JULY 1, MONDAY - Canada Day. Buckminster Fuller died, 1983. Prince Edward Island joined Dominion, 1873.
JULY 2, TUESDAY - Amelia Earhart disappeared, 1937. Vermont abolished slavery, 1873.JULY 3, WEDNESDAY - Dog Days begin. Writer Franz Kafka born, 1883. Dog Days bright and clear, indicate a happy year.
JULY 4, THURSDAY - Independence Day. Corn should be knee high. Birthday of twins Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers.
JULY 5, FRIDAY - Birthday of Phineas T. Barnum, 1810. Independence Day in Venezuela (1811).
JULY 6, SATURDAY - Babe Ruth hit homer in first All-Star game, 1933.
JULY 7, SUNDAY - Birthday of artist Marc Chagall, 1887. Debut of "Dragnet" with Jack Webb, NBC radio, 1949.
Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: I've seen nasturtiums put into salads. Is this just "nouvelle cuisine" or is there something more to it?
- S.P., Purchase, N.Y.
Answer: Much more - history, medicine, nutrition, aesthetics, you name it.
Nasturtiums are one of the more well-known flowers used as a foodstuff, but others include marigolds, carnations, roses, pansies, squash blossoms, day lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums, lavender, hollyhocks, gardenias, and of course the old standbys, dandelions and clover. Brides are used to seeing candied violets on wedding cakes, a tradition that goes back to at least the 17th century.
Both the Chinese and Japanese consider chrysanthemums a powerful emblem of youth. A petal placed in the bottom of a glass of wine is thought to enhance longevity. The Chinese also believe it prevents gray hair. Day lilies have been highly regarded by the Chinese, as well, partly for their vitamins and minerals, but also for their reputation for easing worries and a troubled mind.
Nasturtiums, to get back to your question, are readily grown and naturally beautiful. They're high in vitamin C and reputed to contain a healthful ingredient that seems to mimic penicillin in warding off infection. The leaves, flowers, seeds and stems are all edible and have a peppery taste, which can turn bitter if they're left too long before serving. Their common name is Indian cress, because their taste resembles that of watercress.
Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Which came first, the shower or the bath?
- L.S., Belmond, N.C.
Answer: That's like asking which came first, rainwater or ground water. Would you count submerging oneself in a pond or stream as a bath? Or would you define bath, as the Europeans did in the 18th century, as a medical treatment to be endured? If your question is about bathtubs or shower stalls, the answer would have to be the tub, but even there the definitions are obscure. The first real baths may have been very large, communal ones, carried out in the company of fellow worshippers in the Roman temple or with athletes in the Greek gymnasium.
The palace of Knossos in Crete, about 1700 B.C., sported not only early, individual-size bathtubs, but also plumbing. Terra cotta pipes carried the water supply, and both the baths and the latrines flushed into a central sewer.
The early Egyptians were fond of bathing in the Nile, particularly for religious purification. Bas-reliefs on tombs and scenes on painted vases, etc., often show Egyptian women pouring water from vases and bowls, an obvious precursor to the formal shower. The modern shower stall is a relatively new invention, designed for speed and convenience (and perhaps an extra degree of hygiene) rather than for the relaxation of a lingering bath, with fellow bathers and attendants at your side.
Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Many of the white pine trees here are showing brown needles this spring and summer. What's going on?
- J.S.W., Freeport, Maine
Answer: The jury's still out on this one, but various contributing factors have been cited as the possible culprits. One theory has it that the very dry summer of 1995 resulted in a serious stress condition for your state tree, the pine, which usually stores moisture over the winter. The drought conditions weakened the trees, making them more susceptible to other diseases, as well. By some local reports, Maine had the third-driest summer on record last year.
A second factor that may be weakening the trees is the amount of road salt dumped on icy roads during the winter. Accumulations of salt drain off the roadsides and get into the ground water. In areas of heavy salt use, some of the salt builds up and turns to dust, which then gets windblown onto the trees.
To reduce stress on affected pines, and to help protect those that remain healthy, landowners can work with their towns to monitor salt use on roads. Mulching the trees near roadways helps to minimize the impact, and the old pine needles can be raked away and replaced with organic fertilizer and compost. In drought conditions, keeping trees well watered will help them maintain their strength.
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 (http://www.nj.com/ofa).
1996 Yankee Publishing Inc.
Distributed by United Feature Syndicate Inc.
THIS WEEK WITH Old FARMER'S ALMANAC
July 1-7, 1996
Independence Day, July 4.
What to do on July 4
Besides being celebrated as the birthdate of our nation, July 4 is also the birthday of those letter-writing twins, Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby") and (Dear) Ann Landers, George M. Cohan, born July 4, 1878, found his own way to celebrate Independence Day. In 1906 he wrote the popular, patriotic song, "You're a Grand Old Flag," followed by the well-known "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in 1908. Cohan was also an actor, producer, and playwright. "Over There" and "Give My Regards to Broadway" were others of his hits. In Hannibal, Missouri, July 4 is Tom Sawyer Fence Painting Day. So, write a letter, sing a song or two, then paint the fence.
You're a grand old flag, You're a high-flying flag, And forever in peace may you wave. . . ." - George M. Cohan
TIP OF THE WEEK
Salt added to wash water helps prevent colored fabrics from running.
CURRIED CORN AND TOMATO SOUP
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon curry powder
dash of cayenne, to taste
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup canned tomatoes and juice, crushed
1 teaspoon dill weed
5 ounces frozen corn
Melt butter, add flour, and stir with whisk over low heat for 1 minute. Add milk and whisk over medium heat until thickened. Stir in the curry powder and cayenne, then add chicken stock, tomatoes, dill, and corn. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. This soup is best when flavors are allowed to blend for at least a couple of hours.
Reheat to serve.
Makes 4 servings.
OLD FARMER'S WEATHER PROVERBS
If the first of July be rainy weather, twill rain more or less for four weeks together.
Rain on St. Mary's Day (July 2) means rain for a month.
A shower in July, when the corn begins to fill, is worth a plow of oxen, and all belongs there till.
Nothern wind bings weather fair.