We are, once again, in the midst of the Dog Days of summer. This is a 40-day period that begins 20 days before the conjunction of Sirius and the sun and extends to 20 days beyond that conjunction (in modern times, usually July 3 to August 11). Sirius, also known as the “Dog Star,” is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, the stellar dog of Orion. Right now, it is the brightest star in the night sky of the northern hemisphere.
The Dog Days are always associated with the hottest days of summer and also with a bit of madness. This is certainly true in my case as I am a cold lover, and this summer heat is wilting me. Apparently, the ancients felt the same way and blamed the Dog Days for mad dogs, fevers, hysterics, and even wine turning sour. This last part would not surprise me at all because these are, coincidentally, the days of the first furious attacks of the fruit flies. When I was a girl, my grandmother would say, “I need to catch a vinegar fly,” when she wanted to make some vinegar. That’s just another name for a fruit fly, which often carries acetic acid bacteria on its feet, transforming your lovely beverage into vinegar if you’re not careful.
|Even the rivers want to dry up during the Dog Days.|
Or maybe that’s what you want, as my grandmother did. Homemade wine vinegar is divine on salads, and once you have it, you will turn your nose up to the stuff they sell in the supermarket. Vinegar was also a very important thing to the ancients as it effectively kills mycobacteria, even the drug-resistant and disinfectant-resistant strains. It also helps to preserve food. In an age without antibiotics or food preservatives, vinegar was worth its weight in gold.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, started by Robert B. Thomas in 1792, will always predict the least amount of rain during the Dog Days, and those predictions usually become true because this is the time for sweltering heat and not rain. Even today, the almanac uses Robert’s “secret forecasting formula” to predict the weather, although you might not need it in these wretchedly hot Dog Days. It’s safe to say that it’s hot outside, and it’s going to stay that way for a while.
In any event, this is the time for languishing in the shade. All those things we said we’d do when the warmer weather came, we forget about or we can’t do just now or we’ll surely do tomorrow or next week. It’s a 40-day period when the world stands on its head, teetering on the edge of insanity, threatening to roll over and play dead. And people wonder why I love the winter so much.