Making predictions with Farmer’s Almanac

Published 7:52 am Friday, September 18, 2009

One of the pre-fall highlights here at the Tribune comes with the arrival in the mail of the latest issue of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. This annual publication has been issued each year since 1792 by a firm in Dublin, N.H. Gosh, that’s a mighty long time.

The reason why a free copy is sent to the Tribune is based on the hope that this rather unusual booklet will get some publicity. I’ve done this in the past with several special columns. And once again I’ll gladly use this very informative almanac to make a few weather predictions for the coming winter and spring and summer of 2010. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to pass along some useful information from this 246-page publication for the future use by our fine readers.

Two of those future weather predictions are very generalized and based on maps on Page 80. One map clearly shows the winter of 2009-10 for this Midwest region will be cold and snowy. The second map says the summer of 2010 will be cool and dry.

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However, The Old Farmer’s Almanac can also be used to supposedly make more specific weather predictions. About a decade or two ago I tried to use the information in another booklet to indicate just when it was going to snow during the winter with specific dates. This caper in one of my columns didn’t really work out too well at all for several very valid reasons.

The first reason is based on Albert Lea’s location. Those predictions are based on the concept of dividing the nation into 16 regions. Thus, Region Nine is based on most of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the eastern portions of the Dakotas, plus all of upper and a portion of upper lower Michigan. Region Ten is based on all of Iowa, most of Missouri and Kansas, and chunks of South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin. And somewhere along the border between these two regions in this area.

I once thought a blending of predictions for those two regions could be used to obtain a fair indication of snow dates for this particular border area. Yet, as we all have learned through the years, future weather can be all too unpredictable. And right here is reason two.

Reason three is based on the differences one can find with a particular region for the weather. Out west there can be a tremendous difference in the early wintertime conditions between the high mountains and the lower valleys. This contrast can be based on a difference of maybe 4,000 feet in elevation and 10 miles involving those two points. This observation is based on my own memories of growing up in the Blue Mountains of east Oregon where there could be a snowy blizzard up in the cloud-covered mountains and maybe light rain down in the valleys.

For those who follow the weather news on area television channels, conditions can be observed which also vary from place to place out here between the corn rows.

I have one more comment before switching out of this weather topic. I still recall a storm that somehow stalled over Albert Lea and gave us about nine or 10 inches of snow. Meanwhile, over in Austin, there was maybe two or three inches of snow from this same storm.

Yet, The Old Farmer’s Almanac really has much more to offer its purchasers and readers than just the weather aspects.

Some of the topics featured in this excellent 2010 booklet are based on various aspects of humor, astrology and astronomy, health and home, and food.

Under the home category are some interesting hints on how to save money. Two of these suggestions are based on household water. One says the cold water proceeding the hot water coming from the faucet should be saved in a container or two for later use in cooking or taking care of thirsty house plants. Another aquatic hint is to reuse water from dish washing or bathing to irrigate the garden or flower beds.

Still another dimension worth noting in this publication are the ads placed by many firms.

To close off, I have a challenge for anyone looking over the latest edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. On Page 236 is a listing which includes six Minnesota communities. One of those places is Albert Lea. Just what is the purpose for this city being listed for so many years in this booklet? Anyone who can explain this is welcome to contribute the information for use in a future column.

Ed Shannon‘s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.