Folklore Heritage

How Cold Is It At Your House?

Cold as..

When I got up this morning-it was 8 degrees. After I dropped the girls off at school, the radio informed me over 2/3rds of the US is experiencing below average temperatures-and the forecast is for the freezing weather to continue over the coming week.

Before the weather channel and radio announcers came along, folks had a variety of signs they watched to indicate when cold weather was coming. Things like:

  • If the corn shucks are thicker than usual-it’ll be a bad winter.
  • If animals grow a thicker coat than usual it’ll be a bad winter.
  • There are all sorts of sayings about woolly worms-some seem to contradict each other. Granny swears if she sees a solid white one it’ll be a bad winter. She seen one the summer before the big blizzard of 93.
  • If squirrels gather more nuts than usual-it’ll be a bad winter. I don’t know how many nuts they gathered-but I know I’ve seen more squirrels this year than ever before. We seen so many cross the road in front of us-I finally told the girls I thought squirrels were taking over the world.
  • If snow lies on the ground for 3 days you can expect more snow within the week. Since we don’t get much snow-some of you will have to say whether or not that one is true.
  • If there is a bumper crop of mast (berries, nuts) it will be a bad winter.

I’ve heard all those saying since I was a kid, but I learned a new weather indicator this year. Pap told me about it first, then I read about it in Marshall McClung’s book.

cold weather

Old timers said you could tell how cold it was by the leaves of a laurel (rhododendron to most folks). I took this photo yesterday-see the leaves-how they are rolled up? The tighter the leaf is rolled the colder it is. It was 26 degrees when I took the photo above. Neat uh?

Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me how cold it was at your house this morning.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Shirley Bullock
    January 10, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Hi, it is pretty cold here. The worst part of snow is it being on the road. Wish there was a way to put roofs over them! We need to watch after the very young and the elderly. Hypothermia is a real risk… as well as the danger of breaking a hip for the older folk. Remember the local shelters when you go in town and donate gloves and hats. Don’t forget that neighbor down the road either. Shirley

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    My children, they are in their 20’s, have made fun of me when I would say let the pipes drip if it is below freezing. I was not home two days ago when we had 14* temps. My son called to say the pipes froze because my daughter had turned off the pipes and he had to spend the day overcoming the frozen pipes. I laughed later when I saw that he had posted the Shania Twain “UP” music video on his Facebook to express his day. lol It has been a cold week.
    Hope you all are doing okay there.

  • Reply
    the inadvertent farmer
    January 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    In the 40’s and I’m complaining…although it is raining, still…always! We don’t have the only rain forest in the US for nothing, lol! I have heard that of the rhodies before and their leaves…I will have to observe more to see if it holds to be true. Kim

  • Reply
    January 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    brrrrr it is cold…about 27 now at 1:10pm obviously it is colder in other parts of the nation than we are…but it is plenty cold for me..

  • Reply
    January 6, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Been cold as “whiz” here, too!
    The morning of this post it was 12 degrees at 7am.
    I’m ready for SPRING!!

  • Reply
    trisha too
    January 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    cold. colder tomorrow.
    actually, we did notice the squirrels completely cleaned up the black walnuts this year (didn’t hurt my feelings; i think they’re yucky! and yes, that’s a childhood flashback right there!)

  • Reply
    January 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    As the old folks used to say, it’s “powerful” cold! The hens don’t want to lay, can’t say as I blame them. The old folks also used to say it would be a hard winter if the mud-daubers built their nests closer to the ground. We’ve had over a foot of snow in the last few days. Where can I get some of this global warming I hear so much about???

  • Reply
    Chef E
    January 6, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I read this a few days ago, and have wanted to answer when I thought about it. I cannot come up with anything. Just do not remember anything my parents or other might have said about this. Granddad had a thermometer on his shed. He was the scientific man as they called him. This is all so fascinating to me…

  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    We are due a bad winter. It is 8 degrees here and miserable. Snow is on the way with at least 3 inches Thursday.
    My granny said the same thing about the white wooly worms but I haven’t ever seen one. I’ll be on the lookout next year.

  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve heard if their are allot of pinecones on the tree’s it’s going to be a bad winter.

  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    My rhodies are my first weather reporters, too. Stay warm!

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    January 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Hi, Tipper. Not sure what the temp was this morning but right now @ 5pm it’s 20*. THat’s neat w/ the rhododendren leaves. I’ve heard all those cold weather signs. Alot to be learned from nature if you just pay attention.

