Urban Almanac

The Urban Almanac

By Diane Olson

A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the home, garden and natural worldAUG 1 Today is Lammas, the beginning of the fall harvest season.

AUG 2 NEW MOON. This month has two birthstones: lovely green peridot, brought to the surface by volcanoes, and sardonyx, often used to make cameos and intaglios.

AUG 3 Mountain bluebirds often flock in August, as they take advantage of the late-summer bounty of grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, butterflies and moths. Like kestrels, they hover over open areas as they search for prey.

AUG 4 Zion National Park’s majestic canyon was formed in a single massive avalanche only 4,800 years ago. The debris dammed the Virgin River, creating a huge lake that filled the canyon for 700 years.

AUG 5 Look to the west at twilight for the return of Venus as the evening star. Viewed from Earth, our neighbor planet travels around the Sun in an eight-year cycle called the pentagram of Venus.

AUG 6 Rub rosemary oil on your legs before a hike to keep away ticks.

AUG 7 The handsome and harmless gopher snake does a great rattle snake imitation, coiling, flattening its head, vibrating its tail and hissing. Unlike rattlers, though, they have rounded, rather than vertical pupils and no facial pits. They’re longer and slimmer, too.

AUG 8 It’s mating season for gopher snakes. If you’re hiking in the foothills, watch for the males performing their strangely beautiful combat dance, rearing, hissing, coiling and intertwining like Grecian wrestlers.

AUG 9 Have you changed the batteries in your smoke and carbon dioxide alarms lately? If not, do it.

AUG 10 Mulch tomato plants with two to four inches of organic mulch to keep them moist and well fed. Keep snipping off suckers and stay on the lookout for plump, pretty, voracious and well-camouflaged tomato hornworms.

AUG 11 Seventeen years ago today, a tornado hit downtown Salt Lake City.

AUG 12 Tonight’s Perseid meteor shower will be spectacular, with double the typical number of shooting stars—between 150 and 200 Earth began passing through the debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle in mid-July, but we hit the most dense part of the comet’s tail tonight.

AUG 13 Quagga mussels, known as the STD of the Sea, are native to a single drainage system in the Ukraine, but have hitchhiked to North American waters. That’s a very bad thing. The thumbnail-sized quagga wreaks ecosystem havoc, altering the physical landscape, destroying the food web and clogging pipes and pumps.

AUG 14 Lake Powell is infested with quagga and Deer Creek Reservoir is currently under scrutiny. If you go boating, be sure to follow proper hygiene practices: www.STDoftheSea.com

AUG 15 Don’t let those zucchini turn into clubs. Summer squash are yummiest when they’re four inches long.

AUG 16 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Do raccoons poop in your yard? If so, be very careful. Raccoon roundworm, found in feces, is dangerous—sometimes even deadly—to people and pets. Learn how to safely dispose of it at www.cdc.gov/parasites/baylisascaris/resources/raccoonlatrines.pdf

AUG 17 Cat Nights begin. Per Irish lore, for the next seven nights, witches can turn themselves into cats and back again—but only eight times. Do it nine, and you’re stuck eating Fancy Feast.

AUG 18 FULL GREEN CORN MOON. The moon contributes to Earth’s livability, by moderating the wobble of our axis, leading to a more stable climate.

AUG 19 Utah native Philo Farnsworth, born this day in 1906, contributed to the development of the TV, as well as radar, the electron microscope, infant incubators, night vision goggles, a nuclear fusion device and much more.

AUG 20 Look low to the west just after sunset for a gorgeous Jupiter, Venus and Mercury triangle.

AUG 21 It’s tarantula mating season. Though generally nocturnal homebodies, males must go on a walkabout to search for a mate. It’s a perilous journey that often ends in being eaten by a predator, run over by a car or cannibalized by a peckish female.

AUG 22 Tarantulas are shy and docile; they do not attack people. In fact, their main defense is flinging the barbed hairs from their belly into predator’s eyes.

AUG 23 Sneezy? All 20-plus species of sagebrush found in the Intermountain West are pollinating now. Sagebrush is wind pollinated, so to ensure that at least a few grains find the lady parts of another plant, each bush produces prodigious amounts of pollen.

AUG 24 LAST QUARTER MOON. A remontant rose is one that blooms more than once per season.

AUG 25 The horsehair worm has a long, convoluted lifecycle that includes: hatching underwater and waiting to be eaten by a midge, mayfly or mosquito larvae; waiting for the larvae to metamorphose, leave the water, die, and get eaten by a cricket; leaching nutrients from the cricket’s gut; forcing the cricket to commit suicide by drowning, so the worm can squirt out, swim away and perpetuate its species.

AUG 26 Why did I tell you about horsehair worms? Because parasitized crickets don’t chirp. A chirper is more noticeable and therefore more likely to be eaten by a predator. That would prevent it from committing the watery suicide the worm desires. And I’m not hearing many crickets this year. Were they all muted by parasites?

AUG 27 Willam F. Christensen, founder of Ballet West and the U of U ballet program, was born this day in 1902. He and his brothers Lew and Harold were all renowned ballet teachers and choreographers.

AUG 28 Band-winged grasshoppers lend their snap, crackle and click to late summer days. The male crepitates—makes crackling sounds—as it flies, to attract a chunky-thighed ladylove.

AUG 29 Say adios: Broad-tailed and black-chinned hummingbirds are heading to Mexico for the winter.

AUG 30 Sow alyssum, digitalis, English daisy, forget-me-not and phlox seeds now for early spring blossoms.

AUG 31 I think this nicely applies to the end of summer: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” —Dr. Seuss

Diane Olson is the author of Nature Lover’s Almanac, a content strategist at MRM/McCann and longtime CATALYST writer.


This article was originally published on August 1, 2016.