Today’s Forecast – “There will be weather everywhere…!”

Apologies to you all, yes, I know we ‘British’ (I’m comfortable with being described thus, after all, it’s what my Passport says I am) have a supposed obsession with the weather, but maybe this is why.  Its gone crazy here, not so much the snow but the Siberian temperatures.  Today I woke to the tenth day of deep snow – not that any has fallen for a few days now but it just ain’t thawing – but this morning was just something else.  A severe ‘hoar frost’ had fallen and the sparkling crystals of frozen moisture drifted like stardust from a Fairy’s wand sparkling in the morning sunlight.

Haw frost on Hazel.

Christmas scene indeed, however this is not snow on the trees, it a deep hoar frost that stayed put despite six hours of sunshine. These hazels were coppiced some years ago and are 'home' to those pesky pheasants at night.

The beauty of the scenery still overcomes the nuisance of not being able to get ‘baby-car’ home.  I have not needed to get out for some days but in any case the 90 (a land rover from my collection) loves the challenge, and a challenge it is.  Frozen ground causes the axles to ‘bottom out’, that is I get stuck !  The snow is now so frozen a spade will not penetrate.

Frozen track leads home.

Its worth the trouble, but as can be seen, the tracks are pure ice, no matter how many 'wheel drive' you have, they just 'slip slide away' - but its good fun... for a while.

Well, so what, its winter, its Wales, what do you expect.  True, but when you consider the weather throughout Britain, it is rather ‘exceptional’.  So exceptional in fact that the last time anything like these levels of minus temperatures (-20C) were recorded was 1792 !

Of course that clearly shows that its got nothing to do with climate change  then, doesn’t it ?

Well maybe, but look more widely and the picture gets somewhat scary – or at least I think so.

We are freezing to the point that the economy is losing billions, we are freezing so that schools have to close ! (why is our media so obsessed with schools being closed, who cares !) we are freezing, and more importantly, to the point that people are dying.  However, its not just us.

I saw a Reuters report that in Poland the death rate is rising alarmingly due to their extreme weather.  Israel is on fire because of extreme drought and heat, flooding in Albania has killed dozens and destroyed towns and washed away farmland, Venezuela is flooding, Australia, China are suffering; oh yes, and the ice is melting…..

What can we do about it ?  Not a lot, but the stupid media in this country seems to love suggesting that ‘They’ weren’t prepared.  ‘They’ are variously the railway companies, the local authorities, the Government, the Airlines, the Airports Authority, etc. etc.  Mostly however the moans are all about transport.  Roads are blocked – well yes, that would be the snow then wouldn’t it; the railways can’t run, lines and points are frozen, the silly people who caught the last train from Victoria to Brighton ended up spending the night on the train and bemoaned how cold it was, how nobody told them what was happening, how very very angry they were; that woud be the snow then wouldn’t it, oh yes, and the fact that stupid people chose to ignore pleas to not travel.  Worst drama of all, aeroplanes were stuck as airports ceased to be able to operate, I think it was too much snow on the runway (sounded awfully like the moaning and groaning about the volcanic ash cloud to me), “why didn’t they have more snow blowers, why didn’t they have enough cans of de-icer why why why ???” Why didn’t you just listen to the warnings and stay at home, you wingeing winter escapers.

We have been warned for years that we are going to have to change our ways, that extreme weather will hit our modern societies hard, that unless we stop the stupid travelling, by road, and worst of all, by air, we will just have to suffer the consequences.

I have a certain guilt, having flown recently and been driving too much lately, so I sit quietly and wait.  Our friends across the water have a saying,  “Shit happens” – we need to adopt and adapt it, “Snow happens”.  Sort yourselves out, stop being so stupid and trying to drive in snow – and yes, even four wheel drives are not the all conquering panacea of ice, you just end up with four wheels skidding and, more importantly, velocity is a factor of speed times weight, a big sliding 4 X 4 hits another big bloody 4 X 4 harder than a little micro car does.  Use clothing as a means of keeping warm, warm clothes not the sort of slinky top a woman stuck in a car in Scotland – dead when they found her -had on.  Drinks are a must – water not wine – food is helpful, shovels even.  The other night dozens and dozens were benighted on a motorway in Scotland ! Why would you even set out when all the advise was DON’T TRAVEL ! ?  I see that a pub in the highlands had to host the owner and 8 members of staff for 8 days and nights – hope they liked each other !  Over a hundred kids and staff were stuck in a school all night, what can you say. Beyond a shadow of doubt what’s the best way of avoiding getting stuck ?  (answers in the comment box please !)

