Among the other valuable tomes of literature under my Christmas tree this year was the 2002 edition of the Old Farmer's Almanac, a holiday tradition at my house dating back two or three years.

And, since I suspect that many of you may not have a copy yet, I thought I'd share some of the insights included in “North America's oldest continuously published periodical,” first printed in 1792.

Weather in the Southwest, for instance, will be wet when there is no drought and calm when the wind is not blowing. When it's warm, cool temperatures will be significantly less likely.

We can expect “above normal rainfall” through March and considerable cloudiness from San Antonio to the Metroplex with frequent drizzles. We're likely to have a hard freeze this week (the second week in January) even in the Rio Grande Valley. Folks in the Texas Panhandle should brace for a snowstorm in March.

We'll get rain, and plenty of it, in April and May. Summer will be hot. There's a surprise!

And temperatures in September and October will be below normal.

That's the forecast; make your planting and harvest plans accordingly.

But there's more in the Old Farmer's Almanac (OFA) than just weather. The practical information always rivets me to the page. For instance, instead of buying an expensive burglar alarm system or new locks for doors and windows, you can protect your belongings with landscape techniques.

OFL recommends planting thorny bushes under windows to discourage burglars. Also, keeping plants trimmed will eliminate hiding places for thieves and vagabonds. I also recommend keeping snakes in the house. Word gets around.

There's also a list of things to help you get out of doing stuff you don't want to do. Stalling is my favorite. If you put someone off long enough he'll give up and get someone else to do the job. However, I don't expect this to work with wives. They're onto to us already.

OFA advertises a book for senior citizens offering advice on how to get free stuff. You have to be 55 so I'll tear this page out and keep it for a few more years; perhaps then I'll need to know how to get up to $800 for food or $15,000 just to spruce up my house. You never know.

I've also learned that barley and potatoes help you remember things. Unfortunately, I forget which page that was on.

Eating more garlic and onions will help you avoid colds. I'm not certain if that's actually a cure or merely a reasonable means of keeping other people, and their germs, away from you.

Prayer and mediation can increase your IQ and improve your memory. Amen to that.

I found good recipes for okra and questionable ones for beet soup and chocolate-hazelnut soup. Excuse me, but I don't believe chocolate and soup should be used in the same sentence.

I found an ad for products to help me increase the thickness of my hair and to cure arthritis. I'm beginning to see a trend here. I suspect few under the age of 49 buy this valuable resource.

But if you do, don't skip the classified ads or you'll miss an opportunity to find someone who will perform powerful spells or the chance to sell those old millstones you have cluttering up your attic. And one entry offers the possibility to “discover the secrets of life,” including how to “stop stress, end pain and problems.” It's only two bucks, so how can you miss?

I found the most useful information in the 2002 OFM to be the list of best fishing days. So, if you try to reach me on March 16 or June 24, and I don't answer the phone, just assume I have the flu

rsmith@primediabusiness.com.