Browsing through the back pages of a gardening magazine recently, I came across a dazzling and tempting advertisement for weather vanes.
Now over my lifetime, these roof/garden accessories have never really occupied my thoughts. They’re nowhere near as vital as, say, a capacious water tank, nor as obsessively absorbing as a rain gauge.
But due to the power of advertising, I looked longingly at these beautiful fripperies and began to hanker after a weather vane for my own little pitched roof.
And so began the journey to
#71 Research Weather Vanes
This activity has thrown up so many questions.
- How long have weather vanes been around?
- Who purchases them?
- Are they in any way useful?
- Now I’m wandering the streets around home looking for them, how many have I missed over the years? (In short, every one of them)
- Why are there so many roosters on weather vanes?
This little cutie’s just a block away from home, and yet I’d NEVER spotted it!
Also known as wind vanes (which is a more logical title, bearing in mind the point of the arrow can only tell you where the wind’s coming from) it’s claImed they were invented over 2000 years ago by the Chinese and the Greeks, who independently arrived at the idea.
The Greeks love to say that their design was first, but I’d give bragging rights to the Chinese, as theirs was documented in 139 BC, a full 89 years ahead of the bronze Triton built atop the Tower of the Winds in Athens.
And despite it being the wealthy Greeks and Romans who adorned their homes with wind vanes in the shape of ancient gods, the term ‘vane’ is not a variant of ‘vain’ at all, but comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘fane’ meaning wind.
It does seem that they have little functional purpose for most domestic homes, but now I’m on the hunt for them, they’re the prettiest, most eye catching little adornments on a roof you’ll ever see. If you actually notice them.
Another one I’ve blindly walked past numerous times over 27 years
This brings me to the rooster question. I’m beginning to spot so many of these birds that I’ve lost my child-like excitement at finding another vane and feel disappointed if it’s a boring old rooster cut from the same template.
There are two theories for the prevalence of roosters. The first is that in the 9th century, Pope Nicholas 1 ordered their image be placed on every church steeple to remind the congregation of Peter’s thrice betrayal of Jesus (before the cock crowed). The second theory is that the tail is the perfect shape to catch the wind.
I have a third theory. If you’ve ever owned a rooster, you’ll know that they think their rightful place is on top.
It was pleasing to come across another vane nearby that didn’t bother with the rooster theme, though…
Yes. Another one close by that I’ve never noticed before [sigh].
Then I spotted a weather vane on our city’s railway station tower as I was hurtling along the Sydney to Melbourne freeway. It’s a big one, befitting such a building and I wish I had a camera with a telephoto lens to better see the design.
Almost the cause of a multi-car pile up on the M31
This led to a friend telling me that our Post Office tower also has one. As I first moved to Albury in 1978, this would make it, oh, 40 years during which I’ve managed to not notice it. D’oh.
The ball on top is simple, but the N-S-E-W takes the prize for artistry
One of the problems with weather vanes is that because they’re on the roof, they aren’t convenient to watch. It’d be just as easy to step outside and rotate your face through 360º to feel which way the wind is blowing.
Enter my Bunnings buddy, a peerless innovator and inventor, who’s designed the cleverest system to see the direction of the wind while the family sits in the living room.
With a wire and lever rig that’s way beyond my intellect to understand, let alone explain, he’s connected his roof’s weather vane down through the wall cavity into the living room so that a lever moves every time the vane does:
Here are three positions photographed to show how the lever moves.
But there’s more genius to this device. The lever has been cleverly attached to the back of a 3-D bird on a water colour painting of his property (done by the very talented estate cartographer, @catherineo’neilldesign) hanging on the wall, such that as the lever moves with the wind on the rooftop weather vane, so does the bird in the painting.
Can you believe this …?
It’s breathtaking in its beauty and cleverness. But quite scary the first time you visit my Bunnings buddy’s home. Seeing the bird move out the corner of your eye is akin to being in a haunted house where the eyes of an Old Master’s portrait flick about … watching, watching.
And the weather vane to which this marvellous device and painting is attached?
A bespoke masterpiece he designed, of course:
Now that I’ve returned to the gardening magazine ads that set me on this adventure, I’ve realised that vanes featuring icons like a cockerel, a ball or a bird are way too prosaic.
I’m going to have to design a vane that befits my home and my life.
Perhaps something like this one I mocked up on the computer …?