You might remember reading somewhere that to everything, there is a season. There is a time to plant and a time to harvest.

This was brought to mind when my bed-and-breakfast guest Alton said that when he was young, he planted some potatoes. His potatoes appeared to be doing very well. The tops were high and green. But his wife’s grandmother muttered something about “not planting under the right sign” and that the potatoes were not going to amount to a hill of beans.

Alton Lawson was born and brought up in North Carolina. He told me tat the old people in his part of the country always did everything by the astrological signs. He said that his wife’s grandmother was right: Because he planted under the wrong sign, all he got for his labor was a crop of potato tops.

Because I always put in a few veggies in the spring, I asked Alton to tell me more about these beneficial signs. He said his brother-in-law does everything by the signs. Cuts his hay by the signs. Sets his fence posts by the signs. Alton says that when you set a fence post by the sign, it won’t move about.

I asked how I could learn more about signs. He said it’s in the almanac.

A day or two before, I had chanced to receive from Judson D. Hale the latest copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which, it seems, is now published in Dublin and not Peterborough, New Hampshire. We perused the pages and, sure enough, there were planting charts, astronomical data and enough information on the dozen signs to occupy a student for weeks.

Al then told me that the fellows who race stock cars won’t drive a green car. And if you eat peanuts in the pit, you’ll be thrown out.

Realizing that we had moved away from sound science predicated on astrological signs and into superstition, I quickly shifted our conversation over to banjo picking and decided to continue my studies on my own.

So do you plant by the signs? The cognoscenti will tell you that from new to full moon, you plant crops that grow on top of the ground, and when the moon is waning, you plant potatoes and radishes and other underground crops.

When the moon is overhead, it has the power to pull millions of gallons of water into Cutler Cove behind my brother’s house. We must therefore wonder if the moon has enough power to pull small green tendrils toward the sky.

How does that work, anyway? It is something that I have never heard discussed at Grange meetings, so perhaps it is time to revise our programs.

I have yet to understand why we should plant by the signs or if it makes any difference at all, so I now turn to you for help.

To muddy my thinking, we recently read that the first representations of the Orion’s Belt constellation were carved on a hunk of mammoth ivory some 30,000 years ago. To further complicate matters, the artist was looking at light that took 30,000 years to get here.

We are told that stars are constantly moving, so even if they didn’t burn out years ago, it is unlikely that they are in the same place they were when the zodiac was finally created in Iraq a mere 3,000 years ago.

Signs aside, most of us plant when it isn’t raining or when we are lucky enough to find the time. Like your typical old Maine man, I’ve spent a goodly portion of many winters dreaming about the garden bountiful I’m going to plant in the spring.

And every winter I forget we never do have a spring in St. George. As I recall, this year it didn’t get warm enough on the coast of Maine to step out of doors until after the Fourth of July. Heron Breen at Fedco usually sends me enough squash seeds for 30 or so hills, but by the time it was warm enough to think about getting something in the ground, it was too late to put in an order. So we won’t be eating squash this winter.

When Alton first mentioned signs, it brought to mind a newspaper item about a woman up in the northern part of The County who claimed she’d been kidnapped and locked in her car trunk for three days. It was suspected she had manufactured an excuse for not going to work.

Sure enough, when the sheriff examined the trunk, he became suspicious: There was no indication that anyone had lived in the trunk for three days. The sheriff knew that if there are bears in the woods, you will see signs.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html