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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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oldhwy61

[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.

cap-ing_2016
[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.

-<zoidion>-

[ 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. ]

Stars and Bucks 11/09/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, History, Photography, Weather.
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Glacial Lakes ephemera: After a run of not-quite-hot but very muggy days, the weather regime shifted just in time for a planned several days out of town. We headed west and a bit north to the Minnewaska area, about one hundred and twenty miles from home, as the crow flies.

There’s a good-size lake by that name there: the name made, by early settlers, from two Dakota words, minne (“water”) and washta or waska (“good”). For a while it was called by an Indian name meaning “Dish Lake,” because it lies in a basin. At other times it was called White Bear Lake, apparently because a Chief White Bear was buried in a high hill on the north shore; and Lake Whipple, after Bishop Henry Whipple, by many accounts a fair-minded man who courageously advocated for peace with the Dakotas when the bulk of the white population wanted to exterminate or at least deport all of them following the horrors of the Dakota Uprising of 1862. (The town of Mankato on the Minnesota River still holds the dubious distinction of having been the site of the largest mass execution ever in the United States of America, when thirty-eight Dakotas were simultaneously hanged on the day after Christmas that year. Many more sentences were commuted by President Abraham Lincoln.)

The view of and approach to the lake from the south is a dramatic prospect, since it is a long and finally steep slope after traversing part of the 120-mile-long and ten-to-nineteen-mile-wide band of territory known as the glacial lakes. While nearly all of Minnesota (not the southeast corner) was subject to glaciation, this area got special treatment that left behind a landscape characterized by hills, ridges and lakes that seem to belong . . .  somewhere else. 

Here’s one view within Glacial Lakes State Park:

GLSP_bowl

And another:

GLSP_bowl-closeup

The experience afforded by a bit of time atop this kame — hah! the computer’s dictionary doesn’t list the word, but the hefty paper one does: “a short ridge or mound of sand and gravel deposited during the melting of glacial ice” — was a rare and welcome one. The only sounds came from the unusually gentle breeze, grasshoppers, frogs (maybe) in the woods below, a few birds passing through the valley: nothing mechanical. And the quality of light shifted from moment to moment.

The day had begun, in the nearby no-stoplight town of Starbuck, with a full rainbow and a partial double spectrum of colors, which heralded half a day of overcast and showery conditions. By noon, the sky was clearing, and by early evening a local pileup of clouds was flashing lightning nearly every second and hurling hail at the ground. I wondered if I could have stood the times of tedium to witness, and photograph, such a remarkable variety of clouds and light on the land.

The following morning was quite clear, presenting an excellent view of the fading Moon along with Venus and Mars. (Mars is a tiny dot to the left, or north, of the Moon’s crescent.) Pretty good for a camera perched on a stack of magazines, looking out a dirty second-story-porch window. (It would be a long story.)

Mars_Moon_Venus-dawn

Below is the chart for the same moment: the time as recorded by my camera. Jupiter was about to rise over the horizon, though still too close to the Sun to be seen. But the chart shows graphically that excellent planetary viewing will be possible, clear weather permitting, over the next couple of weeks. The Sun lengthens the distance from Jupiter, and Venus and Mars close the distance from the latter.

Mars_Moon_Venus

How easy and glorious it would be to see the planets and stars if so many millions of lives weren’t based in urban centers like the overbuilt Twin Cities, with its excess of shade and decorative trees and its plethora of light pollution sources. Viewing across a prairie landscape like the Sedan Brook Prairie would be both simple and hypnotic.

Sedan_Prairie

But except for a few mostly small remnants, the prairies are gone. What is left, in small towns dependent on spillover money from Big Agriculture — where every stop sign or bend in the road represents an opportunity for a disastrous spill from a tank truck loaded with anhydrous ammonia — are rueful reminders of what once, and for eons, was.

Starbuck_ATM

-<zoidion>-

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