While many people nowadays get their weather predictions from television, radio or newspaper, people from the 18th century used quirky things in the natural world to forecast the upcoming seasonal changes.
Many people of Appalachia still use things found in the natural world to help predict the weather such as persimmon seeds, katydid chirps and the height of a hornet’s nest in a tree. While these may seem like folklore, many are rooted in science and have been proven true.
Steve Roark is the area forester for the Tennessee Division of Forestry and knows many people who are steadfast in their relationship with nature and base their planting schedule on almanacs and mountain weather predictions.
“My parents and grandparents were observant to what they saw or heard, way more than many people now. They had to use this information for their life and it was important,” said Roark.
Roark outlined some of the more popular natural weather predictors, including:
• The higher a hornet’s nest is built in a tree, the milder the winter. If the nest is built closer to the ground, possibly in a shrub, there is a good chance the winter will be extra cold;
• The thickness of the husk on an ear of feed corn can indicate the severity of the upcoming winter. If there is a thin husk, the winter will be balmy and mild, but if the husk is thicker the winter will be snowy and frigid;
• The number of foggy mornings in August will indicate the number of snows over the winter. If there are three mornings of fog in August, there will be three snows in the colder months;
• Dark bands of color on caterpillars indicate that a bad winter could be approaching, however lighter red or yellowish bands on a caterpillar indicate a milder winter is more likely.
Wilderness Road State Park reenactor and history buff Billy Heck is familiar with the farming history of the 18th century. Much of the aforementioned country yore was used during Daniel Boone’s times and have survived ever since.
During Boone’s times people also believed that if wild hogs gathered sticks early in the fall to build a nest, winter was approaching.
No matter what you believe or use to determine future weather patterns, winter weather is coming.
“They’re nostalgic, but knowing this helps to be in tune with nature. Things happen for a reason in nature and this gets us a little more plugged in with what’s going on around us,” said Roark.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.