THE WORD “ALMANAC” has been linked with farmers for hundreds of
years. When Robert B. Thomas began issuing his The Farmer’s Almanac in
1792 (the word “old” was permanently added in 1848), the idea of getting a
grip on the vagaries of weather was its most compelling selling point. Like
other almanac publishers, he added tips, shortcuts, quotes and witticisms,
mostly to fill columns of weather charts that weren’t quite fitting properly.
Over time, as Americans began moving off their farms, the “useful tips,
shortcuts and secrets” sections of some almanacs began to overtake the
Almanacs continued to evolve. In 1888, we needed household help with
things such as how to make fruitcake last a year or how to keep crepe de
chine waists white. More than a century later, the lifestyle-savvy toolbox
includes advice on home filing systems, storage of digital family photos,
how to clean an AC system or how to reclaim a garage.
Nevertheless, we still need to know how to employ the same basic tenets
that have always been an integral part of small farming communities, things
such as frugality, efficient use of resources and neighborliness—the kinds of
things that are part of the Costco community, what I call the “Costco way in
the world.” It’s a vision of the future that includes recognizing the need to live
in a more global economy while still maintaining a family atmosphere and
investment in our communities—in short, to conduct commerce on a high
The Costco Household Almanac sows the seeds of everything community—
from how to start a book club to preparing for a weather-related disaster to
improving your health to filtering your water to kicking a cigarette habit. It’s
the modern-day version of age-old helpful hints, homemade concoctions and
darned good reading.
As a farmer for some 20 years, and most recently as an author, I know
the importance of useful and entertaining information. As an Idaho farmer
specifically, I also know the importance of potatoes! Here’s my almanac tip
from the past for today:
A good way to preserve flowers in bloom and keep them erect is to cut a
flat surface on the long side of a raw potato and then stick the stems into
holes bored into the top side using a pointed potato peeler. There is moisture
enough in a large potato to support a bouquet of flowers!
May this 2007 version of a tradition that has played an important part in
our nation’s heritage help you put better food on your table and “sparklin’
white line ns” on your line! Let the old-time ways carry on.
Costco member MaryJane Butters has worn many hats (and aprons) in her day,
but none more proudly than that of modern-day farm girl. She owns and operates
MaryJanesFarm in northern Idaho and manages the “Farmgirl Connection,” a Web site
www.maryjanesfarm.org) where both country and city women share their inner-farm-girl tips and inspiration. She is also the author of two books, MaryJane’s Ideabook,
Cookbook, Lifebook (Clarkson Potter, 2005) and MaryJane’s Stitching Room (2007).