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Keep a Close Eye on Your Caterpillars

Every year at this time, when the Old Farmer's Almanac first becomes available for the following year, people pick it up just to read its famous long-range weather forecasts. Some say they are uncannily accurate. But truth be told, there's not a lot of checking back to see that, indeed, there were blizzards late into the spring in Missouri, or that summertime in Alabama did not turn out to be as cool and wet as the Almanac said it would be.

Still, even if these forecasts are based on woolly worms' inching clockwise rather than counterclockwise, or on the transit time of the constellation Orion, it's fun to look way ahead and wonder if you will, in fact, need an extra pair of mittens come winter.

The intricate yellow cover of this little paperback, first published in 1792, looks just as it did generations ago when it was sold at the general store. And inside, still, are hundreds of homespun suggestions.

Did you know, for instance, that if you've tried and tried to wash grime off your hands without much success, cold coffee grounds and a squirt of lemon will do the job in a snap?

Or if you're a man off courting, did you know you should never say "good night" three times at the end of a date? It's bad luck. Women, whatever you do, do not sit at the corner of a table, or you'll never get a husband.

Also inside the 2008 Almanac are stories about turkeys that wear shoes, ways to win watermelon-seed spitting contests, and what those pretty, decorative hex signs in Pennsylvania really mean.

Not urgent information — but fun.

By the way, if you're traveling our way next year, pack some sunscreen. The Old Farmer's Almanac says 2008 in America will be the warmest year on record.