Lack of motivation can be a pervasive and debilitating problem, but do not despair—there are ways to get yourself motivated! Read on for a few tips on improving self-motivation.

Forever — is composed of Nows —Emily Dickinson

Spring has arrived. The days stretch longer, you’ve (probably) put away the snow shovels, seen the first leaves unfurl, and the first crocus pop up.

But what refuses to pop up? Your self-motivation. Your get-up-and-go.

You have a lot to get up for: a stalled work project, that hour of daily exercise your doctor prescribed, your longstanding writer’s block, the spring housecleaning, quitting smoking.

Maybe you yearn for a quantum change—that bolt from the blue that suddenly enables you to make long-desired changes to your life and make them stick.

But every day, your same old, plodding self arises and finds it impossible to summon the self-motivation.

Whatever you need to do, your inner demons keep finding excuses for avoiding it.

When one of those demons rears its head, instead of saying Just do it! or Just say no!, I suggest proclaiming Just start somewhere, and see where it takes you.


This strategy envisions only starting a dreaded activity, not plotting a timeline of the actions needed to finish.

In her wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg offers the best advice I’ve found—not just for writing, but for overcoming almost any sort of internal resistance or social overlay that’s keeping you from getting to your task.

Paraphrasing Goldberg:

  • Set a time. Say 15 minutes. (Get specific.)
  • Pick up your pencil, or put your hands on the keyboard. (Gear up.)
  • Keep your hand(s) moving. Don’t stop. (Just this little bit now.)
  • Don’t cross out (edit yourself).
  • Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, chronological order (doing it right).
  • Lose control. (Don’t plan, think, or ruminate about it.)
  • If nothing meaningful seems to come, don’t be afraid to write nonsense. Don’t stop until the time has passed.

You get the gist. Make a small, concrete commitment that your mind accepts as reasonable. Once you’re into it, your demons may have quieted down enough that it seems reasonable to keep going.

The housework?
“I’ll start with the upper shelf. Remove those books, brush the dust from those books, and scrub down that shelf. I can get to the rest later.”

That long walk?
Say to yourself, “Let’s go. Three telephone poles,” and head out the door. As likely as not, at least for me, I usually find myself saying, “Okay, three poles. Now to the top of the hill…” and finish my intended distance.

Goldberg talks about “being a great warrior” who cuts through the noise, the self-doubt, and the laziness.


A couple of important corollaries: no promises for tomorrow and no self-recrimination when today’s start doesn’t end up with much progress toward the ultimate.

As a motivational strategy, just starting seems light years away from quantum change. And in the moment, they don’t seem connected.

Yet I’ve experienced several moments of quantum change in my life, and I’ve often wondered if long avoidance of a needed change, the brief moments of clarity about what I need to do, and the repeated starts and failures lurk in the recesses of my mind to the point of confluence, so when I wake up some morning, the big change seems ridiculously easy.

Until then, I’ll try to stay with my Just start strategy.

But what do I do if my starts don’t seem to turn into finishes? Stay tuned.


“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac


The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 20: SELF-TRICKERY FOR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING



January 22, 2014

Try self-trickery. It often works for me.

Here’s the dilemma: I know I need to change (something). I’m also aware I don’t want to do the work that seems to be required, or I would have changed already. Escaping an established habit or routine feels uncomfortable, and I’m likely to slip back into the comfortable, well-worn grooves of habit.

The kind of trickery I’m suggesting is entirely intentional and stays intentional throughout the change process–the opposite of magical thinking, self-deception, self-sabotage, delusion, and denial (though self-trickery can easily slip into one of those pits and derail an intention).

Everyone, no matter how smart, rich, beautiful, or well educated, struggles with making  and sustaining changes that protect their own or others’ health and well-being. The tricks are equally available to all and don’t cost anything but a moment of two of mindful attention.

For me, self-trickery has three essential requirements:

  • The initial insight l that I need to change something. Lacking the insight, there’s no motivation to change.
  • The acknowledgment that my mind has a powerful propensity to forget or ignore almost immediately any decision to change.
  • A concrete, intentional act in the direction of the desired change.

I find change especially difficult when it looms as a big change. I’m most likely to move meaningfully in the direction of change when the act is small and immediate. Big changes feel abstract, far off, and impossible. Easy to put off until tomorrow.

