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Turn, Turn, Turn 05/08/2017

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Climate, Hellenistic, homesteading, Long Emergency, Mundane, Photography, urban agriculture.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The growing season has been a predominantly pleasant and productive one in the upper Mississippi River region. Only a few bumps have thus far appeared on the path to harvest: the state’s earliest-ever tornadoes, and — in the first week of June — a hailstorm that pummeled the more tender leaves and prompted a call for snow plows a few miles from this reporter’s domicile.

Now, amazingly, the first dry, golden leaves are falling. I noticed it first in front of the house, under the river birch tree. Later in the day, as I reached around, under, above the arching canes — reaching for the heavy clusters of fruit — of the elderberry bush, I could see some of its compound leaves, now a pale yellow.

The days are beginning to be noticeably shorter here as the month of golden Leo proceeds. The first reminder of summer’s imminent end arrived this week, right on cosmic schedule for this region.

The week has been a busy one, particularly due to the sequence of harvesting, stripping, mashing a great plenty of elderberries — all from one bush — and beginning the wine-making process. Nearly two weeks earlier than in 2014 and 2015 — I skipped wine-making last year, letting friends pick the fruit for medicinal syrup.

The hands-on work has been welcome amidst the mental and emotional work that has attended sessions at two conferences: the first Transition National Gathering at Macalester College in St. Paul, and a grassroots democracy conference. Both have been energizing tribal get-togethers, and both have been reminders of the urgency of the world situation.

At the latter event, Jill Stein and Ronnie Cummins spoke about “connecting the dots” of a myriad of efforts and organizations — about the need for mutual support on the issues of food, climate, health and democracy. Stein outlined a fourfold emergency response, transforming renewable energy (unspoken though: a much-reduced energy diet from North American standards), food, transportation and ecological systems. Cummins emphasized the huge cadre — 519,000 — of elected and appointed officials in the US, and — without relying primarily on their receptivity — their charge to serve their constituents. 

Much change is in the air: For example, in Minneapolis the herbicide-loving majority on the Park and Recreation Board is on the way out of office, due to public pressure and failure to receive further endorsement.

Cummins referred to other numbers: five hundred million small-holding farmers worldwide, along with two hundred million herders, fifty million industrial farmers, and two-and-a-half million organic farmers. All of them are wrestling with tidal waves of systemic change.

Vital — not a single cure-all — is waves of practical, on-the-ground support in natural processes that can restore land and oceans. Reversing many destructive trends, cooperating in Gaia’s restorative powers  — possible yes, but how likely, especially given such views, with the backing of big money, as this:

We can talk about the complexities of Monsanto as a ruthlessly capitalistic company all day long, but their products, the technology itself, is safe and it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around that. . . .  Here is this company with a rather checkered past, on the one hand, and on the other hand, this technology seems to be able to do the world a lot of good. How do we reconcile those things? – Trace Sheehan, producer/writer of “Food Evolution”

Ah yes, what an oh-so-natural-sounding title, eh? And such a benign attitude: as if the “complexities” ought to be regarded separately from the technology. (What a prospect: nine billion humanoids, all watched over by machines of loving grace.) But actually, for decades on end, food has been given a series of technological shoves.

Anyway — you certainly don’t need (or, likely, want) a lecture on the workings and notions of industrial agriculture. You’ve likely been doing your own homework, and drawing your own conclusions, for quite a while.

At bottom, the message of “Food Evolution” certainly would seem to be: Let’s keep business-as-usual going, despite its manifold reported failures.

I really don’t see that approach to the current existential crisis getting off the ground, so to speak.

The breakdown of ecological, economic, cultural, political systems is undeniable — unless, probably, one is paid to deny.

My own vision of the glories of genetic engineering — and its accompanying regular use of herbicides, leading to the emergence of super-weeds — includes the testimony of one with first-hand experience in the early stages of  restoration. Sitting around a conference table at the Transition event, one presenter talked of ten-foot-tall “trees” of ragweed on her modest-sized tract formerly rented out for conventional agriculture: descendants of those that survived the chemical attacks. Those would have to be cut down with saws or chain-saws, and the fields worked over by her goats in subsequent years.

Grief, acknowledged or not, is ever-present. One presenter, a local community college teacher, had invited several of her students to bring their stories to a session of “climate grief.”  Several were from Somalia and Ethiopia, conveying the perspective of increasingly frequent drought years, of “pirates” (at least initially) seeking to drive away shiploads of industrial wastes, of mass dislocation and political repression stemming from the illegal sale of agricultural lands to Chinese investors, for food exports.

