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Old Farmer's Almanac hits newsstands

The leaves are about to change, the geese are headed south and a little yellow magazine with a hole in the corner is hitting the newsstands, just as it has for the last 213 years.
Yankee Publishing Editor-In-Chief Judson Hale Sr., left, and Old Farmer's Almanac Editor Janice Stillman hold some of Yankee's publications Thursday in Dublin, N.H. This year's Farmer's Almanac predicts a colder winter with more snow than normal for the East and Northeast.Lee Marriner / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The leaves are about to change, the geese are packing for flights south and a little yellow magazine with a hole in the corner is hitting the newsstands, just as it has for the last 213 years.

If the Old Farmer's Almanac and its traditional "80 percent" accurate weather forecasts are on the mark, residents of the northeastern half of the country should brace for a winter that's colder and snowier than normal.

"It's going to be a tough winter," Editor Janice Stillman said, "so get the shovels ready, get the mittens out, stoke the fire."

The 2006 edition of the old-time almanac was scheduled for release Tuesday. Using a secret formula based on sunspots, weather patterns and meteorology, the almanac points to a milder-than-normal winter in the southwestern half of the country, with a warmer-than-normal summer in most areas, except the heartland and the Southeast.

In an eerie coincidence, the almanac features a story about an American city devastated by a natural disaster and its aftermath. The anniversary story about the great San Francisco earthquake, 100 years ago in April, comes as the dead from Hurricane Katrina are still being counted.

Striking parallels with Katrina
As with Katrina, the initial calamity did not cause most of the deaths. The storm surge and levee breaks devastated New Orleans. In San Francisco, it was fires after the shaking stopped.

Stillman said she included the anniversary piece because she was taken by the earthquake story's tales of survival and "the way people pull together and support each other through tragedies and challenges like this."

Published since 1792, the Old Farmer's Almanac is North America's oldest continuously published periodical. Stillman said its sense of continuity keeps it popular.

"It's a tradition in the midst of all kinds of good news and bad news, it's reliable ... and it reminds you of what went before, just how we all fit," she said.

Almost banned during World War II
The magazine still has a hole in the upper left-hand corner so it can hang in outhouses and still contains astronomical information and tide charts so accurate the government considered banning them during World War II, fearing they would help German spies.

The 2006 edition also offers information on everything from cultivating vegetables and manners to surviving decades of marriage.

One of Editor in Chief Jud Hale's favorite articles tells how to teach chickens to do tricks. That's not surprising for visitors to his office, a mini-museum of odds and ends, including about three dozen chickens — "stuffed, porcelain, whatever."

"Hey, chickens are a growing, popular thing," he said.

Oh. The trick to getting chickens to do tricks: bring plenty of food for rewards.

Farmer's Almanac creates children's version
New this year is a companion publication, The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids, offering "lots of super-cool stuff," instead of the almanac's traditional "new, useful and entertaining matter."

The colorful kids' edition includes classic stories from two centuries of almanac history, reference material and fascinating facts a child can sprinkle into dinner conversation.

For instance, did you know "it was so cold in southern Saskatchewan in January 1938 that cattle had to walk while they peed, so that the icicles they made didn't freeze them to the ground?"