May 11, 2006

Of Sundogs and Other Old-Time Weather Signs

The old-timers back in the hills had their alternative to the evening TV weather forecast.
“Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.”

Many view old-time weather lore as folk tales or fables. But we’ve learned not to. Despite balmy spring temperatures in late March, the old folks here in the Blue Ridge mountains believe the forecasts of the Farmer’s Almanac. They kept insisting we were due for one last sniffle of winter. Then, on March 30th, the temperature plummeted and the mountains were covered with four to ten inches of snow. The old-timers were right to believe the Almanac, as it turns out. They’ve long planted their gardens according to its predictions, believing in the dark phase of the moon for planting the best crop.

A hard winter ahead? Look for the location of the hornet’s paper nest – high, and you can count on a cold, snowy winter. Conversely, the squirrel’s nest built low presages the same. The wooly worm, if nearly jet-black instead of russet and brown striped; a squirrel’s extra-bushy tail; the thick hulls of walnuts and hickory nuts; thick, tight corn husks; the number of foggy mornings in August – all of these and more are predictions of a winter more severe than usual.

Still more signs of a bad winter were onions with many layers, the depth to which carrots grew, tree bark thickest on the north side of the tree, a bumper crop of blackberries and pine cones, a thick layer of moss on the trees. Three months after the first katydid chirps on a summer night, expect the first killing frost of the season. But the hoot owl’s call late in autumn is yet another harbinger of a bad winter.

The curl of smoke from a chimney rises straight in fair weather, but travels toward the ground when harsh weather is coming.

When leaves on the trees show their undersides, expect rain. Also, if there’s a ring around the moon. The Zuni Indians said that ‘A red moon speaks of water.’ And rainbows are the most beautiful reflections of rain. Look for birds and bats flying low to the ground, and don your raincoat.

Cloud-gazers who recognize the various cloud formations can forecast fair or rainy weather, even tornados and hail. A clear, white moon, crickets chirping loudly at night, a foggy morning with dew and cobwebs on the grass are all signs of fair weather.

An old forecast said that if it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain every Sunday for seven weeks. Did it rain on Easter where you live? If so, how many rainy Sundays have you seen since?

About the Author

Stephania is a human service professional with nearly 40 years in the field. She publishes a content-rich ezine, “Tidbits from the Pantry,” about self-help, growth, and relationships to over 11,000 subscribers, and offers a life coaching service. To subscribe to her ezine, Visit her site at

Stephania Munson-Bishop

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