Urban Almanac

July 2020 Almanac: A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the natural world and beyond.

By Greta Belanger deJong

July 1  Average temperatures today: high 90º, low 64º. Sunrise: 6:10am. Sunset: 8:56pm.

July 2  Garlic at a glance: Hardneck and softneck (Allium sativum) and elephant (Allium ampeloprasum). Hardneck garlic has shorter shelf life but larger cloves and more flavor. Softneck garlic, the type usually found in stores, has less flavor but stores well. So-called elephant garlic is very mild and stores poorly; it is more closely related to leeks.

July 3  The waggle dance: A figure-8 strutting that bees do to communicate duration and direction of a food source to its  hive mates, during which they give off an electric charge, up to 450 volts. Flowers tend to have a negative charge and will release pollen to a bee even without actual contact.

July 4  Full Moon 10:44pm. Penumbral eclipse begins 9:07pm; maximum 10:29pm. Here is a model of what you’ll see (weather permitting).

July 5  Through July 15, plant beets, cucumbers, green onions, kohlrabi, summer squash, chard and sweet corn. July 15-31: plant beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, carrots, green onions, lettuce, peas, spinach, radishes and turnips. See more about planting broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower on p. 26.

July 6  You can also plant beans through mid-month. Begin harvesting seven to 14 days after flowering. If picked regularly, the plant will continue to produce (two-three weeks for bush varieties, five-six weeks for pole beans). Eat fresh, pickle and freeze within five days of harvest.

July 7  Rubber is the main ingredient in tires—both natural, which comes from rubber trees grown primarily in Southeast Asia; and synthetic, from polymers found in crude oil. Make your tires last longer! Maintain correct air pressure—check monthly. Rotate them every 5,000 miles. Have your wheels balanced and aligned twice a year or as needed.

July 8  How to test for toxins (from animal feces, contaminated mulch or previous chemical use) in your soil or compost: Plant some cucumber seeds (follow packet instructions) in a pot of the suspect soil; in healthy soil, seeds should germinate in three to 10 days. Mark Vander Meer, founder of Bad Goat Forest Products in Missoula, says sensitive cucumber seeds are a sort of “canary in the coal mine.”

July 9  One reason to buy “pre-owned” denim: Growing enough cotton to make one pair of jeans requires about 1,800 gallons of water.

July 10  Zucchini is healthy and abundant now. A simple prep: Slice in half, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (and herbs and Parmesan cheese, if you wish). Grill four to eight minutes per side. Yum.

July 11  Yard sales are happening in the Salt Lake Valley, most with requests or requirements for spatial distancing and masks. Deseret Industries stores are taking donations by appointment only. Read about their new “touchless donations” plan here.

July 12  “Forever is composed of nows.” — Emily Dickinson

July 13  Cotton, while a natural fabric, is considered the “dirtiest” crop in regard to how many toxins are sprayed on it. About 20% of production is now GMO, with its own potential consequences. All the more reason to buy carefully (organic cotton and hemp are more enviro-sane choices), consider re-sale, participate in clothing exchanges and, hey, what you’re wearing looks just fine! And no one sees your pants on Zoom.

July 14  What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid? Maybe it’s time to revisit a few. I’m listening to Audible.com’s Chronicles of Narnia set—more interesting than ever.

July 15  Wasps (including hornets and yellow-jackets) are the most common stinging insects. If you’ve been stung, immediately (within 20 seconds) scrape off (don’t pull out) the stinger, using a finger nail or credit card. Don’t squeeze or tweeze the stinger—that can release more venom into the wound.

July 16  If you don’t want your homegrown tomatoes to taste “store-bought,” keep them out of the fridge. Eat within a few days or can, freeze or dry them.

July 17  This song reminds me of my childhood. Whole meals came out of our fruit cellar and the freezer, all year ‘round: “Taste a little love of the summer … my Grandma put it all in jars.” —Greg Brown

July 18  All spiders have fangs, and almost all spiders are venomosus. Not to worry, though. They use the venom to paralyze their prey—other insects, not you. The black widow, found in Utah, is dangerous, but slow-moving. Contrary to reputation, tarantula bites are about as lethal as a bee sting.

July 19  Best reason to wash your hands: public door handles. A (pre-Covid) test found a NYC Starbucks door handle that had 31 times more germs than the subway.

July 20  NEW MOON at 11:33am. What will you begin today?

July 21  Smokers add about three billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. Add in tar fumes, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and hydrogen cyanide and pesticide residues. Why do we humans do this?

July 22  “Salary” comes from salarium, the Latin word for an ancient Roman soldier’s pay, which included a large ration of salt. Hence the expression “worth your salt.”

July 23  Quick and easy insect repellent: Pour some apple cider vinegar onto a paper towel and rub it over your skin. (The smell will fade as it dries.) The slightly acidic surface will make you less attractive to biting bugs. And if it fails… rubbing apple cider vinegar on the bite will decrease itching.

July 24  Evidence that poorly managed pandemics take their time: Over 16 years, the 14th century’s Black Death killed one third of the human population in China, Asia, India, Europe and Northern Africa.

July 25  The year 46 BC was 445 days long, as decreed by Roman dictator Julius Caesar. July was named after Julius Caesar.

July 26  The original beer recipe from 8,000 years ago in Egypt was barley and water with some bread to induce fermentation. About 500 years ago the British added malted barley. Soon after, hops were added.

July 27  How many pickled peppers did Peter pick? None. You can’t pick a pickled pepper.

July 28  The annual Delta Aquarids meteor shower (July 12 to August 23) can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak, which is tonight. Best viewing is from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

July 29 An open container of baking powder begins to lose strength after six months; after a year, it’s done for. To test, mix two tsp. of baking powder with a cup of hot tap water. If it fizzes immediately, it’s good. If action is at all delayed, toss it.

July 30  The wings of hummingbirds move forward and back instead of up and down. Each wing can do an entire figure-8 formation. In addition to hovering midair, it is the only bird that can fly backward and upside down.

July 31  Average temps today: high 93º, low 67º. Sunrise: 6:23am. Sunset: 8:43pm.


Greta Belanger deJong is editor and founder of CATALYST.  Gretchen@CatalystMagazine.net/

This article was originally published on July 2, 2020.