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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

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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How Much Snow to Go?

How Much Snow to Go?

Spring arrived nearly two weeks ago, but snow is still on the ground in many areas of the U.S. and Canada, including at our Maine headquarters, where a staffer encountered cross country skiers during a hike earlier this week.

While the white stuff (or, actually, gray stuff at this time of year) can make it hard to feel like it’s really spring, the snow cover is receding.

You can check out snow depths on the ground around the country and watch animations of how the snow cover has shifted over the course of the season at the National Weather Service’s National Operational Hydrologic
Remote Sensing Center website. Check it out here!

Is there still snow where you are?

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Breaking News Screen over red background
Just in:
Employees at Farmers’ Almanac headquarters in Lewiston, Maine, report on social media that official scientists from the US Government have demanding to see the Farmers’ Almanacs offices.

“About five people have been seen pushing their way past reception and heading right into editor Pete Geiger’s office,” said an anonymous source in Lewiston, Maine, adding, “they looked very serious and determined.”

Just a few weeks ago there was a lot of press stating that the Farmers’ Almanac is more accurate than government climate scientists (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predicted temperatures would be “above normal from November through January across much of the lower 48 states.” Yet the Farmers’ Almanac said quite the opposite). Since then, Almanac employees have been noticing some unusual phone calls and emails from the DC area.

According to staff in Geiger’s office, the unknown but official government scientists are demanding that he turn over the Farmers’ Almanac’s official weather predicting formula!

Read more …

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Conserve Water; Use a Clay Pot!

Conserve Water; Use a Clay Pot!

“Gardening is great fun, and really stretches the dollar, but having to water the garden takes too much time and runs up my water bill.” Except for the words “dollar” and “bill,” similar words were likely spoken thousands of years ago by gardeners just like us. So they came up with a solution; clay pot irrigation.

For years, geologists have been digging up unglazed clay pots from long forgotten ancient garden sites, from China to South America. Why? Because clay pots, when used as irrigation thousands of years ago, saved up to 70% of the water use, were inexpensive, and could go days without filling. Nothing has changed: clay pot irrigation still does all that, and is organic to boot!

There is a trend growing in our society to take back our health, our food and our lovely Mother earth. In general, people are realizing that healthy food is the building block of, well, health. This movement is showing up in many places, with gardening being the closest to home and the easiest to address. In front yards, in back yards, in raised beds, on decks, on porches, in old tires and even in used tennis shoes, gardens are blossoming. And more and more people are using clay pot irrigation to water their flourishing gardens because this movement to health includes a commitment to conserve water, and a desire to save time. The process is simple. Bury a clay pot, often called an olla, in the ground, or in a container, upto its neck, and place plants within an 18” radius of its center. Fill the olla with water, and soil-moisture tension will occur. The plant and dry soil literally draw the water out of the olla. The chemistry of soil-moisture tension prevents over and under watering of the plants. This comes in very handy when planning trips, during a busy work week, or when rain is sparse, since larger ollas (around 2 gallons) can go 3-5 days without filling. Even fertilizing is easier with an olla. Add a liquid fertilizer directly to the olla, using 1/3 less fertilizer. There is no runoff, no filter, no need for water pressure, it is low tech, has no plastic parts, is easy to use and supplies water directly to the root zone, which aids in building a healthier, larger root base.

Amazing! Those ancient folks solved some serious irrigation problems with a simple, smart solution, ollas. And so can we! Grab some seeds, some good soil and an olla. Build a garden in the ground, a container or in a raised bed. You’ll be pleased to see how ollas make your plants happy! Gardening is great fun, especially as you enjoy the “modern” way of saving water and time with an olla.

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Worst Weather Month

Worst Weather Month

It’s officially spring (on the calendar anyway) yet the cold conditions and possible snow this week keep reminding me that March isn’t one of my favorite months. Yes, it’s the end of winter, the beginning of spring, yet sometimes March’s weather likes to change so much you feel as though it’s a tease — spring like one day, cold wintry the next.

