Tim Van Schmidt
This year, I didn’t just pass it by on the magazine rack at the grocery store. I’m talking about the “Farmer’s Almanac”, the traditional annual publication of weather predictions — and more.
Seeking any kind of guidance for what’s ahead in 2022, I went ahead and bought a copy of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2022”. This publication has been going since 1792.
The publishing of almanacs in America dates back to 1639 — that first one was only the second publication printed in the New World — but the practice of publishing an annual accounting of days goes way back to ancient Babylonian times.
The almanac I purchased in the 21st Century is so much more than just predictions. It is full of useful information — gardening tips, recipes, and upcoming trends in technology — and entertaining stories, from historical oddities and folklore to animal tracking and even sports.
A lot of the predictions in “The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2022” are based on astronomy and astrology.
It made me think of a small fistful of old almanacs passed down through several generations in my family, so I took the old ones out of the family trunk to compare.
The old tattered almanacs in my archive date all the way back to 1842 — that’s 180 years ago. And what’s inside those old things is eye-opening indeed.
The one from 1842 that has my great-great-great grandfather’s name curly-cued across the top of it was a Temperance Almanac — dedicated to stomping out the evils of alcohol and organizing community groups to do so. That alone says something about my ancestors.
In 1842, there were no superheroes, but there was Davy Crockett — and he had his own annual almanac only six years after he died at The Alamo. But let’s not be too quick to cheer. This isn’t your Walt Disney version of Davy Crockett. This one is a snorting frontiersman talking the rough vernacular of the backwoods, dedicated to killing animals and fighting Native Americans.
Another 1842 publication — the “Old American Comic Almanac” — is perhaps a precursor to today’s comic books, filled with stories, jokes, and engravings. The engravings in particular are pretty wild and no one is spared the sting of mockery here — everyone gets made fun of.
Many of the other old almanacs in the pile are dedicated to the wondrous cures that were available at the time. According to these publications, filled with testimonials and stories of medical miracles, just about everything that ailed the average 19th Century person could be overcome with only a few choice products. I’m wondering where these products are now?
One almanac, from 1844 — the “Tragic Almanac” — is jammed from front to back with heinous stories of murder and mayhem. Shootings, stabbings, riots, mutiny, ax killings, and more are featured in bloody detail. Shocking!
Apparently, there were almanacs for all tastes. I wouldn’t think my Temperance-loving ancestors were reading the “Tragic Almanac” — but somebody in my family tree was.
Let’s jump back to 2022. Here are some random predictions from “The Old Farmer’s 2022 Almanac”:
-February weather, calculated for the “High Plains” region:
7 degrees above average temp.
.2 inches below average precipitation.
Sunny and mild through February 14.
Rain and snow showers February 15-24.
Sunny, turning warm February 25-28.
-Denver: last spring frost May 4, first fall frost October 5.
-Total eclipse of the moon: May 15-16 and November 8.
Best days in February to:
Quit smoking- February 18, 23.
Brew- February 21-22.
Demolish- February 21-22.
Begin diet to lose weight- February 18, 23.
Get married- February 19-20.
Ask for a loan- February 21-22.
Prune to discourage growth- February 23-24.
*The full moon in February is called “Full Snow Moon”, but also “Full Hungry Moon”.
Can anyone really predict the future? Whether looking at the stars or looking at history, or using science or even a crystal ball, it seems that we can see ahead to a certain degree.
The publishing of almanacs to annually do so, anyway, is an established institution — American almanacs have been here for more than 350 years. Maybe they know something.
Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Explore his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt”.