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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

Haiti Revisted

Haiti Revisted

As you may recall, I had an opportunity to do relief work in Port au Prince Haiti two months after the January 2010 earthquake which leveled the city and killed 250,000 Haitians. As you might expect, it has been a long hard process to rebuild. The first year there were no stores, no equipment and most of the work was done by hand, chisel and hammer.

I have had the pleasure to be connected with the missions team of the South Lewiston Baptist Church who have a 9 year partnership with Pastor Nathan of Bethany Baptist Church in the heart of Port au Prince. The good news is that the city is coming alive. There are still many tents  but most streets are clear and some are actually paved. People are coming and going with a purpose. There is only one traffic light in a city of 980,000 people, so traffic is a nightmare, but with horns blowing, everyone seems to get around “safely.”

Here is a quick look at my 2014 nine day experience:

1.     We arrived to Pastor Nathan’s home to no water or electricity. A pipe was broken when the road was paved. For 6 months, he had to bring water in by the buckets. So our team made the repair (almost) before getting fined for making the repair. Fine paid and water was connected.  Neat system for the town.

2.     Not many creature comforts. The electricity is portioned out by grids. One never knows when it will come on or go off. The norm is to have power 3 — 4 hours a day. So, we crank on the diesel gas generator we bought last year to keep the lights on and fans blowing all night.

3.     Heat – it has been so cold this winter and spring that I thought I might enjoy a little heat. It was 98 every day and high 70s at night. Too much of a good thing for me.

4.     We moved hundreds of cement blocks, sifted sand, moved rock piles by buckets and wheelbarrow several times, laid a cement floor — all in an effort to rebuild a school and church “temporarily” damaged by a quake. What a great feeling to know that you are making a difference in lives.

5.     Sunday Services — my favorite moment of any trip is Sunday services. I don’t speak Creole and have no idea what is being said.  All I know is that the entire congregation is full of faith, hope and song. The raw emotion combined with an entire congregation dressed in suits and white dresses is in sharp contrast with the lack of earthly possessions.

I could go on and on about my experience, but just want to remind everyone to keep the Haitians your thoughts and prayers and to encourage all of you to find ways to help those less fortunate than ourselves out in anyway you can. It’s a rewarding experience knowing that you’ve done your part – however big or small- to help fellow people out.

Check out this video of my experience last week.

Haiti reminds me that where there is hope there is happiness. If you have visited Haiti, I’d love to hear your story.

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Why such a windy spring?

Why such a windy spring?

If  you live in the eastern half of the country, you’ve probably noticed that it has been unusually windy in recent weeks.  There have been stretches of several days in a row where the winds have been unusually strong and gusty.  The month of March is certainly well known for being a gusty month, but it seems that the pattern of late-winter has persisted all the way through April.  And now as we move into the month of May there doesn’t seem to be a let-up in what has become a seemingly endless series of chilly, blustery days.  What’s going on here?

If you look at the upper-levels of the atmosphere and check out the prevailing winds above 18,000-feet, meteorologists will tell you that we have been looked into a pattern where there has been a persistent trough of low pressure — a sort of buckling of the normal west-to-east configuration of the high level jet stream winds over the eastern part of the country — while over the West, there has been a huge upper level ridge of high pressure.

What has been happening over the past couple of months is that storms have been sliding south and east from western Canada along that big high pressure ridge in the west.  As these systems curve to the east, they interact with that trough of low pressure in the East.  The result?  These otherwise small, fast moving and innocuous storms — meteorologists call then “clipper systems” tend to slow down and get stronger and as a result, as they intensify their circulation field gets broader.

If you looked at a weather map at those squiggly lines — forecasters call them isobars (lines of equal air pressure) it would almost seem that when looking at storms undergoing intensification — it looks on the weather map that you’re looking at the inside of a wristwatch where the mainspring has been tightened a bit too much. Meteorologists would say that the pressure gradient has increased — the isobars have gotten closer together and as a result the winds have correspondingly increased as well.

In many cases over the past couple of months, as such storms have moved off the Atlantic Seaboard, they have evolved into some rather potent “stemwinders” and have back lashed many eastern cities with gusty winds.  So long as the trough remains in place over the East, the chilly, gusty pattern will likely continue.  How much longer will that continuance be?

It might be a while longer.  According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the long range outlook taking us through May 13 indicates below normal temperatures . . . and with them, the likelihood of a few more brisk/blustery days, across the Northern Tier of the US, going east into New England.  Hopefully it will start warming up towards mid May.

Until then . . . hold on to your hats!

