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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

The Polar Vortex: Making A Comeback?

The Polar Vortex: Making A Comeback?

Remember last winter when the mainstream media latched on to the term “polar vortex?”  Prior to last winter this term was quite unknown to the average man-on-street, although if you checked the official Glossary of Meteorology, where it had been buried for decades, you’d certainly find it.

In fact, there are several other monikers for it: polar cyclone, polar low, and circumpolar whirl.

Generally speaking, the polar vortex refers to the circulation of air centered over the polar regions.  And there usually is not just one, but two vortices; one centered over northeast Siberia and the other over Baffin Island in northern Canada. The two vortex centers sort of rotate around each other during the winter season, but sometimes, one or both centers slide farther to the south than normal and in the process send a surge of unseasonably cold air into the United States.

This has happened many times before, of course, in winters of the near and distant past.

What made last year different from all those other winters is that last year the media became enamored with the term “polar vortex,” making it sound as if this was a unique phenomenon, when in reality, we’ve experienced the effects of the vortex on many other occasions in many other frigidly cold winters.

And just to jog your memory, in those years past, the media latched on to other ways to categorize those spells of extreme cold.  Remember the term “Siberian Express,” which we heard so much of during the late 1970s and ’80s?  In this case, we were told that a river of bitter cold air had set up from Siberia and extended south and east, with waves of frigidity racing across the United States – a sort of direct pipeline to the brutal cold of the tundra of Siberia.  But what set up this “configuration of cold?”

You guessed it. It was the same polar vortex, which had drifted a bit off course to the south and directed polar-like conditions into our part of the world.  But the media wouldn’t discover the vortex for another 20 or 30 years.

This week we’re going to see several impulses in vortex-like fashion move across the northern tier of the United states, bringing surges of unseasonably cold weather, particularly later in the week when parts of the Northern Plains will drop to as much as 10 or 15 below zero in the predawn hours of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It wont be as frigid in places farther to the south and east, but temps will still run below seasonal normals.

But before all that happens, however, heavy snows will likely fall over Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday and Tuesday.  Interestingly, in the East, one last surge of unseasonably mild weather is likely to hang on through midweek, before the bottom falls out of the thermometer later this week.

So, the reality is, it’s November and the seasons are in their annual transitional phase of autumn to winter.  Here at the Farmers’ Almanac we’re calling for lots of cold and for some, lots of snow.  So hold on to your polar vortex, or get ready to catch the next Siberian Express . . . whatever term you prefer. But like it or not, here comes Ol’ Man Winter!

To find out more of what’s in store this winter, check out our 2015 winter forecast here! 

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Homemade For The Holidays?!

Homemade For The Holidays?!

As the holiday season quickly approaches, I wonder why this time of year makes me want to try all of those homemade crafts, decorations, gifts, and foods that seem to make the holidays that much more festive, creative and warm. I mean, who wouldn’t want try making those adorable turkey place settings for Thanksgiving dinner, or how about that delicious stuffing that has 3 different sausages and 5 different nuts in it? Then I remember the gingerbread ornament incident.

Many years ago my friend and I were at a holiday craft fair when we saw these very cute gingerbread ornaments. They were in many shapes, looked just like gingerbread cookies with some type of sealant around them to protect them. We looked at each other and thought, “we can make that.” So we set up a date, got the ingredients, and got ready to become mini “Martha Stewarts” for the afternoon. (Secretly I thought, well this has got to work out, after all, my friend is a graphic artist!)

We felt so ready to tackle what seemed to be an easy craft that would result in such a cute, homemade gift. Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way. First, the ornaments didn’t cook right, then the shellac we were using to make them permanent was messy and wouldn’t go on right, turning the whole project into one giant mess. Sure, we got a few to look like they were made by 5 year olds, (no offense to 5 year olds), but the rest of them found their way into the garbage.

This project fiasco took place many years ago, but my friend and I still joke about it when we’re out and about and see something cute by saying, “Oh, we can make that!” Fortunately, we know better now and are very careful as to what we attempt and what we buy. The holidays still appeal to me as a time to try the homemade route. I will admit that I’m more the baker than the crafter so I try to experiment with holiday recipes. In fact, this year I was thinking of taking on the task of making those Polish cookies that my Grandmother used to make, we called them twisters, but their real names are khruchiki. But first, I’m going to make a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin, not that canned stuff, and maybe I’ll even try making the crust, something I usually buy from the store.

