What and who did they rely on? Probably the farmers almanac if there was one purchased from the general store. For the most part, those rugged individuals relied on what they could gleam from the animals in their care. I know, if my cow is laying down in the winter, cold weather is coming. In the summer, spring, or fall, I'm looking at the possibility of thunderstorms. An early winter coat on the horses usually equals an early onset of winter.
In the past few days, our usual deer visits have come and gone without a visitor showing up. Sure enough, today was blustery, rain changing to snow and the temperature has dropped to just barely above freezing. BURRRR!!!
So, as I sit in my nice warm house, looking at the occasional snow flurry roll by, I'm lucky to have my weather predictors working over time to warn me of the upcoming changes. Mooo 've over Punxsutawney Phil, I'll stick with Memphis Blue, Spirit, and Esmeralda to keep me informed on Mother Nature's travels.