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So what does The Old Farmer’s Almanac say about 2011? Even if you don’t follow this sort of prognostication there are some interesting observations based in a little fact and a little myth.
Here are a few of my favorites that may explain a bit more about nature as we enter into another year:
• David Phillips of Environment Canada reminds us that plant and animal activity is rarely an indicator of what is to come but rather what occurred the previous season or year. This is worthy of note in Kentuckiana because of the high heat and late-season drought many of us experienced in 2010. For example, acorn set on an oak has nothing to do with a cold winter to come but rather a stressful summer just experienced.
• When rain is on its way, cats sneeze, cows lie down and sheep turn tail to the wind. The reality of all this is that animals are affected by air pressure. For example, when the barometric pressure drops (as it does when rain is approaching) birds will fly closer to the ground where the density of the air is greater. High flying suggests fair weather, alternately.
• The proverb that fish bite more before a storm actually has a scientific answer. My friend Dick Haus who is an avid and experienced fly fisherman, usually shows up at the farm to do a little fishing just as the weather begins to change. He knows precisely when the fish are going to bite by observing weather patterns and here’s the reason: according to Topper Shutt, “as a low pressure system moves across an area, air rises and cools, water vapor present in the system condenses, and rain or snow usually follows. The lower barometric pressure releases gas bubbles that cling to decaying matter at the bottom of streams and lakes. The bubbles rise to the surface, carrying the decaying matter with them. Small fish follow the particles to feed on them. Big fish follow the little fish to feed on them.” And the fisherman waits. Apparently the best fishing days fall when the moon is between new and full, so pay attention!
• In the garden the almanac suggests that we plant by the phases of the moon: Plant vegetables that bear above ground during the period of a waxing moon (the period between a new moon and a full moon.) Plant your root crops during a waning moon (the period from full to new moon.)
• Don’t trust the almanac’s frost-free date of April 15 for Lexington, however. We all know that our most reliable frost-free date around here is Derby Day. Stick with what you know!
• The general weather outlook for the Ohio Valley according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac seems like it could be believable based on what has happened already. For instance the outlook for late December and early January was off by just a few days. The almanac predicted that Dec. 18-22 would experience “rain, then snow, sunny, seasonable, Dec. 23-31, rainy periods, mild,” and Jan. 6-14 calls for rain to snow and cold. Go figure. Jan. 15-21, snow and very cold, they say. I hope, however, that its summer predictions for us are flawed because those forecasts have us on a course of below-normal precipitation, and we certainly don’t need another year of that!