Farming by the Moon Phases...Made Simple

The Lunar Cycles Effects on Farming

full moon in pines
The moon is nice to look at; but not just nice to look at. It’s been useful ever since Adam figured out (or asked) what to do with it. The first chapter of Genesis spoke of this “lesser light” that’s to “govern” the night, as well as its co-duty (with the sun) of marking seasons and days and years. Then in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon spoke of “seasons” to everything in life (which includes our farms and gardens). Now there are many things that are quite plain and easily understood in scripture. This understanding of the marking of seasons by the sun and moon, however, is not necessarily one of them; and I’m certainly not going to pretend to claim special insight into all the mysteries of God’s wonderful creation. But if the sun and moon are marking the seasons, it does make sense that God has made provision for ideals or “best seasons” for accomplishing certain tasks we perform within the bounds of His nature.

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So how does the moon affect our plowing, planting, cultivating, or doing a number of other things on the farm? Well, I don’t know exactly. But “how” is not the important question; “how can we use what we see happening” is. There are observable things that happen at the same relative time we see the moon in one phase or another. Place some lumber or a big rock out on your yard during the 1st half of the moons cycle (I’ll explain these cycles in just a bit) and it will sit there on top of the ground as long as it’s left. Put another of the same size right next to it during the last half of the lunar cycle and the latter one will sink a bit into the ground. And then there are the tides of the world’s seas. You know, I’ve never really heard a clear reason why the moon causes the changing tides. It’s simply said that it somehow yanks on the earth with differing gravitational pulls depending on its position to the earth. Sounds good to me, albeit not very understandable. All I know is, of the few times I’ve ever been to the beach the water never stops going in and out. The point is, without fully comprehending it, the truth of what it does can be apprehended…and might be utilized to some advantage on the farm.

Before we get into how this “governing-agent-of-the-night’s” seasons might be used to advantage, let’s get the basics of the moon’s phases laid out on the table.

The cycle of the moon’s revolution around us here on earth can be divided into 4 distinct phases or “quarters”, each of which lasts a little better than 7 days…and each of which has a different appearance as viewed from earth.

The 1st quarter (which is also the beginning of the entire cycle) starts at the point called the “new moon” in which the moon is practically invisible to us (since the sun is shining on the side of it we can’t see) and continues to that point in which half the moon is illuminated by the sun. This 1st quarter (like the others) lasts a little more than 7 days.

The 2nd quarter then begins and lasts for about another 7 days until the full moon is reached. Now we’re halfway through the lunar month (or cycle). This entire 1st half of the cycle (about 14 days) is called several things: The “waxing of the moon”, the “growing of the moon”, the “light of the moon”, the “new of the moon”…or simply…the 1st half of the lunar month.

Now, the 2nd half of the cycle.

This begins with the 3rd quarter (again, a bit more than 7 days long), which takes place from the full moon to that point when the sun shines on exactly the other half of the moon. At this point begins the 4th quarter which lasts (did you guess about 7 days? If so, you’re correct) until the new moon, at which point everything begins again, and you are now one lunar month older and wiser. This last half of the lunar cycle (the 3rd and 4th quarter or about the last 14 days) also has names: The “waning of the moon”, the “decrease of the moon”, the “dark of the moon”, or the “old of the moon”.

Now all of this is just labeling, or putting names to what we “see” the moon doing. But there are actions or forces that the moon exerts upon the earth (much like the tidal influence), which correspond to these visible stages.

Let’s talk first about the two halves of the moon’s cycle. During the waxing of the moon (that is, the increasing light of the 1st half of the lunar cycle, or the 1st and 2nd quarters), there is, somehow (and don’t ask me how ‘cause I don’t know), more “get go”. Call it influence, motion, tension, energy; or probably best put…expansion. It can be thought of as a “growth” season, where material in nature (probably mainly water or moisture) grows or expands. The opposite is true for the waning of the moon (the 2nd half of the cycle, or 3rd and 4th quarters), where a period of contracting occurs. A daily expanding and contracting of tidal waters is easily observed at the beach, but the monthly expanding and contracting of the moisture soaked earth is less easily observed at your home or farm…but evidently occurring all the same.

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Have you ever dug a posthole and set a fence post only to find that you had less dirt left over than would otherwise fill the space the post was now taking up? Why was that? The odds are these lunar expansions and contractions are at work depending on the time of the month you were working. So why not use this to advantage: Dig the posthole during the waxing of the moon, when the soil is expanded and also a bit easier to dig in, and then set the posts at the waning of the moon when the dirt can be more compacted around the post. This results in a sturdier set of the post, which is pretty critical with corner posts or gateposts.

