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Farmers Almanac
The 2015 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

Brain Teasers and Riddles!

Brain Teasers and Riddles!

Just because April Fools’ Day is over, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy more fun and games!  Answers appear on the next page:

1.  Name That Song
The clever neighbor needed some extra cash, so he tells his friend: “I know almost every song that has ever been written.”  The friend laughs at this, but the neighbor says, “I am willing to bet you $50 that I can sing a song that you have heard of with the lady’s name of your choice in it.”

“Deal,” says the neighbor, adding, “How about my mother’s name, Felicity Jane Ashley?” And so he sang the song and earned $50.

What song did he sing?

2.  Ahoy Matey!
Why did the pirates go to the Caribbean?

3. What Is It?
What can you catch but not throw back?

4. Ships
What happened to the red ship and the blue ship that collided?

5. Name That Flower
What kind of flower is on your face?

6. US or Canada?
Why can’t a man living in the USA be buried in Canada?

7. What Comes Next?
What comes next in this series? A, B, C, D, E
Hint: It’s not F.

8. What Does This Represent?
COF  FEE

9. What do these words have in common?
Banana
Uneven
Dresser
Grammar
Potato

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Farmers’ Almanac Forced To Reveal Weather Forecaster’s True Identity

Who is Caleb Weatherbee?

For almost 200 years, the Farmers’ Almanac and its editors have guarded both its amazingly accurate weather predicting formula and its weather prognosticator, citing many security issues as well as brand secret challenges.

Yet after this year’s “spot-on” winter weather forecast, many of the Almanac readers are demanding to finally know who the real person behind the cloud, so to speak, really is, to give credit where credit is due.

Caleb Weatherbee uses the Almanac’s highly-guarded mathematical and astronomical formula to make his weather predictions. Readers of the Farmers’ Almanac estimate that these predictions come true about 85% of the time. (Even higher this past winter and the winter before.)

While a level of anonymity has been sought for Weatherbee and the Farmers’ Almanac’s formula, many believe that the time has come for the Almanac to come clean and reveal the true identity of the weather whiz behind Caleb Weatherbee, so he can finally publicly be recognized for his outstanding forecasts.

Continue reading on next page.

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Make Your Own June Bug Ice Cream

Make Your Own June Bug Ice Cream

Nothing says summer quite like the buzz of June bugs on a warm night. Put these critters to use in this easy-to-make dessert that uses your blender!

Spring Has Sprung

Spring Has Sprung

Today is March 25. Three months ago many of us were most likely picking up wrapping paper and celebrating that big holiday that kids of all ages look forward to.

Today is the fifth day of spring. The sun is shinning (here in NJ) and most of the snow has melted (although there are still piles in my backyard), and April is right around the corner. It’s hard to really understand how time can go so fast, especially when you’re in the middle of the winter and you’re shoveling out yet another snowstorm (anyone remember February?). But spring is here and with it the promise of new beginnings.

The daffodils are starting to poke out of frozen ground. The birds are singing and the weather is slowly warming up on the East Coast, yet burning up on the West Coast. How will you spend your spring this year? Any plans to start or expand a garden? Will you work on your New Year’s resolution to get more exercise and go for walks as the days lengthen and the weather improves?

Spring is always a busy time for us here at the Farmers’ Almanac. Not only are we getting ready for gardening season, but the next year’s edition of the Farmers’ Almanac is being finalized. The 2016 will be our 199th edition and I’m excited about how this next edition is coming together.

Welcome to spring Farmers’ Almanac friends. Hope that this season of rebirth finds you in good health, happy spirits, and fun times.

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The Truth About “O.K.”

The Truth About “O.K.”

The most widely understood American word in the world is O.K. The explanations for its origin have been as imaginative as they have been various. Some have claimed that O.K. is a version of the Chocktaw affirmative okeh. Others have asserted that it is short for the Greek olla kalla (“all good”) or Orrin Kendall crackers, or Aux Kayes rum, or the name of chief Old Keokuk, or only kissing.

The truth is more politically correct than any of these theories.

In the 1830s in New England, there was a craze for initialisms, in the manner of the currently popular T.G.I.F. and P.D.Q. The fad went so far as to generate letter combinations of intentional misspellings: K.G. for “know go,” K.Y. for “know use” and O.W. for “oll wright.”  O.K. for “oll correct” naturally followed.

Of all the loopy initialisms and misspellings of the time, O.K. alone survived. That’s because of a presidential nickname that consolidated the letters in the national memory.

Martin Van Buren, elected our eighth president in 1836, was born in Kinderhook, New York, and, early in his political career, was dubbed “Old Kinderhook.”  Echoing the “oll korrect” initialism, O.K. became the rallying cry of the Old Kinderhook Club, a political organization supporting Van Buren during the 1840 campaign.

The coinage did Van Buren no good, and he was defeated for his bid for re-election. But the word honoring his name today remains what H. L. Mencken identified as “the most shining and successful Americanism ever invented.”

This story appears in the 1999 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac.

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Viva La Cuban Sandwich!

Viva La Cuban Sandwich!

The ingredients, even individually — glazed ham; roast pork; Swiss cheese; crunchy pickles; tangy mustard; Genoa salami—are enough to tempt us to the lunch counter. But layered on Cuban bread (a baguette-like style), brushed with butter or olive oil and grilled in a plancha, or ungrooved sandwich press, the Cuban sandwich with its juicy, melded components is irresistible to long time connoisseurs and brand new converts alike.

Known also to culinary insiders as a cubano, Cuban Mix, Cuban pressed sandwich, or mixto, this specialty sandwich is reported to have been around since the mid-1800s, with some reports dating its genesis to the early 1500s. It was served to workers in cigar factories and sugar mills, first in cities like Santiago de Cuba and Havana, Cuba, and then in Key West, Tampa, and Ybor City, Florida as cigar factories moved to the United Sates. Much in the way slaves in the American South adopted foods that could be prepared in the fields and consumed quickly, the Cuban sandwich was a potent, portable meal that could be eaten without fuss during the long work day.

According to food historians, by the mid-1960s the Cuban sandwich found a welcome home in Miami restaurants, too, following the large Cuban migration to that city after Battista’s fall. It made its way to New York, New Jersey, and Chicago as Cuban exiles moved further north. In Florida, street corner snack bars called loncherias readily serve the beloved Cuban sandwich, as they have for decades.

Traditionalists debate the inclusion of Genoa salami as an ingredient in an authentic Cuban sandwich, which, depending on which area of the country you find it, may have been tweaked to reflect the local culture.

Variations on the sandwich include the medianoche, or midnight sandwich, popular at Havana nightclubs in the late night hours. The ingredients are the same as its Cuban sibling, but it is smaller and made with soft bread similar to traditional Jewish Challah.

Try this recipe for the ultimate Cuban sandwich, courtesy of Linda Stradley.

Ingredients:

1 loaf Cuban bread*
Prepared yellow mustard
1/2 pound deli baked ham, thinly sliced
1/2 pound roasted pork, thinly sliced
8 thin dill pickle slices
1/2 pound Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

* Italian or French bread may be substituted, if unavailable in your area

Directions:

Slice the bread horizontally to open. Spread a thin layer of mustard on top and bottom halves of bread. Arrange ham, pork, pickle slices, and Swiss cheese evenly over the bread. Cover the sandwiches with the top halves of the bread. Cut into 4 sandwiches and use one of the following methods for cooking:

Sandwich/Panini Press: Grill sandwiches in a hot buttered sandwich press until flat, bread is browned, and cheese has melted. Remove from heat; cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately.

Waffle Iron: Turn over metal plates to the flat surface. Place sandwich in hot buttered waffle iron, close cover, and grill for 3 minutes on each side.

