Lifestyle

Urban Almanac for July 2021

Greta Belanger deJong

July 1, 2021

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Average temps today: high 90º, low 64º. Sunrise: 6am. Sunset: 9:02pm.

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About 2,900 gallons of water are used to make one pair of denim jeans. (In 2018, more than 4.5 billion pairs of denim jeans were sold worldwide.) If you buy denim, consider buying recycled. And take care of those items you already own! https://www.treehugger.com/is-denim-a-sustainable-fabric-5116034

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Beans, beans, beans. Plant now through July 15. Begin harvesting seven to 14 days after flowering. If picked regularly, the plant will continue to produce over time (two-three weeks for bush varieties, five-six weeks for pole beans). Eat fresh, pickle or freeze.

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While July 4th is probably the worst day to visit Liberty Park (between 5th and 7th East and 9th and 13th South), any other summer day is certainly the best. Partake of the Farmers Market (Friday, 4pm-dusk); paddle boats on the pond; a quaint amusement park that includes a ferris wheel (11am-7pm); all manner of sporty options including tennis courts and a public pool; dogs; and—most prolifically, even since last year’s hurricane—large, lovely old trees.

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I saw a “lawn” sign yesterday: “Conserve to preserve. Brown is beautiful.” I disagree; this all-or-nothing mentality resulting in brown lawns is already stressing trees, shrubs and soil life —and creating a record outbreak of injurious foxtails (see https://catalystmagazine.net/tale-of-a-wicked-weed — or just ask your vet). So it’s not a year for lush lawns; that doesn’t mean they have to fry. INSTEAD: Water responsibly —deeply, but only once or maybe twice a week, and before 10am or after 6pm. Set out a water gauge. Set your mower blades at 3-4 inches; taller grass means deeper roots. Watch these useful videos from the city of Thornton, Colorado for helpful ideas. (And see July 25.)

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If you’ve been contemplating doing away with your lawn and replacing it with a food garden or more waterwise flowers and shrubs, here’s a good tutorial about how to kill unwanted grass.

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Reduce evaporation and keep your garden tidy with mulch—available in bags or bulk from garden centers or the Salt Lake Valley Landfill, or find straw at a farm store or online. Make it go farther by placing an underlayer of other natural but less attractive materials such as newspaper (good luck finding it) or corrugated cardboard. Mulch also discourages weeds and keeps soil cool for worms and other soil life.

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Ever notice how birds love to play in puddles when it rains? (Remember rain?) Many birds prefer ground-level bathing. Up the activity at your birdbath by making sure the water is no deeper than two inches (or add some rocks for birds to stand on). Scrub and refill it every few days. Position it in the shade. Check out these DIY bird bath ideas on bobvila.com.

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NEW MOON: 7:16 pm.

What will you begin today? Perhaps go for a stroll through Red Butte Garden. (Need a membership? Get one HERE.) July garden highlights: daylilies, roses, hibiscus, coneflowers. Monday is Family Night. And the Sundance Institute Film Series begins at the amphitheater, no membership required (see July 19).

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In the 1998 film After Life, by Hirokazu Kore-eda, the newly deceased get to pick the one memory they would like to live out for eternity. The After Life Experience is a related online experiment in which you can participate right now. Listening to others’ selections may trigger your own memories. Prompts will help you choose memories (and eventually one memory) from your own life and, if you wish, you can record it to add to the project. Compelling and beautiful. Visit the After Life Experience website.

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A newborn baby is made up of about 75% water—about as moist as a banana (74%). Via NPR.

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The best short shower: Step under the showerhead and THEN turn on the water. Whooeee! The shock of the initial cold increases oxygen intake, heart rate and alertness. Via Healthline.com.

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Like to cloud-gaze? Put that pleasant proclivity to use. GLOBE Observer is an international citizen science initiative to understand our global environment. Your observations help scientists track changes in clouds in support of climate research. To participate, just download the app, go outside and follow the prompts in the app to observe your environment. Photograph clouds and record sky observations. https://scistarter.org/globe-observer-clouds

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Quick and easy insect repellant: Pour some cider vinegar onto a paper towel and rub it over your skin. (The smell will fade as it dries.) This 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.

