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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

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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The Lion Roars: More Heavy Snow

The Lion Roars: More Heavy Snow

As the old saying goes, March comes in like a lion. And, as we head into the middle of the month, that lion is showing no signs of becoming any less ferocious.

The Midwest got hit with heavy snow starting last night, making this winter among the snowiest on record for the Chicago and Detroit areas – the third snowiest in Chicago and the second in Detroit since the late 1800s. Overnight, the snow made its way across the Great Lakes, into New England, where some areas are expected to get as much as 19 inches by the time it moves out tomorrow night.

Though we predicted heavy snow over the weekend, rather than midweek, this storm system confirms our warnings that snowy weather would keep pounding us until the bitter end of winter. In fact, our forecast calls for more snow in the Northeastern U.S. well past the official start of spring.

We’re expecting storms to rage through the end of the month, with continued snowfall even into April. Time will tell if our projections bear out, or if those who are dreaming of spring will get their wish.

What do you think? Is this week’s storm part of an ongoing pattern, or just winter going out with a bang, er, roar?

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Let There Be Light!

Let There Be Light!

Arguably, this has been the darkest and dreariest winter in decades; 90% of the U.S. has suffered record cold and snow. And just when it seems it will never end, daylight saving time comes along.

I flipped by clocks ahead an hour on Saturday, along with most of the rest of the country, but my internal clock still told me get up and do something. So, at 5am, I decided to head to the 24/7 L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine — a 25 minute drive. Once there, it was brighter, but I could hear the best sign of spring — birds singing. No robins in sight and plenty of snow on the ground, but just when I had lost hope, a flip of the clock gives me hope.

How are you adjusting to the “longer” days?

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Bees Need Our Help!

Bees Need Our Help!

Over the last few years, honey bee populations have been shrinking to dangerously low levels.

The sudden die-off of honey bees, often referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder, is a serious threat not just to bees, but to crop production. Bee pollination is responsible for at least one-third of America’s diet. Crops that rely heavily on bee pollination include almonds, apples, blueberries, melons, plums, avocados, cucumbers, pears, cranberries, cherries, kiwis, cauliflower, carrots, onions, celery, sunflowers, and more.

It’s not completely clear what’s responsible for the widespread death of these bees, but many factors seem to have played a role, including the prevalence of pesticide use and genetically modified plants, climate change, and an epidemic of infestation by the varroa destructor, a type of parasitic mite that sucks out bees’ internal fluids, like a vampire.

The Sierra Club has created an online pledge, asking those who are concerned about bees to take a few very simple steps to help these vitally important insects.

1. Plant bee friendly plants in your garden (single flowering plants, vetetables and herbs).

2. Buy local honey.

3. Do not leave foreign honey outside. (It can contain bacteria that can harm local honey bees).

4. Leave clover and dandelions in your yard, they are a haven for bees.

Other steps you might consider are avoiding genetically modified flowers and produce in your garden, not using chemical pesticides, and choosing organic, non-GMO produce.

If you have a Facebook account, please consider adding your pledge and spreading the word on how we can help save the honey bees before it’s too late!

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Sure Signs of Spring

Sure Signs of Spring

March is here which means spring officially arrives on the 20th, but for many areas it’s still very cold and very white.

But there are a few signs of spring showing up, aren’t there?

Have you noticed the days seem a bit longer — daylight wise? The sun is setting later and later each day, and this weekend we spring ahead to DST, which means even more daylight in the evening.

I have spotted robins out and about, which my mom used to say were a sure sign of spring, but I also recently learned that some robins, especially the males, endure the cold winter in northern areas and do not migrate south. But I do hear a few more birds singing (or perhaps asking me where the bird seed is).

Budding flowers and trees are a definite sign of spring, but alas it’s still winter here in the Northeast and we won’t be seeing that for awhile.

Yes, it’s time to get ready to stop and watch the signs of spring evolve so we don’t miss it.

What about you? What are the first signs of spring in your region and have you noticed any yet (be sure to list your state in your comment)? Do you watch for signs of spring or allow the warmer weather and new season to catch you by surprise?

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Goodbye to the Farmers’ Almanac’s First Lady

Ann Geiger

During our nearly 200 year history, the Farmers’ Almanac has been guided by a handful of men who served as editor or prognosticator. Sandi Duncan is the first woman to handle editing duties for this or any almanac starting with the 1995 edition. But, in 1948 Ann Geiger came on the scene when she met and then married Ray Geiger. It was her resources that allowed them to purchase the Almanac Publishing Company.

Together Ray and Ann grew the circulation from 86,000 copies to over 6.5 million books all given away by businesses. Ann moved from New Jersey to Maine in 1955, raised a family and handled recipes, hints, and served as chief critic to her editor husband. They were quite a team. Ray was outgoing and Ann was quiet, humble and dutiful.

Last month, my mother reached her last bucket list goal — turning 92 years old – before passing away surrounded by her family. Bright and articulate to the end, she played a major role in the success of the Farmers’ Almanac. Here is her obituary. God bless her. Enjoy!

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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.