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Batting 500,000. December 11, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Poor Richard’s Almanac has officially passed 500,000 views. We promised to shut up about views until we reached the 500,000 mark, and we think we managed it pretty well. Admittedly, 500,000 views is probably small change to many blogs, but it’s big stuff for an obscure blog about whatever strikes us written by ordinary folks. In other words, we’re excited!

Astute readers who check the site stats on our blog will see far fewer views than we’re boasting of here. But that’s because we’re such Luddites that we didn’t even think to ask our friend Nan, who helped us get started, to add Sitemeter until months after we’d begun blogging. Fortunately, our blog host, WordPress, has kept track of our stats from day one, and as we write, it shows 501,012 views. Hooray!

Thank you, WordPress, for making Poor Richard’s Almanac possible. And thank you, readers, for checking up on us and commenting on our posts when the spirit moves you. You’re what keeps us going!

As for us, it’s five o’clock somewhere (in the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett), and we’re kicking off a celebratory cocktail hour. As our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, memorably said, “Wine [also quoted as “Beer”] is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Amen. Hopefully we’ll still be awake and alert for Michael Buble’s Christmas special at 10 p.m. (gack, why so late?!), and we’ll post this tomorrow a.m. so you can celebrate with us. (Preferably not with a cocktail at that hour!)

             Thank you and bless you,

                     Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders

Organic Mechanics (plus). March 26, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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So far, today has been a banner day here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and Silence Dogood share in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. First, our Buff Orpington hen, Stella, laid the first egg of the season. Our friend Ben heard the triumphant cackling from the greenhouse, and looking out, saw Stella doing the traditional victory lap around the henyard, announcing her triumph at top volume. Thanks, Stella! It’s a beautiful egg.

In case you’re wondering, after their first year—when they mature and start laying eggs in the late summer, then continue through the fall and winter—hens raised without artificial light and heat stop laying for the year when the days get short in fall, and don’t start again until the daylight lengthens in spring. During the cold months, they use every calorie to stay warm. And people say chickens are stupid! But I digress.

The second great thing was that we discovered a new-to-us potting soil, Organic Mechanics, that we’d purchased at James Weaver’s Meadowview Farm in nearby Bowers. We needed more potting soil (shock surprise), and couldn’t resist a bag that boasted great ingredients, no peat (a natural resource that’s rapidly being depleted), and “Mom Approved.” When we opened it, we were wowed by the rich, beautiful soil. We could almost hear the plants we were potting up breathing a huge collective sigh of relief as their roots sank into this gorgeous soil.

Returning indoors, our friend Ben checked out the Organic Mechanics website (www.organicmechanicsoil.com). Apparently Silence and I aren’t the only folks who were wowed by this potting soil: It’s used by three of the most prestigious gardens in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens, Chanticleer, and the Scott Arboretum, not to mention the U.S. National Arboretum, the U.S. National Park Service, and the British Embassy. I don’t know what pleases me and Silence more, that we’re supporting an excellent local PA product, the anticipation as we wait to see what it does for our container plants, or the thought that all these important gardens and arboretums (and even the Park Service!) are using organic potting soil. Kudos to them, and to Mark Highland, Organic Mechanics’ founder.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live in the Mid-Atlantic region to find this outstanding organic potting soil. The Organic Mechanics website is excellent and informative, and you can order direct. Thier product line is short and sweet: Seed Starting Blend Potting Soil, Planting Mix (for raised beds), Premium Blend Potting Soil (for veggies and other food plants), Container Blend Potting Soil (for perennials and woodies), and Worm Castings.

We have our own earthworm composter, so we can attest to the incredible richness of earthworm castings as a soil conditioner and fertilizer. And of course, you can also use them to make earthworm “tea.” Here’s how Mark makes “tea” from castings: “Mix 1 pound of castings in 1 gallon of water. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, let castings settle to bottom, then pour off a fraction of the liquid solution. Stop before pouring out castings particles, and repeat until tea turns light brown in color, then pour out any remaining castings and use as mulch.” Of course, when he says “pour out,” he doesn’t mean “throw out.” Use the liquid you’re draining off as a foliar spray or soil drench.

The third great thing about today happened when our friend Ben called up our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, to post this, and saw that we now have over 400,000 total views. We promised when we hit 300,000 views that we wouldn’t go on about this again until we reached 500,000, so ’nuff said. But you can bet we’ll be inviting our friend and resident blog historian, Richard Saunders, and his girlfriend Bridget over for a celebratory supper!

Unfortunately, by tomorrow we may not be having so much to celebrate. After several weeks of daytime temperatures in the 70s (including several days that reached 78 degrees) and nighttime lows in the high 40s and low 50s, tonight the temperature is plunging down to 26. Brrrr!!! With apples, peaches, and pear trees in bud and our pluot in full flower—not to mention our bed of greens, just peeping up through the soil, our spinach, Swiss chard, and herb transplants, and our windowbox planters of violas—we are seriously concerned. Guess we’ll have to hope for the best and see what makes it through the night.

Meanwhile, happy gardening to you all. Thanks for visiting, and we hope you have things to celebrate today, too!

Batting a thousand. November 29, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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1 comment so far

Please forgive us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac for tooting our own horn, but we figured that only our fellow bloggers would understand our excitement at achieving a new all-time-high viewer record. This past Thanksgiving, our blog had 950 views, shattering our previous record of 786. Our dream is to get 1,000 visitors a day, and while we’ve yet to achieve that, 950 comes pretty darn close.

Mind you, we have no clue how 950 views rates in the blogging world. Maybe everybody else routinely gets 10,000 views a day. But for us, it’s definitely a high point. Especially since our blog has no photos, no ads, no nothin’, and we don’t tweet, have a Facebook page, or do anything else to promote it. It’s just the three of us, our brains, and our keyboards.

