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Coin collecting: Toning up. March 15, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to talk about one of the fun things about coin collecting. If you’re a pocket-change collector like me, you know how much fun it is to collect pennies, nickels, and quarters that have different designs. (Where are new dimes, U.S. Mint?!)

And I’m sure you know that coins change color over time. If you have old nickels, you may be grossed out by the greasy dull grey color they’ve taken on in their many years rattling around in pockets and purses. If you’re lucky enough to have found some “wheat ears” pennies in your change, you’ll have seen how they turned from their original bright copper to flat brown over time. (“Wheat ears” pennies had two ears of wheat on the back, and the design was used from the debut of the Lincoln cent in 1909 until 1959, when the Lincoln Memorial replaced it.)

Nobody would call these changes for the better. But there is a color change that is cherished by coin collectors. It’s called “toning.” Basically, it’s when a coin takes on attractive colors as it ages, and it’s another great reason to check your pocket change. Toning is usually most pronounced on silver coins—especially silver dollars, half-dollars, and quarters. You can buy spectacular examples covered with an entire rainbow of colors or just a couple, such as blue and gold, or coins that are now a gorgeous gold tone but started life as silver. (But buyer beware: Because toned coins have a higher market value than regular coins, there are a lot of fakes out there.)

But here’s what’s exciting: Regular pocket change can also be toned, and it doesn’t have to be old, either. Just last week, I found a Lewis and Clark nickel from 2004 in my pocket that had started to turn gold. Mind you, not that this is real gold, and not that pocket change ever has much more than face value, unless you really do come upon a rare penny or an old silver dime, quarter, half-dollar, or dollar. (I never have; they were pretty much all grabbed up after the Mint stopped producing silver coins in 1965 and went to alloys.) But toning is a fun and different look to add to your collection, and some of these toned coins really are quite beautiful.

So don’t forget to check that pocket change! As our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, would say, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”


Richard Saunders


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

Why bother to blog? July 21, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was blindsided this morning to receive my weekly e-mail newsletter from a normally rational source and discover that he was recommending that everyone create their own blog on WordPress, whether they actually had anything to say for themselves or not. Mind you, Poor Richard’s Almanac is hosted by WordPress, and we love WordPress. My reaction wasn’t triggered by WordPress, but by the concept of filling cyberspace with yet more pointless verbiage. He suggested that, if you couldn’t think of anything else to say, you should write book reviews. 

What the bleep?!! Those of us, like myself and Silence Dogood, who are actual authors would prefer to think that people are reviewing our books because they find them interesting, engrossing or relevant, not because they’ve been told they must have a blog and come up with some kind of content to post on it. Why should anybody bother to blog in the age of YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, anyway? You can just slap up some photos or a video and get thousands of likes within seconds. Book reviews? Please.

Of course, wordsmiths like us were born to blog. Blogging may have begun as a way for people to reach out to their families and friends, a function that Facebook now fills. But for folks who actually have something to say for themselves, blogging remains a vital, relevant means of communication. You put it out there, and people react, and you learn and grow as a result. And for professional writers like me and Silence, the discipline of daily blogging is invaluable. It’s a wonderful way to start the day, warming us up for the bread-and-butter writing we do for a living the way a warmup session preps professional athletes for the field or court.

We love blogging, we love hearing from our readers and interacting with them, and we love WordPress. We think blogging has made us stronger writers, more creative, more able to rise to the challenge of our profession. Having to come up with something to say every day that you hope someone else will want to read is an ongoing challenge to us to keep on top of our game. Every morning, we try to rise to that challenge. We try to give Poor Richard’s Almanac readers something thought-provoking or practical to take away in thanks for their taking the time to read our posts, though sometimes we just can’t resist posting about something we think is fun or funny.

Our friend Ben just doesn’t get blogging because you “ought” to be blogging, not because you have something to say. Why? What’s the point? Fellow bloggers, why do you blog?

Another missed opportunity. July 2, 2012

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Our friend Ben read in today’s Wall Street Journal that a company called Pebble Tech had designed a “smart watch” (as in wristwatch) that could talk to and convey messages from your smartphone, including alerting you to messages from Twitter and Facebook. It then raised $10.27 million to actually make the watches through a crowdfunding website called Kickstarter, more than $1 million in the first 28 hours. (Crowdfunding? It’s “when a company raises money from multiple individuals online,” according to the WSJ.) In the case of Pebble Tech, 85,000 interested folks paid $115 each to pre-order the watches.

Our friend Ben will refrain from going into the mindset of someone who already has a smartphone to convey all these messages, but now feels it necessary to own a wristwatch that does so as well. I wish I could raise $10.27 million on Kickstarter to develop a product that implants the awareness of incoming messages and ability to text back directly into the brain. We used to call that conversation. But I digress.

What I did wonder on reading the article (“Smart Money for a Smart Watch?”, www.wsj.com) was about an idea I’ve had for some time: solar panels to power up smartphones and similar appliances. Now that they can make tiny solar panels to power outdoor lights, flashlights, radios, and the like, why on earth couldn’t someone come up with one for smartphones, iPods and MP3 devices, laptops, tablets, and the like? Oughta be easy, right?

Unfortunately, being a Luddite, our friend Ben doesn’t own a smartphone, much less an iPod or MP3 player. So I turned to my good friend Google to see if I could learn more about the state of the smartphone/solar interface. Unfortunately for my dreams of financial independence, but fortunately for smartphone and iPod/MP3 owners, it turns out that others were there before me. Solar plug-ins are readily available, and some smartphones already come equipped with built-in solar charging panels.

Guess it’s back to the drawing board (again). Given this heatwave, maybe I’ll try again with the personal portable air conditioner. And should anyone out there wish to start a Kickstarter drive to raise money to support Poor Richard’s Almanac, we can only say: Thanks for your support. 


Seven times three is pretty silly. June 28, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Seven questions. Three responses to each. Result: Not exactly earthshaking.

Poor Richard’s Almanac has been nominated for another award, the Sunshine Award, by the wonderful SaraC of Domesteading fame (http://domesteading.wordpress.com/). Thank you, Sara! As is usual with these awards, recipients are asked to tell something about themselves. But fortunately, this time, we weren’t requested to tell readers things they didn’t know about us (we’ve pretty much run dry on those). Instead, we were asked to weigh in on seven questions.

So your faithful bloggers here at PRA, Silence Dogood, our friend Ben, and Richard Saunders got together to answer the questions. The results probably qualify us collectively for the Darwin Awards rather than a Pulitzer Prize, but here you go:

1. Favorite number:

Silence Dogood: 7

Our friend Ben: 11

Richard Saunders: 27

2. Favorite non-alcoholic drink:

Silence: tea

OFB: Who are you kidding?

Richard: There are non-alcoholic drinks?!

3. Favorite animal:

Silence: All of them.

OFB: Ditto.

Richard: My stuffed Easter bunny.

4. Facebook or Twitter?

Silence: Twitter, since as far as I know it doesn’t force you to register with it in order to allow access. But I’ve never tweeted and never will.

OFB: Ditto.

Richard: Ditto.

5. My passion:

Silence: Oh good Lord! How could you possibly have just one passion?! Please don’t make me choose between reading and writing and gardening and cooking and knitting and beading and collecting and…

OFB: Silence has a point here. I’m definitely a collector, so collecting everything in my fields of interest, from Pueblo pottery and coin and stamp collecting to seashells to ancient chess pieces to Sherlock Holmes novels and movies is huge and defining for me. But I wouldn’t have a clue about how to limit my interests to one defining passion.

Richard: If I had to choose one, it would be Colonial and Federal American history.

6. Favorite day of the week:

Silence: Every sunny day.  

OFB: Ditto.

Richard: Friday. TGIF!!!

7. Favorite flower:

Silence: Peony.

OFB: Iris.

Richard: Water lily.

Well, there you have it. Please feel free to share your own answers with us! Sara’s answers were delightful; we’d love to know yours. 


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!

A word from our sponsor. January 2, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here to start your new year off right with a few words of wisdom from our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin. Take them to heart, and you’ll enjoy a healthy, productive, and prosperous year!

