A glance out the windows of my upstairs bedroom, which is like a very large crows nest with views in all directions, reveals that it is quite cold outside as I am writing this, near zero.
By CINDY HOEDEL
The Kansas City Star
I know this without checking the TV or my phone because I have been paying attention for a year. Filmy ice frequently veils the lower half of the windows to the east and north in winter, signifying very little. Such a day, even in January, could easily reach 60 degrees by late afternoon.
But when the panes are frosted to the tops on all sides, its a two-pairs-of-socks kind of day. On the east windows, the ice is as thick as pebble-glass shower doors. On the normally impervious south, Lalique-like etchings unfurl across a frosted canvas.
The light provides more information. As the temperature falls, the sky at sunrise shifts from orange to lilac to flamingo pink to cotton candy pink. When the earliest beams are watery yellow, you might not see double digits all day.
Thats one of the nice things about living in the country: It doesnt take long to become an expert weather forecaster. While people in the city monitor paint-gun splatters on smartphone radar apps, I look west to the open range. A bruise-colored band lurking low on the horizon means cold that will jar your bones is moving in.
Conversely, when the bronco on my neighbors NFL flag prances with its nose pointing north, the south wind at its back, I know the afternoon will be tender and mild. (Only during football season, mind. In summer, a south-galloping bronco portends a scorching end to the day.)
Its amazing how the brain can synthesize sensory inputs into dead-on predictions when you dont disable your eyes, ears and nose in favor of external apps.
There have been days when the National Weather Service pegged the chance of precipitation at zero for my town, but I smelled rain and didnt water and, sure enough, showers came. (I read once that the rain-is-coming smell is ozone rushing out from the downdraft of a storm cell.)
On other hot summer days, when TV forecasters said thunderstorms were inevitable, locals at the hardware store decreed there were no signs of rain and the sun shone relentlessly for days.
Sound changes with temperature as well; winter sound streams in high fidelity. Ive learned that if I step outside and the birdsong or the wind whistling through the frozen grass sounds amplified and exceptionally clear, I need to go back in and grab an extra scarf.
In my year of living closer to the land, Ive also discovered cues from Mother Nature work better than ag extension calendars when it comes to gardening. The old-timers know to prune roses not by a certain date in February but when the forsythia blooms.
When you can hear the spring peepers sing, Ive been told, its time to plant English peas.
Old-fashioned lilacs signal two things: When their leaves appear, its time to plant beets and carrots, and when they bloom, the soil is warm enough for bean and cucumber seeds.
A bit later, when the wedding veil spirea is covered with flowers, it is safe to plant melons.
As for the endless debate about whether tomatoes should be planted on May Day or Mothers Day, my neighbors say watch for when the lilies of the valley flower.
Switching from the Weather Channel to five-senses forecasting has been rewarding. Its more accurate than AccuWeather, requires no device and no data plan. Best of all, it feels like gaining a superpower.