Since 1818, the Farmers’ Almanac has served as an annual reference for farmers and homesteaders, predicting everything for the year from weather to fashion trends. The guide, which is published out of Lewiston, claims 80 to 85 percent accuracy, though most scientific analyses estimate the guide is right about half of the time, at least when it comes to weather forecasts.
That didn’t stop Tammy Ouellette of Fort Kent from taking the Farmers’ Almanac’s every word as gospel.
For years, Ouellette, like many rural Maine homemakers, had picked up a Farmers’ Almanac at Reny’s, just to have around.
But for 2021, Ouellette found a new project: she would live every day by the Farmers’ Almanac for the rest of the year. She would not only plant the crops in her seven raised beds that she uses to feed her family fresh produce when the guide demanded, but cut her hair when it said so, clean her windows on the prescribed dates and mow her lawn according to the calendar.
The decision came about as Ouellette was feeling the empty space of her oldest son having left for college and the boredom of a seemingly never ending pandemic that prevented her family from gathering. So she decided to read the guide in depth instead of letting it gather dust on side tables.
“I was surprised that the almanac had much more than weather forecasts and planting dates to share with me,” Ouellette said. “There is a daily planner for [the] best days to do certain chores, best days for cooking and baking, best days for health and beauty, best days for parenting (really?), home maintenance, outdoor chores, hunting, travel and more.”
Ouellette read through the Almanac and circled the things that applied to her (she didn’t need to know the dates for things like potty training her children, for example, as her sons are both teenagers), keeping notes about what she observed as the year went on.
Now, more than 100 days later, she said she’s seen good results in the garden. Her squash is practically tumbling out of its beds. The cherry tomatoes, peas and string beans were more abundant than ever, too.
“This year my peas were 2 feet taller than the trellis. This has never happened before,” Ouellette said with a laugh. “I was inundated with vines. It made my garden look twice as large as it is. It looked like I had a bunch of toddlers playing and leaving their balls all over the yard.”
The Farmers’ Almanac forced her to be a more diligent gardener. She remembers rushing out to cover her plants in June when the Farmers’ Almanac predicted an unseasonal frost.
“I’m not one to run out with the blankets, but I had to because I was following the Almanac,” she said.
Some household chores and beauty regimens have paid off, too.
“I followed the dates for cutting hair to increase growth for both me and my teenage son,” said Ouellettem who added that her son wants long hair. “I have gained 3 inches and he is rocking his hippy vibe.”
Ouellette admitted that despite her initial goal, she isn’t perfect. She picked apples a day earlier than recommended to avoid the rain (though she swears she’ll bake them into a pie on October 6, the next “best day to bake”). She had to wash her wooden floors more frequently than prescribed — between the “cats and company,” she said the limited washing “would just be gross.”
Perhaps the most joyful parts of the project, though, were its moments of serendipity. Her neighbors were married this summer on a day that the Farmers’ Almanac said was good for weddings.
“It’s little things like this that I see in the Almanac and it makes my day happier,” Ouellette said.
As the growing season draws to a close, the Farmers’ Almanac’s predictions and prescriptions are winding down, too. Ouellette said that she plans to see the project through to the end of the year. She’s looking forward to seeing what hunting season brings, though her husband will be disappointed to know that the best days for hunting won’t come until the end of October.
Ouellette isn’t sure if she would have the energy and attention to keep up with the Farmers’ Almanac in years to come, but the project has made her look at the guide in a whole new way.
“It’s definitely a challenge to follow all dates to a tee, but hitting them from time to time can be rewarding,” Ouellette said. “I will pick up the current Almanac every year. It was fun to have around.”