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Where did summer go? I could have sworn that it had just turned to spring. Sadly, it appears that we are entering the dog days of summer …kinda…sorta… and maybe not for long.

I stepped outside just this morning and it was cool. Not the usual hot, humid morning that I'm use to in August. My husband says that the last time he remembers it being this cool was August 1967. It was the summer that his brother Richard graduated from college. He distinctly remembers wearing a jacket in the evening. Historically, by the time December 30, 1967, the temperature had plummeted to 0 degrees and snow covered the ground.

Why am I giving you a weather history lesson? I’m no meteorologist. What I want you to understand is that farmers watch for the signs that nature gives to us all. As farmers, we have to anticipate if we need to buy more hay to feed the cows or how just much extra wood to chopped for the wood stove. We watch for the signs that most folks miss because life is just so busy. Now, from the signs that we are seeing, it’s pointing to an early fall. An early fall could lead to a bitter winter.

The very first sign that we begin to notice was that the fruit was coming early on trees that normally don’t bear until mid-August. The pear tree was loaded in early July. The muscadine grapes turned ripe a couple of weeks ago. And the elderberries were completely ripe last week. Now, the old folks use to say that a loaded tree meant a harsh winter ahead and that God was providing now for those months.

The second sign was the crickets. In late June, we started seeing crickets, not baby crickets but full-grown crickets. By early July, they begin the chirping. Allow me to drop some cricket knowledge on you. Fall Field Crickets, which are common in Texas, hatch in the spring, and adults don’t appear and begin to sing until mid- or late July, after which they continue singing and mating into autumn, when they finally are killed by frosts. Last year, we had no crickets. In fact, the last time that we’ve seen crickets was fall of 2017. Late December of that year brought highs in the low 30s and ice.

A truly gross sign that we’ve seen is fuzzier-than-normal woolly bear caterpillars. Trust me on this one because four have fallen out of the oak trees on me this summer. One, particularly nasty fellow, left its hairs in my skin on the back of my neck. Sensitive me had a major reaction and ended up in the emergency room. It left me with a nasty, itchy,burning rash that took about 10 days and a lot of calendula salve to clear up.

According to folklore, the amount of black on the woolly bear in autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the coming winter in the locality where the caterpillar is found.  The longer the woolly bear's black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be.  Similarly, the wider the middle brown band is associated with a milder upcoming winter.  The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest.  If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe.  If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold. In addition, the woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body, which traditional forecasters say correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.

Now whether or not you buy into my theory that we are about to experience an early fall or just think its folklore. You have to admit that the Creator made some pretty interesting things for us to see, if we just slow down and pay attention. The changing of the seasons is awe inspiring. Take a moment and just enjoy the majesty of it all.

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