Urban Almanac

Almanac February 2020

By Greta Belanger deJong

Feb 1  Average temps today: high 39º, low 25º. Sunrise: 7:24am. Sunset: 5:59pm.

Feb 2  Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, live in Utah. The most common of the many species here is the yellow-bellied marmot. Their tunneling prowess is renowned, with sometimes 50 feet of underground mazework. They are strict herbivores who hibernate in cuddle puddles (up to 20 critters per colony) during the cold season and take only one or two breaths per minute.

Feb 3  Hard white animal fat is called suet. Mixed in equal parts with birdseed, it’s a fine cold-weather birdfood that will help wild birds stay warm. Buy at pet stores or save up your cat food or tuna cans and DIY (recipes online). Learn more about winter bird feeding: wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/

Feb 4   Declining insect populations and loss of pollinators worldwide are posing a problem for farmers (and the birds depending on insects as food). One country is taking this seriously: The government of Germany—a country slightly smaller than the state of Montana—announced a $112 million action plan for insect protection that includes safeguarding key habitats, restricting synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, reducing water and light pollution and investing in research.

Feb 5   One cubic foot of snow can weigh from three to 21 pounds, depending on how dry or wet it is.

Feb 6  The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts snow and cold for the first half of February, followed by mild temps and above-average precipitation.

Feb 7   Mindsets are lenses through which information is perceived, organized and interpreted. Mindset research is finding that even a tiny shift can change your outlook. Tired of winter? Look at it as something to be enjoyed, not just endured. See what happens.

Feb 8    Trip-chaining means that you embark on a series of errands so that your car engine remains somewhat warm during stops. This reduces the number of “cold starts,” which can be responsible for more than half of a vehicle’s emissions.

Feb 9    Full Moon @ 12:33am. On this date in 1964, The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing before a  then-”record-busting” audience of 73 million viewers.

Feb 10    Face poem: On the internet, go to PoemPortraits. “Donate” a word of your choice. An algorithm that has “read” 20 million words of 19th century poems makes a two-line poem, of sorts, that incorporates your word. If you allow it, the site’s camera will snap a photo of you and present the text on your face. (It may take a few tries before you get something coherent, to say nothing of poetic.) Silly. But fun!

Feb 11   The average person breathes 17,000 to 30,000 times a day—and more, when active.

Feb 12   Women in the Utah Territory won the right to vote on this date in 1870, a right relished until 1896 when Utah joined the United States of America. Women in Utah (or any other state) would not vote again until 1920.

Feb 13 The 24-hour day is believed to have been invented by Egyptians, who used a base-12 system, counting each segment of their fingers excluding the thumbs. The 24-hour clock is the model predominantly used around the world (excluding U.S., Canada, Australia and NZ), where 0:00 is midnight at the beginning of a day, and 24:00 is midnight at the end of a day. So Feb. 13, 24:00 is the exact same time as Feb. 14, 0:00.

Feb 14   Almost 114,000 people in the U.S. are currently on the wait list for an organ transplant. Send a Valentine to life today (and be a good recycler) by signing up as an organ donor. Put your organs, eyes, skin and more to good use after you give up the ghost. You can do this online at YesUtah.org/

Feb 15   Susan B. Anthony, who was born today in 1820, is the only woman to have her picture on a U.S. coin. Native American Pocahontas appeared on the backside of a $20 bill in the 1860s. The Harriet Tubman $20 bill, slated to appear this year, has been postponed till at least 2026.

Feb 16   Low energy may come from unconsciously holding your breath. By inhaling more deeply, more air is delivered to your lungs where oxygen is absorbed by the bloodstream and, upon exhale, carbon dioxide (a waste product, unless you’re a plant) is removed. It’s all about the gas exchange.

Feb 17  Buying a car? Check its smog rating.  Switching from a vehicle with a rating of 5 to one rated 8 will reduce your vehicle emissions by 80%! epa.gov/greenvehicles/smog-rating

Feb 18   Have you noticed all the people riding bikes at night lately? You notice them because they’re wearing white headlamps, red taillights and rear and side reflectors. These smart accessories are actually required by law on all bikes from an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise.

Feb 19  Houseflies are hatching. Houseflies, blowflies, scavenger flies, brine flies, coffin flies, flesh flies and their maggots are the master recyclers of the Earth, rapidly disposing of decaying plant and animal matter. Without their services, the planet would be carpeted with stinky carcasses.

Feb 20   To avoid fungus gnats on your houseplants, allow the soil to dry out between watering.

Feb 21   Only 118 of 417 National Park Service sites have an entrance fee. For $80, people 62 or older can buy a lifetime Senior Pass. Travel companions in the same vehicle, up to four adults, then also enter for free. The money goes to the National Park Foundation Endowment.

Feb 22  Fire Cider: Drink a shot daily (or in a cup of hot water, throughout the day) if you feel a cold coming on. INGREDIENTS: ½ c. each grated fresh horseradish root, chopped onions. ¼ each: chopped garlic, grated ginger. To taste: cayenne pepper, honey. Raw organic apple cider vinegar. DIRECTIONS: Place ingredients (except honey) in half-gallon jar with enough vinegar to cover by 3-4 inches. Seal with tight-fitting lid. Shake daily for 3-4 weeks. Strain. Heat honey and dissolve in liquid. Bottle and label. Will keep in cool pantry for several months, or store in fridge. Or share! (from Rosemary Gladstar)

Feb 23  New Moon @ 8:33am. If the temperature is above freezing, you could prune grape vines, honeysuckle, clematis, holly bushes and fruit trees now. (Keep in mind that fruit grows on horizontal branches, not vertical ones.) Don’t prune spring-flowering shrubs, though, or you won’t get blossoms this year.

Feb 24  For a midwinter pick-me-up try some yerba mate. Native to South America, this herbal infusion is known to stimulate the heart and nervous system, improve intellectual function and physical endurance and help eliminate toxins. Make it in a French press and serve with milk. Leaves can be topped off with more hot water several times.

Feb 25  It’s time to start seeds indoors for cool weather veggies: broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, onions, spinach and more. Gambling gardeners will plant peas outdoors now, provided the soil isn’t too wet.

Feb 26  Ash Wednesday, in which many a Christian receives a cross of ashes on the forehead, reminds us that “you came from dust, and to dust you shall return.” As Joni Mitchell poetically put it in her song Woodstock, “We are stardust (billion year old carbon).” Actually, it’s more like 13.772 billion years.

Feb 27  If you didn’t do it last fall, cut back ornamental grasses and thin climbing roses and raspberries.

Feb 28  Stroll through your neighborhood, looking for signs of life. You’ll see snowdrops, and maybe signs of daffodils, hyacinth, crocus and violets, and in the more eclectic gardens maybe hellebore and witch hazel. If you find hardy mints and rosemary in your own garden (or a friend’s), pinch some!

Feb 29  Average temps today: high 49º, low 32º. Sunrise: 7:02am. Sunset: 6:18pm. Today in 1872, Yellowstone became our first national park.


Greta deJong is the founder and editor of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on January 29, 2020.