We’re so thrilled to have reached this point! And we thank each and every one of you who’s taken the time to come to Poor Richard’s Almanac and actually read a post, photo-less as it is. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing.

               Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders

                                        for Poor Richard’s Almanac  


1500 posts, 7 wacky blog searches, 1 inspiring quote. September 14, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Today marks a milestone of sorts here at Poor Richard’s Almanac: This is our 1500th post. Blog contributors our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders apparently just can’t shut up.

To celebrate, we’re giving you the best of our recent batch of wacky blog search phrases (the search engine terms that somehow land folks on our blog), plus, of course, words of wisdom from our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. First the fun part! As always, search phrase in bold, our comments following:

peeling garlic cloves with hose pipe: We’d call that overkill. Silence prefers to just smash them with a wooden pestle. But no doubt a hammer or tire iron would also work in a pinch.

pressure canned tomatoes look bad: We recommend plastic surgery or, say, water-bath canning.

other names for buff orpington chicken: See if it answers to Jemima.

ben light green eyes/i want my mama: We’re really hoping these are song lyrics. And that we never have to hear the song they’re part of.

why did god create stink bugs: No doubt for the same reason He created rats, fleas, bedbugs, mildew, and bubonic plague. We don’t know what that reason is, but we’re going to have plenty to say to Him about it when the time comes.

what is college for: Clearly it’s the last chance to get the kids out of the house before they settle in and live off you for good. Go for it!

any amish recipes for funeral potatoes: We’ve certainly had our share of potato funerals around here—usually when we’ve left the potatoes for too long in our unairconditioned mudroom in high summer—but have never heard of funeral potatoes, Amish or otherwise. Silence promises to look into this in a future post. 

Moving on from the ridiculous to the sublime, would Ben Franklin have something to say to us, and to you, on this occasion? Well, Old Ben was certainly never at a loss for words! We three wordsmiths will give you one gem  from Ben, a fellow wordsmith as well as a man of action, to put our writing in its place:

“Well done is better than well said.”

So true! Yet well said may inspire future readers to do well, as Ben well knew. For all you past, present, and future readers of our Poor Richard’s Almanac blog, thank you for bringing us to post #1500. We love you!

Batting 250,000. February 5, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Today, February 5th, our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, has reached its third birthday. We have also reached another milestone this week, crossing that coveted (by us, anyway) 250,000-view mark (current stats are 251,108 views, 1,295 posts, and 5,141 comments, not counting spam or our responses).*

We realize that in the cosmic scheme of, say, The Daily Kos or The Huffington Post, 250,000 views is not much to crow about. But your humble bloggers here at Poor Richard’s—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—are absolutely bursting with pride. And we owe it all to you, our readers, who have endured our quirks, read our posts, and even—when we’re lucky—told us what you thought of them. Thank you, every one!

Blog posts tend to take on a life of their own, and often the ones with the greatest longevity aren’t ones we’d have predicted. To this day, our most popular post remains “Why don’t cats have brown eyes?,” now heading towards 7,000 views. And who’d have thought an obscure post like “Can you grow olive trees from seed?” would have racked up well over a thousand views (so far), or that Silence’s stinkbug posts would (collectively) have accumulated almost 10,000 views?

We, of course, would love it if our witty, thoughtful, and/or profound posts generated the most hits. (Well, our friend Ben would love it if his many posts hinting at how much he’d like to be nominated for a MacArthur Fellowship generated the most hits, but that’s another matter.) But we write, and readers vote with their views. Not that it will stop us from continuing to attempt to be witty, thoughtful, and profound (or, in OFB’s case, from continuing to shamelessly put himself forward for that MacArthur award), but we’ll also continue to provide actually useful and informative posts as well. And we welcome feedback on any topics you’d like for us to tackle or touch on more often as we continue on this journey together!

How do we plan to celebrate these latest milestones? With a quiz, of course! See how well you really know your bloggers. Alas, we can offer no prizes to the winners—we’d mail you a jar of marbles, but with endless ice- and snowstorms predicted, we doubt we’ll be able to leave our respective residences anytime soon—but at least we’ll give you the answers at the end of the quiz. No cheating, now!

1. Silence Dogood most often compares our friend Ben to:

      a. Benjamin Franklin

       b. Mister Magoo

       c. Inspector Clouseau

        d. The Napoleon of Crime

2. Richard Saunders is known for his love of:

      a. pirates

       b. coin collecting

       c. hot peppers

        d. history

3. If a docudrama was made of Silence’s life, our friend Ben would cast which of the following to play Silence:

       a. Kim Kardashian

        b. Beyonce

        c. Liv Tyler

         d. Jessica Biel

4. All of us here at PRA are Sherlock Holmes fanatics. Our ideal Holmes would be played by:

         a. Johnny Depp     

         b. James Frain

         c. Anthony Bourdain

         d. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers

5. Silence’s favorite TV chef is:

         a. Guy Fieri

          b. Anthony Bourdain

          c. Ruth Bourdain

           d. Julia Child

6. When on vacation, we’d like to go to:

          a. Williamsburg

           b. Australia

           c. Assisi

           d. Crete 

7. Our hero and blog mentor is:

           a. Benjamin Franklin

            b. Sir Richard Francis Burton

            c. Leonardo da Vinci

             d. Mother Teresa

8. Our all-time favorite musician is:

            a. Bach

            b. Mozart

            c. Mark Knopfler

             d. Ella Fitzgerald

 9. Our friend Ben’s favorite dessert is:

            a. chess pie

             b. fudge pie

             c. soft-serve vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, caramel, marshmallow cream, and whipped cream

              d. pecan pie

10. If Silence and OFB won the lottery, we’d:

                a. Buy a fine Colonial home with ample grounds and lots of outbuildings, with a stream and pond and a fabulous view, plus plenty of space and housing for all our animals.

                  b. Buy a big enough place to hold all of our collections, then ramp up our collections.

                   c. Buy our first-ever new car. 

                    d. Fix up our little place and put the money in the bank.

