Moon Signs

As I was leaving our local farm store/coop recently a woman who works there called out to me, “Mr. Guerrant!  We have the Almanac calendar.  This will help you with your planting.”  And she handed me the 2014 Farmer’s Almanac calendar.

The Farmers Almanac is a truly amazing thing.  It almost defies description.  Those of you who are familiar with it will know what I mean.  The most amazing thing about it, to me, is how seriously farmers have traditionally regarded it.  My Grandpa consulted it daily (even though he already had much of the wisdom in its head).

So what does the Almanac have to say about planting?  Here’s a taste:

The best planting time is in the sign of Cancer, the second best is in the sign of the Scorpion and the third best is in the sign of the Fishes.  However, the best time to plant crops which grow underground is in the sign of the “feet.”  The sign of the “knee” is also a good growing sign.  But seeds planted in the sign of the “head” will grow to stock and vine.

The seeds for all root crops will do well when planted during the dark of the moon and in the sign of the “lower part of the body.”  Plant seeds when the moon is full and they will not do well.  Cucumbers will be more plentiful when planted in the sign of Gemini.

Plant cabbage in the sign of the head and beans in the sign of the arms.  The dark of the moon is the best for planting onions and potatoes.  Corn should be planted when the moon is full.  If you plant corn when the signs are in the heart, black spots could appear on the grain.  Never plant in the sign of the bowels for your seeds will rot.

And so on.

For those who are wondering, the body parts relate to zodiac signs.  The feet are in Pisces (or “The Fishes”), the knee is in Capricorn (“Goat”), etc.  For ease of reference the calendar identifies what zodiac sign the moon is passing through every day.  For example for May 1 (the day I usually try to plant beans and melons), the Almanac calendar says the moon is in Gemini (“arms”).  It cautions, “Any seed planted now will tend to rot.”  On the 3rd, the moon will be in Cancer (“breast”).  This day, the calendar says, is “most favorable for planting corn, cotton, okra, beans, eggplant and other above ground crops.”  Whether the moon is “running low” or “running high” (waxing or waning crescents) is also relevant.  It can be complicated, which is of course one of the advantages of having the Almanac.

Farming by moon signs is dying out these days.  I’ve never farmed that way.  There are still folks around here who do it; old-timers for the most part, but also some younger people who have preserved the tradition.  An elderly neighbor who still gardens takes not only the phases of the moon into account, but also the time of day.  He insists, for example, that melons must be planted before sunrise.  Another farmer I know, who is younger than me, times the planting of her squash by the phase of the moon and she says she has less trouble with squash bugs than her neighbors.

In traditional farming moon signs mattered for other things as well.  The moon signs determine the best and worst time for slaughtering animals for example.  Moon signs also reveal the best and worst days for fishing.

Many of these traditional practices are being kept alive by biodynamic farmers.  I have a friend who swears by biodynamic practices.

Farming by signs goes far beyond moonsigns and astrology of course.  It includes timing farm activities around what nature is doing, rather than just the date on a solar calendar.  Older farmers here, for example, might say to plant a certain crop “when the dogwoods bloom,” or “when the oak leaves are as wide as your hand.”

And of course there are traditions based on solar calendar dates (planting Irish potatoes on St. Patrick’s day or planting garlic on Columbus Day, for example) and other traditions based on the lunar calendar, but unrelated to specific moon signs (such as the common tradition here to plant one’s garden on Good Friday).

I wish I’d paid more attention to the way my grandfather followed these practices. Some of his superstitions I remember well (“Never start a job on Friday,” for example), but most I’ve forgotten.

Maybe in 2014 I’ll experiment some with taking moon signs into account.

Our farming ancestors have consulted the moon and stars for thousands of years.  It would be a pity, I think, for that practice to die out completely.

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13 comments on “Moon Signs

  1. shoreacres says:

    Even I know that potatoes should be planted in the dark of the moon! There’s a gal over on Weather Underground’s blog page who goes by the name of Skyepony. She lives in Florida but has a family farm, too. Maybe in Kentucky.
    Anyway, she keeps us up to date with things like this (always specifying the region):

    November 2013
    28th-29th Favorable Days For Planting Root Crops. Fine For Sowing Grains, Hay, And Forage Crops. Plant Flowers.
    30th Plant Carrots, Beets, Onions, Turnips, Irish Potatoes, And Other Root Crops In The South. Lettuce, Cabbage, Collards And Other Leafy Vegetables Will Do Well. Start Seedbeds. Good Day For Transplanting.

    Now and then, she adds other things, like good days for haircuts, canning, starting a diet, and so on. She takes all this seriously, and she’s got the skills to put it to use. In fact, when it comes to a homesteading lifestyle, she pretty much makes everyone else look like a piker.

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    • Bill says:

      I noticed that the Almanac now conditions its advice on what part of the country you live in. I don’t remember that being the case when I was a kid. The variety of things that are claimed to be influenced by moon signs is amazing.

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  2. I’ve never put a lot of stock in daily astrology, but I do believe the old ways are tried and true, and working with the natural flow of the universe seems like an excellent way to move through life. Many cultures/spiritual traditions follow these ideas, such as the Ayurvedic methods of maintaining ones well-being.

    Our grandfathers knew things we need to relearn.

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    • Bill says:

      I like the idea of honoring and preserving some of the traditional practices. I don’t see any reason to try to plant my melons before sunrise, but planting turnip greens on the first full moon of August seems as good a date as any. I do love the idea of integrating into a natural flow of the universe. Seasonal eating seems to me to be a good way to do that too.

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  3. Bob Braxton says:

    summer up- / -turned leaves a / sign of rain

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    • Bill says:

      Maybe so. The Almanac says the likelihood of rain can be determined by the way the crescent moon is pointing, which seems to me a far more dubious proposition.

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  4. thistledog says:

    Considering the effect of the moon on tides and other repetitive cycles in nature, it stands to reason that the advice on planting seeds and other activities in accordance with the phases of the moon have some merit. I’ll be experimenting with you in 2014. Tried my best to sow seeds this past spring as recommended by the Almanac, but time did not permit in some cases. Lord knows every little bit of advantage helps. Some might call it superstition. Maybe it’s just common sense.

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  5. jubilare says:

    The old traditions are truly fascinating. Though I’m not a farmer, I do try to get my peas in the ground on Valentine’s day. 😉

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  6. bobraxton says:

    I’m looking forward to the date for world peas

    Like

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