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DON'T BLAME ANTI-ALCOHOL MOVEMENT ON MERRY PURITANS

MAY 20, MONDAY: Victoria Day (Canada). Moon rides high. Cranberries in bud. Fountain pen patented, 1830.

MAY 21, TUESDAY: First horror film, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," released, Chicago, 1908. "Fats" Waller born, 1904.MAY 22, WEDNESDAY: Pluto appears at its best. Impressionist painter Mary Cassat born, 1844.

MAY 23, THURSDAY: Capt. William Kidd executed for piracy, London, 1701.

MAY 24, FRIDAY: Bob Dylan born, 1941. Anti-Saloon League organized, Ohio, 1893. First auto garage opened, Boston, 1899.

MAY 25, SATURDAY: St. Bede. Set sage in May and it will grow alway'.

MAY 26, SUNDAY: Whit Sunday. Pentecost. St. Augustine of Canterbury.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Was the Temperance movement in America a holdover from Puritan days?

- P.C., Schaller, Iowa

Answer: Not at all! In fact, those Puritans liked to drink as well as the next guy. Pilgrims, too, were very fond of the dark porter ale they brewed. (The Mayflower was not a dry ship, after all.) Increase Mather (1639-1723), the Puritan clergyman from Dorchester, Mass., and father of Cotton Mather, considered alcohol "a good creature of God" and one that should "be received with thankfulness . . ." although he did concede that "the abuse of drink is from Satan."

In fact, if you want groups to pin the anti-alcohol campaigns on, you'd best look first to early feminists, a few Methodists, some Quakers and the physicians. Certain industrialists, such as John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford, got into the fray as well, hoping to increase worker efficiency. John Wesley, a Methodist minister, proposed the prohibition of whiskey distillation in 1773. Benjamin Rush, a doctor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, condemned "ardent spirits" (hard liquor) and was the first to identify alcohol addiction, which he described as a "disease of the will." But perhaps most outspoken and persistent were the women, who had felt the ravages of alcoholism in their families, and formed various alliances like the Women's Christian Temperance Union (1874). Carry Nation (1846-1911) went beyond saloon pray-ins, and performed "hatchetizations" of Kansas bars. Her methods involved both a hatchet and a Bible, and evidently left quite an impression.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Are you familiar with "log-rolling" as a term of derision?

- N.G., Medora, N.D.

Answer: It's an all-American version of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." Politically, it refers to two (or more) politicians exchanging favors, or agreeing to back one another's pet projects. It often includes bargaining for votes. You sometimes hear of log-rolling in publishing and literary criticism, as well. You applaud my book, and I'll applaud yours. Generally speaking, a breach of ethics or scam is implied.

Early settlers traded clearing and log-rolling, on a literal basis, as they prepared new lands for homesteading. The phrase probably took on further meanings because of the speed and danger involved in log-rolling, as it was easy to let things get out of control and be carried away by the logs.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: If morning glories are such an invasive weed in some places, then why can't I get them to grow here?

- T.S.A., Eastport, Maine

Answer: Pure stubbornness on the part of the flower, no doubt. Morning glories are inappropriately named, in our view. First, some open in the morning, while others, such as the "Moonflower" variety, open in the evening. Second, the most common ones, with names like "Heavenly Blue" or "Summer Skies" or "Wedding Bells," suggest a milder-mannered plant than the one we know, which, as you suggest, is more demonic in temperament. Here are some tips.

First, if you're starting from seed, try soaking the seeds for 24 hours in warm water. We place a small dish in the sun on a southern windowsill.

Another trick is to take a file and nick the end of each seed before you plant it. It's labor-intensive, but if you're only looking for a few successful vines, it may be worthwhile. (By the way, morning glories don't branch well, so it takes many plants to cover a trellis.)

A layer of glass or clear plastic over the seed tray will help maintain humidity. Keep the seeds warm (70 to 75 degrees) until they germinate, which can take up to two weeks. Then keep them in a sunny location and make sure they don't outgrow their pots before you get them outside. If they start climbing too soon, you'll have to separate them or they'll latch onto other plants with poor results.

As you say, morning glories are notorious weeds in places like Bermuda (they are, after all, a tropical plant), but while they'll grow in poor-soil and low-moisture areas, they prefer moist, rich soil. They don't like high nitrogen, though, so you might consider whether that's a problem in your Eastport location. Lawn fertilizers, manure, fish meal, bone meal or composted peas and beans are all high in nitrogen, so avoid these near your morning glory vines.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

This Week With The Old Farmer's Almanac

May 20-26, 1996

National Maritime Day, May 22.

Tramps & Stowaways

What's more all-American than forsythia and lilacs? But neither is native. Forsythia made its way from South China to London by way of Robert Fortune, a plant hunter for the Royal Horticultural Society. It was then named for William Forsyth, a founding member. A few plants set sail for America with settlers in 1860. Lilacs, from the Persian word for indigo, may have come from Persia to New Hampshire in 1695 and later traveled west across America. This, and many entertaining garden tidbits from rhubarb tonics to singing earthworms, can be found in The Old Farmer's Almanac Book of Garden Wisdom, published by Random House and available now in bookstores. (Or call 800-426-9922.)

"Planting is one of my great amusements." - Thomas Jefferson

Tip of the Week

Cut herbs just as the dew does dry. Tie them loosely and hang them high.

AUNT SYLVIA'S ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

(from The Old Farmer's Almanac Book of Garden Wisdom)

3 cups grated zucchini (unpeeled)

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Squeeze some of the excess water out of the zucchini. Mix the dry ingredients together, combine with the zucchini and eggs. Drop by spoonfuls into a hot, buttered skillet to make pancakes about 2 to 3 inches across. Brown on both sides. Eat hot for lunch with grated cheese and/or a dab of fresh tomato sauce.

Makes 2 or 3 servings.

The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

Dry May, wet June.

If you throw a cat overboard, there'll be a storm at sea.

Cold, wet May, barn full of hay.

If the sky looks brassy in the west at sunset, there will be high winds coming soon.

He that is in town in May loses his spring.