Sunday, February 17, 2008

Right on schedule.


I don’t know how many people know it, but this hot spell that we are having is not only predictable it is right on schedule. We often have a hot spell in February.

The Old Timers could tell you that we almost always get a few seventy plus degree days in February. They used to depend on this warm dry spell to do the early plowing. They would use a turning plow to turn the weeds under to rot. Later on in the spring they would plow again and then harrow, then plant their oats for oat hay.

According to Laytonville folk-lore, at the end of summer there was a little bunch of showery weather, then it cleared up, then the weather would be dry and frosty, until about the end of October. Then there would be the “Fall Storm”. The fall storm brought heavy rains and it usually muddied the creeks for the first time. After the fall storm, the weather cleared and got cold again. Around Thanksgiving the river was low and fishable. Many years when I was young all of the men folks would spend the day fishing, then come home for Thanksgiving dinner. The fish were normally cured and smoked.

The Old Timers knew that they could almost always depend on a bad storm at the end of the year. About mid December the heavy rains would start again and they would have the “New Year Storm”. Mid-storm there was usually a few clear days around Christmas. Then the storm would set back in again. The two storms were thought of as one. And heavy rains would fall off and on all of January. The weather would clear in February and there would be more frost and dry weather, then the weather would turn warm, and it would dry the fields, then they would do the early plow.

In March the weather would turn back to showers and wind. March was known to have most of the snow that fell for the year. Around the end of march there would be what they called “The Equinoxual Storm”. It would be the last heavy rain of the year. All of spring would be cold and frosty, or cold and windy, with a few showers. When the wind stopped and the frost quit, they would plant the spring garden. That was usually some time in may.

They could tell by how fast and which direction the clouds were moving when the storms would happen. There were so many guesses about what the weather was going to do that almost always someone was right, and that made it appear to be very scientific. Most of the weather was predicted on the basis of their folklore. After all, they didn’t have Jim Bernard.

Strangely, My Gramma Ruby was almost always right with her weather predictions, she was far more accurate than the weatherman on the radio. I don’t think his life depended on knowing what the weather would do. My Gramma was raised in a time when it did.

12 comments:

Kym said...

Ernie, Your weather remembrances are exactly the way I remember them too. Although, if we have the "snowy March" you talk about, I may move to town. I've had my quota for the year! We went through wood faster than any year but one that I can remember.

ben said...

Ernie... I remember weather like you describe back when I came here in the 70s. The Art Fair at Benbow was originally in late August and rain was such a problem that it was moved to earlier in the summer. We also used to get thunderstorms every few years in June. I was on a crew framing a house on the Avenue when we had a weekend thunderstorm that rained at least two inches. We had not cut the doorsills out and when I raced over to the project the whole floor was an inch and a half deep in water. I cut out the sills and drilled holes where the puddles remained. Lots of plywood delaminated and had to be replaced.
The fish were in the river by November and then it would rain for a month straight and I mean every day. Then a break in January or February to fish Steelhead and plant peas. It was predictable 'til the late seventies drought. After that, it seemed like every year was different.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Cutting the hay was a community effort amongst the ranchers. It had to be cut and dried, bailed and put into the barn before it got rained on.

The hay had to be cut, and it had to lay in the field to dry. Almost always there was the treat of a shower hanging in the air. If the hay got rained on it washed some of the nutrients out of it. But then it had to dry again, before it could be bailed. Wet hay would cause spontaneous combustion and would burn the barn down. Many barns were lost to hasty farmers that didn’t let the hay dry enough.

Kym, March is well known for nasty cold snow showery weather. It is small amounts of snow that stays around way beyond it’s welcome.

Ben, I remember summer thunderstorms as be very common. Two to four inches of rail in June/ July was not unusual.

Carol said...

I remember rain one 4th of July weekend while camping out at Ruth Lake.

I have seen snow at sea level in April.

We have been enjoying the dry period in recent weeks. It is a good time to rake out the leaves, weed, and fertilize the flower beds. Rain is expected tonight.

Bob Flame, Ranger said...

Ernie...We've only been in Humboldt County 6 short years, but we've already picked up on its annual patterns. We're not the agriculturalists of yore, but the patterns of middle-aged, dual-kid, dual-career, suburban family life recognizes the seasons too. Winter rains begin just as the fall soccer season ends. The end-of-year Christmas storms come just as my work staff is at its lowest, putting me in the "store" by myself on the most blustery winter days. Winter rains brings us indoors for basketball, science fairs, and lots of books. The 2-week February spring comes as basketball ends and we begin to look for the softball equipment, then we fight with the rain for time on the softball fields in late March & April.

I already feel I can discuss Humboldt's weather with the ol'timers, though I know I should probably just shut up and listen in quiet respect.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Bob, No quite respect is needed. Predicting the weather is any fools game. We are all in this together.

I apreciate your comments because your job keeps you outdoors a lot. Being outdoors makes you aware of the weather patterns, like it or not.

Ernie Branscomb said...

The February false spring is usually when we clean all of the storm debris and fallen limbs out of the yard and burn them. Then we roast wieners and marshmallows. It’s wise to eat early though, because as soon as the sun goes down, it’s freezing cold.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Over on the left of my front page you will find a NOAA weather forecast already keyed to Garberville if anyone is interested.

Anonymous said...

I just love the rain, it makes the air fresh and clean. But I had enough of fresh and clean in Ketchikan.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Anon, I know where you are going, but temped as I am, I'm not taking the bait!

EkoVox said...

Actually, some of the nicest weather of the year in Eureka is in that late January, early February break. A day at the beach is rather nice and calm. Although, I prefer the break in October.

My dad mentioned seeing it snow out in the backcountry on the fourth of July.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, "The coldest winter I ever spent, was a summer in Eureka"

lodgepole said...

I've heard of snow in July out in them hills 299 way.