Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: July 2016

By Diane Olson

A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the home, garden and natural world.

JULY 1 Famous Utahns born today: Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, physician and first woman state legislator in 1857, and Richard Kletting, architect of the Utah State Capitol and the original Saltair and Salt Palace, in 1858.

JULY 2 Forget the non-stick spray: A raw potato preps the grill just as well. Cut it in half and rub it on the hot grate.

JULY 3 DOG DAYS OF SUMMER BEGIN. Sirius, the Dog Star, is the brightest star visible from any point on Earth. Its early-morning ascendance, in conjunction with the Sun, was long believed to cause summer’s heat.

JULY 4 NEW MOON. INDEPENDENCE DAY. Earth reaches aphelion, its annual farthest point from the Sun today. It’s the tilt of the planet that determines the seasons, not distance from the Sun.

JULY 5 NASA’s Juno spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter this week, following a five-year journey, to study the jumbo planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field.

JULY 6 Ruby, July’s birthstone, was long believed to assure good health, fortune, safety and success in battle. Though for ancient Burmese warriors, simply wearing one was not enough; the gem had to be inserted into the flesh.

JULY 7 To honor the 50th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, Harry Winston jewelers recreated Dorothy’s ruby slippers using 1,350 carats of rubies.

JULY 8 Yellow jacket sting? Wet it, then cover with salt.

JULY 9 Crayfish, crawfish, crawdad, mudbug: Whatever you call it, it’s a tasty crustacean found in many Utah lakes and streams. Crayfish are omnivorous, eating water plants, insects, plankton and carrion, and are enthusiastically dined upon by trout, bass, pike, raccoons, mink, muskrats and humans. Crayfish prefer clear, fresh water and a rocky streambed.

JULY 10 You can fish for crayfish—with a valid fishing license—in and around inlets into local reservoirs, including East Canyon, Strawberry/Soldier Creek, Star­va­tion and Scofield. And then invite me over for dinner.

JULY 11 FIRST QUARTER MOON. The European Space agency plans to set up a permanent human outpost on the moon.

JULY 12 It takes a murder (of crows). American crows live in cooperative breeding family groups in which older offspring help their parents raise new broods. When new chicks hatch, family members bring the mother food and admire the babies.

JULY 13 Of the 116 species in the corvidae family (crows, ravens, magpies, jays and nutcrackers), around 40% are cooperative breeders. Whereas across the world’s approximately 10,000 bird species, only about 9% total are cooperative breeders.

JULY 14 At nightfall, look to the south for Mars, just below the waxing Moon. SpaceX plans to start launching robotic capsules to Mars in 2018, to lay the groundwork for human missions.

JULY 15 Black-chinned hummingbird nests are made of plant down and spider silk, and expand as the babies grow.

JULY 16 Take a hike. The relatively flat and mostly shaded Provo River Trail follows the Provo River 14 miles from Utah Lake east to Vivian Park in Provo Canyon.

JULY 17 Time to thin lilac, forsythia and spirea shrubs. Cut several large branches nearly to the ground, leaving just three or four at their full height.

JULY 18 Carl Linnaeus named the Asclepias—milkweed—genus for As­clep­i­­us, the Greek god of healing. You can help heal plummeting monarch butterfly populations by planting milkweed, to feed monarch caterpillars. Granite Seed in Lehi (and at graniteseed.com) carries an Intermountain Pollinator Blend of wildflower seeds that includes Common Milkweed.

JULY 19 FULL BUCK MOON. Mule deer bucks are beginning to grow new antlers. A mule deer can smell a human up to half a mile away and detect water two feet below ground.

JULY 20 Some bee colonies are teetotalers, punishing members who bring back fermented nectar. Caffeine- (found in citrus flowers) and nicotine-tinged nectars, on the other hand, are OK.

JULY 21 When corn silks first appear, sprinkle each with a few drops of mineral oil to prevent corn earworm. Or harvest immediately for baby corn.

JULY 22 Dragonfly or damselfly? At rest, dragonflies hold their wings horizontally; damselflies vertically.

JULY 23 The cherry is Utah’s official state fruit. Tart cherry juice is said to help reduce gout-causing uric acid, lessen inflammation, cut stroke risk and improve sleep.

JULY 24 PIONEER DAY. However you celebrate it (pie and beer, anyone?), today is a celebration of all who immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley before the 1869 arrival of the transcontinental railroad. Including Episcopal Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle, founder of Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s schools and St. Mark’s Hospital. And the Native Americans who preceded us all.

JULY 25 Mormon crickets, a type of katydid, swarm in drought years and go on the march in search of protein and salt. Favored foods include carrion, flowers and seed pods, mammal feces, soil soaked in cattle urine and each other.

JULY 26 LAST QUARTER MOON. Repellents containing Picaridin, DEET and oil of lemon eucalyptus are most effective at repelling mosquitoes. Top-rated products: Repel 100, OFF Deep Woods, Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus.

JULY 27 Repellent didn’t work? Cold pack bites, or dab on hydrocortisone cream, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. If swelling doesn’t decrease, take an antihistamine.

JULY 28 The Delta Aquarids meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow.

JULY 29 Glory in the beauty of native wildflowers at the Wasatch Wildflower Festival at Brighton and Solitude (Friday), Alta (Saturday) and Snowbird (Sunday). Cinquefoil, lupine, phlox, flax, monkeyflowers, paintbrush, penstemon and many more are at peak gorgeousness.

JULY 30 While admiring the wildflowers, keep an eye out for moose, mountain goats, mule deer, yellow-bellied marmots, pika and golden-manteled ground squirrels.

JULY 31 Time to start planting fall crops of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, greens and peas. u

Diane Olson is an author, content strategist at MRM\McCann and long-time CATALYST writer.

This article was originally published on July 1, 2016.