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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Plan a Family Discovery Day!

Plan a Family Discovery Day!

Looking for a family activity other than the usual movies, theme park, mall or pizza out? Ever thought about how things we take for granted work?

Why not plan a family activity day to the local cinema or bowling alley for a behind-the-scenes look (be sure to call ahead and request the visit!) at how things like projection or pin setting occur. How about behind-the-scenes at a fancy restaurant — a talk and demonstration by the chef can open eyes and make the eating experience very different, maybe even setting eager young observers on a future culinary path themselves.

For Woburn, Massachusetts family Kim and Arnie Hebert, and sons Matt, 7, and Tony, 10, their proximity to Boston gave them unlimited opportunities to participate in cultural events like theater, ballet, symphony, Boston’s many art museums, its Museum of Science and celebrated Hayden planetarium, etc. However mom Kim began to notice gaps in the boys’ awareness and lax attitudes about everyday things, such as where their food came from.

“It was the old joke and cliché about, ‘Oh, it comes from the supermarket,’” said Kim, but we wanted more for our kids. Researching some of the local growers and dairies in the western part of the state, the Heberts planned a family expedition to a couple of farms so their boys could learn firsthand where that lettuce in their tuna sandwich came from and how hard people worked to produce it, and how much time it took to obtain that pasteurized glass of milk for their morning cereal.

“It made a huge difference in their attitudes and respect for a lot of things,” Kim said. “In fact six months later, Matt hasn’t stopped asking questions.”

For Tom and Angela Sturdivant of Kingsport, Tennessee, a birthday celebration for their twins, Sarah and Amy, age 12, was purposely devoid of food, loud music, a couple of dozen guests, and a parcel of expensive gifts.

“We thought the best gift we could give them at this age was experience,” said dad Tom, who loaded up the family car and headed for a day at the Kingsport Paper Mill. “Like many kids, sometimes they were a bit wasteful and we wanted them to understand how hard people worked to produce things for us. By the end of it we had more thoughtful girls,” he observed, “and were only too proud to give them their cake and presents!”

“It doesn’t have to be all about teaching a lesson and resetting values,” said Des Moines, Iowa mom Anne Hughes, whose son, Jake, age 9, loves to bake. She arranged for the two of them to spend part of a day at the local bakery, where workers punched in at 4 a.m. — along with Anne and Jake — to start the day’s dough- and donut-making processes.

Most hotels have a hundred components that beg for exploration: front desk; housekeeping and maintenance; reservations. And what about animal shelters, banks, bookstores, hospitals, boatyards, grocery stores, power plants, live theatre (incl. orchestras; ballet), laboratories, museums, indoor skating rinks, etc. Or perhaps like the Sturdivants, you live in a place with a manufacturing facility (shoes; furniture; automobiles) which can provide an eye-opening experience. In most cases, with some notice management will be happy to open its doors to interested families. The possibilities for a discovery day are endless, and could become a well-anticipated family adventure!

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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.