Well, the calendar says it’s Spring again, and after such a cold and snowy winter, I’m raring to get outside. The winter’s end, however, has been hard to predict according to mountain folklore. In the High Country, many have been “counting beans” that were collected last August to predict when to expect the last snow. This age old tradition involves placing a bean in a jar for every foggy morning in August. This is supposed to tell how many snows there will be in the winter. Then, for every snow fall you have, you take out a bean and when the beans are gone, cold weather, theoretically, is over. Well, for some in our area, their beans have been gone from the jar for a while, but we keep getting snow! In my neck of the woods, however, we had fog every morning in August, so we are still on the lookout for another bout or two of snow. Not really an exact science, is it?
Well, this is only one of many ways that mountain folk used to anticipate the weather. These concepts were handed down from generation to generation. Today, weathermen have lots of gadgets and technology to help them to predict what kind of weather is on the way. And as we all know, the weathermen aren’t always 100% accurate all of the time. Maybe they are counting beans as well! Years ago, however, farmers had to look to nature for changes in the seasons. It was very important for them to pay attention to the plants, trees, and especially the animals, all of which are very sensitive to the seasonal changes. With these signs, farmers could estimate when to plant their crops, when to harvest, when to bring in the hay, and even when animals were to be bred, all because of nature’s signs. Some signs tell of approaching rain like a ring around the moon. If there are stars present inside the ring it tells how many days of rain is expected. Another sign is when you have a thunderstorm during the winter months; you can expect snow in a short time. Also, if the deer feed in the daylight hours a hard snow is coming. When the yellow jackets build their nest above the ground there will be a wet winter. One of the most popular weather signs is the wooly worm. The black and brown colored rings of his body predict the harshness of the approaching winter. We even have a local Wooly Worm Festival!
There are many, many more natural weather predictors, but these seem to be the more popular. Even today, a good farmer still seeks out these signs. So even though Spring has sprung up on the calendar, we should not put away those toasty sweaters too soon. Old man winter may have one or two more tricks up his sleeve. Only the signs will tell. By the way, if you have already collected all the beans from the jar, you still might want to be on the lookout for one last brush with winter weather. And for those beans, how about putting them in the pot instead, bean soup is great this time of year!
Happy Bean Soup Day!