“If you’d know the value of money, go and borrow some.”

“The horse thinks one thing, and he that saddles him another.”

“Love thy neighbour; yet don’t pull down your hedge.”

“A child thinks 20 shillings and 20 years can scarce ever be spent.”

“He that doth what he should not, shall feel what he would not.”

“Where sense is wanting, every thing is wanting.”

“For age and want save while you may; no morning sun lasts a whole day.”

“Do not squander time, for that’s what life is made of.”

“Think of three things, whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account.”

“If you would be loved, love and be loveable.”

“He that would travel much, should eat little.”

“Speak little, do much.”

“Two dry sticks will burn a green one.”

“Where there is hunger, law is not regarded; and where law is not regarded, there will be hunger.”

“A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough.”

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better man.”

Finally, here’s one just for the election year:

“In rivers & bad governments, the lightest things swim at [the] top.”

A happy New Year to you all!


                               Richard Saunders

Crunching blog numbers. December 11, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Bloggers, have you ever felt like a voice crying in the wilderness? If so, there’s a good reason for that: The numbers are against you. Our friend Ben was reminded of this again today when I saw a news headline on our blog host, WordPress’s, home page announcing the launch of WordAds. Yeeikes!

Mind you, our friend Ben has no objection to using our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, as a springboard to generating some desperately needed income. If our content and style garnered us a grant, award, or book deal, or an offer to write a magazine or newspaper column or be a regular on a radio show, I’d be delighted.

But I’ve seen plenty of blogs with ads, and they’re not ads I’d want on my blog. I’m always horrified by the ads that pop up on my Yahoo e-mail page. And I’ve been shocked by the purple-faced woman cropping up regularly with the “she’s 80 but looks 20!” promo on, of all places, The New York Times online. If The New York Times can’t keep vulgar, trashy ads off their site, what hope do we bloggers have? Fortunately, checking out the post about WordAds, I saw that they were optional. But I digress.

Point being, that same post carried some pretty stupefying statistics. “There are more than 50,000 WordPress-powered blogs coming online every day,” for example. So far, 5,320,347 people have signed up to receive WordPress’s e-mail updates.

Heading to Google to try to unearth data about how many blogs currently exist, I found 2011 data for 450 million active blogs in English and over 1 billion worldwide, which translates to 1 in 6 people worldwide with their own blog. And these are just the active blogs, not the dead or defunct blogs that litter cyberspace, the sad husks of abandoned dreams. 

Does knowing this make you feel better or worse? Certainly, the chances of catapulting your blog into bestsellerdom and film fame were way higher in the early days of blogging. It’s much harder to be a Julie Powell of “Julie & Julia” fame today, or Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos, given the competition.

But it’s far from impossible. Look at Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. She has successfully leveraged her blog into bestselling books, a Food Network show, and a forthcoming movie based on her life. And, as Silence Dogood pointed out in our earlier post, “The pizza zombies are coming” (check it out in our search bar at upper right), a waiter at a diner just scored front-page coverage in The Wall Street Journal because of his pizza blog.  

So, is it even worth starting a blog or carrying on with your blog in the face of such massive competition, to continue to be a voice crying in the wilderness? Of course, that depends on why you started your blog to begin with. If you enjoy writing it, if you enjoy sharing things you’ve learned, if you feel you have something to say that others might want to hear, I’d say absolutely. Keep on keeping on. Eventually, people will hear you.

Take us, for example. Here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, with no promotion, no platform, no famous names, no visuals, and no advertising, we get an average of 500 views a day. And that’s 500-plus views a day for writing about whatever the heck we want to write about on any given day.

True, it’s not 5,000 or 50,000 or 500,000 views a day. Nobody’s beating down our door to offer us awards or book deals. Nobody’s begging us to put their ads on our site. But wow, when we started, we never thought we’d arrive here. We’re so grateful for the people who want to read what we have to say. Thank you, everyone! And thank you, WordPress, for making Poor Richard’s Almanac possible.


Batting a thousand. November 29, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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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!