Predictions for winter
The acorns are the first alarm.
Night breezes rustle the oaks, shaking their capped nuts from their branches. I hear them hitting the steel roof above my bedroom. My slippers crack and crunch them when I step onto the deck to check the morning weather.
I am worried. Many acorns are a bad sign. They are one of 20 signs indicating that we are in for an early and vicious winter.
I need to check out the other 19, and if they confirm a bad winter, I need to prepare.
I could consult weather services like Environment Canada, The Weather Network or Accuweather. But they use algorithms now rather than getting outside and looking for real weather signs.
I’m old-fashioned and would rather rely on the age-old indicators passed down to us through folklore. Things like an unusual number of acorns and squirrels gathering them and other nuts to fortify themselves against a long and hard winter.
Or, thicker-than-usual hair on the nape of a cow’s neck, and corn husks that are much thicker than normal.
I don’t have any cows to check but I do have a corn patch. There’s no use checking it out though, because there are no corn husks. The raccoons have stolen the cobs, husks and all.
Raccoons themselves can be a good indicator of the winter ahead, according to folklore. If you see any with bright bands on thick, bushy tails that’s an indicator of a hard winter. There are no raccoons to be found around my place, however, because they are hiding somewhere gorging themselves on the corn they stole from my garden.
There are other animal signs to watch for. Two woodpeckers sharing the same tree and pigs gathering sticks are said to be reliable signs of a long, cold and snowy winter.
I don’t really understand those. All woodpeckers share the same tree – it’s the one outside my bedroom window on which every woodpecker in the county hammers at five o’clock in the morning.
And pigs gathering sticks? There are no pigs around where I live and what they would do with sticks is beyond me. Unless pigs have taken up hockey.
Another sign that folklore holds highly reliable is the “early arrival of crickets on the hearth.”
I don’t have a hearth. I have a woodstove and any crickets gathering there would be fried to a crisp because it has been so cold in the mornings that I’m already deep into my winter woodpile.
The 20 “bad winter ahead” signs offered by folklore aren’t all that helpful this year so I consult the tried and true farmer’s almanac.
That can be confusing. There is The Old Farmer’s (apostrophe s) Almanac that dates back to 1792. Then there’s the Farmers’ (s apostrophe) Almanac that started in 1818 and it’s easy to get them mixed up.
A Canadian version of the Old Farmer’s Almanac tells me to expect a winter of “snow, snow and more snow.” It is predicting no fewer than eight major snowstorms, including “a series of significant snow events” in mid-to-late January.
The Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a “freezing, frigid and frosty” winter for most of the country. It predicts more lake effect snow for Ontario – as much as 70 centimetres in one day. Add to that a prediction of a late and chilly spring.
The average winter snowfall for Haliburton County (November through March averaged over 1981 to 2010) is 8.2 feet. Last winter the county received 10.5 feet November through March, plus more rain than usual. It snowed, at least a trace, on 96 days last winter between Nov. 1 and March 31.
So the outlook for winter 2019-2020 is not looking good. The only positive predictions are that the winter will start late, but when it does it will bring frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls in January and February.
If you doubt any of the predictions you can check out a couple of folklore signs on your own. Look to see if the ants are marching in a straight line rather than meandering. Or, watch to see if muskrats are burrowing holes high on the river bank.
If you see those things, break out the snow shovels and haul in more firewood.