gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Gone with the Wind

on April 6, 2013

A weather vane (or weathercock) is an instrument for showing the direction of the wind . They are typically used as an architectural ornament to the highest point of a building.
The design of a wind vane is such that the center of gravity is directly over the pivotal axis, so that the pointer can move freely on its axis, but the surface area is unequally divided. The side with the larger surface area is blown AWAY from the wind direction, so that the smaller side, with the pointer, is pivoted to face INTO the wind direction. For example, in a ‘Nor-Easter’ (a wind that blows FROM the north-east), the pointer will point TOWARD the north-east. Most wind vanes helpfully have directional markers beneath the arrow, aligned with the geographic directions.
But why do so many vanes have roosters on them?
In the ninth century A.D the pope reportedly decreed that every church in Europe should show a cock on its dome or steeple, as a reminder of Jesus’ prophecy that the cock would not crow the morning after the Last Supper, until the disciple Peter had denounced Him three times (Luke 22:34). Because of this story, “weather cocks” have topped church steeples for centuries, both in Europe and in America.Rather cheekily I think the ladies who embroidered the Bayeux Tapestry back in the eleventh century even included a scene of a craftsman attaching a rooster vane to the spire of the Westminster Abbey. In the picture you can see him on the left hand side.
Alternative theories about the origin of weathercocks on church steeples are that it was an emblem of the vigilance of the clergy calling the people to prayer, like a rooster crowing at sunrise, that it was derived from the Goths and is only possibly a Christian symbol, and that it is an emblem of the sun.
It is probably the banners which flew from medieval towers in Britain, Normandy and Germany which are the precursors to our modern weather vanes. The word “vane” actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “fane”, meaning “flag”. Fabric pennants would show the archers the direction of the wind. Later, the cloth flags were replaced by metal ones, decorated with the insignia or coat of arms of the lord or nobleman, and balanced to turn in the wind. From come the banners which the early American colonists favoured for their meeting halls and public buildings for example the butcher would have a bull or pig on his vane.
Early weather vanes had very ornamental pointers, but modern wind vanes are usually simple arrows that dispense with the directionals because the instrument is connected to a remote reading station. An early example of this was installed in the Royal Navy’s Admiralty building in London – the vane on the roof was mechanically linked to a large dial in the boardroom so senior officers were always aware of the wind direction when they met.
According to the Guinness World Records, the world’s largest weather vane is a Tío Pepe sherry advertisement located in Jerez, Spain. The city of Montague, Michigan also claims to have the largest standard-design weather vane, being a ship and arrow which measures 48 feet tall, with an arrow 26 feet long.
A challenger for the title of world’s largest weather vane is located in Whitehorse, Yukon. The weather vane is a retired Douglas DC-3 CF-CPY (yes that is a full size airplane!) atop a swiveling support. Located at the Yukon Transportation Museum beside Whitehorse International Airport, the weather vane is used by pilots to determine wind direction, used as a landmark by tourists and enjoyed by locals. The weather vane only requires a 5 knot wind to rotate.

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Nowadays if you have the cash and the inclination you can have a personalised weather vane. This one with the mummy hen and her chicks is actually covered in gold leaf, I’ll let you read the manufactures blurb for yourself….

This Hen with Chicks weathervane design is a new favorite here at West Coast Weather Vanes. We love the picture of the mother hen marching proudly ahead of her two chicks with a clutch of eggs balanced on top of each directional (north, south, east and west arm). As shown in the image here, we applied optional gold leaf to the hen’s beak, comb, and legs as well as the chicks’ beaks and legs. We also created four golden eggs….we stamped the names of the couple’s four children on the four eggs. Inside each egg is a lucky penny from the year each of the four children were born. The weather vane can be made in all copper or a combination of copper and brass. Because the weathervanes are made to order, the choice is yours.

Personalised Weather Vane
I think the Gillybirds would really love one of these atop their coop. Or maybe not. Perhaps if one of them lays a golden egg we will consider ourselves vain enough to having our own weather vane made.
In the meantime my usual indication of wind speed and direction is looking at Lucas the pup!

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