Garden Lifestyle

Old Farmer’s Almanac is Still Useful and Entertaining

In 1792, when Robert B.

The Old Farmer's Almanac, first published in 1792, continues to provide useful and entertaining information.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

The Old Farmer’s Almanac continues to provide farmers, gardeners and other readers with 12 months of helpful information. Since its beginnings in 1792, the Almanac has published astronomical data, reference charts, planting tables, weather forecasts and much more.

Robert B. Thomas, a Massachusetts bookseller, school teacher and amateur astronomer, compiled the first issue in 1792. Little did he know that his Almanac would still be popular 222 years later. The Almanac’s publisher says the book is the oldest, continuously published periodical in America.

The 2014 edition is available now at bookstores, hardware stores, farm supply stores, and through online sellers. The new edition includes some of the same features that Thomas published in the first issues of the Almanac.

A replica of The Farmer’s Almanack published in 1800, gives a fascinating peek at what Thomas thought his readers would find helpful and entertaining. 

The booklet includes a month-by-month account of astrological calculations. This information is still valuable for folks who garden by the Moon’s place in the astrological zodiac. According to the Almanac, the best time to plant flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground is during the light of the moon; flowering bulbs and vegetables that bear crops below ground should be planted during the dark of the moon.

A Farmer’s Calendar for each month is similar to a modern to-do list. For January 1800, he writes, “‘Tis an old custom at this season to wish our friends a happy new year; I wish mine many and particularly through the present inclement one, in comfortable fires, without smoky chimneys–sleigh-rides without overturning–heavy purses with a liberal hand–full tables with generous hearts, and social enjoyments without contention.”

Thomas also advises to “cut timber for carting” and “permit not your cattle to come at small fruit trees, currant or gooseberry bushes at this season.”

The 1800 edition also includes “How to be Safe in Thunderstorms,” “Of Plaster of Paris as a Manure,” and “Of Whip or Splice Grafting, as described by a Gentleman in England, Mr. A. Crocker.” A page of recipes gives instructions for making onion sauce and roasting beef, assorted fowl and pork.

Thomas wanted his Almanac to “be useful, with a pleasant degree of humor.” That’s why there are several pages of anecdotes and riddles that were probably much funnier in their day. 

Do you use The Old Farmer’s Almanac to help you decide when to plant? Please share your experience here.

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