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Sunset Line 02/03/2015

Posted by zoidion in herbalism, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It’s another sunny day, a bit chilly still (relatively), but it carries comfort: The sun, a little higher in the sky each day, has more ability to warm my face and restore some color. Not only is it higher, but also it is clearly on the march: It rises now to the north of the pine tree across the alley.

Thus meteorological spring has arrived, and with it deepening concern about the prospects for needed rain. For I’ve totaled my recorded precipitation for the months of meteorological winter (December through February): 2.01 inches (71% of the normal 2.83).

As for temperature, winter was a mercurial affair: December five degrees above normal, January more than three degrees above, February a full nine degrees below. Very close to average overall.

But winter was far from average for much of the eastern half of the continental US: brutal, with unseasonable cold, snow and ice. Especially for the Boston region, especially in February (though the siege actually began with the storm of 26-28 January). See this previous post.

Not to ignore the suffering of the South. I can attest to a bit of it: I vividly remember standing, on the morning of the New Moon, on the shore of the Mississippi River in Hannibal, Missouri, in bitter cold and a whipping wind. I stood there for only a moment.


And snow, more of it than at home, was on the ground almost all the way to Memphis. Returning on the “City of New Orleans” a week later, there was a fresh coating of snow across northern Mississippi.

In between, I camped for several days near the north side of Lake Ponchartrain, across from New Orleans, shortly after the rude turn in the weather for Mardis Gras on the 17th. On the 21st the temperature reached the sixties, and sunny low-seventies on the 22nd. But I paid for that comfort with at least a dozen insect bites (I never saw the critters) on my briefly-sandaled feet. (I got some relief by applying some of last year’s comfrey leaves soaked in hot water to the affected areas.)

Although locals were dining al fresco that lovely Sunday, and although I noted budding trees, some daffodils, and fading magnolia blossoms, folks were clear: The season was still winter. And winter there is evidently much cloudy: I was unable to spot the rare conjunction of the crescent Moon with Venus and Mars on the 20th.

But I must say I was warmed by the typical graciousness and courtesy I encountered with the local folks: an antidote to the haste and rudeness that I find frequently in the North — and all too often in myself.

It’s curious, isn’t it, the way North America was divided between light and dark at the moment of the winter solstice (solar Capricorn ingress) 2014? The sunset line cut across the continental US from eastern Montana to the Louisiana coast. Have a look at the astromap below:


The sunset line is marked in red and a bullseye symbol (for the Sun) with DS (for descendant). To the north and east, the land was in shadow at the solstice moment; to the south and west, the Sun still shone.

It seems to fairly neatly mark halves of the US destined for overall cold and warmth. I’m not saying that Sun above the horizon in a season chart means above-average temperature. But the Sun close to the horizon in such a chart is perhaps a major factor in continental-level forecasting.

And then there’s the Mercury factor: its long sojourn (symbolizing winds) in cold Aquarius, where Saturn is lord, from 4 January to 12 March. A sojourn considerably lengthened by a retrograde phase that began on 21 January.

That was when the hard stage of winter began. And only today does Mercury regain that retrograde point in the zodiac. (Mercury was then in the evening sky, now in the morning sky.)

It’s looking like it will take a few days (see this from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network), and the passing of the Full Moon on the 5th, but the pattern is about to shift.


[What I’m reading: Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline, Morris Berman, 2012. One key point connected to recent personal experience: The more traditional and easygoing culture of the South, aside from the institution of slavery, had — from the point of view of the hustling, industrial “progress”-oriented North — to be crushed.]

Forecast: Spring 2015 15/02/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, forecast, Long Emergency, permaculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Barely an inch of snow covers the ground (ice covers many pavements since the “Mercury-station storm”) — compared to a foot or more a year ago. The snow labyrinth I stamped out in the back yard then, and walked morning and evening for over a month, is a sweet and distant memory.

And true thus far to the forecast for Last Quarter week, wind has been a significant factor: When I walked yesterday morning to do an errand, I found myself walking with head lowered, to keep my face from freezing.

