IN THE THROES OF DOG DAYS – News From The Hills

The thunderstorms keep coming, the grass keeps growing, the garden is saturated, and still it rains. Some of the vegetables are thriving, such as squash and cucumbers, which like this tropical weather, while our sweet pepper plants have succumbed to the water.

So far we have been able to place our extra crop of squash in good homes, but there have been years when we were so overpowered with this vegetable (plus zucchini) that we had to sneak and put bags of it on the neighbor’s porch (after dark) and run fast.

We got such a cute letter from our friend David Winter of California concerning the vegetable revolt at the shipyard at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco Bay that I must share it. (Hope he won’t mind.) It seems that when he and his wife began housekeeping that she wanted a vegetable garden and planted six zucchini plants.

He writes, “They all came up and bore like nobody’s business. We had zucchini this and zucchini that, and the final straw was a zucchini lasagna sandwich on zucchini bread with zucchini mayonnaise. In some distress, I desperately searched for an answer. Neighbors? Nope. Friends? Nope. Family? Nope.

“The ship to which I was assigned was at the very furthest pier in deep storage, and I was the only person on it. A plan developed! I began sneaking into the shipyard offices before six in the morning, and would leave a couple of zucchinis on various desks as I passed en route to the ship. I was able to palm off several zucchinis before my friend Dave Rubino caught me and ratted on me.

“Well, nothing was said to me about having been busted as the vegetable disposer, but one morning I came in and the yard offices were full and everyone greeted me warmly and with a smile. Pretty suspicious? I went on to the ship, lowered the gangway, opened the house, unlocked the Chief’s Office, and every flat surface in the 20’ by 30’ office and the equally large bedroom was covered with zucchini.

“Thus ended the Great Zucchini Caper, but those guys must have gone to the local farmer’s Market and emptied their baskets. The homeless shelters near the Yard made out very well that day!”

Well, most of us don’t have access to a big ship, so we’ll have to devise our own nefarious scheme to get rid of the excess. So far, neighbors have been anxious to receive them.

We want to share a yellow squash recipe which we have used for years (tried and tested in the Bragg kitchen) while it is in season.

YELLOW SQUASH
CASSEROLE
2 lbs yellow squash, sliced (I just use 3-4 medium ones)
2 medium onions, sliced
Cook squash and onions in salted boiling water for 5-10 minutes; drain well.
In a large bowl, combine 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup sour cream (sometimes I use more) and 1 cup shredded carrots.
Fold in squash and onions.
Meantime mix 1 box stuffing mix with ½ stick melted butter.
Spray baking dish with cooking spray, place half the stuffing mix on bottom.
Spoon in squash mixture.
Sprinkle remaining stuffing mix on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
Our daughter Patty adds cooked, chopped chicken to the squash mixture, to make a main dish. With salad and bread, it will make a complete meal.

We don’t need the Farmer’s Almanac to inform us that we are in the throes of Dog Days. It began the third of this month and will last 40 days, ending August 11. The name “Dog Days” is derived from the “Dog Star” Sirius which reigns in the sky during this period. There is much folklore connected with “Dog Days,” including the belief that dogs went mad and ran over the country, foaming at the mouth.

There is an old country belief that if dog days set in wet, it will rain for 40 days. I think it already has. The origin of the name Sirius is unknown, but ancient writers explained it as relating to a word for blazing, burning or parching. This period of time generally brings on the worst heat of the summer, and was popularly believed to be an evil time. “The Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies.” (According to “Brady’s Clavis Calendria”–1813

Homer wrote in the Iliad centuries ago,
“Sirius rises late in the dark liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.”

Dog days bring extremely humid weather, with mold and mildew rampant. Table salt lodges in the salt cellar; making it hard to sprinkle on food. A few grains of dry rice in the shaker are helpful. Tile flooring is damp and sticky, and any outside work (between rains) leaves a person drenched with sweat. At least we haven’t seen any mad dogs running around.

In spite of the wet weather, midsummer flowers are blooming in glorious array along the roadsides and meadows. Delicate Queen Anne’s lace with its lacy, white blossoms are a lovely contrast to the brilliant blue of the chicory blooms and orange butterfly weed, also called pleurisy weed. Patches of black-eyed Susan’s are interspersed amid the rest. It blesses the soul to view the wonders that our Heavenly Father has created for our enjoyment.

Here is one of my favorite poems, which comes to mind this time of year.

RHODODENDRON
By A. J. Ritchie

I want to wake up in the morning
Where the rhododendrons grow;
Where the sun come a-peeping
Into where I’m a-sleeping
And the songbirds say “Hello.”
I want to wander through the wildwood
Where the fragrant breezes blow
And drift back to the mountains
Where the rhododendrons grow.

I want to climb up on the mountain
Where the rhododendrons grow;
Where the Lord is so near me
When I breathe He can hear me
And the whole world sings below.
I want to lay down all my burdens
And forget my worldly woes,
And stay here in West Virginia
Where the rhododendrons grow.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer