Writing Toward Home

Writing , Ideas, and Encouragement

Category: Mountain Life

Weather Folklore and Winter Anticipation

Weather Folklore and Winter Anticipation

It is a blustery, rainy day here on the mountain. According to the online weatherman for this area, it is a “ 0 golf ball day.” He ranks the weather each day from 1-5 golf balls, depending on how favorable the weather is for playing a round of golf, with 1 being unsuitable to 5 being perfect. Check him out at raysweather.com This is the first 0 day I can recall since we moved up here.

He is correct in that. The rain is coming in sheets and the wind is sustained at 20 mph and gusting to 50+. A good day to be inside our cozy cabin.

That led me to thinking about the winter to come and the folklore surrounding its prediction.

Since moving to the mountains of Northwestern North Carolina in July I have had a recurring conversation pattern with “locals.”

Them: “Where are you from?”

Me: “ Just moved here from Charlotte.”

Them: “ Are you a full-timer or a part-timer?” ( lots of folks live here in summer and head to Florida or other flatter, warmer places for the winter)

Me: “ We are living here full-time.”

Them: “ Have you been through a winter yet?”


That last question is uttered with an arched eyebrow and a knowing smirk. At first I thought it was amusing, but now I am beginning to wonder.

Me: “ Well we bought our cabin last January and came up every week until we moved up here full-time, so we have experienced winter.”

Them: “Uh-huh. Well, last winter was really mild. It’s usually much colder and snowier.”

Me: “ Yes, that’s what everyone says.”


Then I am treated to winter horror stories filled with days without power, wells freezing, no school for 6 weeks, and other apocryphal details.


So I have done a bit of research into the veracity of the claims. Some are true. Some are not.


According to the Internet, the average snowfall for our area is 23 inches, with January being the snowiest month with an average of 8. Snow can occur from October through April. ( There are some reports that snow is predicted for the middle of this week. We shall see.)

The average winter low temperature is 22 degrees and the winter high average is 45. The lowest ever winter temperature was -15 degrees. BRRR!

After combing the archives, I then began exploring some of the weather lore associated with our area.


One that I heard quite often this summer was that the number of foggy mornings in August corresponds to the number of winter snows. If this is true, I will need some higher boots. We had many, many foggy mornings in August. I did not count them, but I estimate that more than half our days began in fog. The lore goes on to state that you should place a bean in a jar for every foggy morning in August and then in winter take one bean out of the jar for each snow event. When the jar is empty, winter is over. Many folks swear by this method. Again, we shall see.


The other big weather forecaster up in this part of the world is the woolly worm.

The woolly worm is a large, fuzzy ,black and brown caterpillar. The body of this particular type of caterpillar has 13 segments which correspond to he number of weeks in winter. The color of each segment is supposed to predict the severity of the weather each week. Light brown indicates milder weather and black indicates colder and snowier weather.


There is a Woolly Worm Festival held each year in Banner Elk in which the official “spokesworm” is selected though a day long series of races up a three-foot string. The 40th anniversary festivities were held this past weekend. The winner this year was a worm named Aspen. His stripes indicate that we will have the following:


A cold, snowy start for weeks 1-3

Touch of snow week 4

Average temperatures, weeks 5-11 , with a little snow week 10

Cold, snowy finish for weeks 12 and 13.



This corresponds closely to the worms we have seen up here on our daily walks. They have had dark black stripes at each end and all brown in the middle.

At least the worms are in agreement.


Now on to the official forecast by raysweather.com, which is considered by folks up here to be quite reliable.


Snow forecast: 10%-15% less than long-term averages. Average snowfall is 23”, he is predicting 21.” Last year’s total was 9”.

He is also predicting that February will be the snowiest month and that temperatures will be at or slightly above season norms.


Not sure what to make of the predictions when taken all together, but I am prepared in any case. I have a new winter coat from LL Bean that is rated as being good down to -15 degrees, new fur-lined boots, silk long underwear, thick wool socks, and plenty of clothes for layering,

I have been stocking my pantry and freezer with beans, soup stock, soups and other cold weather stores in case we are snowed in for a while.


We also have a generator that will be getting hooked up in the next week or so,  just in case we lose power. The propane and kerosene tanks are topped off and the heaters have been serviced.


So we are as ready as we can be.


I can  picture some of the native Ashe County residents  smiling and nodding, “Uh-huh, just you wait.”









Fall Is Here!

Fall Hill

View from my front porch



Fall is Here!

( A Fall song, to the tune of “Three Blind Mice”)

Fall is here!

Fall is here!

See how the leaves

fall from the trees.

