A fellow farmer from a bit north of us was in the barn the other day grumbling about the cool spring temperatures. Like most farmers and old timers who show up to commiserate with Jane from time to time, one of the opening salvo of the conversation tends to be “How’s the weather over to your place?”
“It’s June and they’re predictin’ a frost over to my place,” he complained, looking like he wanted to spit. “Can’t get most of my crops into the field now because of the cool weather, and if we get a late frost then a lot of what I got out ain’t gonna survive it.”
Weather and farming have been doing this dance since the first farmer scratched the soil and planted a seed … trouble is, weather is always taking the lead. Sure, greenhouses and tunnels have given the farmer some protection, allowing them to start plantings earlier in the season without fearing the frost. But at some point, those plants outgrow their surroundings and need to be set in the earth, where they can drink in the sunshine and spread their wings.
Once out, however, they are at the mercy of meteorological conditions. Rainfall, frost and sunshine must all conspire to either promote healthy growth, or suck the potential out of tender seedlings and planted seed. (That’s one reason why most farmers never feel the need to go to Las Vegas … they get enough gambling each growing season where they lay out their money and hopes and wait for the see what cards Mother Nature will deal them).
Oh sure, today we’ve got the local weatherman, the Weather Channel, and the National Weather Service throwing in their expertise, but how many times have you skipped out of the house after watching one of these forecasts only to limped home cursing that toothy weatherman who should have told you to bring an umbrella.
Traditionally, Yankee farmers tend to fall back on the more organic methods used by generations past to figure out weather patterns and predictions. Up here on the farm, old timers were known to predict the approach bad weather by the degree of ache in certain body parts. If Abbot’s knees hurt, then rain was surely on its way. If Grandmother Presby’s migraines were coming on, so was a storm. Not very scientific, I’ll give you that, but time-tested and, depending on who you talk to, a lot more reliable than some guy in a suit reading a teleprompter in front of a green screen.
So, relying on our inherited weather smarts (and with a little help from the Old Farmers Almanac), we’ve decided to pull back the curtain a bit, and let you guys know how you, too, can predict the weather just by paying attention to what’s going on around you:
- Okay, so we’ve all heard the proverb “red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in morning, sailor take warning.” Well, here is the science behind that saying:
- Since weather patterns traditionally move west to east, when you see a red sky during sunset (when you’re looking to the west), there is a high-pressure system with dry air that is stirring up dust particles. This means no rain as dry air is moving towards you (but the wind is sure to follow).
- A red sky in the morning means that the dry air has already moved past you, and rain or a storm is likely to follow.
- On the same idea, if there is a rainbow in the morning, rain has moved on. Rainbows in the evening, means rain is on its way.
- If you notice a ring around the moon, then rain or snow will follow within the next three days.
- If you can smell the earth and compost, then moisture is on the way
- If your flowers have a stronger fragrance to them, then rain is surely coming
- If the air smells of old feet and mothballs, then Uncle Jeb is likely sittin’on the porch
- Cats clean their ears before a storm
- Spiders come down out of their webs before a rain
- Cows gather in a corner of the field and lay down just before bad weather
- Dogs eat grass when a rain is on its way
- Ants build their anthills higher just before a rain
- Birds fly high in the sky when the weather will be fair
- And, one of my favorites, to determine the temperature outside, count the number of cricket chirps in 14 seconds and add 40.
The Other Signs:
- Morning dew on the grass means no rain that day
- Three dewless nights means rain is surely on its way
- Dew before midnight, means the next day will be bright
- Leaves on the trees curl up just before a rain
- If you make a fire outside and the smoke goes straight up there will be good weather. If the smoke goes up in curls and wisps, then a low pressure system will bring bad weather
Well, that just scratches the surface, but you get the point. I could go on and on, but the frogs are croaking pretty loudly tonight so I got to get out and make sure things are under cover. When they make this much noise, a gully whomper is surely on its way.
So, nuff said ….