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    January 5, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    It’s really cold here in Hayesville. It’s so interesting reading you blog about what the old-timers used to say regarding the kind of winter we would have. I’ve heard many of these and enjoyed your blog very much. Stay warm. They are predicting snow on Thursday. We also had ice on our roof top this morning.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    January 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Too cold! I don’t know how cold it actually was, about 28 I think. We are running 20 – 30 degrees colder than we usually are this time of year. We are expecting an arctic blast at the end of the week where it will drop into the teens. Brrr. I don’t know how you mountain folk do it.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Another record-breaking cold winter. The last five have seen temperatures plummeting well below norms. Our summers have been mild and temperate, with few extremes.
    Global warming! What a fraud. What a sad, sad perpetration on us. And we’re about to get “Cap and Trade”. A pox on all politicians.

  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    It’s cold here, too~about 24 degrees right now. It was 12 when we got up this morning.
    That’s neat about the leaves–thanks for sharing the pictures.
    Our dogs and cats have very heavy coats this year and the cats all gained a lot of weight. My daughters say they look like woodchucks, LOL! Also, our persimmon seeds had spoons and knives in them, so that’s supposed to mean a lot of snow and ice. Usually they are all the same ‘utensil’ in them, but this year I found both spoons and knives.
    Oh dear, I saw several of those solid white wooly worms during the summer!
    Stay Warm!!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    January 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Tipper: Sometimes it isn’t so much the temperature as the amount of snow. We have been snowing every day and it is supposed to continue. It was in the teens last night.

  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Hi Tipper! It is so cold here that the chickens are mugging the sheep to have wool for sweaters!!
    LOL. Well, it is supposed to get down to 9 degrees by Friday. I hope you stay warm and that there will be warmer days ahead! blessings,Kathleen

  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I know how you feel, I live very close to you, I think about 30 min. and it was 8 here!! I grew up in Madison County close to the TN line, and this is the longest I have ever seen snow lay, other than the blizzard of 93′. We started out here with 13 inches, and we still have 3 inches, and its been on the ground for about 3 weeks now!! And I can prove that the old timer ways for telling the weather work!! My mountain laurel did the same thing, my corn husks were thicker than ever, the squirrels were kinda scaring me last month acting crazy, my dogs coat is much thicker, and we had more berries than ever this year!! I love your music, shady grove is one of my faves!! Do you ever go to the depot in Marshall on Friday nights for blue grass? You would love it!! Stay warm!!

  • Reply
    laoi gaul-williams
    January 5, 2010 at 9:10 am

    hi tipper
    its been hovering around zero for a week now and over a large part of the country it has been snowing…except for here in our ancient forest. bit in the last hour they have issued a flash weather warning for the southern counties~we are one of those~for heavy snow. the clouds are gathering and its freezing cold…

  • Reply
    Benny Terry
    January 4, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    It was 25% this morning at 0730 in my house when I got up. Yes, in my house! We just started on propane instead of natural gas and have not figured out the best way to keep up with how much gas is in the tank. We solved that problem right away and bought a propane heater (looks like a wood burning stove) to supplement the furnace. I will check the tank every week now; at quarter full I will order a fill up.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    January 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I don’t know what it was this morning nor did I want to know. I just looked out at the thermometer and it is 17 F. here in middle part of Oklahoma at 10 p.m.
    I’ve heard the same as Terry posted earlier. If you cut a green persimmon in half and it looks like a spoon expect a lot of snow. If it looks more like a knife expect ice.
    All I know is I’m especially thankful for my electric blanket and two pups in the bed with me.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    It was 9F at 11am. I’m not sure how cold it was earlier because I didn’t check. It was bitter with the wind and I stayed in most of the day. Just went to see my friend, Jo Ann, this afternoon and it was sunny, so not so bad then. Still frosty though.
    Pinecones were always used here as an indicator of how much snow we’d have. If the cones were near the top of the tree, there would be excessive snow.
    We drove home through PA on Friday and I thought of you. Some places the roads were quite bad.
    Happy New Year to you and yours. I have photos from our trip posted if you’re interested.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Too doggone cold here!! It was about 10 here I think and going to be that way all week. Highs in the low 20’s. Time to get the long handle underwear out!! 🙂
    I saw a wooly worm back this fall and he was black on both ends and brown in the middle.
    Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    January 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I am so cold and we didn’t get enough wood cut this year. We need to learn to read the signs better. I did notice there were more squirrels this year. They went up in our nut trees and took the nuts before they even fell. I thought that had to be a bad sign. I saw several black wooley worms over by my shop. My “Pa” always said that was a sign. Both of our cats are as fluffy as I’ve ever seen then. My old Huskey wants outside all the time. He thinks he’s back in Alaska. I need more winter clothes. 🙂

