“Useful, With A Pleasant Degree Of Humor”

For the past 35 years or so, I’ve asked for the same thing for Christmas every December. It doesn’t cost much, but it’s always my favorite gift and my family knows that I look forward to getting the newest edition of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.”

When I was a girl growing up on my grandparent’s farm, there was always an almanac lying around. And since I was that kid who read everything I could get my hands on, I would read the almanac from cover to cover before I moved on to seed catalogs and my grandmother’s “True Story” Magazines.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, an almanac is an annual publication that includes practical information such as weather forecasts for 18 regions of the United States, planting dates for each region, tide tables, celestial information about planets, eclipses, meteor showers, and times for the rising and setting of the Sun and the Moon, best fishing days of the year, religious and other holiday dates, recipes and jokes.  There are also interesting articles about gardening, nature, animals, games, household hints, and home remedies.

It’s exactly what it sounds like…an interesting combination of articles and facts and tables all presented with a sprinkling of humor. Or, as it says in the heading on the cover of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac”:  “Useful, With A Pleasant Degree Of Humor.”

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The writer in me loves the collection of facts all contained in one small book. I also enjoy their annual essay contest which has interesting and unusual topics such as last year’s topic:

“The Historical Figure I Would Most Like to Meet and Why”

and this year’s topic:

“How Weather Changed My Life”

There are multiple winners of the annual essay contest and cash prizes for the first, second, and third places. The winning essays are then printed in the next year’s edition for all to read.

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“The Old Farmer’s Almanac” was founded in 1792, just sixteen years after the Revolutionary War. The first edition cost just nine cents an issue and 3000 copies were sold. The founder was a man named Robert B. Thomas and his picture is on the front cover of each edition of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” to this day.

Joining his picture on the cover each year, is one of Benjamin Franklin. The well-known inventor, statesman, signer of the Declaration of Independence,  and face on our $100 bill, was also a publisher and famous for his annual publication of the “Poor Richard’s Almanack.”

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Franklin published it under his adopted pseudonym of “Richard Saunders” for over 25 years from 1732 to 1758. The “Poor Richard’s Almanak” was very popular in Colonial America and sold as many as 10,000 copies a year. It may have been a model for “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” which came on the scene some 30 years later.

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For those of you who like facts and trivia like I do, today is Benjamin Franklin’s birthday. He would be 312 years old.

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Author’s note: It used to be harder to find “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” but now they are sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and of course, any farm and feed stores. The 2018 edition sells for $6.99.

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