October snow

We in Minnesota woke up Sunday to snow.

I’ll admit to having a complicated relationship with the stuff. Last winter, in the immediate aftermath of our first major snowstorm in January, I broke my leg treading through the drifts. It didn’t heal until the last storm of the winter in late April.

I spent most of the summer wearing Birkenstock sandals, for the back support that comes from the solid cork sole. At a recent conference, friends who live in the American South teased me about wearing sandals in 50-degree weather.

I told them I’d wear the sandals until snow fell.

Well, snow fell.

It also melted right away, so I’m still wearing my sandals this week.

October is early for snow in Minnesota, and it’s rare for us to see flakes even as late as Halloween. It reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story of the October Blizzard that kicked off the hard winter of her childhood, 1880-1881, captured in her book, The Long Winter.

The story, set in De Smet, S.D., recounts a winter packed with blizzard after blizzard. Trains couldn’t get through to the new frontier town, and by spring, many of the town’s occupants were starving, grinding seed wheat from their stores to make bread.

Dr. Barb Mayes Boustead, a meteorologist, developed a weather index for her dissertation that focused on that winter. She found, through its application, that Wilder’s depiction of the weather that winter was accurate. The index itself has interesting implications and applications for historians interested in how weather is talked about and how it actually was in history.

Boustead’s blog, Wilder Weather, devotes itself to weather and to Wilder, both, and it’s worth a read.

At the 2012 LauraPalooza, my mother and I spent a portion of our time showing attendees how to make and bake the Long Winter bread, made from ground wheat berries and sourdough starter. It’s actually pretty tasty, but I can’t imagine living off it for weeks.

I’m not particularly thrilled with the implications of October snow for this winter. But at least I found my boots. Just in case.

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