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The Farmer’s Almanac and Old Wives Tales

December 23, 2011

For many in agriculture in years past they wouldn’t dare plant or till or castrate without consulting the farmer’s almanac. Many dismiss the information within the pages as unscientific, whimsical stories from grandparent’s day. Today’s modernization often makes such things unnecessary.

We know to not dehorn when it’s hot because flies are more apt to be a problem, and people killed hogs in the fall because it was naturally colder to store the hog before the days of modern refrigeration.

It documents the moon phases and the signs – an astrological time based cycle of a few days every month. Some see this as evil, while others see it as the Bible’s time to sow, reap, harvest etc.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac as it’s called now remains even though other farmers almanacs have newer, improved looks. The familiar yellow book that has planting tables, weather forecasts by region (often that are remarkably accurate!) and odd bits of information. Some of this includes knowledge that isn’t used as much anymore, especially by those outside of agriculture.

For example, there’s the news bit that animals lick their wounds and a scientific reason for it. “In 2008, scientists in the Netherlands published a report identifying a protein in the saliva called histatin that greatly speeds up the healing process. Researchers hope to find ways to use it in drugs.”

There’s a measurement table where you’ll learn that a rod is 5 1/2 yards, and that there’s 320 rods in a mile. A chain is 22 yards, while a fathom is two yards or six feet.

You’ll learn that the age of first mating for a ewe is at about 90 pounds, a sow at 5-6 months or 250 pounds, and that the average life span of a rabbit is six years. You’ll thank modern medicine when learning the frontier remedy for colds included pounding dried frog skins into a powder, mixing with fruit juice and drink up. One wonders how much different than modern medicines that tasted but I don’t really want to know.

A little history, a little agriculture and gardening, and much to be gleaned in the pages of the little annual book. Check it out – start some new traditions!


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