With the fall season officially underway, can winter be far behind? No – not unless House Republicans are asked to vote on the question.

With the fall season officially underway, can winter be far behind?


No – not unless House Republicans are asked to vote on the question.


Be that as it may, what type of winter can we expect this year? Severe? Mild? Somewhere in between?


That depends on the weather, which can be difficult to predict, even with all these new-fangled meteorological contraptions and satellite tracking and computer models and blah, blah, blah.


There are time-tested techniques to predict a winter’s severity that predate all that fancy stuff.


These folksy ways stem from a simpler, gentler time when people depended on the village elder for wisdom, passed down generation after generation. He was their Google, and they were happy to have him.


These good people relied on their own senses rather than on the canned information gleaned from the so-called scientific method – which, by the way – is completely untested.


And if occasionally they looked to the entrails of sacrificial animals for clues as to what the future held, so be it. Who’s to say whether the shape of a ram’s liver might not indicate December’s snowfall accumulation? Not some scientist, I can assure you of that.


Just look at nature around you. It abounds with clues.


Look at the leaves.


I mean tree leaves, not tea leaves, though the modern-mega-weather-forecasting industry has done so much to suppress the efficacy of analyzing tea-leaf patterns, as has the modern-mega-tea-bag-production industry.


Study the leaves closely.


What color are they? When and where are they falling? What are the chances you can get that kid from down the street to rake your yard?


Ponder the results of these questions over time and you’ll find your answer without relying on batteries of so-called experts who’ve been “educated” in diploma mills like Yale, MIT and Johns Hopkins. (And how pretentious is that, by the way? Too good for plain old, John, Mr. Hopkins?)


And don’t forget to consult that familiar backyard denizen, the squirrel. While we’re freshly delighted each and every year by the antics of Punxsutawney Phil, most credit the squirrel with providing the best means of predicting the weather via rodent.


Check the demeanor of area squirrels. Do they appear sullen? That could mean a long, hard winter.


On the other hand, if they seem upbeat, even cocky, expect a mild winter and reasonable home-heating costs.


To favor more high-falutin’ forecasting methods over squirrel-comportment analysis would be, well, nuts.


Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Plymouth, Mass., office, and can be reached at fmulligan@wickedlocal.com.