Between the Lines By David Lias Feel that nip in the air in the evenings, or early each morning? It's going to get a lot worse. How do I know this, other than the fact that I've spent every winter of my life in South Dakota? I'm not a meteorologist. I don't have my own Doppler radar system allowing me to track various weather systems on their journey through the area. But I do have a copy of the new Old Farmer's Almanac. Here's what it has to say about the weather in our part of the country for the coming year, from October, 1998 to November, 1999: "Temperatures this winter will average 5 to 6 degrees colder than normal. An arctic blast in mid-November will inaugurate the season. Especially frigid temperatures will also occur in early and mid-December, the latter part of January, and early February. "While precipitation will be a bit below normal from November through March, snowfall will be near or above normal. Watch for a blizzard in early December, with snowstorms in mid-February and mid-March. "Cold weather will continue in April and May, with temperatures about 5 degrees below normal. Precipitation will also be well below normal, despite some snow in early April. "Look for a dramatic warm-up in June, with heat waves in mid-month and at the end. Rainfall will continue below normal, with heavy local thunderstorms. "July will start with record heat and end with another heat wave, but cool spells in between will bring monthly temperatures to a bit below normal. Rainfall for July will be a bit above normal. "August will be much rainier than normal, with flooding possible. The last two weeks of August will be hot. "September and October will be warmer and drier than normal. October will begin with record heat." I have just one reaction to the predictions listed above: brrrrr! Just how reliable is this forecast? If it's coming from the Old Farmer's Almanac, it can't be too far off the mark. Since 1792, The Old Farmer's Almanac has published useful information for people in all walks of life: tide tables for those who live near the ocean; sunrise tables and planting charts for those who live on the farm; recipes for those who live in the kitchen; and weather predictions for those who don't like the question of weather left up in the air. The Almanac, North America's oldest continuously published periodical, comes out every year in September. Its operation is based in Dublin, NH. People who work for the Almanac are still guided by the words of the man who founded the publication so long ago: "Our main endeavor is to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humour." In recent years, the Almanac's line of products have been expanded by a staff who always keeps an eye on Thomas's wise words about keeping things fun and practical — so that now there are three companion periodicals and six different calendars. By the way, did you know that September's birthstone is the sapphire? (I know that for two reasons. One of my daughters was born in September, and I read the Old Farmer's Almanac.) According to the Almanac, the sapphire was dedicated to Apollo, perhaps for its heavenly blue color or possibly for its extreme hardness, second only to the diamond. St. Jerome insisted that anyone wearing a sapphire could make peace with his enemies, however, so theoretically, Apollo wouldn't have needed the gem to wear into battle. For us mere mortals, the sapphire was supposed to help gain favor with the gods. Pope Innocent II had these stones set in all his bishops' rings. The gem was also considered a hedge against unchastity and evil. Besides weather forecasts and recipes, the Almanac also leaves us with words of wisdom: "Virtue is like a rich stone — best plain set." –Francis Bacon "Warm October, cold February." "If St. Michael (Sept. 29) brings many acorns, Christmas will cover the fields with snow."