Friday, April 13th, 2007
Weather lore tales still abound today
By Janie Southard
Mercer County farmer Leroy Heitkamp thinks it's up to the weather to cooperate w. . .
Don't plant seeds until after the apple trees bloom. Peas should be planted as near to 12 noon as possible. Gardens do better if seeds are planted on the even-numbered days of the month. Wood cut on light nights will burn hotter.
Those are some of roughly a gazillion old weather lore sayings lurking around on the Internet and more often than not somewhere in your own or your neighbor's ancestry.
Daily Standard weather whiz Dennis Howick added his two cents in an interview last week saying a January fog means a May frost.
"That holds pretty true for this area, and I think we had maybe one or two January fogs this year," Howick said, adding the fog/frost saying may be another version of the Icemen, a weather tale that gave rise to the saying, "the Icemen cometh ..."
Many local folks have long sworn by the Icemen - May 11, 12 and 13, the trio of days that are coldest of the month and when a late frost is most likely.
According to legend, and the Internet, those days were referred to in Germany as Icemanner, which gains ground locally largely due to the strong ties to Germany.
Don't plant before the Icemen come because young plants won't survive, said one Mercer County farmer of German descent. If beans are coming up during those days in May, they won't make it through and you'll have to replant, he said.
In Kentucky, the late frost is called Blackberry Winter, according to Johnny Partin, an area gardener and Kentucky native.
"Down south, we have a wintery spell right around the last of April and first part of May. It always seems to coincide with blackberry season; so, we call it blackberry winter," Partin said Thursday.
Partin, of southern Van Wert County, said he's heard various weather tales, as well as information on planting according to the phases of the moon but didn't actually believe it. "But, I've tried it (planting by the moon) and have seen good results," said Partin, known to be an excellent gardener.
Howick and Auglaize County Commissioner/farmer John Bergman agreed that success in setting fence posts by moon signs is absolutely true, even though neither one could remember whether it was the dark or light of the moon.
It's the dark or waning moon, and the story goes that the newly set posts will not "heave" out of the ground. Howick explained "heaving" by saying that in winter when the ground is frozen fence posts may push out. Of course, if the posts were set in the waning moon, this cannot happen.
Moon gardeners believe plants do better when planted in the proper lunar cycle. This is because of the moon's gravitational pull. (Think of the ocean's tides.)
So, here's the key: Plants that grow above ground should be planted during new moon to full moon (waxing moon). Gravitational pull is strongest then and draws the plants upward.
Plants with big root systems should be planted when the pull is least (waning moon), because it is believed the nutrients go to the lower parts of the plants. (This no doubt accounts for those fence posts.)
How about planting once in a blue moon? When there are two full moons in one month, which happens about every 21/2 years, the second full moon is the blue moon, which is actually regular moon color. By the way, the moon has no light of its own and only reflects sunlight.
While some farmers/gardeners argue that moon signs are the only way to go, others snort at the whole idea - including Mercer County farmer Leroy Heitkamp.
"No, I don't believe in that moon stuff or any old sayings. The weather changes all the time, and it's a lot better if it cooperates with farmers," he told the newspaper last week at his hog farm south of Celina.
One saying he vows is true is the advice his father gave him 35 years ago. "If you're going to farm, you better have a second job," the elder Heitkamp told his son. Could that arrangement be termed MOONlighting?
Weather adages are many and varied:
The number of old sayings about weather is staggering and encompasses an endless number of topics.
Some gardening writers say the sayings helped 15th and 16th century gardeners pass on their own weather conclusions to their sons and daughters, and thus generations to come.
Here are a few that have made it through the centuries:
Mackerel skies and mares tails make ships carry lowered sails.
The louder the frog, the more the rain.
When elm leaves are the size of a penny, plant green beans.
When daffodils begin to bloom, it's time to plant peas.
Rain before seven, fine before eleven.
Plant beans on Good Friday.
Never plant anything on Sunday.
The first and last frosts are the worst.
No weather's ill if the wind be still.
A five-leaf clover brings bad luck.
Flowers which bloom out of season are evil.
If you point your finger at a cucumber bloom, the bloom will fall off.
Planting peppers when you are mad makes the peppers grow hotter.
Red-headed gardeners grow hotter peppers.
For a good crop of watermelons, crawl to the patch backwards on the first day of May.
When chairs squeak of rain they speak.
Flowers are more fragrant before a rain.
And finally, a catchy poem by an unknown poet:
"Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.
- Janie Southard