July 2, Monday — French astronomer Nostradamus died, 1566. President James Garfield shot, 1881.
July 3, Tuesday — Dog Days begin today; they end August 11. Dog Days bright and clear indicate a happy year.
July 4, Wednesday — Independence Day. Sun at aphelion, its farthest distance from the Earth.
July 5, Thursday — Full Thunder Moon. Partial eclipse of the moon (visible in Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands).
July 6, Friday — Fort Ticonderoga captured by the British in American Revolution, 1777. Singing cowboy Roy Rogers died at age 86,1998.
July 7, Saturday — Four people hanged for conspiracy in Washington, D.C., for aiding John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, 1865.
July 8, Sunday — "The Wall Street Journal" first published, 1889. Florenz Ziegfeld held his first "Follies" on the New York Theater roof, 1907.
Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Why is it that so many dogs are afraid of thunder? My dog hides under the bed. — Y.P., Shreveport, La.
Answer: Atmospheric changes, thunderous noises and fireworks can be detected by dogs long before we become aware of them. Considering how sensitive their ears are, the sound of thunder may actually be very painful. Why some dogs are extremely afraid and others are not bothered at all is still a mystery. Some pet breeders believe that the fear of loud noises may be an instinct that helps canines respond quickly to danger. Remaining with your pet if you know there will be loud noises, such as fireworks on the Fourth of July, can ease their anxiety. Keeping your pet in a quiet part of the house and away from the windows or doors can also help soothe him. Cotton balls placed loosely in their ears, if they allow it, may muffle the noise. If your animals are still deathly afraid, consider asking your vet for advice, or, in extreme cases, having the vet prescribe a tranquilizer. In mild cases, try behavior modification techniques such as playing a tape of thunderstorms while petting the dog and then gradually increasing the duration or volume. If none of this works, then you'll just have to crawl under the bed with him until the storm passes.
Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: When was it that Nostradamus predicted the world would end? — F.K., Philadelphia, Pa.
Answer: You're safe. Those that believed there was an "Armageddon" predicted by Nostradamus (1503-1566) calculated it to be in the late 1990s, so the time is now past. Others suggest that Nostradamus never actually predicted an end to the world at all but that there had simply been a misinterpretation of his original work.
Michel de Nostradamus, a Frenchman, first made his living as a doctor, then became an astrologer in 1547. His rhyming quatrains were collected in a book called "Centuries" that was published in 1555. "Centuries" included a verse for every year from that point until about the year 2000. To avoid accusations of being a magician — which was akin to being called a witch during the Salem witch trials — Nostradamus changed the order of his verses so that the time sequence was no longer discernible. Ever since, readers and historians have been trying to make practical sense of the document, hoping to put it back into its original order. As a consequence, there are numerous interpretations, many of which are in conflict, as you might imagine.
In the 19th century, one writer and Nostradamus scholar, A. de Pelletier, used "Centuries" to predict the downfall of Napoleon III in his book, which was published four years before it happened. More recently, it has been reported that Nostradamus authority Vlaicu Ionescu predicted the Watergate scandal and Mikhail Gorbachev's decline. Ionescu has also interpreted several Nostradamus passages to explain events in the lives of many former presidents, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in his "Nostradamus: Secret History of the World." Interestingly, Ionescu is one of the scholars who refutes the existence of a prediction of the end of the world, and argues instead that the passage in question had to do with an announcement about the birth of the future king of France.
Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Can you grow wisteria in the garden? — B.J., Chapel Hill, N.C.
Answer: You sure can, though we don't necessarily advise it. Wisteria is a fragrant and deciduous shrub with white, blue or pink flowers that hang in clusters. Like bittersweet or other climbing vines, it tends to take over its host — even the hardy pines in which it is commonly found in the South. And it can kill a tree by gradual strangulation as the stems spiral upwards and tighten their grip. Gardeners who hope to maintain both the wisteria and its supporting tree try to tie off the wisteria so that it climbs straight, without spiraling, but this can be difficult to accomplish as the wisteria gains in height. On buildings, unchecked wisteria vines have been known to tear off wooden shingles and even damage bricks. Wisteria needs to be pruned in summer and benefits by being cut back to two or three new buds. Most varieties are hardy in zones six to 10 and prefer well-drained loam and full sun. Winter is the time to fertilize, if you dare! Wisteria requires ample watering, so give it a good soaking every week or two.
Send your questions to: Ask the Almanac, The Old Farmer's Almanac, Main St., Dublin, NH 03444 Web site: www.almanac.com