Looking at the upcoming winter

Forecasting the severity of the winter months is tough; here are a few natural phenomena that might hold the secret to predicting just how bad (or mild) it will be

By Philip Case, Published:

Given the winter we endured earlier this year, folks are already talking about what’s up for the end of 2014 and the cold months of 2015. We’ve heard, too, many are already predicting a bad winter, beginning in November and going on from there.

In this day of satellite imaging and up-to-the-second forecasting, there’s nothing quite like harkening back to the days of yore when our ancestors tried to gauge what was coming based on signs from Mother Nature.

Back in the early 1970s, Eliot Wigginton and students in a college class he was teaching in Georgia, I believe, travelled into the southern Appalachians and visited with folks there to gather these old-time weather predicting tips. They complied them in the first of several Foxfire books.

As I have for many, many years, here they are again.

Have some fun, get out into the woods and fields, look around the house and make us a prediction based on something you find in Mother Nature, not what your favorite meteorologist on the TV says.

You can, preferably, email or text it to me here at Your Hometown Newspaper. 

Send to pcase@state-journal.com or text it to 502-682-5995. Or, if you don’t have email and don’t text, mail it to the newspaper at 1216 Wilkinson Boulevard or drop it by.

I would really like to know what you think the winter will be like and why — and then we’ll share that with your friends and neighbors.

If you have questions, give me a call at 502-227-4556, ext. 270.

This information comes from The Foxfire Book, edited by Eliot Wigginton (Anchor Books, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, N.Y., 1972)

Forecasting winter by animals

It will be bad if:

> Squirrels begin gathering nuts early, middle or late September.

> Muskrat houses are built big.

> Squirrels’ tails grow bushier. (Observing this, of course, requires some cooperation on the part of the squirrel – and some comparison from years past.)

> Fur or hair on animals such as horses, sheep, mules,  cows, and dogs is thicker than usual. (Again, you’ll need cooperation and comparison.)

> Squirrels build nests low in trees.

> Animals grow a short, fuzzy coat under their regular one.

> Crows gather together.

> Hoot owls call late in the fall.

> Screech owls sound like women crying.

> Birds huddle on the ground.

> Birds eat up all the berries early.

Forecasting winter by insects

It will be a bad winter if:

> Hornets and yellow jackets build their nests heavier and closer to the ground than usual.

> Worms are bending up and going into homes and abandoned buildings in October.

> There are a lot of spiders, frost worms, and black bugs about in the fall.

> Miller moths hit the screen trying to get in.

> Crickets are in the chimney.

> An ant builds its hill high.

When butterflies:

> Migrate early, winter will be early.

> Gather in bunches in the air, winter is coming soon.

The woolly worm tells of a bad winter if:

> There are a lot of them crawling about.

> He has a heavy coat.

> The black band on his back side is wide. (The more black than brown he is, and/or the wider the black stripe, the worse the winter).

> If he’s black in front, the bad winter’s to come; and if he’s black behind, the worst is past.

> If he’s brown at both ends and orange in the middle, the winter will be mild.

> You see him crawling before the first frost.

Forecasting winter by plants

It will be a bad winter if:

> Blackberry blooms are especially heavy.

> Carrots grow deeper.

> Grapes, cockleburs, and apples mature early.

> Onions grow more layers.

> Trees are laden with green leaves late in the fall.

> The crop of holly and dogwood berries is heavy.

> Hickory nuts have a heavy shell.

> There’s a heavy crop of berries, acorns, and pinecones.

> Bark on trees is thicker.

> Tree bark is heaviest on the north side.

> Corn shucks and silk grow thicker, and the shucks grow tighter around, and further over the ends of the ears.

> Leaves shed before they turn.

> Moss grows heavy on trees.

> Laurel leaves roll up.

> Pinecones open early.

> The darker green the grass is during the summer, the harder the winter.

Forecasting winter by weather

> Two frosts and a lot of rain mean cold weather is near.

> A late frost means a bad winter.

> For every fog in August there will be a snowy day in winter.

> At least three severe fogs in June or July mean early snow.

> If it snows cross-legged, it will be a deep one.

> If the first snow stays on the ground for three days, another snow will come on top of it.

> Lots of low, rolling thunder in the late fall means a bad winter.

> A long hot summer means a long cold winter — the hotter the summer, the colder the winter.

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