Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: December 2006

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.
urbanalmanacDECEMBER 1 Today the Sun rises at 7:32 a.m., and sets at 5:01 p.m. December’s average maximum temperature is 37°; the minimum is 21°; and it snows an average of 13.7 inches.

DECEMBER 2 The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a slightly colder than usual December, with less than normal precipitation.

DECEMBER 3 It’s generally coldest just after dawn, when the rising Sun warms the ground and stirs up the cold air, causing it to rise.

DECEMBER 4 FULL LONG NIGHTS MOON. Horehound is good for alleviating coughs, and can help lessen asthma symptoms.

DECEMBER 5 Flocks of Canada geese are congregating around open water.

DECEMBER 7 On the Chinese calendar, which breaks the months into chieh (solar periods used to describe the season), this is the chieh of the Heavy Snow.

DECEMBER 8 Individual plants can control the numbers and types of fungi and bacteria attracted to rhizosphere (the zone around their roots) by exuding varying nutrients.

DECEMBER 9 Mercury, Mars and Jupiter enjoy a celestial ménage à trois tonight, while elsewhere in the sky, Saturn rubs shoulders with the waning Moon.

DECEMBER 10 Keep soil warm with a layer of shredded leaves or straw. If there’s a break in the weather, try putting in a late crop of winter rye to feed and protect the soil.

DECEMBER 11 Frogs slumbering beneath the mud in ponds and creeks, and fishes’ metabolisms are slowing.

DECEMBER 12 Tonight and tomorrow is the Geminid meteor shower, one of the year’s best. Look to the northwest throughout the night.

DECEMBER 13 If at all possible, get out outside for an hour each day and soak up some natural light. If not, full spectrum light bulbs inside can help lessen the winter blues, aka seasonal affective disorder.

DECEMBER 14 Halcyon Days, a period of calm weather, often occurs this week. Legend has it that this respite is caused by the halcyon, or kingfisher, a large fish-eating bird that builds a floating nest. The female halcyon, who is brooding this time of year, is said to charm the wind and waves, enabling her young to safely fledge.

DECEMBER 15 Ants, like people, have clearly defined personality differences. Individual ants in the same caste and same nest can be intelligent, adaptable, hard-working, lazy, fast, slow, aggressive, fearful or passive. Also, ant colonies behave very differently from one another: Some live on dead insects, some on sprouted seeds, others on food stolen from other species or colonies.

DECEMBER 16 Jupiter, crossing into Scorpius, now appears as a morning star, while Venus emerges in the evening twilight, close to the horizon.

DECEMBER 17 On the Chinese calendar, now is the chieh of the Winter Solstice. Astrologically speaking, this is a good day to breed.

DECEMBER 18 Protect delicate trees by spraying the trunks with an anti-desiccant, or wrap them in burlap.

DECEMBER 19 Why not buy a living Christmas tree? Though they require extra attention and are more costly than cut trees, you’ll be left with a lot cheerier scene the day after Christmas. If you like the idea of a living tree, but haven’t a place to plant one, donate it. The city forester picks up donated trees and stores them until suitable planting weather. It’s a good thing to do, and you’ll get a tax deduction, too.

DECEMBER 20 NEW MOON. Great horned owls are mating, juncos and chickadees are migrating to lower elevations, and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count is happening.

DECEMBER 21 Today is the Winter Solstice, celebrated by Pagans as the rebirth of light. Late this afternoon, the Sun will reach the southern apex of its year-long journey, where it will rise and set for three days, then turn and begin its unhurried journey back to the Northern Hemisphere.

DECEMBER 22 Ice fishing should be good from now through the end of the month. Look for Sirius, the Dog Star, low in the southeast around 9 p.m.

DECEMBER 23 Black- capped chickadees, starlings and magpies are regular visitors to feeders. It’s a good time to set out suet, as they need some extra fat right now.

DECEMBER 24 Tonight was once celebrated as Mother Night, when all the great goddesses gave birth and the world was born. Animals were believed to possess the gift of speech, and the trees in the forest were said to bloom briefly at midnight, producing fruit which granted immortality.

DECEMBER 25 The modern Christmas tree originated in Germany during the Middle Ages as the primary prop in a medieval play. The “Paradise tree,” set up on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve, represented the Garden of Eden. The fir was decorated with the apples of temptation and wafers symbolizing the bread distributed at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. By the 17th century, when German settlers brought the custom to the American colonies, cookies, stars and other decorations had replaced the wafers and apples.

DECEMBER 26 Moose in local canyons are beginning to shed their antlers.

DECEMBER 27 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Dark days got you feeling like a hermit? Check out the website “Hermitary— resources and reflections on hermits and solitude,” www.hermitary.com.

DECEMBER 28 Native Americans called the frozen fog that sometimes haunts the Wasatch front and other mountain valleys pogonip, and recommended against breathing it.

DECEMBER 29 If you have a cold, try an infusion of chamomile and a pinch of thyme to irrigate nasal passages. Chamomile vapor is also helpful in clearing the lungs.

DECEMBER 30 Porcupines, skunks and raccoons are denned up in tree cavities and under rock outcrops (and similar urban structures), coming out to feed during mild weather.

DECEMBER 31 The Sun rises at 7:51 a.m. today, and sets at 5:09 p.m.
Green thoughts emerge from some deep source of stillness
which the very fact of winter has released.
 — Mirabel Osler

This article was originally published on December 1, 2006.