Four Kent State University students shot, 1970.

May 5, Tuesday - Spencer Tracy born, 1900. Plant corn now, or lose a bushel a day past the middle of May.May 6, Wednesday - Willie Mays born, 1931. Sigmund Freud born, 1856.

May 7, Thursday - Moon on equator. Tornado destroyed Natchez, Miss., 1840.

May 8, Friday - Moon at apogee. V-E Day, 1945. Harry S. Truman born, 1884.

He that riseth late must trot all day.

May 9, Saturday - Howard Carter, discoverer of King Tut's tomb, born, 1873.

May 10, Sunday - Get out the tomato juice: Skunks (wood pussys) are born.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Is there any truth to the tomato juice remedy for a dog that's been sprayed by a skunk? If so, why does it work?

- H.S., Larchmont, N.Y.

Answer: We haven't found anything that works 100 percent (except prevention - talk to your dog!), but tomato juice baths are definitely a top contender for their price and effectiveness. Plus, like any good home remedy, you're more likely to find them in your cupboard than the commercially touted pet baths, unless you've become used to these springtime romps by Bowzer. (You mean, he's not listening? Time for a brush-up visit to obedience class, perhaps . . .)

It's OK to dilute the tomato juice with water before you apply it to your pet's coat. Wear rubber gloves and use a basin to catch as much of the run-off as you can, then reapply it to the fur, for maximum benefit. You may have to repeat the bath. Even then, some residue of the smell is apt to remain for a few days.

If you don't have tomato juice handy, try bathing the pet with diluted vinegar, using either white vinegar or the apple cider variety. Apple cider vinegar is also a handy home remedy for dogs with itchy skin. Try rubbing a little on the itchy spot with a cotton ball. (Do not apply vinegar if the skin is broken.)

As for why these remedies work, we assume it's the acidity that helps neutralize the skunk smell, which is essentially an oily musk scent. The tomato juice or vinegar cuts through the oiliness and helps break it down, so it can be rinsed away in the warm water.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Why the expression "deader than a doorknob" - aren't doorknobs usually inanimate?

- B.P., Douglas, Ga.

Answer: Actually, we'd put the doorknobs of our acquaintance in the animate category. But, to answer your question, the true expression was "dead as a doornail" and it probably changed because no one knows what a doornail is anymore. The reference is to a large-headed iron nail that was used in making cleated doors, where two boards were fastened in a side-by-side manner by use of the cleats and nails. The soft iron nails could be driven through the board and cleat, then clinched. Properly performed, the clinching bent the nail into a U-shape, and then the point of the U was driven back into the board.

In a time when resources were scarce and every nail was saved and reused, a doornail, thus clinched and shaped, was useless for future use - thus, the designation as dead. The doornail was dead to any future reincarnations.

Your question reminds us of a letter to the Yankee "Oracle" asking about the origins of the expression, "deaf as a haddock." The Oracle replied that "deaf as an adder" was an old Bible saying, and one which Henry David Thoreau once ascribed to a Cape Codder. About "deaf as a haddock," the Oracle suggested: "Invented, we mistrust, by someone who couldn't think of adder." Or perhaps it was someone who'd heard it wrong, being "deafer 'n a . . ." to begin with.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Our school is contemplating planting a wildflower meadow. Are wildflowers included in the language of flowers, and if so, can you tell us some of the floral sentiments?

- M.P.K., Brattleboro, Vt.

Answer: We love (red chrysanthemums) your industry (red clover) and hope (snowdrops) your early youth (primroses) bring you much pride (amaryllis).

As for the wildflowers, sure, many of them are fraught with connotations. Betony betides surprise, brambles are remorse or envy, and buttercups signify both childishness and riches. Chamomile shows energy in adversity and chickweed (besides suggesting good soil fertility) speaks of a rendezvous. Cowslips are pensive, white daisies are for innocence, and dandelions are an oracle of coquetry.

Dock shows patience, ferns show sincerity, and hawkweed is for quick-sightedness. Hop blossoms speak of injustice, mountain laurel is for ambition or glory, and the lily of the valley brings a return of happiness. Mints are virtuous, despite their tendency to take over the garden. Moss wraps itself around rocks with maternal love. Nettles are slanderous. Spearmint suggests a warmth of sentiment, while tansy shows resistance (and also deters ants). Blue violets bring faithfulness, and sweet violets are all modesty.


Additional Information

This Week with The Old Farmer's Almanac

May 4-10, 1998

Truman Day, May 8

Mother's Day

On May 10, what do mothers really want? We offer this epitaph from a Penobscot, Maine, gravestone to give you a hint: "Here lies a poor woman, Who always was tired; She lived in a house, Where help was not hired; Her last words on earth were, `Dear friends, I am going; Where washing ain't done, Nor sweeping or sewing; But everything there is exact to my wishes, For where they don't eat, There's no washing dishes; I'll be where loud anthems will always be singing, But having no voice, I'll be clear of the singing; Don't mourn for me now, don't mourn for me never, I'm going to do nothing forever and ever.'"

My idea of superwoman is someone who scrubs her own floors.

Tip of the Week

For a quick (temporary) fix, mend holes in screens with a bitl of melted candle wax.

Easy Cake for Mom

1 package yellow cake mix

1 package lemon-flavored instant pudding

1 cup water

4 eggs

1 batch frosting

Even young children can make this cake, with a little help from Dad. combine first four ingredients in a bowl, blend with a mixer at low speed, then beat at medium speed for about 6 to 8 minutes. Line three 9-inch cake pans with rounds of waxed paper and pour batter into pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 15 minutes, turn out on a rack, and frost when cool.

Makes a 3-layer cake.

The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

Be it weal or be it woe, beans blow before May does go.

Cast not a clout till May be out.

Eighteen percent of tornadoes occur this month.

Crow on the fence, rain will go hense; cors on the ground, rain will come down.

Fickle drops sprinkle crops.