Farm Progress

Your Place and Ours: Whether it's 6 inches of snow or 40-mph winds, Mother Nature gives farmers plenty to talk about.

June 1, 2017

4 Min Read
NEVER A DULL MOMENT: There's never a dull moment when it comes to Nebraska weather, and no one understands that like those involved in agriculture. Farmers rely on weather information and apps to determine when to perform field operations.Don McCabe

By Diane Becker

In reading our young daughter's elementary school yearbook, it was endearing to see that kids still say they want to be pro baseball, basketball or football players when they grow up. Kids never change, although I didn't want to be a professional volleyball player when I was in the fourth grade. I wanted to be a TV meteorologist.

Predicting weather and then telling the viewing audience what would be happening in their area the next day or two looked like the ideal job. You are the wizard of all weather knowledge, and it is your responsibility to announce it to the world.

I even practiced being a weatherman by pointing a stick at a map I drew with chalk on our concrete block basement wall. I used different colors to draw cold fronts and warm fronts and little suns on the bumpy wall as I told my viewing audience if they could expect sunshine for the coming weekend. It was a prestigious occupation to shoot for. I might have gone that direction if it hadn't been for my love for all things language-related and my distaste for all things science-related.

It's no wonder the weatherman was an important individual in our house. Weather was big in our farm family. When the weather came on during the half-hour news, all eyes were on the TV and mouths were shut. When you have hay to cut and six kids to feed, you'd like to know if it's going to get rained on before you cut hay. There isn't a lot you can do when Ken Siemek says we were getting rain or weren't getting rain. It's not like he made it rain or not rain, but sometimes it felt like he was the one responsible.

He usually had some sort of important weather news to tell. In Florida, unless there's a coming hurricane, the weather forecast is all the same — hot. In Nebraska, weather is newsworthy nearly every month of the year. Whether it's the 6 inches of snow to expect or the 40-mph wind headed our way, weather is rarely boring.

The weatherman's pointer would first be directed at each town on the map, highlighting its high temperature of the day. He would then need to walk to a different map to show what the high temperature was expected for the coming day. I think they used sticky tape to add cutouts of blue cold fronts and red warm fronts. It was a far cry from the live satellite views we currently see for weather reports.

My parents, who depended on weather forecasts for their livelihood, have been gone for over 20 years and would be flabbergasted at the evolution of weather forecasting.

It wasn't too long ago that we were excited to see the digital weather forecast in black and green imagery on our screen with the touch of a button. It was empowering to see the weather when we wanted instead of having to wait for the exact minute at the noon weather forecast on our AM/FM radio. All of a sudden we could catch the weather forecast 24 hours a day.

When we got our first personal computer, weather forecasting really became available to the layman. The feature I showed people first on my new Apple computer was how we could get nearly real-time weather maps. I was as close to being a TV weatherman as I'll ever be when I showed my aunt how you could type in an address and get any weather map or forecast in the world.

Even with all the weather information we have available to us now, seeing what the weather is going to do hasn't gotten the least bit boring. Nebraska weather is as interesting as ever.

I have three weather apps on my smartphone, and I check them all and sometimes still open up a separate webpage on my screen to see what a different site has for a forecast. Using my Weather Radio app, my phone will sound an alarm if there's a tornado watch or warning. Another app lets me follow the four different locations of my family, and what their weather is doing. I may not be a weather forecaster, but I have been known to call my daughter in Kansas City to tell her to watch for a nasty thunderstorm headed her way.

Even though we don't cut hay, as farmers, we're still checking the weather a few times a day. Let's say Tom is planning to spray tomorrow. He can look at an hourly forecast to put off spraying until 9 p.m. when the wind is supposed to slack off.

When a bank comes up in the west, I pull up the satellite picture to see if there is red or the dreaded pink in the cloud to know whether we should get the cars, pickups and equipment into the shed or not.

Even with all of the data available to us with a few clicks, we still like to turn on the TV weather forecast at 10 p.m. and see what they have to say about the next day's weather. Crazy? I guess it's still nice to hear a synopsis of the day's weather and the forecast for the next few days from a friendly face. Maybe it's not too late for me to live the dream.

Becker writes from Madison.


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