Griddle or Frying Pan: Place sandwich on a hot griddle or frying pan, and position a heavy iron skillet or bacon press on top of the sandwich. Flatten the sandwich to about 1/4 of its original size. Grill the sandwich for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

“Mmm… The Cuban” by jeffreyw is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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How The Irish Take Their Tea

How The Irish Take Their Tea

“Taking tea” is an Irish custom and beverage that has been enjoyed for centuries by people of all walks of life. Assam tea, better known in this country as Irish Breakfast Tea, is the hot beverage Irish farmers and fishermen have long depended upon to warm them on a wintry day. From the top of the morning mug to the evening high tea served in fine china, the Irish typically drink four to six cups of tea a day.

Irish breakfast tea is characterized by its robust, malty flavor and reddish color. It is more robust than English breakfast tea, but not as strong as Scottish breakfast tea. Its unique malty flavor is attributed to its Assam content. Assam refers to the tropical region where this distinctive black tea originates. The Assam valley is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, mostly at or near sea level in India.

Surprisingly, this hearty black tea was discovered in the 1830s, not by an Irishman, but by the famous Scotsman, Robert Bruce. He is noted to have found this indigenous tea plant (Camellia sinensis assamica) growing wild in the Assam district of India.  The British East India Company subsequently began producing tea in Assam, and exported it to Ireland. It was first introduced to the upper classes around 1835, but by the middle of the 19th century tea became affordable for all to enjoy. Tea gained tremendous popularity, and has retained its status as Ireland’s favorite beverage.

The Assam, India valley is the world’s largest tea-growing region in the world. It produces more commercial tea than any other region besides southern China. Assam and southern China are the only two regions in the world with indigenous tea plants. Irish breakfast tea is readily available in retail markets, but note that tea blends vary from one company to the next as there is no standard formula. In addition to the traditional Indian Assam Tea, Irish breakfast teas sold today in this country may also contain Ceylon tea or teas from Kenya or Sri Lanka. So, you may want to try several Irish tea blends to find your favorite.

When is Tea Time?
The Irish drink a cup of tea in the mornings and anytime during the day. Taking tea is customary in Ireland and is a great way to unwind with family and friends. Traditional teas are taken at 11:00 a.m. and served with scones. Afternoon tea is generally served between the hours of 3 and 5 with a not too sweet cookie, and high tea is typically served at 6:00 p.m. with all the trimmings.

What’s unique about the way tea is served in Ireland?
The Irish are noted for drinking their tea strong and with lots of milk. Traditionally milk was poured into tea cups first to prevent the hot tea from cracking fine china cups. What started as a practical method of preserving fragile cups continues to be upheld by tea experts who found that pouring milk into hot tea after it is poured alters the flavor of the tea. Thus, tea aficionados uphold the tradition of pouring milk into the cup first for quality of taste. In Gaelic, the traditional language of Ireland, a cup of tea is called “cupan tae” or “cuppa tay.”

To create a traditional Irish cup or pot of tea:

  1. First, fill a kettle with water. Heat on the stovetop and bring to a boil. If you’ll be serving tea from a teapot, add some of the boiled water to the pot to heat it and discard.
  2. Add one teaspoon of fresh loose leaf tea per person plus one to the pot. Top the teapot with boiling water from the kettle. Steep for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Fill 1/3 of the tea cup with milk or cream. When making a pot of tea instead of a cup, add the milk and sugar to a heated pot first.
  4. Pour the strong, hot Assam or Irish breakfast tea that has steeped no longer than five minutes to each cup or teapot. If using loose leaf tea, pour the tea through a tea-strainer into the teacup containing milk, and sweeten to your liking.

Irish High Tea Menu
The Irish value hospitality, local food and serving plenty of it. A traditional tea may include tiny sandwiches, scones with jam, cakes and other baked goods and plenty of Irish tea. We’ve prepared a sample menu to assist you in planning your own Irish tea.

Irish Soda Bread is made with buttermilk and is loaded with raisins and caraway seeds. It is cut into wedges and served with sweet butter.

Brambrack is a traditional, baked Irish fruit cake or teacake of soaked mixed fruit, spices, marmalade and orange zest.

Irish Shortbread is what Americans consider a cookie and is made with basic ingredients: butter, sugar, flour and cornstarch.

