Appalachia Folklore Weather

Weather Wisdom

Weather folklore and wisdom sayings

If you’ve been reading the Blind Pig for a while you know I LOVE SNOW! Last fall when I saw the inside of the Persimmon seed was showing a spoon/shovel shape and we had snow on Halloween-I just knew I was in for a winter of snow. But that hasn’t happened.

Actually the snow we got on Halloween and the snow that fell a few days ago are the only occurrences of the white stuff we’ve had-with neither being enough to cover the ground. I’m sure the folks suffering from the storms up north wish they could say that.

I’m beginning to think the persimmon seed lied! But that doesn’t mean I discount all weather folklore nor that I no longer enjoy reading the old sayings. Today I’m going to share some Weather Wisdom by way of Jim Casada.


Weather Wisdom written by Jim Casada

If you dig deep enough you’ll find all sorts of printed material about weather lore, and at least some of it focuses squarely on our part of the world. A quarter of a century ago a fellow from over Hendersonville way, Kermit Edney, wrote a whole book, “The Kermit Edney Weather Book.” It’s chock full of traditional mountain thoughts, sayings, and doings related to weather. Likewise, in the original Foxfire book, along with several of the numbered volumes, you’ll find considerable material on weather. 

Here are some winter tidbits:

  • Clouding up on a frosty morning is a sign of coming bad weather.
  • Snow staying on the ground; it’s waiting for more to come around.
  • Chimney smoke hanging low; a likely sign of coming snow.
  • Rabbits afoot in the middle of the day; a heavy snow is on the way.
  • Red sky at night; sailor’s (or mountaineer’s) delight; red sky in the morning; sailor (or mountaineer) take warning.
  • For every lingering fog in August expect a snow in winter.
  • The hotter the summer, the colder the winter.
  • Spitting sparks and a fussy fire; be ready for weather dire.

No doubt because remembering the information was made easier by rhyme, a great many of the old “sayings” are rhythmic couplets. Here’s a fairly extensive sampling from things I’ve heard or read over the years.

  • When the wind’s in the south, It has snow in its mouth.
  • When the ground and grass is dry at morning light, Expect snow before the night.
  • When heavy frost is on the grass, Snow seldom comes to pass.
  • The higher the clouds, the finer the weather; No clouds at all, that’s even better.
  • Mackerel scales and mares’ tails, Make wise sailors set short sails. (Although far from the sea, this is sound mountain weather wisdom, because “mackerel scale” clouds are what are known as snow clouds in the high country).
  • Clear, cold moon; Frost coming soon.
  • When smoke goes west, good weather is past; When smoke goes east, bad weather is next.
  • Shucks on corn extra thick; Look for cold winter coming quick.
  • When an old man’s joints ache; cold, rainy weather is at stake.
  • Birds active and flying low; Beware of a coming snow.
  • When clouds hang heavy on the hills; Expect coming rain and chills.
  • A ring circling round the moon; Means rain or snow coming soon.

Or another rhyming weather proverb with a similar message:

  • When the moon carries a halo; It’s a sign of coming snow.
  • Rabbits moving on a winter day; A heavy snow is on the way.
  • When dimmer stars disappear; Rain or snow is quite near.
  • When clouds move against the wind; Rain or snow is around the bend.
  • When it is hard to kindle a fire; That’s a sure sign of weather dire.
  • If Candlemas be fair and clear; There’ll be two winters in the year.

This may need a bit of explaining, since in today’s world Candlemas is seldom mentioned. It is the day more commonly known as Groundhog Day. In other words, this weather proverb is faithful to the idea that if the groundhog sees his shadow there are six more weeks of winter weather yet to come.

  • If there’s no Indian Summer in October or November; Look for it to come in winter or December.
  • Winter thunder bodes summer hunger.
  • He who doffs his coat on a winter day; Will gladly don it in the month of May.
  • Trees holding their leaves extra long; Look for winter to be extra strong.
  • Onion skins very thin, Mild winter coming in; Onion skins thick and tough; Coming winter cold and rough.
  • If January has no snow; In March expect flakes to blow.
  • If winter has lots of snow; Expect a fruitful crop to grow.

