Gardening

Did you feel the shift? The seasons beginning to change? The first day of autumn has come and gone. Break out your pumpkin spice candles and lattes. Get your supplies for s’mores and backyard bonfires. Get to your farmer’s market and grab some fresh-picked, locally grown apples and plan that trip to the pumpkin patch.

The transition on the homestead also has begun. Finishing the harvest, filling the larder, getting those chimneys cleaned and wood stoves ready, loading in hay and feed for the winter—all are on the agenda. If you look closely, the leaves are just beginning the transition. The beautiful display of fall colors is one of the most amazing displays of God’s glory.

Critters have begun the effort of preparing for winter. Did you know the trigger for winter undercoat growth on a horse (and other critters) is the diminishing daylight? As the fall days get shorter, the reduction of light causes the animal’s body to begin increasing the production of the hormone melatonin, which in turn prompts additional coat growth. What a wonder!

I am a bit of a weather forecasting fanatic. This time of year, I look at the “Farmers’ Almanac,” more for fun than for absolute, precise winter forecasts. But if you want a reliable source, try the weather folklore prognosticators. These old-school homesteaders and farmers have been watching the weathercasting signs for many decades. Here are a few of the things that can indicate a possible harsh winter to come.

I shared before how critters begin growing undercoats. One should also look at the thickness of that undercoat. God’s provision allows for critters to know what’s coming long before we do. A thick undercoat is a sure sign of a hard winter coming.

Here are some old gardener’s rhymes about signs of a harsh winter to come.

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry,

Will cause snow to gather in a hurry.

In addition, a tough winter is ahead if squirrels’ tails are very bushy. But squirrels seeming to be panicked, gathering and storing nuts with great urgency means that squirrel might know something we don’t.

See how high the hornet’s nest,

‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.

Most of us avoid, and likely never see, a hornet nest. The belief is that hornets will naturally put the nest higher, concerned with losing the nest to the deep snow.

Onion’s skin very thin,

Mild winter coming in;

Onion’s skin thick and rough,

Coming winter cold and tough.

Now, if you don’t grow your own onions, ignore this. Ask a local farmer how thick the onion skins are. Nature has a way of preparing better than we do.

Other signs of a bad winter are:

>Thicker-than-normal corn husks.

>The early arrival of the snowy owl.

>The early departure of geese and ducks.

>Heavy and numerous fogs during August.

>Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands.

>Mice chewing furiously to get into your home.

>Spiders spinning larger than usual webs.

>Ants marching in a line rather than meandering.

>Unusual abundance of acorns.

>Frequent halos or rings around the sun or moon forecast numerous snowfalls.

>The size of the orange band on the woolly worm caterpillar. If the band is narrow, it will be snowy. If it’s wide, it will be a mild winter. Fuzzier than normal? Winter will be very cold.

And let’s not forget persimmon seeds. If you split open the persimmon seed, you will find three shapes. A knife shape indicates a cold, cutting, icy winter. A spoon shape indicates a lot of snow. And a fork shape indicates a mild winter.

Is any of this true? Likely, to some degree. But most of us are so removed from a visceral relationship with God’s creation, we would never see these things.

There is one thing you can see if you just take a moment and appreciate it. Geese are now preparing for their southern migration. If you watch now, they seem to fly together a bit randomly. I tell my kids they are practicing, preparing for the long journey. The only way they can make this journey is to fly in a lopsided V. When this formation is perfected, the resulting energy efficiency allows them to fly together for long distances.

We could learn from this. If the church could learn to fly in formation, we could go a lot farther together, facing any storm or struggle. Let’s join together in formation around 2 Chronicles 7:14. Let’s endeavor to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways. Let the storm ahead be met by a people united in our love for God and our love for one another.

To God be the Glory.

P.S. My prediction: Cold and snowy winter ahead!