Friday, April 28, 2017

American History 101: The Almanac Man

"We live in deeds, not years; 
in thoughts, not breaths;
in feelings, not figures on a dial.
We should count time by heartthrobs.
He most lives who thinks most,
feels the noblest, acts the best."

Over the years I have garnered much information
concerning life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
not to mention fabulous tips about growing more
beautiful roses, making homemade bread, and
the right times to plant and to harvest the
backyard vegetable garden
according to the cycle of the moon,
not from some random government pamphlet of facts,
but from the contributions of a man 
named Robert Baily Thomas and his famous book,
 which is still in print over five centuries.
The Old Farmer's Almanac.

Born in Grafton, Massachusetts  on April 24, 1766,
Robert Bailey Thomas was born a farmer's son,
whose ancestors had immigrated to America
from Wales in 1718. 

His family believed that receiving a formal education,
learning to read, to write, and to cipher, which in
that time and place mean't how to apply consumer's
mathematics to solve the problems of every day living,
was as important as knowledge
 about the conditions of the soil
 for raising the best cash crop, and
the best sod for grazing cows
 to produce good milk.

As a child, Robert attended the local village school
where he learned to read and write. His father later
offered to send him to college, but, Robert refused,
preferring to home school himself, dreaming one
 day of writing and publishing his own almanac.

Unfortunately, his skills in higher mathematics were poor,
and he had difficulty calculating the positions of the
heavens on which an almanac is based.

So, putting his dream of producing his own almanac
on hold, Robert moved to Boston and enrolled in
a mathematical school in order to learn the skills
 needed to compute the tables, dates, 
and astronomical calculations for his almanac.

Robert did so well in his studies
that he was able to write and publish
 his very first "Farmer's Almanac"
in 1792.

First printed in Boston,
 his publishing success there
 was curtailed when a wave 
of the dreaded smallpox epidemic
 swept through the city that same year.

Robert quickly moved his 
operations to Sterling, Massachusetts,
where he continued to publish
 his yearly almanac until
his death in 1846.

Robert lived to see his
 annual "Farmer's Almanac" 
become a continuous best-seller 
across the fledgling American nation.

 And I am sure he would be
genuinely surprised to see how his almanac's
 down-to-earth advice on how to grow
 1,000 lbs. pumpkins, whipping up a batch
of Grandma's peanut butter cookies, 
challenging brain puzzles and riddles,
 folksy anecdotes and humor,
 still resonates within
many American hearts today.

Old-Fashioned CrissCross Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
11/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine butter, peanut butter, sugars, 
vanilla and egg, beating until light and fluffy.
Stir together dry ingredients and add to butter
mixture, blending thoroughly.
Shape into 1-inch balls and place about
2 inches apart on a baking sheet.
Flatten with fork tines in a
crisscross pattern.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes
or until lightly browned.
Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

Source material taken from
 The 1992 Old Farmer's Almanac
The 200th Anniversary Issue
Special Commemorative Edition
Copyright 1991 Yankee Publishing Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment