July Almanac

By Ash Alder

Time Traveling

July is here and you are fishing on the bank with Papa, readjusting his faded straw hat seconds before it slips down your brow again. You don’t notice. You are busy staring at the water’s surface, thinking about the dancing cricket at the end of the line.

Summer sends us time traveling. Shucking sweet corn on the front porch with mama. Potato sack racing with your cousins. Sparklers on the lawn.

Ripe blackberries straight from the bush, but nothing tastes sweeter than summer love. You relive that first kiss, stolen beneath the Southern magnolia, and daydream at the pool with flushed cheeks and pruned fingers.

Papa reaches for the bagged lunch you packed together, unwraps a tomato sandwich, takes a pull of iced tea from the thermos. He is flashing back to his own childhood summers when you feel the tug on your line.

You wrestle a tiny sunfish, straw hat now slipping down past your eyelids. The fish is too small to take home, but papa won’t let you know it. He puts down his sandwich to help you remove the hook. You slip your first-ever catch into papa’s bucket. He lifts the straw hat from your eyes, winks, and then kisses your brow.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur
of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.
— John Lubbock

Full Buck Moon Magic

Sure as our summer garden delivers fresh cabbage (read sauerkraut), July inspires cucumber salad, pickled melon, cantaloupe gazpacho, blueberries and whipped cream. Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday this month. We prepare for backyard barbecues, look for cool and simple dishes to delight friends and family.
At market, baskets of golden peaches spell homemade ice cream. The kids will love it. Hosting or traveling, stock up on pickled okra, scuppernongs, and heirloom tomatoes. This is a season that knows how to throw a delicious party. We oblige.

The Full Buck Moon falls on Sunday, July 9. If you’re gardening by the lunar cycle, pop flowering bulbs such as gladiolus and butterfly lily into the earth July 10–22 — day before the new moon. Not too late to plant squash, corn or snap beans, plus heat-loving herbs like basil, thyme and sage.

Summer doesn’t last forever. We’ve lived long enough to know that. As the cicadas serenade you into dreamland, allow visions of your autumn garden to come into focus. A gardener must always plan ahead.

Larks and Nymphs

Seeing as the spur of this month’s birth flower resembles the hind toe of a crested songbird, it’s little wonder how delphinium consolida got its common name. Larkspur (or Lark’s heel as Shakespeare called it) belongs to the buttercup family and, like the orchid, is a showy and complex flower. It’s also highly poisonous if consumed — but perhaps that’s what makes this striking beauty all the more appealing. Color variations convey different meanings. Purple says first love.

Water lilies aren’t just for frogs. Also a birth flower of July, genus Nymphaea takes its name from the Greek word meaning “water nymph” or “virgin.” A symbol of purity and majesty, the lotus flower is a spiritual icon in many cultures. Chinese Buddhists describe Heaven as a sacred lake of lotus flowers. Imagine.

Something Different Dept.

Among the obscure holidays celebrated this month — Sidewalk Egg Frying Day (July 4), National Nude Day (July 14), and Yellow Pig Day (July 17), to name just a few — Build A Scarecrow Day is celebrated on Sunday, July 2. Egyptian farmers swaddled wooden figures with nets to create the first “scarecrows” in recorded history. Only they weren’t scarecrows, per se. They were used to keep quails from the wheat fields along the Nile River. If you’ve a corn crop to protect, consider making an art of it. But just remember, crows are smart cookies — and perhaps better friends than foe.

Ah, summer,
what power you
have to make us
suffer and like it.

— Russell Baker

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