By Pettus L. Read
Director of Communications for Tennessee Farm Bureau
On the first day of November, I saw two large V-formations of geese extremely high in the sky headed south. Seeing their migration movement started me to wondering if they may have some understanding of what this year’s winter weather may be forming up north. Seeing a flock of geese going over has always stirred my curious mind to wonder why they do what they do. Like, why do they fly in a V? I’m sure flying in a K or an S would be hard, but nature is so far ahead of us that we do have problems understanding all that it does.
With one of the wettest summers on record just occurring and folks wondering just what this winter is going to bring, I started checking out some of the local weather determiners such as my Uncle Sid. When it comes to weather predictions, I only trust Uncle Sid to give me the real facts. Those guys in Nashville do a pretty good job for the current 12 hours, but Uncle Sid has experienced more weather changes in his lifetime and his bones than those fellows will ever see on their radar screens. Forget about climate change “experts” and talk to the folks who have lived it.
I myself have also been trained somewhat in weather folklore from numerous old timers and have reached that upper age where experience from years in nature tells me more than a Doppler radar. Living out on the farm and watching the signs of killing frosts, cornhusks and other signs of winter predictions taught to me by my grandparents is something that is really interesting. True, the predictions don’t always come true, but neither does your local weatherman’s very often and they have thousands of dollars of modern day equipment. All I have is a worm, a wasp and a spider to help me out.
Uncle Sid is also one of those who looks to nature to plan his winter preparedness. If you remember, I once asked him what he thought the next winter’s weather would look like and he said, “Well, Aunt Sadie bought herself a brand new pair of flannel pajamas and that is a sure sign of a cold winter at our house.”
The wooly worm is showing colors of a mixture of winter weather with pretty close to normal temperatures for this winter. There sure are a lot of them and they have a fairly wide range of colored bands. I’ve seen several solid black, which means some fairly cold days ahead.
The wooly worm is a major weather forecaster in these parts, but there are other things as well. I’ve noticed the cornhusks are about average and the number of late frosts this fall have also given an indication of a milder winter. The fogs in August were pretty light too, which means there will probably be few snows.
One test that Uncle Sid uses is the seed of a persimmon. I’ve only noticed how much possums like them, but he uses the inside seed to make predictions as well. He says, “If the seed shows a spoon shape when you cut it into, it means some snows are going to occur. A knife shape means winds will blow with cutting forces and a fork shape will mean mild conditions. I’ve seen the spoon shapes this year, so looks like we are going to have a few snows. That is good though, since snows help put extra nitrogen on the fields for next spring’s crops and has been called the ‘poor man’s fertilizer’ for years.”
Sure, none of us really know just what the weather will be and a change of a northern wind or one of those El Niños could mean something totally different from our wooly worm predictions. However, weather folklore is something that has been a part of the farm since possibly the beginning of time. All my life I have heard the saying, “Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning. Red skies at night, sailors delight.” Even Jesus said in the Bible in Matthew 16: 2-3, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.” And you know, the majority of the time this bit of wisdom is right due to atmosphere and pressure systems.
Thus, don’t count out the simple wooly worm, persimmon or even a few fogs when you are planning for the coming winter. Uncle Sid doesn’t, and he’s been around a lot longer than computers, radar and the Weather Channel.
– Pettus L. Read may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com