How about you? Are you a “I can make that” type of person? And are you successful? Share your holiday expertise in the comments below!

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November is the month of The Bull

November is the month of The Bull

Due east, about halfway up in the sky during the mid-evening hours, two prominent clusters are in the constellation Taurus.  The first, the Hyades, composes the famous V-shape of the bull’s face.  A cluster of this type is called an open cluster, because it has no obvious organization or symmetry.  The stars move together through space like a family on a hike, seemingly both going across the sky and going away. The paths of the stars converge on a “vanishing point” far to the east. The resulting geometry allows us to determine the cluster’s distance with some accuracy: 151 light years. Its age is about 625 million years.  Interestingly, the bright orange-red, 1st-magnitude star, Aldebaran, which marks the bull’s angry right eye is merely an “innocent bystander” and has no connection whatsoever with the Hyades. By sheer coincidence it just happens to line up with the cluster to complete the V-shaped face and is actually less than half as far away at 67 light years.

On Saturday evening, Nov. 8th, look low toward the east-northeast horizon around 7 p.m. and you’ll see the Moon, two days past full (the so-called “Beaver” Moon of November), slowly ascending the sky.  Look to the upper left of the Moon and you’ll hit the bull’s-eye; a bright orange-red star.

That will be Aldebaran.

Higher in the sky, the Pleiades, popularly called the “Seven Sisters,” resemble a little dipper. There may be nearly a thousand stars in this group, but only about a score show in binoculars.  Their distance can be approximated only by using certain properties of the Hyades as a yardstick; it turns out to be 440 light years. In contrast to the Hyades, the Pleiades are more than six times younger, composed chiefly of hot, blue stars probably no older than 100 million years.  In addition, several stars in the cluster seem to be enveloped in clouds of dust, perhaps left over from the stuff of which they were formed.

“Locksley Hall” is a poem written by Alfred Tennyson in 1835 and published in his 1842 volume of Poems. In it, there is a line which alludes to the Pleiades:

“Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro’ the mellow shade, Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.”

Depending on sky conditions and light pollution, most people can see between four and six naked-eye Pleiads.  Some, with more acute vision can count many more.  One person, who has claimed to have seen as many as 19 Pleiads with his unaided eyes while observing under pristinely dark skies from rural Arizona, is Allen Seltzer who, three decades ago, served as the Education Director at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. Mr. Seltzer is blessed with unusually keen vision, which he once demonstrated to me by reading a page from The New York Times across a nearly 20-foot room!

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And the Halloween password is…

And the Halloween password is…

I can’t say my older brother always took care of me but Halloween was different. He was a perfectionist about everything including finding the best places to go trick-or treating. We’d fill shopping bags with the biggest and best candy but only because he knew where and where not to go. After all, Halloween offers only a  2 – 3 hour window of opportunity. Fast forward 50 years, and I am the beacon of my community for the biggest and best candy.

It started about 20 years ago on an October 31st morning.  I was being interviewed by Jon James on WMME (Moose Radio) in Augusta, Maine. We casually talked about going trick-or-treating and I mentioned that I give out either king or giant sized candy bars. Jon got so excited that we decided to have a “secret password.” If you didn’t know about the password, you’d get one bar. But, if you knew the special word, you got three giant candy bars of your choice (out of 20 types).

Kids would number between 300 – 500 per Halloween. That’s a lot of candy, but nothing compared to last year.  With time so grew the numbers. In 2012 we had 780 guests consume 2,000 bars. Then, last year, in pouring rain and with the help of Food Network Magazine, the Sun Journal and two television stations covering the “event,” 1,302 characters showed and  wiped out  all 3,500 bars. In fact, the candy distributor came through with 300 additional to save the day. After all, I have a reputation to uphold!

The excitement in my community is building. I get asked for the password, street address, and what am I giving out. I’ll be on WMME Radio Halloween morning from 6:30am – 9:00, so listen for the password. You can visit the 92 Moose web site here (and click the “listen live” link). It is open to kids of all ages.  Might even be worth a trip to Lewiston, Maine.

