Since the beginning of humanity, folks have used their own tried and true methods of predicting the seasons. Let us look at some of the ways of folklore winter predictions.
During the autumn of the year, when my brother and I are driving around the state looking for fall colors, we also pay attention to the animals to see if we can predict what our winter is going to be like. There are many herds of wild horses in our county and love to watch them. We also look to see if they are growing fur on their bellies -- if they are growing a lot of fur, you can bet we will be having a cold winter with lots of snow and ice. Bears, too, will grow thick coats if the winter is going to be severe. This is only one way that farmers and other folks, who did not have radios, television, or newspapers in the really old days, relied on nature and animals to know what kind of winter was in store for them.
If you have woolly bears (furry caterpillars) in your area, check their color. The darker they are, the more severe winter will be. Also look for dark stripes at the head and tail end. If they have these, the winter will come on severe, calm down a little, then be more severe towards the end of the season.
If you have a cat and a fireplace, watch your cat when you have a fire going. Cats will sit with their back to a fire just before a snow comes.
Got cows? If you have stubborn cows that lie down and just will not go out to pasture, you can be sure a storm will be blowing in soon. Also, watch your pigs. If they begin to gather leaves or straw, that is another sure sign of an approaching storm. Or, if your dog is eating grass, starts acting weird, whining and running around, a severe storm is on its way.
Squirrels will become very busy gathering nuts and other edibles before a harsh winter. Help them out by tossing out some unsalted peanuts in the shell.
If elder folks feel more aches and pains than usual, cold weather is on its way. It will be a good idea to make some extra batches of herbal liniment.
Watch the insects, too. If ants and cockroaches suddenly get very busy, that means a storm is coming up soon. Look at the ant hills -- if they are built high in July then winter is going to be snowy. If the crickets are singing louder than usual, a violent storm can be expected. You can expect a severe winter if wasps have built their nests up high.
Using the weather to predict coming weather can also be used. Old farmers would count the fogs in August to predict how many snowfalls they will have in winter. An exceptionally hot summer means a cold winter will follow. Try to remember back to the spring and when the first thunderstorm was, for the first frost in autumn will be exactly six months after that thunderstorm. When windy days fill autumn, then winter will be rather mild. If July is hot and August is cold, then it will be a hard and dry winter. If the first week in August is warmer than normal, then it will be a long, snowy winter.
Now, what about plants and trees and such? Well, if leaves fall early in autumn, winter will be mild, if the leaves fall late, winter will be severe. Watch how high the weeds grow and that will be how high the bank of snow will be. If flowers are still blooming in late autumn, expect a bad winter ahead. If onion skins are thin, winter will be mild. Thick and tough onion skins are a sign of a cold, harsh winter.
And do not forget the sailors at sea and how they predict the weather. Since ships at sea were highly affected by the weather, sailors had to predict upcoming weather and be prepared. The position of the moon and planets played an important part in ancient lore. The Vikings were guided by the heavenly planets. Sea life also gave sailors indications of upcoming weather. They knew a storm was on the way when porpoises began to frolic at sea. One very dreaded sign of violent storms was if the sails just hung absolutely still -- that was a warning that got every man on board ship scurrying to their tasks quickly to batten down the hatches.
And then there is the old saying, "Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning."
So, there you go. Now you, too, can predict what your winter is going to be like.