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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

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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Get Ready: Polar Vortex, Take Three

Get Ready: Polar Vortex, Take Three

Temperatures across much of the U.S. and Canada warmed up somewhat last week, particularly over the weekend, when sunny weather and comparatively balmy temperatures seemed to tease that spring was on the way.

Though the thaw provided a nice respite after weeks of heavy snow and below average temperatures, meteorologists are warning warm weather lovers not to get too comfortable. The so-called “polar vortex” that dominated much of January and early February is on its way back, with a vengeance.

We’ve been saying since we revealed our forecast for the season last August that this winter would be a cold and long one for the Eastern half of the United States and Canada, with predictions for heavy snow through March and even into April. Now, it seems, Accuweather agrees with us.

The media company, along with government and other meteorologists, is now warning that polar vortex will be back starting this week, blasting much of the country with frigid arctic air.

The vortex is expected to affect the Great Lakes region, the northeastern U.S., and southeastern Canada, with temperatures up to 30 degrees below normal seasonal averages.

We’ll be plunged into the icebox through much of March, though not consistently. Expect short periods of warmer weather to interrupt the deep freeze here and there, though not frequently enough mitigate the arctic air’s impact on this year’s below-normal temperature average.

Bundle up, friends! Winter is still a long way from over.

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“Pax” is No Surpise for the Almanac

“Pax” is No Surpise for the Almanac

As a nasty storm, dubbed “Pax” by the Weather Channel, tears its way up the East Coast of the United States, the Farmers’ Almanac staff is nonplussed. We foresaw this storm nearly two years ago.

As of yesterday morning, heavy snow, punishing wind, and thick ice crippled the Southeastern U.S. In some areas, as much as a half an inch of ice encased the region, stranding commuters and leaving more than 93,000 customers from Alabama to North Carolina without power.

The storm moved into the Mid-Atlantic region on Wednesday afternoon before heading to New England, where it is expected to dump up to 18 inches in parts of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, where our headquarters is located, later this afternoon.

In an early Wednesday memo, the National Weather Service called the storm “an event of historical proportions,” noting that the ice, especially, would be “catastrophic … crippling … paralyzing … choose your adjective.”

In our 2014 edition, which hit newsstands last August, but was compiled during the fall of 2012, we warned that a major storm would move through the Appalachian Mountain region, bringing a wintry mix and potential flooding. On the outskirts of the storm, the publication predicted cold and heavy precipitation.

Unlike local meteorologists, who are able to change their predictions minute-by-minute, we are willing to go out on a limb and provide long-range forecasts that are set in stone from the day we publish.

People use our forecasts in ways that aren’t possible with a daily, or even 10-day, forecast. We get calls from municipalities trying to decide how much salt to buy for the roads, and from brides-to-be hoping to pick a sunny date for their big day.

This week’s storm is just the latest development in what has proven to be one of the coldest winters in recent memory for the eastern half of the United States. The National Weather Service reports that this winter has been the coldest of the 21st Century in many regions, and colder than any in more than 30 years for some.

Those reports are consistent with our long-range forecast, which warned in August that “the ‘days of shivery’ are back.” In our seasonal outlook for the coming winter, we predicted “a winter that will experience below average temperatures for about two-thirds of the nation. A large area of below-normal temperatures will predominate from roughly east of the Continental Divide to the Appalachians, north and east through New England.”

To all of you who live in the path of the storm, keep warm and get your shovels out!

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A Look Back At What Things Used to Cost

A Look Back At What Things Used to Cost

What did things cost 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago?

Car: $500
House: $3,500
Milk: $.32
Bread: $.06
Gas: $.12

Car: $750
House: $4,000
Milk: $.23
Bread: $.09
Gas: $.10

Car: $3,500
House: $20,000
Milk: $.49
Bread: $.22
Gas: $.30

Car: $12,000
House: $100,000
Milk: $2.30
Bread: $.61
Gas: $1.12

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Venus is Back!

Venus is Back!

The planet Venus has returned to the early morning sky and has established itself as a dazzling morning lantern, emerging into view from beyond the east-southeast horizon before 5:00 a.m. local standard time. Just three weeks ago, on January 11, was the day of its inferior conjunction — when it passed between the Sun and Earth and made its transition from an evening to a morning object.

A week later it had moved far enough away from the Sun’s vicinity so that it was rising more than an hour before sunrise. A member of New York’s Amateur Observers’ Society was one of the first to catch sight of it early on Sunday morning, January 19:

“I got up to answer the call of nature a little after 6 a.m. and looked out my southeast window to the approaching dawn. In the twilight, I spotted a bright object just a few degrees above the horizon. My guess was that it was Venus appearing on its eastward rise, which it turned out to be.”

And now Venus is much easier to sight, rising more than two hours before the Sun.

Interestingly, for about the past week or so, I’ve been getting inquiries from those who arise early in the morning, en route to work and school, asking what is that “dazzling white star,” which now precedes the rising Sun? Perhaps, they were standing at a bus stop or a train platform when their attention was drawn to Venus. Often, they will follow up with the comment, “Just a week ago, it wasn’t there!” I suspect, I’ll be getting an increasing number of such inquiries in the coming days ahead.

On Saturday, February 15, Venus comes up in total darkness, about an hour before the first glimmer of dawn, while shining at its greatest brilliancy (magnitude —4.9). To give you an idea of just how radiant Venus will be at that time, it will appear to gleam 25 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest of all stars. In fact, it’s so bright even now, that you might try sighting it on very clear days with the naked eye after sunrise. If you can keep track of where it is through sunup, you should still be able to see it as a tiny white “speck” against the blue daytime sky.

As a bonus, a lovely crescent Moon slides to the lower left of Venus on Wednesday morning, February 26. During March and April, Venus will appear to slowly lower a bit in altitude in the predawn sky, but then from late April through about the middle of August, it will appear to rise at approximately the same time as the beginning of morning twilight, roughly two hours before sunrise.

So it pretty much will remain a fixture in our morning sky from now, right on through at least the middle of the summer.

Now is also a fine time to examine the crescent of Venus in a telescope or even a pair of binoculars. A steady mounting for the binoculars — even just bracing them against the side of a tree — can make all the difference in the world.

There are, in fact, some individuals with such acute vision who claim that they can actually see the crescent of Venus without any optical aid. If you’d like to test your own perception of vision on Venus, the best time to try it would be during bright twilight, say 15 to 30 minutes before sunrise. At that time, Venus will appear with far less glare against the background sky, giving your eyes a better opportunity to perceive its shape.

Whenever Venus appears as a thin crescent, I often like to relate a very amusing story related by George Lovi (1939-1993), who was a well-known astronomy lecturer and author. One night, while running a public viewing night at the Brooklyn College Observatory in New York, the telescope was pointed right at Venus, then displaying its delicate crescent shape. Yet one student gazing through the telescope eyepiece stubbornly insisted he was really looking at the Moon.

When Mr. Lovi commented that the Moon wasn’t even in the sky, the student replied, “So what? Doesn’t a telescope show you things you can’t see without it?”

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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.