Many locals who are attuned to enduring folk wisdom will recognize that this little couplet carries in it the concept of snow as “poor man’s fertilizer.” There’s considerable truth in that statement, for snow soaks gradually into the ground in sharp contrast to the runoff from heavy rain. Moreover, snow picks up elements in the air (Al Gore’s supposedly smother carbon particles and the like) and deposits them on earth to nourish the soil. Another old saying along similar lines is that “April snow is as good as cow manure.”

  • When hornets build their nests extra high; Look for snow nearing your thigh.
  • If there’s a thunderstorm in late September; Expect a snow in late November.
  • If October has heavy frosts and winds blow wild; Expect January to be quite mild.

In closing, given my life-long love for fishing and the undeniable fact that fish activity is affected by the weather, maybe that’s a suitable way to close. Both Grandpa Joe and Daddy always asserted that weather dramatically affected fishing, and the latter swore by the Solunar Tables prepared by John Alden Knight. Deep down I have to agree, but I’ve always held the optimistic view that anytime you can go fishing is a good time. Take whatever perspective you wish, but Izaak Walton, the author and naturalist who wrote the enduring classic, “The Compleat Angler,” summed it up quite nicely.

If the wind’s in the north, The skillful fisherman goes not forth;

If the wind’s in the east; It’s good for neither man nor beast;

If the wind’s in the south; It blows the fly in the fish’s mouth;

When the wind is in the west; Then fishing’s the very best.


I hope you enjoyed Jim’s weather wisdom as much as I did-now if I could only get some snow!



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  • Reply
    Becky Burnett Cook Nunnaley
    March 13, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    An expression I heard from my late husband’s grandmother in Stecoah was about rain clearing “when there was enough blue sky to make a cat a pair of britches”. I grew up in Needmore and don’t remember hearing that before I heard her say it.

  • Reply
    Fawn Horner
    March 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

    I came across your blog while trying to find information on a saying that a friend and I were discussing. His family is Scottish and lived in Eastern Tennessee. The term that his grandmother’s used when one should not play outside in the cold and dampness was, “You’ll take the weed”. Do you have any information on this particular saying? I am trying to find more about the origins and whether it was a common saying. Thanks for you help!

  • Reply
    January 31, 2015 at 2:06 am

    Have heard many of these through the years. the one about the red sky is in The Bible – Matthew 16.
    Our Dad now, he had a weather stick made for him by a grandson, I’ve had a weather dog, they worked about the same way –
    If you let the dog out and they came back in nice warm and dry, it was a beautiful day; if they came back in wet, it was raining outside; if and if they came in covered in snow, stoke the fire. Always accurate and worked well for us.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 30, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Doesn’t matter if they’re accurate or not. Those rhyming prognostications are a ton of fun-and so many of them! Jim must by a scholar of such things.
    I once knew an ancient mountain man who prided himself on his frequent weather forecasts, though they were seldom accurate. Seldom, that is, until someone gave him a radio, whereupon his predictions improved considerably.
    An east wind is an ill wind!!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Some of those I have heard,, many I haven’t.. But I remember a Snow that came in March.. We had 50mph gust..and near waist deep drifts..I remember it well, because I had to climb a pole and work a line to restore power near Courtland down in a pasture, we had to tote everything in, and the snow was knee deep most of the way, and that pole was like riding a shetland pony bare back I barely could stay on it, I like to have never got that wire put back up.. Believe me, I know what a flag feels like blowing in the wind.. I’m not a fan of Snow…Give me clear skies and cool Mountain breezes..

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Tipper,Sure enjoyed all the weather wisdom sayings today.And I enjoyed a memory trip back to my childhood in Wi and its snow.Belive it or not but we had snow here in Hawaii on Christmas day on Mouna Kea.God Bless.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Gosh, that’s a LOT of weather lore! Some I have never seen before.
    I grew up in New England with the “sailor’s delight/sailor take warning” and I still say it all the time. Hadn’t heard it with “mountaineer” but I recently learned that some friends in England know it with “shepherd” – all three make a lot of sense, for folks who will be outdoors regardless of weather!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 11:29 am

    The reason a lot of snow produces better crops is the snow collects nitrogen from the air. Rain water grows bigger and better tomatoes than well water or ‘city’ water for the same reason. Snow seems to gather more nutriments than rain.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 10:45 am

    I had forgotten much of the wisdom
    of mountain folks Jim talked about.
    That was enjoyable, and I hope you
    get your snow. I love it too, and
    missed my chance of the 4″ I had
    back before Thanksgiving. I had the
    blooming flu and was too puney for
    Snowcream. Thanks Tipper and Jim.

