Legends, lore, and almanacs predict weather for 2011

If it snows on Christmas Day, the grass will be green by Easter. That's North Carolina mountain lore, one of the many legends and tales about how to predict the weather for the year ahead.

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Although I am a relatively new homeowner in the mountains of North Carolina, I have been visiting this breathtaking area of the country since I was in high school.

I’ve spent many a happy day sitting by a waterfall on Cedar Creek listening to my friend Margaret spin tales of catamounts, panthers, owls, and wildflowers that possess magical powers.

For years she has been collecting the local lore -- advice, stories, and superstitions handed down from generation to generation.

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For example, legend holds that if you see if a butterfly in spring before you spy a fence lizard, you will be smart. But if you see a fence lizard first, you'll be lazy.

Of course, much of the mountain lore deals with atmospheric conditions. So since the Christmas blizzard left me snowed in, I decided to revisit some of the signs old timers rely on for predicting the weather.

Sage advice or old wives’ tales?

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • If it snows on Christmas Day, the grass will be green by Easter.
  • The first 12 days of January foretell the weather for each month of the year.
  • When hogs carry sticks in their mouths, bad weather is ahead.
  • If smoke blows to the ground, it will soon snow.
  • If you see raccoons and possums feeding during the day, there will be bad weather in 12 hours.
  • When the new moon rises with its points turned up, there will be no rain.
  • There will be a winter snow for every morning fog in August.
  • If you harvest onions with thin skins, the winter will be mild.
  • If the wooly worms have a narrow brown band, winter will be harsh.

I like the idea of observing animal behavior and nature for clues as to what may lie ahead weather-wise. It’s a lot more fun than listening to the weather guessers on TV!

In fact I think I’ll start a journal and see if the “signs” prove to be correct or just fanciful tales.

Almanacs – the farmer’s friend

I also consulted Baer’s Agricultural Almanac & Gardener’s Guide to see what is in store for Maryland in the upcoming months.

Baer’s has published a guide since 1825 and it is an interesting collection of everything from long-range weather forecasts and garden news to recipes and folklore. Surprise! It appears stormy days are ahead.

The almanac also features some fun facts about roses:

  • Apparently, the largest rose bloom ever bred was 33 inches in diameter.
  • In addition, the largest rosebush in the world is a white Lady Banksia that came to Arizona from Scotland in 1885 and has a single trunk six feet in diameter. Talk about a pruning challenge!

Reading about these unusual roses has me anxiously looking forward to spring. And since it did snow here on Christmas Day, I’m hoping that the legend is right, and we will have bright green grass by Easter.

PSSST: According to English gardeners, Graham Thomas, Ballerina and Madame Alfred Carriere are three roses that flower dependably into late autumn.

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Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, is one of nine garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin' It. She's an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. She grows roses and other plants in her garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. To read more by Lynn, click here.You can also follow her on Twitter.

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