Halloween1

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Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss Support

Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss Support

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” is a favorite maxim of modern, healthy living advocates. But did you know that this statement is over two thousand years old? In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine backed up his admonition by prescribing apple cider vinegar mixed with honey for its healing and cleansing qualities. In biblical times, after laboring in the barley fields, Boaz encouraged Ruth to dip bread in vinegar during their meal. (Ruth 2:14). It was used at this time not only to flavor food but as an energizing drink. Soldiers through the ages consumed diluted vinegar as an energizing and strengthening tonic.

Home remedies and folk medicine have long relied on apple cider vinegar to aide digestion and prevent or relieve heartburn. Today, apple cider vinegar is revered for all these qualities and more. It is used in detox beverages and in weight loss regimens.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider is made by crushing apples and squeezing out the liquid. To ferment the liquid, bacteria and yeast are added. The sugars are converted into alcohol. The alcohol is then converted into vinegar by acetic acid, which not only gives vinegar its sour flavor, but has health benefits. The process yields a product that is rich in protein enzymes and probiotics (friendly bacteria). It is reported to lower blood sugar levels, improve metabolism, curb appetites, increase satiety and thus assist in weight loss.

Acetic acid (AcOH), a major component of vinegar, has been found to suppress body fat accumulation.  In a double-blind trial of obese individuals, participants were divided into three groups of similar: body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference. During the 12-week treatment, the subjects in each group ingested 500 ml daily of a beverage containing either 15 ml of vinegar, 30 ml of vinegar, or 0 ml of vinegar in the placebo group. Both groups ingesting vinegar daily showed significantly reduced body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels. Thus concluding that daily vinegar intake appears to reduce obesity and is useful in reducing the risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, high blood sugar levels, and type 2 Diabetes. However, this relatively short study does not prove nor suggest that apple cider vinegar alone will reduce obesity. Rather, it can be part of a healthy lifestyle which includes: eating nutritious foods, exercise, and adequate sleep.

Drinking water with apple cider vinegar between meals, preferably 20 minutes before eating, may help curb cravings, avoid overeating at mealtime, keep you feeling full longer, and boost your metabolism, increase energy, and burn more fat. It is interesting, yet doubtful that Boaz understood when Ruth dipped bread in vinegar that it would help prevent a spike in her blood sugar levels.

Natural health and nutrition professionals recommend consuming only unpasteurized, organic apple cider vinegar with the mother of vinegar, as it contains the beneficial acetic acid bacteria. Another way to incorporate it into your diet is to use it in salad dressing recipes.

Dr. Axe’s Secret Detox Drink Recipe

(Used with permission)

If you want to cleanse, lose body fat, boost energy and reverse disease, then adding natural detox drinks to your diet can help you improve your quality of life fast. The ingredients in this beverage work together to balance blood sugar, lower blood pressure and increase metabolism. Dr. Josh Axe recommends consuming this drink 3x daily, 20 minutes before meals for 2 weeks, and then consuming it 1x daily before lunch or breakfast.

Per serving

12-16 ounces of water
2 Tablespoons organic, apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure ground cinnamon
1 dash cayenne pepper
Stevia, to taste (I use ¼ teaspoon stevia powder)

Add all ingredients to a glass and stir vigorously to blend.

Note: You can substitute 2-4 drops of lemon and cinnamon essential oils, if you prefer, but make sure to use quality oils only. I actually like the taste of this drink, especially when adding essential oils. See Dr. Axe’s web site for more information.

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Is Your Pet’s Name On The Most Popular List?

Is Your Pet’s Name On The Most Popular List?

According to the 2014 Farmers’ Almanac, the following cat and dog names were the most popular in 2013. Was your pet’s name on the list?

Cat Names

Female Male
1. Bella 1. Oliver
2 Lucy 2. Max
3. Kitty 3. Tiger
4. Luna 4. Charlie
5. Chloe 5. Simba
6. Molly 6. Milo
7. Lilly 7. Smokey
8. Sophie 8. Joe
9. Nala 9. Jack
10. Daisy 10. Kitty

Dog Names

Female Male
1. Bella 1. Max
2. Daisy 2. Buddy
3. Lucy 3. Charlie
4. Molly 4. Rocky
5. Sadie 5. Cooper
6. Sophie 6. Duke
7. Lola 7. Bear
8. Chloe 8. Jack
9. Zoey 9. Bentley
10. Maggie 10. Toby

*Vetstreet developed this list of names from a database of 925,000 puppies and 425,000 kittens and born in 2013.

