Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The North Wind Doth Blow

As a gardener, shepherd and owner of a rather impractical open topped car I often find myself a little preoccupied by the weather. Like most true Brits, chuntering about the negative effects of whatever weather we happen to be currently experiencing, lamenting about the weather conditions that I feel we have been denied or issuing an optimistic request to the heavens for the weather that I hope may eventually arrive, forms the basis of much of my conversations with the postman, the local shop keepers, my farming neighbours or strangers that I feel obliged to make small talk with. 

My sandy pasture loves the rain but my sheep prefer it dry and cold. Sunshine and a light breeze is the weather of choice for me and my impractical little car.

As a child I spent much of my time with my retired Godfather who shared with me his passion for gardening and vegetable growing along with his love of nature and knowledge of a number of occasionally unfathomable but always reliable old weather sayings. He also shared his knack of predicting the weather with an uncanny degree of accuracy.

Coming as he did from an old farming family he recognised many of the ancient feast days and Pagan saints days which formed an important part of the traditional farming calendar and played an essential role in marking the key climatic patterns that influence our weather for the coming months. 

An early Autumn sign of a harsh winter to come?
The robin takes up residence in your garden
adjacent to the back door

Over the years, so many of these dates have disappeared from modern calendars along with the sayings that went with them and as a result the ability to predict the long term weather without technology has been lost to all but a few. Though it’s probably fair to say that with the exception of farming folk like me and the occasional anxious bride, very few people really care about the weather to come in the seasons ahead.

 The majority of the population are probably only harboring a passing interest in the weather prediction for the next 24 hours and are therefore content to ignore natures signals in favor of watching a well groomed though possibly under dressed breakfast TV presenter gesticulating anxiously from an ice gripped Blue Peter garden and wittering on about the combined weather effects resulting from a ridge of low pressure, unruly isobars and an the activities of the jet stream on our little green isle. All of which is usually summarised by the symbol of a sun, obscured by a rain cloud and accompanied by a snowflake. This type of "cover all bases" forecast tends to result in most of us leaving the house armed with sunscreen, a showerproof jacket, windsceen de-icer and a snow shovel.
Octobers omen of the cold winter ahead?
Dead-nettles proliferate the hedgerows

Well I like to know what’s round the corner when it comes to the weather and sadly the Met office stop short of making long term predictions or short term commitments. In fact even the 10 day forecast is amended daily which makes it less of a prediction and more of a running commentary. So I was delighted when I stumbled upon a rather fascinating gentleman called Dave King and his charming Weather without technology website. 

Although Dave is fully conversant with modern computer modelling technology. He restricts himself to using only the tools that previous generations would have trusted and relied upon for their life and livelihood. 

 By combining a selection of proven established data such as Met Office quiet and stormy periods, Buchanan cold and warm periods, Quarter days, Saints and Holy days plus moon phases and tides Dave establishes a reliable weather pattern for the months ahead. He also uses the information that nature provides which includes the seasonal arrivals and departure dates of birds, the flowering times of blossoms, the flowering times of certain wild plants as well as the behaviors and populations of insects and wild animals to tell him what nature has in store for us.

The sheep of things to come? The ewes have already developed thick woolly coats
 to withstand the winter weather. 

So inspired by his methods and keen to establish the best months for my sheep to lamb, I decided to use my own “weather sense” and with a bit of help from Dave in the form of a month by month winter weather prediction and wonderfully detailed rational, I have decided to lamb at the beginning of March 2015. I am anticipating a dry, cold window between the last moon in February and the first one in March so the rams have been put in and tupping has begun! 

I will keep you posted on my progress and if the prediction proves to be correct but if you would like to find out more about how to predict the weather the old fashioned way then visit for more fascinating information or tune into Dave’s monthly broadcasts on Radio York. 
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