Is it that old addage “It won’t happen to me”, or is it that we have become so disengaged from nature that it becomes inconceivable that, with our technical superiority and science, nature could ever be the winner.  There is certainly a division between the urban dweller and we out in the rurality.  No-one I know out here worries about this, no-one I know cares if they can’t go out or go to WORK !  The shopping is organised, food supplies are in – its winter after all.  Townies think they are never going to get a problem, they think Trains, Planes and Range Rovers will always get going – I have news for you city folk, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough have the sense to NOT get going’.

I came face to face with a good example of the successful marketing of the 4X4 brigade only this week.  A very good friend of mine, who lost her partner recently, needed some house fixing done.  I went over, she was wondering whether she should go to a dance in the upper reaches of the valleys at Ebbw Vale (in fairness she wanted some cheering-up).  Now given that it was actually impossible to get a car into or out of her farm yard, given that traffic on the road was hardly moving, given that to get there she would have to cross one of the highest roads in Wales (which in any case had been closed for days), one might be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the very suggestion.  “But I’ll use ……..’s  jeep, that will be Ok won’t it?”  What could I say ?  She went, she got to the dance, scared out of her wits, and then, witless, she tried to return at midnight……… it was a long, cold (and therefore dangerous) night with her and her friend stuck in a tin can high on the Brecon Beacons.   Apparently, so we are being told, its because, unlike Scandinavia and the east coast of the U.S., we are just not used to it and, more importantly, we cannot afford, as a society, to bear the cost of being prepared for the off-chance of heavy snow.  That seems sensible doesn’t it, but COMMON SENSE is free !

Have you noticed also how, this year, volcanoes have been unusually active and the odd earthquake has shaken the sea bed.  Volcanic ash was seemingly only a problem for airlines who lost millions of dollars….. wait ’til America’s big one blows, yep, we won’t be worrying about air travel then.

A foggy morning in Wales

The main roadways are being kept clear, just. Freezing fog however is not influenced by 'gritting', its just freezing fog.

I guess that all around the world, local weather forecasting concentrates on what is happening in that country.  Occasionally, if something really startling is happening somewhere else – especially if some Australian town is threatened by bush fire – it gets a mention.  Its only when one begins to look at events around the world, at how many nations are being affected by extreme / unseasonal / uncharacteristic weather patterns that the idea of climate change begins to seem a bit worrying.

Oh yes, and now the prophecies are really beginning to click into place – the animals are turning against us – and tragic as it is for the woman eaten by a Red Sea shark, if she’d stayed at home and stuck it out, like what people used to do, instead of escaping to the sun out of season (we are like fruit, we have and need our seasons, especially if we are from northern climes) she could have had a White Christmas, a Stille Nacht, we can’t all keep trying to outdo nature whilst continuing to ‘anger’ it.  Snow is the result of cold air blowing from the arctic regions, across the North Sea gathering moisture which dumps on us.  Warm wet westerlies, which any 15 year old will tell you, is what we should get this time of year, are blocked by a cold low pressure system, the jet stream is too far south, we have buggered the weather systems by flying to the sun in winter, how bloody ironic, don’t you think …

The real tragedy, for us, that’s you and me, is that Welshwaller has little to report from the land of stone.  Its all strangely frozen!

Never mind, there’s always my other ‘life’ (it doesn’t really make it as an answer to the phrase many of my friends quote to me, “Get a Life!”).  I’ve been frantically getting text and pictures together to send to the Web site designer; a launch is imminent – if only by virtue of a sudden deadline imposed by the grant giving body ! It does me good to get into it, it always gets me excited and enthused, and I find once again some ‘positive thinking’ begins to shade-out the ‘SAD’,  which is my excuse for sitting for hours by a roaring log fire, eating inestimable numbers of varied mince-pies and -or so my ever decreasing available winter clothing suggests – getting fatter by the day !!

International 434

This is another recent arrival to my stable of vintage/classic tractors. Its the second from the home of a dear old gentleman who departed this life some months ago, his nephew agreed to honour the old boy's wish that it came to me and here it will stay. Its a real gem and is already working for its keep, its good in deep snow !

I have recently brought home the second of the tractors from an estate in the Tywi valley.  This one is a McCormick International 434, manufactured in 1968, so nowhere near as old as the Standard Fordson, but still old.  Its has spent the last 25 years doing light duties at the estate, the hardest job was ‘topping’ the grass on the archery lawn !  I did some ‘servicing’ on it whilst I was restoring the walled garden at the estate.  I remember the old gent having problems with the hydraulic lift arms – they didn’t go up – so I asked him when it had last been serviced………………………. that (times 5 minutes) is the length of the silence that followed, not, as it happened, because he was trying to remember, no, because he didn’t understand the question !  In truth it had never been touched since the day he bought it.

I was worried about the anti-freeze, it too had never been changed.  I needn’t have worried, there was no water in it; just a thick gravy like gunge which kept on trickling out once I managed to free up the drain cocks.  Three flushings were necessary before any clean water could be seen emanating from the drains.  I filled it with a 50/50 anti-freeze solution.  That was four years ago, when it came here I did it all again, it was definitely needed – especially now we are getting these temperatures.  I have sent for an oil filter and fuel filter for it’s certain they badly need changing too.  It never ceases to amaze me how tractors just keep  chugging on despite years of unloved labour.  I haven’t decided yet whether to do a full restoration on this tractor, its worthy of it for sure, but as yet this wonderful little 65hp tractor is not recognised as a valuable machine.  I’ve always liked McCormick’s, right from my first sighting of one – well two actually – in an old barn hidden in an overgrown copse in an Oxfordshire field way back in the early 1970s.  I never followed up on them, I should have, I didn’t even know what they were, they turned out to be rare, even then.  One was the famous Farmall A, a wartime tractor sent over from the U.S. as part of the lend-lease programme.  The other was the smaller Farmall B.  My life is littered with such missed chances, be they tractors, jeeps, vintage cars, women !!

Digging through the artefacts in my ‘museum’ is making me realise just how much is there.  Because I only take out small sections – relating to a particular activity such as haymaking or butter-making, I never get to see it all together.  I have been re-discovering tools I haven’t seen for some years, to be honest, some I forgot I had (often resulting in me acquiring another of the same !).

I’m beginning, at last, to see the way the web-site will flow and how my talks and exhibitions will evolve.  I’m having to read and re-read a lot of the old books about techniques and terminology, its frightening how much I have forgotten, especially during the last three years or so whilst I’ve been ‘back at University’.  I am still gathering photographs of artefacts still in-situ like the wonderful haywain I showed you recently.  One item in my collection is a hay grab, an American invention of the mid 1800s called a ‘harpoon’, which revolutionised unloading wagons brought from the fields full of hay.  I recently came across one still in the Dutch barn where it had been installed over a hundred years ago and where the present owner remembered his father using it whilst he led the horse.  The grab ran on a rail and was ‘tripped’ with a rope to release the load once the horse had pulled it into place.  There were numerous similar ideas and I have several in my collection, but to find this harpoon type still in-situ was quite a thrill.

An american designed Hay Harpoon.

This hay harpoon hangs still in the barn near Llandovery where it has worked out a century of hard labour; I wonder what Health & Safety would make of it today !

