††† About once a year I get into the almanac reading mode. Since this is the time of the year for that specialized educational exercise, following are some related thoughts. This year, March 29 was this the actual evening spent perusing the almanac.

††† Being somewhat of a hobby gardener, almanac reading starts out as an effort seeking authoritative reference material on when to expect the final freeze before summer unofficially sets in. I always have to ask myself why I go to the bother of researching the topic because before I ever open the book I have already planted some of everything Ė tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini Ė at which time I find out that everything thatís gone in is probably going to freeze. ďBlumís Farmerís and Planterís AlmanacĒ for the year 2010 indicates that the final freeze for this neck of the woods can be expected on April 8. So as that applies specifically to me, twelve tomato plants, six jalapeno plants, six bell peppers and a couple dozen flowers will suffer terminal or fatal frostbite that night. On April 9, Iíll meander back into Sligerís and reload and prepare to replant.

†††† Oh yeah, I pull out all the buckets, cans, old quilts, burlap sacks and anything else the mice havenít mutilated beyond repair and cover every tender sprout the night before the predicted fatal arctic onslaught. Sometimes some of the plants survive, but mostly it proves to be an effort in futility. And the big winner is Sligerís. I wonder if they sell health insurance for plants or if thatís undergoing reform or frost is considered a pre-existing condition.

††† Aside from the primary function of determining the final frost date, ďBlumís AlmanacĒ provides a veritable plethora of other information that might be of interest to readers. So if you havenít delved into the 2010 edition, following are some tidbits that may arouse your curiosity.

††† First, ďThoughts From Mrs. BlumĒ provides a pastoral journey back into yesteryear when as she says ďgrass was mowed, coke was a cold drink, pot was what mama cooked in and aids were helpers in the principalís office.Ē Well, anyway you kindaí get the drift.

††† Second, there are remedies advertised for seemingly every malady known to old people, and some not so old. Arthritics, diabetics, deaf folks, depressives, osteoporotics and other dysfunctionals that donít require detail in the family newspaper all can find, if not a solution, at least a placebo to take your mind off the ailment in question. This list is incomplete to the extent that I didnít know there were so many things I hadnít heard of that could go wrong. Iím growing increasingly weary of getting old after reading Blumís, but I know I have years to go before I have to worry about it.

††† Third, the information between the covers of ďBlumísĒ is an extensive game of trivial pursuit. Information on the solar system, demographics, geography, topography, meteorology, mythology and all other topics under the sun and beyond the moon are offered.

††† Finally, I have received corroboration of my motherís insistence that only one medicinal substance is needed to survive seemingly into perpetuity. Mother Natureís Liquid Gold, otherwise simply known as vinegar, is apparently the healing elixir of the gods. If all, or even half, the claims of vinegarís beneficial properties and powers are true there is no need for health insurance, or doctors, or hospitals. Vinegar does it all, and Momís been telling me this for years. It will speed you up, slow you down, lower your blood pressure, raise your pain tolerance until it relieves the pain, clean up the mess, kill the germs and bring the dog back to life. Anyway, enough said about vinegar here, but thereís more in Blumís.

††† In summary, I highly recommend the almanac as a prudent expenditure of $4.99 US/CAN.†††

John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail him at john.kliebenstein@