I am sure you have figured it out…we are in a leap year and today (February 29th) is leap day. Leap year is an odd phenomenon and I am glad that I wasn’t born on a leap day; I had a student a few years back who was and it seemed odd to have a birth date that 3 out of 4 years didn’t have a day to be celebrated on?
So, 2012 is a leap year, 366 days instead of the usual 365…the question is why? It was the ancient Egyptians who figured out that the solar year and our man made year don’t always match up. It takes the earth a little longer than a year to travel around the Sun; to be exact it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds… to be exact! So…as the hours accumulate over the centuries and extra day is needed or added to the calendar; through the years this practice of a leap year has become official.
No surprise that it was the Romans who first designated February 29th as a leap day…it was fine tuned in the 16th century to include a leap day in years divisible by four…2012, 2016, 2020, etc… One other stipulation was that no year divisible by 100 would have a leap year; except if it was divisible by 400. 1900 was not a leap year but 2000 was? If we didn’t add this day to our calendar…after 100 years our calendar would be off by about 24 days!
Here is a little poem to help straighten everything out:
Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Save February, she alone
Hath eight days and a score
Til leap year gives her one day more!
Well…leap day means that spring can’t be far behind; in fact this year the Vernal or Spring Equinox will start on March 20th at 1:14am EDT. Equinox is a term that tells us we will have an equal part night to day just like we did six months ago when we had the Fall Equinox. Interestingly enough…here in Indiana we will have a growing season of 181 days with a 50/50 chance of April 13th being our last frost date of the year. I can tell you that turkey season starts April 25th this year and in the past I have had several very cold mornings where I sat with frost on the ground…so you might not want to plant your tomatoes until later in May?
This has been a very odd winter; I am sure that many of you will agree that it has been one of the mildest winters in memory. Frankly I have loved it and have never had the chance to do so much fishing as I have this past 7 or 8 weeks since Christmas. If you are one who loves shoveling snow then Europe would have been the place for you to visit as many locales there have had record snow and cold temperatures; but honestly I have never enjoyed so many mild afternoons walking the creeks and floating our many lakes here in southern Indiana.
So, this week…know that Spring is truly just a few days, (20 or so) away and once again the earth worms will start leaving their castings for us, Blue Jays and Crows will awaken the woods with their squawking’s and Mr. Tom turkey will gobble among the early tree buds. One last saying; bluebirds are a sign of spring…warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring! If you are still muddling in your winter blues…get your gear together and get ready for a glorious spring as we all Enjoy the Great Outdoors.