Agrarian Folk Knowledge

50 Old Time Weather Proverbs & Signs

After years of experience I can usually predict rain just by walking on the morning grass, watching the behavior of my cats, sheep, cows, pigs or chickens or opening my dresser drawer.
What follows below is a list of my 50 favorite weather folk sayings.


And like most folk proverbs you’ll find more times than not they have real merit and value. In fact for the most part, I’ve found the weather wisdom below to be more accurate than a meteorologist using computer models or satellite imagery.

Amish Weather Vane

Amish Weather Vane

    1. Hornets’ nest built in the top of trees indicate a mild winter is ahead; nests built close to the ground indicate that a harsh winter is coming.
    2. The higher the clouds the better the weather.
    3. If the cat washes her face over her ear, the weather is sure to be fine and clear.
    4. Clear moon, frost soon.
    5. When leaves fall early, autumn and winter will be mild; when leaves fall later, winter will be severe.
    6. If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.
    7. When ants travel in a straight line expect rain; when they are scattered, expect fair weather.
    8. If the first snow falls on unfrozen ground expect a mild winter.
    9. If bees stay at home rain will soon come; if they fly away, fine will be the day.
    10. A year of snow, a year of plenty.
    11. Dust rising in dry weather is a sign of approaching change.
    12. Rainbow at noon, more rain soon.
    13. Flowers blooming in late autumn are a sign of a bad winter.
    14. If cows lie down and refuse to go to pasture, you can expect a storm to blow up soon.
    15. The darker the woolly caterpillar’s coat, the more severe the winter will be. If there is a dark stripe at the head and one at the end, the winter will be severe at the beginning, become mild, and then get worse just before spring.
    16. When grass is dry at morning light look for rain before the night.
    17. If sheep ascend hills and scatter, expect clear weather.
    18. A warm November is the sign of a bad winter.
    19. When the chairs squeak, it’s of rain they speak.
    20. When clouds appear like rocks and towers, the earth will be washed by frequent showers.
    21. If birds fly low, then rain we shall know.
    22. Evening red and morning grey are two sure signs of one fine day.
    23. The first and last frosts are the worst.
    24. The winds of the daytime wrestle and fight longer and stronger than those of the night.
    25. When down the chimney falls the soot, mud will soon be underfoot.
    26. Rain before seven, fine before eleven.
    27. No weather is ill, if the wind be still.
    28. Cold is the night when the stars shine bright.
    29. When a rooster crows at night there will be rain by morning.
    30. Dandelion blossoms close before there will be a rain.
    31. When clouds look like black smoke a wise man will put on his cloak.
    32. A cow with its tail to the West makes the weather best; a cow with its tail to the East makes the weather least.
    33. The moon and the weather may change together, but a change of the moon will not change the weather.
    34. The sudden storm lasts not three hours.
    35. Chimney smoke descends, our nice weather ends.
    36. A rainbow in the morning is the shepherd’s warning. A rainbow at night is the shepherd’s delight.
    37. Three days rain will empty any sky.
    38. When smoke hovers close to the ground there will be a weather change.
    39. A ring around the sun or moon means rain or snow coming soon.
    40. Bees will not swarm before a storm.
    41. The more cloud types present the greater the chance of rain or snow.
    42. Catchy drawer and sticky door, coming rain will pour and pour.
    43. When the wind blows from the west, fish bite best. When it blows from the east, fish bite least.
    44. When leaves show their undersides, be very sure that rain betides.
    45. Birds on a telephone wire predict the coming of rain.
    46. When the ditch and pond offend the nose, then look out for rain and stormy blows.
    47. Pigs gather leaves and straw before a storm.
    48. Trout jump high, when a rain is nigh.
    49. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, a sailor’s delight.
    50. When the night goes to bed with a fever, it will awake with a wet head.

Chickens Are The Gateway Drug To Homesteading

A Beginner’s Guide To Chickens

Winter Chickens

Here’s my favorite podcast from the old GRANNY MILLER RADIO. Please note that this is a podcast that has been illustrated with images that I happened to have. Not all images will correspond to what is being said. Here’s some resources that are mentioned in the podcast FeatherSite.Com Backyard Poultry Murry McMurry Hatchery The Chicken Book…

Home Cloth Production

Equipment For Processing Flax

Yesterday I began to process some of the flax straw for my bread cloth/dish towel project.
The flax is not as soft nor as super fine as I had hoped for.
That’s because I probably should have harvested the flax a week sooner than I did. Nevertheless, the flax straw will make up into a very nice stricks.
Stricks are small bundles or bunches of processed and combed flax that is ready for spinning into thread or yarn.


