Thursday, 9 October 2008

Old Country Lore - Foretelling Rain

Rain over the hills . . .

This is unashamedly snitched from the WI book I got recently "For Home and Country". Living on the West of Britain as we do (Wales seems to get more than its fair share of rain on occasions), I can generally recognize the signs of impending rain, though half the time when I look outside, it's already raining!


Through generations of unchanged belief, all the signs of coming storm are known to us, a pale yellow sunset, rays slanting downward from the sun, or "sun drawing water" as we call it, rainbow in the evening and a halo around the moon. Still worse is the weather heralded by the "sun dog" or halo round the sun.

Animals can tell me when to expect rain and storm. Cattle and horses can become restive in summer and tear around the fields, teased by horse flies which bite more fiercely just before rain. Sheep cluster together under trees and in wintry weather, all animals instinctively seek a sheltered spot before the storm.

Pigs run around excitedly grunting and carrying straw in their snouts. Cats often indulge in wild antics, as if pursued by something unseen, or else turn their backs to the fire and wash their faces assiduously. Dogs will often refuse food, but eat grass and dig holes.

The donkey brays and as country folk say:

When the donkey blows his horn 'Tis time to cock the hay and corn.

Rabbits come out to feed early instead of in the late afternoon. Moles rise to the surface, ready to feast on the worms and insects that rain will bring.

Toads are to be seen hopping and crawling over the grass. Frogs change from greenish yellow to russet brown and spiders creep from their webs at the approach of rain.

Birds give many clues to the coming weather. Seagulls fly inland at the approach of storm, marking the coming change by their loud excited clamour. Rooks behave strangely, as observed by Edward Jenner, of vaccination fame, who wrote an amusing poem giving forty reliable signs of rain:

And see yon rooks, how strange their flight. They imitate the gliding kite, Or seem precipitate to fall As if they felt the piercing ball.

The painted wood-pecker or "yaffingale" as we call him, makes the welkin ring with his harsh "laugh". Swallows and swifts fly low, peacocks scream and ducks quack loudly.

Trees turn back their leaves for the coming rain. Many flowers are accurate barometers and close tightly if the day is going to be wet. Thus the little scarlet pimpernel, known for generations as the "poor man's weather glass," will close its petals when rain is expected but, after one or two wet days, the petals become water-soaked and remain open.

Other flowers that keep closed if the day is going to be wet are the convolvulus, marigold, hawkweed, water-lily, chickweed and lettuce flower.

But, in watching flowers for weather signs, it must be remembered that when the blossoms are beginning to fade, they lose the power of responding to heat and light and either remain open or keep tightly closed.

From: "For Home and Country" - War, Peace and Rural Life as seen through the pages of the W.I. Magazine, 1919 - 1959, compiled by Penny Kitchen.


Willow said...

I've really enjoyed reading this Bovey Belle! I certainly notice a change in my cats' behaviour if there is a storm in the air. Horses too, are very sensitive to changes in atmosphere and weather. This sounds like a great book!
Willow x

Bovey Belle said...

Our horses often had a gallop around about 7.30 p.m. in the evening. I don't know if the midges got especially bad then, or they just had a routine, but it was the same time every night. Glad you enjoyed reading about the weather indications Willow.