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Poor Will's Almanack: October 18 - 24, 2016

On October 22, the Frog and Toad Migration Moon comes into its final quarter. The following day, called Cross-Quarter Day, the sun reaches half way between autumn equinox and winter solstice, entering the fertile but chilly sign of Scorpio.

Today is the hinge of middle autumn and initiates the most dramatic period of leaf fall.  After the September tier of wildflowers and the October witch hazels end their seasons, the floral year comes to a close throughout the northern half of the United States. Below the 40th Parallel, there is no sequence after autumn except spring. The land has no response other than to begin again.

The day's length falls below eleven hours for the first time since February during this week of the year, and all across the northern half of the United States, the chemical changes in the foliage that became noticeable six weeks ago accelerate until the fragile landscape turns all at once.     

Black walnuts, locusts, buckeyes, box elders, hackberries, ashes and cottonwoods are already bare. Large patches of sky shine through the tattered canopy. Peak leaf coloring is just beginning throughout the middle and southern Appalachians, but in the lower Midwest, the best of middle fall is often over.

In the cooler, wetter nights, crickets and katydids are weakening. Only a few swallowtails visit the garden now, and just a few fireflies glow in the grass. Every monarch butterfly has left for Mexico.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Fifth Week of Middle Fall. In the meantime, pay even more attention than usual: the entire landscape will quickly come undone.

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