Sunday, September 11, 2011

metrics as a measure

People say it's a fierce independence or love of animals and the outdoors that tips parents off that their children are going to become farmers. I think the real red flag out there on the future farmer charts is attention to weather. If you know a child who looks up at the sky, asks about rainfall amounts, checks, and pays mind to the changing seasons with unusual attention: that's a farmer. I'd put money on it. Same goes for adults who have an urge to homestead or become farmers. You might love fiber or cheese, or always dreamed of hosting a cook out with your own Belted Galloway steaks and microbrews: but dreamers alone do not make farmers. I say the guy in the cubicle on with a rooftop garden's a better bet than than guy at Outback Steakhouse doodling branding logos on his napkin.

Here's why:

As a small farmer there is nothing that excites, terrorizes, or impacts my life more than weather. I wake up and check it first thing. The farmhouse is set up with a mini weather station in the kitchen, telling me indoor temps, outdoor temps, forecast, barometrics, the works. I own two weather radios I can switch onto NOAA at any moment. And if I am 7 hours into the workday, wishing I was home with Gibson on the hill, it is the weather websites I turn to. Because when I know what it's like outside I can shape my whole day around it, every part of it. I know what boots to put on when I come inside and change and weather I need to put on a sweater and my waxed cotton or a light hoodie and a bandana. I know what the animals will be doing, how they will be acting, where they will be resting when I pull in the driveway. I can already see Gibson's panting and muddy frame, the way the sheep run uphill in poorer weather and how they run out to the far pasture in fair. The weather rules everything around here.

Today will be a mild day, this morning it was cold enough to see my breath. This afternoon I will work with Brett and Jasper in the field. I already know what to wear, how to be comfortable, and how the day will go. It's my rulebook, best friend, worst enemy and addiction, this weather. And I don't know a single person with acres or a herd that could disagree.


Blogger Zoe Tilley Poster said...

I agree. I am often teased about being able to spit out the most up to date radar report, should anyone wonder aloud if it might rain today... But I work for a living as a gardener, and I spend most of my free time outside (working in my own garden, working on the house, or walking in the woods), and I really like to know what I'm in for. The weather report is often the difference between a productive day and one spent stomping around, slopping wet, and sputtering.

September 11, 2011 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

I completely agree with you, Jenna. Once I know the weather and the forecast ... I can plan my day and the things to accomplish in the days to come.

Your knowledge base has certainly grown knowing the behaviors of your animals in each kind of weather. As always ... It's a pleasure to check in on what's going on with you and your farm!

September 11, 2011 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger E said...

If an interest in weather makes for a potential farmer, good records help make a successful farmer.

Do you also keep farm weather/events records?

Lee Valley has a great 10 year gardening journal that makes keeping good records easy.

September 11, 2011 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Robbie Grey said...

I've monitored the weather as long as I can remember. Part of it is liking to be outside-biking, hiking, stargazing, and so on-but also now because we have a plot at our community garden. I got a weather station earlier this year and have been diligently recording conditions.

It's a warm day, but by the feeling in the air, and the look of some of the aspens, autumn is coming to the High Country...

September 11, 2011 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I keep no log of the weather, and probably never will!

September 11, 2011 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Melina said...

Funny that you mention this connection. My sister once pointed out that Robert and I are both obsessed with the weather.

September 11, 2011 at 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny. Never thought of it exactly like that. I DO know I look up at the sky while other people aren't even noticing the x's and parallel lines from chemtrails. I'm 55 and have spent most of my life as a gardener or farmer. 37 degrees here this morning. The forecast calls for 34 on the 15th. might end up being our first frost. I noticed an awful lot of leaves changing color on the High Peaks of the Adirondacks this morning.

September 11, 2011 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

As a child, I watched, in wonder, as my father's brother, Phillip, would walk, barefoot,around an Arkansas farm, checking fruit jars set on the top of fence posts, to determine the amount of rainfall if any. Uncle Phillip had mouths to feed and as a subsistence farmer weather and particularly rain was the key to his and his families livelihood and well being. No radar just a farmer in his element.

September 11, 2011 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger jugtownjane said...


It's funny 'cause it's true...

September 11, 2011 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

It's the single biggest determining factor for whether I get anything done or not. I can't tell you how many times I've planned (on an otherwise perfect day) to work in the garden, check the beehives, clean the chicken coop, etc. only to be met by 30 mph straight wind.

Also, we farmer types I believe have a truer understanding of the weather than the average person. I can't tell you how many people I've heard say "It just got hot extra early this year!". Well, it didn't. It actually got hot later than usual. It just got hot very suddenly, and I think people are confused. I also keep hearing "Well, we're sure to get some rain soon" from city folks. The farmers know better and say no such thing.

@jugtownjane - funniest thing ever, and yes, SO TRUE.

September 11, 2011 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Interesting observation. My husband is obsessed with the weather. He grew up on a farm and left at 18 to see the world. Although he's now far from the farm, the weather still rules our lives. He works for a major retailer and is part of the strategy team that deals with logistical issues when there's a major weather event. Life as I know it comes to a screeching halt when he's in the "war room" for days on end helping to position product where it's most needed. I'm a city girl at heart, so we've always lived on the "semi-rural" fringes of a metro area as a compromise.

September 11, 2011 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger E said...

Why not keep records? It would give you info on what has happened at the farm, animals and weather.

You'd know exactly when each lamb was born, and when the last frost was last year.

After awhile you'd know when to expect lambs, frost, tomatoes and other farm events.

September 11, 2011 at 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my. That explains it. We have a weekly meeting where all the members of my family come to the dining room table with planners in hand. We compare work schedules, car trips (our family of 8 has one car and two drivers), doctor and dentist appointments, and I always bring the weather. What's going to be the hottest day? The coolest? Rain? Silly me, I would think the person in charge of mowing would care to know. I sure do!

September 12, 2011 at 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the person in the cubicle with the tiny driveway garden who knows whether it's a wet year or a dry one, what the weather will be at home and at work, and for whom "the weather" is actually an interesting conversation topic instead of something to fill awkward pauses. So glad to know that means I'm a farmer, instead of just a little bit weird.

September 12, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Lorri said...

I'd love to be able to tell the weather (at least somewhat) by looking around me. We try to teach ourselves that, and listen to NOAA as well.

Independent streak? It's about a mile wide, with a fair dose of 'stubborn' mixed in for good measure!

September 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Lorri said...

I'd love to be able to tell the weather (at least somewhat) by looking around me. We try to teach ourselves that, and listen to NOAA as well.

Independent streak? It's about a mile wide, with a fair dose of 'stubborn' mixed in for good measure!

September 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Paul Brown said...

A friend pointed this out to me today and I immediately thought of this post. Thought you might be interested.

And I second what E said about keeping a farm journal. Being able to look back and figure out rainfall averages and frost dates for your exact spot in the world can be really useful. Looking that stuff up can give you vague ideas, but if that data is collected on the other side of the mountain it could be quite a bit off from what you actually get.

Plus, as a self confessed weather and farm geek, it's just fun.

September 14, 2011 at 8:01 AM  

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