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2014 — The Year of Storms

2014 — The Year of Storms

This winter was tough. And now this spring is proving to be difficult as well. These past few days of extreme weather have caused havoc, deaths, and destruction. Today there are flood warnings, thunderstorm warnings, and ongoing tornado threats.

Tornadoes occur all over the Earth and have been documented in every state in the United States as well as every continent except Antarctica.  However, the US has the unfortunate record of having the most strongest, frequent, and violent tornadoes in the world.  This is mostly because of the size of the country and its unique geography. For the past ten years, this country has experienced on average over 1,000 tornadoes per year. Canada averages about 100 tornadoes a year.

Spring and fall are peak seasons for tornadoes since it’s the time when the weather is trying to change from cold to warm and warm to cool, which means more chances of cooler air colliding with warmer air.

Whether you live in an area where violent tornadoes are common or not, this is an extreme weather time of year. Here are a few timely articles on staying safe during violent spring storms.

Tornado Survival Tips

Flash Flood Safety

Our thoughts go out to all those who have lost so much already during these recent storms. Stay safe.

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Arbor Day Brings the Best Gifts

Arbor Day Brings the Best Gifts

We all love the glitz of Christmas, the sweets of Valentine Day, and the colorfulness of Easter, but there are no gifts, candy, or other festivities associated with Arbor Day. Celebrated the last Friday of April, it may be a lesser known “holiday,” but the meaning of Arbor Day is essential to life. Arbor is Latin for tree. The first American Arbor Day was established in Nebraska City, Nebraska, United States by J. Sterling Morton in 1872.

One of the worst things that has happened in the last 20+ years is the mass cutting of forests in Brazil and other parts of the world. Trees help keep our air clean, and when they are lost, so is this natural air purifier. Growing up in Maine, I thought every state had trees. We are the most treed state in the US — 96% of our ground has trees — pine, maple, oak, and so many more. T

ake a few moments today to commit yourself to planting a tree. I do it as a reminder of a lost loved one.

There are many types of trees. What is your favorite tree?

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Earth Day Poem: The Note on the Tree

Earth Day  Poem: The Note on the Tree

In honor of Earth Day today, here’s a poem that according to legend, many Portuguese people would attach to trees in their forests:

Ye who passes by and would raise your hand against me, harken ‘ere you harm me.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing, quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, the timber that builds your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. 

Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer, harm me not.

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Year Without a Spring?

Year Without a Spring?

1816 is infamous for being a year without a summer — the result of a couple of major world volcanoes that changed the temperature on earth. The result is weather history. I am not worried that we won’t see summer this year – we’re calling for an incredibly hot season – although I am beginning to wonder if there will be a spring. We are getting plenty of mail about the unusual cold and snow much of the country is receiving, including the snow we predicted for the Northeast and Midwest this week.

Here is a message from a friend, Dale, who lives in the Midwest:
“Well. You said we’d have an April surprise. Looks like it will come tomorrow – tax day. Compounding misery! Worst of all, my daffodils and tulips will freeze! Now that, sir, is too much! Oh well. Nice prognosticating.”

Dale was putting a blanket on his flowers. Yesterday, I marked my calendar as the day all of the snow finally left my yard. Today, I awoke to 2” of snow, leaving things looking a lot like Christmas (again). It is difficult to pinpoint storms in April to exact locations. We do have 3 storms mentioned in our pages and it looks like another long month with its ups and downs.

Personally, I’m getting really anxious to get my docks in at my summer home. So, last Sunday night, I pushed my float onto the ice, slid it to a chain that was popping up through the ice and hooked it. Now, the float patiently sits there just waiting for the two feet of ice to disappear. At least it saves me from swimming it out in May.

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What Are “Blood Moons”? Is the World Ending?

What Are “Blood Moons”? Is the World Ending?

There has been a lot of interest recently in an upcoming series of lunar eclipses that begins April 15. These are usually described as “four blood moons” and taken by some to prophesy upcoming disasters.

The total lunar eclipse of April 14-15 will begin a so-called tetrad series of eclipses that is making the rounds online as a potential harbinger of doom, due in part to a recent book on the four blood moons that makes the dubious claim.

Astronomers rarely, if ever, use the term “Blood Moon.” When they do, they are usually using it as an alternate name for the Hunter’s Moon, the full moon that follows the Harvest Moon, usually in late October. The Hunter’s Moon, like the Harvest Moon, rises slowly on autumn evenings so that it shines through a thick layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, and is colored red by what those who study the atmosphere call Raleigh scattering as well as smog and air pollution.

On rare occasions, the light reaching the moon resembles the color of blood, but there is no way of predicting this in advance. So there are no grounds to call any particular lunar eclipse a blood moon until it actually shows its color.

