. Trees were mostly found in the river bottoms. Now they’re on every street, with a great deal of resources applied to maintaining and replacing trees that naturally succumb to the pressures of urban environments, as well as a series of insect opportunists. Many, many streets were veritable cathedrals: the effect of lines of tall elm trees — until Dutch elm beetles carrying their deadly fungus took their toll. (Minnesota History magazine published, in its summer 2016 issue, a feature story on the great change.) Now it’s the turn of the emerald ash borers devastating the millions of ash trees.

Even so, the view to the horizon was obscured by trees. After capturing this view, a rogue raincloud arrived, bringing a downpour for a few minutes.


The rainy pattern continues, with somewhat longer stretches of dry weather between episodes. The ground is soggy across much of the region, as it is in my garden. 

The sorrel’s second season of luxuriant leaves yields plenty of salad material, as does the raspberries’. The squash continue trying to grow, as I continue nipping off the growing ends so the plants will put their resources into making fruit. The compost bins are nearly full, even without any tree leaves yet, and still cooking, although when rain is imminent I cover the denser pile so the microorganisms doing the work don’t drown.

Out front, along the sidewalk, I’ve dug out some of the black raspberries, having decided I’m not as enthused about the seedier fruit as compared to their red cousins. I’m transplanting some red raspberry plants out there, and I figure on taking some cuttings from the black currants come February, and putting them in that area as well. Always new garden experiments to contemplate.

But the big questions at this time of year are: How many days have we got left? When will the killing frost come? It’s tricky because even two spots within the urban heat island can have rather different experiences.

Before that most recent rainy spell, there was a reminder that September does belong, meteorologically, to autumn. The temperature here in the metro dropped to forty-seven (coolest since mid-May), in northern Minnesota as low as twenty-seven.

That was when Moon was moving through Aquarius, along with Capricorn a zoidion associated with cold conditions, where Saturn is lord. That was a reminder to give more consideration to the indications contained in the seasonal chart cast for the Libra solar ingress on 22 September: a chart that for this locality has Aquarius on the most important place: the lower meridian.


(In case you’re wondering why the chart here uses Placidus houses / places instead of whole-sign houses / places, usual on this site, it is simply to render the horizon and meridian obvious.)

“Sharp cold spells” was the phrase that came to mind when first seeing the coming season’s chart. Climatologists and meteorologists seem to have the slow-motion train wreck of climate chaos fairly well figured out, at least for the short-term future: Earth’s overall climate continuing on a steeply warming pace. And that is likely to continue through the autumn of 2016.

But that doesn’t preclude the likelihood of some rude shocks of cold weather — successive killing frosts, as Canadian air masses gain strength against Gulf and Pacific air masses — through the North American midsection.

As Moon moves through the zoidia (counter-clockwise across the face of the chart), the first crossing of the horizon at the ascendant — late on 1 October — will likely be a telling indicator of the character of the season. Markedly cooler and windier weather with a bit of rain — as Moon crosses the position of Venus in the season chart — is the forecast for this area. But probably not a hard frost.

The real drama arrives as Moon crosses the early-Aquarius lower meridian on 10 October. Expect the lengthening night after to be very chilly indeed. End of season for any tender plants, even covered with a blanket.

Further weather drama of the chilly variety comes for areas further south on 6-8 November: the Moon’s next pass through Aquarius, just as Americans make decisions on who is most deplorable at their polling places.

Around here until recent years, Thanksgiving marked the start of snow-on-the-ground winter. The heavens seem to be indicating a return to normal this time, with a sloppy storm rolling through.

And come the first weekend in December: another rude shock.

There is some good news: The very wet pattern eases.

What does the Farmer’s Almanac say? I heard something a while back — a summary, along with the obligatory derision that “it’s not scientific” — but I don’t remember.


[ Currently reading: Shaman, Kim Stanley Robinson, 2013; The Fermented Man, Derek Dellinger, 2016 ]

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