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Wesley founded Methodism -- and wrote book on medicine

June 12, Monday -- Baseball Hall of Fame museum dedicated, 1939.

June 13, Tuesday -- Two degrees F in Tamarack, Calif., 1907. U.S. Supreme Court Miranda decision, 1966.June 14, Wednesday -- St. Basil. Ember Day. Harriet Beecher Stowe born, 1811.

June 15, Thursday -- Killing frost in New Jersey on this date in 1746.

June 16, Friday -- Full Strawberry Moon. Ember Day. Wet June, dry September.

June 17, Saturday -- Ember Day. John Wesley, founder Methodist church, born 1703.

June 18, Sunday -- Trinity. Orthodox Pentecost. Moon runs low. Appendicitis identified, 1886. Paul McCartney born, 1942.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Is John Wesley, the Methodist, the same as John Wesley, author of the remedy book? -- G.H. Los Gatos, Calif.

Answer: One and the same. John Wesley (1703-1791), author of the "Primitive Physick," was at heart, a reformer. Born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1725, elected a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, the next year and later ordained as a priest. He and his brother, Charles Wesley, and a third cohort, George Whitefield, began a regime of studies and religious duties and were taunted as "methodists" for their zeal. Later, the brothers traveled to the colonies as missionaries and assistants to James Oglethorpe (founder of Georgia), where they became acquainted with the Moravaian missionaries. Returning to London, John and Charles Wesley embarked on evangelical work. Charles Wesley began writing hymns (including "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing") and preaching at revival meetings; John Wesley leaned more toward sermons and went on to found the Methodist Church.

Reading John Wesley's "Primitive Physick," his concern for the common people is clear. His reason for compiling the book of remedies was to offer "a plain and easy way of curing most diseases." Trusting the virtues of simple, natural remedies, prayer and clean living, John Wesley disdained the sin of pride that put doctors on a pedestal. John Wesley's "Preface" reads like a sermon, wistfully recalling the early days of Creation, before the Fall. "As he knew no sin, so he knew no pain, no sickness, weakness or bodily disorder." Over time, John Wesley argues, medicine took on an unnatural status and "physicians now began to be in admiration, as persons who were something more than human. And profit attended employ as well as honor; so that they had now two weighty reasons for their keeping the bulk of mankind at a distance, that they might not pry into the mysteries of the profession."

John Wesley's interest in science and his methodical nature taught him to revere exercise, temperance, a simple diet and a regularity of habits. He was opposed to the "poisonous drugs" he saw being prescribed. Basic medicine was much simpler than the medical practitioners of his day liked to admit, he believed, and his book was intended to set the record straight. "Experience shews," he wrote, "that one thing will cure most disorders, at least as well as 20 put together. Then why do you add 19? Only to swell the apothecary's bill."

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: What can I do to keep my lavender crop from getting root rot? -- B.P., Wilmington, Del.

Answer: Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia or English lavender) loves light, sandy, alkaline soil. Too rich a soil mix, too much fertilizer or not enough air circulation between the plants and inadequate drainage can lead to root rot, especially if the plants are not perfectly healthy to begin with. Healthy plants usually resist root rot fairly well, but if they've had a hard winter or are plagued by caterpillars, leaf spot or other stresses, they may succumb.

Be sure your soil has excellent drainage, and consider digging some sand into the mix, if you're in doubt. Keep in mind, too, that many lavenders last only about five years. The best way to start new plants is to take root cuttings in the spring or early summer, clipping 4 to 6 inches from the roots and setting it in peat moss and perlite. Never overwater lavender; wait until the soil is dry. Prune to shape, but never cut back to the roots since the plant requires its leaves in order to regenerate.

You might also try some new plants of the French or Spanish cultivars, derived from lavandin (Lavandula plus intermedia). In the perfumery business in France, lavandin has outstaged lavender, because it's much hardier and rarely has troubles with root rot. You may find it difficult to find lavandin marked in the garden centers, but look for "Seal," "Grosso" or "Dutch" varieties, which are from this cultivar. These are not recommended for more northern climates but do well in Zone 7 or farther south. While not quite as fragrant as the English lavender, they have a more herblike scent and a darker blue bloom, considered the classic of Greeks and Romans. They also have a longer life span, closer to 10 years, if kept healthy.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Is there any easy way to tell if a letter weighs more than an ounce? -- M.S., DeWitt, N.Y.

Answer: Other than weighing it, you mean? Not everyone has a postal (or food) scale. We heard one tip of holding the envelope at its diagonal corners, suspended between two index fingers. Then, holding it a foot or so away from your mouth, you blow on its flat surface. If you can flip it over, it's under an ounce. If not, it's over. We suspect this may be unreliable, however, given the variables of lung capacity, finger pressure, envelope surface and so on.

Amy Dacyczyn, in her first book, "The Tightwad Gazette," (Villiard Books, 1993), offered another tip from one of her readers. In essence, the idea is that five quarters also weigh an ounce, so if you balance the quarters on one end of a ruler, and the letter on the other end, with a pencil as the fulcrum in the center, you can see which way the scales tip. Try it!

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.com. (C) Yankee Publishing Inc.