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TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS TO THE OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC

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FEB. 26, MONDAY: Pure Monday. Grand Canyon National Park established, 1919.

FEB. 27, TUESDAY: John Steinbeck born, 1902. Elizabeth Taylor born, 1930.FEB. 28, WEDNESDAY: Ember Day. Moon rides high. Mario Andretti born, 1940. Salem witch hunt began, 1692.

FEB. 29, THURSDAY: Leap Day. Much snow this month means a fine summer.

MARCH 1, FRIDAY: St. David's Day. Ember Day. Ohio became 17th state, 1803.

MARCH 2, SATURDAY: Ember Day. Sam Houston born, 1793. Thirty-one inches snow, North Carolina, 1927.

MARCH 3, SUNDAY: Stick to your winter flannels until they stick to you. National Anthem Day.

Ask The Almanac: Is it true that the "Star-Spangled Banner" tune comes from a drinking song?

- J.B. Baltimore, Md.

Answer: That's right, an old English drinking song, to be exact, although it's a pretty tricky tune to sing even when stone sober! (It's otherwise known as "To Anacreon in Heav'n.") John Stafford Smith wrote the music. Francis Scott Key, of Washington, D.C., wrote the words during a naval battle in Baltimore Harbor as he watched Fort McHenry being bombarded by the British for 25 hours the night of Sept. 13-14, 1814. Key, a lawyer, was a volunteer in a light artillery company. He had gone aboard a British ship under a flag of truce to ask for the release of a friend, Dr. Beanes, who had been brought aboard under charges of interfering with ground troops.

The release was granted, but the men were detained during the lengthy bombardment, which they watched from the deck of the ship. Key wrote the words as a poem, on the back of an envelope. He gave it to his brother-in-law, Judge Nicholson, who suggested the tune and had the verses printed as a broadside and distributed. The verses and tune were later adopted as the National Anthem for the United States in March of 1931.

Ask The Almanac: Is it true that a tennis ball, sewn into the back of a nightshirt, can cure snoring?

- G.H., Louisville, Ky.

Answer: Absolutely - although not in every case. There are many reasons for snoring. A child that snores, for instance, should be checked for enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Heavy smokers who snore probably have restricted airways. Congestion and allergies can cause snoring. But usually the cause of snoring is a simple matter of poor or overly relaxed muscle tone in the back of the throat, and the tongue falling back during deep sleep, creating a vibrating sound when the sleeper breathes. This is aggravated when the sleeper lies on his back (more men snore than women), and the tennis ball is a practical means of keeping the sleeper on his side or stomach.

Of course, some sleepers can snore in any position. Obesity makes snoring worse, as does lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol, sleeping pills, antihistamines and even warm milk. A firm mattress and a cool, well-ventilated room are thought to be helpful. For some, a mere marble in the back of the pajamas is enough to prohibit sleeping on the back. (Remember the princess and the pea?) For others, more drastic measures are required, including, in some cases, surgery to relieve obstructed passageways.

Ask The Almanac: I know Franklin D. Roosevelt was related to Theodore, but I'm told he had several other presidential relatives. Who?

E.T., Viola, Iowa

Answer: Our "New Deal" president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) was our 32nd president and served for 12 years and 39 days, beginning March 4, 1933. His mother's family claimed they could trace their ancestry back to William the Conqueror; between the Roosevelts and the Delanos, they counted a dozen Mayflower ancestors. Theodore Roosevelt was FDR's fifth cousin, and an uncle to Eleanor Roosevelt, whom FDR married. (Eleanor was FDR's fourth cousin; her father was Theodore's younger brother.)

If you've followed the family tree this far, we'll let you figure out the finer points of the rest. What you need to know, to start, is that FDR was related to 11 presidents (including Theodore), five by blood connection and six by marriage. They were: Washington, both Adamses, Madison, Van Buren, both Harrisons, Taylor, Grant, Taft and Uncle Teddy. FDR must have inherited some presidential know-how as well, judging by his three willing elections and three terms of office. Winston Churchill admired FDR immensely, and was quoted as having said, "Meeting him (FDR) is like opening a bottle of champagne."

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

This week with The Old Farmer's Almanac

Feb. 26 - March 3, 1996

Pure Monday, February 26.

Leap Year!

February 29, 1996, is a Leap Day, or an "intercalary day," this year being evenly divisible by 4. Contrary to popular belief, leap years do not occur every four years. Century years - 1900, 2000, etc. - are only Leap Years if they are divisible by 400. So, for instance, the year 2000 will be a Leap Year, but the year 1900 was not. While we're at it, we offer this additional calendar reminder: the year 2000 will not be the 21st century, so don't jump the gun. Technically, the new millennium begins on New Year's 2001. "Leapin' Lizards!"

Look before you leap.

Tip of the Week

If your dog has an unfortunate encounter with a skunk, try a dog shampoo of equal parts vinegar and water.

Spinach Frittata

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

6 eggs

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup cooked spinach, chopped and drained

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (do not substitute dry)

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt & pepper to taste

Saute garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. In a bowl, beat the eggs then add remaining ingredients, including remaining olive oil. Pour this over the onion and garlic in the skillet and cook over low heat, until edges pull away from the pan. Brown under the broiler to finish the cooking. Serve hot, topped with additional grated cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

A year of snow, crops will grow.

Corn is as comfortable under the snow as an old man under his fur coat.

- Russian proverb

When March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb. When it comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion.