Sundial

At the center of our garden is a sundial sitting on a beautiful brick pedestal. It can not only tell the time of day down to the exact minute, at least on a sunny day, but also can tell you what day of the year it is and where and when the sun will rise and set each day. Engravings declare our exact longitude (110 degrees, 0 minutes and 53.0 seconds W) and latitude (48 degrees 2’, 15.4” N, which is about the same as Paris). It also gives our altitude as 3158 feet or 963 meters above sea level. It was built for me by John Davis of Ipswich, UK in 2004 for this exact location and is accurate within 20 miles of the center of my garden. What you read from our sundial is sun time which must be corrected to local clock time using charts printed on brass plates lying next to the sundial. These charts give the adjustments due to our longitude as well as the relative speed of the earth’s rotation on that day. Did you know that rotation time varies as much as 30 minutes as the earth orbits the sun?  That was something I did not know which I had to learn in order to change sun time to clock time. At our location, the sun time lags behind clock time by 4 to 34 minutes during the year. Our longitude is 5 degrees west of the North Dakota boarder where the time zone changes from Central Time to Mountain Time in America.  This means the sun is always 20 minutes behind clock time.  As you move west from the place where the time zone changes, sun time falls behind clock time by 4 minutes per degree which is determined by dividing the 1440 minutes in a day by the 360 degrees in the circle which goes around the earth.  The other portion of the correction is due to the variation in the rotation time of the earth.

Some tell me they would rather have a clock and a calendar but my sundial to me is a great source of beauty and wonder and I have great fun showing it off and explaining how it works to all who visit our farm.   When I first visited the plantation homes of Washington, Jefferson and Monroe in Virginia  during my college and high school days, I saw that they each had a sundial in their yard.  I was fascinated by that and thought it would be great to have one of my own someday.   A few years ago, after reading that there once was a sundial in the ancient Roman Forum which also indicated the day of the year, I decided that my sundial should have that same ability.   I also thought it would be fun to have it show where the sun would rise and set throughout the year.   I soon discovered that a sundial, in order to be accurate, has to be built for the exact location it will be placed.  I could find no one to build a sundial for me in America but by using the internet I finally located John Davis in the UK who used to build sundials.   He told me he was no longer building sundials as they can become too monotonous for him.  After I told him of all the things I wanted to include on my sundial, he said “Well now that sounds pretty interesting.”  I was finally able to convince him to build one for me.  I visited him once at his home while I was on one of my trips to the UK for a food show before the sundial was done and saw it under development.  It was great to meet him in person and see the progress he was making.  It was an exciting day when the finished sundial arrived at my house.  It was made from beautiful shiny brass which is now somewhat tarnished and was all I hoped it would be.  The sundial works because the ever changing relation of the sun and the earth is in perfect order and therefore completely predictable.   The motto on a plate before my sundial taken from Holy Scripture explains the reason for this order by declaring that “all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” And so it is.