When the cool, shorter days of September and October begin to wane, most folks wonder what the coming winter will be like. Will it be mild like so many of our coastal winters are, or will we have to put an extra log on the fire?
A couple of weeks ago we were observing the squirrel activity in the backyard and noticed that they were busier than usual. They were running back and forth to the raised bed garden boxes burying something.
Hubby, the investigator, observed for some time and reported that they were stashing nuts from the nearby pecan tree and putting them deep in the soil.
Now, that looks like some serious squirrel planning to me. Do the squirrels know something that we don’t?
If you read the Farmer’s Almanac and are a student of folklore, you know that Mother Natural often shows some signs of a harsh winter on the way. Of course, you could read the scientific calculations and predictions, but the folklore science is much more fun. It might even have some scientific basis, if you look closely enough.
Predictions of the severity of winter can be observed in the animal and plant world along with the weather of the months preceding winter. Some people use their body’s aches and pains along with their bunions, corns, and various twinges to predict the weather.
Squirrels who frantically gather nuts, nest low in the trees, and have tails bushier than usual, might foresee a cold winter. Thick fur on animals like dogs, horses, rabbits, and cows and skunks that are fatter than usual are also predictors of cold temperatures.
Plants also show signs of preparation for winter. Thick corn husks, heavy berry growth on dogwood and holly trees, more acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts are all signs of a cold winter on the way.
If leaves drop in the fall before reaching the height of color, you can expect a hard winter.
If the first week of August is hot and there are many fogs, there will be more snowfall. Generally, warm falls are followed by cold winters, while an early killing frost forecasts a harsh winter.
When there are more spiders and thick webs, you should expect a cold winter. The most studied profit of winter is the wooly worm. If they are crawling around slowly before the first frost, have heavy, black coats, and are plentiful, look out for a frigid season.
Scientifically named Pyrrhactia isabella, the furry creature is actually the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, a yellow moth with a two inch wing span. They spend the winter under bark, a rock, or a log and can endure —90 degrees. Some people believe that if you see more worms heading north, the winter will be mild, but if they point south, the winter will be colder.
Observe nature and make your own prediction. It’s fun, if not accurate.