Clean off the snowshoes, and sharpen the shovels.

Winter is coming, and from what some old farmers have been saying lately, this year may well be even worse than last year.

Frankly, I'm taking my usual wait-and-see attitude. Last Thanksgiving, we drove north to see relatives in the snow, but at Christmas it was 60 degrees and not a patch of white could be seen, even in the deep woods.

Then the rest of the season showed up. Still, our kale overwintered nicely, and the cabbage grew.

In Twelve Months, Matthew Stevenson wrote in 1661: "If, in the fall of the leaves in October, many of them wither on the boughs and hang there, it betokens a frosty winter and much snow." It isn't that I believe this, on this second Sunday in November. I just wanted to use the word betokens.

On the first day of fall, the people who make Duck brand products, designed to keep out the cold, sent some tips about getting ready for the cold weather:

Examine the caulking around doors, looking for places where snowflakes and chilly air might sneak through. If the caulk is cracked, re-caulk to prevent drafts.

For extra protection, use weather-stripping around the edges - choose a seal of EPDM - ethylene propylene diene terpolymer used in roofing - to avoid cracking or freezing.

Windows are one of the most common areas for air leaks. Install an insulating plastic film to provide an extra barrier between the frigid outside air and the inside of your home.

When insulating, attic access openings or pull-down stairs are often overlooked, creating a big gap where warm air can escape and cold air can make its way inside. Duck brand recommends an attic stairway cover, which costs about $35 on

Question: We bought an urban loft in what used to be a factory. We have a settlement crack that is roughly eight feet up from the floor that is very obvious. Is there a way to mitigate this?

Answer: I'm sure that one of my readers will have some advice for you.

I'll let you know. or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.