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Wooly Bear Predicts Winter – Or Does He?

Wooly Bear Predicts Winter – Or Does He?

Woolly Bear Predicts Winter?

This woolly bear predicted a cold snowy winter for 2015/16. So did Farmers Almanac. We had cold weather because this is Maine and you know…winter. We had little snow though, never enough at once to snowshoe in the woods and deep enough for the snowmobiles only one weekend. About half the normal 100 inches of snow fell. There were a few days below 0° but there were more days in the 40°s and 50°s than 0°.

Oh Woolly Bear! How did he get it so wrong?

winter predictions, 2016, 2017, woolly bear, caterpillar

Genetics and environment determine the woolly bear’s looks. The better its diet and longer it’s been eating the narrower its orange band will be. Woolly bear tells us about its diet and genetics, not the weather. The one in the photo must have been eating well. I can related to that. The more I eat the wider my middle gets.

Does Nature Predict Winter?

I love folk lore. The ground hog? I’m amused by grown men (who might be drinking heavily because why else would they do this) who pull a ground hog out of a box, shine lights in its sleepy eyes, and expect it to see or not see its shadow. Six more weeks of winter? Boooo. Same six weeks until spring? Yeah!

Are the wasp and hornet nests high or low? Find them and you’ll know how much snow we’ll have.

Are the geese heading south early? (Or have you, like I tend to do, forgotten when it is they usually leave?)

Look at the pigs. Are they gathering sticks? Heavy winter if they are, or they like to play with sticks.

Lots of pine and spruce cones in the tops of the trees tell us there’s going to be a harsh winter…or mild winter. Two winters ago the trees were loaded and winter was horrible. Last year the trees were loaded and winter was mild. Flip a cone. Or a cone.

Nature reliably predicts winter…except when it doesn’t. It’s still fun.

What folk lore stories do you enjoy?

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Winter Preparations – Working Toward a Comfortable Winter

Winter Preparations – Working Toward a Comfortable Winter

Winter Preparations

Winter preparations have started. It feels like we must be far behind because here it is early October and we haven’t touched a stick of firewood. Steve dropped a few big trees in the new food plot over the summer, and he dragged them to the field between the high tunnels, but there they sit. He cut and I split and stacked this winter’s firewood last year. I thought I’d do next year’s this year but the majority of it is going to wait until spring. Using the empty high tunnel to dry and store firewood has been one of the best things we’ve done here. It’s warm, the air flows well and the wood dries fast.

What’s on the winter prep list?

  • Move firewood
  • Split firewood for winter 17/18
  • Harvest a deer or two
  • Process the meat chickens and one duck in early November
  • Process the turkeys the weekend before Thanksgiving (or sooner if the jerks won’t say in their pen)
  • Cover the basement windows with insulation
  • Frame the new raised beds in the high tunnel
  • Move the topsoil I decided to hold off on (horrid weed problem) into the new raised beds
  • Muck the hen house
  • Cover the hen house windows with poly

There’s a bear in the freezer now, lots of preserves put up, veggies, mushrooms and fruits frozen, and herbs and hot peppers dehydrated.

Firewood

Out of everything on the list I like firewood the best. This is this winter’s wood. It was cut, split and stacked to dry in the high tunnel last year. It’s lightweight now and won’t take a lot of effort to move five cords into the wood shed, onto the back porch, and fill the rack in the living room. There’s something about the mindless repetition of firewood that appeals to me. Pick it up, put it on the splitter, pull the lever to split the wood, wait, grab the top piece with one hand and flip the bottom piece with the other hand, pull the lever, wait, let the split wood drop, drop the top piece onto the cold metal frame, pull the lever, throw those two pieces into the stack. Mindless but mindful at the same time. One wrong move can send me to the ER (once) or the doctor (once). Being careful and mindful while letting my mind wander is a good thing. I get a lot of damned good writing done in my head while I’m splitting firewood that unfortunately usually doesn’t make it to paper or laptop before it’s mostly forgotten.

winter preparations, firewood, high tunnel

Poultry

As much as I won’t enjoy slaughtering and butchering the chickens and turkeys, I’m ready for it. They’ve lived good lives on grass and soil, taking dust baths under the sun on 70° October days, eating grasshoppers and weed seeds. The turkeys have learned how to trample down the side of their electronet fence and are wandering all over the place. I sent a pic of seven wandering turkeys and a text to Steve that said “they better taste good” this afternoon. I used the tractor’s bucket and a chain to move the hog panels, and I’ll put them back up near the hen house. That will keep them contained…unless they realize they can fly over, and then I’ll clip their wings. I don’t remember turkeys ever being such a pain as these seven, not even when we had 25 or more at a time.

winter preparations, English Shepherd, broad breasted white turkeysThe meat chickens are manure machines that fertilize the lawn and part of the garden, their tractor having to be moved daily even if they’re in it only overnight. They’re going to continue to live good lives until early November for the chickens and the Sunday before Thanksgiving for the turkeys.

Propane was delivered this week. We have a small hot air, propane fired furnace in the basement for back up when we’re not at home to fill the wood stove, or like this fall when it’s really too warm for a fire but too cool to not have some sort of heat. We’re used to $600 a year for propane to heat our hot water and occasionally run that furnace. The bill today was $115 for two months. That can’t happen again in October. That’s craziness.

Winter Preparations?

I’m more physically prepared for winter than I am mentally. I want it to stay just like the last three days – warm and dry, sunny and breezy, cold enough in the morning for a fire that burns hot and fast for an hour to take out the chill – for the next 364 days…or until I decide I want it to be colder. The new moon and clear sky of autumn are incredible. The gazillion stars at night are stunning. The constellations are easy to see on these gorgeous nights. Winter preparations are time and work well spent while I spend these gorgeous autumn days outdoors.

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