Old Farmer’s Almanac full of wisdom for modern...
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Jun 19, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Old Farmer’s Almanac full of wisdom for modern times

The almanac combines folklore with the latest meteorological techniques to predict the weather and dish out old-fashioned wisdom — with remarkable precision


If you pay very close attention to squirrels gathering their nuts, you just might learn something.

That was the key message delivered by Tim Clark as part of his oral history of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, presented during the Ideacity conference on Thursday.

“Pay attention, that is the wisdom in the Old Farmer’s Almanac,” Clark said. “We’ve lost track of that in modern times.”

Clark, who studied mythology at Harvard University and writes proverbs and poems for the almanac, says folklore is not a rejection of technology but “a hunger for something else.” Often, nonsensical folk tales contain key wisdoms, including the most famous weather-related tale, Groundhog Day.

Although everybody in Canada knows that Feb. 2 is still the dead of winter, groundhogs, such as Ontario’s own Wiarton Willie or Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, remind farmers not to be fooled by an early thaw and plant seeds too soon.

The almanac combines folklore with the latest meteorological techniques to predict the weather and dish out old-fashioned wisdom — with remarkable precision.

On average, the book is accurate about 60-80 per cent of the time, Clark said. But last year, the Old Farmer’s Almanac hit it out of the park, predicting this winter’s vicious temperatures correctly 93 per cent of the time. Its meteorologist was so shocked by how cold his forecasts were, that he actually scaled it back a little bit. Unfortunately for everyone, he was all too right.

The almanac, which is now published by Yankee Publishing in Dublin, N.H. in the U.S., has a storied legacy in American publishing, where it was printed as the Farmer’s Almanac by Robert B. Thomas in 1792. The “Old” was added in 1832, after surviving for 50 years (and under Thomas’s editorship, too).

At the time, the almanac relied on folklore to make some of its predictions. Thick onion skins mean a cold winter is ahead. Another sign of a cold winter? Squirrels collecting more nuts that usual.

Clark insists the Almanac today uses as much technology as your local weather forecast, but he urged the audience not to discount old wives’ tales. Before the advent of computers, people had to take closer observation of nature and the almanacs of yore contained thousands of years of collective wisdom.

“Farmers are attentive people. They have to be,” Clark said.

Toronto Star

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