Some analysts of Gaia’s systems are convinced that the tipping point is already past, some others that three years remain — until 2020 — in which to begin reversing the trends.

Not all was grim and dire: There was a teleconference with Shaun Chamberlin in the UK, sharing audio and video clips of the late happy warrior David Fleming. And, after the gathering’s conclusion, a walk with several first-time visitors from the campus to the gorge of the Mississippi River, witnessing a glorious sunset and noticing the different plants along the way.

In “my” own yard, bounteous, beautiful food is streaming forth — along with a great hatch of ravenous Japanese beetles. (They are especially fond of the cylindrical pale-purple flowers on the anise hyssop — for intoxication apparently, not for food.) The first big heads of broccoli are contributing to many a breakfast scramble, the cucumbers are about to produce their green deluge — though I missed one, now yellow and destined to yield seed for next year’s crop.

And the other day, a hummingbird briefly zoomed in and hovered, visiting perhaps in search of artificial food — none of that here.

When I look, observe and see, I find beauty aplenty.

Always, there is majesty in the sky and in the movements of the sky beings. Luna is in the glorious pre-Full phase, leading to the lunar eclipse (not visible from North America). And then, the greatly anticipated Great American Solar Eclipse of 21 August. Interest is running at a frenzied pitch. Even Newsweek has run a piece on the astrological significance for not-really-president Trump.

The astrological community, of course, has been abuzz for many months, focusing particularly on the fact that the eclipse hits Trump’s so-much-in-evidence Mars as well as his ascendant. As could be expected, there were a variety of interpretations among the astrologers who presented the “Eclipse Master Class” via AstrologyHub.

Can he remain in office? It’s hard to imagine, given the ongoing intensifying political circus. Will he go — soon or later?

It seems that too few astrologers have made extensive studies of eclipses’ significance, how long their effect lasts and starting when.

Ben Dykes, translator of ancient astrological texts, opined that events of early December 2017 — when Saturn reaches a trine (one-third of the zodiacal circle) from the eclipse point — will offer hints of what is to come, while the main period of intensity of effects will run from March to October 2019. The eclipse occurring at the end of the zoidion Leo indicates the conclusion of a situation — of a would-be king occupying his throne (or Offal Office)? He foresaw scandal primarily involving Trump’s children — Venus in Cancer at right angle to Jupiter in Libra in the eclipse chart, repeating the pattern in Trump’s natal: Jupiter being lord of the fifth place (children) in the natal — but  not being  personally harmed in a physical way.

Saturn in the first place of the eclipse chart, cast for Washington, indicates much national trouble, since Saturn is lord of the second place. One doesn’t need astrology to see that, but it does confirm a deepening “time of troubles”  for this mismanaged nation, this unraveling empire.


Eclipse queen Bernadette Brady pointed, in part, to previous eclipses on the day before at nineteen-year intervals, thus at the same zodiacal degree. In 1979, there were nuclear-weapons tests by the USA, UK and USSR; in 1998, there were provocative terrorist attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that were answered with US attacks on Afghanistan, and a significant satellite launch by North Korea.

Now, again, the Korean peninsula is on edge, with Chinese, Russian, Japanese and American military forces and populations watching anxiously. Brady interprets the imminent solar eclipse as denoting danger from action in haste or in seeking revenge (Mars close to the eclipse point): patience is of great importance, as is how one acts while waiting; legal and constitutional crises are in process.

The sense of crisis in Washington, especially, is obvious and deepening.

What has been little noted, however, is the symbolic impact of the Great American Eclipse on the chart of the office of the presidency. The configuration of the former upon the latter confirms the extreme pressures brought by various claimants to power and the highly-charged state of the people at large.


Recognize: The nature and functioning of the presidency will be deeply and irrevocably altered by the events of the coming months. It will be some time before the shape of the new dispensation is evident.

Significant news and hints of largely hidden developments can be expected around and soon after the Mercury direct station — at the eclipse degree — which occurs on 5 September.

As for the Gaian crisis: Well, Saturn’s entry into Capricorn — where Saturn is lord in the most serious, down-to-earth sense — occurs only thirty-six hours before Sol enters Capricorn on 21 December 2017.

Crunch time, folks.


Be sure to catch Australoger Ed Tamplin’s commentary.


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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