Urban Almanac: August 2009
by Diane Olson
AUGUST 1 Summer Cross-Quarter Day/Lammas. The Sun rises at 6:22 a.m. today, and sets at 8:44 p.m. August’s average maximum temperature is 89°; the minimum is 61°. It rains an average of .86 inches.
AUGUST 2 Flies use their antennae as wind speed indicators. The antenna have small, feather-like projections that catch the wind like a sail.
AUGUST 3 Let the ground dry out before picking chili peppers if you like them extra hot. Otherwise, water first. People in the Americas have been eating chili peppers since at least 7500 BC.
AUGUST 4 Cornmeal stimulates beneficial microorganisms in the soil, and helps prevent damping-off and other soil-borne fungal diseases.
AUGUST 5 FULL GREEN CORN MOON. You can tell that corn is ripe when the husk is tight and the silk has dried and turned brown. Early non-Native American farmers, for whom corn (properly called maize) was a major staple, often suffered from pellagra, a form of malnutrition. It was eventually discovered that the indigenous Ameri_cans soaked their corn in alkali water, made with ashes; this liberated the niacin in the corn. Insufficient niacin causes pellagra.
AUGUST 6 Avon Skin-So-Soft is a great mosquito repellent, as are lavender and eucalyptus oils. The male mosquitoes’ ears are in his antenna.
AUGUST 7 Plants need: Nitrogen for leaf growth, Phosphorus for root growth, Potassium (potash) for digestion,
Calcium for strong cell walls, Magnesium, iron, manganese and sulfur for chlorophyll production, Zinc and copper for enzyme activation, Molybdenum for healthy structure and Boron for tissue growth.
AUGUST 8 Lure insects away from outdoor gatherings by coating a few small pieces of cardboard (or anything else) with syrup, and placing them around the perimeter of the yard. The wasps, bees and yellow jackets will have their own party.
AUGUST 9 Male mayflies have two penises, and females have two vaginas, so they can do it double time.
AUGUST 10 The four most prominent families in ancient Rome named themselves after beans: Lentulus (lentil), Fabius (fava), Cicero (chickpeas) and Pisos (peas).
AUGUST 11 The Dog Days of summer, when the Sun is at its zenith over the western hemisphere, officially end today. Tonight is the Perseid meteor shower.
AUGUST 12 Bugged by ants in the kitchen? Spray ’em with soapy water. Not only will it kill them (sorry, ants!) but it also erases the pheromone markers that guide the other ants along the food trail.
AUGUST 13 LAST QUARTER MOON. Keep deadheading chrysanthemums, coreopsis, cosmos, marigolds, phlox and zinnias. And don’t forget to pinch the basil.
AUGUST 14 A paste of baking soda draws the venom out of insect stings. Big, striped Jupiter is at its closest approach to Earth tonight. It rises at sunset and is out all night.
AUGUST 15 Gopher or mole? Gophers create fan-shaped mounds of dirt around their holes; moles circular ones. Gophers eat vegetables, buds, and roots; moles eat worms and insects. Pouring used kitty litter into their holes will supposedly send both gophers and moles scrambling for a new home. Gopher tunnels can run as long as 800 feet.
AUGUST 16 Freeze freshly picked parsley to preserve its volatile oils, which have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animals, particularly in the lungs.
AUGUST 17 CAT NIGHTS. Look for Venus, in Gemini, hanging below Mars and the waning Moon tonight.
AUGUST 18 Time to fertilize parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, Swiss chard and watermelons. Hong Kong residents grow 45% of their own vegetables.
AUGUST 19 Limp, yellow leaves are a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Poor root development and stunted growth comes from a lack of phosphate.
AUGUST 20 NEW MOON. Fishing should be good from today through September 4.
AUGUST 21 Yikes! Guys using outhouses receive the majority of black widow bites. Female black widows often weave their webs just beneath the hole in the seat, and attack guys’ dangly bits in defense.
AUGUST 22 Convinced that the sun fell exhausted every night and needed human blood to give it the strength to rise again the next morning, the Aztecs sacrificed 15,000 men each year to the sun god Huitzilopochtli.
AUGUST 23 The appendix is a “fermenting vessel,” like the extra stomach of cows, and contains bacteria that help break down the cellulose in leaves into usable sugars. Since we no longer eat many leaves, the appendix is shrinking as we evolve. Some people are even born without one.
AUGUST 24 Babe Ruth wore a cabbage leaf under his baseball cap to keep cool, and changed it every two innings. Mark Twain wrote, “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
AUGUST 25 The average starling nest harbors up to 80,000 parasitic, blood-sucking mites.
AUGUST 26 Smell the soil in different parts of your yard. A sour smell indicates acidic soil with excess sulfur dioxide and insufficient oxygen. Garlic-smelling soil can be a sign of arsenic (or garlic). Healthy soil smells dense and slightly sweet.
AUGUST 27 FIRST QUARTER MOON. At nightfall, look for the red star Antares near the waxing Moon. Antares is a red supergiant in the Milky Way galaxy, and the 16th brightest star in the sky. Many Egyptian temples are oriented so that the light of Antares can fall within certain times of the year.
AUGUST 28 Rub a teaspoon of salt between your hands to get the smell of garlic off them. It’s an exfoliant, too.
AUGUST 29 Stop fertilizing roses and broad-leaved evergreens until next spring.
AUGUST 30 Time again to plant cool weather crops, including beets, beans, carrots, endive, garlic, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach.
August 31 The Sun rises at 6:53 a.m. today and sets at 8 p.m.
Summer’s lease hath all too short a date. -William Shakespeare
Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.