Posted by: winteridge | October 11, 2007

Weather or no…


I had almost forgotten about the Tug Hill Weather Stick. It kind of becomes a part of the landscape after a while. It is just there. I visited our camp with our realtor person to give him a tour, and we got to talking about the weather stick on our wall. Great conversation piece. I’m not sure that it really forecasts the weather-my brother calls it a “weather confirmer”-but it works, probably as accurately as most of those TV experts. You know; “today we will see a 50% chance of possible showers”.

Anyway, most camps and a lot of homes around the Tug have a weather stick in a prominent place, and they check it every day. The way it works is it is a peeled (barkless) limb measuring from 12-48 inches, attached to an outside wall or a tree near camp. When the stick curls up, you can expect good weather, down means rain. Straight out is undecided, or maybe unsettled. Works like a barometer, I guess. A good one-I like them about 3 feet long-will curl in a complete circle, either up or down. And they will last for years, until a heavy snow breaks them down.

I have heard that the weather stick was first discovered by the early settlers, who observed how certain trees curled up or down as the weather changed. Some have speculated that the idea came from the Native Americans, though I have my doubts that a warrior would worry about the weather when deciding whether or not to hunt, fish, make war, or visit the local casino.

I first met the Tug Hill Weather Stick many years ago while talking with Adam Salatin, who grew Christmas trees near Rectors Corners. Adam was a gregarious ol’ chap, we called him the Mayor of Montague, always had a million stories, some of them true no doubt. He used to make the weather sticks and sell them or give them (to the pretty gals) to tourists and visitors, along with a story and detailed instructions. For the price of a couple of drinks at the Montague, I got the secret from him about what wood he used, and I later made a number of weather sticks for friends and family. Balsam Fir.

I would look for a young balsam tree with straight limbs 2-4 feet long. The limbs usually grow in rings of 3 to 5, so one can cut 2-3 inches above and below a ring and split the main trunk, giving you 3-5 weather sticks with a base to attach to a wall. Drill a hole above and below the stick to attach it to a wall, and I like to carve a little arrow in the base showing which way is up. I have heard that some tree-saving folks will saw the limb off at the base, then drill a hole in a board or another tree, but I never tried that. Some like to harvest the limbs in winter, but I find that the bark peels best in July or August. Then hang the limb indoors to dry, or nail it up on an outside wall to season properly. You will know when it is working.

I have also heard this instrument called an Adirondack weather stick. I have even seen them advertised in magazines as Maine weather sticks, but those are puny little things about a foot long. Easier to mail, I guess. I was planning to make my fortune in retirement harvesting and selling these on the internet, but have not yet figured how to mail a 4-foot stick successfully. Anyway, no camp is really complete without a weather stick.


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