But I continue to begin my days with a survey of the back yard, wondering how much the chicken-wired hazelnut seedlings will grow this year, pondering how to fill in more space around the cherry and pear trees with more edible perennials, picturing tall elecampane growing up from yet-to-be-acquired seed or root division, the groundnut vines proliferating, and the cup plants even taller than last year.

The main thing is: I see them lush and vibrant and attended by welcome birds and insects, nourished by the invisible mycorrhizal network, itself aided by the forest soil inoculation I performed last spring.

The rainwater capture system needs more work, as soon as the ground is bare. That is essential, for reliance on municipal chlorinated, whatever-else-ated water is not an option. I think I can get through a dry garden season with rainwater alone–even though the rain supply began tapering off in mid-summer 2014, enough water was already stored, in the ground and in the rain barrels.

But for irrigation-dependent Big Ag and for smaller growers who have yet to begin adopting permaculture principles, 2015 looks like a rough year. For one thing, many small towns and rural groups are pushing back against the agricultural polluters and water-grabbers. And for nearly all,  the pinch will be showing up in grocery prices.

Outline for the season in the upper Mississippi River basin: Spring 2015

Two words: warm, dry. The contrast between 2014 and 2015 is emphatic. The dry conditions that began in autumn 2014 persist and become problematic at the start of the growing season.

Turbulent weather is likely, though primarily in more southern regions, from mid-May to mid-June.

Primary season chart indications: Fire sign Sagittarius on lower meridian (with Saturn close by) signals a warm and dry spring, with drought patterns becoming more firmly established. Mercury is again, as in the previous (winter) chart, exactly on the western horizon, indicating that the area remains on a boundary between air masses: Moisture brushes by to the south, often leaving merely a trace while some areas relatively nearby receive ample or sufficient rain.

(Such exceptions notwithstanding, drought regions expand through much of the U.S. midsection: Food and water resource crises, long warned about, are now at hand.)

The New Moon, with Mars and Uranus, in fire sign Aries (though the Sun-Moon conjunction/solar eclipse was thirteen hours earlier, in water sign Pisces) — plus Jupiter in fire sign Leo (until August) — emphasizes the contrast with 2014 (when Jupiter and Saturn were in water signs), when chilly conditions persisted through the summer.



Lunar Week by Lunar Week

New Moon (solar eclipse): 20 – 26 March (lunar perigee 19 March)
An overall pleasant, somewhat cool week with moderate earth-awakening rains. However, they are a deceptive start to the season.

First Quarter: 27 March – 3 April
Rain sputters out, pattern shifts to dry and mild, then cool front on 2 April with a little rain.

Full Moon (lunar eclipse): 4 – 11 April
Sharply colder 5-6 April, then sharply warmer. A little rain through the period.

Last Quarter: 12 – 18 April (lunar occultation of Uranus 17 April)
Rain likely, particularly 15 April, but most likely as either drizzle or deluge. Sharply colder — probable heavy frost — 17-18 April.

New Moon: 19 – 25 April (lunar perigee 17 April)
Warming trend with persistent turbulence. Some destructive storms likely.

First Quarter: 26 April – 3 May
Cooler, especially starting 29 April, and dry.

Full Moon: 4 – 10 May
Warmer, continued dry.

Last Quarter: 11 – 17 May (lunar perigee 15 May)
Intermittent rain through period, but cumulatively of little significance. Gradually warming.

New Moon: 18 – 24 May (Mercury stationary retrograde 18 May)
Northern chill and southern heat battle through the period. Destructive storms likely, especially 18 May.

First Quarter: 25 May – 1 June
Continued turbulence with increase in humidity, intensifying as the Moon grows. (Considerable tornado danger in the south.)

Full Moon: 2 – 8 June
Still turbulent, again especially in the south. The US midsection under siege, with major transportation disruptions.

Last Quarter: 9 – 15 June (lunar perigee 10 June; Mercury stationary direct 11 June; lunar occultation of Uranus 11 June, of Mercury 14 June)
Turbulence gradually abating: time to survey the wreckage, pick up the pieces and determine what can be salvaged.

New Moon: 16 – 23 June
A warm and mostly pleasant spell: Hallelujah!

Be well. Stay aware.


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