We’re heading into one of the strangest times of years in the Sunflower State. Kansas is always bipoloar, so it isn’t out of the ordinary for us to have wild temperature fluctuations. I’ve seen it go from nearly 100 degrees one day to a high of 50 a few days later. We can have rain, hail, snow, and drought all in one week. And I’m not exaggerating.
Kansas is in the middle of the U.S., so the convergence of all the major weather systems happens right on top of us. Our weather is predictably unpredictable. And it’s never as unpredictable as it is in autumn.
Generally in summer, you know it’s going to be hot. In winter, you know it’s either going to be cold or bitter. And in spring, you know it’s going to be stormy. But autumn? It could be hot and cold in the same day, stormy and bitter in the same day.
So, here are my top five tips to surviving the unpredictability of a Kansas autumn.
5. Don’t put your summer things away until you’ve needed your winter things for at least two weeks in a row.
It’s tempting to want to pack up your tank tops and shorts and linen blouses the moment the thermometer hits 40 or 50, but if you want to have a less frustrating autumn, refrain. In Kansas, autumn is a temperamental beast, and it’s best not to trust its tantrums until they last longer than two weeks.
Just recently, our temps at Safe Haven Farm dropped down to 37 overnight. And, yes, I had to pull out my handy TARDIS fleece so I could keep warm. It was lovely! I didn’t need to turn my window unit on at all, which helps me sleep better (because the blasted thing is so freakin’ loud!). But after two days of temps in the 50s, did we pull out the winter stuff? Did we pack up summer stuff? Did I have my dad pull my air conditioner out?
No, of course not! Why? Because less than a week later, it’s nearly 100 degrees again, and I’m back to using my air conditioner in my room so I don’t melt at night.
Autumn is always like that. Don’t trust it when it first appears. And even after it’s hung around for two weeks or so, make sure you keep a lighter-than-heavy outfit around for the odd winter day that hits 80.
4. Set your holiday celebrations by the calendar and not by what the weather is like.
I would love to be able to say it’s time to celebrate Christmas when the ground is covered in snow. I would love to say October is the best month for color because all the trees are turning. But you can’t do that in Kansas. Sometimes the trees turn colors in September, and then we have a vicious freeze and all the leaves fall off at once. Sometimes, it’s super mild until November and the leaves stick around until early December.
If you base your enjoyment of the holidays on what Kansas is doing outside, you’ll be disappointed. So instead, set the date on the calendar that you’re going to celebrate, and celebrate however the weather allows. If it’s frigid on Thanksgiving, stay inside and drink hot chocolate. If it’s 80 degrees outside, go to the zoo.
3. Learn to be satisfied with ponytails (or learn not to care about your hair at all).
One thing that’s constant about Kansas is the wind, and it only gets worse in autumn and winter. So if you spend a lot of time on your hair every morning, you’re just going to be irritated all the time.
That’s where the remarkable invention of the ponytail comes in handy, if you have long hair. Just put it up and forget about it for the rest of the day. The wind won’t budge it, and if your hair tends to fill up with static, it’s easier to deal with too.
But the best overall advice I can give you about your hair in Kansas? Just don’t care about it. You can fuss and primp all you like, but the moment you step outside, either the wind will destroy it or you’ll sweat so much any styling you did will deflate like a leaky balloon.
2. Park inside a sturdy structure (or make sure your insurance is all paid up).
Storms in Kansas happen every season. It was winter one year when I saw a cold cell funnel form over downtown Wichita and throw some patio furniture around.
One November we had 100-mile-per-hour straight line winds that ripped my chicken coop off its foundation and twisted it. It used to sit straight, but after that storm, it sits 8 inches off its foundation. That same storm nearly took the broadband internet dish off the house, and it was bolted on! I was home at the time and seriously thought the windows were all going to shatter, the wind was blowing so hard.
But it’s not just severe weather that can cause headaches in Kansas. You just wait until your car ends up with a sheet of ice over it, so thick you can’t get your doors open. And all you have is a credit card to do battle with. Yeah. Not fun.
So if you have the option to park inside a building, take it. It’ll save you trouble and hassle and frustration all the way around.
And if you don’t? Well, for storm season, make sure you’ve got good insurance. And for winter? …. Well, for winter you’re just screwed. So make sure you have a claw scraper on you at all times.
1. Embrace the pumpkin while you have it.
And finally? The best tip I can offer about surviving autumn in Kansas is to eat every pumpkin-flavored thing you can find and enjoy it. We only get pumpkin this time of year. Granted, you can get it canned in the store year round, but it’s so expensive, it’s almost not worth it.
I snatch up as many cans of it as I can during the fall and eat them all year long. But there’s just something wonderful about baking pumpkin bread and pumpkin cake and pumpkin cookies and drinking pumpkin coffee and noshing on pumpkin muffins and scones…. ah, that’s fall to me!
So for those new Kansans who haven’t had the chance to experience a Midwestern autumn, I hope my five top tips were enlightening. And for those of you who’ve lived here many years, I hope you got a laugh.
Happy fall, everybody!