Friday, June 20, 2008

My Weatherglass Groove

I just hauled this old water barometer out of its lonely semi-retirement. Well, okay -- it wasn't really retired. It was just sort of on the shelf. Literally on the shelf.

It turned up at a second-hand store, I dunno -- a good ten years or so ago -- and I fell in love with it. Until then, I'd never even heard of a water barometer or, as they're sometimes known, weatherglass or thunder glass. They do a pretty good job of very basic weather forecasting, utilizing the action of atmospheric pressure on the water level. High pressure forces the water in the spout down, denoting good weather and low pressure allows the water to shoot up the spout, sometimes bubbling over, letting you know bad weather is on the way.

I was still living in Bandon when I first used the weatherglass and the water there is very heavy with mineral content. Over time an unsightly crust formed inside the spout -- and you know how hard a mineral crust is to get rid of. Especially when you're dealing with a delicate piece of glass. A very narrow, delicate piece of glass. To make matters even more difficult, the spout has a graceful swooping curve, requiring a cleaning probe that is both strong and flexible.

Q-tips, I found, worked well but only went in a short distance. Furthermore, I almost lost the cotton tip while swabbing away and that would have been a disaster. It's hard enough to either empty or fill the darned glass with water via that narrow spout. Retrieving solid objects would have been a whole lot like sucking a bath sponge through a soda straw.

In any case, the glass lay forlorn on the shelf, waiting for me to figure out a solution. You know how you get so used to seeing something that you don't see it anymore? Yeah. But a couple of days ago, while rearranging things on the shelf, I saw it again. Hmmm, I thought. Now just might be a good time to clean this puppy up. Either that or drill holes in it and play it like a water flute.

A little bit of vinegar and a doubled-up length of hairy household twine solved the problem of cleaning the spout. The twine was stiff enough to yard back and forth but flexible enough to navigate the curve of the spout without putting undue pressure on it. Yay for our side!

When you look at pictures of the weatherglasses for sale, you usually see them filled with beautiful blue liquid. I didn't have any food coloring on hand but I do have some wine vinegar. Seemed to me putting some of that in with the water would work on any little residual bits of crust I hadn't been able to remove. Later, when I pick up a little box of food coloring, I'll empty out the vinegar water, give it another good roto-rooting with some more twine, then refill the glass with some pretty water. Maybe ruby red. What do you think?

It'll surely be easier to "read" the water level in the spout when I get the food coloring. The vinegar color thins out as the water rises and the higher it goes, the harder it is to tell what the level is. In the above picture, for instance, the water is right up to the top and there is, in fact, a drop hanging from the bottom knob on the glass from overflow. The sky is clouding up again and the fog bank is starting to roll in. By midnight, it's going to be damp and overcast again.

Of course, I don't really need the weatherglass to tell me that. Looking out the window works just fine. But looking out the window doesn't make me feel like I'm touching the seventeenth century, when water barometers first began to fascinate folks. Besides, I do enjoy the sight of gracefully shaped glass. There's something uplifting about practical matters enhanced by beauty. As long as the mineral deposits don't mess with my groove.


~ Sil in Corea said...

That's a real beauty, Dee! I agree with you about beauty and usefulness being a package that can't be beat. Ruby red will be terrific!

That vinegar is a mite more colorful than our tap water here in Gwangmyeong. It's full of iron. (The soil is rusty red, too.) The iron-loaded water is healthy, but makes a poor cuppa java; I have to get mountain spring water for that.

Hugs from over yonder,
~ Sil

John Bailey said...

Those weather glasses really work! I made one when I was a student on a vacation job and left it behind. Years later I paid them a visit and they were delighted to show me my bit of glass and wood, still indicating atmospheric pressure. Happy memories.... thanks, Dee!

Bex said...

It's beautiful, Dee. I have often considered buying one but never have.

The Old Guy said...

So, Dee, for those days when your weatherglass overflows, you'll be needing something to deal with all that water that it foretells. Your post inspired me to "discover" rainchains. Seems like Oregon might be just the place for these things.

Wendy said...

Dee, for mineral build-up prevention, you could opt for distilled water, steam up your own "distilled" water if you're in an experimental mood, or perhaps try the addition of one of those products designed to prevent gunk build-up in steam irons.

Bonnie said...

Hmm I was going to suggest distilled water. Now I wonder how do you steam up your own?

kate&jim said...

That is beautiful, Dee. I've always admired them, myself.

PS: I bought and tried the scoopable feline pine! It's terrific! The cats actually like it too. Thanks for the tip!

The Old Guy said...

Well, it took a summer, but I finally came to the end of the two tons of bargain priced clay cat litter and, towards the end, diluted it with Feline Pine.

Thank you, Dee. One of the cats (not sure who) was pooping in the floor drain, probably because the clay stuff was sticking to his feet. So now, touch pinewood, everything is as I would wish it to be. The garbage collection team probably nearly died of shock when, on a Monday, they lifted the pail and it seemed to float instead of breaking their backs.

Great recommendation.