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Slippage Seasons 21/01/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, herbalism, Long Emergency, Mundane.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Gray skies have returned, with occasional gently-settling snow–the usual price of mild winter weather–preventing further sightings of Mercury for at least several weeks. (Mercury “turns retrograde” today and soon disappears into the Sun’s beams.)

In my first-thing-in-the-morning forays outside to check the precipitation gauge, I take time to look around. 

On occasions when I am out before sunrise, and the sky is clear, I look for Saturn in the east and Jupiter in the west. Of course I take note of clouds–but names of types don’t even cross my mind. 

Returning my gaze to earth, I take in the two small pear trees with the white collars around their bases, the criss-crossing branches of the cherry tree (many of its leaves still clinging, telling me to wait to prune), the dark brown button seed heads of last season’s bee balm plants, the cages around the small shoots of the hazelnut bushes. How much will the hazelnuts grow this year? I am impatient to witness their full magnificence, and to taste the nuts. (How many — few — will the squirrels let me have?)

I see also the favored paths of squirrels, rabbits, maybe a fox. (On one occasion last year, I saw a fox approach the steps up to the deck in back, go around the side of the house, then trot away up the street.)

With much less snow on the ground than at this date 2014, the contours (minimal) of the back yard are somewhat visible. In another way, there is more to see this time: The stalks of New England aster and Jerusalem artichoke are also present, to add visual interest. But those of blue vervain have fallen over. I am disappointed.

I’ve been pondering what steps to take toward introducing more herbs. Last year I tried, without success, to start St. Johns wort from seed; I’m going to try again–I figure, coming from Seed Savers, it’s as vital as can be. Another one that intrigues me is elecampane (Inula helenium), about which I only started to learn last year; it’s good that I did a bit more investigating–while I still want some, I’ve learned that it grows to be five to nine feet tall: probably to the lower end of the height range here at the northern limit of its climate range.

Speaking of the north, I can’t say that I’ve noticed much of a shift in the daylight department since the solstice. But actually, according to my trusty Jim Maynard’s Astrologer’s Datebook, at this latitude — halfway between the equator and the pole — daylight has increased by about a half-hour each in morning and evening. All right!

But has it really been only a month since the solstice? It seems like much longer. Perhaps it’s because of the trepidation–to accompany the disgust–that I’ve been feeling about the world’s circumstances.

On that foggy, rainy afternoon of 21 December 2014, I went to a gathering of local astrologers: a cheerful, convivial occasion–for the most part. I noticed, though, how the collective mood darkened when we pulled our chairs into a circle and began discussing the indications of the solstice chart.

As might be expected, most talk related to the long-running Uranus-Pluto configuration and its significance: the social tumult of these times: the rebellious spirit. Toward the end of the period, though, I piped up and called attention to the very old Moon: only a degree-and-a-half behind the Sun, the moment only two-and-a-half hours before New Moon. Surely that means something. And I suggested that it indicates incidents of major “slippage” in the world’s economic and political machinery. 

And in reference to long-term prospects, I used the word “collapse.”

Recent developments have borne out that prognostication. And they weren’t long in coming. Shortly after the new year came the first report of a fracking company filing for bankruptcy — likely the first of many. Suddenly (relatively) cheap-again oil — a boon to those who can still afford to drive where they must or want to go — is bursting the bubble of “energy independence” touted by those who don’t want (the public) to face the reality of long-term decline.

There’s the continuing and intensifying chaos in the Eurozone, punctuated by the move by the Swiss National Bank on 15 January to detach the country’s currency from the euro, and by the drama of Greek elections coming on 25 January. There, the pain of five years of austerity imposed by the European Union, with the approval of the old dominant parties, appears set to result in popular repudiation and a much-altered political and economic landscape across the continent.

Five years ago, Saturn — age-old symbol of austerity — was moving across the place of the Moon (the common people) in the chart of democratic Greece in the modern age. More recently, more intense and prolonged pain has been the experience, as Pluto has aligned again and again by transit with Saturn and crossed the horizon of the 1974 chart: The economy has contracted drastically.


