Tennessee Mountain Stories

The Signs


We’re past the halfway point of March now, the grass is greening and trees are budding.  Despite the cold rain that’s pecking at my window today, spring is surely at hand.  And when I begin to think about springtime, thoughts of garden-fresh vegetables and summer projects are never far behind. 

Spring weather on the mountain is predictable only in its unpredictable-ness.  We’ll get a warm spell and there’s a whole bunch of us that will rush out and start planting only to have a cold snap (one of the many “winters” we yet have to weather) that freezes any little shoots we’ve coaxed out of the ground.  When to plant and what to plant when are timeless questions and questions that have been answered for ages by The Farmer’s Almanac.

Almanacs have been published since the twelfth century – Gutenberg saw fit to publish an almanac even before he printed his famous Bible.  Can you even imagine what a valuable resource for a subsistence farmer to have even a weather forecast in the days before the five o’clock news gave a scientific ten day weather prediction?  Even having a chart of sunrise times would be extremely useful as timekeeping became increasingly more accurate. Today’s almanac predicts weather based on sunspot activity, moon phases, tidal activity and other factors, which according to www.farmersalmanac.com are a closely guarded secret, and these predictions are credited with 80 – 85 percent accuracy.

But the almanac tells so much more.  Based on the astrological alignment of the planets, “best days” are determined.  These can suggest when you do anything from cutting wood to killing pests or even planning a wedding.  Now, historically, folks have relied on these suggestions with greatly varying dependence.  There is even some question among Christian believers whether it is right or wrong to consult them.  Certainly there is a fine line between relying on the stars (or familiar spirits) or turning to God’s guidance (either from the indwelling Holy Spirit or from His published Word) and I frankly am not in either camp.  However, looking at it from an historical perspective, considering how many hours of daylight to expect and what the weather did on a given day for the last five or ten years would surely be relevant if you were planning an outdoor wedding, building a new house or planting a big crop.

Of course the best days and the signs predict how well your crops will bear or how long produce will keep.  And it seems pretty reasonable that moon phase as well as temperatures would affect how well the fish are biting.  However, I can’t quite understand the effect on dieting, dental care or breaking a bad habit.  Yet you don’t have to look too far to find people with strong testimonies of success or failure based one the signs.  Law enforcement officers will often tell you that their jails are fuller and their nights harder during certain signs of the moon.  And I’ve heard both nurses and farmers say that babies are born in greater numbers on the full moon.

The Bible certainly tells us that God placed the stars in the sky, and surely He purposely put them in their specific spots in the night sky.  He created the moon and its phases.  Jesus referred to weather prediction by the color of the sunset but warns that it is a “wicked and adulterous generation” that seeks a sign – would these signs qualify?  I have certainly known some very strong Christians who wouldn’t plant a thing without first consulting the almanac, was that simply ignorance of the occult?  I am very eager to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Is anyone game to conduct a little experiment this summer and plant half your garden by the signs and the other half by your own whim?  I’d love to hear the results.  In the meantime, please let me know your experiences farming by the signs.