Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The "Dog Days of Summer"...

A couple of weeks ago the FIREWATER blog had a small ‘tribute’ to summertime; that sweet interlude in the temperate northern forests between an often chill spring and crisp autumn days. Most of us are familiar with the phrase “The Dog Days of Summer”, but until recently I couldn't really tell you when the Dog Days of Summer occur. Not, that is, until reading a great FIRE AVIATION SAFETY BRIEFING enlightening me on the subject.

Here’s what I learned:

Historically the Dog Days of Summer are from early July to mid August. Reportedly the name comes from the Romans who saw Sirius join the sun at sunrise before disappearing from the night sky. Sirius, the alpha star in the constellation Canis Major, is called the Big Dog. Thus the nickname for Sirius is "the Dog Star".

The name Sirius means "searing or scorching" relating to it's brightness as a star and relationship to summer. Ancient Romans believed that Sirius added its warmth to that of the sun's as they neared one another and that this was what produced the hottest days of summer. Currently the Dog Days of Summer are considered to be the long, hot seemingly endless summer days.
While it is fatigue and heat stress that present a problem to firefighters we’ll take a look at a few other “Dog Day” activities in this group of photographs. All images unless otherwise noted are property of J. Foster Fanning. Remember double left click any image to see a larger, more detailed version.

In image # 2 above we see an old farm truck driving down a hot & dusty dirt road with windrow hay mowed nearby & awaiting a bailer in the height of summer. You can almost smell the fresh cut hay & see the heat line shimmering along the hillsides...

Image #3 is of a careless fire that has escaped control. Regardless of how hot it is firefighters must engage the blaze and attempt to bring it under control. The "Dog Days" can be days of sweat & grit for firefighters.

Photograph #4 has us looking out from a shade filled old cabin, through a glass-less window draped in flowering hops and onto a bright, sun-lit field of dry grass. We all know the feeling of taking shelter from the sweltering sun in deep shade, and we know too the all-so-bright moment of walking out from that sheltering shade & into the blinding summer sun.

Photo #5 captures a momma doe with her fawns hiding in the shade of a woodshed, awaiting out the heat of the day before foraging on. Left to their own, deer will spend most of the hot hours of the summer day resting in the shade.

Image #6 are of small, summer flowers found growing at mid-slope elevations in the Kettle River Valley (I am uncertain of their name - can anyone help me out here?). These beautiful blossoms grow on hot, dry & rocky south slopes very close to the ground.
And what would the "Dog Days" be if not for the faithful grills all about the land. Truly this is a summer tradition through-out much of North America, and a delightful one at that. In photo #7 we have a local master chef preparing a feast for friends.

And speaking of a gathering of friends - any excuse will do. Here the merry revelers are celebrating the Hageman / Marshal wedding. But it could just as well be any number of summer events where friends gather in the sunshine...

Remember that sensation of walking across sand so hot you could barely keep from running. Ah summertime, when pale bodies (nurtured carefully) turn a golden hue as with the walker pictured here in image #9.

Hot sand brings to mind it's opposite - cool water.
Here we have a trio of intrepid explorers who have nosed their boat into the opening of a small lake shore cliff cave as they wile away a long summer's day at leisure.

Water, water, water... Cool, clear water. That brings to mind the song of lacking water - Dan & I...
But there's no lacking water in photograph #11 (by Catherine Brown) as yours truly showers under a cascading falls along Lake Roosevelt.

We'll stay with the water theme as we near the close of this posting. There is a mermaid like quality to this image of a swimmer gracefully surfacing into the hot air from cool, green depths.

Turns out this post was a bakers dozen of images.
We'll close with this one titled SUNGATE. I think ancient Romans contemplating the relationship between Sirius and old Sol would have taken a moment to enjoy this view found at the end of a summer's day.
I hope you are enjoying your summer too!

From the FIRE & AVIATION BRIEFING: An excellent brief on fatigue and fatigue management by the Missoula Technology and Development Center can also be found at

Dog Days of Summer on Wikipedia

For some cool images of the star Sirius go to:

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