Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: February 2007

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.
almanacFEBRUARY 1 FULL WOLF MOON. The Sun rises at 7:38 a.m. today, and sets at 5:46 p.m. This month’s average maximum temperature is 43° and the average minimum is 24°, and it typically snows around 9.3 inches. On the Chinese calendar, which breaks the months into chieh, solar periods used to describe the season, early February is the chieh of The Spring Begins.

FEBRUARY 2 Today is Winter Cross-Quarter Day, the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, a major spoke in the pagan wheel of the year. Also known as Candlemas, Imbolc and, more prosaically, Groundhog Day. Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow today, there will be six more weeks of winter. Of course, there will be even if he doesn’t. What is often called a groundhog is actually a marmot, many of which inhabit local foothills, dining on shoots, roots and stems.

FEBRUARY 3 Mercury, named for the Roman messenger god who flew from Olympus on winged heels, is unusually visible the first 12 days of the month, floating between Venus and the western horizon.

FEBRUARY 4 The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a February colder and wetter than usual. Whether  a storm will occur as rain or snow depends on the upper level temperature behind the cold front. For snow to occur at the 4,200 foot level over northern Utah, the air at 10,000 feet needs to be 19 degrees.

FEBRUARY 5 Sketch your garden beds, remembering to rotate your crops. Never plant the same vegetables in the same area two years in a row.

FEBRUARY 6 Today would have been Bob Marley’s 62nd birthday.

FEBRUARY 7 Keep bird feeders filled. Put out oil sunflower seeds for the juncos and house finches, peanuts for the blue jays and magpies, and suet for the flickers and starlings.

FEBRUARY 8 For a midwinter pick-me-up try some maté. Native to South America, this herbal infusion stimulates the heart and nervous system, improves intellectual function and physical endurance and helps eliminate toxins.

FEBRUARY 9 Clean and sharpen garden tools. Get lawn mower blades sharpened and tillers serviced.

FEBRUARY 10 LAST QUARTER MOON. Saturn is at its brightest and nearest to Earth as it reaches opposition to the Sun tonight. Looking like a huge golden star, Saturn rises at sunset and is out all night, its rings visible through even small telescopes. Saturn’s rings are composed of former small moons and close-flying comets.

FEBRUARY 12 Press back and re-mulch frost-heaved perennials.

FEBRUARY 13 You can smell the first subtle tang of Spring in the wind.

FEBRUARY 14 It’s mating season for coyotes, red, swift and kit foxes and wolves. Valentine’s Day was originally called Lupercalia, in honor of the mating season of Lupa, the wolf.

To love and be loved is to feel the Sun from both sides. — David Viscott

FEBRUARY 15  Crocus, violets and snowdrops are blooming. Catkins are appearing on birch trees, globe willows are getting fuzzy, and forsythia nubs are sprouting.

FEBRUARY 16 Look directly overheard around 9 p.m. for the constellation Taurus, which contains the star cluster known as the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, as well as the red giant Aldebaran.

FEBRUARY 17 NEW MOON. Fishing will be good from now until March 3.

FEBRUARY 18 On the Chinese calendar, this is the chieh of The Rain Water.

FEBRUARY 19 Venus is climbing higher and growing brighter as it crosses from Aquarius into Pisces. Tonight, it enjoys a striking conjunction with the crescent Moon.

FEBRUARY 20 House flies are hatching. Houseflies, blowflies, scavenger flies, brine flies, coffin flies, flesh flies and their maggots are the master recyclers of the Earth, rapidly disposing of decaying plant and animal matter. Without their services, the planet would be carpeted with stinky carcasses. They’re nutritious, too: Housefly maggots consist of 15.5% fat and 63% protein.

FEBRUARY 21 Pussy willows are blooming. Primrose, daffodils and hyacinth are poking their heads above ground, and Oriental poppies are greening.

FEBRUARY 22 Pull mulch partly away from emerging bulbs and perennials. Prune grapevines and fruit trees on mild days above 32°, and thin overgrown deciduous shrubs. You can also start transplanting deciduous trees.

FEBRUARY 23  FIRST QUARTER MOON. Canyon wrens, house finches, mourning doves, meadowlarks, red-winged blackbirds are beginning to sing their Spring songs. Eagles and great horned owls are nesting.

FEBRUARY 24 Easter daisies, fleabane, salt-and-pepper, wild alyssum, storksbill, spring beauty and pasqueflowers are blooming on south-facing hillsides.

FEBRUARY 25 It’s time to plant seeds for cool weather veggies, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mizuna, onions and spinach, and slow-growing ornamentals like ageratum, lobelia, stock, verbena and wallflowers indoors under grow lights or in a sunny, south-facing window.

FEBRUARY 26 Look for desert horned larks down around the Jordan River, feeding on pigweed, salt bush, ragweed and amaranth seeds. Also keep an eye out for sloe-eyed Bohemian waxwings feeding on last year’s apples, plums and berries.

FEBRUARY 27 If the ground is clear, start adding compost to your garden beds. Fertile soil will need two to three inches of new compost; depleted soil four to six inches. Also, it’s the perfect time to tackle perennial weeds like mallow, plantain and crabgrass.

FEBRUARY 28 Today the Sun rises at 7:02 a.m., and sets at 6:17 p.m. Mourning cloak and Milbert’s tortoiseshell butterflies are emerging from hibernation. Bluebirds are returning.

Diane Olson is a dirt worshipper, project manager and freelance writer. You can contact her at dianaroseolson@comcast.net

This article was originally published on January 31, 2007.