When Jeff Woodward of Regina gazes into the fatty deposits of a pig spleen, he sees more than a bloody mess.
He sees the future.
“It goes back to the pagan times when you would slaughter your pigs in the fall,” said Woodward. “The spleen would give some representation of what the winter was going to be like.”
Woodward learned this icky weather forecasting technique from his uncle, Gus Wickstrom, who was a well-known personality around the town of Gull Lake and died in 2007. Since then, Woodward has been carrying on the tradition.
“My uncle’s claim was that my ancestors did it in Sweden,” he said.
For the past few years, Woodward has predicted general weather patterns six months in advance. And he said for the most part, he’s been right.
In fact, he said, he’s even giving Environment Canada a run for their money.
“They put a lot of science into it, but the spleen has been more accurate,” he said.
The way it works is Woodward divides the spleen into six parts for each month. He then looks at the shape of the sections to determine the weather for the area the pig was raised.
“You can use how dense the fat is to say how cold it’s going to be or when precipitation is going to fall,” he said.
While the process isn’t easy, Woodward said it’s no secret. Anyone with a good pig spleen can give it a try.
“They’re raw. You just pick it up and read it,” he said.
See a sample of Woodward’s 2014 predictions for southwest Saskatchewan below.
Winter will start out cold and will trend this way from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7. From Jan. 8 to about Jan. 20, temperatures will start out above average and fall to average on Jan. 21 when there will be a day of snow and possible rain. From Jan. 20 to the end of the month, temperatures will stay average to above average. There will be snow between Jan. 9 and Jan. 11, in addition to the event on Jan. 21. After Jan. 21, snow will be more general through February and March.
Warmer temperatures at the end of January will disappear during the first week of February. February will be the start of more regular moisture with snow on Feb. 3 and a more significant event on Feb. 13. A small warming trend on Feb. 10 will be followed by -20 C to -25 C temperatures for the middle of the month and a gradual warming towards the end of the month. February 27 will see another snow event and temperatures will gradually improve into March. The groundhog should see his shadow as there will be at least six more weeks of winter.