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Interesting Times 03/02/2014

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The incessant Alberta Clippers are taking a more southerly track this week, affording me the luxury of a respite from shoveling through the pile of snow that the city plow keeps depositing in the narrow slot through the pile on the boulevard; my shoulders have been registering the mounting height of the pile. Ditto for the need to rake the snow from the south-facing quarter of the roof, which requires careful attention as I stand on the sunroom roof.

There’s not much still showing of the black raspberry canes out front, and in back the level of the snow has reached the lowest branches of the cherry and pear trees. In the herb area, only the dry stems of the fennel and anise hyssop are visible.

The “pleasant interlude” anticipated for this week in the winter forecast is most welcome. (The previous week’s “continued cold” definitely held up, though there was more than “slight snowfall” here.) I can stand back and enjoy the beauty of the Nazca pattern, and walk it with a bit more energy.


I had occasion to go to Detroit for a few days last week: my first visit, and not a pleasure trip, I assure you. I had no time or energy for explorations of the notorious urban desolation, though I did pick up on some recent developments. And uncannily, when I returned I found a notice in my email in-box informing me that a requested book was at my neighborhood library: Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy.

What did I see there? Not much more than local highways. On top of the demands of negotiating an unfamiliar area, I found the magnitude of the roads and traffic unnerving. I-96 (Edsel Ford Freeway) is a vast gash in the once-vibrant urban fabric, bisecting the old city east-west. On the west side I got to experience US-24 aka Telegraph Road: I found myself recalling most of the words to Mark Knopfler’s epic song with that title, a reminder of the exhilarating ups and crashing downs of industrial civilization. Especially:

from these rivers of headlights, these rivers of rain
from the anger that lives on the streets with these names
‘cos I’ve run every red light on memory lane
I’ve seen desperation explode into flames
and I don’t wanna see it again

I saw bright Venus reappearing in the morning sky after her disappearance, soon after the winter solstice, from the evening sky.

And I saw inner city areas where the snow had obviously not been plowed all winter.

I heard a little about the newly inaugurated mayor, Mike Duggan, successful–a rare event–in a write-in campaign. He is the first white mayor of that mostly-black city since 1974, and representative of perhaps a new spirit of inter-racial cooperation after many decades of deep division–and corruption. Less than a month before the election, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison, his conviction stemming from a 38-charge felony indictment, in what a federal prosecutor called a “pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud” by some of Detroit’s most prominent officeholders.

LeDuff summarizes the previous level of civic degradation:

Not only was the city crumbling because of sex scandal and political corruption, it was on the verge of bankruptcy. [That came officially on 3 December 2013.] Street lights were broken or shut off for no apparent reason. Garbage went uncollected. Sewers backed up into  houses, drowning an entire block in crud. Ambulances were busted down and sometimes didn’t show up for hours to emergency calls. Police cars were a decade old. Meanwhile Kilpatrick and his wife drove around in an expensive Cadillac Escalade paid for by the taxpayers of the country’s poorest city.

And that’s just the overview. The nitty LeDuff describes is very gritty.

As usual, life is a bit different in the suburban areas: especially to the north, beyond the famous Eight Mile Road, where longtime Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson embraces sprawl. A fresh profile in The New Yorker (a subscriber-only page) has him gleefully opining, Drop Dead, Detroit! Ah, but how long will such cheek hold up? Poverty is on the rise in the suburbs here, and I expect it is there also. Meanwhile, some of the northern suburbs are exploring how to detach their water supply from the bankrupt and crumbling Detroit system.

Back here in the City of Lakes, the fabric of civic life is more . . . cohesive. More agriculturally based (but let’s not forget about mining), and with a more co-operatively-oriented Scandinavian-influenced culture, civic life has more of a placid feeling.

Factoring together snowfall, snow depth and duration/intensity of cold, it seems this winter has been the toughest since 1984 in these parts.

There are several parallels in the charts for the two seasons. At the time of both winter solstices–1983 and 2013–the Moon was in Leo, Mars was in Libra, and Saturn was in Scorpio. In 1983, cold water sign Pisces was on the lower meridian, with Venus in watery Scorpio exactly on the ascendant, joining Saturn. In 2013, windy, rapidly changing Gemini was on the lower meridian, with freak-weather Neptune exactly on the local ascendant.

But in 2013-14 a far more rugged pattern holds sway over all: the much-written-about Grand Cross of Mars-Uranus-Jupiter-Pluto. As rude and challenging as this winter has been through the midsection of the USA, we have been spared much worse.

Consider what has been happening across the Pond, where January was the wettest winter month in more than two centuries (see The Guardian),  with large problems to show for it. The same winter solstice 2013 chart located to London put Jupiter in water sign Cancer exactly on the ascendant.

While Jupiter’s prominence tends to correlate in general with pleasant weather, the sign placement is crucial. Alfred John Pearce’s book on astrometeorology–condensed within George J. McCormack’s republished Text-Book of Long-Range Weather Forecasting, 2012–summarizes the traditional view: “The ancients held that the action of Jupiter was varied in signs. When in Cancer, Aquarius or Pisces, more rain falls.”

Jupiter in Cancer on the ascendant for that area for the entire winter season translates to: abundant to excessive rainfall.

The week of the first quarter Moon in January, beginning on the eighth, was particularly miserable: Neptune near the lower meridian with Saturn rising.

In a story headlined “Britain faces choice of saving town or country from floods,” the head of the UK Environment Agency says the cost of defending both in the face of the wettest January in over two centuries is simply too great. It’s been bad over there this winter, with some areas under water for a month already. (More stories on the UK situation.)

Some areas, perhaps many, though, would be faring better if more intelligent land management practices were more widely followed. If money were more smartly spent, and resources more smartly used. (Hmmm . . . that brings the recent belated passage of the USA “Farm Bill” to mind, and consideration of who pays the bill.) See George Monbiot’s piece, “Drowning in Money.”

Meanwhile, Americans who like to eat are focusing more attention on whether California weather includes rain. The same winter solstice chart located to Sacramento put Venus in dry Capricorn on the ascendant and Saturn exactly on the upper meridian: Unsurprisingly, continued dry conditions turning to extreme drought has become the prominent report. And the prospects for precipitation for the remainder of the season are minimal.

Time Magazine is giving some coverage to ways to survive drought, one of them being drip irrigation: something that has been the norm in Israel for decades.

It’s gradually dawning on more people that, in an era of climate disruption, what people do can make a bad situation much, much worse–or maybe not so bad.

<- zoidion ->

P.S.  For an extended, on-the-ground report on one young man’s effort to reclaim one small piece of Detroit, see “Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500.”



1. zoidion - 12/02/2014

It’s instructive to note the main indication for rain in the past week in northern California: Moon on the Ascendant in the First Quarter Moon chart. Five to ten inches has fallen in areas of the coast ranges and the northern Sierras–it’s certainly been welcomed, but it’s still a very long way from erasing the moisture deficit. And one week doesn’t negate the indications of a season chart.

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