Well, there you have it! Check out the answers, below, and see how you did. And again, thank you all so very, very much for bringing us to this place. We love you!!!


1-c, though OFB has some of all the others in him, too.

2-all of the above. Richard also collects stamps, Civil War memorabilia, and anything about Ancient Greece.

3-c. Blue eyes, dark hair, fair skin, that’s Silence for you. But OFB would love switching all of them off in different scenes, since I’m convinced they all could bring something of Silence to life onscreen!

4-b. Johnny Depp was our top contender for years, but James Frain’s performance as Cromwell in “The Tudors” convinced us he has the chops for the role like no one else. Silence maintains that Tony Bourdain could be a dark horse for the role, and we all think Jonathan Rhys-Meyers would make a marvelous Moriarty. 

5-d. Much as Silence loves Tony, if there could only be one, it’s Julia hands-down.

6-all of the above. And Greece, Morocco, Normandy, Scotland, that train trip across Canada, Provence, Nova Scotia, Tuscany, Siena, Yorkshire, Mexico… gack. We’re all travel-mad and budget-restricted. Watch out, world, if any of us wins the lottery!

7-a. We revere everyone on this list, but Dr. Franklin is the inspiration for our blog and our lives.

8-b. Oh, really? Again, much as we love Wolfie, we also love more musicians of pretty much all eras and genres than could fit in a file, much less a 4-choice quiz. Please don’t get us started or we’ll never shut up.

9-a. This one was tough, since OFB loves all these selections, as you might have guessed, and with Silence shrieking “But what about Fresh Blueberry Tart and Chocolate Yummy-Rummies and Simms Family Eggnog and Coffee Poundcake and Cheesecake and…” in the background, it was agonizing to try to choose just one. But okay, just one: chess pie. This Southern treasure is to the South what flan is to Central and South America. So simple, but so incredibly delicious. However, OFB would be happy to see an expanded dessert selection, including banana cream pie and chocolate icebox pie and a plate of chocolate turtles as well as all the abovementioned…

10-depends. If we won a ton of money, we’d go for a through c, then fix up our little cottage and give it to our niece. If we won a huge amount, but not quite a ton, we’d go for a through c and give our poor niece the cottage as-is. If we didn’t win so much as all that, maybe we’d go for c and d, and if we won still less, d would definitely be the top option. But hey, whatever the case, free money, free upgrades! We’re definitely game.

* Confusing as this is, we check our rankings by our blog host WordPress’s calculations rather than the SiteMeter stats you can see on this page. That’s because WordPress has been tracking our views from day one, while we’re such Luddites that it took us a couple of months to get the SiteMeter up and running.

Our latest milestone. August 23, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Please forgive us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac for a little back-patting, but we’ve finally reached a milestone we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Sometime during the night, PRA finally passed the 200,000-view mark (as of this second, the official count is 200,362).*

Richard Saunders, up extra-early to prepare for the first day of class, was first to see our little triumph, and he quickly called Hawk’s Haven with the news. “Tell Ben to hold off on that post about the history of hex signs!” Richard told a delighted Silence Dogood. “We need to post about the 200,000 views!”

“No worries, Richard. Ben isn’t even out of bed. Shock surprise!”

“Uh, no doubt he was up late burning the midnight oil.”

“Yeah, right. So what should we say in our celebratory post? We’d better make it good, ’cause we won’t get to crow about ourselves again until we hit 500,000!”

“How about a quiz?”

“Well, we did that for our 100,000 milestone. I’d say we could do a Top Ten Things You Don’t Know about Us post, but I don’t think there are ten things our readers don’t know about us! At least, ten things they’d want to know about us…” 

“What if we stuck to ten basic things, and opened up the floor so readers could add their own answers in the comments?”

“Okay, I’m game. You come up with the categories and I’ll go wake up Ben.”

So, dear reader, here are Richard’s categories and our answers. Please join us and let us know how you’d answer them. And thanks so much for taking us to 200,000 views! We’re looking forward to hearing from you often as we take aim at 500,000!

                   Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood and Richard Saunders

1. What’s your favorite color?

     OFB: red

      Silence: red

      RS: blue

2. What’s your favorite time of day?

      OFB: mealtime

      Silence: dusk

      RS: late night 

3. What are your three favorite foods?

      OFB: potatoes (every which way), fried chicken, salad

      Silence: pasta, curry, salad

      RS: roast beef, barbecue, hot peppers

“Hot peppers aren’t a food, Richard. They’re a seasoning.”

“Oh, come on, Silence! I think of them as an entire food category. If Ben can list potatoes, why can’t I list peppers?”

“Let’s try this another way. If you couldn’t list hot peppers, what would you list?”


“All righty then.”

4. What’s your favorite dessert?

     OFB: chess pie

     Silence: fresh blueberry tart

     RS: a hot fudge sundae

5. Where would you like to have a vacation home?

      OFB: on the beach

       Silence: in the mountains

       RS: on a lake

6. What country would you most like to visit?

      OFB: France

       Silence: Morocco

       RS: Egypt 

“Ben, I thought you wanted to go to Scotland. Not to mention Turkey and India!”

“I do, Silence, but I want to go to Normandy more. Besides, what happened to Mexico and Greece? I thought those were at the top of your fantasy travel list. As for you, Richard, haven’t we been hearing about that dream vacation to Japan for about bazillion years now?”

“Well, yes, but if I could pick just one… Thank goodness real life isn’t limited to just one choice!”


7. What’s your favorite kind of pet?

       OFB: dog

       Silence: Don’t even think about making me choose just one.

       RS: dog

“Silence, that’s cheating. Just answer the question.”

“Oh, shut up, Ben! I love all our pets. They all add so much to our lives in their different ways. How could I choose between a dog and a cat or a parrot or parakeets? I guess I could leave out the fish and shrimp, but only if I absolutely had to. And what about our chickens?!”

“Uh, never mind.”

8. What’s your second-favorite dessert?

“Richard, that’s just lame. Enough about the desserts. You’ve got to do better than that.”

“But, Silence, I thought you liked to cook. And besides, we asked for three favorite foods but only one favorite dessert.”

“I love to cook. And I love food. But you’re the one who made up these questions, so it’s your fault we only asked for one dessert. Too late now! I think it’s time we moved on to some other topic.”

“You mean, there is some other topic?”

“Shut up, Ben.”

8. What’s your favorite leisure activity?

       OFB: sleeping


        OFB: reading, then sleeping

        Silence: [sigh] reading writing singing knitting beading cooking…


          RS: history

“Richard, ‘history’ is not a leisure activity. Making history, maybe.”

“Well, what I really mean is pursuing history, through reading, research, travel, collecting historical artifacts, watching documentaries and films that attempt to recreate or illuminate an era, going to museums, and writing. But I figured that took too long to say.”

“You’ve got a point. I forgot to say thinking. I think I love thinking even more than reading and writing. Oh, and did I say sleeping?”


9. Who’s your favorite author, composer, artist, musician, actor?

     OFB: Homer, Bach, Leonardo, Mark Knopfler, Robert Downey Jr.—or, wait, maybe Johnny Depp—no, Robert Downey Jr.



     Silence: Jane Austen, Mozart, Leonardo, Bob Marley, Alan Rickman

     RS: David McCullough, Vivaldi, Leonardo, Jimmy Page, and, OK, I’ll plunk for Johnny Depp, so you don’t have to feel bad, Ben

“Gee, looks like we’ve got a Leonardo thing going here.”

“So, what’s your point?”

“Seems like at least somebody would have voted for the usual suspects: Michaelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet…”

“Puh-leeze. Vermeer, Van Dyck, Fra Angelico, Holbein, Durer, absolutely. If there was no Leonardo. But there was, and that’s all there is to it. There’s Leonardo, and then there’s everyone else.”

10. If you could have been anyone in the course of history, who would it be?

        OFB: Supreme Lord and Ruler of the Universe, what else? Seriously, how could you even ask: Ben Franklin, of course!

         Silence: Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I wouldn’t have minded being old Ben, either. Elizabeth I has appeal, too, but I’m not sure she was happy, and I’d want to be happy, whoever I was.

“Not Marie Antoinette or Cleopatra, then?”


“Uh, guys…”

“Sorry, Richard. Maybe Isabel Burton, the wife of the great explorer, linguist and author Sir Richard Francis Burton. She certainly had an interesting and romantic life! But only if I could rewrite a bit of it… How about you, Richard?”

          RS: Dr. Franklin certainly appeals. So does George Washington and Daniel Boone. But I’m thinking, if I could be anybody, few people in history had it as good as Louis XIV. Yeah, I’d like to come back—or go back—as the Sun King. 

* If you’ve astutely examined the number on the SiteMeter in the right-hand column of the screen, you may be thinking we’re a few tomatillos shy of a load in claiming that we’ve surpassed 200,000 views when the SiteMeter shows less than 170,000. But for once, we’re right and it’s wrong. It’s because we’re such Luddites that we didn’t even get the SiteMeter set up until our blog had been up for several months. Fortunately, WordPress, our blog host, also tracks blog views, and it’s been tracking from the first day our blog was up, so its count is accurate. Thanks, WordPress!

Milestone: 150,000 January 20, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,

Yesterday, our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, passed 150,000 views.* This cheers us up no end. We love writing the blog, and we love it that folks have come here 150,085 times (so far) to see what we’re up to.

We’ll doubtless drone on and on about our various stats (posts, comments, spam, most popular posts, etc.) on our second birthday this coming February, so we’ll spare you that now. However, each of us who contributes posts to PRA would like to share a little something to celebrate, according to our lights:

Our friend Ben: The secrets to good houseplants and great aquariums, our friend Ben is convinced, are a good setup and benign neglect. We’ve kept beautiful aquaria—and the tropical fish in them!—alive for decades by creating lush, balanced landscapes with good lighting, plenty of live plants, stones artfully arranged to support plants and give fish and shrimp places to hide out, shrimp, snails, clams, and for the fish, a mix of bottom-feeders, midrange tropicals, and top-dwellers. Our selection always includes schools of beautiful, eyecatching small fish for our viewing pleasure (we’re especially fond of tetras), plus lots of scavengers and bottom-feeders (like the cute little triangular corydoras catfish) to keep the bottom of the tank clean and pristine. Our cardinal rules are not to overload the tank with fish, not to overfeed, or feed at all on weekends, and not to heat the tanks. We defy anyone short of the level of a Takashi Amano to produce more beautiful tanks. As for our houseplants, we pot them up in good, rich organic soil, give them good light, water them no more than once a week (and only when dry), adding liquid seaweed and SUPERthrive (a natural vitamin/plant hormone mix) to the water, remove dead leaves and flowers, the end. If they’re lucky, we’ll pot up the plants in spring if we see that they’re really outgrowing their pots. Visitors constantly ooh and ahh about our gorgeous houseplants, and we look at each other and think, “If they only knew!”