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Another comment that I thought might be interesting to the readers…We had a “weather witch” as some called her, that lived up on the plateau here in Tn…she was known for using nature to forcast the weather. First, it was just word of mouth about her predictions then the paper heard about her, so from then on the paper would print her forecast for the coming winter months, sometimes to the day!…She would count the fogs in August to predict how many snows we would have in the winter months…heavy fogs..heavy snows..light fogs light snow..foggy here and there..just a flurry or so…
    Every year I would try to remember to count the fogs…but would not remember to do so until halfway through the month. LOL She also used the mast count, the wooly bear, the animals coats, etc. as you said..She kind of got famous around here for the accuracy of her predictions…

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    It was a -1 at home today. By the weekend, it’s suppose to be colder. BT is looking forward to ice fishing in a day or two! It’s the best tasting fish when it comes out of that ice water.
    MY some day hopefully son in law is a meteorologist did an on air story of the wooly worm that I mailed him from Missouri to Oklahoma.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee ♥
    January 4, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I don’t know how cold it got here but it was cooooooooold. And schools are on a 2hr delay due to cold temps tm (and all the teachers are going snow dancing hoping for a snow!).

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    It’s 10 this morning. Our wooly worms said that winter would start off mild (it did) and then last till late spring (ugh). we got 2 feet of snow in the last couple of days. Anyway I have a quilt in the frames and two more in pieces so I guess I can keep busy for a while.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Has anyone split open a perssimon seed? The one I split this past summer had a spoon. I think it means alot of snow. We had a real blizzard Christmas Eve. Still have snow on the ground, and to top it off it snowed another 3 inches. I am so ready for this to melt. It is 18 degrees here in NE Oklahoma.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    January 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I was lucky enough to stay in my pj’s and vegitate today, Tipper. Still recovering from the holidays!
    You would think it’s cold enough to want to stay inside or look for warmer climates. Yet, there are those who actually visit frigid climates and stay in “Ice Hotels.” I just read and posted about it. Why they would want to go colder is beyond me! Give me the tropics any day! :))
    Stay warm, Tipper! xo

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I am in Jupiter, FL, and the temperature tonight is expected to get down to a bone-chilling 36. For us, that IS cold. Normally, we would expect our low to be around 58 or so this time of year with highs in the 70s to low 80s.

  • Reply
    Jay Henderson
    January 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    It was 10.9 degrees F. at our house this morning. (We have a nifty digital indoor-outdoor thermometer, so we can record in tenths.) Nothing frozen up, thank goodness.
    If the local forecasts prove out, we won’t get a high temperature as high as 32 degrees F for the next week — highs of 25, plus/minus 6 degrees, lows of 15, plus/minus 4 degrees. Plenty of time to test the integrity of the water supply.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    There is a good bit of difference between a mountain Rhododendron and mountain Laurel, both beautiful though don’t you think?…Up your way I see lots of Laurel…On the Smokies bald lots of Rhododendrons…the leaves are both evergreen and look a lot the same…and growth both shrubby…with some Laurels reaching high…and yes I have seen the leaves curl…when its so cold…never heard family say anything about cold weather prediction from it…but I know if my toes curl and hurt I can’t get them to go back til I put them on the heater…..I know its cold! LOL
    My Dad used to say if it “Clouds up on a snow, it will snow again within three days.” Also, “On clear winter night if there is a ring around the moon, count the stars inside the ring and in that many days we will have a snow.” Grandmother said, “If snow was laying around in the woods, it was hiding and waiting on another snow”….LOL I would hope after hope that the snow wouldn’t melt in the woods…LOL But, I think it’s just shady, and takes longer to melt…of course if it is on the north side…
    I’ve seen this happen…When birds flock in fields and around feeders and you just can’t seem to scare them off..they are filling up for a cold winters snow probably within 24 hours! Well, or a least cold wind and flurries…LOL