So, self-trickery is the strategy. Here are a few of the tactics that work for me:

  • Negotiate. Negotiating between and among my various selves is one of my favorite ways to initiate, and especially to maintain, a change. It’s reliable, and anyone who’s worked with children and/or adolescents already has a sense of the nuances involved. Say I don’t feel like exercising today. I’d hoped to walk three miles. I’ve dressed to go, but I just don’t want to. So, I start the negotiation:“Okay, what about I walk for 10 minutes. Then I’ll I’ll come back, sink down into my armchair, have a snack, and start that delicious novel.” When even 10 minutes seems too long, I’ll knock it back to five, or maybe a specific distance–from here to the sawmill road, or half a dozen telephone poles. Once I’ve set out to fulfill the bargain we’ve all agreed to, I’m generally able keep it going until I meet my original goal of three miles.
  • Do the hard stuff first. This simple tactic is analogous to the trick we play with the-year-olds: Eat your veggies before you get dessert. It’s actually a form of negotiation.
  • Just do it! I love that old Nike slogan. It fits well with my rural Vermont upbringing: just summon the courage, and step up, in the moment. Let’s say I need to apologize for a rude, insensitive, sarcastic, or patronizing remark I made to someone. For my emotional well-being, I need to do it, but I cringe at the thought of it. If I can Just do it! –say I’m sorry. That sarcastic remark was insensitive and hurtful, and I shouldn’t have made it. I’ll feel better. I may be more likely to hesitate the next time one of my inner saboteurs gets ready to sling a caustic remark.
  • Surprise yourself. The element of surprise is a time-honored strategy in war, romance, marketing–and self-transformation. Why? Because it jolts the mind from its grooves of habit, a requirement for change. I’ve written before about how I slept in my clothes–shoes and all–for several weeks the summer I started a regular exercise program. I didn’t trust myself not to get too “busy” to move my bones that day. So I’d pajama up in my exercise clothes, rise with the sun, swing my legs over the bed, gulp a swig or two of coffee, and get right out for my long walk, which later became a run. I eventually outgrew the need to sleep in my shoes, but the whole time I did, I felt a secret thrill of delight at how successful I’d been at tricking myself.
  • Defy yourself. This tactic involves facing down the bullies and naysayers within: It involves summoning the courage to say, “Hey, you’ve pushed me around long enough. I won’t do what you tell me to do. Here’s what I am going to do.” Then quickly perform a small, positive act in the direction of the change you want to make.
  • Stop! That’s right. Just stop. Stop moving. Hold still. Let your gaze rest on whatever lies before your eyes. Don’t think about anything. I find this tactic most useful when my mind is racing around in one of those negative feedback loops, and everything seems impossible. After a short pause, I find it useful to get up and move around vigorously for a few seconds (or minutes). Exercise does wonders to clam the chattering mind.

There are many more such tricks (some of which involve buddying up with others committed to their own self-health). But note that each one of them stops working if repeated too often. So mix, match, combine, and come up with a few of your own.


“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 13: HOW TO GET LUCKY THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY



By Jeff Brein
In today’s world of dating, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the basic “do’s” and “don’ts” on a date. Here is some dating advice for anyone traversing that treacherous road to romance.

Meeting someone the old-fashioned way may simply start with walking up to someone and saying a genuine hello. Perhaps you find yourself chatting to someone at a town event or a church social or the mechanic’s shop. A conversation naturally starts and you feel a little spark fly.

Once you’ve found someone who interests you, make plans to meet with each other. Keep it simple.


  1. Meeting for a quick cup of coffee has the same odds of success as a marathon first date. Make it quality, not quantity, time.
  2. Relax and be yourself. You’re not auditioning or on a job interview. Be honest, upfront, and be your true self.
  3. Dress comfortably and appropriately. Wearing a T-shirt that announces your attitude might send the wrong message.
  4. Plan to do something that allows time to talk, such as golfing, bowling, or a long walk or a hike—not target practice at the local firing range. Do something that you will both find pleasurable; part of dating is compatibility.
  5. Know where you’ll go and how long you’ll be there.
  6. Pick up the tab, if the date was your idea. If there is any doubt, discuss it when you first make plans.
  7. Look your date in the eye when you’re talking. Avoid glancing at other body parts.
  8. Show up. If an emergency forces a last-minute cancellation or delay, contact the person. Never leave someone in the lurch.
  9. Ask permission to call or e-mail at the end of the date, if you’re interested in seeing your companion again. If the answer is no, respect that the “relationship” is officially over and move on. If it’s yes, send a brief thank-you note after a date and wait at least 24 hours before making plans for a second date.
  10. Have fun. There is a reason that this activity is called the dating game.