Now through the course of this writing, keep this in mind: We’re talking “rule of thumb”; not every chore can be done at these specific times. So all this is not a matter of “do or don’t”, but a matter of “good or better”.

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Let us turn our attentions briefly to the garden, field, and orchard. Consider these two things: 1) The key ingredient of good soil and of any type of plant, tree, or shrub…is water, and 2) It’s logical to assume that somehow the moon’s gravitational pull somehow causes moisture to stay closer to the surface of the ground during a waxing moon.

The general rule that farm folk have practiced for ages is this: All plants producing above ground growth, fruits, or flowers benefit from a waxing moon planting. All plants that produce below ground generally benefit from a waning moon planting, leaning more heavily on the 3rd quarter. For the harvesting of vegetables, grains or forage it makes sense that this ending of growth would be best done on a waning moon: the 3rd and 4th quarters. The 4th quarter (just before the new moon) is a time of the most decreased activity, and would be the best time for destructive garden or farm chores, i.e., cutting, pruning, burning, or clearing unwanted growth.

For more detailed information related to gardening according to the lunar cycle, check out “Gardening by the Moon...Made Simple”

In the timber woods, trees felled in the old of the moon, especially the last quarter, will have less moisture. This is useful for both firewood as well as wood intended for the mill. It might also be the best idea to nail up wood shingles or wall siding under the decrease of the moon to avoid excessive shrinking or curling.

The influential energy of the moon, therefore, may not only affect the waters of the oceans where it is more easily witnessed, but the waters not so easily observed in the ground, plants, trees…and in us creatures.

We humans, and the animals, are full of water…namely fluids and blood. So how might these observed principles of lunar effects and causes add a little wind to our sails when it comes to our livestock?

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Up until these latter times it was pretty well known that the castration of livestock is best done around the new moon (the moon’s influence being greatly minimized) when bleeding is at a minimum. Are these minuscule differences? Perhaps, but if I were a bleeding animal I’d want every bit of help I could get.

The same principle applied when dehorning cattle or sheep; it was best done around the new moon and possibly just after, which would favor cellular healing with the beginning of the “increase” of the moon and its “growth” enabling help. (Again, minuscule? Maybe, but every bit can help.)

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Animal birth is a critical time for the growth of newborn livestock. Breeding stock at a time that would put the end of the gestation during the light or increase of the moon may have some advantage over other times. This would be tricky for the larger animals, however, a hen set during the 2nd quarter (the growing of the moon) will hatch the chicks about 21 days later during the 1st quarter (again under the growth of the moon).

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And what of milk production? Weaning a calf or kid from its mother during the waxing of the moon would possibly yield an edge toward more fluids (i.e., delicious milk). But if lactation production is not the goal (i.e., horses, hogs, or drying off a milk cow) the waning of the moon might be the preferred choice.

It’s easy to see how these principles of the moon’s physical forces on the fluids of the body might have useful application on the opposite side of livestock life…that is, death or butchering. Animals slaughtered on the waning of the moon, especially the 3rd quarter immediately after a full moon, will be more easily bled, and would also result in more tender cuts of meat that don’t contract as much when cooked (since it’s already somewhat contracted).

One more thing I’ll only add in passing (because it’s something we can only guess at), and that is the effect of the moon’s extra light (reflected from the sun, obviously) on people, animals, and plants. Does it affect our brains, our hormones, or both? We could probably all testify that we’ve known of some “wolfish” behavior on a full moon, though; animals and humans alike.

But enough of the farmyard and fields; let us move indoors.

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What of the moon’s effects upon domestic farm chores? Perhaps the most important of these tasks is food preservation; namely, the canning and drying of garden produce. Best results might be obtained in that lunar phase of “no growth” or the waning period of the moon. But with baking (specifically the rising doughs) the increase of the moon might be to your advantage since yeast is a growing thing.

Now I want to conclude by mentioning that you can’t always do things when the moon suggests. There are times when things ripen or you have to bake during a contrary moon phase. Animals are born when they’re born…not earlier or later. If you need fresh meat, you need it. A down fence posts needs repair right now before the bull gets out and not in 15 days. As I said earlier, it’s not a matter of “do or don’t”, but of “good or better”. Bread baked during the last half of the month is far yonder better tasting than none at all.

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: All of this is “rule of thumb” type stuff. But do your own experimentation. With a keen and watchful eye, begin to see if you notice some differences in your daily chores done within the waxing or waning moon. And always remember this: It’s God that gives prosperity…and not His moon.

Remember, for more detailed information related to the lunar effects on garden and field crops, take a look at the post called “Gardening by the Moon Phases...Made Simple” in the Gardening & Orchards section of the site.

Pictures and article by Pa Mac, copyright 2013

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