Farmers Have Always Been Obsessed About the Weather, by Kathy Smith

Farmers have always been obsessed about the weather. Of course it’s only natural since the weather not only dictates what a farmer does on a daily basis, but also how crops grow,are harvested and whether a farmer has a “good” year or not. What a farm family makes to live on is heavily dependenton the weather.

Here in northeastern Ohio, our weather has been somewhat unpredictable the last few years. Record spring rains in 2011 changed to no rain in 2012 and finally a “normal” year in 2013. According to a supplement to the “Successful Farming” magazine, swings in the weather are going to continue for years to come. So what do you use to decide whether to spend the day in the woods getting wood for the fire, fixing the barn roof, cleaning barns and spreading manure or whatever?

Here are some sky signs that can help you predict bad weather approaching according to “Successful Farming.”

  1. A rapid rise or fall in the temperature. This happens when a weather front is approaching.

  2. A ring around the moon especially if the barometer is dropping.

  3. A weather forecast indicating the rapid approach of a warm or cold front.

Some sky signs that indicate fair weather is on its way include the following:

  1. A clear night sky with light winds.

  2. A red sunset in a blue sky.

  3. Dew or frost that develops in the night or early morning.

  4. A brilliant moon in a clear sky.

  5. Morning fog that burns off by noontime.

My favorite part of the supplement was the old wives’ tales about predicting weather. A University of Minnesota physics professor named George D. Freier wrote a book called “Weather Proverbs.”Freier grew up on a Wisconsin farm and became interested in folklore while listening to his relatives talk about the weather. He tested hundreds of these proverbs and found many of them are valid observations of actual physical laws. How many of these are familiar to you?

  1. “Before a rain, sheep are frisky and box each other. When horses are restless and paw with their hoof, you’ll soon hear the patter of rain on your roof. If cows huddle, it’s going to rain.” Most farm animals become discontent and nervous when atmospheric pressure falls as it does before a storm with rain. People too are irritable since a fall in barometric pressure affects the entire body’s chemistry.

  2. “If the goose honks high, fair weather. If the goose honks low, foul weather. Birds flying low, expect rain and a blow.” Birds are apparently very good at adjusting their flight to the correct air density. When barometric pressure is high, the optimum density is higher in the sky. When barometric pressure is low, optimum density is much closer to the ground.

  3. “The amount of brown on the wooly bear caterpillar foretells the severity of the coming winter: the wider the band, the milder will the winter be.” According to Professor Freier the wooly bear has an internal weather forecasting device that has proven to most scientists to be extremely accurate.


Are you familiar with this one? “A tough apple skin means a hard winter. If corn husks are thicker than usual, a cold winter is ahead.” Remember it’s only about a week until the most famous weather  predictor of all takes center stage—when Punxatawney Phil sees his shadow or not, and tells us if we’ll have an early spring or not! In the meantime, I’ve got to go find my sweatshirt. Happy winter!

Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.


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