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Lousy winter prediction means time to prepare

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By Cheryl Steenerson

I love nature. The beautiful sounds of the morning birds serenading me, joined by the magnificent sight of fall leaves bordering the bright green hay fields, makes me stop in my tracks every time. Then, I remember that winter is coming.
For the last couple of months I’ve been telling people that I was hopeful for a mild winter. “We’re due,” I’d say. It was wishful thinking, I’m afraid. Though it’s too early to check out Mother Nature’s winter forecasters, the nation’s meteorologists have announced their predictions and it ain’t pretty.
The first map I saw had us covered with red and in large type said “Ice over Snow.” Shall we all groan together? It seems La Nina is back in full force for this winter, which usually means a lot of precipitation. They say the hardest hit areas will be the Midwest and the Great Lakes. Oh boy.
Predictions of Arctic blasts, along with heavier than normal snowfall (topped with ice), helps to kick me into high gear to get those outdoor chores done, especially since it also means a cold, wet spring.
We must play the hand we’re dealt, but we can put a few jokers up our sleeves now. Take a walk outside and look at your nearby trees. Think of their branches hanging heavy with snow and ice. If they fall what happens? Look at the trunks and their angles. If the whole tree comes down what will it do?
It’s much easier to break out the chain saw now. Solid footing goes a long way to ensure safety. Bring out the ladder and clean those gutters. Leaves can clog the runoff, so snow and ice weigh down the gutters to a breaking point. Not something I want to deal with in subfreezing temperatures.
Since I live on a hill, with a shaded drive, I plan on having to hike up a bunch. I’ve been stocking up on the heavy groceries and supplies for a month. A 40-pound bag of dog food grows heavier exponentially, as I drag it up an 800 foot, 60 percent grade, even with a sled.
I have my oil lamps, and extra oil to fill them, located and cleaned. I’m stocked up on batteries. I have my window coverings prepared. The pantry is stocked and the coolers are clean and close. Coolers can serve as outdoor refrigerators, if the power goes out.
I still have to prep and prime the generator and load up on wood, but then, I’m ready. The last ice storm knocked the power out for eight days. I just wish I could find a way to keep the toilet seat warm.
In the garden, I’m still uncovered, but not for long. The winter predictions have made me change the way I’m going to cover those raised beds. I had planned on attaching the plastic to the top of the wooden frames, like a Tupperware lid. Now, I’m going to line them, like a waterbed liner.
I’ll still staple the plastic to the wood, I’ll just do it lower, on the inside of the frame. With the plastic laying on top of the soil, it can take all the weight of the snow and ice. Man, I’m getting chills just thinking about it.
While you’re rummaging through the closets counting blankets and flashlights, start a pile for things you don’t want anymore. The Humane Society’s annual rummage sale is the Saturday after Thanksgiving and donations are always welcome.
Now, get going. Mother Nature will bring Old Man Winter very soon and it’s much more comforting to say those two words “I’m prepared,”, instead of “Oh _ _ _ _!
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.