  1. Don’t bring anyone along, including an ex, your children, pets, or parents, unless you’re on a double date or an arranged blind date.
  2. Don’t dowse yourself in perfume or cologne. A bath or shower is adequate—no, essential.
  3. Don’t get on your cell phone—or text! Turn off these devices and concentrate on your partner.
  4. Don’t reveal unnecessary personal information. Don’t talk about your failed relationships, what the fortune-teller told you, or how unfriendly the police were to you when they pulled you over.
  5. Don’t take your medication while on the date. Take it before you meet.
  6. Don’t meet at your home—unless you’re dropping by to pick up your partner.
  7. Don’t flirt with your server, stare at others nearby, or talk about how hot some celebrity is. Focus on your companion!
  8. Don’t discuss politics, sex, religion, or taxes on a first date. You may have differing opinions and want to make your first date comfortable.
  9. Don’t use a coupon for food or services. Go to places you can afford.
  10. Don’t lie, lead on, or tell someone you’re single and/or available when you’re not. Be honest and considerate.


Is it a challenge to simply meet someone?  Tell friends and family that you’re interested and looking.

The “blind” date, that meeting with a stranger often arranged by a well-meaning friend or relative, is generally preferred by people who like surprises, who never get around to meeting others, or who may be “commitment phobic.” Perhaps due to their shock value, horror stories about blind dates tend to outnumber happily-ever-after tales, but good news rarely makes headlines.

If a blind date is arranged for you, remember to thank your friend or family member for any introductions, no matter what happens!

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 13: LOVE POTIONS: DO APHRODISIACS REALLY WORK?



By Christine Schultz
February 12, 2018
Since the beginning of time, it seems, people have gone above and beyond to try the latest love potion. So, do any of these so-called aphrodisiacs really work? Read on and you’ll be surprised…


History is full of stories of ordinary people using bizarre stimulants for their love live: powder from the horns of rhinos, bat blood mixed with whiskey, crocodile dung … you get the idea. People have hoped for sexual euphoria since ancient times.


What does the word aphrodisiac mean?  It comes from the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, who has inspired cultures throughout the ages to achieve her legendary heights of delight. For example:

  • Pliny the Elder recommended hippopotamus snout and hyena eyes.
  • Horace touted dried marrow and liver.
  • In Elizabethan times, prunes were so highly regarded as aphrodisiacs that they were served for free in brothels.


What makes us infatuated? There are many factors, but one is the brain chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA). This is a stimulant (related to amphetamine) that the brain releases in the early stages of infatuation. It’s the revver-upper that allows us to stay awake all night and lose our appetites.

PEA races through the system of the thrill seeker, allowing the adventurer to feel alert, self-assured and ready for whatever challenge awaits.


In 1989, The US Food and Drug Administration banned advertisers from promoting pills or potions because testing had shown that none worked no matter what the contents—whether fennel or dried beetle bodies.

However—any that appeared to work did so only because the user believed they would—the stimulant lay only in the users’ mind.

In other words, it’s the imagination that creates its own exciting possibilities and the body that leaps forward to fulfill the fantasies.

Yes, it’s all in the mind!  (Does that surprise you?)

We offer these supposed aphrodisiacs from great minds (and romantics?) of the past:

  • Casanova championed oysters.
  • Napoleon treasured truffles.
  • The Mharajah of Bikaner ingested crushed diamonds.


We know that dark chocolate nibs have some health benefits.

Also, we know that chocolate contains PEA as well as another chemical that’s related to sexual arousal, so you can see where the idea came from. However, the amounts are so small that scientists have been unable to link chocolate with sexual arousal. Once again, it’s all in the mind … or, we just haven’t proven the link. You decide.