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    January 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I think it was around 15 or so this morning! So cold! I really would have thought y’all would get a pretty fair amount of snow. Our water at church was frozen yesterday morning.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Tipper. I live in central Texas where the weather is mild, however, this week has been abnormally cold….I know that everyone is going to roll their eyes at this temp…29degrees…lol..but for us it’s over-coat weather. My grandma use to say that when the horses and cows start running all over the pasture that it was soon to be a “blue norther” or if the animals were huddled in one corner of the field, cold weather was on it’s way. She was always correct.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    “If snow lies on the ground for 3 days you can expect more snow within the week.” If this were true we’d have snow into July! I’d love to check out my rhododendrons but they are buried under the snow we have piling up here. We’re used to the snow and cold but it must be awful for those of you that don’t have to deal with it often. Stay warm!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    January 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Too. It is too cold.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    8 degrees? Girl, you can keep that temp. It was about 30 this a.m. We are expecting colder temps later this week but hopefully not single digits.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Yesterday it was FREEZING in Michigan all day long: WINDY with a temperature of 17 but felt like 10 below 0 with the wind chill. Today is MUCH warmer: about 21 with no wind.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    It is verrry cold here, too. The wind makes it worse. If you don’t have gloves on, you have to come in often and warm your hands. Beautiful white snow is falling as I type. The whoolly worm I posted about earlier in the year was solid black, I think he was right, we’re having a cold and snowy winter.

  • Reply
    barbara gantt
    January 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    This morning it was only 12. Yesterday was 4 degrees. If we see the geese fly south early, then people say that it will be an early , hard winter. I grew up hearing it said that if snow laid on the ground more than 3 days, it was waiting for more. That doesnt work in Vermont, there is snow on the ground til spring. Barbara

  • Reply
    Wanda in Northwest Alabama
    January 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Hey, Tipper.
    It was 17 degrees this morning, which is extremely cold for our area, and its supposed to get even lower this week. Some winters, we don’t ever get below 20.
    We had 1″ of snow last year, which was the biggest snow my 10 year old grandaughter had seen. So now we have a prediction of 2″ on Thursday, so we are all excited.
    We don’t have big snow removal equipment here, basically because it would rust between the times its needed. So if it snows, everything shuts down, and we just enjoy it. It is usually gone by the next day.
    This may turn out to be an interesting winter!

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Here in the Appalachians of Virginia it’s gotten up to 10 above, quite the increase from wind chills of 10 below the past few nights. We have snow on the ground (since before Christmas actually)and expect up to 4 more inches. We are staying in and forcing the dog to stay close (I knew I should have bought the family a set of those snuglies!
    You all stay warm.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    In Milledgeville, GA along the “Fall Line” topographically, middle Georgia, it was 21 degrees January 4. Cold, cold for here!
    For this “displaced” mountain gal, I miss seeing all the evidences of cold in the N. GA mountains. My Daddy predicted how cold winters would be by the thickness of bark on trees (do they grow another layer??), the thickness of animals’ fur, and the thickness of corn shucks on the dried corn before gathering it from the fields. I know you’ve already had some snow, ice and sleet in the mountains. Now here in warmer Middle Georgia we are having days when the temperature barely rises above freezing.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Tipper I don’t have any hints for predicting the coming winter weather but I do know how to tell how cold it is outside.
    I look out the kitchen window to the rhododendrons in the woods. When the rhodies curl up to look like a pencil and turn black the the temp is single digits to low teens—like it’s been for the last three days!!! I’m ready for some warm weather!
    I’ve been in for four days and am getting near to cabin fever. Yesterday I scrubbed all my stainless steel pots—out of shear boredom, that’s pretty bad—-but it is nice to see those shiny pots.LOL
    Now about the snow. I’ve always heard that if snow stays around that it is waiting for more. Well, It’s been two weeks and three days since it snowed and I still have snow in my driveway and around the house. It’s been here so long I’m thinking it’s waiting for the mother load!!!
    Can you tell I’m bored? Need to get out of the house!

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    It’s colder than a witch’s tit here. hehe Our water is actually froze off at the source. We have an underground well. The woolly worms this year said it’ll start out bad, be mild in the middle, and end with a rough patch according to the way I was taught to read them. I posted a picture of one sometime this fall on my blog.
    Stay warm. It is really cold. 🙂

  • Leave a Reply