At some point in the future I’d like to write a more inclusive and involved post or do a short video when I have more time. For now I thought you might like to see some of the tools that I use for processing flax straw and learn the purpose behind each tool if you don’t already know.

Flax Processing Equipement

Flax Processing Equipement

All my equipment is homemade except for the round brush and black plastic comb in the above photo.

Once flax has been properly retted is must dry out. I left the flax straw undisturbed for about 6 weeks in the barn after it was retted to allow it to dry completely. It was placed across a feed bunk and well out-of-the-way of rain or snow.

Flax Straw

Flax Straw

Flax thread is spun from the bast fibers that are located inside the stem of the flax plant. In order to get to the soft bast fibers, the hard stem or woody part of the plant must be removed. The stems must be crushed or “broken”. The tool that I use to “break” flax straw is known as a “flax brake”. The words are different and are used as a noun and as a verb.

Flax Brake

Flax Brake

There are many different types of flax brakes but they all do the same thing. Flax brakes crush the outer stems of flax straw. With the flax brake that I employ, the flax straw is drawn through the brake and the upper part of the brake comes down on the straw in a quick chopping motion. The chopping crushes the stems and exposes the interior fibers. As the flax straw is drawn through the flax brake, the bundle is shaken and whipped so that the hard outer straw bits fall or blow away and leave the soft interior bast fibers exposed. The process goes very quickly.

Broken Flax

Broken Flax

Once the fibers are exposed there are usually pieces of chaff and boon left in and on the fibers that have to be removed. The tools that are used to remove the chaff from the linen fibers is called a scutching board and scutching knife.

Scutching Board & Scutching Knife

Scutching Board & Scutching Knife

The way that it works is that the fibers are held to the front of the board, and then scraped or smacked with a wooden knife. This helps to further loosen any pieces of chaff that may be stuck on the fiber. It also helps to break the fibers down and make them smoother.

Once the linen fibers are fairly clean and free from chaff they must be combed. Combing the fibers aligns them in a parallel fashion so that they may be spun into thread or yarn. It also separates the short fibers from the long fibers. Usually two or sometimes three different combs are used to smooth and straighten the linen fibers.
The fibers are run through a coarse comb called a “hackle” or “hatchel” for the first combing and then through a finer comb for the subsequent combing(s).
In the past, in my corner of the world, hackles or hatchels were made from hand forged square spikes. Hackles usually had a top or a lid made for them to keep them safe in storage and to help prevent accidents.
You can find them for sale on eBay but they are very expensive.
My homemade hackle is simply a board with spikes. I use a round hair brush for the finer combing.

Homemade Flax Hackle

Homemade Flax Hackle

With each combing the flax fibers begin to smooth and straighten. The short, course or tangled fibers are left behind in the flax comb and these fibers are known as “tow”. Tow linen is coarse and has many different uses. The best known is probably tow rope. Tow linen is a favorite for cleaning black powder guns and at one time was used to stuff mattresses and start fires.
Tow linen can be hand spun and makes a very sturdy thread or yarn, which in turn makes a very sturdy but coarse cloth. When spun is correlates to woolen yarn.
Fine linen is spun using “line” flax. Line flax fibers are very long and smooth. Line flax correlates to spinning a worsted yarn.
With every subsequent combing the amount of usable fiber decreases. Only about 10% to 15% of the flax plant is actually used for spinning fine linen – the rest is tow and waste.
In Colonial America, the traditional allotment was 1/4 acre of flax per person per year for clothing, bed linens and toweling. One quarter acre of flax can make depending upon how it is spun and woven, about 20 – 22 yards of cloth.

When flax straw is properly prepared for spinning it has the appearance of over-bleached blond hair.

Processed Flax Ready To Be Spun Into Linen Thread or Yarn

Processed Flax Ready To Be Spun Into Linen Thread or Yarn

It should take me about a week or so working a couple of hours every day to prepare the flax I grew this past summer for spinning.
I had hoped to have the dish towels/bread cloths done for Christmas but that’s probably not going to happen unless I drop everything I’m doing and really get busy.
I’m still undecided as whether or not I’m going to dye the linen thread once it has been spun or whether I’ll use natural or synthetic dyes.
I suppose it’s not too soon to be thinking about and planning exactly what type of bread cloths/dish towels I want. I’m partial to checks and love red, blue or brown.
I’ll keep you posted as I progress.