by Gwen Stewart
Farmers’ lore runs deep in my gene pool. Born and raised in some of the most abundant farmland in the United States, I grew up knowing how to judge the seasons by the height of the corn, the sound of the locust, the bend of the leaves. While weather folks—these fancy scientists called “meteorologists”—pontificate on cold fronts, jet streams, and barometric pressure, northwest Ohioans simply watch, listen and feel.
Don’t get me wrong. Farmers love their science just as much as the next guy or gal. My grandparents were weather hounds: watching weathercasts three times a day, recording temperature and precipitation in their daily journals. My parents are equally interested, and often know the forecast three or more days into the future.
We like technology, and trust it—generally. But we also trust our folklore.
Did you know, for example, that the sign of mid-summer is not the calendar or the weather, but the height of the corn? Knee high by the Fourth of July. You may generally rely on that--or something has gone woefully wrong in the crop department.
Do you know how to predict the onset of autumn? It’s not by cooler mornings, earlier sunsets, or golden foliage. In the hottest days of midsummer, the locust sings autumn's arrival. When the first locust chirps, note the date and count six weeks into the future. That date marks summer's demise.
Will it rain tomorrow? If it’s raining today, and the drops make bubbles in the puddles, that means rain tomorrow, too.
In the summer, do the leaves bend in the wind, revealing their underside? A front’s coming through. That means storms coming, and rain on the morrow as well.
Will tomorrow be hot? Watch for “heat lightening” on the southern horizon. If it appears at sunset, count on another hot day.
Now that I’m a suburbanite, I don’t encounter weather folklore. When I hear the first locust in the Target parking lot and whisper, “There it is”, I often receive curious stares.
“There’s what?” my friends say.
“The first locust--hear it? Six weeks of summer left.”
They pull out their iPhones and check weather sites. They frown. “It says here that the first day of fall is September twentieth.” The fiddle some more. “And this site says to expect a warm couple of months.”
I smile. Maybe those meteorologists are onto something with their math and science. Then again, maybe God's creatures--even the lowly locusts--can tell us just as much as Doppler Radar.
Question for you: What weather folklore did you hear growing up?