Winter Predictions

Yesterday it was cold, wet and windy. Uzzi and I huddled in our normally comfy Port-a-Hut and chattered our teeth. Our winter undercoats aren't grown in. We aren't ready for winter yet.

by Martok
Persimmon seed cut in half; seed shaped like shovel means cold winter
Photo by Sue Weaver
The persimmon seeds look like a shovel this year. I guess we’re in for a cold winter.

Yesterday it was cold, wet and windy. Uzzi and I huddled in our normally comfy Port-a-Hut and chattered our teeth. Our winter undercoats aren’t grown in. We aren’t ready for winter yet.

Last night, we crept in while Mom and Dad were sleeping and booted up the computer; we wanted to visit the Farmer’s Almanac site to see what winter would bring. Their meteorologists are calling for unusually cold and stormy weather for most of the country, but the winter weather prediction maps say Ozark temperatures will be mild and very wet. Mild sounds great but we told Mom we need extra straw in our Port-a-Hut starting tonight because it sounds like we’ll be spending time indoors this winter.

Meteorologists predict the coming winter’s weather using maps and fancy instruments, but country folk do it other, old-time ways. Here in the Ozarks, they look inside wild persimmon seeds.

To read a persimmon, wait until after several hard frosts so the fruit is gooshy. Then pull out a seed from several fruits. Clean them (they’re very slippery), then carefully cut them in half the long way using a sharp knife. On one side, the cut seed will resemble a knife, fork or shovel (some say it’s a spoon). A fork foretells a mild winter when you can fork up the winter garden with ease. A knife predicts cold weather that cuts like a knife. A shovel means snowy weather when you’ll shovel lots of snow. Our persimmons have shovels in them this year: Could they know something the Almanac doesn’t? 

Old-fashioned rural folk all over the country predict winter weather by looking at black and orange banded caterpillars called woolly worms. According to Mom’s grandma, wide orange bands foretell a mild winter and wide black ones mean lots of snow and cold. In the 1950s, a scientist named Dr. C. H. Curran, former curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, ran an extensive survey on weather-predicting woolly worms and reported an 80-percent accuracy rate for the worms’ weather predictions.

Mom’s Irish grandpa had all kinds of ways to predict the weather using Nature’s signs. He said when oaks produce an over-abundance of yummy acorns, look for a long hard winter. Our oaks are very productive this year—maybe the persimmon seeds are right?

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Other cold and stormy winter signs people look for are extra-plush coats on horses and cows, thick shells on wild hickory nuts, hornets building nests close to the ground, squirrels with extra-bushy tails, snowshoe hares with extra-furry back feet, and pigs gathering tons of sticks and leaves to line their nests. Seeing moths flying on late-autumn nights supposedly portends a mild winter.

Do you know of other country ways to foretell winter weather? If you do, please share them. We want to know!

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