Saturday, 19 November 2011

November's Farmer's Calendar, Sky Watch, etc...

Farmer's Calendar - November

The psychrometer is a scientific instrument for the exact measurement of relative humidity. It's a clever little rig, invented around 1890 by a German physician and meteorologist, that works because of the different rates at which wet and dry objects cool. Two thermometers are mounted in a tube, protected against outside heat and cold. The bulb of one thermometer is dry; the other, wet. Because the moisture on the wet bulb evaporates and cools the bulb more quickly than the dry bulb cools, a comparison of their readings indicates the water content of the ambient air.

Today's humidity meters rely on electronics to measure the air's moisture. Those who prefer their psychrometry low-tech, however, need not despond, at least not in this house. We measure humidity by a device so simple it has only one moving part--the old plank door leading to the cellar. Each year, on a day in November, this door, which has been stuck tight since late spring, suddenly opens easily. All summer, the damp air has been swelling the door's pine planks, causing it to expand into its frame and jam. Now, with cooler, drier air outdoors and heating indoors, the boards give up their moisture and shrink. In June, the door will jam up again, but for now it's back in business, and furnishes as a good humidity gauge as we will ever need.

Sky Watch

Venus slowly emerges from behind the Sun at its faintest of the year, moving next to and in sync with Mercury just below it, from the 1st to the 15th. By mid-month, the duo stands 6 degrees high, 35 minutes after sunset. The changing angle of the zodiac to the horizon carries Venus higher by month's end, where it meets the crescent Moon 10 degrees up on the 26th in fading twilight. The month's real standout remains Jupiter. At a brilliant magnitude -2.9, this is the brightest it ever gets. It's already up in the east by nightfall, then out all night. In most places the length of night grows by 3 minutes daily at the start of November but falls to just one minute by month's end.

Dates, Feasts, Fasts, Aspects, Tide Heights
By now, most of what is left are the little interesting tidbits: tide information, such as at the end of 15 out of thirty days: it reads "Tides - {9.2, 9.1} (the first figure, 9.2, is over the 9.1 and denotes tide heights in Boston in feet). The astronomy tidbits, such as 26 November, on which it reads (above) conjuction of Mercury and the Moon. Right after it is the conjunction symbol, the symbol for Venus and the Moon, indication the conjunction of Venus and the Moon. I believe the times for the conjunctions are different, or it would have all been one line.

Symbol for Venus
There are also fun facts thrown in, such as 24 November: Transit of Venus first observed, 1639. (I wonder how easy that was to see, since telescopes were fairly crude at that time.) Not all the facts are astronomy-based, although those are my favourites. Some are just interesting: 21 November, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened, N.Y.C. 1964. Or 7 November, Magic Johnson retires from basketball, 1991, or one of my favourites: 4 November, Earthquake rang bells in Notre Dame basilica, Montréal, 1877. I love all those little tidbits of useless but interesting information.

Weather

And the last fun bit: threading its way along the section with the fun facts, astronomical bits and tides, runs a piece in italics that works its way down the right side. This gives the weather for the month. (The numbers are the days that the word or words show.)

1. Remember,
2. remember,
3. Gunpowder
4. Treason!
5. It's
6. cool
7. for
8. the
9. season.
10. Snowball
11. fights
12. and
13. chilly
14. nights
15. give
16. way
17. to
18. rising
19. temperatures;
20. snow
21. whitens,
22. sun
23. brightens
24. for
25. Turkey
26. Day,
27. we're
28. sure.
29. Pelting,
30. then melting!

Isn't that neat? I really enjoy reading everything in the Old Farmer's Almanac. It's entertaining and educational, always the best mix!

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