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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

Nothing to fear?

Nothing to fear?

Today, popular Sirius-XM radio show host, Phlash Phelps, brought up on the air that March 4th marks the anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous “Fear Itself” speech, which was delivered at his 1933 inauguration.

The normally jovial Roosevelt always peppered his speeches with humor and optimism.  But his first inaugural speech was unusually solemn.  And understandably so: it was the height of the Great Depression.

Here is the famous sentence of that speech:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

You can listen to the speech here.

Phelps asked his listeners what it was that they feared?  As editor of the Farmers’ Almanac my fears are much like others, fear of heights, fear of spiders (big and black), fear of snakes (any and all kinds), and my biggest: missing a giant storm in my most always-accurate weather predictions. We get most right (80%) but I have a fear of missing the really big one.

So, this is a different world than when FDR delivered this speech.  What do you fear each day??

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Editor On The Roof

Editor On The Roof

No question that this has been a winter to remember. So many roofs collapsing and almost nightly stories about people shoveling them off to avoid the risk of damage. I finally succumbed and tackled the horrors this weekend.

With 100 inches of snow accumulated here in Maine, I spent my Saturday clearing the roof at my cottage. Actually, I was concerned about the rain/snow prediction for midweek mixing with what is sitting like a marshmallow top.  It was quite a job.

Here are the before and after photos. Snow was between 2 and 4 feet deep but remarkably “light.”

Last summer I replaced the shingles on this building only to learn that there were three layers of shingles to remove. Every night the roofers pulled 2000-2500 pounds of shingles off the building, a job that took 8 days. Can you imagine that weight coupled with this snow?? Yikes.


The cottage roof, before…


The cottage roof, after.

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Weather, Gardening and Pet Peeves?

Weather, Gardening and Pet Peeves?

A cure for doctor’s office delays?! Move Thanksgiving to October? Eliminate the Penny? Change the National Anthem?

What do these things have in common? They were questions that the Farmers’ Almanac posed and asked readers to weigh in on.

While the Farmers’ Almanac is known for its weather forecasts and gardening tips, we also launch human interest crusades. These “campaigns,” as we call them, are chosen in an effort to address everyday (non-political) things that maybe have fallen victim to the “it’s always been done that way” mindset, or is a system so ingrained in our daily lives, that no one ever thought to revisit it to see if it makes sense for today. It’s usually something we can all relate to, and something that could possibly make life easier and more enjoyable with a few simple tweaks.

Many of our Almanac campaigns gained widespread support from our readers: naming a national dessert, doing away with the penny, and reminding doctors and medical professionals that our time is just as important as their time (“take our weight, but don’t make us wait!”) – while others caused discourse and objections. Many of our readers didn’t like the idea of moving Thanksgiving to October (a time closer to the harvest season and possibly better traveling weather), and others couldn’t even fathom the idea of naming a different song for the National Anthem (to one that might be easier to sing).

Overall, our readers and editors found it fun to explore these common, everyday topics or systems that we may have all wondered why or how they could be improved but never asked for the opinion of others.

Do you have an idea for something that we could all relate to (again, non-political) that you feel should be discussed and maybe even changed? Share your thoughts here.  Again, we’re not trying to address politics or start arguments, but instead identify something which, with a little ingenuity, creativity and thinking outside the box, could prove to be a change for the better for all of us.

Share your ideas here.

(Some of our other crusades include changing the date of trick-or-treating so it always lands on a Saturday in October, adding more color to US currency, and recognizing efforts that prove kindness does matter.)

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When’s The Next Leap Year?

When’s The Next Leap Year?

In 2015, February will have 28 days. But during “leap years,” the month extends to 29 days. Have you ever wondered why this is so? And when is the next one?

Year Leap Year Day
2016 Monday, February 29
2020 Saturday, February 29
2024 Thursday, February 29

The last leap year was 2012. The reason for the extra day during some years has to do with our need to keep our modern day Gregorian Calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun.  Unlike the calendar, which organizes each year into a neat 365 days, it actually takes the Earth 365.242199 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds – to circle once around the Sun.  

Leap years, or intercalary years, as they are also called, date back to the reign of Roman emperor Julius Caesar, in 46 BC. At that time, Caesar in consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, decreed that a calendar year would be 365 days in length, and contain 12 months. Prior to that, the Romans followed an evolving series of calendars that were roughly based on the Greek lunar calendar, with a total of 354 days, and a “leap month” thrown in every few years to even things out.

Days were added to various months to bring the total number up to 365. Because the seasons didn’t exactly fit the 365-day year, the calendar ended about one-quarter day early, resulting in the calendar becoming a full day off every fourth year. To make up for the error, the Julian calendar, as Caesar’s calendar came to be called, added an extra day to the month of February every fourth year. Any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year, which made the average length of the calendar 365.25 days.

However, the Julian calendar was still slightly off the mark. Caesar’s correction made the year 11 minutes and 14 seconds too long, which meant that, after 128 years, the calendar would end a full day later than the astronomical year. In 1582, Pope Gregory XII stepped in and ordered yet another correction to the calendar, resulting in the Gregorian calendar, which we use today. According to this reform, century years are not leap years, unless they are evenly divisible by 400. Thus, 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was. This made the average length of the calendar 365.244 days and reduced the calendar error to only one day in 3,322 years. During the 19th Century, astronomer John Herschel suggested dropping a leap year every 4000 years, to obtain even greater accuracy, however, his suggestion never received official support, in part because contemporary astronomers believe the point of the vernal equinox will change by the year 8000, making Herschel’s correction irrelevant.

So why do we call it a “leap” year, anyway?
Common (non-leap) years are composed of exactly 52 weeks, plus one day. This extra day means that if your birthday falls on a Tuesday in one common year, it will fall on a Wednesday the next common year, and so on. However, a leap year changes this scenario. A leap year is comprised of 52 weeks plus two days. So, if your birthday fell on a Wednesday last year, in a leap year it “leaps” over Thursday and lands on Friday. Thus, the name “leap year.”


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It’s Colder Than Cold!

It’s Colder Than Cold!

When we launched the 2015 edition last August, the raging debate was what type of winter would the US and Canada experience? Some folks said mild (can’t have two bad winters in a row!), and The National Weather Service spoke about a major El Niño possibly creating some mild conditions. We even put a P.S. in our winter weather predictions that if and El Niño happened, it could alter our time-trusted forecast. But we confidently proclaimed shivery and shovelry were going to be the terms to define the winter of 2015, and we’ve been on the money.

 We still have 4 more weeks of winter, but how is it going?

  • Buffalo had a lake effect storm dropping upwards of 6 feet of snow in one storm. Was this an anomaly?
  • The eastern half of the US has been brutalized by record cold and in recent weeks plenty of snow for the southeast.
  • Florida – any given day, it can warm, but they have had their share of winter temps to go with it.
  • Over 1,500 flights have been canceled in Dallas alone.
  • Niagara Falls frozen!?
  • Boston – narrow streets and unprecedented snow accumulations!
  • Concord, N.H. breaks a 146-year-old record for cold temperatures on Feb. 21st (-17 degrees) and is close to having the coldest month on record.
  • Maine – Bangor has set a record with 108” of snow and the coldest February in  history. This week will see -20s. Portland, Maine, averages 71” a winter, it has recorded  83” so far and climbing.

I’d love to hear your winter story. How cold has it been in  your world? I know parts of the US and Canada have escaped the worst but what does it look like outside your window?

Our next prediction is that while March will come in like a lion, we’ll see the end of winter the latter part of the month. That is unlike last winter when it snowed in parts of the US in April and May.  

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Niagara Falls Frozen Over, 1883

As temperatures plunged across the United States and Canada earlier this week, one of the more popular subjects of the record-breaking cold spell in the news and on social media has been the partial-freezing of Niagara Falls. While images of the majestic and powerful natural wonder appearing to be frozen over have no doubt captured the imaginations of millions, this is not the first time this has happened. Previous winters where temperatures dropped low enough to freeze parts of the falls include 1911, 1932, and 1977.

However, one of our favorite images of all time is this 1883 contribution from the notable Canadian-American photographer George Barker. The photograph is simply titled, “People on snow-covered ice at the base of the frozen American Falls, Niagara Falls, New York.”


(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in traditional Chinese culture. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar (meaning both the moon phase and the time of the solar year), the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year“.

When is the Chinese New Year?
The date of the Chinese New Year may occur anywhere from January 21 to February 21, as it falls on the second New Moon after the winter solstice. In 2015, it will be celebrated on February 19.

What is the Chinese New Year’s Animal Name?
Each new year is named for one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, which repeat every twelve years (rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig). Children born during those years are said to possess some of the qualities of that year’s totem.  2015 is the Year of the Sheep (or ram or goat).  People born in the Year of Sheep are tender, polite, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, gentle, compassionate and do well in business.

How is the Chinese New Year Celebrated?
The Chinese New Year is a fifteen-day celebration marked by visits with relatives, the wearing of new clothes, and the giving of gifts. Chinese poetry is pasted around doorways and a huge feast consisting of eight dishes (eight being a lucky number to the Chinese) is served.

The New Year celebration ends on the Full Moon on the fifteenth day with a Lantern Festival, which includes lantern displays and the famous dragon dance.

Superstition Associated With The Chinese New Year:

  • Housecleaning should be done before New Year’s Day to sweep away bad luck from the previous year. No sweeping or dusting is allowed on New Year’s Day so that good fortune will not be swept away.
  • All doors and windows must be open at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to allow the old year to escape. It also allows the good luck of the New Year to enter.
  • Setting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve scares away evil spirits while sending out the old year and welcoming the new one.
  • Precedents are set on New Year’s Day. Therefore, nothing should be loaned on this day, or else the lender will be loaning all year. Mischievous children are never spanked on this day to avoid tears destined to last the whole year through.
  • References to death or the past, the use of foul language and unlucky words, and the telling of ghost stories are all taboo on this day.
  • Children are given red packets or envelopes containing even numbered amounts of money since odd numbered amounts of money are traditionally given during funerals. (Odd and even numbers are determined by the first digit. For instance, “30” is an odd number.) The only exception to the rule is that $4 is never given, as the number four is bad luck — the Chinese word for “four” is a homophone for the word “death.” Eight dollars is commonly given, as the number eight is considered good luck.
  • Hair washing is forbidden, as it washes away good luck for the New Year. Haircuts are received before the New Year begins since it is thought cutting hair during the first lunar month of the year places a curse on maternal uncles.
  • Knives and scissors may not be used because they may cut off fortune.
  • Celebrants wear red to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune and ensure a bright future. Black and white should not be worn as black symbolizes bad luck, and white is a Chinese funeral color. People dress in all new clothes and shoes to symbolize a new beginning for the New Year.

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Sick of Winter?

Sick of Winter?

Each winter, around the mid-point, we like to check in with our readers and fans of our social media pages to see how they are holding up. There certainly has been no shortage of severe weather events across North America: frigid temperatures and large accumulations of snow (“shivery” and “shovelry”) in the Northeastern US and Canada, ice in the South, and continued drought in California.  So we wondered, are you enjoying winter this year where you live, or do you wish it would just go away?

A few years ago, we published our list of  Top Ten Reasons TO Wish Winter Away, and this list holds true today:

10. The birds are getting hungry and birdseed supply is getting low.

9. Your muscles ache from too much shoveling (and there’s no room to put the shoveled snow).

8. You can’t tell if that’s snow on the car or road salt.

7.  You have sweaty feet from wearing boots all the time.

6.  We are slowly getting more hours of daylight! Get out and enjoy.

5. Too many movie/TV nights. No more couch time. Let’s get outside and enjoy
some of nature’s entertainment.

4. Green grass is a much better and happier color.

3. The ability (and desire) to go outside without bundling up in layers.

2.  The smell of spring flowers and the return of leaves.

1. Fishing, gardening and baseball season.

What’s your reason to wish winter away? Share your thoughts in the comments below!  

Check out our list of Top Ten Reasons to NOT Wish Winter Away! 


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13 Reasons NOT to Fear Friday the 13th!

13 Reasons NOT to Fear Friday the 13th!

1. It’s Friday (one day closer to the weekend).

2. The movies – thankfully they haven’t made a 13th move version of Friday the 13.

3. There are two more this year – March and November.

4. Triskaidekaphobia– that’s one “disease” you can say you definitely don’t have.

5. You can wear your clothes inside out (supposedly it will bring you good luck on a Friday the 13).

6. If anything goes wrong, you have a good excuse.

7. You have a reason to take out your four-leaf clover or rabbit’s foot.

8. This month is almost half over (means we’re that much closer to spring!).

9. It’s just a number.

10. It’s a superstition – how many ladders have you walked under or black cats have crossed your path without any negative consequences?

11. Baker’s dozen – if you fear the number 13 you may never get that one extra free bagel, roll, or donut.

12. If you really want to, you can use it as an excuse to stay inside, stay home, and enjoy a “sick” day without being sick.

13. For me, I was born on a Friday the 13th, my dad too, and so far my life’s been pretty lucky.

What about you? Do you fear Friday the 13ths? Or can you add to the list of why NOT to fear them?

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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.