Here we go again. Coming to a temperate zone near you…Fall. Wednesday is the autumnal equinox, and before you know it the grasslands will be brown, holiday sales will begin and the talking heads will be pontificating on how good — or bad — the winter will be.
But that raises the question, what makes for a good winter?
Well, hold your horses. As luck would have it, my copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2022 came in the mail last week. Hardbound, no less.
They say they’ve been predicting the weather for 230 years and by this time they’ve got their prognostication down to a not-exactly-science, but close enough for government work.
That is, the old farmers at the Almanac leave government work to the National Weather Service, while they study sunspots and look at wooly worms for their weather predictions, at least that’s what I’ve always thought.
Those know-how Yankees up in New Hampshire are an indefatigable lot, and well they should be, having to shovel their way through long Katy-bar-the-door winters. Given this, we have to assume they’d like to know well ahead of time what the winter months have in store.
The thing is, before the first Almanac was published little was ascertained about weather matters beyond just referring to daily records, and the terminology was pretty sparse by today’s parlance. I’m thinking the guy that first uttered the word “drizzle” must’ve gotten some funny looks, followed by a “do what?”
But that was 1792 when George Washington was still president. Twenty-five years later the Almanac, besides telling farmers what they should plant by the light of the moon and such, started adding little pleasantries and jokes, such as this knee-slapper (remember, this is 1821):
A young couple being married some time, and having no increase, an intimate acquaintance of theirs happened to be at the house of an aged gentleman who had brought up a large family of children, the conversation turned respecting the young couple. Their friend observed in the course of the conversation with the old gentleman that they had not put their beans into the oven. The old lady upon hearing this, exclaimed, “I supposed she is plagued to death for oven wood, as I have always been.”
OK, I gather that rural New Englanders in 1821 led a pretty austere life, so it must not have taken a lot for them to yuck it up.
There’s also common sense advice on the subject of pigs and hogs: “The common practice of suffering swine to run at large during the summer months is highly injudicious, for without adverting to the damage which not unfrequently arises to the farmer by these means, I shall just notice the total loss of a large quantity of very excellent manure…”
Something tells me the good old days were a little stinkier. All in all, it’s a good thing somebody came up with the idea of zoning; something non-existent in Magdalena, where you’re still free to raise pigs or horses or even peacocks right next door without someone hassling you.
Of course, nowadays people complain about their neighbor’s dog doing its business in their yard, so maybe times haven’t changed that much. I just don’t know if good manure can come from dog poo.
Anyway, the autumnal equinox is the exact moment Mr. Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above Earth’s equator. At that instant, the earth’s rotational axis (23.4 degrees) is neither tilted away from nor towards the sun. If you want to set your watch to it, it all happens at 1:20 p.m. MDT, heralding the approach of cooler temperatures and shopping for the Halloween season. In pagan mythology, the fall equinox is called Mabon, or Second Harvest, so if you’re a Druid you might want to head over to Stonehenge and chant or something to welcome in the darkness of winter.
And if you’re one for astrology, Tuesday’s also the first day of Libra, a time of reflection, understanding and balance. But even if you’re not a Libra feel free to reflect and understand and balance…an egg.
If you’re not into astrology you could still find reflection, understanding and balance, but only if you turn off cable TV news channels for a while.
But I digress. After a few months of temperatures hovering in the 90s, don’t we all look forward to the fall season. It’s the time when we start thinking about bringing out that winter jacket.
But back to this coming winter. The prognosticators say there’ll be colder temps in New Mexico and see below-normal snowfall, with the snowiest periods in late December and late February. But don’t quote me…quote the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Me, I’d rather just interview a wooly worm.