3 Centuries of Farmer’s Almanacs – In the Collection

When shopping in second-hand stores, I always check out the book section, but I never really look at the magazine/whatever paper stuff was left lying around section. Sometimes that’s just because there is no such section in the store, which is most often the case. But when there is one I usually don’t find the selection of magazines enticing. They’re usually the boring standard magazines everyone gets (Time, National Geographic, etc.), and I have a hard time finishing those when they show up in my mail box. All of that is a lead-up to the fact that I took a shot recently and looked at the magazine area in my local thrift store. And this time I actually lucked out. Sitting there were two reprints of old Farmer’s Almanacs, and for a quarter apiece they were hard to pass up. But what really sealed the deal was the interesting coincidence that they were dated exactly one century apart. Curious coincidences often influence what I buy; so I purchased them and took them home.

And maybe that would have been the end of it for me. Sure, I would have flipped through the books and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t looking much deeper than that. That’s when, while explaining what had enticed me to buy the books, it was pointed out to me that not only were they 100 years apart from each other, but they were 100 years apart from the current year. Here I had nearly missed a golden opportunity to have 3 almanacs published exactly 100 years apart. I rushed out to buy a current one, as the year was coming to a close and they might’ve soon not been available. In my haste I purchased the first “Farmer’s” almanac I found (which in that late-September period is actually kinda difficult), but when I got home I noticed a few peculiar dissimilarities. This turned out to be because I had picked up the “Farmers’ Almanac” (apostrophe after “s”) and not the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” (apostrophe before the “s”). The Farmers’ Almanac was started about 25 years after what became the “Old” Farmer’s Almanac, and it has modernized in a way I’m not a particular fan of (and unfortunately I must say that I don’t like the format all the modern almanacs I’ve seen have taken on). But now to get my match, having exhausted all the local stores, I had to purchase one on the internet (which is a strange idea for a farmer’s almanac).

When I got them all together, I could see that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is quite a bit thicker (it’s 300 pages, 6 times as large as it was 100 years ago) and after flicking through it, I’m not quite sure how they managed to fill so much space. It’s still a nice, and somewhat useful little thing, but it has formatting problems and includes so much irrelevant fluff that my brain kinda turns off looking at it. In my lifetime, almanacs have always looked like this, and perhaps that’s why I never really got interested in them. But seeing these older versions (of what is now the longest running publication in North America) made me realize why people bought them in the first place. They aren’t necessarily pretty, but they are jam-packed with words, most of which are interesting or useful. And there is a beauty to that old-timey design that wasn’t laid out for aesthetics but for expense. Seeing the three sitting next to each other, if nothing else, gives one a perspective on how advanced paper manufacturing and binding has become in the last 200 years.

Book Review – All the Knots You Need (By: R.S. Lee)

All the Knots You Need is a 1999 book by R.S. Lee about, surprisingly enough, knots. It is a fairly short and heavily illustrated guide to the knots most people would need in their “day to day” lives (quotes because I rarely need knots and I probably will only need a bowline and a square knot in my life) and it took me way longer to finish than it should have. But that’s not the point here; “did it teach me how to tie knots?” is the point.


The book has around 60 knots that it shows you how to tie, give or take 10 for similarities, like the knots being “the same” but in slightly different configurations, and how you want to count them as “individual knots”. Each one has between 1 and 4 illustrations associated with it, mostly on how to tie it, but sometimes with what it looks like tied. These illustrations are very simple, and clear, but do have more of a flair than just a line telling you what to do (they actually look like rope). They suffer from what all “how-to” books suffer from, they don’t quite explain exactly what to do in a 3-dimensional space. Even with the worded explanations provided I found myself having to try knots again and again with slight adjustments and reviews of the diagram. Since most of the images are singular they don’t provide the proper context for the “process” that is tying the knot, and even the multiple images convey motion very poorly. But that could also be a function of how “knot-illiterate” I am.

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Included in the book along with these knot-tying instructions is information about materials, the parts of a rope, rope repair, rope care, and a glossary of terms related to ropes and knot-tying. All of this information is presented in easy-to-read and understand ways, with minimal but well-written (and drawn) text and diagrams. Almost everything is easy to understand (once you get the hang of it or are interested in an application) and nothing superfluous is added to inflate the book’s length. That being said, some of the sections were incredibly boring to a person (like me) who wouldn’t have a need for those knots on a regular basis (the fishing knot section comes to mind) and if one doesn’t closely follow the instructions it isn’t hard to get lost. But, as I said, I’m not one who needs many knots; the fishing, hoisting, farmwork, and sailing knots aren’t of particular use to me, and the sections aren’t “enthralling”.

For a newbie like me just starting to really learn knots (I didn’t retain much boy-scout knowledge) this is an unintimidating way to get started. The knots you really need are present and presented in a generally understandable format. It is worth mentioning that you pretty much need a rope or the described tying device (fishing line in some cases, or a frayed rope to whip and mend) to get the full effect. And reading this book is almost useless without a lot of practice during and afterwards. Knots aren’t just things that you throw in your brain and then can do perfectly. They need to be practiced in order to be effectively executed. But while the book can’t do that for you, I’d say it’s a good place to start.