If you need an answer, we’ve got one.

Love is the most magnificent of aphrodisiacs. Although it is certainly no easier to get a hold of than some of these potions, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.

Before you spend money on the goods, spend the time on your partner. Otherwise nothing will work.


Adapted from an article in the 1996 Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 12: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS



Do you know the Language of Flowers? Many flowers, herbs, trees, and other plants traditionally symbolize feelings, moods, or ideas, and as our list below shows, each flower has its own particular meaning.
Flower meanings have fascinated people for centuries, and they even play a large role in William Shakespeare’s works. Bouquets make great gifts, and it is important to know what your bouquet symbolizes. Many people also want to dress up their gardens with flower symbols that represent them. Roses tend to have special meanings, as do flowers used in weddings. Another important area of flower symbolism is the meaning of birth month flowers.


The symbolic language of flowers has been recognized for centuries in many countries throughout Europe and Asia. Mythologies, folklore, sonnets, and plays of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese are peppered with flower and plant symbolism—and for good reason. Nearly every sentiment imaginable can be expressed with flowers. The orange blossom, for instance, means chastity, purity, and loveliness, while the red chrysanthemum means “I love you.”

Learning the special symbolism of flowers became a popular pastime during the 1800s. Nearly all Victorian homes had, alongside the Bible, guidebooks for deciphering the “language,” although definitions shifted depending on the source. Religious, literary, folkloric, and botanical publications were all used to inform meanings.

Examples of plants and their associated human qualities during the Victorian era include bluebells and kindness, peonies and bashfulness, rosemary and remembrance, and tulips and passion.

Flowers provided an incredibly nuanced form of communication. Some plants, including roses, poppies, and lilies, could express a wide range of emotions based on their color.

Take, for instance, all of the different meanings attributed to variously colored carnations: Pink meant “I’ll never forget you”; red said “my heart aches for you”; purple conveyed capriciousness; white was for the “the sweet and lovely”; and yellow expressed romantic rejection.

Likewise, a white violet meant “innocence,” while a purple violet said that the bouquet giver’s “thoughts were occupied with love.” A red rose was used to openly express feelings of love, while a red tulip was a confession of love. The calla lily was interpreted to mean “magnificent beauty,” and a clover said “think of me.”

In a sort of silent dialogue, flowers could be used to answer “yes” or “no” questions, too. A “yes” answer came in the form of flowers handed over with the right hand; if the left hand was used, the answer was “no.”

Plants could also express aversive feelings, such as the “conceit” of pomegranate or the “bitterness” of aloe. Similarly, if given a rose declaring “devotion” or an apple blossom showing “preference,” one might return to the suitor a yellow carnation to express “disdain.”

How flowers were presented and in what condition were important. If the flowers were given upside down, then the idea being conveyed was the opposite of what was traditionally meant. How the ribbon was tied said something, too: Tied to the left, the flowers’ symbolism applied to the giver, whereas tied to the right, the sentiment was in reference to the recipient. And, of course, a wilted bouquet delivered an obvious message!

The meanings and traditions associated with flowers have certainly changed over time, and different cultures assign varying ideas to the same species, but the fascination with “perfumed words” persists just the same.


Red roses symbolize love and desire, but roses come in a variety of colors and each has their own meaning. For example, the white rose’s meaning is purity and innocence.

  • White rose: purity, innocence, reverence, a new beginning, a fresh start.
  • Red rose: love, I love you
  • Deep, dark crimson rose: mourning
  • Pink rose: grace, happiness, gentleness
  • Yellow rose: joy, friendship, the promise of a new beginning
  • Orange rose: desire and enthusiasm
  • Lavender rose: love at first sight
  • Coral rose: friendship, modesty, sympathy


Flowers have always been a big feature at weddings, too. As an example, look to the royal flower bouquet in the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, to Kate Middleton (now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge). Her flowers had very special meaning.

The groom, too, wears a flower that appears in the bridal bouquet in his button-hole. This stems from the Medieval tradition of wearing his Lady’s colors, as a declaration of his love.

One fun idea is to have a garden gathering and have each person bring a flower that has meaning to them. Or, paint tiles on a kitchen island with a flower that represents each of your loved ones.