The Moon in tandem with Uranus on the 25th points to the expression of popular disgust: “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”

But Greece is merely a model of what can and likely will befall many other countries and regions in the decades to come: “an L-shaped recession—scraping along the bottom after a very steep fall with no prospect of a meaningful rise.”

A few hundred miles to the north, long-term prospects for Europe, and its politicos’ bosses in Washington, are none too good either. Sure, they managed to foment in 2014 an uprising, once again, to oust an elected administration in Ukraine. But anti-Russian insults and self-righteous demands have not yielded desired results. (Listen to Russian-born Dmitry Orlov’s description of the situation on the Lifeboat Hour podcast. He adds further evidence of the cluelessness of the American political class, acting as if American can still call the shots while dependent on Russia for processing of nuclear fuel for power plants.)

(James Howard Kunstler also does a good job of outlining the precarious American situation in his annual outlook.)

It’s becoming more and more clear that the American political class, directed by insatiable corporate appetites for profit, will not wise up or let up. Wil E. Coyote-style, it will run right off the cliff. It will keep doing the only thing it knows how to do — until it can’t. And despite the efforts embodied in a great many visionary, small-scale earth- and people-respectful projects, the resultant suffering will be profoundly wrenching.

The political economy of Ukraine since the US-instigated uprising is a textbook case in World Bank operations in support of multinational corporations, at the expense of subject nations.

“Announcing a 3.5 billion dollars aid programme on May 22 [2014] , World Bank president Jim Yong Kim lauded the Ukrainian authorities for developing a comprehensive programme of reforms, and their commitment to carry it out with support from the World Bank Group. He failed to mention the neo-liberal conditions imposed by the Bank to lend money, including that the government limit its own power by removing restrictions that hinder competition and limiting the role of state control in economic activities.” – IPS News

The stakes are vast: Ukraine includes some of the world’s largest areas of remaining fertile black soil–until, of course, industrial agriculture does the only thing it knows how to do: mine whatever fertility is present and leave the land dependent on massive infusions of fossil fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides to grow crops from Western- (primarily US-) based seed corporations. Up until recently, Ukraine was the third largest exporter of corn–making it a most attractive target for genetically modified seed sellers–and third largest of wheat. It’s a relatively fresh zone, not yet subject to the widespread pollution problems and exhausted soils of North America.

That Ukraine would be a rich resource ripe for plunder is amply represented by the chart for the post-Soviet nation: five bodies in the second-eighth house axis, including Saturn, lord of the ascendant, in its zoidion of domicile, Aquarius. Intricate and hidden machinations, at some point in time, involving vast loans were “baked in the cake”: Mercury and Venus, both retrograde (an unusual coincidence), joined with Jupiter. And they would be counter to the needs and interests of the common people: Moon in opposition to Mercury-Venus-Jupiter.


The second return of Jupiter to that zoidion, in 2014-15, indicates that current developments are a major turning point. In early August 2015 Jupiter and Saturn reach the three-quarter mark in their twenty-year cycle–the key to understanding and anticipating political economy from an astrological perspective. And at that time (the first of three dates of exactitude extending to May 2016), Jupiter and Saturn will both be in close connection with the Mercury-Venus-Jupiter configuration in the current national chart. (But take note: All three bodies are together again in the same zoidion. A flurry of urgent machinations is indicated.)

In the run-up there has been “a growing concentration of production within very large agricultural holdings that use large-scale intensive farming systems. Not surprisingly, the presence of foreign corporations in the agricultural sector and the size of agro-holdings are both growing quickly, with more than 1.6 million hectares signed over to foreign companies for agricultural purposes in recent years. Now the goal is to set policies that will benefit Western corporations.” – IPS News

Perhaps the key to it all: Ukraine represents a vast beachhead for the introduction of genetically modified crops into the heart of Eurasia: corporate agriculture’s dream of world domination for the foreseeable future. (See Joseph P. Farrell’s summary on Ukraine and the geopolitics of GMOs.)

Russia, to its credit, is holding the line: Not here.


