This morning’s local paper forecasts severe weather for the afternoon—heavy rain, winds and thunderstorms. I then scrolled on over to my favorite weather source—NOAA—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—only to find this notice: “Due to the Federal government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated sites are unavailable. Only web sites necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained. See Weather.gov for critical weather information…” Thankfully, when I turned on the NOAA radio, the familiar voice told me when to expect the incoming front and other details. Phew!
We live at the foot of a mountain range, so often we are unable to see the weather fronts coming in until they are upon us; the clouds tumble over the mountain top at a rapid pace. My friends that live in town tell us that they watch the incoming weather and have a few more minutes to prepare then we do.
What did the women and men of this house rely on to predict the weather? They must have been good at reading the signs, recalling seasonal patterns, and relying on their sixth sense.
Almanacks also became a source for information. Benjamin Franklin began publishing his Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1733 and went on to sell 10,000 copies a year. In her new book on the life of Jane Franklin–Book of Ages—Jill Lepore reports: “Almanacs, issued just before the New Year, were calendars—books of days—listing tides, holidays and the phases of the moon. They sold better than everything except Bibles, and were bought, as [Ben] Franklin pointed out, by the “…common People, who bought scarce any other Books.”” Lepore continues: “…fifty thousand almanacs were printed in the colonies every year, for a population of about nine hundred thousand (that is, one almanac for every eighteen people.)”
My mother used to purchase an almanac and I fondly recall pouring over the pages and perusing advice ranging from planting seeds to curing common ills to, of course, the weather. Today one may read “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” online. I was just looking at the astrological timetable. It advises me the best day to plant below-ground crops is October 24/25. Dare I plant my seeds in the hoop house today?
For a modern almanac, please consult, The Old Farmer’s Almanac—online version: http://www.almanac.com
Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: the life and opinions of Jane Franklin, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), 61-63