Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weather Lore

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?


  1. Hey Gwen. Fun post!
    I'd never heard of the puddle bubble indicator before.
    My favorite here is whether or not the cows are standing or lying down in the field. If the cows aren't standing, it's going to rain. And living in an agricultural area, I pass a lot of dairy and beef cattle. I trust the dairy cattle more...

    I can't help but note their "forecasts" when I drive by. It's pretty accurate. And fun to determine the percentages. One third on the ground? 33% chance of rain today!

    The most accurate of the lore is how you can tell the temperature by the locust song. I'll have to go get the formula and come back later. Have a great day everyone! I would say today's weather is going to be excellent!

    This year, the corn was almost waist high by 4th of July. All of nature is about 2 weeks ahead and makes me wonder about crops and insects and my much-hated ragweed pollen. Will it come early as well? Drat!

  2. I'm trying to remember the old sailor weather saying. A ??? sky at night is a sailors delight...and then there's another half. Of course I guess it doesn't help if you can't remember what color means what.

  3. This is really funny but I used to watch Seinfeild and the character Kramer said He could tell what time it was by where the sun was at. I know silly but this post reminded me of that. I know what a geek I am lol.

  4. Ha, Dina! It's red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.

    Or at least I think it is!

    Good post, Gwen. I'm suburban through and through and didn't know any of this stuff. Thanks for the enlightenment!

  5. That sounds right, Lisa. Thanks. Would have been harping over it all day. Guess I would have googled it eventually.

  6. Hi, Gwen: So interesting to learn how the farmers did it a generation or two ago. The forecasters here get the wind correct (always windy) and the heat! But they can't predict a storm. We waste more clouds here than anywhere I've ever seen. Guess that's why it's called a desert! :-))

    I do not like the locusts' melody. It gives me shivers. They're here now and I'll be glad when they're gone.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

  7. Hi, I've heard the red sky at night one, too. It seems to hold true. I'm a farmer's daughter, but I can't remember any lore at the moment.

  8. Cool stuff, Gwen! So fun for a city girl to learn a little about country living!

  9. Thank you all for your comments! I commented earlier in the day, but Google "ate" it. *sigh*

    Debra, I'd love to know that locust "formula"...and here I thought it was just lore! ;) I'm going to look that up for sure.

    Louise, where I grew up, we could see the entire sky...a complete horizon. I'm sure there were farmers who could tell time by the sun...and we could see a storm coming from about seven miles away!

    I miss my country home. Though I do so love the suburbs, too!

    God bless you all. :-)

  10. These are so much fun. As a Colorado native, my knowledge of weather folklore is limited. The most common saying here is, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." And we're guaranteed a good, hard rain when the guy down the road cuts his hay.
    That "red sky at night" thing even works in the mountains! Unless there's a fire nearby.
    Nite,all! (And HELLO CONNIE!!!!)


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