BUFFALO — Astrological charts, weather forecasts, fishing tables and notable days in the year ahead can all be found in the 2014 “Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac” for the indecently-inexpensive price of $5.95.
This is the authentic guidebook, published in the same tradition of Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”
I never understood why the 5-by-8 inch guide still features a small hole, piercing the upper left of the cover and the book’s entire contents. Is it to provide a path for a chain or string, so that the almanac can be hung beside a wall-mounted telephone? It’s difficult to imagine reading this publication on a digital device.
First printed in 1692, the most current version of the homespun book remains true to its colors. There are articles on barn quilts, goldfinches, bedbugs and lawn mowers.
It also offers readers the names already decided upon for hurricanes in 2014. The Atlantic Ocean’s monikers will be Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyla, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wildred.
Eastern Pacific storms, for the same period, will be named Amanda, Boris, Cristina, Douglas, Elida, Fausto, Genevieve, Hernan, Iselle, Julio, Karina, Lowell, Marie, Norbert, Odile, Polo, Rachel, Simon, Trudy, Vance, Winnie, Xavier, Yolanda and Zeke.
Therefore, if the 13th Atlantic hurricane of the season hits at the same time as the 16th Pacific hurricane, we will be able to report on the “Marco Polo effect.”
Publisher Stanley Harris takes his calling seriously. His statement, printed on the inside cover, makes reference to the almanac’s “Information to make daily life easier and more productive for readers.
“Times have changed, and with them, the scope of a farmer’s almanac, but the core content has remained the same.”
You won’t find information on using solar power to charge your smartphone, but you will be able to read a reliable take on methods to grow horseradish. There are also two full pages dedicated to chicken-fried steak, complete with three different recipes.
Proving that nothing escapes the almanac’s need to know, contributing write Marti Attoun serves up “Popeye The Sailor Man’s Hometown,” a feature on Chester, Ill. Popeye’s creator, Elzie C. Segar, was born there in 1894 and based his comic characters on local townspeople. Popeye was inspired by the real-life Frank “Rocky” Fiegel.
The Spinach Can Collectibles and Museum is a major tourist attraction today, in Chester. Recipes for Popeye’s favorite vegetable, spinach, can be found all over the Internet, but four of the best are provided in the almanac, by dedicated fan club members. Choose from creamy spinach soup, scrambled eggs and spinach, spinach quiche or spinach salad.
Rounding out the 2014 culinary listing is a recipe for do-it-yourself deep-fried potatoes, better known as french fries. Almanac contributing writer Kim Long was swift to point out that the potatoes from which they are made are actually native to the Americas.
Those who struggle in the kitchen can take heart in Marianne Banes’ “10 Basic How-To’s Every Good Cook Should Know.” This is a good entry, based on honesty and simplicity.
“There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a challenging recipe and realizing you’re out of eggs,” one entry said.
Finally, the almanac gets a great deal of attention each year for weather predictions and astrological forecasts.
Meteorologist Ed Pearl says that our region – the Great Lakes region – will have “temperatures near normal and precipitation slightly above normal” when the new year commences in January. He is also calling for “large temperature changes” in April. It will be humid in June and July. “An isolated thunderstorm is possible, at any time,” in August.
Astrologer Zoe Fraus provides readers with background on the signs of the Zodiac “for fun and entertainment,” according to the almanac. Being a Pisces, I immediately wanted to know what 2014 will hold for me. I was amazed as the brilliant accuracy of this portion of the almanac. Of Pisces, it said, “People find being with you a magical experience.”
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.