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Archive for the ‘Old Farmers Almanac’

O.F.A. 9-1-10

“Keep your nose to the grindstone” is an old adage, and there must be a reason for it, but why would anyone want to do that? –T. M., Baker City, Oreg. Answer: Sounds gruesome, doesn’t it? The reference is to the sense of smell, however, rather than to any sort of applied friction to the […]

O.F.A. 8/25/10

How did the tradition of eating cake at weddings begin? –R. M., Yorba Linda, Calif. Answer: The wedding cake is thought to have originated with the Egyptians. It started as a cake of wheat or barley, and it was broken over the bride’s head to signify fertility. As time progressed, it evolved into the tiered […]

O.F.A. 8-18-10

Was witch hazel named for witches? -R. H., Eastman, Ga . Answer: Renowned as a remedy for everything from aches and pains to insects bites, complexion problems, and burns and sunburn, witch hazel would have been a constant in any midwife’s, witch’s, and country man’s or woman’s medicine cabinet. The name, however, probably came from […]

O.F.A. 8-11-10

We hired a baby-sitter recently who didn’t know how to use our rotary telephone. How is this possible? -D. N., Indianola, Iowa Answer: Do you remember how to crank a phone, put the earpiece to your ear, speak into the box on the wall, and ask the local operator to connect you with the corner […]

O.F.A 8-4-10

We have black raspberries growing wild. Some years they do well, while other years there’s little fruit. How can we encourage them? -R. B., Falmouth, Maine Answer: Early spring or late fall applications of fertilizer may help, especially where you are, in a more northern climate. If it’s possible to till around the plants without […]

O.F.A. 7-28-10

Why is it that “to spruce up” means to get tidy? Are spruces any tidier than maples or birches? -P. L., Charlevoix, Mich. Answer: Well, we might argue that any conifer (except, perhaps, the deciduous tamarack) is neater than the deciduous trees that litter the lawns with their leaves every autumn. It’s not the evergreen […]

O.F.A. 7-21-10

I’m wondering why “to get your goat” means to annoy someone. -F. B., Chippewa Falls, Wisc. Answer: The phrase comes from horse stables, and - oddly — especially the stables of racehorses. Highly bred racehorses can be kind of skittish, as you might imagine, and the practice of putting a goat into the stall of […]

O.F.A. July 14, 2010

Do marigolds really discourage garden pests? -G. R., Poughkeepsie, N. Y. Answer: This is another old wives’ tale come true. Not only does the scent of the marigold (Tagetes spp.) repel animals and insects, but the underground workings of the marigold will repel nematodes (microscopic worms) and other pests for up to 3 years. If […]

Ask The Old Farmers Almanac

If only female mosquitoes bite, then what do the males eat? -R. W., Colchester, Conn. Answer: Plant juices and nectars. The female needs blood in order to bring her eggs to maturity; otherwise, she might be just as vegetarian as her mate, we assume. Troubled by mosquitoes? Hold your breath. Some people believe that the […]

O.F.A June 9, 2010

I’ve heard that in some cultures it is considered taboo to remove a periwinkle from a child’s grave. What’s the significance of the periwinkle? –C. S., Mt. Pleasant, S. Car. Answer: Well, first, it’s the plant of the genus Vinca. It is a trailing perennial plant with glossy, dark green leaves, woody stems, and bluish-purple […]