Freeze column: Forecasting the weather

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 24, 2011

As a runner and farmer, I am always interested in the weather. Weather is important for my planning and I am sure that it is for you too. Just recently, I came across some new information on cutting edge weather forecasting.
Most of us have heard about the woolly worm, and how the black and brown bands forecast the mild and harsh portions of the winter. Heavy red berries on holly bushes and extra heavy winter coats on horses and other farm animals are said to predict a colder than usual winter. Iíve watched these for years, but there is new information to share.
The persimmon is another method that some use. I hadnít heard many of the details on how to use it until just last week. Cut open the persimmon and check out the shape of the seed. If it is spoon shaped, there will be lots of wet snow. If the seed is fork shaped, the snow will be light and powdery, and the winter generally mild. If the seed is knife-shaped, then there will be lots of icy, cold wind through a cold winter. Make sure that you use ripe persimmons. My nephew Sammy Freeze knew about this one.
Another is the breastbone of a goose. Never have I eaten goose, but at least one of my friends swears that they are ěgood eatin.î China Grove Public Works Supervisor David Ketner, usually reliable except for his never-ending allegiance to the Red Sox, had not heard of forecasting the winter by analyzing the breastbone of the goose. Ketner, who is an avid hunter, did say that geese are becoming harder to find and raised the possibility that some might be disappearing for this very purpose. The practice begins by cleaning all the meat off the breastbone, and setting it on the mantle to dry. If the color of the dried breastbone is white, there will be a mild winter. Purple tips indicate a cold spring, and a blue tint implies that weather would be good until at least New Yearís Day. A brown or heavy blue bone means that the winter will be really harsh. My cutting edge information says that the bird will absorb extra oil as protection if a bad winter is coming. Ketner promised to check this out.
I like the next one best. Latest and greatest, and recognized by the Farmerís Almanac as very reliable prognosticator is the pig or hog spleen. Yes, all we have to do is gather up some pig spleens, and analyze them. A spleen is a vascular, ductless organ that stores blood, destroys worn out red blood cells, and does some other bodily functions. ěHow could it predict weather?î most would say. Frankly, with El Nino and La Nina and all these other weather functions being blamed for the good and the bad, though often after the fact, I am ready to look elsewhere.
The pig spleen taken during the spring isnít as accurate say the forecasters. It is best to use the fall or early winter spleen. This spleen will bring accurate weather predictions for the first six months of the following year. The narrow portion of the spleen is the part that points toward the head of the animal. That narrow portion is used for the forecast for January. As the spleen thickens and grows wider toward the bottom end, it is sectioned off for the months of February to June. Therefore a fall or early winter spleen is good for planning your activities for half a year. I donít know what to do for the second half.
Pig spleen meteorology isnít simple. Basically, the width and any bulges are used to forecast harsh weather for a certain locale. I understand that multiple spleens taken at the same time will be virtually the same in width and thickness from top to bottom. An experienced pig spleen forecaster can even predict rain and wind. Most unusual is the even shaped spleen, indicating a normal and even tempered winter.
I questioned Steve Beaver of Select Meats in Landis, always looking for the cutting edge. Beaver wouldnít admit any knowledge of pig spleen forecasting. He said that his process didnít allow spleen viewing during the butchering process. He referred me to one of my longtime friends, Gary McLaughlin. McLaughlin has worked for many years for Frank Corriher Beef and Sausage. I left a voice mail for Gary, and he never called back. Could be that he wants to keep pig-spleen weather forecasting to himself.