Did you know a town in Alaska elected a cat who served as mayor for two decades? The Farmers’ Almanac knew.
Farmers’ Almanac Managing Editor Sandi Duncan and Editor Peter Geiger recreate an iconic photo Geiger and his father, Ray, made in 1978 when the forecast was for a cold and white winter at their production facility in Lewiston. A cold and windy winter is forecast in the latest edition of the almanac. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)Do you know the origin of the knock, knock joke or what people did to get by in an age before toilet paper? The almanac is all over that, too.
There’s a ton of fun and useful information in this year’s Farmers’ Almanac and that’s good because maybe it will serve as a distraction — the almanac’s famed weather forecast is out and if you’re not a fan of winter, the news is bleak.
“We’re actually calling for teeth-chattering cold,” said Geiger Managing Editor Sandi Duncan. “It’s going to be cold and it’s going to be snowy. We’re summarizing it as ‘cold and wet’ and the interesting thing is, it looks like winter might start a little bit early. We have some winter storms predicted early on.”
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DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER
The almanac’s grim forecast is in contrast to the prognostication of the rival The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which is calling for a mild winter. Bear this in mind, though: the Geiger team last winter called pretty much every major storm we had and it also nailed its predictions for muggy hot weather in parts of July and August.
“We really had as accurate a year as you’re going to get,” said company Vice President Peter Geiger, “and we’re doing it two years in advance.”
Peter Geiger and his father, Ray, made a promotional photo in late summer of 1978 for the 1979 Farmers’ Almanac. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)The chances of the Farmers’ Almanac being right, in other words, are much greater than the chance that it will be wrong.
And that’s good in a lot of ways because knowing what the weather is going to do is a cool sort of power.
“People refer to us when they’re planning a vacation, planning a wedding, planning any kind of event,” Geiger said.
Still. That forecast. It calls for the coming winter to be harsher than last winter, which was a back-breaker by most everybody’s standard. If all that the almanac offered was that one shivering prediction, reading it might be nothing more than a clinic in depression for the winter-haters among us.
Luckily, weather forecasting is only one small component of what the Farmers’ Almanac is offering to its readers.
For one thing, a glimpse of a brighter, warmer future.
“When people think of the almanac, right away you think winter,” Duncan said. “But actually there are 16 months of forecasts. If you don’t like the winter forecast you should keep looking to the summer forecast.”
And the fact is, the almanac is 200 pages. Weather forecasts only take up 16 of those pages.
What’s in the rest? Well, the history of knock, knock jokes and the weird world of the mayoral cat, for starters. There’s trivia and words of wisdom and even an “Amazing History of Beards.”
According to Geiger, people tend to turn to the Farmers’ Almanac in large part for its usefulness in gardening and for tips on things like fishing. These are facts that might have been commonly known 200 years ago but which were forgotten until the almanac unearthed them.
Do you know the best days to set eggs? The almanac knows.
Gestation period of a goose? It’s right there in the gestation table, along with the frost dates, meteor showers guide and tips on how to best garden by the moon.
The cover of the 2019 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)According to Duncan, she hears from people who won’t go fishing until they check the Fishing Calendar, which is based in large part on moon phases and 200 years of experience.
“I think the point of the almanac isn’t just the weather,” Geiger said. “The point is empowering people to do things for themselves. My father used to say it was a guide to good living.”
“THE GREATEST THREAT TO THE FUTURE IS INDIFFERENCE” – Farmers’ Almanac Philosofact
The Farmers’ Almanac has been around so long, it’s easy to associate it with old people doing things the old ways. But the almanac has kept up with the times and these days, they’re drawing a younger audience.
Part of that is due to deft management of the almanac’s online presence — the Farmers’ Almanac has more Facebook followers, for instance, than L.L. Bean.
According to Duncan, a recent webpage of almanac gardening tips drew a whopping 14.5 million visitors and the fishing page is always lively.
“The younger generation is realizing that the almanac is a resource for them,” Duncan said. “It’s wisdom from yesterday, but it’s also full of tips and technology for tomorrow.”
“The almanac,” Geiger said, “is a resource for all ages.”
About that winter forecast, though. If the Farmers’ Almanac is on the money again, we’re in for a long stretch of white and cold. It’s not their fault, but doesn’t it make you wonder how they do it year after year?
On that matter, the 2019 almanac says this: “The editors of the Farmers’ Almanac firmly deny using any type of computer satellite tracking equipment, weather lore, or groundhogs. What they will admit to is using a specific and reliable set of rules that were developed back in 1818 by David Young, the almanac’s first editor.”
It’s all very mathematical and astronomical, they say, based on sunspots and tides and the position of planets. The only person who knows the exact formula is an almanac weather prognosticator named Caleb Weatherbee.
In other words, they ain’t telling.
The Farmer’s Almanac 2019 edition officially launches today. Visit the almanac online at: farmersalmanac.com