The little book that knew everything

By Rick Houser – 

Recently I was looking through our magazines we had on hand to see if there might be something of interest. I didn’t have to dig too deep before I stumbled upon a publication that I have always seen lying around our home and always been curious about yet never fully understood. As a matter of fact, I’m not so certain that I ever will understand the many ways this publication can be used.
That my friends is the Farmers Almanac.  In this one publication there holds the answers to so many different questions that at least for me, I never really gave them much thought. The Farmer’s Almanac began publication in 1792 and has been updated every year since then. So at 226 years of publication, it might just reign as one of the all-time most published books of all time. (That is just my guess.)
The Almanac revolves around the the astrological center of our universe. As all the planets, suns, and moons orbit and move throughout the galaxy, our world moves in coordination with all of them. In doing so they generate how our weather will be. The Almanac then tells us when our seasons change down to the small details such as when the sun will set or rise.
Weather is predicted for the entire year telling us how each day will be in very accurate detail. It truly is amazing what can be found between the front page and the last page of the Almanac. Just think, a book that predicts an entire year in advance. Try hearing that on the 11 o’clock weather forecast. Rarely do they get the next day accurate.
You might be thinking that I’m about to say that on the farm we used the Almanac faithfully.  Actually, that was the furthest thing from how Dad ran our farms. He would listen to the weatherman very regularly and still kept his eyes peeled on the sky. To say he didn’t trust a weather forecast was really an understatement. I think he just put more trust in himself than anyone else when it came to issues of his own crops. In that way if he was wrong, he had no one to blame but himself.
I think that the generation before my Dad’s leaned on the Almanac to help them more than the generation before mine. I have heard folks spout lines from the Almanac about how things were going to be according to the book. At the time I was more of a worker and was more involved in hauling a crop to the barn than making the lead decisions. Later on when I moved up to the decision making role, I have to say I would turn the radio on and listen to a forecast. I was from a new generation that took very little notice of the Farmer’s Almanac. It had quickly moved from what you farmed by to being more of just a conversation piece.
I have heard different farmers say that they couldn’t cut tobacco on Arbor Day as the tobacco would cure with a green cast to it. If you set fence posts and the sign wasn’t in the foot, the posts wouldn’t stay firm in the ground. If it thunders in February, it will frost in May. These are only a few of the tidbits you can find as you scan through the Almanac. I have heard farmers that would have been about my grandfather’s age spout off about what they were positive, fact after fact. Some of the statements I heard  sounded a little hard to believe but these were my elders who were telling me. I might not have yielded to the practice they stated,  why I should take the risk and go against what I was being told was fact. By the way if you glance through the Almanac you read fact after fact that you know are true so why take a risk and ruin an entire crop. They could be right and if I was wrong I sure would look silly.
We raised a lot of tobacco on other farms and I know that one year Sadie and Homer Mefford talked Dad into bringing all of his equipment down to their farm to put out five acres of corn for them. Since this was a long way to haul his equipment and he had to put the corn out in a bottom that lay on the other side of the creek, Homer and Sadie imposed one more requirement. Dad had to let his equipment sit there idle until the signs for planting were good the next week. My Dad was not one to use the signs to farm by, but if they wanted it that way, he would go along. My Dad was a softie. The only thing I noticed out of this was that the corn crop looked about the same to me but I was only 10 years old. To Homer and Sadie, that field looked perfect to them.
I’m pretty sure my Grandmother Houser went by the signs. She never lectured about the signs but she did her gardening a certain way and Dad would always mention that she did. All I can say is she raised awesome gardens however she grew it.
One spring I saw my cousin Tom Houser put out his garden and he was a pretty good gardener. However, he planted a couple of rows of pole beans. His parents came over to see how his garden looked and when his mother learned he had planted pole beans she got upset and told  Tom that he knew better than to plant pole beans when the sign was in the foot. Tom laughed and said to his Mom, “That is just nonsense and it doesn’t make a difference.” She told him he’d be sorry.
As the beans continued to grow, he set the poles up. But no matter what he did the runners on the beans would not climb the poles. Tom even tried tying them on a few times to no avail. After awhile Tom began to show his frustration with the pole beans and openly stated that there was no way he wanted his Mom to see them because she would say,”I told you so.”  That incident was the most solid evidence I had ever seen that the Almanac was based on facts.
Whether a person uses the Almanac in how their lives are lived or not, it is still interesting to read and just as interesting to observe what might happen by its use or non-use. My Dad always said he used the s to harvest by, whether he had enough help or not. That way works also.

Rick Houser grew up on a small farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics.