Cattle in pasture

Bunched cattle in a pasture likely meant a storm was on the way.

If you grew up near a rural community, chances are you have heard the old proverbs that have been passed down from generation to generation.

A good example is “always plant potatoes on Good Friday,” despite the fact there has been snow on the ground on that date.

Readers of IFT Publications chimed in with some adages of their own.

For example, there are varieties of that adage. Ryan Roenfeld’s great-grandfather, W.F. Roenfeld, always planted potatoes the week after Good Friday. He farmed near Mineola in Mills County, Iowa.

The Roenfeld family has farmed that area of southwest Iowa since emigrating from Germany in the 1850s. Vanessa Martin says her father, Virgil Roenfeld, used to say if there was lightning over dry trees (trees that have lost their leaves), hail was likely during the growing season and would create a need for extra crop insurance.

Virgil Roenfeld also used to say that the weather over the 12 days of Christmas was an indicator for the weather for each of the 12 months of the year.

“I always thought it was the old German coming out when I was a kid,” Martin says, adding the adages likely came from his parents and possibly grandparents.

Wilbur Holz, who grew up near Toluca, Illinois, and now lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, says his father used to say if it rains on Easter it will rain on seven Sundays after. Another adage was “work on Sunday, break down on Monday” and “if the sun sets behind a cloud, it’s going to rain.”

“Dad was a great one for ‘they say’ or ‘they tell me’,” Holz says.

Julia Wilson says her late father-in-law, Gentry Wilson, would say when there was a ring around the moon, count the number of stars in the ring and it would tell you how many days before the weather would change.

“He also said that you shouldn’t plant before the leaf of the hickory was the size of a squirrel’s ear,” says Wilson, from Hunnewell, Missouri.

Jay Moss, who grew up in Minburn, Iowa, says there were several popular proverbs from farmers in his central Iowa community.

“Rings around the moon was a sign precipitation was on the way,” he says. “In the winter, if the pheasants were gathering grit along the gravel road, a blizzard was coming.”

The author’s grandfather, Alvin Potthast, said when the oak tree produced a large amount of acorns, a rough winter was ahead.

“The tree wants to make sure its kind survives,” Potthast would say.

He grew up near Warrenton, Missouri, before moving to Iowa in the late 1930s. He farmed and worked for a local cooperative.

He also pointed out that bunched cattle in a pasture likely meant a storm was on the way.

And yes, he usually planted his potatoes on or near Good Friday.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.