Sunday, January 22, 2012

Predicting The Weather

My dad, a life-long farmer, had an uncanny ability to predict the weather. After the evening chores were done in summer, he’d watch the sunset, note the direction of the wind, and proclaim what kind of weather we’d have for the next couple days. Quite important to know when you’re a farmer.

During the winter, he often predicted snowstorms and cold weather using even more subtle techniques than wind direction or the sunset. He’d say something like, “Big storm is coming, I can feel it in my bones.” I don’t know what he was feeling, but he was usually correct.

Dad has been gone for nearly twenty years, so I’m stuck with figuring out the coming weather on my own. Of course I could listen to radio weather reports and watch the fancy radar clouds march across the TV weather map while someone, with an overly confident voice predicts future weather. I do that of course.

But these days my surefire way to predict winter snowstorms is to watch my backyard bird feeder. Take last Thursday, the day before four inches of snow fell in our part of the world. The cardinals were especially busy, competing with each other, crowding each other away from the little trough of sunflower and other cardinal delectables.

Today, with the storm in the past, the bird feeder is quiet—except for a nosy squirrel trying to figure out why the birdfeeder closes when it crawls on the perch bar. But I keep watching the feeder. This time of the year another snowstorm is usually not too far in the future.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The best thing to do when it snows is to let it snow.

CHECK THIS OUT: My website is updated.

A REQUEST: Got any good family stories about early farming history in Wisconsin? I’m working on a new book about Wisconsin agricultural history. Contact me at

February 10, Garden Expo, Alliant Center, Madison. 6-8 p.m. Wisconsin Historical Society Press booth, signing copies of Garden Wisdom.

February 11. Janesville, noon luncheon speaker, FFA Alumni meeting.

February 12, Garden Expo, Alliant Center, Madison, 1-4 p.m. Wisconsin Historical Society Press booth, signing copies of Garden Wisdom.

March 6, 7:00 p.m. Barnes and Noble-West, Madison. Launch of Garden Wisdom.

March 9-11. Canoecopia, Alliant Center, Madison. (Trade show for all things canoeing) I am speaking at 4:30 on Friday, March 9 and at 2:30 on Saturday, March 10. Steve will share Boundary Waters photos as part of Saturday’s presentation.

March 24. Six p.m. Launch of Garden Wisdom book at Patterson Memorial Library Wild Rose. Details coming.

March 31-April 1. Morton Arboretum (Thornhill Education Center), Chicago area. Presentation on vegetable gardening, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on March 31. Sunday, April 1, 1:30-3:30 features a vegetable gardening workshop, with tips on planting and caring for a vegetable garden. Additionally, Ruth will discuss plus preparing vegetables and fruits for canning and freezing.

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