Almanac Offers Advice, Forecasts, Moon Charts, Humor
“I love it; it has a little bit of everything — it’s down to earth,” said resident Dottie Evans, who admits she has been reading The Farmer’s Almanac for 35 years. She looks forward to reading the coming year’s publication.
“Look ‘ere you leap,” is the small note of warning in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 2020 (number 228), regarding the coming year’s Leap Day on February 29, as stated on page 127. The coming year’s pages of planting instructions, predictions, lore, and advice has been out since August 27.
2020 is a Leap Year, and “February hath 29 days,” the almanac states.
The annual publication is calculated on “a new and improved plan for the year of our Lord 2020.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac, according to its cover, is “Useful, with a pleasant degree of humor.” In itty bitty font below February 29 is this question: “What is worse than raining cats and dogs? Hailing taxicabs.”
Ms Evans likes the Farmer’s Calendar, a commentary feature that runs alongside each month’s days and details. The calendar “is a short philosophy and observation that always makes you laugh,” Ms Evans said.
Other pages hint at when or where natural events take place. She does not necessarily “do what they advise, but I enjoy their bits of nature, such as when raccoons hibernate — how do they know? Or when hummingbirds arrive — how do they know?”
She also enjoys the “sky-watch; that’s something you could go look at. It’s useful if you’re into looking at the stars.” Constellations, sunrises and sunsets, and the moon’s patterns across the sky are all found inside the almanac.
The yearly forecasts “are fun, and you can find out if you’re going to be more wet that usual — they’re right 50 percent of the time,” Ms Evans said.
She has “nothing bad to say about it.” How does she use the almanac? “For the month you’re in — keep it open, peruse.”
For Ms Evans, the book is more of an amusement than a tool. “Maybe there are some real die-hard farmers who live by the charts and tables… You might find some people who use it actively, but for me, it’s something fun to pick up.”
Noting one other detail, she said, “There is a hole punched in the top left, so you can hang it on a string. So, if you’re standing in the kitchen, “stirring a pot, you can read through it.”
Page By Page
Page one explains this book’s mix of astrological charts, sunrises, tides, farming advice, and anecdotes. Established in 1792 by Robert B. Thomas, the book also provides a farmer’s calendar for every day of the year. For example, September 20 of 2020 is noted as the 264th day of the year. Sunrise is at 6:30 am, and sunset is at 6:44 pm. The day will be 12 hours and 14 minutes long.
The month of September, as stated in the Farmer’s Calendar, also includes the random phrase, “At the bus stop, kids hop to stay warm. It’s wet out as all get-out! Up north, there’s glory in the notches; everyone watches the leaf revue, ever familiar, ever new.”
On page two is the book’s list of contents, including amusement, astrology, astronomy, calendar, folklore, gardening, home remedies, nature, pets, weather, and more.
In a note to patrons on page four is the publisher’s message, “Yes, another year. Already.” As states the note, “Here, from our barn-red headquarters in Dublin, New Hampshire (See our live webcam at almanac.com), as we ponder and proof each page, we watch the seasons roll past, the months march forward, and the days yield one to next, and we think of you!”
One Gardening article talks about “The Flower With A Face. Pansies Are No Shrinking Violets!” One photo caption says, “According to ancient Greek mythology, the pansy got its color for Cupid’s arrow, which turned purple after piercing the heart of a white flower, causing it to bleed purple. It was said that just one drop of the flower’s juice would cause lovesickness, and this belief inspired yet another name for the flower: love-in-idleness.”
Under “Amusement,” is an article, “A Sound History Of Noise.” The article starts out, “Here is a common condition of modern life that disturbs our sleep, disrupts our emotions, impairs our thinking, and literally drives us crazy. This threat exists almost every place on the planet; those where it does not exist are disappearing every day. It has been present throughout human history, and it is getting worse all the time. It is noise.” The article carries across several pages, with illustration.
Recipes, including Coconut Cream Pie, fill the pages, and sandwiched between the tasty desserts is a page for The Old Farmer’s Store, touting “Gifts for any occasion!” The page also defines itself as “Purveyors of almanacs, calendars, cookbooks.” Some items listed include outdoor thermometers, glass sun catchers, wind bells, hand soap, balsam fir pillows, and more. Find them at almanac.com/shop.
Passing the recipes for stuffed shells, bacon horseradish penne pasta, and apple sausage pasta, is the Nature section. One article titled “Burro Into This … and don’t make a donkey out of yourself in the process,” says, “…donkeys remain subjects of undue ridicule and ignorance.”
The article continues, “Contrary to misperceptions, a donkey is not a horse with big ears.”
The General Weather Report and Forecast appears on page 97. Winter 2019-20, according to the almanac’s prediction, will see temperatures “below normal for the Heartland westward to the Pacific and in the Desert Southwest, Pacific Southwest, and Hawaii but above normal elsewhere… Snowfall will be above normal from the southern Appalachians northward through western Pennsylvania and most of Ohio…”
As noted on a map for the winter 2019-20, large blue swaths forecast the climate. The northeast is covered in a patch marked “wet & wild.” A summer of 2020 map predicts that Connecticut falls into the “sizzle & drizzle zone, with a swath of “wicked hot” hovering just two states to the north.
On page 206 are details more specific to the northeast. “Winter will be milder than normal, on average, with above-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be in early to mid-January and early February.”
The page then offers weather summaries by month from November of 2019, “Temp 37 …Snow, then sunny, cold,” through October 2020, “Temp 51. A few showers, cool, then mild.
Temperatures for December 2019 through March 2020 are predicted to hover from the low 20s to low 30s.
Following the weather for all regions is a page offering “Secrets of the Zodiac.” The first paragraphs look at the differences between astrology and astronomy. “Astrology is a tool we use to plan events according to the placement of the sun, the moon, and the planets in the 12 signs of the zodiac. In astrology, the planetary movements do not cause events; rather, they explain the path or flow that events tend to follow.”
The page offers hints for gardening by the moon and provides a chart “to find the best dates for the following gardening tasks.” For instance, “Prune: Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius.” Aries is March through April, Leo falls on July/August, and Sagittarius is late November to late December. The notes state, “During a waxing moon, pruning encourages growth; during a waning moon, it discourages it.”
Charts on the next pages indicate “Best Days For 2020.” Two to three days are selected for each month to do various things, including quit smoking, bake, brew, cut hair to encourage growth, start projects, end projects, paint, wash windows, go camping, entertain, buy a home, cut hay, breed animals, castrate animals.
The almanac advises on the best fishing days, offers gestation and mating charts for dogs, cats, pigs, and cattle, and indicates “nature’s calendar.” Before stating when to plant certain things, the almanac opens with a quote form Frank Lloyd Wright, “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
Included in a list for vegetables are these hints, “Plant peas when forsythia bloom. Plant potatoes when the first dandelion blooms. Plant onions when the red maples bloom.”
The 2020 almanac leaves nothing out. Under anecdotes & pleasantries is a “true kid emergency.” A six-year-old “lass” from Ireland wrote to NASA, “that she needed Pluto put back to full planet status … because she wanted to ‘work for ye but you need to fix this problem.’”
Under the “now they tell me” heading is this tidbit, “As if its voracious appetite hadn’t been enough of a clue, the supposed Tibetan mastiff puppy adopted by a family in southwest China definitely raised eyebrows at age two when it started walking on its hind legs — and was correctly identified as an Asiatic black bear.”
Every one of the almanac’s 256 pages either informs or entertains for the small cover price of $7.99.