There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.

–The Language of Flowers, London, 1875


Please tell us which flowers have meaning to you! If we are missing one of your favorites, please tell us which one and its meaning.

Wishing to grow a flower that has meaning to you or a loved one? Click on linked plant names for detailed planting and growing guides.

Symbolic Meanings of Herbs, Flowers and Other Plants
Aloe Healing, protection, affection
Amaryllis Pride
Anemone Forsaken
Angelica Inspiration
Apple blossom Preference
Arborvitae Unchanging friendship
Aster Symbol of Love, Daintiness
Bachelor’s button Single blessedness
Basil Good wishes
Bay Glory
Begonia Beware
Bittersweet Truth
Black-eyed Susan Justice
Bluebell Humility, kindness
Candytuft Indifference
Carnation Women, Love
– Red carnation My Heart Aches, admiration
– White carnation Innocence, pure love, women’s good luck gift
– Pink carnation I’ll never forget you
– Yellow carnation Disdain, disappointment, rejection
Chamomile Patience
Chives Usefulness
Chrysanthemum Cheerfulness
Clover, white Think of me
Coreopsis Always cheerful
Coriander Hidden worth
Crocus, spring Youthful gladness
Cumin Fidelity
Cyclamen Resignation and good-bye
Daffodil Regard
Daisy Innocence, hope
Dill Powerful against evil
Edelweiss Courage, devotion
Fennel Flattery
Fern Sincerity, humility; also, magic and bonds of love
Forget-me-not True love memories
Gardenia Secret love
Geranium, oak-leaved True friendship
Gladiolus Remembrance
Goldenrod Encouragement, good fortune
Heliotrope Eternal love
Holly Hope
Hollyhock Ambition
Honeysuckle Bonds of love
Horehound Health
Hyacinth Games and sport, playfulness, rashness
– Blue Hyacinth Constancy of love
– Purple Hyacinth Sorrow, forgiveness, regret
– Yellow Hyacinth Jealousy
– White Hyacinth Loveliness, prayers for someone
Hydrangea Gratitude for being understood; frigidity and heartlessness
Hyssop Sacrifice, cleanliness
Iris A message
Ivy Friendship, continuity
Jasmine, white Sweet love
Lady’s-mantle Comforting
Lavender Devotion, virtue
Lemon balm Sympathy
Lilac Joy of youth
Lily, calla Beauty
Lily, day Chinese emblem for mother
Lily-of-the-valley Sweetness, purity
Lotus Flower Purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration, and rebirth
Magnolia Love of nature
Marigold Despair, grief, jealousy
Marjoram Joy and happiness
Mint Virtue
Morning glory Affection
Myrtle Good luck and love in a marriage
Nasturtium Patriotism
Oak Strength
Oregano Substance
Pansy Thoughts
Parsley Festivity
Peony Bashful, happy life
Pine Humility
Poppy, red Consolation
Rhododendron Danger, flee
Rose, red Love, I love you.
Rose, dark crimson Mourning
Rose, pink Happiness
Rose, white Purity, heavenly, I’m worthy of you
Rose, yellow Jealousy, decrease of love
Rosemary Remembrance
Rue Grace, clear vision
Sage Wisdom, immortality
Salvia, blue I think of you
Salvia, red Forever mine
Savory Spice, interest
Sorrel Affection
Southernwood Constancy, jest
Sunflower Adoration
Sweet pea Pleasures
Sweet William Gallantry
Sweet woodruff Humility
Tansy Hostile thoughts
Tarragon Lasting interest
Thyme Courage, strength
Tulip, red Passion, declaration of love
Tulip, yellow Sunshine in your smile
Valerian Readiness
Violet Loyalty, devotion, faithfulness, modesty
Wallflower Faithfulness in adversity
Willow Sadness
Yarrow Everlasting love
Zinnia Thoughts of absent friends


The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 12: 10 ROMANTIC FLOWERS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY



Valentine’s Day is coming up soon and if you’d rather not buy flowers that will wilt and die in a few days, try cultivating a little romance by giving packets of seeds with a special meaning. Love will blossom along with these ten flowers that have these romantic names …
  • ‘Valentine’ sunflower grows to be 5 feet tall. Its lemony yellow blossoms with chocolate brown centers are excellent for cutting so you’ll have bouquets all summer long to remind you of your growing love.
  • ‘Exotic Love Vine’ aka Spanish Flag (Mina lobata) grows to be 15 feet tall in a good season, an indicator of the great heights to which love can soar. Its multicolored flowers change from yellow to orange to red as they mature.
  • Forget-me-not (Myosotis) is a hardy biennial that carpets the ground in early spring with its delicate pink, white, and blue flowers. According to a German folktale it got its name when a knight who was picking flowers at river’s edge fell in the water and was swept away by the current. He yelled, “Forget me not!” as he threw the bouquet to his sweetheart.
  • ‘Falling in Love’ shirley poppies have delicate, crepe-papery, 3 ” wide double flowers in a mix of scarlet, rose, white, and coral. These charmers bloom early and will reseed to keep your love blossoming year after year.
  • ‘Lover’s Mix’ larkspur is a classic cut flower with spires in pastel shades of lilac, pink, blue, rose, and white, perfect for bouquets for that special someone.
  • ‘Summer Romance’ alyssum is aptly named because you will fall in love with its sweet honey scent and blend of lavender, violet, white, and pink blossoms.
  • Love-lies-bleeding is an heirloom plant that was a favorite in Victorian gardens. An amaranth, it bears long chenille-like tassels of dark red that cascade down toward the ground in dramatic fashion. It looks great growing over a white picket fence.
  • Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate is another exotic heirloom. With lightly scented, 4-6 inch long rosy pink tassels and heart-shaped leaves, you will find it hard to resist. Blooming from July until frost it can grow to be 6-7 feet tall in a good year and will keep your passion on display. For a shorter version look for the cultivar ‘Cerise Pearls’. It grows to be only 4-5 feet tall, keeping the flowers at eye-level.
  • Love-in-a-mist (Nigella) is another classic flower of the romatic garden also called “Love Entangle” or “Love-in-a-puzzle” for the way its flowers seem to float in a cloud of finely cut foliage. The blossoms come in many shades of blue, purple, pink, and white with dark centers. After blooming the handsome seed pods can be dried and used in arrangements.

Of course, we can’t forget the “bleeding heart.”  Who doesn’t love the arched sprays of tiny pink hearts that cover plants in early spring?

Get passionate about gardening and plant the seeds of love this Valentine’s Day!



Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 12: VALENTINE’S DAY 2019



How exactly did Valentine’s Day get started? Here’s the short history. (It starts out rather dark!) If you’re celebrating loved ones, we have great Valentine’s Day quotes for cards—plus, mouthwatering recipes and beautiful flower ideas!


Valentine’s Day occurs annually on February 14. See which day of the week the holiday will fall on this year:

Year Valentine’s Day
2019 Thursday, February 14
2020 Friday, February 14
2021 Sunday, February 14


Although a Christian bishop named Valentine was martyred on February 14 in A.D. 271, Valentine’s Day has its origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia.

Lupercalia was a fertility festival in honor of Lupa, the wolf who was said to have suckled Romulus and Remus (who went on to found the city of Rome) and dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. This was the season to start sowing seeds and hope for a fertile year of crops.

The Roman festival involved drunk young men running through the streets naked, women being smeared in animal blood, and unusual fertility rites. Ever heard the dating phrase, “being hit on”?  In this case, men literally hit on women by whipping them with the hides of the animals they had just sacrificed.

Apparently, many women were willing participants, lining up for the festival, believed this would make them fertile. Young men also drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would lie together during the festival, in an effort to conceive.

When the Roman Empire became Christian, it evolved into the feast of St. Valentine—who was martyred at this time.  The church evolved the pagan rituals into a less bloody, raucous affair and attempted to tie the holiday to the saints. However, much of the love and romance of the day persisted.


In the church, Saint Valentine of Rome is a third-century Roman saint commonly associated with “courtly love.”

Although not much of St. Valentine’s life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, one of the St. Valentines was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome. Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14 as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint. St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, happy marriages, love, lovers, and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14.

The romantic nature of Valentine’s Day may have derived during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds paired couples in mid-February. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized this day of love in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards were even exchanged in the Middle Ages.