Silence Dogood: Here are my five rules for failproof cooking. Follow them, and your food will get raves wherever it’s served. 1. Take your time. Good cooking takes time, both on your part during the preparation, and during the cooking itself. As cook-in-chief, it’s up to you to keep a careful eye on your food while it’s cooking as well as while you’re making it. (If you doubt this, next time you’re cooking a sauce, stand over it until it’s thick enough to lusciously cling to every piece of pasta or whatever, as opposed to being thin and splashy, and see why it makes a difference.) Yes, this can get boring, but it’s well worth the time spent. To make it go faster, I suggest putting on some favorite music and enjoying a glass (or two) of wine. 2. Buy the best. My own dear Mama was adamant about this, and she was so right. Beautiful fresh produce, delicious cheeses and dairy products, real butter, extra-virgin olive oil, good bread, the best meats: The money you put into quality ingredients will repay you many times over in the flavor of the finished dish. The prices on those stickers may seem high, but compare them to horrible prepared foods and you’ll quickly see that you’re saving money while serving your beloved and/or family the very best. Still not convinced? Compare the price of a home-cooked meal for your loved ones to the equivalent meal at a restaurant! (Let me hastily add that I’m not talking about buying trendy or status-priced ingredients here, just the best quality of the ingredients you actually need.) 3. Don’t skimp on the seasonings. Butter, olive oil, herbs, salt, spices, dressings, condiments: Ah, the fine art of adding as much as is needed without skimping or drowning your dish. The secret here is smelling and tasting. A well-seasoned dish should smell heavenly and taste delicious. If it doesn’t measure up, gently add more of what seems to be lacking, give it a minute or two, and taste again. Practice makes perfect here; soon you won’t even have to think about it. 4. Throw out the cookbooks. If you know me and my extensive cookbook collection, you’ll know that I’m not being literal here. But much as I love reading my cookbooks while relaxing before bed, I don’t actually cook from them. That’s because the authors’ tastes aren’t mine. Instead, if I want to make a dish I haven’t yet invented and have never cooked before, I go to my cookbooks, choose the appropriate ones, read the recipes they give for that dish, let them all settle in my brain, and then make an amalgam based on what I know I’ll like. The finished dish may bear scant resemblance to the dish as given in any of the cookbooks (or online), but I’ve yet to be disappointed by striking out on my own. 5. Let your senses be your guide. Does it look delicious, smell delicious, taste delicious? If so, you’ve accomplished everything you could want. Cooking doesn’t get any better than this, be it never so trendy, expensive, or elaborate. Precious is bad; yummy is good.

Richard Saunders: As a coin collector, I’d like to offer a little advice as far as getting great value without spending a fortune, especially with the prices of gold and silver going through the roof. I myself wouldn’t even think about trying to buy gold coins with gold prices at a historic high. (Wait until the prices inevitably come down.) If you can afford silver dollars—or half-dollars, or quarters, or dimes—good for you. But I myself would suggest that a collector with a modest budget focus on creating a high-quality collection of Roosevelt dimes, Jefferson nickels, and Lincoln cents. (Since the Roosevelt dimes are overdue for a change—the only coinage that hasn’t yet been modernized—I’d start with them.) Buy highest-quality mint uncirculated coins (and proof coins, if you happen on loose ones for sale), keep your oily fingerprints off them, store them carefully so they won’t get scratched, and don’t pay a cent more for them than you feel comfortable spending. Then sit back and wait. You’ll never make a fortune from these low-denomination modern coins, but if you take good care of them and buy the highest quality, you will eventually see a solid return on your investment.

Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special: As the ranking (well, only) black German shepherd puppy in OFB’s and Silence’s household, I thought I’d let you in on a secret. What’s the very best dog treat? Sweet potatoes. Of course, your dog will be happy if you’re eating baked sweet potatoes and share a bit (especially if it’s buttered and salted) with him. But, fortunately for us dogs, pet supply stores have realized our love of sweet potatoes and now offer a wide range of sweet-potato treats. Dried sweet potato slices, chewy sweet potato “fries,” duck, lamb, and chicken rollups with sweet potato centers: You can find many variations on the sweet potato theme, and I’m here to tell you, we love them all. Some are even fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin to help support the joints of big dogs like me. So next time you’re in the pet food store and see a sweet potato snack, bring it home for your dog. She’ll be so grateful!

Linus Beaumaine: Shiloh’s had her say, it’s only fair to give us cats a chance. As the sole blogging cat among the three of us living at Hawk’s Haven with Silence and OFB, I figured it was up to me to represent the feline POV in this post. So, without further ado, here are my five rules for a happy life. Do as I do and as I say, and you’ll be happy, whatever species you happen to be! Rule #1. Sleep as much as possible. Sleep is comfortable, sleep is relaxing, sleep is refreshing. Sleep early, sleep often, preferably curled up next to your favorite person. Rule #2. Play every day. Playtime is too much fun to skip just because you’re busy. Have plenty of your favorite toys at hand (make sure the dog doesn’t steal them!) to remind you to make play a priority. Rule #3. Don’t forget your friends. Spend time with them as often as you can, hopefully every day. (Silence tells me that e-mailing and calling count when they don’t live as close to you as you’d like.) Don’t be greedy—share your food, toys, and treats, especially when you know which ones are their favorites. Good friends mean good times. Rule #4. Make every minute of “alone time” count. In a little cottage like ours, with two people and eight pets (not counting the fish), finding a few minutes of alone time isn’t easy. But when you do, make the most of it: run, dance, sing, laugh, jump. Do something for the sheer pleasure of it, especially if it’s something you’d feel sheepish about doing in front of other people. Even a minute or two of exhilaration is enough to revive you to face the rest of the day! Rule #5: Ask for and give love often. Hugging, cuddling, kissing, and so on just can’t happen too often. Physical affection creates healthy bodies as well as healthy relationships. (Our bodies need to know that they’re loved every bit as much as our minds and hearts do.) I’ve found that purring loudly is a good way to alert people that I’d like to be petted and snuggle up for a while.

