Urban Almanac

The Urban Almanac

By Diane Olson

A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the home, garden and natural world Day by day in the home, garden & sky.

SEPT 1 NEW MOON. Neptune reaches its closest approach to Earth tonight. With a telescope, you can see the blue disc-shaped planet. Did you know that you can check out a telescope from the Salt Lake County library system?

SEPT 2 Director William Hal Ashby was born in Ogden, Utah on this day in 1929. After a hellish childhood, he moved to Hollywood, where he directed a score of classic films, including Being There, Shampoo, Coming Home, Bound for Glory and Harold and Maude.

SEPT 3 There’s still time for a quick fall garden: Beets, cabbage, kale, lettuce, radishes and spinach can all be planted now.

SEPT 4 Or, if you’re done with gardening, pull and compost spent crops (unless they’re buggy). Then plant winter rye, oats, hairy vetch or buckwheat, to feed and protect the soil until next spring.

SEPT 5 Sapphire, September’s birthstone, was once believed to protect the wearer from snakes, improper thoughts, crankiness and stupidity. If only.

SEPT 6 Pears are ripening. In The Odyssey, Homer lauds pears as “a gift of the gods.” I agree. Wild pear forests were once scattered from western Asia to southern Europe.

SEPT 7 Pears get their unique, slightly gritty texture from sclereids, the same fibrous cells that make up apple cores. For fewer sclereids, pick pears before they are ripe—the neck doesn’t yield to gentle pressure—and let them soften indoors.

SEPT 8 During the Carboniferous period, approximately 300 million years ago, dragonflies really were scary. They were carnivorous, feeding on squirrel-sized animals, and had wingspans topping two feet.

SEPT 9 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Marriner Eccles, author, banker, economist, philanthropist, New Deal architect and chairman of the Federal Reserve, was born in Logan, Utah this day in 1890. He was one of 22 children born to industrialist (and polygamist) David Eccles.

SEPT 10 Marigolds, basil and tomatoes—oh my! What smells better than a fall garden? Tomatoes ripen from the bottom up, so watch for the first blush of color down below.

SEPT 11 This would be a nice day to go to the 9th West Farmers Market at the International Peace Gardens. Each plot within the Gardens represents a different country.

SEPT 12 In 2008, it snowed this week. Yuck.

SEPT 13 Bird migration time depends on the bird’s diet. Insectivores, like most warblers, vireos and flycatchers, leave when insect populations start decreasing in late summer and early fall. Omnivores, such as sparrows, have the luxury of waiting for nice traveling weather. There are also birds, like the hermit thrush, that can switch diets in the fall, so that they, too, can enjoy a flexible flight time.

SEPT 14 Tomatoes have more genes than humans: 31,760 to our 19,000 or so. More genes doesn’t mean more smarts; it’s more about how an organism uses and manages its cells.

SEPT 15 Nature is very busy right now. Leaves are changing in the foothills; birds and mammals are stashing food; mushrooms are fruiting and bazillions of plants are maturing and dispersing their seeds.

SEPT 16 FULL HARVEST MOON. The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. It rises just after sunset for several evenings in a row, and is out until dawn.

SEPT 17 Drain it, close it, cover it: It’s time to winterize your air conditioning system or swamp cooler.

SEPT 18 Also, get your heating system ready. Change the furnace filter and make sure that vents are open and uncovered. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts chilly temperatures next week.

SEPT 19 Utah’s 18 species of bats are gorging on fruit and insects, preparing to either migrate or mate and then hibernate. Some mating male bats sing love songs to their leathery ladies. Yes, bats sing. And their songs are as complex as those of songbirds.

SEPT 20 Soon, hibernating bats will be looking for a cool, airy place to overwinter. If you don’t want them in your belfry (or garage or attic), give them a house. Bat houses should be at least 12 feet off the ground, have 20 feet or more of clearance in the front, face south or southeast and get at least six hours of sun.

SEPT 21 In Japanese Buddhism, the equinoxes are symbolic of the transitions of birth and death.

SEPT 22 AUTUMNAL EQUINOX. The fall equinox occurs at 8:21 this morning, as the Sun crosses the celestial equator from north to south. Night and day will be nearly equal around the globe.

SEPT 23 LAST QUARTER MOON. Equinoxes occur on other planets that have a tilted rotational axis. Saturn’s are especially dramatic, as its rings face edge-on to the Sun.

SEPT 24 Time to dig up tender bulbs like callas, dahlias and forsythia. Cure them in the sun for a few days, then wrap in newspaper and store in a cool, dark place.

SEPT 25 Time, too, to divide and transplant spreading perennials, including rhubarb and strawberries. Both rhubarb and strawberries are heavy feeders, so they should be moved every three years or so.

SEPT 26 For the record: beaver butts smell like vanilla. In fact, their anal excretions, called castoreum, are used in perfumes and FDA-approved food flavorings. Unfortunately—for everyone involved—castoreum has be “milked” from the beaver. Needless to say, it’s not used much anymore.

SEPT 27 Cool word: Panpsychism, the concept of universal consciousness.

SEPT 28 It turns out that homes in wealthy neighborhoods harbor more insects and arthropods inside than those in less affluent areas. It’s most likely due to denser landscaping outside.

SEPT 29 Look for Mercury just above the crescent moon. In Sumerian times, around 5,000 years ago, Mercury was associated with Nabu, the god of writing.

SEPT 30 Plant cornflowers, crocus, daffodils, dianthus, grape hyacinth, narcissus, primrose, scillas, snowdrops and tulips now for a beautiful spring 2017. You’ll be glad you did.

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 September 1, 2016.