Thomas Jefferson born, 1743. God gives the milk but not the pail. He conquers who endures.

April 14, Tuesday - Abe Lincoln fatally wounded, 1865. G.F. Handel died, 1759.April 15, Wednesday - Lincoln died, 1865. First school for deaf, Connecticut, 1817. Hepatica in bloom, Lexington, Mass., 1960.

April 16, Thursday - Minot Point, Mass., lighthouse swept away in gale, 1851.

April 17, Friday - Benjamin Franklin died, 1790. Mississippi River flood, 1947.

April 18, Saturday - Moon runs low. San Francisco earthquake, 1906.

April 19, Sunday - Last Quarter Moon. Orthodox Easter. Daphne du Maurier died, 1989.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Any solutions to spring run-off, which ruins my lawn every spring?

- J.P., Knox, Maine

Answer: Water will run downhill, won't it? You could move to the uphill side. Easier said than done, no doubt. There are some measures you can take, however. First, don't despair.

You'll want to look carefully at the physical characteristics of that hillside. Is it wooded? Is there hardpan, or worse still, ledge or asphalt?

Assuming you've got soil there, try adding mulch around the roots of any growing plant, to help catch any moisture and send it into the ground. The mulch itself will help absortion, and over time, will build up the soil to better receive moisture. If there's nothing but grass there, you might try aerating the slope with a tined hand aerator or, if you need something for a larger area, an aeration machine. Before winter, mulch the aerated area.

If hardpan is your problem, you'll want to improve the soil and keep it as uniformly moist as possible over the course of the drier months. If allowed to dry out, that hardpan only worsens. Consider an irrigation system to change the situation and, again, mulch, mulch, mulch! If it's even worse than hardpan - ledge or asphalt, say -you'll have to change the topography in some way. Can you terrace the hill? Build a run-off slope? Install drainage ditches? You may need a landscape designer to suggest some long-term solutions.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Who invented spring cleaning?

-T.P.S., Toms River, N.J.

Answer: Mother Nature, maybe. She brings the seasons to dump their rain or snow over all, clears away the debris with a good burst of wind, adds some mud for a little abrasive action, then dries things up with a long, sunny spell and a new blooming of fragrant flowers and green grass. Otherwise, it's just human nature, we guess, to shake out the rugs when the weather turns warm, or sun-bleach the linens on the clothes line. Look at it this way, there are some jobs you'd never want to do MORE than once a year, right? Cleaning the gutters, washing the outside windows, cleaning the screens or storm windows, sweeping the chimney, and taking up rugs all come under the once-is-enough category, to many of us.

Spring cleaning, in colonial times, was probably more a matter of moving and debugging. Warmer weather allowed returning to the summer kitchen, where the more open spaces could be utilized and the stove wouldn't overheat the entire house. Winter woolens for drapery, upholstery, bedding and clothing were cleaned and stored away, wrapped in fragrant, moth-repellent herbs, while the rush mats, oilcloth rugs or summer cottons replaced them. Straw-filled bedding was replaced as soon as a new crop could be harvested, as much for the fresh fragrance of the clean straw as for the chance to clear out any lice, fleas, ticks or bedbugs. The linens were boiled outside, over an open fire, and spread on the juniper bushes or box hedges to dry.

The modern solution to spring cleaning could be largely a matter of elimination. Not of the cleaning but of the junk. Some experts estimate that 40 percent of cleaning is really just maintaining our junkpiles. In these days of recycling, simplifying the household appurtenances should be easy.

Work toward expanses of uncluttered spaces - tabletops, counters, windowsills, etc. Do you really need all that stuff? Do you enjoy dusting? Wouldn't you feel charitable if you gave it away? Prevention helps, too. Don't allow the junk back in. Discourage smokers. Know that pets add to your workload, so choose wisely. Select smooth, cleanable surfaces over high-maintenance ones. Enlist the help of your family. Then, grit your teeth, put on some music, salute Mother Nature, and hit the dirt!

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Is it true that nettles are a sign of fertile soil?

- A.O., McKeesport, Pa.

Answer: It's likely, yes. Virtually any plant will give you clues about the soil, so look at the whole picture and add up the clues. Neighboring lots are apt to be similar, unless an avid gardener has doctored the soil over the years.

Nettles and fireweed prefer fertile, moist soils, while burdock, chicory, and wild iris go for more alkaline types. Ferns suggest heavy soil, possibly clay, and you can bet it's wet. Buttercups also like wet.

Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries grow in acidic soils; you'll often see them on lots that have been logged. Other acid soil lovers include trilliums, chamomile, lilies and chrysanthemums.


Additional Information

This Week with The Old Farmer's Almanac

April 13-19, 1998

Orthodox Easter, April 19

Eggs Everywhere

The egg shows the hen the place to hatch," says an old African proverb, or in other words, don't disregard the advice of the young. "Better an egg in peace then an ox in war," reads another proverb, and "Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow," although there are those who disagree. Other folk wisdom advises, "Eggs and oaths are easily broken," and the Latin, "He that would have eggs must endure the cackling of the hens." The Germans suggest, "He who treads on eggs must tread lightly." Everyone knows, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket," to which Mark Twain replied, "Put all your eggs in one basket - and watch the basket."

I've met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my time, but you - you're twenty minutes!

- From the movie, Ace in the Hole, 1951

Tip of the Week

If you spill an egg where it's difficult to wipe up, cover with salt, let it set, then wipe up with damp paper towels.

Spring Melon

1 ripe cantaloupe or honeydew melon

4 ripe kiwis

1 lime

sprigs of fresh mint

fresh raspberries (optional)

Slice melon into quarters, seed, and place quarters on dessert plates. Peel kiwis, and place one egg-like green kiwi on top of each melon section. If desired, you can carefully slice the kiwi into 4 to 6 crosswise slices so the the pieces fan out across the top of the melon. Cut the lime into four sections and squeeze the juice from each onto the melon and kiwi. Garnish with mint, dot the plates with fresh raspberries (optional), and serve cold.

Makes 4 servings.

The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

March winds and april showers bring forth May flowers.

If the rain waits till noon to visit, prepare for a long visit.

If the sky beyond the clouds is blue, be glad; there is a picnic for you.

Special Offer: Handy chart full of interesting weather proverbs. Send $3 to Weather Chart, Dept, UF, The Old Farmer's Almanac, P.O. Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444.