Urban Almanac: January 2022

January 1, 2022

By Greta Belanger deJong


Average temps today: high 35º, low 23º. Sunrise: 7:51am. Sunset: 5:10pm. 

The early Roman calendar year consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox. However, over time, it became out of sync with the sun. With the help of astronomers and mathematicians, Julius Caesar remedied the situation by adding 90 extra days to the year, beginning with 46 B.C. (One must wonder what the B.C. years were called at the time — it surely wasn’t a countdown to Christ.) He also decreed January 1 as the first day of the new year in honor of the month’s namesake, Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces enable him to look to the past and future simultaneously. https://www.history.com/


I came across notes for a 2007 New Year’s Resolutions story I never wrote. It’s a perennial list. Details are lacking, but you get the idea:

  • Drink more (and better) water.
  • Release the past.
  • Improve posture
  • Sleep well.
  • Breathe.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Pause daily.
  • Eat more plants.
  • Compost better.
  • Read more.
  • Plan(t) a garden.
  • Take to the waters.
  • Improve your relationship with your pets.
  • Reduce your plastics footprint.
  • Commit to remembering people’s names.
  • Pay attention to dreams.
  • Make an altar.
  • Keep an “illuminated journal.”
  • Make a will.
  • Clean out the garage/basement.
  • Grow your own food, starting now, indoors: yogurt, kefir, sprouts, sourdough for bread, kombucha, beer, wine, kimchi.
  • Mark the seasons and celestial celebrations on your calendar now, and honor them.
  • Join/start a book club.
  • Learn to cook something new.


January’s birthstone is the garnet, valued by humans since at least the Bronze Age. Two types of garnet, pyrope and spessartite, are found in Utah. Almost 70% of Utah is BLM land open for recreational rockhounding, according to geologist Mike Rhea. Here’s where to find them: https://rockhoundresource.com/utah-rockhounding-location-guide-map/


January of 2013 was Salt Lake City’s coldest month since 1949. On January 17, Salt Lake County Animal Control picked up a freezing, matted mess of a Maine coon cat suffering from pneumonia. They blessedly nursed him back to health and in mid-April, he was finally placed on the floor for adoption. That same day, I wandered in. Our eyes locked. Out of his kennel, he lounged on my lap. It was love all around. He became my Mosey (because that’s the way he walks). Which segues into the question, “Do cats need coats?” The answer is probably not, especially if they’ve been going out regularly as the temperature dips. As long as they have access to shelter, they’ll know enough to go there if they get too cold. Of greater concern are salt and grit irritating their paws, toxic antifreeze, frostbite to ears and toes, and burns and trauma from hot car engines. Keep a closer eye on animals with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, hormonal imbalances (such as hyperthyroidism), and kittens or older cats, for they may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, says American Veterinary Medical Association president Dr. Douglas Kratt.


If you see tiny taupe moths in your house, they’re probably pantry moths; they’ll eat your cereal and pasta but won’t hurt your wardrobe. Clothes moths live in the dark, ideally in fabric folds, and are rarely seen. Adults do not eat. In late fall, they lay their eggs, which may hatch before spring in the artificially warm indoor climate. The damage to your clothes comes from the hatched larvae who just love animal fibers (wool, silk, cashmere) and surface debris including food, hair and skin. That’s why drycleaning animal fabrics in the fall is good. Or try this all-natural anti-moth treatment to destroy clothes moths, larvae and eggs: freezing. “Place your garments in air-tight moth-proof bags and tightly seal, pressing out any air from the bag. Freeze garments for at least 48 hours, and up to two weeks for full effect.” Vacuum your closet and drawers before replacing. https://clothes-doctor.com/blogs/journal/how-to-get-rid-of-clothes-moths


Today is the Epiphany, commemorating the Three Kings’ arrival in Bethlehem. The king bearing the gift of myrhh must have been the practical sort: “Myrrh is used for indigestion, ulcers, colds, cough, asthma, lung congestion, arthritis pain, cancer, leprosy, spasms and syphilis. It is also used as a stimulant and to increase menstrual flow. Myrrh is applied directly to the mouth for soreness and swelling, inflamed gums (gingivitis), loose teeth, canker sores, bad breath, and chapped lips. It is also used topically for hemorrhoids, bedsores, wounds, abrasions, and boils.” At the time, it may have been more valuable than gold. https://www.rxlist.com/myrrh/supplements.htm


