JAN. 13, MONDAY: Propitious day for marriage, according to Hesiod.

JAN. 14, TUESDAY: Favorable day for the birth of girls. Today is said to be the coldest day of the year.JAN. 15, WEDNESDAY: First quarter moon. Gray whales migrate, Calif. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday (observed Jan. 20).

JAN. 16, THURSDAY: Prohibition began, 1920. Dizzy Dean born, 1911.

JAN. 17, FRIDAY: First child born in White House (J.M. Randolph), 1808. Benjamin Franklin born, 1706.

JAN. 18, SATURDAY: Jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and others performed at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, 1944.

JAN. 19, SUNDAY: Birthday of Robert E. Lee, Edgar Allen Poe and Dolly Parton. Beatles joined Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 1988.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Who ever heard of marrying in January? And who was Hesiod to say, anyway?

- H.P., Sacramento, Calif.

Answer: There are all sorts of prescriptions for marriage, not the least of which is when to do it. "Marry in May, rue for aye," is a common proverb, "aye" meaning "always." Another is, "Marry in Lent, and you'll live to repent." Another concerned with timing is this caution: "He's a fool that marries his wife at Yule." (I hope you didn't just take a Christmas bride.) You have probably heard of these, as well: "Marry in haste and repent at leisure." "Keep your eyes open before marriage and half shut afterwards." "Where there's marriage without love, there will be love without marriage." "A good wife makes a good husband." "Many court in poetry and after marriage live in prose."

As for Hesiod, he was an ancient Greek poet. The date of his birth is unsubstantiated, but it's estimated at about the 8th century B.C. It's generally thought that he lived somewhat later than Homer, but even this is unclear. He gave his name to the Hesiod school of poets, who are pictured as opposing the Homeric school. Between Homer and Hesiod, many Greek myths were recorded and preserved. Almanacs often quote Hesiod's didactic poem "Works and Days," because it's filled with advice for farmers, maxims, and notes on propitious days for various things, such as the birth of girls or boys, the launching of ships, the beginning of new ventures, even marriage in January.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: An old will in Rhode Island gave a flock bed to one son. Just what did he get? Also, what's a bed-staff?

- K.B., Bristol, R.I.

Answer: In the case of a flock bed, "bed" means simply the pad, like a feather bed, only not all old beds were stuffed with feathers. Some were stuffed with "flock," which was odds and ends of wool combings, lint, and so on. Not a fancy article.

As for a bed-staff, it's the singular version of bed staves which, even today, some beds use instead of springs to hold up the mattress. Bed staves are the crosswise slats of wood or metal lath, running perpendicular to the sides of the bed, which hold up the box spring or mattress. In very old beds, there were sometimes staves along the two sides, as well, to hold the bed clothes firmly in place and prevent them from falling off to one side or the other. Chambermaids occasionally used one of the side pieces, a bed staff, to beat the feather bed into a fluffier presentation, from which practice came the expression (nearly extinct today) of doing something "in the twinkling of a bed-staff." Twinkling, in this case, meant a quick turning or twisting. It was sometimes translated as "in the twinkling of a bed-post" which makes even less sense today, since bed-posts neither turn nor twinkle, and certainly don't imply great speed.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: If someone really LIKES cold weather, where in the United States should they live?

- T.S., Fargo, N.D.

Answer: Fargo doesn't suit you? Well, there's Cold Bay, Alaska; Cold Spring, N.Y.; or Coldwater in either Michigan or Ohio. Or there's Snow Hill in Maryland or North Carolina. Not what you had in mind?

Well, you could take your pick of the 10 coldest cities, based on weather statistics for their average annual temperatures. The coldest of them all, at 36.4 degrees Fahrenheit, is International Falls, Minn., closely followed by Duluth, Minn.; Caribou, Maine; Marquette, Mich.; Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.; your fair city of Fargo, N.D. (average annual temperature is 40.5 degrees); then Williston, N.D.; Alamosa, Colo.; Bismarck, N.D.; and St. Cloud, Minn.

Keep in mind that the coldest cities are not necessarily the snowiest cities, although some, such as Marquette, Mich.; Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., and Caribou, Maine, make both top-10 lists. The all-time snowiest city, based on annual snowfall in inches, is Blue Canyon, Calif., with - ready? - a staggering 240.8 inches. For any of you who are math-challenged, that translates to approximately 20 feet of snow.

Marquette comes in second, but not a close second, with a mere 128.6 inches, a bit more than 10 feet, or about half of what Blue Canyon sees. Sault Sainte Marie is third (116.7 inches); Syracuse, N.Y., is fourth (111.6 inches); then Caribou, Maine; with 110.4 inches. The next five are Mount Shasta, Calif.; Lander, Wyo.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Sexton Summit, Ore.; and Muskegon, Mich., which all hover about the 100-inch mark.



This Week With The Old Farmer's Almanac

January 13-19, 1997

Plough Monday, Jan. 13.

"Best Thing Since Sliced Bread"

January 18, 1943, was when the sale of sliced bread was discontined until the end of World War II. How much of a hardship was it? Prices had been going up and up, despite the scarcity of butter. (Most butterfat was being diverted to the manufacture of cheese.) Margarine was subject to a ten percent tax if it was artificially colored, so more and more Americans colored their own with vegetable dyes or used it white. Sliced bread had been around for only about a dozen years, first introduced by the Wonder Bread company of Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1930. Consumers were wary at first; sliced bread went stale quicker. But the convenience caught on.

Man does not live by bread alone, even pre-sliced bread.

- Denis William Brogan (1944, "The American Character")


Tip of the Week

Buy a serrated bread knife, and let the loaf cool slightly before you slice it.



1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 scant cups flour, sifted

1 scant tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, and beat. Sift dry ingredients into this and add lemon juice and buttermilk. Beat just enough to mix, then add nuts. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on a rack. Makes 1 loaf.


The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

Always expect a thaw in January.

January thaw, July freshet.

Cumulus clouds smaller at sunset than at noon are signs of continued fair weather.


Got a Question?

Every day the editors of The Old Farmer's Almanac answer a question on the Internet. All questions are archived there as well. On the World Wide Web, the address is http://www.almanac.com.