Wisdom from Way Back

Before there were weather apps for your smartphone, or the National Weather Service, people looked to the signs of nature to prepare for what’s to come.

Farmer's Almanac CoverThe Farmers Almanac, not to be confused with the Old Farmer’s Almanac, is North America’s most popular reference guide and one of the oldest continuously published periodicals. Its history is as rich and diverse as the Almanac itself. What? You didn’t know there was a difference? Actually, neither did I! Early in America’s history, many regions published their own localized version of an Almanac, based upon historical recordings and interpretations.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1792, while George Washington was in office. The publication is based in Lewiston, Maine, and, their weather predictions are made 18 months in advance, focusing on 18 US regions. They utilize a prediction formula that includes solar activity, prevailing weather and jet-stream patterns and ocean temperature records. Overall, the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s monthly forecasts have been found to be about 52% accurate.

The Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1818, while James Monroe was President. The Farmer’s Almanac is based in Dublin, New Hampshire, and, they make weather predictions 16 months in advance for 7 US climate zones. Their prediction formula utilizes mathematical and astronomical equations and puts global positioning for the upcoming year into their calculations. They do not use any satellite tracking equipment when forecasting. The Farmer’s Almanac’s monthly forecasts have been found to be about 80% accurate.

This list below was published in the 1978 Farmer’s Almanac, and, it is still relevant today! According to the Farmer’s Almanac, here are the 20 Signs of A Hard Winter:

  1. Thicker than normal corn husks.
  2. Woodpeckers sharing a tree.
  3. Early arrival of the Snowy owl.
  4. Early departure of geese and ducks.
  5. Early migration of the Monarch butterfly.
  6. Thick hair on the nape (back) of the cow’s neck.
  7. Heavy and numerous fogs during August.
  8. Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands.
  9. Mice eating ravenously into the home.
  10. Early arrival of crickets on the hearth.
  11. Spiders spinning larger than usual webs and entering the house in great numbers.
  12. Pigs gathering sticks.
  13. Insects marching in a line rather than meandering.
  14. Early seclusion of bees within the hive.
  15. Unusual abundance of acorns.
  16. Muskrats burrowing holes high on the river bank.
  17. “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest”.
  18. Narrow orange band in the middle of the Woollybear caterpillar warns of heavy snow; fat and fuzzy caterpillars presage bitter cold.
  19. The squirrel gathers nuts early to fortify against a hard winter.
  20. Frequent halos or rings around the Sun or Moon forecast numerous snow falls.

    Fireweed Flowers

    Fireweed Flowers


An Alaskan native legend also states that, when the Fireweed plant blooms at the top (it blooms from the bottom up), we have six weeks until winter arrives.

What are you seeing in your backyard?