{With thanks to Ann Kreilkamp, visionary extraordinaire at Exopermaculture.}


Anatomy of Error 12/01/2015

Posted by zoidion in forecast, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Sunset is only an hour away. Then it will be time for another short trek to the golf course and another chance to photograph Mercury, Venus and Mars as daylight fades. Mercury and Venus are now only about a half-degree (by longitude) apart, and about as little by declination–I’m not sure if my standard lens will be able to distinguish them. Mars is nineteen degrees away by longitude, and six by declination, and growing fainter as the Sun proceeds on its slow chase toward conjunction on 14 June.

So, without fancier equipment I may accomplish nothing more than getting chilled. (A conversation earlier with a friend who is one of the principals involved in Minnesota Wildflowers emphasized just how fancy photographic equipment can be.)

A similar attempt a couple of days ago yielded frustration, when the period after sundown featured a thin band of cloud in the southwestern quadrant of the sky.  

(Searching for an eyeball view of Mercury, especially from an urban location, is particularly challenging, as readers know from a previous post. Over all these years I’ve only had one experience of being pretty sure I’d seen Mercury–though I admit that I was seldom trying.)

But there have of late been other marvels hard to miss. For example, the annual flower stalk coming out of one of my aloe vera plants: It started emerging right around the winter solstice, and I’ve been photographing it about every other day.


And this morning, as the Sun rose above the white pine across the alley, the light shone on the bathroom window’s frost and revealed a wondrous pattern. How does the frost do that?


The past week’s cold spell has brought the urge to salivate (and plan) over the sumptuously colored photos of vegetables in the Seed Savers catalog, along with ample opportunity to note the success, or not, of recent years’ weatherization efforts. 

I’m more convinced than ever that the eleven insulating blinds were a smart investment; the pink insulation foam board that I cut to fit the double window in the living room that faces north still hasn’t been made pretty, but it’s doing the job. Since the house is at a bend in the street, it catches a lot of the north wind coming down the slope: an exposure that few other houses in the area have. But another spot calls for more attention–before next winter.

So the weather’s been cold, colder than average, but not at all unusual for early January in these parts. But not as expected, nor as forecast in these pages: “Significant snow but remaining relatively mild.”

After warming to slightly above freezing toward the end of First Quarter Moon week, the temperature plummeted on the 4th, remained very cold for the first half of Full Moon week before moderating somewhat. Several light snowfalls did not quite add up to “significant snowfall.”

What’s up with that?

I took too little significance from the fact that the Full Moon axis was across the horizon of the season chart. Plus, I put too much weight on the indications of the Full Moon chart itself:

Full Moon January 2015

I had noticed Mars (warming trends) at a sixty-degree angle to the lower meridian, the latter in the fire sign Sagittarius. But since the solstice Saturn (cold and persistent conditions) has moved into Sagittarius, reducing the warmth. In addition, Mars can’t add much heat to cold Aquarius, where Saturn is lord–as well as in Capricorn.

(The Saturn-exactly-on-the-lower-meridian line ran through the Los Angeles area, and while I wasn’t keeping track of weather there, I did note that Arizona had unusual cold and snow.)

Note something else: Mercury in the Full Moon chart is at zero degrees of Aquarius (the coldest of the signs: “fixed” or concentrated in addition to having Saturn as lord). Mercury had just changed signs, signaling a shift in the wind pattern.

(In this particular season, during which Mercury is lord of the zoidion Virgo on the lower meridian, the movement of Mercury has greater significance than in most seasons.)

By the 15th, both Mercury and Venus will have crossed the place of Mars in the season chart, signaling a bit of a warmup, the air capable of holding more moisture. Nothing spectacular, but still welcome to most.

Did I mention Mercury and Venus? Well, since I pounded most of the previous words into some semblance of appropriate shape, I’ve been to the sculpted ridges and valleys of the neighborhood golf course.

After sighting Venus, I waited for the solar glow to fade a bit, making exaggerated movements in the four-degree air and taking shelter from the slight breeze behind a mature oak. An added benefit was the clearing of my breath’s fog from my spectacles. I kept peering out one side of one lens, and then, there it was: another, fainter body close to Venus.

Then I was hopping with excitement, and beseeching Urania for success in photography. Evidently, she smiled on my effort and dedication:


At the moment I tripped the shutter, the representation of the sky was this:



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