Many weather-related folk sayings attempt to provide long-term forecasts. Old-timers relied on them to figure out whether a hard winter was coming or whether a late frost was on the way.
Were the old-timers right? We’ll find out!
- If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.
Partly fiction. Even in the 1800s people recognized that this bit of folklore was not particularly useful. However, the proverb was probably not intended for forecasting, but was merely an observation. The original saying was, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” This tends to be true because the end of March marks the beginning of spring.
- When March blows its horn, your barn will be filled with hay and corn.
Fiction. “When March blows its horn” means “if March is unusually stormy.” Thunderstorms would indicate that the March in question is unusually warm, and this combined with rainfall would tend to favor good crops. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the rest of the year will cooperate with the farmer.
- As high as the weeds grow, so will the bank of snow.
Fiction. Weeds tend to grow like, well, weeds, regardless of the coming winter.
- Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in; onion skins thick and tough, coming winter cold and rough.
Just depends. Climate patterns do have an effect on plants, but there are many other variables involved in gardening, as well. Are changing weather conditions the determining factor in the thickness of an onion skin, or are such things as water supply and soil nutrition more important? No one knows for certain.
- When leaves fall early, fall and winter will be mild. When leaves fall late, winter will be wild.
Partly fact. Trees tend to retain their leaves when the soil is dry. This can be caused by drought, usually associated with La Niña. La Niña also induces bone-chillingly cold winters. However, keep in mind that some soils are naturally dry due to their texture and drainage properties, causing trees to retain their leaves regardless of weather.
- A green Christmas; a white Easter.
Fiction. In south-central Kansas, at least, personal observation does not bear this one out.
This is just a very small sampling of the seasonal proverbs that exist.
After reading about the accuracy of folk sayings used for short-term forecasting, you may be surprised to see how many of the long-term forecasting adages are unreliable. Many of these sayings come to us from other parts of the country, such as New England. Many more go back to England, France, Germany, and other European nations. These sayings often had some truth in their place of origin. Applying them to other locations, however, typically leads to unsatisfactory results.
The solution would be to keep your own weather journal. Start observing the trends in the place where you live. Perhaps you will invent the next weather folk saying!
Farmers’ Almanac. “March Weather: ‘In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb’?” Updated March 8, 2021. https://www.farmersalmanac.com/the-truth-behind-in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb-2867.
Garriss, James J. “Signs of a Bad Winter: Squirrels, Onion Skins, and Other Folklore.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. September 23, 2020. https://www.almanac.com/signs-bad-winter-squirrels-onion-skins-and-other-folklore.
Sweetser, Robin. “Winter Weather Lore: Observing Nature’s Signs.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. November 9, 2021. https://www.almanac.com/winter-weather-lore-observing-natures-signs.
The National Cooperative Observer. “Any Truth to All Those Weather Lore Sayings?” Summer 2009. https://www.weather.gov/media/coop/newsletter/09summer-coop.pdf.