Monday, November 29, 2010

Predicting the winter with woolybears and seeds

R.D. Hohenfeldt
Editor

A few weeks ago as I walked across the church parking lot, I looked down and saw a woolybear. He was black from front tip to back end.


I shuddered.


If you, too, are a hillbilly, you know why.


That wooly little worm (yes, I know, it is actually a caterpillar) predicts the
winter weather. The larger the band of brown, the milder the winter. If there’s no band of brown, well, then (gulp, deep breath, muttered cursings perhaps), there’s no mild winter in the woolybear’s weather forecast.


An all-black woolyworm, or woolybear, or caterpillar, means we’re in for a long, cold winter, with plenty of precipitation. In Missouri, that means sleet, a rain-sleet mix, freezing rain, ice/icing and snow.


I kept my eyes open for woolybears every Sunday for confirmation of that prediction. I usually see quite a few every fall, but for some reason I saw only one more. It was on the church sidewalk, and I took a picture of it. It had a fairly wide band of brown around its middle.


What a relief.


Friday, though, I opened up a bunch of persimmon seeds, and the news was not a
relief.


Now, the Ozarks hillbilly folklore is that when you cut open a persimmon seed, you’ll see a knife, fork or spoon. The fork tells you the winter will be so cold it will cut through you like a knife. A spoon tells you the winter will keep you busy shoveling snow. A fork tells you that you’ll have a moderate winter with not a lot of shoveling.


Weather predicting with persimmon seeds is not easy. Cleaning all the pap off the seeds is a chore in itself. Slicing open the seeds is dangerous and can be damaging if you aren’t careful. I’m partial to a Kobalt folding knife, available at Lowe’s, and I slip a new blade into it every couple of days so it is always sharp. Cutting the seed so you go through the center of the germ and obtain a recognizable shape is difficult. I cut through a handful of seeds without damaging myself and got shapes that bore no resemblance to anything.


I did, however, get three that looked like flatware. Two of them definitely looked like spoons. One looked like a butter knife, or maybe a spatula. So I found three persimmon predictors: two warning of snow, one of sharp cold.


Another predictor, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, says we’re going to have a drier than normal winter in Missouri, but also a colder than normal winter.


Between the woolybears, the persimmon seeds and The Old Farmer’s Almanac, I don’t know what to think. If anyone can offer some insight, I’d be happy to hear it.

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