January 28, 2023

Rural Issues: Signs of a harsh winter ahead

My social media platforms have been littered with posts about the expectations of a harsh winter ahead. From images of caterpillars to persimmons to posts about the long-range weather forecast from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a lot of folks are convinced we’re going to experience near-hostile weather conditions during the winter season.

The color of a wooly worm, an early Monarch butterfly migration, muskrats burrowing high on the riverbank and thick hair on the back of cow’s neck are said to portend a bad winter. There are those who believe an especially bushy tail on a squirrel or raccoon is also the sign of a hard winter.

If you listen to some old-timers, you’ll find the answer to the severity of winter in the seeds of a persimmon. When cut into two pieces, the seed will display one of three symbols.

If you find a knife shape, folklore is that you will have an icy winter and the wind will cut through like a knife. A fork symbolizes a mild winter.

A spoon is said to forecast heavy snow. Apparently, the spoon shape signifies the fact that you’ll be scooping snow.

I am not certain as to the specific number of seeds that should be “read” to determine the forecast, but every single photo I’ve seen on Facebook shows seeds with the ghostly white image of a spoon. I have yet to cut into any of the fruit from my own persimmon trees, but have little hope of finding forks.

You might not take these predictions seriously, but I’ll bet when a black cat crosses the road in front of you or you walk under a ladder or break a mirror, you do think — if even for a split-second — about the superstition and bad luck associated with the event.

Personally, signs from Mother Nature carry more weight than my predictable clumsiness or seeing our feline barn-boarder, Charley, darting across the lane in front of me.

Why, if we are aware, albeit it at a subconscious level, afraid or at least aware of the consequences associated with actions or events of the superstitious nature, do we so frequently fail to see the signs that portend real and serious trouble for our community, our industry, our country, our world?

I’m not suggesting that we become suspicious of all with whom we disagree. I am suggesting that we step up and pay attention to signs of what might come if we are ill-prepared.

I am suggesting that we work together to find solutions — and that starts in our homes and our own communities.

If we, as the rural citizenry of this country continue to look for more that makes us different than makes us alike, we need to be prepared for a very harsh winter.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.