Dr. Franklin: Benjamin Franklin here. OFB keeps telling me that I’m this blog’s inspiration and mentor, and I’ve been persuaded to write a few guest posts in the past, so I suppose I should add a little something to today’s roundup. Do you ever wonder why a portrait of me appears on the $100 bill, and it’s even popularly referred to as a Benjamin? Besides me, the only other non-president so honored is Alexander Hamilton (on the $10 bill), and since he was the founder of America’s banking system and the first Secretary of the Treasury, that’s not surprising. Well, according to The Franklin Institute, sayings of mine such as “The way to wealth… depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money,” laid the foundations for the American Dream, “the idea that all people are created equal and each person has the same opportunity to achieve success.” They add that “Ben Franklin’s personal ideas about economy helped to shape our country’s economy.” So I guess that’s why I’m on that “Benjamin,” looking pretty scary if you ask me. Couldn’t they have at least shown me when I was animated and smiling?!

* If you look at the SiteMeter on our site, you’ll see considerably fewer hits than 150,000, but that’s because it took us a while after we started Poor Richard’s Almanac to realize that we needed a SiteMeter, and even longer to get it set up. Unfortunately, the meter only started from the time it was activated rather than from the blog’s beginning, but luckily, WordPress, our blog home, has kept track from day one, so we can keep an accurate count. Too bad it doesn’t show up on the blog!

Batting 100,000. June 30, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,

The day has finally arrived that our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders have been looking forward to since we started Poor Richard’s Almanac back in February 2008 and realized that other people were willing to read it besides us, even though a) you really do have to read it and b) we’re such Luddites we can’t even take a decent photo, much less upload one: This morning, our Word Press stats revealed that our blog had welcomed its 100,125th visit.* (Other stats: 675 posts; 2,988 comments; 5,757 wretched pieces of spam; and 3054 views so far of our most popular post, “To thine own self be true.”)

We promised some fun when we passed 100,000, so today we’re going to give you two quizzes, one to test your knowledge of us and the blog, and the second, courtesy of Richard, to test your knowledge of the Founding Fathers, who as you may recall play a significant role in our proceedings. And at the end, we’ll reveal exciting prizes for a few lucky winners! (Silence steps up to remind our friend Ben that excitement is in the eye of the beholder. She suggested the word “wacky” as a more accurate description. Whatever.) Let’s get started:

How well do you know Poor Richard’s Almanac? Answer these multiple-choice questions to find out:

1. Our hero and blog mentor is:

a) Homer Simpson

b) Ebenezer Scrooge

c) Benjamin Franklin

d) Mr. Darcy

2. The cottage where Silence Dogood and our friend Ben live is named:

a) Poor Richard’s

b) Hawk’s Haven

c) Raptor’s Retreat

d) Rose Haven

3) We call ourselves Luddites because:

a) it takes all three of us to screw in a lightbulb

b) we belong to a little-known sect of Puritans who were believed to have died out in the 17th century

c) we’re technological incompetents

d) the asylum where we’re confined thought it sounded more dignified than Bedlamites

4. Silence and our friend Ben recently adopted a puppy named:

a) Geronimo

b) Beatrice

c) Shiloh

d) Winston

5. Richard’s three obsessions are Colonial history, backyard birding, and:

a) hot peppers

b) his girlfriend Bridget

c) The Wall Street Journal

d) fried chicken

6. Silence loves to cook but hates:

a) leftovers

b) lizards

c) curry

d) stink bugs

7. Our friend Ben collects all but one of the following. Choose the one he doesn’t collect:

a) marbles

b) Pueblo pottery

c) socks

d) antique chess pieces

8. Silence and our friend Ben now live in Pennsylvania, but they’re originally from:

 a) England

b) Kentucky

c) Nashville

d) Normandy

9. Richard, our friend Ben, and Silence all share an obsession with:

a) reality TV

b) pirates

c) pizza

d) fly fishing

10. Our friend Ben’s dream is to win:

a) the lottery

b) a Gates Foundation grant

c) a Nobel Prize

d) a MacArthur Fellowship

Okay, before moving on to the Founders, let’s see how you did with the PRA quiz. The correct answers are: 1-c, Benjamin Franklin, though Scrooge and Mr. Darcy have their admirers among us, and who doesn’t love a good doughnut?; 2-b; 3-c; 4-c; 5-oops! both a and b are correct (and c and d rank pretty high on the list as well); 6-d, Silence’s epic battles with the hated stinkbugs have provided fodder for many a post; 7-c, Silence says our friend Ben would collect map tacks if had access to a map store, and his collections are really diverse, but if there’s one thing our friend Ben hates, it’s socks; 8-c, Nashville, though they have ancestral claims to all the others, too; 9-b, with c as a close second; 10-all of the above.

