Farming by the Light of the Moon

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Waxing moon. Kristin Catherwood. September 15, 2013.

 I recently came across a treasure trove of farming folklore related to the lunar cycles in the R.M. of Key West’s local history book. The folklore was embedded within the Dewey Johnson family history. Henry “Dewey” Johnson was born in 1898 in Selby, South Dakota. He married Leoda Baird, born 1899 in North Dakota. The family history mentions that both of Leoda’s parents “wore guns because of the outlaw Jesse brothers and others who rode through there.” Dewey immigrated to the Ogema district in 1910 where he helped his brothers with their well digging outfit. In this job he “used a willow to witch for water veins.” Dewey and Leoda raised their family in the Ogema district, and their descendants live there still. At the end of their family history, Dewey included this store of farming advice timed to the lunar cycles.

“In an effort to improve productivity, Dewey and Lee were always aware of growing conditions relating to time of year, degree of moisture, methods of tillage, as well as the phase of the moon.

Through constant experimenting and noting results, they arrived at some definite conclusions which assisted them in their day-to-day activities.

Of particular note were the moon phases. They concluded that to promote life, activity should be performed in the light of the moon, preferably two days after the start of the ‘new moon’ phase – i.e.:

1)      Transplant all plants in the ‘new moon.’ (Note: most nursery trees have a clipped branch clipped on NORTH side of the tree, plant with this to the NORTH.)

2)      Wean and castrate animals in the ‘New Moon’ (Note: Dogs are more gentle, pigs don’t have scabby backs or droopy tails and young animals develop better)

3)      Plant vegetables which bear fruit above ground (i.e. peas, beans)

4)      Swath crop in the ‘new moon (even if green, it fills and ripens in the swath – peel back the hull and if starting to ripen, swath now in the new moon)

5)      Pick vegetables and fruit in the ‘new moon’ (they are crisper and sweeter)

6)      Butcher in the ‘new moon’ (meat is tender and will not shrink and splatter when cooked)

DARK of the moon – last three days of last quarter.

1)      Prepare ground for garden and field (kill weeds)

2)      Spray hard to kill weeds (sow thistle, dandelion, wild oats, mustard)

3)      Plant vegetables which produce underground (i.e. potatoes, carrots).*

 

*Johnson, Henry “Dewey.” 1982. Prairie Grass to Golden Grain, Ogema and District Historical Society, Ogema. 138-139.

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