By Connie Nelson

I don't know any of the farmers who put together the Farmer's Almanac, but they're saying the Midwest is going to be in for it this winter. According to their latest predictions, part of Minnesota is supposed to be "very cold and snowy," the other part "bitterly cold and dry." (Of course, the Twin Cities falls into the latter category.)

The Almanac claims their predictions are based on a tried-and-true formula, used since 1818, that takes into account  sunspots, planetary conditions and the effects of the moon. They could try looking closer to home.

I make my own predictions based on a haphazard formula, used whenever I feel like it, that takes into account wooly bear caterpillars (you know, the brown and black ones AKA wooly worms) and acorns. According to me, when there are lots and lots of acorns and wooly bears are showing lots and lots of black, we're going to have a hard winter.

Unlike the Farmer's Almanac, I've yet to make my annual prediction. (I haven't seen any wooly bear caterpillars yet. Could that be a sign in itself?) But I am planning to save plenty of bags of leaves for winter mulch -- just in case. Leaves make a darn nice winter protection -- and the price is right.

What say you, weather watchers? Are we going to have a real, old-fashioned Minnesota winter or not? What are you planning to do to prepare for it? It could be just around the corner, you know . . .