Almanac

August

By Ash Alder

Welcoming the Harvest

August is a poem you can taste. Swollen fruit beckons us to the garden, the orchard, the roadside stand, and for some of us, the trailittng vines that wind along the woodland path. The air intoxicates us with notes of wild honey and dandelion. Damselflies dance between milkweed and goldenrod, fiery sunsets fade into star-studded twilight, and come nightfall, the crickets and katydids gift us with song. Nothing gold can stay, they lament.

And so we savor each delicious moment.

The Wheel of the Year, an annual cycle of eight seasonal festivals (or sabbats) observed by modern pagans, includes a grain harvest celebration called Lammas (loaf mass) on August 1. Also called August Eve, the first harvest festival of the year includes a feast of thanksgiving, the first sheaf of wheat ritually baked into a sacred loaf said to embody the spirit of the grain. Regardless of which seasonal festivals you choose to observe, now’s as good a time as any to consider the abundance of the season, especially when you’re slicing that thick Cherokee Purple for the perfect ’mater sandwich. And as you sow your autumn garden — beets, carrots, peas and greens — try whispering a little song of thanks into the soil and see what follows: a new delicious season of magic, no doubt. Another harvest. But for now, listen to the katydids.

Starry Eyed

The gladiolus, or ‘sword lily,’ is the birth flower of August. Bright and showy, they symbolize a heart “pierced with love.”

Astronomically speaking, there’s a lot to pierce the heart with love this month: the Perseid meteor shower, for instance, which happens August 11–13 and is visible worldwide. Predawn is the best time to see it, and since the quarter moon will have set by 1 a.m., the dark sky should be an ideal canvas for this (pardon) stellar show.

Native Americans called the full moon of August the “Sturgeon” or “Green Corn” moon. On August 18, see what you’re inspired to call it. And if you’re prone to set intentions, the full moon is prime time. It’s also a good night for onion braiding, an ancient way to store bulbs pulled from the garden in late July. Some believe that onion braids offer protection, but they’re simply lovely. You need no reason more.

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”

— Sylvia Plath,
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Taste of Summer

National Peach Month is here. A fun fact: True wild peaches (small and sour) are only found in China, where the fruit is said to have mystical properties and grant longevity to those who eat them. Our peaches (plump and sugary) have magical qualities, too. Don’t believe it? Sink your teeth into a just-picked one and see if you don’t grin like a sweet-toothed squirrel.

Also, August 3 marks National Watermelon Day. Slice one for a picnic in the backyard, where the kids can make a sport of seed spitting. Since watermelons are more than 90 percent water, they’re a tasty way to help stay hydrated on hot summer days. Slip them into salads and salsas, or treat yourself to something even sweeter, like a mint and watermelon soda float. The following recipe (and a delicious homegrown watermelon) came from a friend:

Fresh Mint and Watermelon Float

2 1/2 cups fresh watermelon chunks

12–15 fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

12 oz club soda or carbonated water

Vanilla ice cream

In a blender, combine watermelon, mint and water. Blend and pulse quickly for 30–60 seconds (or until watermelon breaks down). The blending will “de-carbonate” the water, but it should still have some fizz. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl to remove seeds. Fill two glasses with vanilla ice cream and pour watermelon soda over top. Garnish with additional fresh mint. Serves two. OH

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