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Al Batt: It’s fall when even my feet smell like pumpkin spice

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt


Fall is when we give serious thought to winter.

Winter is when we begin looking forward to spring.

When does fall begin? Is it the astronomical date of the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22, the meteorological date of Sept. 1 or Labor Day? No matter, it’s when winter looms. Winter is imminent for a long time.

Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt wrote this, which is only slightly longer than her name, “It is the summer’s great last heat. It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.”

It’s true, just as soon as fall arrives, we start wondering what kind of winter it will be. Why do we do that? Because we need to prepare mentally and batten down a hatch or two. Cold weather is nothing to be trifled with. We need to roll out those endless coils of concertina wire to fend off the frigid temperatures.

“We’re all in this together,” doesn’t apply to many things. Certainly not the weather. Minnesota gets winters described by meteorologists, with more degrees than a right angle, in scientific terms like “crappy.” Bad weather induces schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is the enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others, especially when seen on The Weather Channel while wintering in Arizona.

For a good number of my driving years, it was important to remember to plug in and unplug the car. Now I have to remember to do that with my cellphone. My formative years were spent in the company of automobiles with electrical plugs sticking out of their grilles. My method of keeping a garage-free flivver from becoming as numb as a pounded thumb in the cold was a block heater. It warmed the engine and my heart. Block heaters didn’t predict the weather. The almanacs do. The Old Farmer’s Almanac (published since 1792) predicts snowfall in the Upper Midwest will be above normal. The snowiest periods will be in late December, early and late January, late February, and early March. Farmers’ Almanac (since 1818) has a long-range forecast calling for a cold winter with normal to below-normal temperatures and above normal snowfall in Minnesota and Iowa.

It’s easy to identify current weather conditions. A rock can be a weather station. If the rock is flying, it’s windy. If the rock is invisible, it’s foggy. If the rock is dry, it’s fair. If the rock is wet, it’s raining. If the rock is white, it’s snowing. Weather forecasting is difficult. We can make our winter prognostications, with the caveat that every weather forecast comes with the potential of eliciting guffaws. But here we go.

The longer the motor home migration south, the crueler the winter.

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry will cause snow to gather in a hurry.

If piles of stacked firewood become large enough to be  Stovehenge, the winter will be cold.

Mushrooms galore, much snow in store. No mushrooms at all, no snow will fall.

If you see a tanker truck hauling chili, it will be a cold winter.

Tough apple skins or thick onions skins mean a rough winter.

The number of days from the first snowfall until Christmas equals the number of snowfalls in the winter.

When leaves fall early, fall and winter will be mild; When leaves fall late, winter will be severe.

The taller the weeds, the deeper the snow.

The more mice in the house, the colder and longer the winter.

It will be a cold winter if flowers bloom for a second time.

A warm October, a cold February. A warm November is the sign of a bad winter.

Thunder in the fall foretells a cold winter.

The nearer the New Moon to Christmas Day, the harder the winter.

The brighter the fall foliage, the colder and snowier the winter.

The chill is on, near and far, in every month that has an R. Ben Franklin said, “Some of us are weather-wise and some are otherwise.”

In the fall, I become a woolly worm whisperer. When the brown band on a woolly bear caterpillar is narrow, it means a harsh winter is coming. The wider the brown band, the milder the winter will be. The colors are based on age, but there is another possible predictor: If a woolly bear crawls in a southerly direction, it means it’s trying to escape a cold winter. If it travels on a northward path, it indicates a mild winter.

I’m extraordinarily fond of each day, no matter the season, but I should warn you that my snow globe has predicted a lot of snow this year.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday.