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The 2015 Farmers Almanac
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Grisly, Gruesome and Grim: These Town Names Are Real!

Grisly, Gruesome and Grim: These Town Names Are Real!

In this age of commodifcation, branding is everything. But North America is full of places that were named by people who seem not to have gotten the memo. Weird town names can be a lot of fun—who doesn’t get a kick out of hearing about Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, or Toad Suck, Arkansas—but sometimes place names cross the line from absurd to creepy or just plain depressing.

The Chambers of Commerce representing the following not-so-great-sounding places are either shaking their heads in misery or laughing all the way to the bank. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Some grim place names have their roots in specific historical occurrences. Dead Women Crossing, Oklahoma, was purportedly named for a grisly murder that took place there in 1905. A schoolteacher named Katie DeWitt went missing shortly after filing for divorce from her husband (unusual enough at that time). Her remains were later found at a crossing of Deer Creek. Her head had been severed from her body. Another local woman was accused of the crime, but committed suicide before she could be tried. Locals say DeWitt still haunts the area.

Anyone wishing to see some of the beautiful scenery at Cape Disappointment, Washington, the site of a State Park, may be disappointed. The cape is one of the foggiest places in the United States, receiving about 2,552 hours of fog a year. That would be the equivalent of 106 days, if they occurred consecutively. The fog may have played a role in Cape Disappointment’s name. British fur trader John Meares is said to have come up with the name when he entered the cape in 1788 looking for a route inland. Thinking the area was only a bay, he turned his ship around and headed back out to open water, just missing the mouth of the Columbia River.

Despite its disconcerting name, Accident, Maryland, was actually named for a happy accident. Original settler George Deakins had been granted 600 acres of land in Western Maryland by England’s King George II. Wanting to get the best land possible, Deakins hired not one, but two, corps of engineers to survey the land in the area. Both crews, without knowledge of the other, marked the same oak tree as their starting and returning points. Deakins chose that spot, naming it “The Accident Tract.”

Other communities got their names due to residents’ sense of humor. Gripe, Arizona, was once home to an agricultural inspection checkpoint. The community allegedly took its name from the profuse complaints of motorists forced to stop there.

Idiotville, Oregon, got its start as a logging camp that was so remote, workers said only an idiot would be willing to work there. The name stuck, and even the stream running through the camp came to be called Idiot Creek.

There’s nothing particularly unusual about Peculiar, Missouri. The name dates back to 1868, when frustrated Postmaster E.T. Thomson was struggling to find a town name that wasn’t already in use. He realized he’d need to come up with “something peculiar” if he wanted to stop going in circles, and finally just settled on that. Similarly, residents of Oddville, Kentucky, chose their town’s name in 1851, when they got their first post office, just to be different. Presumably, the founders of Ordinary, Kentucky, population 50, had the opposite impulse.

Hell, Michigan got its name from founder George Reeves, who settled there in 1841.Much of the land in the area was swampy and useless for farming or anything else. When someone asked Reeves what to name the town, legend has it he replied, “I don’t care. You can name it ‘Hell’ if you want to.”

Satan’s Kingdom, Massachusetts, is an unincorporated area that allegedly took its name from a misunderstanding. A man who lived up a mountain in the area visited a Puritan preacher who prayed for the destruction of Satan’s Kingdom. For unknown reasons, the man took offense, assuming the preacher meant his home. Others say the name started as a nickname for the area in the 18th Century, because of the unsavory people who lived there. There is also a Satan’s Kingdom in Vermont and a State Recreation Area in Connecticut, complete with river tubing.

Other places were named after people. Hazard, Kentucky, for instance, didn’t get that name because it’s a dangerous place to live. It was named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. The popular The 80s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard was actually inspired in part by the name of this town, though the show spelled it with two zs and set the action in Georgia.

Was your hometown was boring? Maybe you grew up in one of at least three towns in the United States named Boring (they’re in Maryland, Oregon, and Tennessee). All three took their names from prominent residents whose last names were, you guessed it, Boring.

In some cases, no one is quite sure of how a place got its name. Dinkytown, Minnesota, is a neighborhood in Minneapolis that has the feel of a standalone small town. No one knows for sure how the area got its name, which was in use by the mid 1940s, but some theories posit that it came from the streetcars that once served as public transportation there, called “dinkys,” or from a popular snack of chicken tenders enjoyed in the area, also known as “dinkys.“

The origins of how two islands, one in Maine and one in British Columbia, came to be known as Mistake Island seem to be lost to history. One could easily guess some hapless sailors were trying to get somewhere else when they stumbled upon these land masses, but if so, they were too embarrassed to say so.

There’s nothing in the story of Embarrass, Wisconsin, to make its founders blush, though, except maybe the frigid air there. The town was named by French settlers who, after spending a very long, cold winter in a town that routinely see temperatures dip below -60° F, perhaps wanted to warn others away. In French, “embarrass” means “hardship.”

At least one other hair-raising place name comes from a linguistic oddity. You won’t find a yeti or a Sasquatch or any other scary monsters in Eek, Alaska. The town’s name comes from an Inuit word for “two eyes.” No sources reveal why the town was named “Two Eyes,” but it’s just possible that the answer to that question might make you let out a panicked “Eek!”

What are your favorite strange place names? Share them below!

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15 Egg Facts You May Not Know

15 Egg Facts You May Not Know

Fry them, poach them, boil or bake them – any way you crack them, eggs are delicious. As much as we rely on them for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and dessert, of course!), there are many interesting facts about eggs that aren’t common knowledge. Since May is National Egg Month, we thought we’d share some of these lesser known tidbits:

  1. Chef hats traditionally have pleats equal to the number of ways that you can cook an egg.
  2. Harriet, a hen from the United Kingdom, laid the world’s largest egg in 2010. Her astonishing egg measured 9.1 inches in diameter.
  3. It takes a hen between 24 and 26 hours to develop an egg. Once she lays an egg, the development of a new egg normally starts within 30 minutes.
  4. Chickens don’t produce one egg at a time. Instead, producing hens normally has several eggs in various stages of development.
  5. Eggshell colors have nothing to do with flavor or nutritional value. Brown, white and even blue and green egg shells are simply indicative of the breed of hen.
  6. The hen’s diet determines the color of the yolk. Some producers feed natural supplements like marigold petals so that their hens lay eggs with brighter yolks.
  7. There are several reasons why we eat chicken eggs instead of duck or turkey eggs. Chickens lay more eggs, they need less nesting space and they don’t have the strong mothering instincts of turkeys and ducks, which makes egg collection easier.
  8. White eggs are more popular among commercial producers because chickens that lay white eggs tend to be smaller than their brown egg-laying cousins, therefore needing less food to produce the same number of eggs.
  9. Most of today’s egg-laying hens are White Leghorns (white eggs) or Rhode Island Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks (brown eggs).
  10. Not all chickens create eggs equally. Some breeds lay eggs almost every day. Other breeds lay eggs every other day or once to twice per week.
  11. When it comes to the number of eggs laid each year, Iowa leads the nation with more than 14.8 billion eggs produced annually. Ohio is the next state in line, producing 7.9 billion eggs each year.
  12. Eating raw eggs won’t help you build muscle. Only 51% of the proteins in raw eggs are digestible, while 91% of the proteins in cooked eggs are digestible.
  13. Can’t tell if that egg in the refrigerator is raw or hardboiled? Try spinning it! Raw eggs wobble as the liquid inside shifts, but hardboiled eggs spin smoothly.
  14. Because older eggs have larger air cells, they’re much easier to peel than fresh eggs.
  15. Cloudy egg whites mean that the eggs are extremely fresh, while clear egg whites are an indicator of older eggs.  Cloudiness of raw white is due to the natural presence of carbon dioxide that has not had time to escape through the shell and is an indication of a very fresh egg. As an egg ages, the carbon dioxide escapes and the  white becomes more transparent. Other colors in the egg white may be a sign of spoilage, so if it’s not cloudy-white or clear, don’t eat it!

What’s your favorite way to eat eggs? Tell us in the comments below.

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Who Invented The Zipper?

Who Invented The Zipper?

Did you ever wonder how the zipper was invented? What better day to explore its origin than April 29, Zipper Day, a day dedicated to a device we all use but never give much thought to (unless it’s stuck, of course, and we have the fix for that here!).


Elias Howe

In 1851, a man named Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine, obtained a patent for what he called an “Automatic Continuous Clothing Closure” (try saying that three times fast!). But it was not a success. It didn’t really look or operate anything like the zipper we know today; it operated as individual clasps that the user had to join together manually, and pull shut by using a string. Howe did not continue developing his model, and several years went by before another patent was created. 

Then more than 40 years later, a man named Whitcomb Judson came out with a “clasp locker for shoes” which served solely as a shoe fastener, but it was very similar to Howe’s original patent. The design was essentially a guide used to close the space between a shoe’s clasps on one side to the attachments on the other. But it was difficult to use and even more difficult mass produce.

In 1893, Judson opened the Universal Fastener Company in New Jersey and was issued a second patent for a device that used metal hooks and eyes that had to be manually laced into the boot or shoe, but it was an improvement because the device functioned as a single unit instead of as individual clasps. But when he debuted it at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, it was met with lukewarm enthusiasm from the public. And it eventually flopped because it would spring open on occasion.


Sundback’s 1917 patent of the “separable fastener”

Then in 1906, Giden Sundback, a Swedish American electrical engineer who was hired to work at Universal Fastener Company, developed a model he called the “Plako fastener” but it too had trouble staying closed when bent.

Finally, in 1913, Sundback revised the design. He developed a model that used interlocking oval scoops (instead of hooks) that could be joined together tightly by a slider in one single movement. This final design is recognized as what we know as the modern zipper. The patent for the “Separable Fastener” was issued in 1917.

In the early stages of production, zippers were used for boots and tobacco pouches. During World War I, the device was used by military and Navy designers for flying suits and money belts, which helped prove to the public that the device was truly durable.

By 1923, the B.F. Goodrich Company, who used the product for boots and galoshes, gave the device its name of “zipper” and the rest, as we say, is history.

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A Firsthand Look at “Farm to Table”

A Firsthand Look at “Farm to Table”

It may come as no surprise that the farm-to-table/locavore movement has forever altered the way we think about dining out. This movement centers around the desire to eat local foods as much as possible and the concern about where food comes from—to the degree that devotees want to know the specific farm where the food was grown. What may be a revelation is that the movement is transforming our communities and relationships as well.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to personally observe this when I attended Taste of the Market, a local, seasonal, and market-sourced dinner in Neptune Beach, Florida. The event served as a fundraiser for community garden organizations and a celebration of all things local.

Held at a neighborhood restaurant that donated its space and opened up its kitchen, “Taste of the Market” featured food donated or prepared by area chefs, farmers, gardeners, and vendors. More than 125 people enjoyed an evening that began with a spread of appetizers prepared and presented by a caterer of gluten-free, vegan provisions. This starter was a delight to the eye and palate thanks to the inclusion of such fare as succulent watermelon radishes (heirloom Chinese daikons), so-called due to their vivid green and red hues.

Five sumptuous courses—each paired with a different locally brewed craft beer—were prepared by local chef Rich Grigsby (who happens to be my brother) and his students from the Florida State College at Jacksonville’s School of Culinary Arts. The menu for the evening was driven by what was available geographically and seasonally. All of the food was caught, grown, produced, or raised within a one-hundred-mile radius.

Created from these locally sourced ingredients, the courses included a variety of delectables, such as straight-from-the-sea-fresh shrimp that was grilled and served with Creole butter; brisket served with gold-and-red beet hash; and delicious roasted potatoes donated by a fourth-generation farmer. An abundance of all types of greens were featured, from bok choy and kale to broccoli, collard, mustard, and turnip greens. This dinner was more than just “nose-to-tail” dining (eating every part of an animal so that nothing is wasted); it was “root-to-leaf” as well. Another inviting spread for dessert included some gorgeous gluten-free cookies and luscious farm-fresh strawberries—all donated by farmer’s market vendors.

There was a tremendous sense of community among the attendees, many of whom knew one another from local happenings and organizations, especially Beaches Local Food Network and Dig Local, the organizations that received all of the proceeds from the fundraising dinner. Their outreach programs include coordinating three community gardens and two farmers’ markets. They also hold cooking demonstrations to teach people how to cook fresh, healthy meals on a budget and how to shop wisely. In fact, they obtained a grant to organize Fresh Access Bucks, a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) project that helps community residents buy and eat more healthy, locally-grown produce.

Many of the attendees had become friends while working together in the community gardens, buying or selling at the farmers’ markets, or volunteering for the organizations. Through these activities, they also got to know other gardeners who grow their own food, the farmers who raise the animals or grow the produce, and the caterers and chefs who prepare the locally sourced food. As a result, relationships are being nurtured, and a community of people who are concerned about and interested in good, local food, is growing.

If the idea of cultivating relationships through community gardening and local, healthy eating appeals to you, you may want to check out the organizations doing this type of work in your area. Or you can visit:

American Community Gardening Association

Local Harvest

Sustainable Table

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10 Clever Ways To Reuse Plastic Shopping Bags

10 Clever Ways To Reuse Plastic Shopping Bags

Each year, Americans use 100 billion plastic shopping bags. Sometimes it seems like there are at least that many bags taking up space in a closet or kitchen cabinet. If you have a mountain of plastic bags and you’re looking for practical ways to recycle them, here are 10 ways you can use them to make life easier, save money, and cut down on waste.

1. Keep Birds Out of the Garden
If wild birds are eating fruits and vegetables before you can harvest them, use shopping bags to scare them away. Cut the bags into long strips and tie the strips to plants or stakes. You can also run string between stakes so that you can tie strips along the string. As the plastic flutters in the breeze, it will startle the birds out of your garden. (Be sure to tie them on really well so they don’t fly away.)

2. Fill Plant Pots
If you’re a container gardener, then you know that potting soil gets expensive – especially if you’re filling large containers. Cut costs by filling the bottoms of deep pots with crumpled up shopping bags. Just make sure to place a few small stones around drainage areas so that the plastic doesn’t clog the holes.

3. Clean Knees
Are you tired of muddy, grass-stained jeans? When you’re gardening, tie shopping bags around your knees, and you’ll never have to worry about grass stains or ground-in dirt again.

4. Pack It Up!
If you’ve divided the plants in your garden, but you’re out of giveaway pots, use plastic bags instead. Bags work almost as well as pots for keeping roots moist until your friends have time to plant their new starts.

5. Who Needs Peanuts?
If you need to ship a package, don’t bother buying packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Fill the box with bags to cushion the item you’re sending.

6. Help Shoes and Handbags Keep Their Shape
If you want your shoes, boots and handbags to stay in shape, but you’re out of tissue paper or other fillers, use shopping bags instead. As a bonus, in humid climates, they won’t absorb ambient moisture, which reduces the chances of mold and mildew growth!

7. Keep Your Clothes Dust Free
We all have a few outfits in our closets that are reserved for special occasions. Garment bags will keep them clean, but they’re costly and bulky. Save both money and space by using the larger shopping bags as a garment bag to protect suits, jackets and big items. Simply cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag and slip it over the clothes hanger to keep your favorite outfits clean. Small plastic bags work well for blouses and children’s clothes.

8. Clean Ceiling Fans
Have you ever cleaned a ceiling fan, only to have the dust and dirt rain down on your floors and furnishings? Slip a plastic bag over the blades of the fan as you clean to catch the mess.

9. Use them for Painting Projects
Whether you’re painting your living room, the garage or anywhere else, plastic bags are an invaluable tool:

  • Put them under paint cans to catch drips and spills.
  • Double-bag your roller pan. Instead of washing it out, you can peel the plastic bags away from the pan and throw them away.
  • If you need to take a break, tightly wrap your brushes and rollers in two or three plastic bags so that they don’t dry out.

When you’re done painting, you can also use plastic to keep your paint fresh. Place a bag over the top of the paint can before replacing the lid. This will create a tighter seal, and it will keep dried paint from falling into the can the next time you open it.

10. Cheap Insulation
If you need to seal gaps around vent pipes, ducts, plumbing or any other fixture that runs through a wall, use bags to fill the void inside the wall. After that, seal the gap from both sides with spray foam or caulk. The sealant will stick to both the bags and the pipe, ensuring that you have a tight, long-lasting seal. They also work to fill the gaps from your window air conditioning unit.

Do you have clever ways that you reuse plastic shopping bags? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

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Ollas: Clay Pots For Easy Garden Irrigation And Water Conservation

Ollas: Clay Pots For Easy Garden Irrigation And Water Conservation

On June 4th, Gaylord Anton Nelson, founder of Earth Day, the Appalachian Trail, the Outdoor Recreation Acquisition Program, plus the author of several pieces of environmental legislation, would have been 99 years old. Nelson’s contributions to helping save our Earth are unsurpassed.

Nelson is honored for his personal vision. He said, “Suddenly, the idea occurred to me — why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment? At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric.” No instant messaging, no email blast, yet the response was electric. That’s how important it was back in 1969, as it is today.

We all have a moral obligation, one person at a time, to do what we can to make a difference in our environment. No contribution is too small. No act of generosity to the Earth goes unnoticed, including taking steps to conserve one of Earth’s most precious gifts — water.

The most common ways to conserve water are to repair dripping faucets, brush your teeth without the water running, fix hose connections, reuse water, etc. But let’s look at a way to conserve water in your garden — clay pot irrigation, an ancient practice which is hailed as “the most efficient irrigation system known to man,” according to Geoff Lawton, head of the The Permaculture Research Institute.

Clay pot irrigation can be traced back thousands of years, to several countries, but China has a written history of using clay pots — also called ollas — in their gardens. The concept is ridiculously simple: bury an unglazed olla in the ground, neck deep, put water in it, and put plants around it. What is referred to as soil moisture tension will occur. As the soil outside the olla dries out, water from inside the olla is pulled through the porous wall to replenish the dry soil. Your plants are watered automatically using only the water they need. If it rains, and the soil has enough moisture, no more water will be pulled through the walls. This supply-and-demand system saves up to 70% in water use in gardens, raised beds, and containers. Because of the design of the olla, there is no water runoff and no measurable evaporation (be sure to cover over the top of the olla with a rock, plate or get an olla with a lid).

Because soil moisture tension creates an environment where roots get slow, even watering around the clock, the root base grows larger, producing a healthier plant.

Ollas come in a variety of sizes. The larger the olla, the less often you have to fill it up, and the larger the circle of water around the olla. For example, a 2 gallon olla will water a 3-foot diameter circle for 3 to 5 days. That works well with a 4 x 4 garden or raised bed. Smaller ollas will water less, but may be better suited for tight spots and average sized containers.

Be sure to enter our Mega Monthly Giveaway! June’s prize is the Dripping Springs Olla!  

To meet another environmental mark, ollas are organic, being made from clay. They leave no plastic residue in the earth for the next generation to worry about. Even if forgotten and left in the ground for years (which we know is possible from archeological digs), ollas are great neighbors to the environment and earthworms alike.

An olla is a gift to the earth, that keeps on giving. How? Consider that ollas are off the grid, so the only energy used is you, pulling the hose to the olla, and what little is needed to get the water from its source. However, if you use rain barrels, we can narrow the energy use down to just you, putting the hose in the neck of the olla!

Ollas have great attributes, but in my humble opinion, the best is where they are used, and my favorite is teaching gardens. It’s one thing to personally learn about water conservation, which naturally leads to growing healthy food. It’s another to actually teach it. So to all those volunteer gardeners out there who think up ideas, frame up gardens, and rev up our children in schools and community gardens, thank you. The ripple effect you have on our youth will shape their health, which in turn will shape the health of our Earth. I call that ultimate recycling. What a wonderful gift to give on Earth Day, our Day, or any day!

sent in by customer

Ron Finley's teaching day in Los Angeles


Be sure to enter our Mega Monthly Giveaway! June’s prize is the Dripping Springs Olla!  

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Lincoln Lore

Lincoln Lore

On April 15, 1865, (150 years ago), one of our most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. With an estimated 15,000 books written about Lincoln, much is known about his life, but here are 12 interesting and maybe not-so-well-known facts about our 16th president.

  1. Lincoln read the Farmers’ Almanac and used it in a murder trial in 1858. With his trusty Farmers’ Almanac in hand, Lincoln proved that on the night of the murder, the moon was low in the sky, contradicting the chief witness who said he saw the murder committed at night by the light of the moon. Case closed.
  2. Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, Willie, died in February of 1862. The Lincolns were so pleased with the embalming results by Dr Charles Brown that they had their son exhumed twice so they could review his remains again.
  3. The first woman executed by the U.S. government was Mary Surratt who was involved in the Lincoln assassination.
  4. In the presidential election of 1860, Lincoln came in a distant last place in his home state of Kentucky with less than 1% of the vote. In his wife’s home county where her large and influential family lived, he only received 5 votes.
  5. The first person killed in the Civil War was Col. Elmer Ellsworth, who was a law student in Lincoln’s Springfield, Illinois, office.
  6. Lincoln was a pet lover and especially fond of his cat “Tabby.” He fed his cat at the White House table with a gold fork. When Mrs. Lincoln objected, Lincoln said “If it was good enough for Buchanan (his predecessor), it is good enough for Tabby.”
  7. On October 3rd of 1863, Lincoln established the third Thursday of November to be a national holiday to celebrate Thanksgiving.
  8. Lincoln read the Bible daily and referred to it liberally in many speeches, but he never joined any organized church.
  9. Abraham Lincoln (no middle name) was named after his paternal grandfather who was killed in 1786, near what is now Louisville, Kentucky.
  10. Lincoln was the first president to have his image on a U.S. coin, the 1909 penny, which commemorated his 100th birthday. The penny was redesigned on his 150th and 200th birthday.
  11. Lincoln’s coffin has been opened five different times, first in December of 1865, and last in September of 1901. Witnesses in 1901 said his remains were well preserved.
  12. The greatest speaker of the day, Edward Everett was the featured speaker at the dedication of the Gettysburg Battlefield ceremony. He delivered a two-hour speech with 13,607 words. Lincoln was invited to attend the ceremony at the last minute and was asked to make “a few appropriate remarks.”  His two-minute, less-than-300-word speech, The Gettysburg Address, is one of the greatest American speeches of all time.

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Memorable Animals of TV, Books, and Film

Memorable Animals of TV, Books, and Film

On television and in film, animals make us laugh, teach us about love and loyalty. Here’s a list of some famous furry friends you may recognize:

Benji – starred in a series of films from 1974 to 2004 where his role was to help people who found themselves in challenging situations. The first Benji was played by a shelter dog named Higgins.

Cheetah – a chimpanzee in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and ‘40s and constant companion of “Boy” – reportedly died at age 80 on December 24, 2011, of kidney failure at a Florida animal sanctuary.

Flipper – played by seven dolphins on the eponymous TV show from 1964 to 1967, Bebe – the last of the seven – died at age 40.

Garfield – snarky, unmotivated, lasagna- and coffee-loving cat of comic book and cartoon fame.

GEICO® Gecko – created by the Martin Agency, the first ad featuring the reptilian character appeared during a 1999 Screen Actors Guild strike that prohibited the use of live actors. The original Gecko was voiced by actor Kelsey Grammer.

Jumbo – The original Jumbo was a thirteen foot, six-ton African elephant born in 1861. Jumbo’s name came from “Jumbe” – Swahili for chief. Traveling from the French Sudan to the Jardin des Plantes zoo in Paris, in 1865 he was moved again to the London Zoo. As he was likely suffering the way many wild animals do in captivity and consequently becoming difficult to control, he was later sold to P.T. Barnum for $10,000. In a nationwide uproar, Queen Victoria actually allegedly received more than 100,000 letters pleading for her intervention in the matter. Nevertheless he was reportedly more content with Barnum’s circus. Jumbo died of injuries as the result of a train crash three years later.

Keiko – a male orca captured as a two-year-old near Iceland who starred in the 1993 film “Free Willy.” Spending many of his early years in captivity in a substandard Mexico amusement park where he became dangerously underweight and suffered from debilitating skin lesions (indicative of poor health), a foundation led by Warner Brothers and an anonymous donor, later identified as Craig McCaw, began with $4 million to relocate him. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) soon came on board. He was eventually moved to a rehabilitation facility in Oregon and later released back into his own Icelandic waters with a tracking device. He died on December 12, 2003.

Lassie – rough collie protagonist of a short story and later a novel, “Lassie Come Home,” by author Eric Knight. Star of six films from 1943 through 1951, the first canine TV star was played by a male dog named Pal. The series ran from 1954-73. Lassie appeared on radio, in comic books, children’s novels, animated series and more.

Mickey Mouse; Minnie Mouse; Pluto – fabled Disney characters and stars of film, books, and theme parks.

Mr. Ed – talking horse who starred in the 1961-66 TV series.

Nipper – the RCA Victor Dog who famously posed in front of a gramophone listening to his master’s voice.

Rin-Tin-Tin – the original Rin Tin Tin was rescued from a World War I battlefield by American soldier Lee Duncan. Nicknamed “Rinty,” the German Shepard later starred in silent films. The “Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin” ran on TV from 1954-59.

Silver – white stallion belonging to the Lone Ranger in the TV series, which ran from 1949-57. The Lone Ranger (and Silver) also appeared on radio and in a film serial.

Smokey Bear – sometimes erroneously called Smokey, the Bear, and created for a 1944 advertising campaign encouraging people to be vigilant about preventing forest fires.

Snoopy – created by renowned Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, Snoopy was conceived as Charlie Brown’s dog, but eventually became a compelling character on his own. The first drawings of Snoopy were based on one of Schulz’s childhood dogs.toto2

Toto – initially appeared in the first edition of Wizard of Oz in 1900. Toto’s next incarnation was in Frank Baum’s Oz series of children’s books, and perhaps most notably in the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland.

Are there any others you remember? Share them with us in the comments below!

This is an excerpt of the article, Remember Any Of These Famed Furry Friends, which appears on pp. 152-157  in the 2015 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac.

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What The Heck Is An Empanada?

What The Heck Is An Empanada?

April 8th is National Empananda Day. But what exactly are empanadas?

Empanadas are a Spanish or Latin-American pastry turnover filled with savory ingredients that are either baked or fried.

From the Spanish verb empanar, which means to coat or wrap in bread, the empanada is said to originate from Spain, although many countries claim empanadas as their own, including Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, the Caribbean, and the Philipipines. Because of this, you’ll no doubt stumble across empanadas with endless combinations of fillings and flavors. In fact, the Indian samosa gets its inspiration from the empanada.

Empanadas are usually shaped in half-moons and range in size from pop-em-in-your-mouth, to calzone size. They’re so popular that they’re popping up on food trucks, corner markets and everywhere else you can get food to go! Or try making your own!

The recipe below uses the baking method. The list of filling ingredients is extensive, but they’re easy to make. For the sake of ease, this recipe uses pre-frozen “disk” dough, which you can find in most supermarkets.  The uncooked empanadas can be frozen for up to three months, individually wrapped in plastic and placed in re-sealable plastic bags. There’s no need to thaw before baking, they can go right from the freezer to the oven.

Traditional Beef Empanadas

The filling:

1 lbs ground beef, pork or chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 package frozen empanada dough disks (yellow or white), such as Goya, found in the freezer section of your grocery store, thawed.
Egg wash for the top


Prepare the filling: In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground beef, garlic powder and sea salt, and cook until beef is completely done. Drain, remove from pan, and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, chili powder, oregano, seasoned salt, minced garlic, bell peppers and onion. Cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the beef and combine, heating thoroughly, then the cilantro. The mixture should be moist.

To fill the empanadas: On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin, roll out discs, stretching them about a half inch larger. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of meat mixture into the middle of the dough, fold in half to form a half moon; moisten edges with water and pinch to seal closed or seal with fork tines. Bush with egg wash. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce or salsa. Makes 10 empanadas.

Dessert Empanadas 

(Allow a day for the dough to chill in the refrigerator)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup fruit preserves (jam)
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DAY BEFORE: Cream butter and cream cheese together until smoothly blended. Beat in the flour. Shape the dough into a smooth ball, wrap in foil or cling wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to 7 days.

When ready to bake: Remove dough from refrigerator 30 minutes before you are ready to use it. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough thin. Cut with 3 or 4 inch round cookie cutter. Place small spoonful of jam in center of each round, moisten edges with water.  Fold round over and press edges together to make a half-moon. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 15 to 20 minutes. Immediately roll in sugar mixed with cinnamon (traditional) OR in confectioners’ sugar if preferred. Serve warm.

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