MAY 13, MONDAY - Plant corn now or lose a bushel a day after the middle of May (Midwest). Joe Louis born, 1914.
MAY 14, TUESDAY - Gabriel Fahrenheit born, 1686. State of Israel proclaimed, 1948.MAY 15, WEDNESDAY - First nylon stockings sold, 1940. Sputnik III launched, 1958.
MAY 16, THURSDAY - First Oscars awarded, 1929. Hires Root Beer invented, 1866. Jim Henson, Muppets creator, died, 1990.
MAY 17, FRIDAY - New moon. Eighteen percent of tornadoes occur this month.
MAY 18, SATURDAY - Tennessee Valley Authority created, 1933. Compulsory education law (ages 8-14) passed, Massachusetts, 1852.
MAY 19, SUNDAY - St. Dunstan. Anne Boleyn beheaded, 1536. Dark Day (dark at noon) in New England, 1780.
Ask the Old Farmers Almanac: Were nylons an immediate success or did women have to warm up to them?
- D.A., Menomonie, Wis.
Answer: Nylons were hot, right from the very start, resulting in no small part from the pre-war scarcity (and popularity) of silk stockings. You couldn't call them leg warmers, but nylons gave women no reason to hesitate. The first pairs went on sale on May 15, 1940, and were distributed throughout the country. In New York, 72,000 pairs had been allotted, and they were gone by the end of the eight-hour workday - even with a limit of two pairs per customer. (Evidently, their producers had a hunch they'd be sellouts.)
Dr. Wallace Carothers held the patent, No. 2071250, and DuPont was the manufacturer. Alternative uses for the treasured garments soon followed. A run in one's stockings was as predictable as the first mad run to purchase them, so women soon found other things to do with the castoffs, from polishing the furniture (nylons are a mild abrasive, but won't scratch the wood) to straining the lumps out of paint (simply stretch one over the paint can and pour).
Ask the Old Farmers Almanac: Is there any particular reason that killing a robin is supposed to bring bad luck?
- S.P., Vernon, Conn.
Answer: Well, it would be bad luck for the robin, for sure. . . . Is there reason behind any superstition? It's probable that the robin was singled out because it's considered a harbinger of spring, and no one would wish that spring be delayed. There is an old proverb that says, "The robin and the wren are God's cock and hen; the martin and the swallow are God's mate and marrow." But why those birds were chosen as the special ones, we couldn't say. Martins and swallows are considered lucky, especially if nesting near the house; and the wren, like the robin, is said to bring bad luck if killed. In weather lore, a robin singing in the bush is said to predict coarse weather, but "if the robin sings on the barn, then the weather will be warm." Doesn't say what happens if the bird is on the lawn, which is where we usually spot them.
Many creatures have superstitions associated with them. If rats leave a ship, the ship will sink on its next voyage. If you hear an owl hooting, it foretells a death. If a shark follows a ship, someone on board will die. If swallows fly low, it will rain. Croaking frogs predict rain. Spit when you see a caterpillar or you'll get sick. Never kill a cricket. Never count bees, unless you want to kill them. Never step on an ant, unless you want it to rain.
Ask the Old Farmers Almanac: Back in the 1930s, my maternal grandmother kept a diary in which she described my father, saying, "He's looking for salt pork and sundown." Does that mean he was looking to settle down?
- B.K., Defiance, Ohio.
Answer: Uh, no . . . but then, maybe her opinion changed when he evidently did so. Literally, it means that she thought he was looking to shirk his work, that he was a little shiftless, perhaps, and more interested in dinner and bedtime than in the work at hand. It's the sort of metaphor that almanac writers used to collect, similar to "slower than a hop toad in hot tar" (real slow!) or "faster than a cat lapping chain lightning" (real fast!), or "much would have more" (greed fosters greed).
Keep in mind that idleness was considered a terrible sin by your grandmother's generation, and courtship may have looked suspiciously like idleness. "Idleness is the shipwreck of chastity," some believed, while others (your father?) thought that "love is the fruit of idleness." If your mother emulated her mother, you probably inherited a hefty dose of that calamity - the fear of shiftlessness - yourself, as in the belief that "A light-heeled mother makes a heavy-heeled daughter," meaning that if the mother was too quick to attend to her children, her children might not learn to do for themselves. (Light-heeled is quick; heavy-heeled is lazy.)
This Week With The Old Farmer's Almanac
Three Chilly Saints
Mammertus, Pancras, and Gervais (or Gervatius) are the "Three Chilly Saints" whose feast days are May 11, 12, and 13. The three became known in weatherlore for predicting what were, traditionally, the three coldest days of the month. Germans knew them as "Icemanner" or the Iceman Days and farmers knew better than to plant vulnerable seedlings before the Icemen had come and gone. The English and French saw the Three Chilly Saints as harbingers of a late spring frost, leading to the weatherlore that "St. Pancras Day (May 12) never passes without frost."
If a cold wind reach you through a hole, say your prayers and mind your soul.
Tip of the Week
Plant garlic and mint around your rosebushes to keep away aphids.
2 ripe avocados
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons lemon juice
cayenne, black pepper, and salt, to taste
chopped parsley to garnish
Peel and pit the avocados. Dice and set aside some of the darker green chunks for the final garnish (sprinkle with a little extra lemon juice to prevent discoloring). Blend the rest with the spices and cream. Combine the chicken stock and 2 teaspoons lemon juice and bring to a boil. Gradually add the avocado mixture to the hot stock, then blend again, and reheat gently. Serve garnished with the dark green avocado chunks and parsely.
Makes 4 servings.
The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs
May never goes out without a wheat ear.
A May cold is a thirty-day cold.
So many mists in March, so many frosts in May.
A May flood never did good.
Special Offer: Handy chart full of interesting weather proverbs. Send $3 to Weather Chart, Dept. UF, The Old Farmer's Almanac, Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444.