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Weather lore has been around for a very long time and you’ll find fine examples scattered right across the calendar. But in Grandma’s books, at least, fall was the most prolific season when it came to receiving signals from nature.
One of Grandma’s favourites was the woolly bear caterpillar. Towards the end of summer, before school was back in, Grandma would ask us to be on the lookout for these cuddly caterpillars. Should we happen to see one, we were instructed to carefully pick it up and bring it to her for inspection and eventual prognostication. Grandma, like many others, believed the wider the middle reddish-brown section was, the milder the winter would be. It’s become one of the most popular fall folklores around.
I don’t like to debunk something that’s so cute and fun, but it appears the length of the orange stripe has less to do with the winter ahead and more to do with the spring that just passed. If spring was cool and wet, the caterpillar got a late start and would have fewer brown hairs. So, the band does tell you something about the weather. The only thing is… it’s telling you about last spring’s weather.
At about the same time, Grandma took note of the mountain ash trees. If I had a dime for every time Grandma said: “The more berries on a mountain ash tree, the more severe winter will be” …Well, you know!
There was a lovely stand of mountain ash trees at the end of our acreage. The first weekend after school started, perhaps as a bit of a reward, Grandma would invite anyone who was interested to go for a stroll to where it stood. It was a long walk but we were all very anxious to hear what Grandma had to say about the upcoming winter. Of course, we always packed a lunch, brought a blanket and made an afternoon of it.
After visiting Newfoundland last month, I learned something new about the mountain ash… But that will have to wait, until tomorrow.
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.