Urban Almanac

The Urban Almanac: January 2018

By Diane Olson

A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the natural world and beyond.

Jan 1  Sunrise: 7:51am. Sunset: 5:11pm. Max. temp: 35 degrees; min. 23 degrees. Snow fall for the month: 11 inches. Tonight is the Full Wolf Moon, also a Super Moon (at its closest approach to Earth, so it looks larger and brighter than usual).

Jan 2  Giving the gift of yourself, literally: Donate blood. If you can’t donate blood yourself, volunteer. Info: redcrossblood.org

Jan 3  Earth reaches perihelion, its closest position to the sun, today. Doesn’t feel like it, does it? Tonight is also the Quadrantid meteor shower—40 meteors per hour at its peak. Unfortunately, the full moon will block out all but the brightest this year.

Jan 4  A hard freeze is a period of at least four consecutive hours of air temperatures that are below 25 degrees F. Many plants can survive a brief frost, but very few can survive a hard freeze.

Jan 5  Instead of commercial ice melt or salt, consider using sand, sawdust or kitty litter for traction on icy sidewalks. Alfalfa meal, a natural fertilizer, also promotes melting. Safe Paw Ice Melter, said to be safe for kids, critters and the environment.

Jan 6 White glass rings left on furniture from a distracted reveler? Remove with a thin paste of olive oil and salt. Using your fingers, gently massage paste into the ring. Let sit for two hours, then wipe off. Or coat with petroleum jelly, let sit for 24 hours and wipe. (And remember the coasters for your next party.)

Jan 7   This is a good time to prune apple and pear trees. These trees develop fruit on short branches called fruiting spurs, which are productive for only five to seven years. Pruning encourages the growth off productive new spurs. Prune grape vines now, too. Cut them back to the main structure of the plant, leaving two buds per side-shoot.

Jan 8  Running a ceiling fan in reverse pushes warm air down from the ceiling, so heat doesn’t go to waste.

Jan 9  Birds stay warm in winter by shivering. so they need lots of fatty calories in winter. Set out suet, peanuts, niger, black-oil and hulled sunflower seeds and you’ll see house finches and sparrows, California quail, dark-eyed juncos, morning and Eurasian-collared doves, downy woodpeckers and northern flickers.

Jan 10 Test your home for radon, leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in the U.S. Test kits available online for $9 from DrHomeAir.com/utah/

Jan 11  Sprinkle a few drops for eucalyptus oil on your shower walls to clean lungs and sinuses.

Jan 12  Got cabin fever? Head out to the West Desert and look for overwintering bald eagles, red tailed hawks and kestrels.

Jan 13  Get outside and tune into the natural world, whatever the weather. Look for bird nests and pay attention to the shapes of trees.

Jan 14  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 15  Houseplants with brown leaf tips and edges are likely suffering from excessive fertilization or dryness; yellow or drooping leaves are caused by poor light, cold, excess water or insufficient drainage.

Jan 16  New Moon. The moon is passing over us in the daylight—that’s why we can’t see it. It rises at 7:25am and sets at 5:21pm.

Jan 17  Did you clean the garden tools last fall? If not, scrub them off, oil any moving parts (3-in-1 oil works well) and sand and repaint or seal wooden handles. Use a whetstone or non-electric knife sharpener on pruners and loppers, and a file on the edges of hoes, shovels and trowels. Western Garden Center carries new blades for certain brands of rose clippers.

Jan 18  Got the winter blues? Start some seedlings or a worm bin, or repot your houseplants. Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium found in organic soil, stimulates serotonin production, making you happier, healthier and smarter for up to 14 days. While you’re at it, give your plants a sponge bath to clean their pores. Yes, plants have pores.

Jan 19  To counteract icky inversion air, drink licorice tea, which soothes and softens irritated and inflamed membranes. Licorice also supports the adrenals.

Jan 20  Come on down to Trolley Square for CATALYST’s 5th Annual Clean Air Solutions Fair! See back cover of this issue for details.

Jan 21  Become an amateur naturalist. Record observations of plants and animals at the national online program Nature’s Notebook, to generate longterm data sets for scientific discovery and decision-making. usanpn. org/nn/become-observer

Jan 22  Have you changed your furnace filter lately? No? Check out the new SLC company Air (RememberAir.com). They determine how often your filter should be changed. Then they come to your house and change the filter for you.

Jan 23  If possible, park your car facing east so that it can absorb rays of the rising run and make your morning windshield cleaning easier.

Jan 24: In 1965, Alta recorded 105 inches of snow during a single six-day storm.

Jan 25  Damp shoes or boots? Stuff them with newspaper. This will dry them faster (and help remove odors).

Jan 26  Caught the sun shining? Open the drapes or blinds. This will help warm the room, save on heating costs and raise spirits, too.

Jan 27  For health purposes: Do something relaxing every day. It lowers your adrenaline level, which lowers stress, which improves your immune system, increasing your ability to ward off any marauding bugs.

Jan 28  Exercise your brain with a puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles engage both sides of the brain to improve memory, cognitive function and problem-solving skills. Try word searches, crossword puzzles and sudoku, too. Knitting does this too!

Jan 29  Edward Abbey was born on this day in 1927—writer, provacateur, monkeywrencher, “earthest” and longtime Utah resident. “All we have, it seems to me, is the beauty of art, nature and life, and the love which that beauty inspires.”

Jan 30 Take a walk around the neighbor with an eye out for snowdrops, violets and hellebores blooming in south-facing niches.

Jan 31 Sunrise: 7:38am. Sunset: 5:44pm. Today’s high: 39 degrees; low: 22 degrees. Full moon—also a Blue Moon (second full moon in the month) and Super Moon. And total lunar eclipse. What a day for luna-lovers!


This article was originally published on January 1, 2018.