Weather Vanes

Get blown away

There is nothing as charming as seeing a running horse weather vane spinning merrily in a crisp fall wind, or watching the frost silver the lawn ornaments over by the gazebo.

Weather vanes are considered some of North America 's most quaint antiques and collectibles; they're a great depiction of the early Folk Arts. They call up simpler times and are most often seen on top of red barns in patchwork-quilt Folk Art calendars, but you can have one on your shed and always enjoy what the breezes will bring to your garden.


Weather vanes are actually modern versions of Anglo-Saxon metal flags that flew above fortresses and castles long ago. The first recorded instance of a vane was actually in ancient Athens, and was a figure of the god Triton adorning the top of the Tower of Winds. Because winds were considered magical to the ancients, wealthy villa owners erected weather vanes that depicted gods.

Vikings also had weather vanes that ornamented their ships and churches. Historically, most weather vanes were roosters, as a reminder of Jesus' prediction that a cock would crow on the morning after the Last Supper until His disciple Peter had denied knowledge of Him three times.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, weather vanes let farmers and homeowners know which way the wind was blowing. They varied from being extremely simple to very decorative. If on a barn roof, they indicated what kind of farm the operation was; for example, a cow would represent a dairy farm or a chicken would indicate poultry. The vanes were traditionally hand-crafted for the home they adorned and were very attractive.

Modern Weather Vanes

Today, weather vanes are an excellent example of garden decor and are often hung on walls and sheds without their directional rods, just as a wall-hanging. Still more are seen whirling cheerfully on the tops of garden buildings or pointing the way the wind is blowing, although not always accurately, if it's a gentle wind. This is because ornamental vanes are not designed to be completely aerodynamic. You can find weather vanes that will stick into the ground, as well, if you don't want to risk breaking your neck on the top of a shed.

Weather vanes are almost always made of metal and some are more intricate than others. In Victorian times, the vanes were large imposing affairs made of wrought-iron and fashioned to match the roofs of old mansions. These vanes are in much demand for Victorian Revival homes. You can find a simple weather cock or go all out with a weather vane festooned with gazing balls and all sorts of ornaments. Weather vanes have expanded far beyond the simple farm animal and now can be seen in butterflies, jungle animals, domestic cats and dogs and even buildings or people. Other garden decor items, such as wind spinners, wind socks and garden windmills also capture the wind's energy to delight your garden guests. These operate on the same principle as weather vanes, but tend to be cheaper, made of plastic or fabric, and are for decoration only.

A weather vane kit will come with a brass or copper figure, directional rods lettering north, south, east and west, and mounting screws and equipment. Some may even have areas for flagpoles to attach or multiple arms with different figures in a theme.

When installing your weather vane, make sure that the figure can turn freely in the winds. This is especially important if you are mounting it where strong gusts can potentially damage it. Remember, weather vanes point to the direction the wind is blowing, so if your vane points south, the wind is coming from the north.

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