SHEET MUSIC & OUTDOORS: What will winter bring us?
by Roland D. Hallee
OK, it’s mid-September and it’s time for me to take risks, stick my neck out, walk a tightrope – take your pick from the risk I’m about to take.
This is my annual attempt to read Mother Nature’s warnings and predict the coming winter. I knowâ€¦ I know, it’s not until September, but this season will be here before we know it.
I have observed signs over the past two weeks and have to admit that I am getting mixed messages.
My first observation is the onions. If the skin is thin, you can expect a mild winter. The onions I’ve peeled lately had a thin skin, which would indicate a mild winter. Squirrels are another sign of a mild winter. They don’t seem in a rush to pick nuts for the winter, another sign of a mild winter.
However, another farmer’s folk signal is the squirrel tail. A bushy tail indicates a harsh winter, and a skinny tail means a mild season. I have seen both. I once noticed a squirrel with a really bushy tail, and later that day I saw one with a less bushy tail.
How about berries and nuts. Letâ€™s examine this. I have wild berries growing in my garden, black raspberries and Virginia cherries. My harvest of black raspberries this year has been minimal and I have a lot less Virginia cherries than usual. The two signs of a mild winter.
Now there are other signs to look for. Are the corn husks thicker than normal? If so, harsh winter. I haven’t noticed much of a difference this year. The flowers that bloom in late fall are another sign of a harsh winter. I’m not sure if this qualifies, but when my rhubarb plot was pretty much complete in late July, I cleaned up the area, preparing it for winter. As I was checking out my squash garden last weekend, I noticed a new crop of rhubarb was coming. I had never seen this before. In addition, the abundance of acorns at the camp appears to be on the decline this year. Not as much as we’ve seen in recent years.
Let’s talk about bees. In fact yellow vests.
Old folklore claims that beehives built high up indicate heavy snowfall. Closer to the ground means a mild winter, in terms of snow.
Last weekend, while we were camping with my family in Solon, we noticed a lot of yellow vests. On Sunday morning, we finally located the hive. It was hanging from a tree along the Kennebec River, it was the size of a basketball and must have been a good 30 feet above the ground, hanging over the river. Not a good sign, unless, of course, you are a skier or a snowmobile enthusiast.
Another is leaves on a tree. If the leaves fall early, it signals a mild winter, but if they fall late, the winter will be severe. On our return to camp from the camping trip, my wife and I noticed a large number of leaves on the ground. It seems to me, at least for me, that it is a bit early for that.
Finally, the bear’s woolly caterpillar. This one I can’t help you. It’s mid-September and I haven’t seen one yet. I will see to that, and maybe report back to you later. Remember, the wider the rust-colored stripe on the caterpillar, the milder the winter.
According to Old Farmers Almanac, meteorological folklore warnings of a harsh winter are based on La Nina. La Nina conditions for North America tend to be dry in summer and cold in winter, so if the birds leave early, the leaves drop quickly, the onions and apple skins are hard, and the caterpillars are short, this may be due to the drought in La Nina. A miserable winter will follow.
So, let’s review. I have presented 12 conditions on which to base my prediction. The score is as follows: mild winter 7, harsh winter 3 and two undecided. It looks like a relatively mild winter. Yet all “weather experts” seem to be saying a harsh winter. Maybe I’m just trying to justify a mild winter in my mind.
So here is my recommendation. You’d better polish the shovels and tune the snowblowers, because being a real builder is being ready for anything. And we’ve all heard the old adage, â€œIf you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait a minute. “
Roland’s question of the week:
How many years did it take for Bill Belichick to win a Super Bowl as head coach of the New England Patriots?
The answer can be found here.
Responsible journalism is hard work!
It’s expensive too!
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