JULY 7, MONDAY: Marc Chagall born, 1887. As July, so the next January.

JULY 8, TUESDAY: Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin born, 1838. First "Ziegfeld Follies" opened in New York, 1907.JULY 9, WEDNESDAY: O.J. Simpson is 50 today. Corncob pipe patented, 1878.

July 10, THURSDAY: "Alice's Restaurant" singer Arlo Guthrie is 50 today.

JULY 11, FRIDAY: E.B. White born, 1899. John Quincy Adams born, 1767. Skylab space station left orbit, fell to earth, 1979.

JULY 12, SATURDAY: Andrew Wyeth born, 1917. U.S. minimum wage set at 40 cents an hour, 1933.

JULY 13, SUNDAY: Northwest Ordinance, 1787. Women competed in Olympics, 1908.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: We went to a wedding where Jordan almonds were given as wedding favors. Is this a fertility symbol?

- G.F., Bremen, Ky.

Answer: There are many versions to this answer. One theory is, indeed, that the almond, a fruit of the sweet almond tree (Prunus dulcis) signifies good fortune in the child-bearing department. At some weddings, the almonds are thrown at the bride, like confetti or rice, which would make this interpretation more plausible, since we'd assume it is she, and not ALL the guests present, who is being wished fertility.

In Hebrew folklore, almonds are considered a symbol of watchfulness and promise - kind of a nice accompaniment to any wedding. In some Christian cultures, the almond and almond branch or blossoms are also associated with the Virgin Mary, the almond itself thought to resemble the shape of a woman's womb, and the early blossoms are another symbol of promise or potential.

Pliny the Elder (A.D. circa 23-79), a Roman naturalist who compiled an encyclopedia called the "Natural History," considered almonds a preventative for drunkenness, which may be another reason they show up regularly at weddings. According to Pliny, five almonds consumed before any liquor would be enough to preserve sobriety.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: I'm growing Sweet Spanish onions and hope to store them, but I've heard that they don't keep as long as the other types. Any tricks for their longevity?

- T.J., Albany, N.Y.

Answer: It's said that the European types of onions have less staying power than the American versions (like "Globe" or "Ebenezer"), and it may be, in part, because the American varieties tend to be harder and more pungent, while the European ones are fairly mild-mannered and relatively sweet. Even European varieties should keep at least two months, however, and we've heard success stories of keeping them well into the early spring.

You didn't mention your form of storage, but a careful ripening, drying, sorting, and slow cooling will do wonders toward lengthening the keeping powers of any onion, American or European. After the bulbs have stored all the nutrients they need, the top leaves begin to wilt. If most of the tops have flopped over, but not all, the reluctant few can be pushed over to encourage the final ripening.

A good dry spell also helps, because rains can sometimes coax the onions out of their beginning dormancy at this period. Hope for a hot spell, and you should see the shoulders of the onions begin to emerge from the soil as the root systems dry up and the bulbs push upward. Once they're well exposed, you can harvest them completely, but leave them to dry on top of the soil for another week or so. The tops should be well shriveled by then, and you can begin making onion braids to hang in a dry garage or attic, out of the sun and exposed to some air movement.

Any onions with very thick necks should be kept out of the braid and consumed quickly instead. Let the onions hang where they will be exposed to the increasing cold, until just before freezing weather commences. Then transfer them to a cellar or attic space that is more protected from freezing temperatures, being sure they remain dry.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: I'm about to return to work, after being on an extended "leave" to care for my four young children, now 5, 7, 8 and 10. Any time-saving tips to help organize life at home?

- F.G., Montpelier, Vt.

Answer: One of your biggest challenges will be to re-establish your role within the family, and to gently guide the others in learning what it is now reasonable for them to expect of you. The more time you can spend as a family planning those changes, the better. For instance, now might be a good time to begin asking your 10-year-old to make a simple dinner once a week. At first, it might require your involvement, and some study of a cookbook, and end up taking longer than a quick meal thrown together by you. But in the long run, the goal would be to have your oldest children enjoy making, and taking responsibility for, a meal a week - even if it's only scrambled eggs.

Similarly, some early time spent on making the children's chores more automatic might help. Give each child a hamper and a clean-laundry basket and let them do the pick-up and delivery to the laundry room. The older children can begin to take responsibility for washing, drying and folding, as well. Be sure there are ample storage bins for toys, art supplies and clothing. Give each child a file drawer or crate for important papers and records. If possible, see that they each have a desk space for homework and reference books. Keep a family calendar posted near the phone and teach everyone to check it to avoid not just conflicts, but also overscheduling.

For yourself, consider using part of your resumed income to purchase some help, whether it's occasional child care, housecleaning, more prepared foods or other timesavers. Delegate everything you can, starting with your most-hated chores. Keep a list of sitters and backups. Buy in bulk, especially the essentials like toilet paper, toothpaste, and certain dry goods for the pantry. Buy gifts (books and art supplies are great) to keep on hand for those last-minute children's birthday parties, or for your children's sick days.

And be flexible! You don't have to do everything you used to do.


Additional Information

This Week with Old Farmer's Almanac

July 7 - 13, 1997

Beware cornscateous air.

Birthday of the Blimp

July 8, 1838, was the birthday of German county Ferdinand von Zeppelin, inventor of the airship called the zeppelin, or dirigible. It is also known as a blimp, a word that comes from its airship classification as a "Type B-limp." Von Zeppelin put an engine on his airship in 1900, three years before the Wright borthers designed their engine, but the zeppelin was lighter than air, which distinguished it from heavier-than-air craft such as planes. The British used blimps in World War I to scout for submarines. Today, blimps proudly float above most major sporting events, offering televised broadcasts.

Ingenious contrivances to facilitate motion, and unite levity with strength.

- Samuel Johnson ("On the Art of Flying")

Tip of the Week

When flying, chew gum or drink a little juice to clear the ears on take-off and landing.

Sweet-Potato Custard Pie

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 2/3 cups milk

3 egs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon grated fresh orange rind

1 cup mashed, cooked sweet potato

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Mix the sugar, milk, eggs, salt, ginger, and orange rind into the cooked sweet potato. Scrape into the unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. (If desired, serve warm with 1 cup of heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup of brandy.)

Makes 8 servings.

Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

When dishes sweat and ditches stink, rain is near.

When the birds nest low, all the year the wind will blow.

If woolly fleeces spread the heavenly way, be sure no rain disturb's the summer's day.

Yellow streaks in the sunset sky, wind, and daylong rain are nigh.