LEWISTON (AP) — Hundreds of almanacs served a nation of farmers over two centuries ago. These days, only a handful of them remain.

One of them, the Farmers’ Almanac based in Maine, is celebrating its 200th edition this month with traditional gardening tips, home-spun humor and life hacks. In New Hampshire, The Old Farmer’s Almanac marks its 225th anniversary with tributes from President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, among articles on mangrove forests and presidential beer preferences. Both have special anniversary sections with articles from the past.

In Maine, the long-term weather forecast calls for a teeth-chattering winter for the eastern two-thirds of the nation. “We’re calling it the return of the old-fashioned winter. The ice cold winter is back,” said Sandi Duncan, managing editor.

Janice Stillman, editor of the New Hampshire publication, said the coldest, snowiest conditions will be along the Canadian border, down through southern New England and the Appalachians.

“The irony to me is that the ‘mitten’ of Michigan will probably not need mittens this winter,” she said. “They’re the one spot along the border, really, that is predicted to be relatively mild.” Cold temperatures also are expected for the rest of the country, but not as cold as the norm, with wet weather in California and Florida.

Modern scientists don’t put much stock in the almanacs’ unconventional weather formulas based on sunspots, tidal action, and other factors, but they are part of their tradition.

In Maine, Editor Peter Geiger blames an El Nino dubbed Godzilla by NASA for wrecking last year’s prediction with unexpected warmth. This winter, he says, there’s no El Nino to foul up the weather prognostication. The Old Farmer’s Almanac also acknowledged an incorrect interpretation of El Nino.

Geiger said his almanac circulation is declining, but he’s getting more eyeballs online, thanks to a new generation of backyard farmers interested in locally sourced produce, meat and eggs. The almanac has 1.1 million Facebook followers and sends an email blast to 250,000 readers each week. But it still publishes about 3 million printed editions, including retail and promotional versions.

“It’s full of good advice that’s still relevant in a digital age,” said 24-year-old reader Chris McKellar, who manages a 180-acre ornamental plant farm in addition to growing produce for himself in southeastern Wisconsin.

The Farmers’ Almanac was founded by David Young in New Jersey, and it never missed a beat when it moved to Maine in 1955. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, believed to be the oldest continually published periodical in North America, was founded by Robert B. Thomas. It also publishes an average of 3 million copies a year and has over 1.3 million Facebook followers.

Among Maine’s articles from the past is one urging folks to remember “old-fashioned neighborhoodliness” in the face of newfangled technology like cars, daily mail and telephones in 1923. Editors urged readers in 1834 to abandon tobacco and in 1850 promoted the common bean leaf to combat bed bugs, a pest that’s making a comeback.

Some suggestions seem offbeat these days, like advocating the use of fireplace bellows to resuscitate drowning victims in 1855.

The Maine almanac had some forward-thinking advice for women in 1876, telling them to learn skills to avoid being dependent on finding a husband. “It is better to be a woman than a wife, and do not degrade your sex by making your whole existence turn on the pivot of matrimony,” it counseled.

This year, the Old Farmer’s Almanac included “candid” commentaries from celebrities on their favorite, most useful, and least favorite parts. Lots liked the ads and puzzles.

“Um, I’m a big eater. I like the recipes,” said Bill McKibben, a writer and environmentalist in Vermont.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson said he enjoyed the “Anecdotes & Pleasantries” section. The most useless? “The jokes. They’re lame.”

Excerpts from farmers’ almanacs celebrating wit and wisdom  

Two longtime American almanacs full of wit, wisdom and weather are celebrating milestones. The Old Farmer’s Almanac from New Hampshire is marking its 225th anniversary and the Farmer’s Almanac in Maine is ringing in its 200th. Here are some excerpts from the early days, with some spellings modernized for today’s readers:

“As to my judgment of the weather, I need say but little; for you will in one year’s time, without any assistance of mine, very easily discover how near I have come to the truth.” — Robert B. Thomas, in his preface to the first edition of “The (Old) Farmer’s Almanac in 1793.

___

“To cure a pimpled Face, and sweeten the Blood:

Take jena, one ounce; put it in a small stone pot, and pour a quart or more of boiling water on it; then put as many prunes as you can get in, cover it with paper and set it in the oven with household bread; and take of this every day, one, two, three or more of the prunes and liquor, according as it operates; continue this for at least half a year.” — The (Old) Farmer’s Almanac, 1793.

___

“Economics: How to save expense in clothing. Purchase that which is at once decent, and the most durable; and wear your garment despite the frequent changes of fashion till it becomes too defaced to appear decent, then turn it and wear it thenceforth as long as it protects the body. A blue coat is as warm after fashion requires a green one as it ever was.” — Farmer’s Almanac, 1848.

___

“The Art of Kissing: Don’t peck a woman on the forehead or end of the nose, or jerk at her bonnet strings in haste to get through. … Draw her gently and lovingly to your heart. Don’t be in a hurry.” — Farmer’s Almanac, 1896.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.