I have several types of hay grab but the harpoon type is quite unusual.  It was first patented in 1864 by Edward Walker and known as the harpoon horse hay fork. A company called D.B. Rogers & Sons bought Walker’s patent and made some improvements but insufficient field trials resulted in a bad season and the majority of farmers who had bought one returned it, somewhat irritated !  The problem lay mainly in the ‘tripping mechanism’, but an inventor named A.J. Nellis saw the problem, and the potential, and bought all the rights.  With his amendments the harpoon won 76 State Fairs and over 100,000 were sold under the name the ‘Nellis double harpoon hay fork’.  In Britain this patent was licensed to Ripley Co. of Derby and they produced some 5,000 units here in Britain.

An example of a 'harpoon horse hay fork' of the double pronged variety.

My example of a double fork hay harpoon, produced by Ripley & Co of Derby circa 1910, as it came from a farm only a few miles from the one pictured still in-situ, I imagine that to be by the same maker, supplied no doubt by the same supplier, Davies' of Lampeter.

The more common type, and able to lift far more of the crop – I have been told that the harpoon took four to five lifts to empty a Gambo of hay with this type two full grabs were often sufficient- was the four tine grab.

Although designed to be used to build ricks – with the aid of a mast and pulley – these much heavier grabs were fitted into the new ‘Dutch barns’ which became fashionable in the early C20th.

I must get a picture of one of this type hanging in an old barn – I know of several !

A 4 tine hay grab of the early C20th

The 4 tine grab shown in an open stance, the distance between the forks is about 3ft / 95cms and as it is lifted the tines pull inward to grip the hay load.

A 4 tine hay grab

Another example from my collection, essentially the same technology but larger lifting capacity.

The current BBC1 series ‘The Edwardian Farm’ (successor to last year’s ‘Victorian Farm’) is demonstrating how British engineering was adapted to agriculture.  It’s a fascinating series and just up my street.  Unfortunately it doesn’t really give sufficient credit to the huge developments that American agriculture gave to the British farming scene.  Whilst much of the machinery was made here, its patents were often in the United States, indeed many British inventors only found interest in their ideas in the New World, agriculture by and large was a poor relation as far as British engineering was concerned, Railways and Ships and of course War, were the main fields of innovation.  Even the early steam ploughing engines came out of Military engineering.

Machinery which fundamentally changed the methods of farming here, such as the reaper binder, the horse drawn mower, various horse rakes and seed drills as well as the all important ‘muck spreader’ all had their origins in the huge Prairies of the mid-west.

Nature Calls:

As I’ve been talking about Hoar Frost, I thought it might be an idea to explain what it is and why it happens.

When moisture saturated air comes into contact with hard surfaces which are themselves below freezing, the water droplets in the air crystalise  into small icy droplets and stick to the object.  Sometimes, as in the photos here, this can be Surface Hoar but often it just forms in the air, which indeed it has been doing here for the last two days, hence my ‘sparkling diamonds’ drifting on the air.  This Air Hoar is spectacular but really demonstrates just how cold it really is.  Did you see the guy on TV, in Moscow I think he was, throwing a saucepan of hot water into the air and it immediately turned to vapour and then to air hoar ?  Sometimes, in deep crevasses or hollows in the ground you will see Crevasse or Depth Hoar forming, usually because the surface of the rocks or moss is freezing. This frost, which is sometimes called Rime or White Frost results from the tiny deposition of water vapour onto these cold, below freezing surfaces, and is very spectacular, it is a Radiation Frost and, in case you hadn’t noticed, it means its cold outside !

Silver Hoar on Silver Birch

The Hoar Frost hangs picturesquely on the Silver Birch in my garden, they are made for each other.

The season of Goodwill is on us, the shops (apparently !) are full of goodies, the party season begins,  oh yes, and its time to write (and send if you remember) those jolly snowy scened Christmas Cards.  I may as well just take a picture !

Stay warm people (or cool if you are reading this ‘down under’ !), stay safe.  I should get one more post out to y’all before the big day, in the meantime, Post me a Yule-tide comment just to let me know someone out there enjoys the frantics and antics of

Welshwaller !


One Response to “Today’s Forecast – “There will be weather everywhere…!””

  1. World Spinner Says:

    Today's Forecast – “There will be weather everywhere…!”…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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