“It was on this day in 1789 that the United States held its first presidential election. The turnout was very small. Only white men with property could vote, and of the three million people in America, 600,000 were slaves, and many more were women or men who did not own property; in the end, fewer than 39,000 people voted, or 1.3% of the population. They elected George Washington unanimously, and he was inaugurated at the end of April. — The Writer’s Almanac. Garrison Keillor: 2021


Some plants develop ingenious ways to survive winter. Some hide underground as roots, bulbs and tubers crammed with food; some secrete alcohols and sugars as a kind of antifreeze, or grow low to the ground to avoid wind chill. Others, such as mountain laurel, grow hairs as insulation, or like lichens, dehydrate.


“Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy. Let’s go for a long ride Sunday; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours.” — President Richard Nixon, whose birthday is today; from a letter to Patrica Ryan. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2012/03/12/148457269/before-he-became-tricky-dick-richard-nixon-wrote-love-letters


Most home gardens are made up of annual vegetables and fruit. If you have the space, consider including some perennials in your plans — asparagus, chives, berry bushes, strawberries, rhubarb, and fruit and nut trees. Garlic, radicchio and kale are typically grown as annuals but they, too, are perennials, if you want to experiment. Here’s some inspiration: https://www.ruralsprout.com/perennial-veggies/


Urban Food Connections’ Winter Market is a great place to buy locally grown and produced healthy foods. This year it’s indoors at the Gateway (north end, just behind the plaza stage). Shop for hardy greens, root vegetables, meat, honey, sauces, dairy products, bakery goods, fruit and more. First hour of parking in The Gateway garages is free. The garage accessible from 100 South is the closest to the market. https://www.slcfarmersmarket.org/winter-farmers-market

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash


January is the year of the birch, according to Celtic tree astrology. Birch was worshiped as a goddess by the Druids. Birch bark has been used to make paper, casts, canoes, bowls and tipis. Its wood makes excellent guitar amplifiers, speaker cabinets, drums, skateboards and toothpicks. Extracts of birch leaves and sap are used to make tea, syrup, sweetener, vinegar, beer, dyes, shampoo, cosmetics, lubricant and glue, and bundles of birch twigs have been used for both recreational and punitive flogging. Birch pollen is among the most potent of allergens. Birches prefer acidic soil, so are not prolific in Utah.

Image by Marsal1 from Pixabay


Birds need help in winter. It’s not too late to hang up a bird feeder. Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association, offers this advice:

• Buy large birdfeeders so you don’t have to fill them so often. Wet seed can grow harmful bacteria, so use feeders with wide covers.

• Place feeders 10 feet away from dense cover to prevent sneak attacks from cats.

• Unless you live near a natural water source, place a pan of water near a feeder on warmer days. Or you could consider a heated bird bath to provide drinking water.

• Once birds find your feeders, they will rely on them for regular food supplies. If your feeders become empty, especially during ice storms or blizzards, birds will have a hard time finding natural food. If you take a trip, have a neighbor keep your feeders filled. More useful tips: https://wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/


If you must ride an elevator with others, skip the speech. Covid, cold and flu viruses spread when people talk, laugh, sing or otherwise breathe. The most germ-infested button in the elevator is usually the first floor button. Press it with your knuckle. Or take the stairs; exercise is known to reduce your chances of an upper respiratory infection (unless everyone else is taking it, too).


Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (his life and work are celebrated Monday, the 17th, this year) and gender-bending Saint Joan of Arc, who is said to have led French soldiers to victory over the British in 1429. She was burned at the stake at age 19; most of the charges against her related to her wearing of men’s clothes.


Loss of the sense of smell is sometimes a chronic aftereffect of Covid. Also, the sense of smell deteriorates with age. To the rescue: smell retraining therapy. Every day, smell something floral, fruity, spicy and resinous — for instance rose, lemon, cloves and eucalyptus essential oils. Or go with scents you have around the house — coffee beans, peppercorns, lemon peels, scented soap. Sniff each for 10-20 seconds, at least once daily. This practice is believed to improve brain connectivity along with stimulating the regrowth of olfactory nerve cells. www.enthealth.org


Full Moon. 4:51pm. Today is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin (1706), whose autobiography I, as a fellow Capricorn, admired in my youth, and to whom, I’ve since learned, I am related on my mother’s side.


