The Washington Post

Farmers’ Almanac? How about a City Slickers’ Almanac instead

Columnist

The 2012 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac arrived in my office not long ago. The little paperback hasn’t changed much since it first came out in 1818. On the cover is a wood-block print of a farmhouse and some outbuildings. The tiny figure of a farmer is walking toward a doorway. I think he must have just come from slaughtering a chicken or doing some other farmer task — harvesting wax beans, perhaps, or shooting a rabid dog.

The editors have tried to jazz up the cover, make it more modern. In the lower right-hand corner, there’s a photograph of a man in a gray cable-knit sweater standing in front of a pile of snow and holding an umbrella. “Get ready for WET, WILD winter ahead!” reads the text next to him.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

All I want to say is, “Dude: Martha Stewart called. She wants her sweater back.”

The publisher helpfully included a letter pointing out various features in this year’s Farmers’ Almanac that I might want to mention to my “audience.” They include “Leap Year Lore,” “Natural Itch Relief” and “Farmers’ Almanac’s Take on the ‘End of the World.’ ”

In case you were wondering, they say the world will not end in 2012 — “We promise,” writes editor Peter E. Geiger — so if it does, feel free to sue the Farmers’ Almanac.

The Almanac also includes articles on how to can and freeze, how to plant a tea garden and how to hot-wire a Porsche Cayenne. (I’m just kidding about that last one.)

Of course, what everyone is interested in is the long-range weather forecast. For our area, the almanac is calling for a stormy, wet winter with above-normal temperatures and a warm to hot summer with seasonal precipitation.

I don’t know how the Farmers’ Almanac makes its predictions. I assume they’re based on rural, farmerish things, like the thickness of a woolly bear caterpillar’s coat, the tartness of the cranberry crop and the viscosity of groundhog saliva.

“Yup,” says the farmer. “That ol’ groundhog’s spit is pretty thick this year. I reckon we’re in for a wet, wild winter ahead!”

But we are no longer a nation of farmers. Who has the time to go around measuring groundhog saliva or palpating caterpillars? What we need are new meteorological tools. Thus I suggest we replace the Farmers’ Almanac with the City Slickers’ Almanac. For example:

●If the foam on your caramel macchiato is more than one-eighth the total height of the entire latte, there will be a severe winter.

●If the homeless guy you pass on your way to work has traded his layers of torn, duct-taped North Face jackets for a dirty Dallas Cowboys T-shirt, there will be a mild winter.

●If more than 30 percent of the branches of the scraggly tree near the highway offramp are covered with discarded plastic bags, there will be a windy winter.

● If the layer of discarded clothing and other detritus on the floor of your teenager’s bedroom is thicker than four inches, there will be above-average precipitation. (Also: You will need to buy them a new graphing calculator since they will claim to have “lost” theirs, when in reality it has just been buried under old gym clothes and empty bottles of Axe body spray.)

●If your cat hacks a hairball into your nice pumps, there will be a wet spring.

●If the UPS guys switch to their brown shorts before the spring equinox, there will be an average summer.

●If the subway smells like almonds, someone has released cyanide.

●If the hair color of Channel 7 meteorologist Bob Ryan shifts from “organic carrot” to “rusty Radio Flyer wagon,” there will be a hot, dry summer.

●If Channel 5’s Sue Palka grows a third eye in the middle of her forehead, it is the End Times — and despite what the Farmers’ Almanac says, the world will end in 2012.

We’re No. 1!

I thumbed with interest to one feature in the new Farmers’ Almanac (which is not to be confused with the Old Farmer’s Almanac, an entirely different publication). It’s a story headlined “Top Ten Cities Where Weather Can Shut Down Everyday Life.” Coming in at No. 1? Washington.

Writes the author, the pseudonymous “Caleb Weatherbee,” the Snowmaggedon of 2009-10 caused “a complete shutdown of the nation’s capital.”

Ah, good times. Good times.

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