So I started wondering — which is the worst month of the year weather-wise? November is a top choice. If you live in northern areas, you know that the leaves are all off the trees, the grass is brown, and the temperature continues to get colder and colder. It’s not a real picturesque month, but sometimes there’s an anticipation of that first snowfall to cover the ugliness with pretty white flakes, and there is Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season (which for some starts as early as mid-November). And for many it’s the first full month you don’t have to mow the grass.

February is another tough month, especially this year, but it’s also a short one. 28 days, to put up with cold snowy conditions, or perhaps it’s a time of year you escape your dreary grey backyard and head south.

And then there’s March. It usually comes in like a lion and many times goes out that way too. There are a few days of promise — warm temperatures, sunny days — but it often gets cold again, sometimes really cold and maybe even snows. Some of the hardy flowers start growing and peaking out from the cold earth, but the, there’s the mud that comes with the warm up.

Personally I think March is the worst weather month. What month would you vote for worse weather month? August? That’s a hot one especially for people living in the south, or do you agree that March is top of the list?

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The Latest Movement in Health!

The Latest Movement in Health!

Seed catalogs are showing up in mailboxes, garden sketches are resurfacing, and plowing tools, well, they are anxiously waiting. But the mind of the gardener is racing ahead, excited about plowing, planting and picking.

It’s good to see this mindset returning to our culture, in both city mouse and country mouse. Fresh local food, the garden’s baton, has been missing from many diets for nearly 60 years, when the TV dinner first moved the family out of the dining room and around the TV.

And while the conveniences have been nice, a meal in minutes, the health benefits have been stacking against us for what is approaching three generations. People know this, even the youngest generation, who is learning about gardening from the written word rather than a parent.

Congrats to them, I say, because you are part of a growing trend to take back our health, our food, and our earth. And since trends start with one person, who talks to another, and then another, this health trend is picking up speed and getting real traction, the traction of a movement. Thanks to this “movement to health,” great things are happening.

This desire for good health has opened doors to world wide heirloom seeds (as only the Internet can offer), new forms of water conservation, such as clay pot irrigation, and the sharing of such a mass of gardening information that the least of us can now grow a complete meal in a container. The urban gardener can have chickens for fresh eggs and a raised bed for anything with roots. Even the task of watering has been simplified with ollas, rain barrels, and drip systems. What a wonderful culture we have that can adapt so adeptly to social changes!

So, whether you’re a city mouse or a country mouse, keep those minds racing, open those seed catalogs and get ready to give your lawn a makeover. Grow lettuce in that shady spot by the house, put sunflowers by the bird feeder, drop an olla in that dry spot, and be the first one in the neighborhood to grow zucchini in the front yard. You’ll be glad you did, and your fresh local food will be the baton for the next generation.

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It’s Time to Plan for Fresh Veggies

It’s Time to Plan for Fresh Veggies

It’s that time of year again when the cold weather slowly (ever so slowly this year) starts to fade and thoughts turn to warmer days and fresh vegetables. For many of you this may mean it’s time to plan the garden and maybe try a new variety of heirloom tomatoes. For others, who don’t have the room, time, or the green thumb, now is a good time to consider joining a local CSA — Community Supported Agriculture.

There are many advantages of joining a CSA including the opportunity to try new vegetables that you may never have tasted before (ever cook beet greens or use a tomatillo?). Some CSA’s offer half shares or working shares for those who may not be able to afford the full cost of a share, but other ways to make it more cost effective include sharing the shares with neighbors or other family members.

But what’s so great about a CSA? Check out some of our stories here on our site about the advantages:

How Far Does Your Tomato Travel

Who Needs Community Supported Agriculutre?

What it Community Supported Agriculture?

And here’s a link to help you find one in your area. Local Harvest

Are you a member of a CSA? Tell us where you like to get your fresh, tasty vegetables.

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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.