Garden Like a Boss, Regulars and Shorts, Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac

By Diane Olson

A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the home, garden and natural world.
by Diane Olson

JAN 1 NEW YEAR’S DAY. It’s the perfect day to switch out calendars and mark birthdays and other important dates. Maybe make soup while you’re at it; one with warming herbs, like cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne and ginger.

JAN 2 LAST QUARTER MOON. Robert Smithson, creator of the Spiral Jetty on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, was born on this day in 1938. Spiral Jetty is beautiful in winter.

JAN 3 The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow. If it’s clear, look high to the north after nightfall. It’s usually one of the year’s best, with up to 40 falling stars per hour.

JAN 4 Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a warm January, with temperatures averaging 38 degrees—six degrees above normal. Other forecasters, however, predict that the super El Nino will bring a super ski season, with the majority of snow falling this month.

JAN 5 In medieval England, Twelfth Night marked the end of the winter festival of Saturnalia. The normal social order was reversed, and who found the bean in the king cake ruled until midnight.

Screen Shot 2016 01 08 at 5.04.13 PMJAN 6 Ever seen a flock of cedar waxwings? They’ll take your breath away. In winter, these gorgeous nomads travel from yard to yard, searching for leftover berries and fruit.

JAN 7 At dawn, look for Venus and Saturn to the right of the waning crescent Moon. Venus was long thought to be two separate stars– the morning star and evening star—respectively known as Vesper and Lucifer.

JAN 8 If you’re looking to conserve energy and lower utility bills, an energy audit is a good idea. Beware scammers offering free audits, though; it’s a common sleazy sales ploy. Questar offers audits for $25. Email In or call 1-888-324-3221.

JAN 9 NEW MOON. It’s National Mail-Order Gardening Month and here come the catalogs. Go ahead, indulge in an afternoon of browsing, dreaming and planning. (See “Garden Like a Boss,” this issue.)

JAN 10 Crows hold funerals. And grudges. People who frighten, anger or hurt a crow can count on being heckled and scolded by all the crows in the area for at least three years.

JAN 11 Look for Orion, the Hunter, in the winter sky. The three stars in his belt are Alnitak, which is 100,000 times more luminous than our Sun, blue supergiant Alnilam and Mintaka, a double star.

JAN 12 Orion’s sword is home to the brilliant Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery where new stars are born. It’s one of the few nebula easily seen with a telescope.

JAN 13 If houseplant leaves are turning yellow from tip to stem, nitrogen is needed. Dissolve a package of unflavored gelatin into a quart of water and apply to soil. Repeat monthly.

Screen Shot 2016 01 08 at 5.05.11 PMJAN 14 Last fall, a floating city appeared in the clouds above two Chinese cities. It was a Fata Morgana, a rare, light-bending mirage, named for Morgan le Fey of Arthurian legend, Fata Morganas include both upside-down and rightside-up images stacked upon each another. The Flying Dutchman ghost ship was likely one.

JAN 15 Birds need lots of fatty calories in winter. Set out suet, peanuts, nyjer, black-oil and hulled sunflower seed and you’ll see house finches and sparrows, California quail, dark-eyed juncos, mourning and Eurasion collard-doves, Downy woodpeckers and northern flickers.

JAN 16 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Sprinkle a couple drops of eucalyptus oil on your shower wall to clear lungs and sinuses.

JAN 17 Go for a walk, whatever the weather. Being outside for just 15 minutes per day decreases stress, depression and aggression, and increases general health, happiness, healing and attention span.

JAN 18 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY. MLK visited Utah on January 31, 1961, and spoke to a crowd of more than 1,500 in the University of Utah Union Building.

JAN 19 It’s breeding season for red foxes, which are still fairly common in the south end of the valley. Soviet scientists created a new breed of fox, the Russian Domesticated Red Fox, and they’re as tame as dogs.

JAN 20 Need some happy? Start some seedlings or a worm bin, or transplant houseplants. Be sure to use organic soil. Exposure to the soil organism Mycobac­terium vaccae makes you happier, healthier and smarter for up to 14 days.

JAN 21 In a power outage, food in the fridge will stay good for four hours. In a full freezer, frozen food lasts 48 hours; in a half-full one, 24.

JAN 22 When the Moon is almost full, but not quite, it’s waxing gibbous. Just after, it’s waning gibbous.

JAN 23 FULL WOLF MOON. Temperatures on the Moon swing from 260 degrees F in the daytime to -280 degrees F at night. In some deep craters, though, it’s always around -400 degrees F.

JAN 24 Running a ceiling fan in reverse pushes warm air down from the ceiling, so heat doesn’t go to waste.

JAN 25 Plants have way more senses than we do—15 to 20—including analogues of our measly five of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing.

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JAN 26 Hearing crazy trilling-mewling-whistling-growling-shrieking sounds in your backyard? It’s raccoons mating. Raccoon sexy time lasts well over an hour, and hookups occur several nights in a row.

JAN 27 Look for Jupiter just above the waning Moon tonight.

JAN 28 Though human ears are now stationary, we still retain the ancient neural circuitry that enabled our mammalian ancestors to rotate theirs.

JAN 29 Edward Abbey—writer, provocateur, monkey wrencher, “earthiest” and long-time Utah resident—was born on this day in 1927. “All we have, it seems to me, is the beauty of art and nature and life, and the love which that beauty inspires.”

JAN 30 Now would be a good time to take the lawn mower or tiller in for sharpening.

JAN 31 LAST QUARTER MOON. Take a walk and look for swelling buds, greening garlic and blooming violets and snowdrops.

Diane Olson is an author, content strategist at MRMMcCann and long-time CATALYST writer.

This article was originally published on December 30, 2015.