Randi Kreiss

Facts, fiction and when to fish for shad


I’m afraid if you didn’t cut your hair in March, potty train your 2-year-old, castrate your farm animals, quit smoking or get married, you probably missed the optimal moment for such events. That is according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which suggests auspicious dates for various activities, based on the phases of the moon and the alignment of the stars.
The almanac, launched in 1792, is now my go-to reliable source of information, meteorological prediction and general good-natured kibitzing. I used to read newspapers and watch TV news, but the OFA claims to be 80 percent accurate, and that’s good enough for me. I’m going with the annual pamphlet that tells me when to plant my tomatoes, based on the tides.
If you’ve never read the Almanac, it is now available on Kindle, and as an act of personal devotion to readers, I purchased my own copy for $5.39 so I could write this tribute to a publication that has informed and amused folks for 230 years.
It made my day — no, it made my month to read a compilation of anecdotes, folklore, science, magical thinking, history, recipes, weather forecasts, farming information, ephemera, origins of month names, friggatriskaidekaphobia trivia (that’s the fear of Friday the 13th), animal signs of the Chinese zodiac and a windfall of homey, heart-warming, salt-of-the-earth stories about good people doing kind things.
The almanac offers a total, feel-good, not-a-moment-too-soon distraction.

According to the OFA, this month we will have a Full Pink Moon, which heralds the blossoming of wild ground phlox, one of the first spring flowers. It is also known as the Moon when the Geese Lay Eggs, for obvious reasons.
The Almanac offers random factoids:
• Safe ice thickness for a single person on foot is 3 inches. For an 8-ton truck, it’s 12 inches.
• The first hurricane of 2022 will be Alex.
• A fear of toads is bufonophobia; a fear of bees is melissophobia.
• Playing golf burns the same number of calories per minute per pound of body weight as shoveling grain.
• You can keep beef in the freezer for six to 12 months, but frankfurters? One to two months.
If you want to know how much paint you need for a room, or how much wallpaper, or when to go fishing for shad, check out the OFA.
One section offers famous last words:
“Is it The Fourth?” Thomas Jefferson, our third president and the author of the Declaration of Independence, who died on July 4, 1826.
“How were receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” P.T. Barnum, April 7, 1891.
“Get my swan costume ready.” Anna Pavlova, Russian ballerina, Jan. 23, 1931.
“Is it not meningitis?” Louisa M. Alcott, March 6, 1888.
The OFA does not limit its predictions to the weather or farming. It sees in our future fake leather clothing and shoes made from mushroom roots, jeans recycled for housing insulation and shoes made from soda bottles.
In the dead-and-stuffed department, I learned that Comanche, a horse belonging to an officer killed at Little Bighorn in 1876, was given a full funeral, with military honors, in 1890, and then sent to the University of Kansas to be stuffed. He can be seen there today.
Also, Owney the terrier, an official U.S. Mail dog, was stuffed and displayed at the 1904 World’s Fair.
We all know Trigger trotted down the same path, but did you know that Vladimir Lenin, who died in 1923, lies somewhat embalmed in a glass tomb in Moscow’s Red Square? Scientists continue the effort to halt the deterioration of his body. Those wacky Russians.
Have you seen the signs of spring? According to the almanac, worms begin to emerge from the ground. Indeed, the March moon was the Full Worm Moon. Since ancient times, people have used flora as indicators of when the time is right to plant. For example, when the crocus blooms, it’s the cue to plant radishes, parsnips and spinach.
A point of information: Some forward-thinking farmers and ranchers are inviting volunteers to do farm chores for increased fitness. (Sounds like a Tom Sawyer scam to me.)
A new thing: mobile grocery stores in trucks that visit numerous neighborhoods. People shop inside the van, which then goes back to restock and then moves on.
According to the OFA, pets will soon wear devices that allow them to interface with their veterinarians. Realtors will sell houses with pets included.
I recommend the Old Farmer’s Almanac for its forecasts and arcane information and down-home good humor. It is uplifting and entertaining, fascinating and funny. It was the best $5.39 I’ve spent in some time.

Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.