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Apple-pie bed is the same as a short-sheeted one

March 6, Monday -- New Moon. Davy Crockett died, 1836. Ring Lardner born, 1885.

March 7, Tuesday -- St. Perpetua. Shrove Tuesday. Moon on Equator.March 8, Wednesday -- Ash Wednesday. First U.S. income tax, 1913.

March 9, Thursday -- Yuri Gagarin, first astronaut, born, 1934. False teeth patent issued to C. M. Howard, New York City, 1822.

March 10, Friday -- N.Y. state capital moved from New York City to Albany, 1797.

March 11, Saturday -- Roxy Theatre opened in New York City, 1927. Lawrence Welk born, 1903.

March 12, Sunday -- First Sunday in Lent. FDR's "fireside chats" began, 1933.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Have you ever heard of an apple-pie bed? --J.N. M., Claremont, N.H.

Answer: The apple-pie bed is another name for a short-sheeted bed, with its linen folded so one's legs cannot stretch out. Some say the idea comes from the way a pie crust is folded over at the edges, so the juices cannot run out. An apple-pie bed is the opposite of a bed in apple-pie order, which is prim and perfect. Both phrases, we believe, may come from "nappe pliee," the French for folded linen.

Besides these, there are the apple of one's eye and the apple of discord, both very powerful, so when you choose that apple a day to keep the doctor away, choose wisely. To keep the apple of your eye in good humor, you might apply a little apple polish, an extra bit of flattery. If it misfires, however, you may upset the applecart and then your plans will be spoiled like a rotten apple.

Our American folk hero, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) died on March 11, 1847. In celebration of his fruitful travels, we ponder the apple-john, a variety of apple reputed to keep for two years and taste best when shriveled. Applejack is another fellow altogether, the cousin of hard cider, made by distilling cider into a highly alcoholic brandy.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Why was St. Perpetua, a woman, considered a patron of cattle? --H.P. Louisville, Ky.

Answer: No farmer herself, St. Perpetua (c. A.D. 203) was killed by wild cows in an amphitheater, martyred along with her maid and fellow religious convert, St. Felicia. Also known as Vivia Perpetua, her saints day is celebrated on March 7. She was born to pagan parents, then became a common lay-woman, wife, and mother in her adult years. Her father treated her poorly, refusing to recognize her conversion.

Besides being a patron saint of cows because of the manner of her death, St. Perpetua was also linked with martyrs and with the death of children. She is often represented with a cow, or with a maid and wild cow or ox, sometimes in an amphitheater. Her legend tells how she was the first of the two women to be knocked down by the wild cows, in the amphitheater in Rome before a crowd of spectators, but her spiritual reveries made her unaware of the violence. It is said that she asked her friend and maid, "When are we going to be led to the beasts?" not realizing, until she glanced down at her injuries, that she and her friend had already encountered them. Her story became such a popular one, and so often retold, that St. Augustine was inspired to warn against it being given the weight of scripture.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: The Boy Scout handshake is performed left-handed. Why is that? --N.L., Allardt, Texas

Answer: Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell believed in being prepared. He also believed in the value of ambidextrality -- the ability to use either hand for various functions and skills. No doubt he figured the handshake would help young Scouts, mostly right-handers by nature (only about one person in seven is a leftie), practice putting their opposite hand to good use.

Many true lefties will quickly tell you, however, that left-handedness is often not that handy. The prevalent design bias in tools from scissors to power tools to automobiles can be inconvenient indeed, and even downright dangerous. Typewriter and computer keyboards may be the sole exceptions to that; the left hand does about 75 percent of the work in a keyboard alphabet.

An interesting aside is that we tend not to notice those friends and relatives who are lefties, unless they are in our immediate family circle. For some reason, however, architects, chess champs, and the arts in general have a disproportionately high number of lefties in their ranks.

Send your questions to: Ask the Almanac, The Old Farmer's Almanac, Main St., Dublin, NH 03444. Every day the editors of The Old Farmer's Almanac answer a question on the Internet. All questions are archived there as well. On the World Wide Web, the address is www.almanac.comYankee Publishing, Inc. Dist. by United Feature Syndicate Inc.