What is unusual about this month’s lunar eclipse is that it is the first of a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row. Called a “tetrad,” such a series of four total eclipses in a row is not an overly rare event. The last such series happened in the years 2003 and 2004, and it will occur seven more times in the current century.

So while a tetrad of total lunar eclipses is somewhat unusual, it is not extraordinarily so, and certainly nothing to make a fuss about. After all, the only thing that happens during a lunar eclipse is that the moon spends a couple of hours passing through the Earth’s shadow, hardly something to be concerned about.

While we now have a clear understanding of much of what’s going on in the sky, people once routinely believed that astronomical events such as eclipses and comets were harbingers of disaster and doom.

A colleague of mine, Geoff Gaherty at recently cited a book which incredibly has made The New York Times best seller list: “Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change” (Worthy Publishing 2013) penned by John Hagee, which suggests a link between the four total lunar eclipses that will occur over the next two years and the prophecy in the Bible about the end of the world.

Gaherty writes:
“When the mechanisms behind eclipses were less well understood, they were thought to be omens of bad tidings, just as comets were. Now people know that these are just normal events in the clockwork of the solar system, things which have occurred regularly for thousands of years and which will occur for thousands of years into the future.”

“Associations between ‘disastrous’ events and normal astronomical events are all fabrications of the human mind, as people attempt to find explanations for why disasters affect them. Because of the Internet and cable news channels, people now hear reports of disasters from around the world, including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, which they never would have been aware of in the past.”

So, my advice to all of you who are blessed with clear skies on eclipse night is, don’t sweat it! This is a beautiful, natural and predictable phenomenon for all of us to see and enjoy. And since we like making predictions here at the Farmers’ Almanac, I’ll go out on a limb and state that, after the final lunar eclipse of this foursome passes into history in September 2015, we all will still be here.

Clear skies!

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Five Fascinating Flower Facts

Five Fascinating Flower Facts

After a long, brutal winter, spring is finally here, which means gardens are starting to burst into bloom. In honor of this season of bright blossoms, here are five fun flower facts:

- One of the world’s largest flowers is the Titan Arum (it’s also the worst smelling flower). It has been affectionately referred to as the Corpse Flower. The flower with the world’s largest bloom is the Rafflesia arnoldii.

- The smallest flower in the world is the Wolffia globosa or water-meal.

- Ancient civilizations used to burn aster leaves to ward off evil spirits.

- Tulip bulbs can be substituted for onions in a recipe.

- It is estimated that there are approximately 250,000 species of flowering plants on Earth, but only around 85% have been catalogued so far.

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Penny Winners Announced!

Penny Winners Announced!

And the 50,000 Pennies go to …

The Rescue Mission of Roanoke, Virginia

Thanks to many volunteers, spearheaded by Lee Rowland, this group collected 1,689,600+ pennies ($16,896) to donate to this mission that serves as a Christian Crisis Intervention Center for Southwestern Virginia. The Rescue Mission of Roanoke provides shelter, food, and medical care to the homeless. They have a women and children’s shelter, and men’s shelter. They also provide clothing and furniture assistance and do not receive any federal, state or local funding.  Now they have an additional 50,000 pennies ($500) from Farmers’ Almanac to help them pay for their inspirational and wonderful efforts.

Forgotten Felines of Maine
Pamela Hansberry emailed us the details of  how her and fellow volunteers managed to collect 51,452 pennies ($514.52) for Forgotten Felines of Maine, a non-profit corporation dedicated to educating the public about free- roaming cats. They provide services about caring for these cats, assist in humanely reducing cat overpopulation and provide access to spay/neutering places and help with placements in loving homes. Farmers’ Almanac has not donated 50,000 pennies ($500) to this worthwhile organization.

Liberty House, New Hampshire
Larissa Cassady shared how she and others coordinated a penny collection through The Ladies Auxiliary to VFW Post 3041. With the help of the auxiliary members, Cindy Watson, and other businesses and volunteers, they were able to collect 169,401 pennies ($1,694.01) and donate them to the Liberty House in New Hampshire. This organization is the only transitional housing for Homeless Veterans in the state of New Hampshire. They provide daily necessities, substance-free environment, peer support, and a case management team to their residents. The Liberty House helped decrease our Homeless Veterans in the state from 500 in 2004 to 127 in 2012.  And now they have an additional donation from Farmers’ Almanac for 50,000 pennies or $500.

Congratulations to all including the other organizations that entered our contest and put those “lost” and unused pennies to good use.

And now how about we get rid of the penny…

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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.