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Second summer begins for vegetable gardeners! Now throughout July, you can again plant beets, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, carrots, green onions, lettuce, peas, spinach, radishes and turnips. Need some confidence and know-how? Sign up for Wasatch Community Gardens’ workshop, “Get Ready to Sow Fall Crops”.

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A tendency to sleep and wake earlier helps reduce the risk of major depression by a whopping 23%, according to a study involving 840,000 people, published May 28, 2021, in JAMA Psychiatry. The study makes no claims to what causes these results. According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), however, falling asleep before 11 pm supports a healthier body and mental state and is also the optimal time for the liver to nourish and clean the blood. “If a person stays up late every day, the blood is not able to flow back to the liver for detox, thus fresh and clean blood is not produced,” writes Dr. Alen Liaw. “Without the nourishment of qi [energy] and blood, the organs are believed to fall out of balance, and will lead to serious health matters, as well as affecting emotional stability.” https://thelifehub.com/the-chinese-medicine-approach-to-sleep/

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Inspired by my brother, an expert gardener, this year I planted tronchuda beira, aka Portuguese kale. It is said to be sweeter and more heat- and drought-tolerant than other kales, and that is certainly proving to be true in my garden. Perfect for our climate!

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A vegetable I wish I’d planted, which also sounds particularly suited to our increasingly brutal summers: Egyptian spinach (molokhia). It’s described as a tasty, reliable green that makes deep roots, grows quickly (begin harvesting in 60 days) and can be cut again and again throughout the growing season. Most seductive: It actually likes high (115) temps.

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FULL MOON 8:36pm.

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Don’t flush leftover medications. Even after passing through the treatment plant, certain drugs are still detectable in the water. Instead, take your unused prescriptions to one of 100 drop-box locations across the state: https://useonlyasdirected.org/locations/ Alternative: Add water and dish soap, wrap the pill bottle in duct tape and toss in the trash.

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Speaking of flushing: I’m looking at brown, noxious weed-infested lawns and terraces all up and down my once-lovely block of McClelland St. and contemplating the additional 3,000 units under construction or just recently completed in our fair city. Toilet-flushing alone will consume a conservative 10 million gallons of water per year. Add in showers, washing machines, dishwashers and a few quarts for that most essential function, drinking—and you have to ask: How many trees, shrubs and spirits must suffer to deliver this largesse? The answer, according to Utah Rivers, is: None — partly because, sadly, Utah’s former farmland is being paved over, freeing up that water for urban use. Bottom line: Don’t waste water, ever. But don’t discount the much-needed greenery, particularly when the temps are in the 90s and above. If you have a lawn, maybe decide to turn it into something lovelier and less water-intensive this fall. (See July 6.) In the meantime, please water, at least weekly.

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Have you pinched your basil recently? Make some pesto today! Short on basil? Add parsley, cilantro, watercress, spinach, kale, arugula, maybe some mint or tarragon.

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Consider an evaporative cooler (aka “swamp cooler”). While installation and maintenance take a bit more know-how than for an A/C window unit, they use about a fourth of the electricity. Plus, they humidify the air—a definite plus for hair, skin and houseplants here in the West.

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Purslane is a prolific creeping weed you likely have in your garden. It’s also succulent, lemony and nutritious! For a tasty dip or dressing: Finely chop or process 1 c. purslane, ½ c. plain yogurt, 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, a few garlic cloves or handfuls of garlic chives, ¼ teaspoon salt.

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Next time you fly, consider these carbon-cutting tips: 1. Rethink. Trips under 600 miles are more energy efficient with a train, bus or car. 2. Choose nonstop. Planes use around 25% of their fuel during takeoff. 3. Choose the cheap seats (and don’t complain). It’s sort of the principle of the thing: First-class seats as much as double the environmental impact by weighing more and taking up more space while servicing fewer people. 4. Fly during the day. New research shows that condensation trails (contrails) from aircraft exhaust are playing a significant role in global warming. The effect is greater at night. https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-airplane-contrails-are-helping-make-the-planet-warmer

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Though odorless and invisible, summer air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley is a thing: Ground-level ozone forms when emissions from vehicles and lawnmowers react with sunlight and heat. Lungs don’t like it. Drivers idling unnecessarily over two minutes within Salt Lake City limits will receive only one warning before being issued a ticket. Get details on the idle-free ordinance here.

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

“Summer was our best season: It was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape.” — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird