July 13, Monday - "Live Aid" famine-relief concerts held, 1985.
July 14, Tuesday - Bastille Day. Ingmar Bergman born, 1918. Gerald R. Ford born, 1913.July 15, Wednesday - St. Swithin. Moon on equator. Aspartame ("NutraSweet") approved by FDA as sugar substitute, 1981.
July 16, Thursday - Ginger Rogers born, 1911. Last quarter Moon. First parking meters, Oklahoma City, Okla., 1935.
July 17, Friday - No need to burn the barn to kill the flies.
July 18, Saturday - Riots in Harlem, 1964. Fish and visitors smell in three days.
July 19, Sunday - Beware cornscateous air. Rain ceases, wind increases.
Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: What's that cornscateous air?
- G.I., Richardson, Texas
Answer: Well, as you might guess, it has to do with corn. The old almanac makers dreamed it up, we figure, and used it to signify a time in July when the air is damp and warm, which the farmers considered ideal for growing corn, but which could also pose a serious health threat to old-timers (or others) suffering from asthma, pneumonia or other respiratory ills. Those old-timers were valued work force come husking time, you understand, when every good hand was needed. Our 1805 Old Farmer's Almanac advised: "If you make a husking, keep an old man between every two boys, else your husking will turn out a loafing. In a husking there is some fun and frolic, but on the whole, it hardly pays the way; for they will not husk clean, since many go more for the sport than to do real work."
If you're looking for things to do with corn, try roasting it in its husk over a beach fire or on the grill. You can store corn unhusked (husks still on) in the refrigerator for about two days, but the sooner you eat it, the better it will taste. Right off the stalks is about right. As Garrison Keillor put it, "Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn."
Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Has it ever really rained for 40 days commencing on St. Swithin's Day?
- J.W., Seattle, Wash.
Answer: To our knowledge, there is no reliable record of such a downpour, although weather records are a fairly recent thing compared to the venerable old "saint of the soakers." The story has it that this ninth century Anglo-Saxon cleric, who became the Bishop of Winchester, specifically asked to be buried outdoors, rather than be entombed within the church with his esteemed colleagues. His request was initially honored, but some years later, on July 15, an attempt was made to bring him back into the fold. Legend has it that a great tempest brought rains that lasted 40 days, and the transfer was put off - though ultimately realized. The most-known weatherlore connected to the event is, "If it rains on St. Swithin's Day, it will rain for forty days." Another popular one is: "St. Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain, For forty days it will remain; St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair, For forty days 'twill rain na mair (no more)."
A fountain of weatherlore has grown up around the story, and we'd consider it best simply to read it as calling for a rainy period, without counting the days' duration. Some of the lesser-known weatherlore sayings include: "Rain on St. Swithin's Day (July 15) or St. Peter's Day (June 29) promises a good crop because the two were watering the orchards." Some say that St. Swithin is "christening the apples." A balance is provided by this one: "All the tears that St. Swithin can cry, St. Bartlemy's (Aug. 24) dusty mantel wipes dry." Another source seeks to disabuse of the idea altogether: "Let not such vulgar tales debase thy mind," we're told, "Nor Paul nor Swithin rule the clouds and wind."
Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Is there any certainty in the garlic remedies against mosquitoes?
- K.D., St. Johnsbury, Vt.
Answer: Certainty? Certainly not! Given how quickly those pesky insects seem to adapt and become immune to various bug dopes, we'd never use the word "certainty." Useful, maybe. Worth a try, for sure. It depends on how you use the stuff too. Some people swallow slivered garlic to ward off the summer pests. Others take powdered garlic tablets or rub the juice of the garlic directly on their exposed skin. Garlic contains crotonaldehyde, a substance shown to be effective against diseases of the nose, throat, and intestines. Pet owners often give dogs or cats a small clove of garlic in a bit of meat to help them ward off fleas. If you do get bitten or stung, a paste of mashed garlic can help take the sting and itch away. Some people apply just the juice of garlic, onion or radish for the same purpose. Homer's Odysseus ate garlic to steel himself against Circe's magic. Bolivian bullfighters used garlic to avoid a charging bull. Roman soldiers used it for courage. Aristotle believed it cured hydrophobia (fear of water). Folklorists list it among cures for jealousy, sneezing fits, baldness and narcolepsy. And one old proverb promises that "Garlic makes a man wink, drink and stink."
This week with The Old Farmer's Almanac
July 13-19, 1998
St. Swithin, July 15.
July 14 marks the national holiday of the republic of France, something like our Independence Day. In 1789, a mob of Parisians stormed the fortress prison Bastille in Paris, looking to capture ammunitions stored there. The prison, which had once housed the Man with the Iron Mask and Voltaire, had no political prisoners at that time, although there were seven inmates who gained their freedom that day. The event was symbolic in the French Revolution, however, and led the way for further rebellions.
Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior.
Tip of the Week
Line refrigerator crisper drawers with waxed paper for easier cleaning.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons flour
7 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 tablespoons powdered instant coffee
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
2 ounces sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into the butter mixture. Add brewed coffee and mix. Bake in a greased and floured 8-inch square pan for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. While cake is cooling, heat chocolate and coffee for glaze in a double boiler. When cake is cool, pour warm glaze over cake.
Makes 1 8-inch cake.
The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs
If the three days previous to St. Jacob's (July 20) are clear, then the rye will be good.
If on Friday it rain, 'twill on Sunday again.
If Friday be clear, have on Sunday no fear.
Midsummer rain spoils wine, stock, and grain.
As July, so the next January.