GRAND FORKS — Using what it describes as a “mathematical and astronomical formula,” the Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting a “frigid and snowy winter” for Minnesota, the Dakotas and other parts of the upper Great Plains.

But there are other ways to predict the winter, the people at the Almanac say.

“Before there were weather apps for your smartphone, Doppler radar or the National Weather Service, our ancestors looked to the signs from nature to prepare for what’s to come,” according to a news release from the Farmers’ Almanac. “These were passed down from generation to generation and are today’s bits of weather ‘folklore.’”

In the 1978 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, the publication shared Cleveland weather guru Dick Goddard’s laundry list of 20 signs of nature that can predict a harsh winter ahead. It’s still relevant today, the Almanac says.

So, according to folklore, here are the 20 signs of a hard winter to come:

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  1. Thicker-than-normal corn husks.

  2. Woodpeckers sharing a tree.

  3. The early arrival of the snowy owl.

  4. The early departure of geese and ducks.

  5. The early migration of the Monarch butterfly.

  6. Thick hair on the nape of a cow’s neck.

  7. Heavy and numerous fogs during August.

  8. Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands.

  9. Mice chewing furiously to get into your home.

  10. The early arrival of crickets on the hearth.

  11. Spiders spinning larger-than-usual webs and entering the house in great numbers.

  12. Pigs gathering sticks.

  13. Ants marching in a line rather than meandering.

  14. Early seclusion of bees within the hive.

  15. Unusual abundance of acorns.

  16. Muskrats burrowing holes high on the river bank.

  17. “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.”

  18. Squirrels gathering nuts early to fortify against a hard winter.

  19. Frequent halos or rings around the sun or moon forecasts numerous snowfalls.

  20. And last but not least, a true reader favorite: The size of the orange band on the woolly bear (or woolly worm) caterpillar.

What type of winter do you see coming for the Upper Midwest?

Thank you for voting!

  • Brutal


  • Average


  • Pleasant


According to folklore, if the caterpillar’s orange band is narrow, the winter will be snowy; conversely, a wide orange band means a mild winter. All black caterpillars are not woolly bears. And fuzzier-than-normal woolly bear caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.