Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac August 2020: A monthly compendium of random wisdom from the natural world and beyond

By Greta Belanger deJong

1  Average temps today: high 92º, low 67º. Sunrise: 6:24am. Sunset:   8:42pm. On this date in 1944, Anne Frank wrote her last diary entry.

2  James Baldwin was born on this date in 1924. Check out PBS’s “I am Not Your Negro.”

3  FULL MOON @ 09:59am. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Sturgeon Moon because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year.

Happy 59th birthday to President Barack Obama, born on this date in 1961.

Survey your basil plants daily and pinch buds with vigor. Once they blossom, leaf production nosedives.

Scott Nearing was an American radical economist, educator, writer, political activist, pacifist, vegetarian and advocate of simple living. He was born on this date in 1883 and died on August 24, 100 years later. He and his wife, Helen, inspired the back-to-the-land generation with Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World (1970).

7  Shorebird migration populations peak on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge this week, with an average of around 70,000 birds. Look for large flocks of snowy egret and white-faced ibis feeding along the shorelines.

8  The worldwide Self-Realization Fellowship was founded by Hindu mystic Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi). In 1955, a nun named Daya Mata became president and led the group for 54 years until her death at age 96. Daya Mata, born Faye Wright in 1914, grew up Mormon in Salt Lake City.

9  Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s  treatise on living a meaningful life in nature, was published today in 1854.

10 Tasty zucchini recipe: Toss 1.5 pounds of grated zucchini with 1.5 teaspoons of salt. After 20 minutes, twist in a towel to extract liquid. Sautee minced shallot in butter briefly. Add zucchini, cook two more minutes. Then add half a cup of heavy cream, cooking till absorbed. Fold in chopped parsley or tarragon. (Thank you, Julia Child.)

11  The Perseids meteor shower, peaking tonight, reliablly produces many bright meteors, conditions permitting. Best after midnight.

12  Improve your soil this winter, starting today: Plant crimson clover beneath and between plants and wherever there’s naked soil. Leave it in place until next spring.

13  Time to fertilize parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, Swiss chard and watermelons with some nice stinky fish emulsion.

14  Today in 2003, 50 million people from NYC to Detroit experienced the biggest blackout in U.S. history, triggered by trees on a powerline in Ohio and a software bug in the alarm system. Most places had power restored by midnight. Here are some interesting photos of the event.

15  “An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music” began in a farm field outside of Woodstock, NY on this date in 1969, drawing half a million people. It famously lived up to its name, thanks in part to Wesley Pomeroy, described years later in his NY Times obituary as “security chief of the Woodstock festival…where his compassionate handling of hundreds of thousands of music lovers was credited with helping to make the festival the peaceful love-in it became known as.”

16  Dental remains of hunter/gathering people are enviable—no cavities. That is because their diet was basically low-carb, consisting mainly of meat. When farming emerged, they ate more grain, producing more acids in the mouth, and cavities became a thing. Ancients chewed on fibrous twigs to remove plaque.

17  Milkweed (Asclepias) leaves are the first food of monarch butterflies. Historically, all parts of the plant have been used medicinally by humans. The silky fluff from their pods was used for pillow stuffing. That would have taken a lot of milkweed!

18  New Moon @ 8:42pm. One hundred years ago today, after 72 years of organized effort, American women gained the right to vote.

19  Dogs in space: Today in 1960, in the Soviet Union, two 12-pound stray mongrels, named Belka and Strelka, became the first mammals to be launched into space and return alive.

20  Reminder: time to sharpen your knives. There’s a lot more left to the season’s bounty that needs slicing, dicing and chopping.

21  Garter (or garden) snakes are being born now in litters of 20-40. They are “ovoviviparous”—that is, females lay eggs within their bodies, releasing the young as the eggs hatch. Utah’s most common snake, they prefer moist environments and can be found in urban irrigated gardens eating bugs, earthworms and even small rodents.

22  How to tell a raven from a crow: Crows caw. Ravens croak. Ravens are larger and often travel in pairs. Crows travel in groups (called murders).

23  Earthrise: Today in 1966, for the first time, humans saw Earth from the viewpoint of the moon. The world has never been the same.

24  It’s time again to plant cool weather crops, including beets, beans, carrots, endive, garlic, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach. Provide shade for the peas and greens.

25  “Nerd” first appeared in print in 1950, in Dr. Seuss’ If I Ran a Zoo. At that stage apparently a nonsense word, “nerd” did not evolve to the “awkward but brainy” definition until the 1980s.

26  The Popsicle was accidentally invented in 1905 by an 11-year-old boy who, nine years later, patented his invention. Currently owned by Unilever, two billion Popsicles are sold each year.

27  Human sweat contains an antimicrobial protein called dermicidin, which protects against a wide range of pathogenic organisms and fungi, including E. coli and candida. So get out there and sweat!

28  Mead (honey wine), perhaps the oldest fermented drink known, is made from honey and water. It may be still or bubbly, and sweet or dry, with alcoholic content ranging from 8-20% ABV.

29  The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is like a thrift store for construction materials and house parts. It’s a great community resource. Shop or donate Tues.-Sat., 11am-5pm. 1276 S. 500 West.

30  As many as 10 million bacteria and other microbes live in a single teaspoon of soil.

31  Average temps today: high 86º, low 62º. Sunrise:  6:54am. Sunset: 8:00pm.


Greta Belanger deJong is editor and founder of CATALYST.  Gretchen@CatalystMagazine.net/

This article was originally published on August 2, 2020.