Home News Weather benefits good local harvest. What does folklore say about winter?

Weather benefits good local harvest. What does folklore say about winter?


Mother Nature has been giving the farmers of Southwest Ohio an opportunity to get a lot of crops harvested. Some rain here and there and some in the forecast this next week have provided many farmers some opportunities to catch their breath, get some rest, and maintain their harvest-related equipment.

At this point, a drive-by approach to predicting harvest progress would lead me to believe we are 60 to 70 percent complete with soybean harvest, and we might be 25 to 35 percent complete with corn. If weather holds in a favorable pattern, I expect we should be close to 100 percent complete with harvest before Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter.

Along with good harvest conditions, yield reports have been very good as well for both soybean and corn, however, my gut is telling me our corn yields will be better overall than soybeans.

It has been amazing how warm our early fall has been, but with more fall-like temperatures upon us and more of the same being predicted in the future, it is a clear reminder — winter’s chill is on its way.

Keeping with that thought, has this warm fall weather been a sign of a bad winter in the months to come?

I am not sure if anyone can truly predict how bad it will be until we get a few more weeks into the calendar but some believe weather folklore and old wives’ tales can indicate what is ahead.

I do not have any, but according to folklore, one can predict the coming winter weather by slicing a persimmon seed in half. If you see a spoon shape, there will be a lot of heavy, wet snow to scoop. A fork shape means light, powdery snow and a milder winter. If you see a knife, you can expect it to be “cut” by cold, icy, windy weather.

Then of course is the woolly bear caterpillar folklore. Woolly bear caterpillars are the larval stage of the Isabella moth. They are black with a red-brown band in the middle, and according to folklore, the more black you see on these caterpillars, the harsher the winter will be.

First off, I haven’t seen too many woolly bear caterpillars this year, and secondly, the ones I have seen are about 50/50 red to black.

Entomologists say there is some year-to-year variation in the amount of black hair on these caterpillars, but the differences are caused by age and wetness. Older caterpillars have more black than young ones, and if the fall weather is wet, they will often have more black.

I have heard over the years the idea that if you notice hornets, bees, and wasps building their nests higher than usual, like in the tops of trees rather than closer to ground level, a harsh winter with lots of snowfall may be coming.

If rabbits and squirrels look especially fat in the fall, they may be bulking up for a cold winter. Likewise, if you see squirrels burying nuts at a more intense pace than usual, that may be a sign.

The old wives’ tale is that if mole holes are deeper than 2.5 feet, a harsh winter is ahead. The shallower the holes, the milder the winter. I don’t know about you, but it is not everyday I go out and measure a mole hole.

Does anyone know how many foggy days we had in August? One old wives’ tale says that every foggy August day equates to a day of snowfall in the coming winter.

Don’t rule out fruit and nut tree folklore. If apple and other fruit trees produce more fruit than usual, a harsh winter may be in the forecast. The theory is that trees produce more food for animals, who will need it to survive heavy snow and cold temperatures.

Also, producing additional fruit and seeds means the species will have a better chance of survival if trees are killed due to a particularly harsh winter.

Likewise, if oak trees are laden with acorns, or if pine trees are producing larger than normal pinecones, stock up on extra mittens.

To continue the nut thought, Hickory nuts and walnuts have a hard shell and a “fruit” surrounding that shell. Old wives’ tales say that the thicker the outer shell, the worse the winter will be. Same can be said of acorns and the thickness of their shells, and it could be nature’s way of protecting the tree species during harsh weather.

Since we are in fall, some people believe that the brighter the leaves are in the fall, the snowier and colder the coming winter will be. Leaf color is determined by several things, like the amount of moisture received during the growing season.

However, once the days get shorter and the temperatures drop in the fall, the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves decreases, causing the changes in leaf colors we see in the fall.

I am sure we can all come up with more folk lore and old wives’ tale to predict weather. The reality is it is not nice to mess with Mother Nature.

No matter what she brings us this winter, we will have snow, maybe some ice and yes it will be cold.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.


Tony Nye

OSU Extension