By the early 1600s, handmade Valentine’s Day cards were customarily sent from admirers to sweethearts. Around the year 1800, the first commercial cards appeared. Cards were usually sent anonymously.

As early as 1822, an English official reported having to hire extra postal workers on this Valentine’s Day. In 1849, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, started selling quality valentines so popular that she was called “Mother of the American Valentine.”

The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines and it’s been popular card-giving (and chocolate-indulging!) holiday ever since.


Below are some quotes and ideas for dressing up a lovely Valentine’s Day.

With your valentine be cuddled,
By a fireplace happily huddled.
–The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 2010

  • Love does not consist of gazing at each other but of looking together in the same direction.
  • There is no remedy for love but to love more.
  • The greatest love is a mother’s, then comes a dog’s, then a sweetheart’s.
    –Polish proverb
  • Love is the reward of love.
  • If you would be loved, love and be lovable.
  • Follow love and it will flee thee; Flee love and it will follow thee.
  • True love begins when nothing is looked for in return.
    –Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900-44)
  • Falling in love is like falling down stairs—we never can tell exactly how the thing was did.
    –Josh Billings, American humorist (1818-85)
  • Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.
    –William Shakespeare, English playwright (1564-1616)
  • Where there is love, there is no darkness.
  • Faults are thick where love is thin.
  • True love never grows old.
  • Works and not words are the proof of love.
  • Absence sharpens love; presence strengthens it.
  • The best smell is bread, the best savor salt, the best love that of children. [no credit]
  • Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.
    –Albert Einstein

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at The Old Farmer’s Almanac!

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 10: HOW INSECTS PREDICT WEATHER



Next time you see an insect, check out what it’s doing! It could let you know something about the upcoming weather. Check out our weather proverbs about insects and other creepy-crawlies.


Observe ants, bees, fireflies, and you’ll see they give us cues about upcoming weather, too! Here is folklore from our Almanac archives:

  1. If ants their walls do frequent build, rain will from the clouds be spilled.
  2. Ants are busy, gnats bite, crickets sing louder than usual, spiders come down from their webs, and flies gather in houses just before rain.
  3. When bees to distance wing their flight, days are warm and skies are bright; But when their flight ends near their come, stormy weather is sure to come.
  4. Fireflies in great numbers indicates fair weather.
  5. When hornets build their nests near the ground, expect a cold and early winter.
  6. When cicadas are heard, dry weather will follow, and frost will come in six weeks.


This actually isn’t folklore. Crickets’ chirps are proven to measure temperature. They chirp more frequently in warm weather. The equation for calculating the temperature from a cricket involves counting the chirps for fourteen to fifteen seconds. Then, an amount is added to the count to calculate a temperature in Fahrenheit degrees.


Of course, spiders are not insects (which have six legs). They are arthropods. Observe their motion and their webs closely to gauge weather.

  1. When spiders’ webs in air do fly, the spell will soon be very dry.
  2. Spiders in motion indicate rain.
  3. When spiderwebs are wet with dew that soon dries, expect a fine day.
  4. Spiderwebs floating at autumn sunset bring a night frost, this you may bet.


Certainly, many of you may have heard of the woolly bear’s claim forecast winter weather (also called woolly worm). These caterpillars have black and brown bands; according to folklore, more black than brown indicates a harsh, cold winter while more brown than black points to a mild winter.


Observe reptiles as weather predictors, too!

  • The louder the frogs, the more the rain.
  • Frogs singing in the evening indicates fair weather the next day.
  • Hang up a snakeskin and it will bring rain.

Also, see how birds predict the weather.

Cows, sheep, cats, and mammals have their cues, too. See more about how animals predict weather.


Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac



Observe animals and you’ll see that they, too, have their own ways of predicting weather. Here are some animal weather proverbs and prognostics.


Perhaps the most folklore is about cows. Certainly, their bodies are affected by changes in air pressure.  This is also true of sheep, cats, and other animals.

  • If a cow stands with its tail to the west, the weather is said to be fair.
  • If a cow grazes with its tail to the east, the weather is likely to turn sour.

