By Laurent D'Entremont
Recently, fellow columnist and good friend, Glenn Ells wrote about the weather, several times at that. He was expressing that the soil in the Annapolis Valley was far too dry for growing crops and needed a good soaking. There was no reason for me to doubt Glenn. I was having the very same problem in the southwestern end of the province. I had to haul water every evening with my trusty old Cub tractor and water-down my plants. Talking about the weather did help though, because we received as much rain as we had bargained for - perhaps even more than the “bridal shower” Glenn so wittily joked about.
There’s an old saying to the effect everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. We often open up conversations, even with total strangers, by talking about the weather. Not only do we talk about today’s weather, but we also talk about yesterday’s weather and try to predict tomorrow’s weather, something we know absolutely nothing about. My grandfather was never wrong, though, at weather forecasting. He would often say: “I can give you yesterday’s weather with great accuracy, but if you want tomorrow’s forecast, you’ll have to ask me tomorrow night”.
The weather is important to all of us, but nobody studies the weather more than fishermen do; often their lives depend on it. My grandfather still showed a profound interest in the weather, long after his fishing days were over. It was likely a storm bound fishermen on a remote island off our Nova Scotia coast, many years ago, who penned the following poem on a fishing shanty’s door. A now retired fisherman memorized it years ago and recently gave it to me. It depicts very much how fishermen feel about weather conditions:
When the wind is from the south,
it blows the bait in the ‘fishes’ mouth.
When the wind is from the west,
then the weather is always best.
Northern air makes weather fair,
There’s an old saying to the effect everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. -
When the wind is from the east,
it is neither good for man or beast!
The poet is unknown, but it would be a safe bet this epic poem was not written by Ernest Hemingway or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Yet, it shows that the weather is always on the mind of those who earn their living on the high seas, and well it should, many who ignored the weather signs are no longer here to talk about it. Living in a fishing village, I can usually have a clue about the weather by the number of cars and trucks that go by our house, at four or five in the morning, on their way to Dennis Point Wharf. When I hear the big diesel motors in lobster boats kick in, I know we are usually in for a fine day.
Farmers count on the weather, too. Crops need rain, but not too much. Drying hay need sunshine, lots of it, and light, westerly wind. It was likely a farmer from the Annapolis Valley who first observed cows can predict the weather. It is generally believed cows will lie down when they expect a storm and, when cattle stand with their backs to the wind, it will rain before the day is over. When cows are happily chewing their cud, we can expect light breezes filled with sunshine.
Growing up on the small family farm I made a few observances myself. When a cow’s tail is wet, it is raining. When it’s blue or frozen it is cold. When it vibrates, it is windy. When it turns white, it is generally snowing. However, off it falls off, I don’t know what it means, but to be safe, run for your life.
And, if Glenn is still interested in studying the weather, I can honestly say that I learned a few tricks about weather forecasting from my grandfather. Like my grandfather years ago, I study the clouds and stars and now can forecast with great accuracy what the weather was in Pubnico the day before.