Did your pet’s name make the list? If not what’s your dog or cat’s name?

 

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Attack of the acorns! What does it mean?

Attack of the acorns! What does it mean?

Recently we posted information about the persimmon seed and how it depicts what the upcoming winter will look like. We shared Melissa Bunker’s (“The Persimmon Lady”) annual prediction featuring seeds that showed spoons inside (i.e., lots of snow).

Another popular sign of winter is the abundance of acorns and the observation of squirrels activity. Five years ago, my lawn was filled with buckets and buckets of acorns and it was only July 8th. Yes, it was a snowy winter that year. Acorns have been dropping on a more timely basis this year but I am reminded of just how many are coming down. Friday, I cleaned my back deck, but Saturday morning (no wind), the entire deck was loaded with acorns. It was as if Mother nature just let go. When I started to clean up again, I had to wear a hard hat because I was getting dinged again and again.  And, yes, the fat squirrels are loving it.

It doesn’t matter if there are lots of acorns in Maine if you live in New York, North Carolina, Minnesota, or elsewhere. So, what is  your acorn situation and what does it tell you about this winter?

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October 4th is National Frappe Day!

October 4th is National Frappe Day!

In some parts of the country, the name frappe is synonymous with milkshake: both made with milk, ice cream, syrup, and maybe some whipped cream. But here in New England, home of the Farmers’ Almanac, a frappe is typically made with ice cream, and a milkshake, as evidenced by its very name, may not always contain it, rather being made with blended milk, ice, and syrup.

In Greece, it is reported that the 1957 Thessaloniki International Trade Fair developed its version of the frappe: a drink born as a children’s liquid confection, but by fair’s end, evolving into a grown-up drink with the addition of instant coffee to its sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and ice. And of course global coffee purveyor Starbucks has taken the coffee frappe concept to new heights with its sweet, creamy, signature Frappuccino® drinks.

As October 4th is National Frappe Day, the genesis of the frosty, fabled frappe bears some exploration, not to mention an explanation of what makes this sweet treat so irresistible to so many people in so many places.

Culinary curators tell us the origin of the drink’s name came from France, the word frapper meaning “to hit; strike.” Frappe ultimately came to mean chilled by shaking. In the United States, the word first appeared in the 1848 edition of the American English dictionary.

In Japan, red beans (adzuki) are sometimes added, and the dulce de leche frappe is said to be popular in Argentina. If you live in New Orleans, your frappe du jour is likely laced with Absinthe!

For the rest of us, why not celebrate this ice-dreamy delicacy by making October 4th the day you discover your own fabulous frappe!

New England Traditional Chocolate Frappe

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk (skim or low fat is OK)
4 tablespoons chocolate syrup
4 large scoops chocolate or vanilla ice cream

Directions:

Blend together, adjusting to taste with more syrup if desired.

Iced Mocha Frappe

Ingredients:

4 cups brewed hot coffee
4 one ounce packages hot cocoa mix (3/4 cup each)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
.2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whipped cream

Directions:

In heat-proof bowl, add hot coffee, cocoa mix, and sugar. Combine well. Pour mixture into ice cube trays and freeze thoroughly. Add frozen cubes to blender. Add cream and vanilla, pureeing until smooth. Divide into glasses and top with whipped cream.

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What Does The Persimmon Lady Say About Winter 2015?

What Does The Persimmon Lady Say About Winter 2015?

Around this time each year, Melissa Bunker of Star, North Carolina (AKA, “The Persimmon Lady”), sends us her winter prediction based on opening up some persimmon seeds. Traditional lore is that if the seeds are shaped like forks, winter will be mild; if they are shaped like spoons, there will be a lot of snow; and if they are shaped like knives, winter will be bitingly cold.

Here’s what Melissa had to say:

Here is the 2014/15 persimmon readout. Never have seen all spoons before!!! Tell the readers to prep for lots of snow. Even our ground hornets are moving up into our pecan tree.

Thanks, Melissa! We hope to hear from you again next year.

Have you cracked into any persimmon seeds? If so, where are you from and what did you see? Share your photos on our Facebook page!

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.