August means that the growing season is in full swing for most of the country. Farmers across North America are watching their crops grow, and are hoping for a bountiful harvest in September. For most farming families, tips on when to plant and what signs indicate fair weather were passed on from generation to generation. This month we’ll explore some of these farm beliefs:
TURTLES – A farmer’s tale says that if you find box turtles crossing a road, rain is on the way. Spend time learning more facts about turtles that are local to your area. Call your local forest preserve to arrange for a ranger to come in and talk about local turtles, or take a trip to a pet store or aquarium to view turtles with participants. For a craft project related to turtles, have participants paint rocks like a turtle shell and glue small pieces of green or brown felt to the bottom side of the rock to look like hands, feet, and a head. Hide your turtles in your community garden, or participants can take their creations to decorate their apartments.
SPIDER WEBS – Another key to predicting rain, according to some farming folklore, is watching for spiders spinning webs. A spider spinning a web means no rain. Have a bit of spider fun with string art. Work with your maintenance department to have the patterns already completed and the nails already adhered to the wooden surfaces. A quick internet search for “easy string art patterns” can give you a variety to choose from, or you can just make a circle, square, or star with nails before passing it off to participants. Use yarn instead of fine string to make it easier to handle, for those who may have fine motor issues. Crisscross the string from nail to nail, wrapping it around each nail before heading to the next. Participants can make these as intricate as they would like – there is no right or wrong here.
MOVIE TIME – You can’t talk about spider creations without mentioning the most beloved web of our time: Charlotte’s Web. Consider playing this classic for your audio book club time or rent the DVD for your movie matinee this month.
MOON AND SNOW – Farmers didn’t just track the rain. Snow was an important weather occurrence. Some farmers believe that if there is a halo around the moon, snow will arrive soon. Celebrate this chilly superstition by hosting a Snow Cone Social. If you have a local snow cone stand in your area, invite them to bring their equipment over, or look into renting an ice shaver to make the treats in front of the residents. Add a bit of whipped cream to the top to represent the moon halo that brings snow.
CRICKETS AND TEMPERATURE – According to farmer tales (and some scientists), you can find out the temperature by counting the number of cricket chirps. Count the number of cricket chirps in 13 seconds and then add 40 to find out the air temperature. Use this tale as a chance to explore some nighttime insects in your area. You can invite a presenter to talk about your local insects or host an evening walk in your community to check out the insect nightlife yourself. Watch for fireflies, listen for crickets, and enjoy the cooler nighttime temperatures.
CORN AND WINTER – Some farmers say that the more husks on the ear of corn, the harder the winter will be. Usually, corn has 3 to 4 layers to shuck before hitting the ear; anything more than that can indicate a rough winter is on the way. Put this to the test by having a corn boil. August is a wonderful month for sweet corn; gather participants to shuck corn together. Count the layers of husks as you shuck and store the information away until next spring to see if it predicted accurately. After you shuck the corn, ask food services to boil the ears, dip each in butter, and provide salt for participants to add. Invite family members for an easy, but fun, summer evening together.
EARLY MORNING WORK – Farmers typically live by the saying “early to bed, early to rise.” Consider hosting a Farmer’s Breakfast, inviting local farmers to enjoy a big breakfast with participants at your community. Serve over-easy eggs, ham, and potatoes, with strong coffee. Centerpieces could be bowls of farm fresh eggs, with a checked cloth napkin. Encourage discussion at the tables by placing a few conversation starters at each plate.
FARMER’S BUREAU – Farming takes a lot more than just a few superstitions. Invite a representative from your local Farmer’s Bureau to give a presentation to participants about how farmers grow their crops and raise their animals.
FARM TOUR – Set up a trip to visit a local farm with participants. You can tour a large farm or a smaller version. In any case, your participants are sure to learn a bit about farming in 2017.
WEATHER PREDICTIONS – While spider webs and box turtles may predict the weather, there are other instruments that can give you a more accurate forecast. Invite a local meteorologist to give a presentation about how weather is predicted nowadays.
WEATHER STATION – Turn your community into a bit of a weather station by placing rain gauges, barometers, and windmills near the windows of your community gathering places.
WOMEN ON THE FARM – Invite a local farm couple to talk about how the role of women has changed on farms over the past 50 years. Serve tea and fresh fruit.
LAVENDER AND LUCK – An old tale says that planting lavender by your gate brings good luck. Head to your local nursery to pick up some lavender so that participants can plant then place them near their apartment doors for a bit of luck. Ask your dining department to save canned vegetable or fruit cans as potting vessels to match the farming theme.
- According to the old wives’ tale, a pregnant lady who has heartburn will have a baby with lots of what? Hair
- Speaking of pregnancy wives tales’, if you carry the baby low before giving birth, it will be a what? Boy
- If your ears ring, someone must be doing what? Talking about you
- Having an itchy palm means you will come into what? Money
- Rain on your wedding day will bring you lots of what? Luck
- Which shoulder should you toss salt over to keep the devil away? Left
- Which water activity should you avoid for an hour after eating? Swimming
- If you eat too late at night, what might happen when you sleep? Nightmares
- How many years of bad luck will happen to you if you break a mirror? Seven
- What will happen if you cross your eyes? They will stay that way
A FARMER’S LIFE THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” ~ Will Rodgers
“A Farmer’s Life” was written by Haley Burress and Sue Hansen. Copyright 2017 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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