An oldie but goody

In Other Words


As the days have lengthened, the sun has once again become our constant companion. And although I am still shocked every day at just how early that sun makes its appearance, I am warmed, literally and figuratively, by its presence. With the sun have come warmer days, bright, fragrant blossoms and the promise of those long-remembered days at the lake. Colorama has rung in the unofficial start of the Grand Coulee summer, and Memorial Day is almost upon us, signaling that the rest of the country is ready to start summer too, officially or not.

Now that spring has firmly taken hold and summer is peaking at us from around the corner, I have found the urge to plant my garden overpowering. In years past, I have taken into account things like long-range forecast and the last frost date, and many years my guideline has simply been when my dog sheds his winter fur. Inexplicably, and perhaps foolishly, I have total faith that my dog is clued in to some larger cosmic weather data than I am. This year, I was delighted to see that my large black mutt has shed his winter coat long before I remember him doing so last year. Predictably, I was anxious to plant way too early. So instead of just blindly trusting my canine, I decided to try a different route and check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

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Like many people of my generation, the cover is familiar, even if the exact contents are not. Wrongly, I have assumed that the information this little book contained was out of date and anything that was worthwhile I could find online. Contradictorily, I also knew that this book I never found worth my time holds some sound truths that likely align with the same cosmic mystery my dog is clued in to.

I was surprised by a number of things as I thumbed through it, not the least of which was how pertinent the information was. I was blown away to read that this is the 220th consecutive edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the first one having been printed in 1792. I find that remarkable, especially since they have been predicting the weather with 90% accuracy using a secret formula derived by the books’ founder, with only slight additions to accommodate new technology.

I did find out some basics, such as the first and last frost dates, specific seven-day forecasts for our region for the entire year, planting tips for gardens of all types, and advice on lawn care. I also learned some quirky tidbits. I should have planted above ground crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, when the moon was waxing; and below ground crops, such as carrots and onions, when the moon was waning. I read engrossing articles on what recent, and historical, volcanic eruptions have done to the global climate, soil quality and worldwide crop production. I learned how to determine the precise length of our extensive twilight zone. I learned about all the various eclipses that will take place this year all over the world (we should be able to see a partial solar eclipse on May 20), how to predict earthquakes, and helpful hints for various outdoor calamities from snake bites to bear attacks.

All in all, it was like taking a short, very interesting class on earth science, history, astrology, astronomy, home economics and meteorology.

Did I find what I was looking for? I suppose my original aim of flipping through the weather section was to find some assurance that my tiny tomato seedlings and fledgling garden was going to survive to harvest time, since my own pull for summer far outweighed any practical advice I received about planting times. So in that regard, yes, I was reassured that warm days are upon us, and will likely stretch through September. But I also got so much more than I would have found elsewhere. Perhaps they were on to something, back in 1792, that really does stand the test of time.


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