So, you want to know all about the coming winter, do you? 

Peter Geiger holds the new edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, which predicts a mixed bag of weather for the 2021-22 winter. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Well, the newest edition of the Farmers’ Almanac declares that this year’s winter will be mild. 

And then cold. 

And then stormy, and then mild again. 

Happy? 

“A frosty flip-flop,” is what the almanac is calling it. They describe an erratic winter where the only thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything. 

“Even within each of the months, it’s going to go back and forth,” almanac Editor Peter Geiger warned. “It’s going to drive you crazy. I think in some ways, it’s not going to be what people really enjoy most about the winter because it’s going to be such a mixture.” 

Using their secret blend of forecast techniques, the folks at the almanac have predicted that there will be normal amounts of snowfall this winter. But between storms will be those flip-flopping weather patterns that may … well, as Geiger puts it, drive both snow-lovers and winter-haters a little bit mad. 

“But the interesting news,” Managing Editor Sandi Duncan said, “is that as we get further into the spring, it’s going to be quite nice in New England. Come May, it’s actually going to be what we’re calling a backward spring. In the northern parts of the country, it’s going to be warmer than in the southern parts. So, once again, Mother Nature seems to be flip-flopping all around. But it’s good news for New England because it looks like once we get past March, spring will arrive and it will be pretty decent, even compared to the South.” 

The weather in coming months might be a mixed bag, but when you get right down to it, so is the almanac itself. 

For more than 200 years, lots of folks have been turning to the Farmers’ Almanac specifically for the weather breakdown. There’s plenty of that in this year’s edition, including weather maps, calendars, moon and tide charts, and prognostications on when each region will get walloped by major storms. 

But as always, the almanac is also jammed full of tips, facts and insights meant to entertain, but also to help a person lead an organized and fruitful life. 

What should you do when your lilac leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear? How can you fix a squeaky floor? What do you call a group of raccoons and just how did American revolutionaries of the 18th century feel about soap? 

Not to mention the planning guides the almanac is famous for: when to plant, when to fish, when to set eggs for hatching and how to let the moon be your guide when it comes to gardening. 

Do you know what it means if an embryonic persimmon seed looks like a fork, a knife or a spoon? The almanac knows. 

Are the mosquitoes ruining your summer? Got gum in your hair and fog on your car windows? Are you desperate to keep those wily squirrels away from your bird feeder? 

The almanac has you covered, and most of the time, you really don’t need to go any farther than your kitchen cupboards or spice rack to take care of business. 

Prominent in this year’s issue is an article called “Mother Nature is Changing the Way We Garden.” It’s a hard look at the science of phenology, which examines the influence of climate on animal and vegetable life. 

Duncan is particularly fond of this feature. With climate change making the standard calendar less reliable for farming and gardening, she said, learning how to use nature as a guide is more important than ever. 

“I think it really summarizes what the almanac is about,” Duncan said. “It’s about living with nature rather than against it. Instead of just looking at the calendar or the seed packets to find out when to plant, you should possibly take cues from nature.” 

Phenology observes things such as bird migration, the size of maple leaves and the behavior of insects to aid in planning a garden. 

“People may say it’s folklore,” Duncan said, “but it’s really not. It’s really just about looking at nature.” 

Phenology relies on local indicators — what the birds, bees or spiders are doing in the Southwest won’t mean much, for example, for those of us in New England. But the almanac asserts that the powers of observation may be the best tool of them all when it comes to planting.

“Using phenology — relying on nature’s indicators rather than a set date on a calendar — may be the best way to triumph in the garden,” according to almanac writer Jean Grigsby, “because it’s watching, learning and working with nature rather than using other guides that are less connected to nature.”

Cooking? Food and recipes? Oh, yeah. The almanac is all over that, as well, including everything from how to get the lumps out of your gravy and the secrets to a perfect pie crust. Also, what wine goes with certain foods, and the ins and outs of washing meat, fish and poultry before cooking. 

The almanac will advise you whether to apply heat or cold to a variety of injuries. It will tell you the best times for stargazing, including how to get a glimpse of a broken comet headed our way. 

Its 184 pages are full of history, philosophy, humor and quirky reflections on all aspects of human and animal life — maybe you don’t need the complete history of soap, a breakdown of dogs who have the coolest jobs or a poem about a three-toed tree toad, but those features are pretty hard to resist while you’re trawling through the almanac in search of best fishing dates.

And the hints are everywhere. Use a tube sock and kitty litter to clear up those foggy windows. Try talcum powder and a toothbrush to fix that squeaky wood floor, and evict squirrels from your bird feeder with cayenne pepper. 

“I love the hints,” Geiger said, “because everything is so practical.” 

By the way, a group of raccoons is called a “nursery” and if your lilac leaves are as big as a mouse’s ear, it’s time to sow peas, lettuce and other cool-weather crops. 

You’d know that already if you’d read the almanac.


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