Vermont Woods Studios Handmade Furniture

A Vermont Winter “Forecast”

November 12th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

Some indicators of the severity of the coming winter are: the thickness of a walnut’s husk; the ratio of brown to black segments on a Woolly Bear; the number of acorns an oak tree drops.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking with my family when I observed the little fellow in the above image making his way across our path. I had heard that Woolly Bears are prominent in folklore as predictors of winter. I thought I’d poke around and see what other indicators we have. Here’s what I found.

Woolly Bears (the larvae of Isabella Tiger Moths): the longer the middle brown band, the milder and shorter the coming winter; the shorter the brown band, the longer and more severe winter will be. The woolly has 13 segments to the length of his body–the same number of weeks there are of winter. From what I can tell of this picture, my little friend only has four solid-brown segments with a couple that are both black and white. Uh, oh.

Black Walnut trees: The thicker the green husk on the Black Walnuts the snowier the winter, because nature knows when the walnut needs more protection from the elements.

Onion skins: If thin, a mild winter is coming.

Corn: Husks are thick and tight and the silks are heavy — these are indicators of a bad winter.

Apple skins: If tough, winter may be as well.

Oak trees: If the ground of your yard, driveway, or porch is covered with acorns, folklore predicts that these same surfaces may be blanketed by snow this winter. This one makes me feel a little bit better about what my Woolly Bear friend told me. Some years we can hear the acorns pinging off the metal roof of our storage shed. This year I haven’t heard any.

The Month of August: For every fog there will be a snowfall. If the first week is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long. If a cold August follows a hot July, it foretells a winter hard and dry. We’re not far from the Connecticut River and a small area of beaver-created wetlands so fog is not unusual.

Spiders: Spinning larger than usual webs

Honey Bees: will store honey in mass in preparation for a severe winter

Yellow Jackets: build nests either high in trees or in the ground depending on what the coming winter has in store.

Squirrels: If tails are very bushy and/or if they’re more active than usual, a severe winter is on its way. Hmmm, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an INactive squirrel.

Ant Hills: If they are unusually high in July, it will be cold and snowy. Darn, forgot to measure them last summer.

Thanksgiving Goose: If the breast bone of the Thanksgiving goose is red or has many spots, expect a cold and stormy winter; but if only a few spots are visible, expect a mild winter.

If the first snowfall lands on unfrozen ground, the winter will be mild.

Final assessment: I have no idea what the winter will bring us in Southern Vermont. I’m just grateful I’m only a short walk from Stonehurst!

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