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Horse around a bit with a bag full of horse-trivia morsels

Saturday Night Massacre, 1973. Pike's Peak Railroad finished, 1890.

Oct. 21, Tuesday - Americans won all five Nobel Prizes for 1976.Oct. 22, Wednesday - Annette Funicello born, 1942. Pablo Casals died, 1973.

Oct. 23, Thursday - Swallows depart San Juan Capistrano. Hungarian uprising, 1956. Michael Crichton born, 1942.

Oct. 24, Friday - Chipmunks hibernate. United Nations founded, 1945.

Oct. 25, Saturday - St. Crispin. Pablo Picasso born, 1881. Minnie Pearl born, 1912.

Oct. 26, Sunday - Reset your clocks: Daylight-saving time ends at 2 a.m.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: I'm collecting folklore about horses, for a niece who's smitten with the creatures. Can you offer some tidbits?

- D.R.T., Charlotte, Vt.

Answer: Well, "hold your horses," we guess everyone has some "hobby horse" or other to call their own, which is fine as long as you don't "get up on your high horse" or "ride roughshod" (in horseshoes with the nails protruding, to better grip the ice) over someone else. Still, "it is a good horse that never stumbles." Above all else, avoid "putting the cart before the horse" or "changing horses in midstream," or you may find yourself "going by Shank's pony" (i.e.: walking, the shank being your leg).

In Christian art, the horse is symbolic of generosity, courage, and war.

Horses also denote the swiftness of life. In classical mythology, Poseidon (or Neptune) was considered the creator of the horse, competing with Athena who offered the olive tree. (She won.)

The names and deeds of famous horses are too numerous to mention, but easily researched at your local library. We won't "flog a dead horse" but offer, instead, that on occasion it makes "good horse sense" to bet on the "dark horse" or a "horse of a different color," just to see where it gets you. If the horse goes astray, you can always pick up the lucky horseshoe and nail it above your door, open side up to keep the good luck in.

Horseshoes are considered a protection from witches and even Lord Nelson had one affixed to the mast of the Victory. So, there you have it, "straight from the horse's mouth" and we'll trust you not to "look a gift horse in the mouth" (but if you do look in its mouth, you can determine its age).

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: What's the rationale behind "eating locally" as we are recently advised? Did it originate with the oil shortages?

- I.W., Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

Answer: There are several good reasons to eat locally, and the one we like the best is the chance to get to know (and support!) your local farmer's market. The initial rationale, however, probably came from a sensible desire to reduce the energy wasted by refrigerating and shipping produce over very large distances, as you suggest. Look at what shows up in your chain supermarket produce aisles and you'll see food from Brazil (coffee), Chile (grapes), New Zealand (apples), Mexico (lettuce) and Canada (potatoes), as well as regular shipments of citrus, tomatoes, and many other crops from California and Florida. That's a lot of miles, and hours of refrigeration, before it gets to your table in Briarcliff. Many advocates of eating locally make an exception for coffee, which is not grown in the northeast, does not need to be refrigerated, and is relatively lightweight to ship.

It's tougher, however, to make a case for apples or grapes.

Beyond energy consumption, consider also the politics of supporting unnaturally low labor costs in the Third World countries that are harvesting these exported crops. In some cases, their pesticide use and quality control is less than strictly overseen, as well, resulting in health hazards both for the workers and for you. Many wise consumers are beginning to give greater notice to where their food is produced, as well as where it has been canned, frozen or bottled. Even choosing a Florida orange over a California one (assuming you live closer to Florida, as you do) reduces energy consumption considerably. Most frozen foods seem to come from the West Coast, because the growing season there is so long, but there are East Coast processors, if you look. For winter supplies, it helps to can, dry, or freeze your own local produce, buying in bulk when the season is at its peak, or maximizing your own garden harvests.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: I'm considering starting some plants in sphagnum moss for our sun porch. What do I need to know?

- A.M., Harrisburg, Pa.

Answer: Soilless planters made with sphagnum moss or peat are increasingly popular, both indoors and even outside, where the climate allows. They're simple to create and most garden supply stores now stock a wide variety of choices for wooden or metal containers, suitable for soilless plant hangers.

You want your container to be as rot-free or rust-free as possible, because you'll water and fertilize somewhat more than you might otherwise. The moss is essentially a base for a hydroponic system of growing plants in a water-soluble chemical solution. The sides of the container should also be relatively open, as with a wire mesh or basket, or a slatted wooden frame.

This allows any excess moisture to drain off.

Once you have a suitable container, simply add an inch or two of moss to the bottom, then insert the plants and moss in alternating layers up to the top. Plants should sit mostly upright and be placed deeply into the moss base to get a secure foothold. Water thoroughly and keep out of direct light, initially, until the plants have had a chance to adjust to their transplanting - maybe a week. Then place in their desired locations and fertilize with a water-solution fertilizer suitable to that plant type, every week to two weeks.

Additional Information

This Week with The Old Farmer's Almanac

October 20-26, 1997

St. Crispin , October 25

High Time?

Let your clocks "fall back." Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 a.m. on October 26. In the United States, we owe our four time zones to the developoment of the great easy-west railroads. Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific times came into national use in 1883, although the limits of the zones were not fixed until 1918. Eastern time is behind Grenwich time by five hours. Before the railroads made rapid transit possible, simple "local time" was practical, where it was 12 o'clock noon in any region when the Sunm was at its highest point in the sky and shadows were cast in a north-south line.

'Tis not enough to run wello, unless you set out in due time.

- French proverb

Tip of the Week

There's no use to "save time" if you're only going to use it to do more of what you'd like to do less of.

Quick and Juicy Pork Chops

4 lean, thick pork chops

4 `Granny Smith' apples, peeled and sliced

4 tablespoons brown sugar

dash apple cider vinegar salt and papper, to taste

Brown pork chops on both sides, about a minute per side. Place chops in a heat-proof dish and cover with apple slices and brown sugar. Sprinkle with vinegar, salt, and papper. Cover and simmer over medium heat about 30 minutes, or until pork shows no pink in the middle.

Makes 4 servings.

The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

The day of the month on which the first snow falls gives the number of storms that the winter will bring.

The number of fogs in autumn tells the number of snows in winter.

Got a Question?

Every day, the editors of The Old Farmer's Almanac answer a question on the Internet. All questions are archived there as well. Go to