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Views and opinions: Dog Days of middle summer typically begin at turn of July


June 25-July 1, 2018

There comes a fuzzy time then, when the berry picking mixes with the end of hay gathering and the beginning of late summer and everything seems to fall into a stew. Dog days, when the dog literally will not move from beneath the porch and the weather, come down hot and muggy so the teams of horses stand in sweat even then they are not working.

-Gary Paulsen

The Turtle Hatching Moon, full at 11:53 p.m. on June 27, wanes throughout the period, reaching apogee at 9:43 p.m. on June 29 and entering its final quarter at 2:50 a.m. on July 6.

The Dog Days of middle summer typically begin near this date and last through the middle of August’s second week. In those 6-7 weeks, approximately an hour is lost from the day’s length along the 40th Parallel, and the year turns toward autumn. Throughout the week ahead, however, the sun remains within just half a degree of its position at summer solstice.

Venus in Leo is the giant evening star in the far west after sundown. Jupiter in Libra lies along the southern horizon after dark. The parallelogram formation of Libra is prominent in the southwest, followed by Scorpius and its red center, Antares. Sagittarius, the Archer, follows the Scorpion in the southeast. Above the Archer, the Milky Way sweeps up toward Cassiopeia in the north.

The only meteors this month come with the Delta Aquarid shower the night of July 28-29.

The days closest to Independence Day bring a variety of new influences to humans and other creatures. As the Dog Star, Sirius, follows Orion to the middle of the sky, it marks the beginning of the warmest and most humid time of year, increasing the likelihood of heat stress.

Although the sun still travels high in the sky, a subtle shift in the season has begun, quieting morning birdsong, initiating cicada and cricket time. Even if you hide inside your air-conditioned car and home, the changes have an effect on the way you think as you “batten down the hatches” against the uncomfortable weather and mosquitoes.

Weather trends

Sunny skies are the rule for the last week of June; clouds dominate only about 20 percent of the days, and that makes this period one of the brighter ones in the whole year. Daily chances for rain throughout this period of the month are 30 percent, except on July 25-26; those days are some of the driest of the entire year, carrying only a 15 percent chance for precipitation.

High temperatures rise into the 80s at least 60 percent of all the afternoons and climb above 90 on one-fifth of the days. Cooler conditions in the 70s or even the 60s are most likely to occur on July 23-24.

The cool fronts of middle summer normally cross the Mississippi River around July 6, 14, 21 and 28. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or prolonged periods of soggy pasture are most likely to occur within the weather windows of July 3-7 and 18-23.

The natural calendar: July offers more wildflower seasons than any other month of the year. Led on by the ubiquitous black-eyed Susans, flowers such as purple loosestrife, Queen Anne’s lace, purple coneflower, wild petunia, bouncing Bet, blue dayflower, white vervain, sow thistle, pokeweed, St. John’s wort, teasel and wild lettuce (among so many others) dominate the fields.

In the shade of the canopy, July is the time of wood mint, wood nettle, leafcup, touch-me-not, lopseed and avens. The best part of black raspberry season ends as the summer apple harvest gets underway. Roadside grasses brown in the sun like the winter wheat.

Field and garden

Lily season is underway throughout the region; spray flower buds with deer repellant in order to save the flowers. This week’s waning moon is especially favorable for digging your garlic (before the heads begin to separate), detasseling corn, harvesting winter wheat and completing the first cut of alfalfa and beginning the second cut.

In the garden, plant Sweet William and forget-me-not seeds for next year’s blossoms. When the first black walnuts start to fall, renovate strawberry beds, cutting off tops above the crown, then fertilize.

Marketing notes: Set up your roadside stand for July 4 traffic. Also, bring your fruits and vegetables to farmers’ markets this coming weekend. Offer kids and lambs for Independence Day cookouts or tailgate parties at parades and celebrations.

Fish, insects, livestock and birds: The moon will pass overhead before dawn this week, making that time favorable for fishing, especially as the July 6 front approaches. Around the yard, farm and woodlots, birds continue to feed their young. Watch for the fledglings to flutter their wings, begging for food.

In the pastures, be alert for standing water from the upcoming Corn Tassel Rains that may encourage parasite infestation. And check your hogs: If you keep them inside, they need plenty of ventilation and sometimes a good hosing down to keep them cool. Late this week, the first cicadas (or harvest flies) of the year begin to chant.

Almanac classics

Kung Fu Chicken

My son, Jake, is now 34 years old. It seems only yesterday he and his best friend, Vance, were jumping out from behind every tree and bush, grabbing a family member and practicing the latest Bruce Lee move. It was a minor nuisance for several years ’til they moved on to girls and cars.

Jake used his moves seriously for the first time when he was 5 years old and visiting his Grandma and Grandpa Perkins in Kentucky. They still had an outhouse in 1975. Proudly it stood, out past the oil tank, beyond the tall walnut trees and past the ground the three ninja roosters claimed as their own.

Early one morning, duty called and Jake could ignore it no longer. He slipped out the front door, following the worn path around the small clapboard house. Suddenly, from behind the stand of orange blooming day lilies, jumped the three ninjas, the biggest white roosters in Kentucky.

Spurs sharpened and ready, they surrounded Jake with their necks stretched as far as they would go, wings down in the fight stance. While drinking my coffee at the kitchen table, the morning was shattered by the screaming of: “MOM! MOM!”

I ran to the nearest window facing the path, and there was Jake, stick in hand, swinging and spinning for all he was worth. Jake’s stepdad, Curt, ran out and joined the fight, kicking the roosters until they gave up and ran back to the safety of the weeds.

I think this was the start of Jake’s Kung-Fu years. He gave new meaning to “walk tall and carry a big stick.”