This is some true here. Animals graze with their tail toward the wind so that if a predator sneaks up behind them, the wind will help catch the scent of the predator and prevent an attack. The cow’s prediction might also be wrong during a hurricane


  • Expect rain when dogs eat grass, cats purr and wash, sheep turn into the wind, oxen sniff the air, and swine are restless.
  • If the bull leads the cows to pasture, expect rain; if the cows precede the bull, the weather will be uncertain.
  • When cats sneeze, it is a sign of rain.
  • When cattle lie down in the pasture, it indicates early rain.
  • When horses and cattle stretch out their necks and sniff the air, it will rain.



  • Woolly bear caterpillars are said to be winter weather predictors: The more brown they have on their bodies, the milder winter will be.
  • If the mole digs its hole 2½ feet deep, expect severe weather; if two feet deep, not so severe; if one foot deep, a mild winter.
  • When pigs gather leaves and straw in fall, expect a cold winter.
  • When rabbits are fat in October and November, expect a long, cold winter.



  • If sheep ascend hills and scatter, expect clear weather.
  • Bats flying late in the evening indicates fair weather.
  • Wolves always howl more before a storm.


Birds and insects may be the best weather predictors of them all.

Did you know that you can also predict the temperature by measuring how often crickets chirp?

Also, check out this great video to learn more about how animals predict the weather.

Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Feb. 10: WEATHER LORE: OBSERVING NATURE’S SIGNS



What weather is in store for us? Our ancestors lived close to the land and by observing the natural world they learned to predict what the seasons would bring.

Clouds, birds, animals, and plants all provided clues. Proverbs, sayings, folk predictions, and superstitions were passed down through generations of hunters, farmers, and fishermen who relied upon this weather lore to predict storms and the severity of the coming winter. The study of weather proverbs is known as paroemieology. Most are fanciful fun with no basis in scientific fact while others have been found to have a kernel of truth at their core.


Animal behavior has long been linked to weather. The thickness of their coats, amount of body fat, where they hide their food caches, and how they build their winter dens have all been used to predict winter weather. Native Americans looked to the beaver for clues about winter. They believed that the larger and stronger the beaver lodge, the harsher the winter to come.


“When you see a beaver carrying sticks in its mouth, it will be a hard winter—you better go south.” If skunks are overly fat, a cold winter is coming. When squirrels are scarce in autumn, it indicates a cold winter but if you see chipmunks in December, it will be a mild winter. If squirrels stash their nuts high in the trees, the snow will be deep. “When squirrels early start to hoard, winter will pierce us like a sword.”


Birds also have been used as indicators. It is commonly thought that if birds migrate early we’ll have a severe winter. If turkey feathers are unusually thick, look for a hard winter. When wild turkeys perch in trees and refuse to come down, snow is imminent.


“If the rooster moults before the hen, we’ll have winter thick and thin. If the hen moults before the cock, we’ll have winter hard as a rock.”


Even insects were observed to learn if they had any clues to offer about winter’s harshness. If bees build their nests in a protected spot such as inside a barn or shed, expect a hard winter.


As high as the hornets build their nests so will the snow be next winter. The wooly bear caterpillar (larva of the Isabella moth) has long been a favorite of backyard weather predictors.


The wider the brown band in the middle of the caterpillar, the milder the winter will be.


Plants were often used as weather predictors. Tough apple skins or thick onions skins meant a rough winter, as did thick flower buds. “Look for a heavy winter coat if the buds have heavy coats.” When corn husks are thicker and tighter than usual, a cold winter is forecast.


“Mushrooms galore, much snow in store. No mushrooms at all, no snow will fall.”

“When leaves fall early, fall and winter will be mild. When leaves fall late, winter will be wild.” If the leaves wither on the branches in October instead of falling, an extra cold winter is in store.


Heavy crops of acorns, rose hips, hawthorn and other berries mean a hard winter is ahead, while a bountiful walnut crop means a mild winter is coming. Thick nutshells predict a severe winter. “As high as the weeds grow, so will be the bank of snow.”

Long ago, Ben Franklin said, “Some of us are weather wise and some are otherwise,” and our fascination with weather continues to this day.

Weather folklore is far from infallible in its predictions but it is entertaining!


Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

Published on The Old Farmer’s Almanac