About The
Farmer's Calendar Project

By: Herrick Kimball
—Shelling Seed Corn —
A rare view into the life of a 19th century New England farmer.
(click the picture for a closer study of the photo)

The Farmer's Calendar Project is best explained in the Introduction to each of the monthly compilations that will be published. The following excerpt comes from the MARCH pdf download.


The sixty-eight “Farmer’s Calendar” essays, for the month of March, as found on the following pages, have been gleaned from my personal collection of 19th century farm almanacs. My goal is to collect, transcribe, publish and, thus, preserve the important elements found within these obscure (and disintegrating) writings from America’s past. 

This project will be accomplished one month at a time, as my time permits, and I expect it will be a multiyear effort. Each monthly compilation will be made available as a downloadable pdf file at agriphemera.com.

The historical significance of these calendar essays is found in their unique, original-source perspective. As a body of work, the collected essays give us a unique glimpse into the culture of a nation that was once predominately agrarian. That is to say, the majority of people lived in closeknit rural communities, on relatively small, diversified, family-economy farmsteads, providing a large part of their sustenance, with the work of their own hands, from the land.

This traditional way of life underwent considerable changes in the 1800s, with the increasing industrialism of of that era. After 1900, significantly greater cultural changes would come with internal combustion engines and electricity being introduced into the agricultural paradigm.

So it is that the Farmer’s Calendar essays from the old farm almanacs serve to take us back to a lost age. Reading them is an exercise in time travel. The essays are in no way a complete chronicle of 19th century agrarian life, but they give us pieces of the cultural puzzle. The essays treat their readers (old and new) to a delightful mixture of pithy agrarian aphorisms, cajoling advice, stern admonitions, social commentary, moralizing, philosophizing, and useful (for the time) how-to advice. Beyond that, they provide us with some wonderful agrarian phraseology, and numerous little cultural mysteries.

In the broader sense, when this project is complete, it will present a yearly panorama of the seasonal work of farming on a typical, “pre-grid” New England farm.

About The Almanacs
All the excerpts for this Farmer’s Calendar project come from the three most popular New England farm almanacs of the nineteenth century. At the end of each excerpt I provide the name of the almanac from which it came (along with the almanac year). The name is in brackets and appear as follows:

[Thomas’s]— Most of my collection consists of annual copies of Robert Bailey Thomas’s Old Farmer’s Almanac. Thomas was a resident of Massachusetts and published his first almanac in 1793. He died in 1846 at 80 years of age. The almanac that still bears his name continues to be published, though in a format more appealing to a modern population that does not live an agrarian lifestyle.

[Maine]— Many of the almanacs in my collection are of the Maine Farmer’s Almanac, first published in 1818 (two years before Maine was sectioned off from Massachusetts and made a state—the 23rd in the Union).  The editor, Daniel Robinson, was a direct, sixth-generation descendent of pastor John Robinson, spiritual leader of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Daniel Robinson died in 1866 at 90 years of age, but his almanac was published into the 1960s. After Robinson’s death, the Farmer's Calendar essays in the Maine Farmer's Almanac ceased to reflect much about the agrarian culture of the day, focusing instead on matters of science and technological progress, such as it was.

[Leavitt’s]— The balance of almanac entries come from Leavitt’s Old Farmer’s Almanac. Dudley Leavitt haled from New Hampshire, published his first almanac in 1797, and died in 1851 at 90 years of age. Leavitt’s Almanacs were published into the 1930s

About The Essays
The old New England farmers were an economy-minded people. This comes through in their way of life as found in the many almanac essays. However, the almanac writers did not practice economy when it came to words and punctuation (especially commas and semicolons). 

That said, you may find the syntax, spelling, grammar, format &c. within these writings to be somewhat alien to your modern reading sensibilities. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it as you read along. You’ll also see the evolution of  grammar and language over the 75-year span of this project.

I have put a lot of effort into faithfully transcribing these essays as they originally appeared. Most of the old spellings and idiosyncrasies of the original format remain. In a few (very few) instances, I have done some minor editing.

What I have not done is reprint these excerpts in the remarkably small font size the original almanac makers used (I transcribed the excerpts while looking through a large magnifying lens). So, you will have a much easier time reading the essays in the following pages than you would reading the actual almanacs.

As for the specific Farmer’s Calendar essays that I've chosen to include in this project, you will find relatively few for the years 1825 to 1850. That’s because the almanacs for those years are more rare and costly than after 1850. And, though I own all the Thomas’s almanacs after 1850, I have not included all of that almanac's Calendar essays because some were identical to a previous year, or very nearly so. My primary objective here is to present a broad (75-year) span of Farmer’s Calendar essays, not to chronicle every single one.

Thanks for joining me on this little journey of discovery into America's agraran past.

Herrick Kimball


This scanned image from the Thomas's almanac of 1860 
shows an example of a Farmer's Calendar essay in its 
original format. Click to see a larger view.