But enough about us. Richard is here to provide a test of your knowledge of one of our major inspirations, the Founding Fathers. Let’s see what he’s managed to dig up on them now:

1. Which Founding Fathers weren’t born in America?

a) George Washington and Patrick Henry

b) Paul Revere and John Adams

c) John Hancock and Gouverneur Morris

d) Alexander Hamilton and Tom Paine

2.  Which of these men was not in the army with Washington at some point?

a) Alexander Hamilton

b) Daniel Boone

c) Benedict Arnold

d) Davy Crockett

3.  Which Founder never left his native shores?

a) George Washington

b)  Thomas Jefferson

c) James Madison

d) John Adams

4. Benjamin Franklin’s interest in the public good was perhaps his greatest passion. Which of the following did he not found in the Colonies?

a) the first abolitionist society

b) the first lending library 

c) the first volunteer fire department

d) the first medical school

5. It’s well known that Ben Franklin fought to make the wild turkey America’s symbol rather than the bald eagle. Why?

a) he thought too many other countries used eagles as their symbols

b) he valued the turkey as a uniquely American bird

c) he derided eagles as cowardly scavengers

d) he lauded turkeys for their courage and native intelligence 

6. Who was the bravest Revolutionary War general on the American side?

a) George Washington

b) Nathanael Greene

c) Benedict Arnold

d) Henry Knox

7. Why was George Washington revered in Europe, even by his enemies?

a) he won the Revolutionary War

b) he was the first President of the United States

c) he was the Father of Our Country

d) he walked away from a crown and an appointment as president for life

8. Who was the most scandalous of the Founding Fathers?

a) Tom Paine

b) Alexander Hamilton

c) Thomas Jefferson

d) Benjamin Franklin

9. Which Founder is least honored today?

a) George Mason

b) Patrick Henry

c) Sam Adams

d) Gouverneur Morris

10. Who’s the best-loved Founder?

a) Benjamin Franklin

b) Thomas Jefferson

c) George Washington

d) Patrick Henry

Ready for the answers? Here you go: 1-d, this could be viewed as a trick question, since none of them were technically born in America, which wasn’t yet an independent country, but for our purposes, we’ll limit the answer to offshore births: Alexander Hamilton was born in Nevis in the British West Indies and Tom Paine in England; 2-d, we don’t tend to think of Daniel Boone as Washington’s contemporary, but he was, and both played a role in the French and Indian Wars, it was Davy Crockett who came to prominence later; 3-c, the fragile Madison dreamed of France but never left America, while even the dour Adams went to both England and France and Washington went to Barbados; 4-Franklin actually founded all of the above; 5-all of the above; 6-c, Benedict Arnold, whose courage was awe-inspiring and was one of the reasons Washington loved him like a son, it was his judgment that was weak while his ego was strong, a fatal combination; 7-d, such a thing had never happened before, and even won the admiration of Washington’s old enemy George III, as well as setting a precedent for America; 8-b, though it’s closely contested: while the scandals that swirled around Ben Franklin were fabrications and exaggerations, Tom Paine’s drunkenness, slovenliness, chronic inability to keep a job, rabble-rousing, and divorce made him a good candidate, and Thomas Jefferson’s long involvement with and scandalous lack of concern for Sally Hemings have made him a figure of controversy in our own time, to say the least, but back in the Founders’ day, it was Hamilton who made the headlines with his notorious adulterous affair and his lurid death in a duel at Aaron Burr’s hands; 9-a, though all the Founders who supported states’ rights and failed to go on to play prominent national roles after the Revolution don’t get the respect of those who did, but George Mason, who was a key player in the early days of unrest and spent long hours discussing strategy with his friends George Washington and James Madison, is all but forgotten today except among historians of the period; 10-a, who else?!

Now that we’ve given your brain and memory a good workout, we’ll admit that we’re not about to keep score. If you want to be eligible for one of our fabulous, uh, far-fetched prizes, all you have to do is let us know in a comment on this post and be willing to give us your e-mail address so we can contact you for your mailing address if you win. Names will be selected at random in a traditional hat drawing, but we do ask that you indicate first and second choices for prizes so you don’t end up with something you don’t want. Note that we wish everyone could be a winner, but we can’t afford the postage, so we’re only pulling three names out of that hat!

Here are the prizes:

+ A bag of fabulous, limited-edition JABO marbles from our friend Ben’s stash

+ Richard’s custom-made Emergency Room Special Hot Pepper Mix

+ An autographed copy of Silence’s book Kick the Clutter

+ A Shiloh-approved recipe for dog treats

+ Silence’s favorite garam masala or curry powder, your choice

Yes, this is more than three prizes for three winners, but we wanted to give you all some options. And we’d like to say an absolutely HUGE thank you to everyone who’s gotten us here!!!

             Silence Dogood, our friend Ben, and Richard Saunders

* You’ll note that the SiteMeter on this page does not show 100,125 views or even close. That’s because it took us forever to get the idea to put SiteMeter up on our site, and even longer to ask our techno-savvy friend Nan to actually do it for us. Thank goodness WordPress was counting from the beginning!

An early Christmas present. December 4, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, critters, homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,

Thanks to all of you, we here at Poor Richard’s Almanac—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—got an early Christmas present this year: We just passed the 50,000 visitor mark on our blog!!!

Alert readers will note that our Sitemeter shows 40,075 visits, and may think we need glasses like our blog mentor and hero, Ben Franklin. But we haven’t lost our minds or our eyesight—being Luddites, it just took us a very long time to think of adding Sitemeter to our site, and then we had to persuade a tech-savvy friend to set it up for us. Fortunately, WordPress also tracks visits to the site, and it’s through them that we know that Poor Richard’s has racked up 50,136 visits since we started our blog back in February. We can’t think of a better Christmas present! Thank you all for coming to see us, coming back, and commenting. We love you!!!

We remember promising when we reached 35,000 visits that we’d do something special to mark 50,000. So Silence is going to give you a sinfully rich-tasting yet surprisingly simple recipe that you’ll have no trouble finding time to make even during the hectic holiday season. Richard promises to provide a little-known fact about the Founding Father of your choice. (Let him know via the comments section who you’d like to know more about. He swears that even if 38 of you ask for obscure facts about, say, George Washington, he’ll dig up 38 different things. So don’t be shy! Who knows what we’ll all learn!) And our friend Ben will reveal little-known facts about Silence—just kidding, Silence! ow!!!—I mean, our friend Ben will, uh, er, um…

[Silence, breaking in] Our friend Ben will finally shut up?