The leaves turn yellow

and red and brown.

They fall so slowly to the ground.

The boys and girls

dance around,

‘cause fall is here!


Every autumn for over 25 years I taught that song to the children in my primary classroom. The children loved the song and the sign language and gestures I taught them to go with it. There’s no telling how many times I sang that little tune, but it definitely carved a permanent pathway in my brain. When the first leaves begin to turn I still find that song twirling around in my head. This morning as I walked the dog along our dusty mountain road I realized I was humming, “Fall is Here!” while my eyes feasted on the colors of the foliage all along our path.


Fall is my favorite season. I love watching the trees change color and the leaves swirl as they blow in the wind. I love scuffing my feet through the crackling piles that gather along the roadsides. Nature turns out a show-stopping color extravaganza as her finale before the hiatus of winter.


When I was teaching, fall was such a busy time of year that I often didn’t get a chance to enjoy it properly. My attention was occupied with lesson plans, report cards, and other school related tasks. When I lived in south Florida for four years, I missed Autumn terribly. My mother would send me large manila envelopes filled with red, yellow and orange leaves. I would inhale their musty, tangy scent and then scatter them on the floor to crunch under my feet.

Fall River

Now I am fortunate enough to have the time and the right place to observe the subtle changes daily. In the last week I have watched from my front porch and yard as fall crept down the surrounding mountains and into the river valley below. The yellows have been prominent, but now the reds and oranges are beginning to appear. It is so lovely and I can enjoy it all day long.


To me, fall is a contemplative time of year- looking back on the busy days of summer and anticipating the long winter evenings of quieter pursuits. It is a time of planning and preparation: stocking the pantry and freezer, making thick stews and soups, baking hearty breads and apple and pumpkin flavored goodies. It is putting away the t-shirts and digging out the sweaters and blankets.


There’s a soft rain falling and a pleasant cool breeze as I sit on my front porch with my mug of Earl Grey tea. I have beef vegetable soup ( recipe below) bubbling in the slow cooker on the kitchen counter. Later I will make corn muffins to go with it for supper.


There’s a pair of bluejays calling from my apple tree and cardinals at the bird feeder. The hummingbird feeder now sits idle; the summer-time feeding frenzy is over for another season. The ladybugs are clustered by the dozens on my porch, stoop, and threshold, no doubt plotting an invasion to the cozy corners of our cabin.


Yes, fall is here, in all her glory. I remind myself to take it all in, to watch, to sit in this season, with all of its good gifts. There are holidays and festivals to enjoy, pumpkin bread to bake and eat, and memories to make. Happy fall! Fall is here!


A Recipe

I love reading cookbooks, novels that contain recipes, food memoirs, and cooking blogs. I know I am not alone in this habit, as food blogs are some of the most popular sites on the Internet. I subscribe to several and always look forward to their weekly or daily posts. I love to cook and I seek out new recipes to try. My personal goal is to make at least two new recipes for dinner each month. Some are added to my repertoire, while others are a one-time attempt. I especially like slow cooker recipes since I can prepare the food, plug it in and then go about my day. I appreciate folks who generously share their go-to time-saving meals.


In that spirit I am sharing my recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup for anyone who might be interested. This is one of the meals in the fall and winter “rotation” as my husband calls it.



1 pound lean stew beef cut into 1-inch chunks

4 cups small red potatoes cut into fourths

1 small onion, chopped.

32 oz. frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1 can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained

1 can diced Italian style tomatoes ( I use the no salt added variety)

1 32 oz. container beef stock ( I use the no salt added variety)

2 Tbsp minced garlic

2 bay leaves

1tsp cumin

1tsp coriander

1tsp garlic powder

1tsp. onion powder

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp rosemary

1tsp. Italian seasoning.

2 TBsp Seasoned salt. ( optional. If you choose to omit this, add more, to taste, of other seasonings)

2-4 cups water.



Place beef chunks in a bowl and add ½  each of the cumin, pepper, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder and seasoned salt. Toss to coat.


In a skillet brown the beef on all sides in 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Place meat in bottom of slow cooker.

Add potatoes, vegetables, beans, and tomatoes to the slow cooker.

Pour beef stock into a bowl and stir in remaining dried spices, minced garlic, and bay leaves. Add mixture to slow cooker.

Add 2-4 cups of water to cover ingredients.

Cook on high for 5- 6 hours or low for 8-9, until potatoes are done but not too soft.

Serve with corn muffins. or a hearty loaf of homemade bread.


This soup will keep in the fridge for 4 days. We actually think it tastes better the second day.

What do you love about fall?

Do you have any recipes to share?







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