  • Reply
    mary Lou McKillip
    January 30, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Tipper, you get the meaning of bear reality of nature, but don’t discount our blizzard in March of ninety three. That was the granddaddy of snow storms. I love snow but I don’t wish for a blizzard like that one.keep entertaining us. thanks you dear heart.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    January 30, 2015 at 10:00 am

    When snow stayed on the ground for a while, Mama always said. “It’s laying for another one.”
    My baby brother loves snow so much that he has “set up” all night when it is predicted so he could see it fall.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 9:58 am

    I enjoyed reading all the various types of predictions. Now, Tipper, a dusting of snow might be good for the beauty of Mother Nature, but three feet or more, well, I’d give that idea second thoughts. However, I will try to remember a couple of these ‘sayings’ to see if they come true.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Tipper, your posts just keep getting better. Thanks so much to Jim, as have always found weather sayings extremely interesting. Now when I see these signs I can run and do a search on Tipper’s blog to see what Jim says it means.
    When one is in tune with the earth, it is easier to observe the signs preceding weather changes. When those leaves turn inside out one better prepare for a rainstorm. The birds start acting really strange, and one has to be in tune with nature to notice this.
    Mom advised me as a small child when flies start trying to repetitively land on you to bite it is prediction of rain. It never made sense for flies to suddenly start biting, but is surely true. I am beginning to think some of these weather predictors are off base because I saw several black wooly worms, and so far it has not been that terrible winter those worms predicted.
    I have tried to teach disinterested grandchildren the old ways and the signs in the weather. I thought all was lost until one day my grandson said excitedly from the back seat, “Look at the red sky, you know what that means.”
    One thing for sure is every season has its place. I have such vivid and wonderful memories of sitting in front of a pot-bellied stove. Winter gives one time to work on projects, cook homemade soup, and ponder. I think we could all use more pondering time! By the way what happened to Indian Summer?

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Thanks Tipper and Jim for sharing the sayings – some I haven’t heard for years. I’m beginning to think the persimmon seed lied to me too. We did have an unpredicted 6″ snowfall last weekend that was one of the most beautiful snows I had ever seen. I was out in my pjs taking pictures before the rising temperatures melted it soon after daybreak.
    We are all excited about the snow that is expected to move in Saturday night Sunday. I hope it’s not an ice storm like TWC says it could be.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Tipper, I have long been interested in the weather and other signs our ancesters looked to for planting crops and forecasting the weather before we had the technology of our time. My Grandmother used to say if a snow stayod around 7 days it was waiting on another. I have made note of this one through the years and very many times it was correct (in Tennesssee and Kentucky anywasy). Intersting note the one about the red sky seems to have basis in scripture. See Matthew 16:2-3. Thanks much from this Blind Pig reader. Would surely miss you if I could not read you everyday.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 30, 2015 at 8:18 am

    and Jim…enjoyed the weather predictions today.
    At least one of them has been around for centuries…It was related to me by my grandmother when I was a child, she referenced…
    Matthew 16:2-3…”When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.”…
    Thanks Tipper and Jim
    PS…Tipper careful what you wish for…
    PS…Here’s hoping and praying Ken’s eye surgery goes well!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 30, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Nice! Thanks Jim. My mother used to say snow staying on the ground was waiting for more.
    Tip, I know you love the snow but truth to tell I’d just as soon it passed us by.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 30, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I have enjoyed them Jim. Thanks
    one I have heard all my life is that when there is a heavy acorn crop winter will be cold and long.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 30, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I have enjoyed them Jim. Thanks
    one I have heard all my life is that when there is a heavy acorn crop winter will be cold and long.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 30, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I have enjoyed them Jim. Thanks
    one I have heard all my life is that when there is a heavy acorn crop winter will be cold and long.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 30, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I have enjoyed them Jim. Thanks
    one I have heard all my life is that when there is a heavy acorn crop winter will be cold and long.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    January 30, 2015 at 7:34 am

    GREAT ‘sayings’ – some old – some new! Now we will just have to be more attentive to see which are true! Eva Nell

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