Of the many ways in which social media and the internet is stressing us out, weather apps take first prize for stressing out more people more often than anything else. I'm serious. Facebook and what have you are small fry compared to weather apps and weather websites. It seems innocuous, checking your phone or your computer on a Monday morning to see what the week holds weather wise, but don't be fooled, these apps will pile on the anxiety quicker than standing naked before a crowd of thousands to sing the national anthem.
How many times a day do you check the weather on your phone. Once? Twice? More than a few times per day? How often do you look at the long range forecast? The 28 day rainfall forecast? The 12 month forecast?
There's a sound case to be made that reliable weather forecasts are essential tools for industrial scale farmers. If you're planting a thousand acres of winter wheat and depend solely on rainfall to germinate your seed and get your crop off to a decent start, then fair enough, an accurate prediction of rainfall is critical to success. The same is true if you're harvesting hay or need to protect your crop from a black frost. Goodness knows it's handy to know that a cyclone is bearing down on your house.
But for the small scale professional farmer, the amateur smallholder and the enthusiastic backyard grower, weather apps are a bit like combustion engines, which generate a small amount of energy in relation to a huge amount of waste. They promise efficiency, but the truth is, weather forecasts offer a small amount of usefulness but uteloads of anxiety about what will or won't happen tomorrow, the next day, or 28 days hence.
I should caveat this by saying that I don't want to trivialise clinical mental illness. I studied psychology at uni. Mental illness is real and I know that it's potentially devastating for sufferers. The kind of anxiety I'm talking about is the sort of low level anxiousness that all of us experience: A general nagging feeling, a sense of worry, a concern about what might happen in the future rather than what is happening right now.
I've been there, incessantly checking the weather forecast for signs of rain during a drought. I've obsessed over a cool change during a heatwave and I've poured over the long range charts for signs that my kids and I might wake up to our first ever snowy morning. But does all this obsessing actually change the outcome? Can checking the weather on your phone every half hour serve as a 21st century raindance, causing the heavens to split open and wash away all of your concerns?
Course not. No-one truly knows what will happen in the future and even the best weather forecasts are nothing more than educated guesses made by hydraulically cooled supercomputers. A forecast model is a prediction, not a tangible outcome. Weather, nature, is out of our control. If we truly acknowledge this fact, I can't help but think we'd save ourselves huge amounts of emotional energy and possibly even attain a level of contentment that actually makes food growing a joy rather than a cause for frown wrinkles.
My conclusion is this: Why stress about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Have a single check of the forecast at the start of the working week, set a rough course for the next seven days, then just deal with whatever comes your way now, in the present. Our ancestors managed to feed themselves and their communities without checking Weatherzone every half hour. Why can't we?