The Farmers’ Almanac was not the first book to which we turned—there were stacks, volumes, before it. So many more up-to-date sages willing to show us the best way to make a baby. Best is the wrong word; the most successful way to make a baby. It was only after months of desperation that we turned to the Almanac. Considering the methods we’d already run through, gymnastic positions and thermometers, Clomid and prayer, consulting a source valued by generations intent on populating the planet with cows and sheep and corn seemed sensible. We wondered if planting human seeds was all that different.

Under Parenting, there are best days for potty-training—this month, the first through sixth of January, and again from the twenty-ninth through thirty-first— and weening (oddly, the same dates as potty-training, every month of the year). Under Cooking, we consider baking—there are so many good days for baking!—but brewing appalls us. Not because we are not drinkers, we are, but because of the all-caps for January, February, and March: NO GOOD DAYS. Perhaps this is our problem, we have been trying to brew a baby, not bake one.

There are days devoted to tasks we expected: canning; pruning; picking; hunting. There are days we didn’t: cutting hair to retard growth; cutting hair to increase growth; washing wooden floors; waxing floors; digging postholes and entertaining friends. There are best days to get married—in every month, lots of dates, no ominous NO GOOD DAYS here, folks—and there are days for castration (helpfully labeled castrate farm animals, spurring sighs of relief from wild animals and men alike), but no days to breed people. There are best days to write (but only a few days of each month) and best days to wash windows and quit smoking. There is guidance for fishermen, columns of adjacent pages, charts marked poor, fair, good, and best where poor told us beware those days the fish steal your bait or don’t even touch your line.

We have been very poor fishers. The would-be babies take our bait and flee, wiggling their miniscule tails as they slip into the shadows. Perhaps we should give up on this procreation thing. We may never get to weening or potty training, or abc’s or multiplication tables, certainly not learning to drive or first kisses. But then, goddamn it, there seem to be so many other, so many more useful, rewarding chores to occupy our time. Just read it here: there are always better days for asking for a loan and drying fruit, days for cutting firewood, of course, for destroying wild onions.


John A. McDermott coordinates the BFA program in creative writing at Stephen F. Austin State University. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including the American Journal of PoetryClarkesworld, and Forklift, Ohio. He is the author of The Idea of God in Tennessee, a collection of poetry. He also posts inconsistently at

Photo by Therese Brown