Oatcakes are an Irish staple. Although the dough is cut into triangles and baked, in previous generations, they were cooked in the home on a griddle over a fire on the hearth.

Scones are a popular pastry that is cut into circles, baked, sliced in half and served with berry jam.

Apple Cake is filled with fresh apples, cinnamon, butter, raisins and hazelnuts. Apples have been grown in Ireland for more than 1,000 years.

Hot Irish Tea brings the high tea together in a festive, yet relaxed fashion. Look for blends primarily containing Assam tea to wash down all the tasty treats in traditional Irish fare.

What’s your tea of choice and how do you take your tea?

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Beware The Ides of March!

Beware The Ides of March!

“Beware the Ides of March!” It’s a phrase embedded into our culture more deeply than “Remember the Alamo!” or “You’ll shoot your eye out!” But what does it mean?

Now that the “lion” of March has entered the picture, should we be wary of the “Ides,” whatever they are?

Anyone who studied Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare’s tragic play about the assassination of the Roman Emperor, knows the origin of “Beware the Ides of March!” well enough. It was the warning an old seer woman gave Caesar, and one he would have done well to heed. But before we get to that, let’s clarify what the “Ides” even are.

In simplest terms, the “Ides of March” refers to March 15th. But the day had greater significance than just a random date.

Though our modern calendar is a direct descendant of the ancient Roman calendar, there were also many differences. For one thing, while we number the days of each month sequentially, from one to 30 or 31 (or 28 or 29, in the case of February), the Romans, who always loved a party, counted backwards to the next festival. Their calendar was literally a series of countdowns.

These countdowns moved toward one of three fixed points in each month: the Nones, which fell on the 5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month (March, May, July, and October were the longest months); the Ides on the 13th or 15th; and the Kalends, which began the following month. So the Roman calendar didn’t have March 1 or April 5, but rather “five days until the Ides of June” or “ten days until the Kalends of October.”

Although Rome had moved away from a strictly lunar calendar by the time of Julius Caesar, these special days aligned roughly with the phases of the Moon. The month started on Kalends with a New Moon, the Nones fell during its Quarter phase, and the Ides marked the Full Moon.

Because of its association with the Full Moon, the Ides was considered a holy day for the god Jupiter, and set aside for feasting and sacrifice. This was especially true of the Ides of March, one of the highest holy days of the year, which was special, even before it went down in infamy, because of its status as the first Full Moon of the year.

Yes, you read that right. During Roman times, the first Full Moon of the year occurred in March. And no, there weren’t fewer Full Moons back then. The Ides of March was the first because March used to be considered the first month of the New Year.

Have you ever noticed that the last four months of the year have numbers in their names? September, October, November, and December come from the Latin words seven, eight, nine, and ten. But those names don’t make much sense when you consider that they are the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months of the year. When you shift the beginning of the year from January to March, though, those names suddenly make perfect sense.

As Emperor of Rome and spiritual head of the Empire, Julius Caesar would have naturally been expected to participate in the public festivities during this important day, despite the seer’s prophecy to “Beware the Ides of March.” Even though his wife, Calphurnia, prompted by troubled prophetic dreams of her own, also implored her husband to stay home, Caesar would not be swayed.

In fact, the historian Plutarch wrote that Caesar was defiant in the face of such admonitions, boasting to the seer moments before his death that the Ides of March had come and her prophecy had not been fulfilled. To this, the seer replied “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

When Caesar arrived at the Theater of Pompey, where the Roman Senate met, he was stabbed to death by a group of more than 60 conspirators led by the senators Brutus and Cassius, former friends turned enemies in the face of the Emperor’s unchecked ambition. “Et tu, Brute?” indeed …

That the conspirators chose the Ides of March to enact their plot was no coincidence. Not only was it a day when they could count on having access to the Emperor, but the religious implications of the day would also have been at the forefront of their minds. By killing their leader on a day of sacrifice, the conspirators were sending a message that their leader’s blood was an offering to the gods, shed for the continued prosperity of their nation.

As March 15th approaches, you may be wondering if you should “Beware the Ides of March.” Unless you’re a Roman Emperor, though, chances are your biggest worry isn’t whether you’ll become a sacrificial lamb, but simply whether March will exit like one.

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The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

March 11th marks the 170th anniversary of the death of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Many of his loyal followers have marked this date as Johnny Appleseed Day in honor of the legendary American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to many parts of the country.

Chapman was born in Massachusetts on September 26, 1774 (which is why sometimes September 26th is celebrated as Johnny Appleseed Day). His father, Nathaniel Chapman was a Minuteman who fought in the Revolutionary war, and served with General George Washington. John’s mother, Elizabeth, died shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Nathaniel Chapman remarried after the war and had 10 children.

John and his half brother Nathaniel, Jr. journeyed west around 1792, just about five years after the Constitution was ratified. They lived as vagabonds, living off the land and taking odd jobs. Their father and siblings joined them in Ohio in 1805 where they started a family farm.

Johnny Appleseed’s legend begins when John Chapman left the family farm and signed on as an apprentice orchard man for an orchardist named Crawford. After that, fact and fiction become intertwined.  There are anecdotal reports of “Johnny Appleseed” appearing here and there over the middle Atlantic states, with key sightings in Pennsylvania. It’s likely that Chapman had combined his love of itinerant travel with his skills as an apple orchardist, and roamed the young United States looking for opportunity, locating landowners interested in planting apple orchards or starting cider mills.

While the legend depicts Johnny Appleseed as a barefoot vagrant, cooking pot on his head, and roaming the landscape strewing apple seeds randomly, it is far more likely that he was more of an eccentric but skilled professional, establishing nurseries of apple trees, and selling his services progressively westward to landowners interested in planning orchards. He’d teach his clients how to establish an orchard, how to keep deer and livestock at bay, and once the nursery was thriving, he’d move on to the next person interested in planting orchards. If he had to stay in one place for any length of time, he’d erect a teepee like structure and live humbly on the bare ground.  It is said that his only possessions were the clothes on his back, a bowl and a spoon, and a cooking pot for his gruel.

When it came to getting paid for his nursery work, it is said that Chapman charged based on what his clients could afford.  Richer landowners would pay cash for young apple trees, whereas he might accept used clothing or food from poorer settlers.

Later, Chapman began to mix the gospel with his nomadic lifestyle. He was a follower of what is known as the Swedenborgian faith, begun by Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Chapman was a dynamic speaker, and local residents would gather to hear him speak. This too, may have been another way he made money while traveling. But it’s clear that he was a man of deep faith, and believed that traveling across the country, preaching and setting up orchards was his path to salvation.

His obituary in the Fort Wayne Sentinel, on March 22, 1845, gives some insight into this unique American character:

On the same day in this neighborhood, at an advanced age, Mr. John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed).Johnny-appleseed-grave 2

The deceased was well known through this region by his eccentricity, and the strange garb he usually wore. He followed the occupation of a nurseryman, and has been a regular visitor here upwards of 10 years. He was a native of Pennsylvania we understand but his home—if homehe had—for some years past was in the neighborhood of Cleveland, where he has relatives living. He is supposed to have considerable property, yet denied himself almost the common necessities of life—not so much perhaps for avarice as from his peculiar notions on religious subjects. He was a follower of Swedenborg and devoutly believed that the more he endured in this world the less he would have to suffer and the greater would be his happiness hereafter—he submitted to every privation with cheerfulness and content, believing that in so doing he was securing snug quarters hereafter.

In the most inclement weather he might be seen barefooted and almost naked except when he chanced to pick up articles of old clothing. Notwithstanding the privations and exposure he endured, he lived to an extreme old age, not less than 80 years at the time of his death—though no person would have judged from his appearance that he was 60. He always carried with him some work on the doctrines of Swedenborg with which he was perfectly familiar, and would readily converse and argue on his tenets, using much shrewdness and penetration.

His death was quite sudden. He was seen on our streets a day or two previous.

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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.