Tag Archives: Old Farmers Almanac

The Ides Of March and The Old Farmer’s Almanac

I love The Old Farmer’s Almanac website and their interesting newsletters.  Free, btw.  Today’s subject is the Ides of March,  spring tonics and recipes for St. Patrick‘s Day…

In a nutshell, what they say about the Ides of March (March 15th) “has long been considered an ill-fated day. Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C. Historians note that it is likely that a soothsayer named Spurinna had warned Caesar that danger would occur by the ides of March. William Shakespeare included the phrase “Beware the ides of March” in his play Julius Caesar.”

Outside of falling down my steps and skinning my knee, so far the Ides of March have been uneventful here.  And that happened yesterday, so technically it wasn’t The Day yet.  I’ll just sir tight and avoid assassins.

For more on the Ides of March and the Old Farmer’s Almanac click here.

Early history of the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

“The first Old Farmer’s Almanac (then known as The Farmer’s Almanac) was edited by Robert B. Thomas, the publication’s founder.

There were many competing almanacs in the 18th century, but Thomas’s upstart was a success. In its second year, distribution tripled to 9,000. The cost of the book was six pence (about four cents).

To calculate the Almanac’s weather predictions, Thomas studied solar activity, astronomy cycles and weather patterns and used his research to develop a secret forecasting formula, which is still in use today. Other than the Almanac’s prognosticators, few people have seen the formula. It is kept in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in DublinNew Hampshire.

Thomas also started drilling a hole through the Almanac so that subscribers could hang it from a nail or a string. Subscribers would hang the Almanac in their outhouse to provide family members with both reading material and toilet paper.

Thomas served as editor until his death on May 19, 1846. As its editor for more than 50 years, Thomas established The Old Farmer’s Almanac as America’s “most enduring” almanac by outlasting the competition.”

We’ve gotten the annual Old Farmer’s Almanac for years and find that it’s weather forecast is usually right.  Interesting to note that “in 2008, the Almanac stated that the earth had entered a global cooling period that would probably last decades. The journal based its prediction on sunspot cycles. Said contributing meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo, “Studying these and other factor suggests that cold, not warm, climate may be our future.”

With the exception of the blistering hot summer of 2010, this would be true of the Shenandoah Valley.   So far, March has mostly been chilly here, and I see the Almanac is calling for a cooler than normal spring, also a slightly cooler than normal summer. We shall see, but they’re probably right.

Bee Balm Attracts Hummingbirds

If you delight in fruity minty fragrance and the sight of hummingbirds hovering above brilliant tubular blossoms, try your hand at growing bee balm.  This Native American herb, also called wild bergamot and Monarda, is available in crimson, pink, and purple flowers.  My favorite varieties are the red ones.  They also seem to attract more hummers, at least in my yard, but the other colors are lovely too.

As its name suggests, bee balm is attractive to honey bees. Butterflies also favor it. The red variety is commonly known as Oswego Tea and was used by colonists in place of English Tea after the Boston Tea Party, when they threw the English tea in the harbor to protest the tax imposed on it by the British.

To make a cup of tea, place a tablespoon of fresh or one teaspoon of dried bee balm leaves in a tea strainer or tea spoon and pour one cup of boiling water over it. Allow it to steep for ten minutes and bring the tea out. Sweeten if you wish and enjoy. The leaves can be chopped and added to salads. Flowers can also be used for tea or salads, but in my thinking that’s just wrong.

Bee Balm has a long history of medicinal use by American Indians and settlers, primarily for stomach and bronchial ailments, and is the source for the antiseptic derivative called Thymol. I haven’t used the plant medicinally, but enjoy its beauty and delicious scent in the garden. Hummingbirds appear without fail when my patch of bee balm thrives. Recent droughts have hurt it, so this year I’m setting out yet more starts of this invaluable herb.  *Note I wrote the bulk of this post last spring, so can now report in and say that the plants I set out then made it!  Woo hooo!  But I’d still like more.  I’m quite greedy when it comes to bee balm.

You can grow bee balm in among other plants, but take care that it isn’t crowded out, a mistake I’ve made. And it’s susceptible to mildew, so sunshine and good air circulation are important. Some recommended companion plants for bee balm are: purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), and lavender (Lavandula).

The Old Farmers Almanac (Online site) has a super piece about plants to attract birds and creating a bird friendly habitat.  They say:  “Hummingbirds are happy with nectar from bee balm…The key to attracting hummingbirds to your yard is to plant lots of flowers and provide the habitat that will give them shade, shelter, food, and security.”

For more from this valuable resource visit The Old Farmer’s Almanac and register for their free newsletter.  It’s loaded with valuable info.  The site also offers lovely cookbooks, gardening journals, handy garden snips… for sale.  They have a special Mother’s Day offer on now.  Not to mention that they are often spot on with their weather predictions.