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In Yorkshire, they would say that he had a wick look in his eye. The blackbird was watching me with grave suspicion whilst scoffing rowan berries as if his life depended upon it, which it probably does. Trees of every type have been laden with fruit, which the old wives tell us presages a harsh winter. A modicum of research shows that the media have forecast a bitter season on this basis, every year for decades. Like a stopped clock set to midnight, I suppose they’ve got to be right sometimes.
Acer japonicum “Aconitifolium” (full moon maple) autumn foliage
Acer japonicum “Aconitifolium” (full moon maple) autumn foliage

Farmers’ Almanac gives twenty signs of a hard winter to come. These include woodpeckers sharing a tree, pigs gathering sticks and insects marching in a line. Stepping on ants brings rain and having their nest near the door of your home indicates no money worries in the future. There are many country tales about bees, my favourite being that they are conscious of their dignity. You should never move them without consulting the hive. If you make the mistake of annoying them, remember that stings are supposed to prevent or cure rheumatism. You court bad luck if you kill a bat and I should think so too. If one flies past you, someone is telling you lies. If it comes out early and sports about, good weather is on the way. I don’t accept a word of this stuff, touch wood.
Dahlia patch swan song
Dahlia patch swan song

Caressing a live frog cures warts and a dried body worn around the neck in a silk bag averts fits. Whimsy.org.uk has many pages of this sort of helpful information. Despite their recommendations, I propose to leave my amphibians utterly unmolested. In Iceland they believe that if a dead mouse is thrown away, the bluster will start to blow from that direction. Cattle are supposed to be adept at predicting the climate, depending on where they take a nap. The Irish say that pigs can see the wind. Virtually anything that a dog does seems to prophesy a deluge. Cat sneezes also foretell rain and if one sharpens its claws on a table leg, the barometer will rise. In addition, the animal will be ushered from the house with a gentle but firm foot up its bottom.
Persicaria virginiana “Painter's Palette” flowering at last
Persicaria virginiana “Painter’s Palette” flowering at last

Superstitions about birds abound. Robins have been sacred to the household gods for millennia. I think that the basic rule is don’t mess with them. Everyone has a rhyme to keep magpies onside, since their black and white colours represent both evil and good. Try to go for a discreet doffing of a non-existent hat, to avoid many stanzas of verse to hold off ill chance. If any bird poops on you, despite your feelings on the matter, it’s supposed to bring good luck. Attila’s car keeps getting plastered in guano from feathered denizens feasting on the hawthorn berries. I’ve told him about the happy portents but I get a very sour look in response. I’ve also warned him that the man who eats roasted owl will be a slave to his wife. Food for thought.

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