[OFB] Grrrr! How about this: Our friend Ben will provide interesting facts about any creature, from your favorite dinosaur or trilobite to jellyfish and woodpeckers. You have only to ask, and I will answer! So okay, Richard and I are standing by, waiting for your calls, uh, comments. Meanwhile, let’s turn the post over to Silence so she can give you that recipe (and trust me, it’s a winner!):

Silence Dogood here. Cold weather calls for hot comfort foods, right? And what could be more comforting than a baked apple? But baked apples can get a little, well, boring. As a child, I loved caramel apples, and I still think of them fondly. But I don’t make them—too much melted-caramel mess, too much trauma to the teeth—and I don’t want a cold dessert when it’s cold outside, anyway. So I decided to go for the best of both worlds, a sinfully decadent caramelized baked apple. These luscious apples take an hour to bake, but ten minutes to make, so you can pop them in the oven as you’re getting supper ready and enjoy the tantalizing aroma throughout the meal, then serve them up for dessert. Ice cream lovers can top them with vanilla or caramel swirl ice cream, but we purists love them as is. Try them and see what you think!

          Silence’s Baked Caramel Apples

Buy one large, tart baking apple, such as a ‘Granny Smith’,  for each person. (Don’t use ‘Delicious’ apples, please—they’re only good fresh.)  Wash and core the apples, making an ample space in the middle of each, and compost the cores. (We always save one for our golden retriever, Molly, who relishes them.) Pour apple cider in the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish so it’s about 1/2 inch deep. Arrange the apples in the dish. Add a pat of butter and a teaspoon of brown sugar to the cider for every apple. In the hollow center of each apple, add another pat of butter, another heaping teaspoon of brown sugar, and raisins to fill. (We like a mix of raisins, but if you only add one kind, use golden raisins.) If you’re a nut person, mix broken pecan pieces with the raisins before stuffing the apples. And yes, you can add a pinch of ground cinnamon and/or cloves if you want; but much as I love both cinnamon and cloves, I think they complicate the caramel flavor unnecessarily in this case. Bake for an hour at 350 degrees F. and serve, pouring the thickened cider sauce over each apple. Yum!!!

By the way, you can use the leftover cider to make hot mulled cider by adding Gosling’s Black Label Rum (our favorite) to taste and a stick or two of cinnamon plus four whole cloves to a quart of cider (minus the amount used for the apples) in a pan. (Heat the cider with the spices, then add the rum once it’s hot and serve.) But don’t make this luscious drink the same night you make the caramel apples—that’s too much apple for anybody!

Enjoy these yummy apples, and again, thank you so much for bringing Poor Richard’s Almanac to this milestone. Y’all come back now, hear?!!

            —our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders

A year of posts. November 25, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, critters, gardening, homesteading, pets, recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: ,

Today marks a milestone of sorts, the 365th post to appear on Poor Richard’s Almanac. (Astute readers will note that we still have several months to go before our blog’s one-year anniversary in February 2009; apparently our mouths move faster than our calendars.)

In these 365 posts, blog contributors our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders have raved and ranted about pretty much everything under the sun, from history and hot peppers to greenhouses and groceries, collections and coinage, recipes and radishes, lazy cats and crazy critters, prizes and pirates, marbles and mushrooms, with some chickens, philosophy, and poetry thrown in for good measure. (We still haven’t let our friend Ben post about the demotion of Pluto from planet status, something that continues to obsess him, but that’s another matter.) There has even been the occasional guest appearance by our blog mentor and hero, Benjamin Franklin. (Rumor has it that he’ll be checking in later this week to talk turkey, so stay tuned.) You just never know what you’ll find here, and neither do we—and that’s part of the fun.

We’ve had such a good time with Poor Richard’s Almanac, and look forward to writing many another post chronicling the ongoing battles of Silence and the stink bugs, our friend Ben’s unending efforts at self-promotion in hopes of winning a MacArthur fellowship, Nobel Prize, or at least a regular slot writing op-ed pieces for the New York Times, and Richard’s explorations of Colonial history and what the Founders can still teach us today. And we owe it all to you.

We’d like to thank two people in particular for getting Poor Richard’s Almanac up and running. First of all, a huge thank you to Nancy Ondra, whose marvelous gardening blog, Hayefield, is on our blogroll at right, and who also is a regular contributor to another great gardening blog, Gardening Gone Wild (also accessible through our blogroll). It was Nan who somehow managed to convince this crew of Luddites that even we could create and manage a blog via WordPress, and Nan who has continued to come to our rescue when some aspect of blogging has proved beyond our technical abilities. And second, thank you, Stuart Robinson, founding genius of Blotanical, that great compendium of over a thousand gardening blogs, for making it possible for us to reach so many like-minded gardeners and (now) blog friends.

Nancy and Stuart gave us a way to get our message out. But what makes Poor Richard’s Almanac more than three voices crying in the wilderness is you, its readers. You tell us what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, and what we could be doing better. You give us ideas and insights. You make us laugh. You inspire us.

As we prepare to leave for Nashville, to celebrate Thanksgiving with family, we are thankful for each and every one of you who has ever taken the time to visit Poor Richard’s Almanac. We are grateful to those who stop long enough to comment. And we bless all our blog friends who make a point of stopping by often. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! We look forward to sharing the journey with all of you, wherever it may take us, even to Pluto and beyond. (No, Ben, no!!!)

           —our friend Ben, Silence, and Richard