Renea Winchester

Renea Winchester

It’s hard these days, predicting weather patterns, especially with Mother Nature’s erratic moods.

Early last fall, I procured a handful of persimmon seeds for my annual “persimmon prediction.”

If you are new to this method, mountain folk take themselves for a walk until they find a persimmon tree, whose numbers dwindle annually. They slice open the seeds and interpret the shape inside the white pit, reading the likeness found there much like one reads tea leaves.

This year, I discovered a shovel-shape inside every single persimmon. 

That, my friends, meant sharpen the snow-shovel, the snow it be a-comin’. Truth be told, the snow prediction made me happy. I adore the silence that follows a new snow, how pure and clean the earth becomes, if only for a moment. I adore having a day – just one – to read uninterrupted. Yes, the persimmon-shovel made me happy.

But alas, we had rain. Buckets and buckets of rain. Frog-strangling downpours that filled ditches with sediment and caused significant flooding across the state. As of late, we’re experiencing dramatic temperature changes in a 24-hour period.

There was no winter planting, not a single seed. As the old-timers are wont to say, it has simply been “too wet to plow.” Why bother planting anything when you know the seed will rot?

If you believe in folklore, the woolly worm is another surefire weather predictor. The worm is actually a caterpillar in larvae form of Pyrrharctia Isabella, aka the Isabella tiger month. This little lovely has 13 distinct segments on its body that are either rust-colored brown, or black.

Around here, folk believe the more black there is on the body, the more harsh the winter. If you find a “woolly bugger” with several black bands followed by rust-colored bands in the middle and black bands at the tip, that means a cold start to winter, with a couple weeks of mild temperatures, followed by one last cold snap before spring truly arrives.

Woollys are fairly accurate when it comes to prophesying the weather. However, this year I couldn’t find a single creature – not one – and that made me sad. Poor little ones, where did they all go?

And then there’s Phil. Good ole’ Punxsutawney himself. If you believe Phil, (who has a horrible track record, by the way) we’re in for an early spring. Currently, all signs indicate he may be correct.

While it’s common for hardy daffodils to emerge early and endure snow unscathed, other spring flowers may find themselves in trouble if the sap continues to rise. Visible signs such as leaves erupting on the multiflora rose bush, budlets forming on bradford pears, and peach trees – please, not the peaches – have me worried. Alas, those fruit trees are so easily fooled. 

I prefer the hand-in-dirt method. Touch the soil. Go ahead, I dare you. It’s cold. Very cold, despite the daffodil blooms.

Farmers have begun wringing wrinkled hands and surveying flooded fields. I predict we’re going to have a rough go in 2020. I believe the rain will dry up in May and summer will find us face-down in our parched soil praying. But what do I know? Even the signs and portents haven’t been correct so far.

Renea Winchester invites everyone to attend the launch of her novel, “Outbound Train,” at 3 p.m., April 4 at City Lights.