May 14, 2017

Weather: damp, windy and sunny. Mid 50s-60s

I called it. No snow this season, unless there is a freak storm along the way. The weather channel is not telling me anything on that possibility, but I am checking the signs. What signs? Well Mother Nature tends to give signs to predict the weather. One could conceivably predict it out to a week, but beyond that.. no.  Not really.

What witchery is this???

There are many folk ways to determine this. There are many garden/weather rhymes, ditties and sayings that “everyone knows” that will work, because NO ONE WOULD SAY IT OVER THE YEARS UNLESS IT WORKED. That being said this will be today’s discussion.

There is an old sailor’s saying “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”  If you are normally up during sunrise and sun set, there will be red in the sky, but a redder sky will occur when a storm is coming. According to Earth Systems Research Laboratory ( low pressure occurs before bad weather and the light reflects differently at that time.  The website goes into the science in detail, but that is it in a nutshell. A red sky at night, means a storm, and more fish in the morning.  So paying attention to the sky is a good way of predicting the weather.

Rainbow in the morning, need for a warning.”  You need to know where east and west are for this one. Due to the way most weather patterns move a rainbow in the west means moisture is coming to you, and in the east means it is past you. And if it is over you, you should be wet.

Circle around the moon, rain or snow soon.”  Look at the moon (full moon is better) if it is bright and focused then there are less dust particles in the air due to a low pressure system. This means rain or snow will be on the way.  How long? Difficult to say. You need to pay attention to the clouds you see in the sky as well.

Do you remember the types of clouds? To be honest, I don’t recall ever learning that at school as a kid. But now my daughter did a unit study on this and I know they are:

  • Mammatus : form with both severe and non-severe thunderstorms.
  • Cirrus: they look like tails and mean bad weather coming in 24-36 hours.
  • Altocumulus:  which are like lizard scales, also mean bad weather coming within the next 36 hours.
    • These show up together sometimes and mean the weather will show up that day.
  • Cumulus towers:  indicate the possibility of showers later in the day.
  • Nimbostratus :  hang low and heavy in the sky, and mean rain is imminent.

Of course you also have to pay attention to how quickly they are moving and in what direction.

Fairy dancing overnight, means no rain in sight.”  According to my Grandmother, dew is fairy sweat. So when they go dancing before dawn, they sweat over the grass, and don’t have enough energy to make it rain. Science, on the other hand, tells us that clouds and strong winds can dry dew on grass and are normally seen before a rainstorm.

The brazen tree will flash her petticoats in anticipation of a bath.” This is another one of my Grandmother’s sayings. Honest. I have NEVER heard this from anyone else, and almost dismissed it as some odd lecture of morals & personal hygiene except for one tiny observation. When a storm is coming, tree leaves turn over. After some research I discovered that Deciduous trees turn their leaves over to protect them from strong winds. Deciduous trees, in case you didn’t know, are trees that shed their leaves annually, like oak, and maple.

Flowers smell best before a rain.” and  “The Angels will clear your sniffer, so you can avoid God’s death ray.” Guess which one was my Grandmother’s saying versus the more common one. Just guess.  This is simple: before a rainstorm, everything smells better.  Well not better really, but clearer. According to science (Yay science!) plants fart (release gas waste) in low pressure. Low pressure happens before a rain storm. Plants’ gas waste is Oxygen. More oxygen and we can smell better/stronger.   Science also tells us that swamps emit gas in low pressure as well and that does not smell pleasant at all.   Moist air does strange things to our sense of smell. This can happen after a rain storm as well, when I swear I can smell the color green.

Curly Hair loves Lightning.”  Nope this is not a grooming tip, but another one of my Grandmother’s sayings. She told me her friend’s grandmother would say this on days she wore a head scarf, instead of putting lye in her hair to tame the curls. Simply put, curly hair frizzes in high humidity, which tends to come before a storm. On dry, hot days curly hair goes limp. Thus on high humidity days she would wear a head scarf instead of having to use twice the amount of lye to straighten her curls.

If you cannot find a pigeon in the city after tossing down grain, use your brain.” This one came from a nice elderly man down the block from where I grew up. He was the first person I had ever seen that planted vegetables in his front yard and had a pagoda in his back yard with berry vines and Morning Glorys. This was in Suburbia in the 1980s, so that was almost unheard of. I think his name was Mr. Dale. He and my mom would chat about gardens a lot and share clippings.  This saying has a simple meaning. Observe the wildlife. Everywhere you go in this world there is wildlife. Mostly birds and bugs. Before bad weather, birds hide and are silent. So if you don’t hear any birds, or are in the city and the birds stop eating birdseeds, get inside.

Other creatures can  help as well. Ants will build a taller ant hill if a massive rainstorm is coming. To be honest, unless they build one that is a foot high, I’m not going to notice that.  Cows lay down before a thunderstorm. But I am not near cows, and I think goats just go into shelters, so I cannot say for sure.

Needless to say if you see flocks, or herds, or murders, or packs or heck any large groups of animals moving in the same direction, at a good clip, at the same time, you might want to get to higher ground yourself.

Some people believe plants can predict the weather. This article by Ada Carr explains how seeds can give clues. Check it out here:

Back in the 1980s, one of the Brownie Troop leaders told us that if we were ever lost in the woods to start a campfire. Not only to signal your location, but to predict the weather. If there is no rain coming the smoke would go up straight.

What else? I remember something about salt, but honestly I am not going to put piles of salt in my yard to test the weather.  Nor am I going to check the drain pipe for spider webs.

J. Anderberg at the Art of Manliness wrote an article on what I have been talking about. He has found quite a few I have never heard of.  You can find his article here:

So the rule of thumb here is to PAY ATTENTION. Too many people in this technology rich age tend to dismiss the knowledge of our ancestors. Just because they didn’t have a touch screen or a fitbit or vaccines doesn’t mean they were stupid. Gardening, or Agriculture, has been around for longer than recorded history. In fact one of the earliest written records concerns crops.  If you didn’t want to starve you paid attention to how nature works. When only 1% of your population can write or read, you make the lessons easy to remember, and that means you make it simple and make it rhyme.

And so I have been using these tools to try and predict the weather and how I can keep my garden from rotting out due to the rain.

All I can say is that some days I wish I was growing rice.




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