Beyond the Groundhog
In lieu of a scientific weather forecast, generations have instead turned to weather folklore to predict the severity of the coming winter. Examining patterns among plants and animals for clues to future atmospheric conditions is a tradition we can continue in our own backyards. Keep in mind, these legends are not reliable, and most definitely not scientific. They are, however, amusing pastimes that provide us with a great excuse to get outside one last time before that inevitable first snowfall.
Keep an eye out for the following predictors of winter weather:
- Woolly worms: The length and severity of the coming winter can supposedly be determined by observing the ratio of red to black in the bands of these furry caterpillars. A wider swath of black indicates a long, harsh winter while a large band of red promises a short and mild season.
- Persimmons: Legend has it that cutting the seed of a persimmon will reveal the type of precipitation we can expect for the next few months. If the shape inside resembles a fork, snow will be light; a spoon foretells heavy snowfall and the form of a knife indicates icy, cold weather.
- Spiders: Increasing numbers of these insects in your home and larger than average webs promise a hard, snowy winter.
- Turkey bones: This Thanksgiving, take note of the cooked bird’s breastbone. The more red found on the bone, the harsher the winter will be. A white bone indicates a mild winter.
- Onion skins and corn husks: The tougher the skin or husk, the more severe the winter weather. Similarly, the thicker the tree bark or nutshell, the worse the winter will be.
For more weather folklore, check out the following titles from your local branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library:
The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing; Log cabin Building; Mountain Crafts and Foods; Planting by the Signs; Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing; Moonshining; and Other Affairs of Plain Living Edited by Eliot Wigginton.
Old farmer's almanac: Calculated on a New and Improved Plan for the Year of our Lord 2011
The Essential Book of Weather Lore : Time-Tested Weather Wisdom and Why the Weatherman Isn't Always Right by Leslie Alan Horvitz.
Can't Wait? Try these free ebooks for a sampling of historic weather lore:
Weather Lore: a Collection of Proverbs, Sayings, and Rules Concerning the Weather Compiled by Richard Inwards (1898)
Weather Proverbs (Issue 9 of Signal Services Notes, United States Army)
Compiled by Henry Harrison Chase Dunwoody (1883)
A Handbook of Weather Folk-Lore: Being a Collection of Proverbial Sayings in Various Languages Relating to the Weather, with Explanatory and Illustrative notes by Charles Swainson (1873)
Weather Folk-Lore and Local Weather Signs by Edward B. Garriott (1903)
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