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Rockwell sold work to many places

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Jan. 28, Monday — St. Thomas Aquinas. Full old moon. Conjunction of Neptune and the sun.

Jan. 29, Tuesday — Comedian W.C. Fields born, 1880. Poet Robert Frost dies, 1963.

Jan. 30, Wednesday — Moon at perigee. Charles I beheaded, 1649. Franklin Delano Roosevelt born, 1882.

Jan. 31, Thursday — Scotch tape first sold, 1928. First U.S. satellite, Explorer I, launched 1958.

Feb. 1, Friday — St. Brigid. Moon on equator. American film star Clark Gable born, 1901.

Feb. 2, Saturday — On Candlemas Day, have half your wood and half your hay. Groundhog Day.

Feb. 3, Sunday — Sexagesima. U.S. writer James Michener born, 1907. Painter Norman Rockwell born, 1894.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Apart from the Saturday Evening Post, where did Norman Rockwell sell his work? — G.T., Kansas City, Mo.

Answer: Norman Rockwell, who was born in New York City in 1894, was already selling his work in the form of commissioned Christmas cards when he was still a teenager. He began formal art classes when he was 14, as a student at the New York School of Art (previously the Chase School of Art). The popular Boys' Life magazine (published for the Boy Scouts of America, and still in publication today) hired him as their art director soon thereafter.

Rockwell was 22 when he created his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post. He worked for them more than 47 years, and created 321 published covers. Much of that work was done from Arlington, Vt., where he, his wife, Mary, and their three boys took up small-town life in 1939.

In 1943, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress, Rockwell began his now famous Four Freedoms paintings, depicting Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear, inspired by Roosevelt's speech. The Saturday Evening Post ran reproduction of the series, which eventually raised over $130 million for the war effort.

After Rockwell's move to Stockbridge, Mass., in 1953, he began an autobiography called "My Adventures as an Illustrator (Harry Abrams, 1960). In 1963, he worked for Look magazine, which reproduced some of his best known works on civil-rights issues and poverty in America.

In 1977, Rockwell's portrait work was recognized with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. The following year, the 84-year-old Rockwell died at home in Stockbridge, on Nov. 8, 1978. Before his death, Rockwell had established a trust to preserve his work, through the Old Corner House Stockbridge Historical Society, now the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. Much of his collection can be viewed at the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, P.O. Box 308, Route 183, Stockbridge, MA 01262. For more information, you can check out their Web site at www.nrm.org, or call them at 1-413-298-4100, ext. 220.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Candlemas Day calls for half your wood and hay, but what about the candles? What are some other sayings related to this day? — R.A., Vancouver, B.C.

Answer: Some old-timers say you should have half of the candles left, too. While one bit of lore says, "You should on Candlemas Day, / Throw candle and candlestick away." We're told the latter idea comes from a custom in which candles were not used for vespers or litanies between Candlemas Day and All Saints' Day (Nov. 1). This is probably because of the increasing light during much of this period, but also an attempt to reserve precious candles for the darkest days of winter. Some sources suggest that three dark months' (November, December and January) worth of candles might have used up the average homesteader's supply of available wax.

Feb. 2 originally commemorated the Feast of the Purification of Virgin Mary (sometimes called "the churching of Virgin Mary"), when she journeyed to the Temple to deliver the infant Jesus 40 days after his birth, as was the Jewish law. From the fifth century onward, candlelit processions were customary in these celebrations. Sometime in the 11th century, another church ritual was begun when candles were brought to the altars to be blessed. Beeswax candles were traditionally used because, according to one medieval Christian belief, bees came from heaven.

Candlemas Day and Groundhog Day share the same date. The weather lore associated with these holidays is prolific, much of it giving way to Groundhog Day predictions in more recent times, as the old pagan holiday was gradually converted to a nonreligious occasion. "Snow at Candlemas / Stops to handle us" is one of the lesser-known rhymes. In Scotland, the weather lore suggests,

"If Candlemas Day be fair and clear, / There'll be twa (two) winters in the year," meaning the cold will continue twice as long. Another version is more promising: "When Candlemas Day is come and gone, / The snow lies on a hot stone."

Other sayings related to Candlemas Day include "On Candlemas Day / The good goose begins to lay," which many children trained in nursery rhymes recognize. Gardeners know to "Sow or set beans in Candlemas waddle," the waddle meaning the wane of the moon. This year, the defined period falls between Feb. 2 and Feb. 11, because the new moon (and its waxing period) comes on Feb. 12.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: What birds could I expect to attract with a suet feeder? How do I get the suet for them? — F.T., Liberty, Maine

Answer: We find that woodpeckers particularly like the suet feeders, but smaller birds such as nuthatches, tufted titmice, chickadees or any insect-feeder might be a reasonable guess, too. It depends largely on what is in your area for wildlife. The beautiful red cardinals are more apt to be attracted to a half orange or other citrus, rather than suet. Keep in mind, too, that foxes, raccoons and even bears have been known to seek out suet feeders; so think carefully about where to place feeders so they're easily seen but safe from unwanted critters.

Some commercially made suets contain dried insects embedded in the fat, while others have berries or seeds such as sunflowers. Suet doesn't have to take on such gourmet proportions, however. You can get unrendered raw suet (solid animal fat) from the butcher (beef is best). It's also easy to make rendered suet cakes with some bacon fat or other meat drippings. Melt the fat in a skillet, strain it through cheesecloth, and chill it until hard. Repeat these steps one or more times; for the final step, pour the fat into a brick- or cylinder-shaped mold to chill. Before chilling the fat for the last time, you can add cornmeal, hulled birdseed or what have you. (Some experts advise against including seeds with hulls because birds may have trouble removing suet-coated shells.) In the coldest winter months, it's really the fat that the birds will appreciate to keep themselves warm through the winter winds and storms.

Although you shouldn't have to worry during the winter months, keep in mind that suet can turn rancid in temperatures over 70 degrees F. If you're offering suet in warm weather, place the feeder in the shade. Always used hard rendered suet (never unrendered), or better yet, use commercial products that say "no melt," which are specially formulated for warm weather. Rendered suet won't melt as easily as unrendered, but if you see that it has become runny, remove the suet immediately and clean the feeder.

Send your questions to: Ask the Almanac, The Old Farmer's Almanac, Main St., Dublin, NH 03444; Web site: www.almanac.com © Yankee Publishing