Full Moon. 4:51pm. Today is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin (1706), whose autobiography I, as a fellow Capricorn, admired in my youth, and to whom, I’ve since learned, I am related on my mother’s side.


If you need a break from the inside of your head, take one minute to check out the inside of this creature’s head: Go full screen and watch this video of the rarely seen deepsea barreleye fish with a transparent head and tubular eyes who lives beyond the reach of sunlight. https://earthsky.org/earth/barreleye-fish-rare-video-transparent-head/


Reminder: Winter is downtime for most houseplants. With cooler temps and less light, growth slows down. It’s easy to overwater them; don’t, especially if you’re not offering supplemental light. Also leave off on the fertilizer till spring



Wintry word of the day: apricity (a pris’ ity). It comes from Old Latin and means “warmed by the sun on a winter’s day.” You know that delicious feeling when the air is chilly but you also feel the sunshine? Mmm.


Well-placed and properly chosen trees and shrubs can cut cooling and heating costs by about 25%. Begin your research now, and plant as soon as the soil has thawed in early- to mid-spring. Deciduous (trees that lose their leaves each fall) or evergreen? What’s its mature size? Where will they be most effective? Find detailed, helpful information here: https://forestry.usu.edu/trees-cities-towns/tree-selection/plant-trees-energy-conservation/ and here: https://forestry.usu.edu/news/utah-forest-facts/planting-landscape-trees


Jesus walked on water. Even the uncoordinated can walk on ice, with the aid of Yaktrax—discrete, slip-on/slip-off traction cleats that go right over boots. Good for dog-walking, hiking, shoveling. Available at most sporting goods stores.


Interactive rabbithole for any mood: With the ever creative Neal Agarwall’s Ambient Chaos tool, you mix the many sounds he provides at the volume level you choose for your own pleasure. Rain + Coffee Shop + Lo-Fi Beats makes for a most relaxing soundscape, in my estimation. On the other hand, Beehive + Alien Ship ain’t bad, either. Medieval Battle with Nuclear Siren is oddly interesting but freaks out my dog. https://neal.fun/ambient-chaos


Easy treat for winter-weary skin: Tie up about half a cup of oatmeal, any kind, in a washcloth, coffee filter (closed securely with a rubber band) or nut milk bag. Swish it around in your bath water and use it like a sponge on your body. Soothing! Afterward, put the spent meal into your compost pail or worm bin.


Ikigai (ee’-kee-guy) is a Japanese word roughly translated as “a reason for being,” or finding your happiness in the everyday. This Venn diagram shows how ikigai is at the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at. Ikigai via Reddit


The Environmental Working Group is most famous for its Dirty Dozen guide to pesticides in produce. They also have databases that rank cosmetics, cleaning products, solar energy and tap water. Find them all at www.ewg.org/


Advice from a first responder and one simple task that just might save a life: Make your address visible from the street, including at night. “Because if we can’t find you, well… we both know how that’s going to end.”



Respect the Earth—and the rare-earth metals you’re likely carrying around right now. Extend your smartphone’s life by fixing it when things break, occasionally cleaning the charging port (instructions online) and replacing dying batteries. If you must replace your phone, consider buying one that’s been manufacturer-refurbished. https://macmyths.com/ And, of course, repurpose or recycle the old one.


“We are, after all, biologically wondrous things, in part, because of sleep…. Prioritizing your sleep in early and mid-life may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, or at least slow its approach, in later life. Even if you’ve been neglecting sleep until now, it’s never too late to start. Clinical studies have shown that successfully treating middle-aged and older adults’ sleep disorders delayed their onset of dementia by up to 10 years,” Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science in Berkeley and author of Why We Sleep, writes in BBC Science Focus magazine (6/10/21). Here’s a conversation with Dr. Walker: https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/instant-genius-podcast-sleep-with-dr-matthew-walker/


Today through April 4 we celebrate the philosophies and lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. This annual 64-day “Season for Nonviolence” was established in 1998 by Arun Gandhi (Mohandas Gandhi’s grandson) with help from Dr. Michael Beckwith and Dr. Mary Morrissey, of the Association for Global New Thought and the Parliament of The World’s Religions. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Season_for_Nonviolence

Martin Luther King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence:

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

From The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change



Average temps today: high 37º, low 26º. Sunrise: 7:38am. Sunset: 5:43pm. Yet another New Moon this month: 10:49pm. New moons are considered a good time to start new projects. How about getting to bed earlier? See Jan. 29.