Important Find In Your Mailbox

On the first day that the mail ran for the New Year, when I opened my rusty old mailbox, I was pleasantly surprised with its contents. No, it wasn’t my first social security check or any other financial-worthy piece of paper and neither was it a publication that filled me in on how Congress can keep overlooking the Farm Bill after two years of blaming each other on why it hasn’t been taken care of yet. Both of those would have been nice, but the item I did find was pretty good for the current weather around these parts.

There, hidden in the darkened confines of my official government delivery holdings, was a brand new seed catalog. I could see a bright red tomato the size of a basketball on the front cover peering out from the other official mail offerings that immediately caught my attention. Knowing that the catalog was for fireside viewing on the first winter storm of the season, I refused to open its contents and stuffed it neatly inside a sale circular from Dollar General to take to the house to wait for a major winter storm to harvest its editorial contents.

Of course it won’t be long before we will have a winter storm either. I’m not talking about the kind with snow drifts and major accumulations, but those where we have a winter freeze that settles over the Tennessee Valley and all the local TV stations get in a mad rush to predict the coldest temperature and to declare Tennessee a disaster area. They will even interrupt regular TV scheduling just to tell us that the pond near Interstate 40 has shown signs of freezing.

Have you ever wondered why grocery chains sponsor the majority of winter weather forecasts? I have always been a little suspicious of a weather bulletin that is brought to you by a group of people who make a profit when a big white blob appears on a weather map. It is a known fact, that at the first announcement of snowfall, the average, perfectly normal human being will go to his closest grocery store and buy milk, bread and toilet tissue, even if he has plenty of these goods on hand. I am sure it is recorded somewhere, that there has never been a storm in the state of Tennessee that has required our population to increase their stockpile of toilet tissue. However, during each and every snowstorm, many of us risk life and limb to go to the store and pick up another roll of Charmin to squeeze.

I really don’t know what we ever did before the terminology ‘wind chill’ was introduced into our weather forecasts. Did we go outside and say, “Boy, the thermometer reads 32 degrees but it feels like 23?” Or did we just read the thermometer, and whatever it recorded as the temperature we based our daily activities on that number? Maybe wind chill and heat index are just terms our weather forecasters use to keep us watching their forecast and to keep us all in a state of panic.

Would it not make all of us feel better if the forecasters would use wind chill in the summer to make us feel cooler and the heat index in the winter to make us feel warmer?

During last year’s storms, it became almost impossible to watch your favorite TV program, because of all the names of closings scrolling across the bottom of your TV screen. Whatever happened to reading a list of school and business closings during the newscast? I know you had to wait until 6 or 10 o’clock, but that was part of the fun. I found it almost impossible to watch the professional football playoffs because of those names scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Maybe it was just me, but my eyes just kept focusing on all those tiny names.

Enough is enough. Here is my rule of thumb about judging the weather conditions at the Read Farm. If Walmart is closing early, the weather is too bad to leave home.

I will solve my weather frustrations by not watching the TV weather reports.  Instead, I will settle down with my seed catalog and make plans for spring. It is simply amazing what those colored pictures of flowers blooming and vegetables growing can do to help your winter blues on a cold snowy day. Those catalogs are a reassurance that spring is not far away and the cold and snow will soon be just a memory.

It will only be about four months before we can plant some seed. For now, I am waiting for a supply of seed catalogs and our first major snowstorm. But I do need to check up on my supply of milk, bread and toilet tissue.



– Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  He may be contacted by e-mail at