Around the Civil War, you could count on finding at least two books on the shelf in most houses–the Bible and the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Back then a lot of people used their almanac as a journal, marking up the white space with daily events and turning that year’s edition into bite-sized family histories.

Since it was first published in 1818, the bones of the Old Farmer’s Almanac have been about predicting weather for the year ahead, a mysterious endeavor done by reading, “sunspot activity, tidal action, and planetary position”. Although science has proven otherwise, the publishers claim that their forecasts are 80-85% accurate.

It’s like secret sauce at a rib joint or a decoder ring. There are some things that cannot be known by the rest of us–formulas concocted inside rooms at Masonic temples with musty rugs behind thick velvet curtains.

Wanting to know how tidal action can sort-of predict twelve months of weather is an intoxicating notion, one that is way better to wonder about than see written down as arithmetic on scrap paper. You can feel the weight of such floaty knowledge as it’s passed down, even if you can’t know any facts. Even if it’s baloney.