The [coffee] joke’s on me, and how to predict the weather (article #1316)

During these times of climate change and COVID, it’s easy to take life too seriously. Any excuse to laugh feels like mountain-fresh air. Take last week when I’d lost all sense of taste and smell while in the throes of COVID…

Here’s what happened…

One morning, I rose at 5:30 to attend an online meditation service. I had a few minutes before it started so I flipped the switch on the coffee pot. A few minutes later, it hissed and sputtered, telling me it was done brewing.

I poured a cup and added a dollop of soy milk. I glanced at the surface of the coffee and noticed that the milk had curdled and swirled around like little clouds in a brown sky.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “The soy milk must’ve gone bad. Oh well.”

Figuring it wouldn’t kill me, I took a sip.

BLETCH! It was sour, like… like vinegar!

[Hi, it’s Marion. This article you’re reading was originally published in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the hometown newspaper for Kodiak, Alaska. Go here to access the archive page for past columns, written each week since 1986].

Then it dawned on me. Marty, the day before, had run white vinegar through the coffee pot to clean it out. At the end of the cycle, he’d let the vinegar cool down before running it through again. Except, he forgot to hit the start button, and left the vinegar in the water reservoir.

The next morning, here I come, thinking oh, there’s water in the reservoir. All systems are “go” to make coffee…

But since I had no sense of smell, I didn’t so much as catch a whiff of hot vinegar in the air…

Later, when my husband Marty came downstairs, I greeted him with, “Thanks for the vinegar coffee!” We both laughed.

What am I getting at here?

In Kodiak, we’ve been blessed with a rare stretch of calm, relatively dry weather, allowing for much romping outdoors and catching up with chores. Have you noticed the increased hum of lawnmowers lately?

The reality is that in four weeks, the first day of autumn arrives. It’s not a good or bad thing. It just is. The arrival of fall does, however, provide a host of opportunities to be keen observers.

How you can be a keen observer of the weather…

In this era of streaming movies and watching YouTube videos, there still remains the biggest show in the whole wide world: The weather. Admission is free and good seats are plentiful. There are no commercial interruptions and it runs 24/7.

Weather engages all of us, from villagers in the snowy Himalayan peaks to commuters on the LA freeway.

We live in houses. We study in schools. We work in buildings. We vacation in B&Bs. And we travel in cars, boats, planes and trains. We spend so much time inside, we grow numb to the beauty outside.

At the close of the day,
Pull your wits together:
Put aside the TV,
And watch the weather.

Don Haggerty published that little ditty in his 1985 book, Rhymes to Predict the Weather. This delightful paperback. It’s packed with fun-to-learn and easy-to-apply weather info.

I recently pulled the book from the shelves. As I flipped through the pages, I glanced out the window. Fluffy white clouds teased the treetops. What are those clouds telling me? Maybe other people might want to know. So, I looked up a few of Don’s rhymes…

“Predicting weather is like a puzzle,” says Don. Here’s a sampler:

Sharp moon, stars bright,
Go to sleep in peace tonight.
Dull moon, stars pale
Dreams of sun will not prevail.

Don says…

  • Sharp, bright stars, and moon indicate dry air, which spells clear skies for a while at least.
  • High-level moisture has a tendency to obscure the moon and stars, making them hazy and indistinct.
  • The color of the moon varies with the amount of moisture present in the atmosphere overhead.

“A stark white moon, with a clean, sharp outline means very little moisture is present and clear weather should continue,” he says. “If its outline turns dull, however, and its face a bit pale, start looking around for other signs of approaching stormy weather.”

The barometer is your weather friend…

Speaking of stormy weather, the following poem emphasizes the value of having a barometer close at hand to refer to…

Wind up, barometer down,
Unpleasant weather is coming to town.
The higher the breeze and slower the fall,
The tougher the storm ‘twill be for all.

According to the author…

A rising wind and a falling barometer
is just like having a two-headed town crier shouting, ‘Here comes a storm.’

Staying in tune with the weather can alert you to precautions to take in your garden. For example, you may have noticed that morning of late have taken on a chilly feel to them. Soon it’ll be necessary to keep frost covers handy…

Cold, calm, and clear,
Jack Frost is passing near.

Finally, there’s nothing like a rainbow to get folks excitedly reaching for their smartphones. Yes, even rainbows can forecast the weather for us. The principle here is that wherever you see a rainbow, you can be sure you’re looking at a mass of moist air. This is, of course, a general statement admits Don, but if the rainbow appears to the west, rain may very well be dropping in your neighborhood soon. However, if the rainbow should make its appearance in the east, chances are things will be clearing for a while.

Rainbow in the morning.
Picnicker take warning.
Rainbow in the afternoon,
An evening stroll is opportune.

And here’s another favorite:

If a bee’s in the flower,
there won’t be a shower.

To many people, weather is just a thing to be tolerated. Clouds are only noted when rain threatens inconvenience, and winds observed only when their chill or strength means discomfort or a change in plans.

Don Haggerty says that learning how to forecast the weather, even a little bit, is to understand a thing of great vastness and beauty. The key is to be in the moment, as in the “‘putting of his mind’ to the wonders before him.”

The challenge is to “capture meaning in apparently meaningless events. Then once grasped, the pleasure comes of understanding, of comprehending, the forces at work in his world, and the powers that move amidst the inner depths of his soul.”

Moral of the story: Look for excuses to laugh and smile but beware of clouds in your coffee.

Thanks for stopping by. Take care of yourself, and if you have a funny or inspiring COVID story to share, please leave a comment below. Thanks!


PS What would it be like to cut your garden maintenance in half? Or help your plants survive a drought… After 35 years of gardening, I have learned one important thing: Compost is the answer to all your problems. Want to know how to make compost in just 6 weeks? Begin by taking this composting assessment. And hey, you might enjoy my Joy of Composting Facebook page. If you’d like to drop me a note, here’s my email address: marion (at)

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