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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. ]


Wettest Week 20/08/2016

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Climate, Event, forecast, herbalism, homesteading, Long Emergency, Photography, urban agriculture.
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Twin Cities ephemera: This morning, for the first time since probably May, I put on jeans and a long-sleeve shirt before going outside to check the rain gauge. Going past the hardy kiwi vines, I noted the many yellow leaves as those perennials respond to the shorter days: two hours of daylight less than at the summer solstice (Cancer solar ingress) two months ago. And the hops are approaching their fullness.

Yes, the seasonal shift is apparent, and the first hint of autumn comes right on astro-meteorological schedule.

Another round of rain showers has begun, leading me to total the numbers for the month so far: over six inches, with the awareness that many other locations across Minnesota have recorded much more.

It may not make much difference in my yard — though I’m concerned that the cherry and pear trees may be damaged by excess moisture — but the persistent wet conditions may spell trouble for large-scale harvest operations, dependent as they are on field access by heavy machinery. I wonder if a significant portion of commodity crops will end up rotting.

With plenty of heat and moisture, and enough sun, it’s been a good season for tomatoes. We put together a quart of salsa — using homegrown onion, chives and basil — and put up a half-dozen bottles of tomato juice. I dug up a patch of volunteer yellow dock (Rumex crispus), washed the soil off the roots, and spent an evening trimming and slicing them to fill a half-pint jar that I topped off with certified organic Prairie brand vodka (distilled in the region from corn grown in the region) to start a tincture: good (usually in combination with another herb) for treating skin disorders and general detoxification.

As I mosey about the back yard, squeezing through the narrowed paths resulting from the extravagant growth, I feel a bit impatient for autumn, when I can move several clumps of perennials that have become much bigger than anticipated. Even as I marvel at the eight-foot-tall sunflower plant that volunteered itself nearby, I look forward to pulling out the vast tangle of stems that have reached out from one mound of spaghetti squash. And I ponder if there’s enough season left to hand-pollinate a blossom on the huge butternut squash plant that has grown voluntarily on one of compost piles; it’s probably not a purebred plant anyway, so its seed would not grow out true to type next season.

I already did that, however — hand-pollinate, that is — with one of the spaghetti squash blossoms, and it’s been a marvel to watch it grow so rapidly.

one day after pollination

seven days after pollination

Yes, as the turn of the season comes into view, I find myself recalling the barrenness of this landscape only four months ago. It’s an annual astonishment.

It was the first-quarter Moon — at local noon (Sun at the upper meridian) on the tenth — that marked the following week as likely the wettest of the summer. It’s a cardinal rule of astro-meteorology that when a lunation (New or Full Moon, first or last quarter) aligns with either the meridian or horizon of the  season (ingress) chart, the most notable weather event of the season quickly follows.

In this case, the first-quarter Moon in water-zoidion Scorpio aligned with the eastern horizon of the Cancer ingress chart. For further emphasis on rainfall, Venus was coming into alignment with deluge-and-flood-potential Neptune, the latter potently located at the lower meridian (opposite the circle-with-vertical-line) of the ingress chart.


Within a few hours of the first-quarter Moon, the rain began falling, and within a few hours the gauge held two point six-three inches. Not too far west of here, the area around Willmar was inundated with nearly ten inches of rain.

But even that was less than half of what fell on southern Louisiana in what is now being recognized as the greatest weather disaster in the country since Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey / New York in 2012. Some 40,000 homes have been inundated. Some rivers there recorded their highest crests ever — greater than from any hurricane, and this from a storm without a name: just one aspect of the complex of abnormalities that now comprises “the new normal.”

The same two charts, recast for Denham Springs, Louisiana, have the same zoidia on the axes of horizon and meridian. The main difference is in the first-quarter Moon chart: Moon very closely aligned with eastern horizon. (Note the crescent-Moon symbol close to the degree indicated by the circle-with-horizontal-line.)


Bingo! Instances such as this afford astro-meteorologists the capacity to anticipate the approximate timing and location of crucial — even catastrophic — events far in advance: as far ahead as the astro-meteorologist is motivated to look. Something that techno-meteorologists can’t hope to do.

Far away, however, during Full Moon week, the equivalent of a Category Two hurricane was spinning  in the central Arctic Ocean — again, the strongest such event since 2012. In a way, that’s not surprising: considering that the recent weather pattern has had heat surging north from the Asian land mass, across Siberia, and over the Arctic Ocean. This and other storms have been breaking up and churning what remains of Arctic ice at its seasonal ebb.

What was formerly normal for the Arctic region is greatly disturbed: The Northwest Passage is open to shipping, villages along the shore are being abandoned, Greenland’s vast icecap is melting and collapsing.

And in the months immediately ahead, what cold(er) air masses remain, have to go somewhere. The North American continent appears to be the likely outlet. That, plus a key indicator in the autumn season (Libra solar ingress) chart, points toward a series of cold shocks that are likely to also affect harvests in gardens and industrial fields across much of fly-over land.

More later.


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