Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: May 2020

By Greta Belanger deJong

May 1  Average temperatures today: high 67º, low 45º. Sunrise: 6:25am. Sunset: 8:24pm.

May 2  Stuck in the house with a well-stocked pantry but out of ketchup? Make your own: https://bit.ly/3eVcrIX

May 3  What to plant in the garden this month: beans, beets, carrots, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, endive ground cherries, kale, kohlrabi, melon, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radish, squash, tomatoes.

May 4  Star Wars Day. Why today? In 2005 a German news TV channel mistranslated the famous “May the force be with you” quote as “We are with you on May 4th.” Movie marathon, anyone? Or practice your laser sword moves.

May 5  Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower (pre-dawn; may also be visible yesterday and tomorrow). The Eta Aquarids is an above-average shower, with about 30 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere, though tonight’s nearly full moon will be an impediment. The shower, produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley,  has been observed since ancient times. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius but can appear anywhere in the sky.

May 6  You are not alone; and the global iNaturalist citizen science project Never Home Alone: The Wild Life of Homes is proving it. What’s in your house? Look in light fixtures, cellars, attics, windowsills and potted plants. Draw a picture of the bugs you find; a magnifying glass or hand lens is handy. Or capture with a macro lens on your camera or phone. For the really obsessed: Get a 400x microscope and investigate your own face mites. https://bit.ly/3cU20DX

May 7  SUPERMOON | FULL MOON at 4:45am. May’s full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because of spring flowers appearing in abundance. This is also the last of four supermoons for 2020. The Moon will be at its closest approach to Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

May 8  Those wool dryer balls really do work, reducing drying time, wrinkles and static. They typically last two to five years. If they still look decent, you can revive their power by washing them in hot water on a gentle cycle, then drying on high heat. www.friendsheepwool.com

May 9  Want to plant a better park strip? Improve your existing landscape, waterwise? Purchase a “smart controller” or upgrade your old toilet? UtahWaterSavers.com offers free consultations and rebates.

May 10  Nasturtiums are fast and easy to grow. If you like the peppery tang of its relative, watercress, you’ll want to eat these nutritious flowers and leaves as well. They come in bush, trailing and climbing varieties. They like sun and water but can tolerate poor soil. Best to start them from seed. https://bit.ly/3aEgp5x

May 11  The go-to pets for 1950s kids were Sea-Monkeys, advertised as “instant life” in comic books. Really they were brine shrimp. The patented creature is similar to our Great Salt Lake Artemia but was created in a lab and does not exist in nature. https://bit.ly/2yNFqxO

May 12  Today is International Nurse’s Day and the birthday of Florence Nightingale, born in Italy in 1820. A Brit who founded modern nursing, she was a social reformer and, by training, a statistician. She died in 1910.

May 13  Teach your children the Chicken Dance. Because someday, there will be wedding gatherings again, and they will need to know this. I viewed many tutorials on your behalf and judge this version, taught by two enthusiastic kids, the best. Complete with shelves of books in the background, you’d swear the 2013 video was made last week. https://bit.ly/3aH8g0j

May 14  “Imagine, for a moment, slamming your face into a brick wall going 16 miles per hour. This self-destructive (and foolish) act would require you to exert about 1,200 g of force. Yet, a woodpecker exerts the same force up to 20 times per second, and as many as 12,000 times per day, pounding its head into trees!” That’s a partial description of a workshop by woodpecker specialist and Peterson Guide author Steve Shunk titled “Tongues, Toes and Tales of Utah Woodpeckers” at Davis County’s 22nd annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, an event we look forward to each year, which was to have begun today.

May 15  Robins nest in trees. Swallows build their mud nests in eaves. Babies are hatching now, and sometimes they fall out. If the baby is featherless and you can see and reach the nest, put it back. If you can’t, place it nearby, out of harm’s way if possible. The parents will find it. If it has feathers and is hopping around, leave it alone. The parents are probably still watching and feeding it. https://bit.ly/3bMaInG

May 16  Take a hike on the Poetry Path. Look for excerpts of poems engraved on boulders along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near the Natural History Museum of Utah. https://bit.ly/2VDUxCW

May 17  Who gardens? Everybody! A 2019 National Gardening Survey shows that the number of Millennial gardeners is the fastest-growing demographic, now equaling Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and beyond. Altogether we spent more than $52 billion on our gardens in 2018.

May 18  If the earthquake and its tremors have you thinking more about preparedness, check out the apps that allow you to text and talk without electricity or internet connection—essentially turning your phone into a walkie-talkie within short range. Also useful at festivals, rallies and other mass gatherings, though no time soon: https://bit.ly/2y3FklH

May 19  Want to help the hummers? Make nectar! I know this sounds counterintuitive but refined white sugar is the healthier option, at least in your hummingbird feeders. (Planting hummer-friendly flowers is the healthiest.) According to Audubon Society, “Honey can promote dangerous fungal growth. Organic, natural and raw sugars contain levels of iron that could be harmful.” The plain white stuff closely mimics the chemical composition of flower nectar. Join a citizen science group to help learn more about hummingbirds and how to protect them: www.hummingbirdsathome.org/

May 20  Great news for anyone interested in family history: The US National Archives records are now available for free on Ancestry. Could be something cool in there—it’s quite the treasure hunt. (Courtesy of Lauren Singer Katz) www.ancestry.com/cs/nara

May 21  Hungry for music that your current online-sourced algorithm has not yet delivered? Check out New Sounds, a production of New York Public Radio. Right now I’m listening to episode #4356, “Broadcasting From Home”—music from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Argentine singer-producer Juana Molina, Russian sound sculptor Kate NV, and fingerstyle guitar from Senegal by Tidiane Thiam. www.NewSounds.org

May 22  NEW MOON at 11:39am. What will you begin today?

May 23  Comfrey is a “dynamic accumulator”—the tap root pulls up nutrients from deep in the soil and enriches the leaves. The hardy perennial, available at most nurseries, grows enthusiastically in the SLC area. Its fuzzy foot-long leaves can be harvested  throughout the growing season. Use in the garden as a compost activator, to improve compacted soil or to make liquid fertilizer. Leaves are loaded with allantoin, found in fancy wrinkle creams. For a cleansing oil and dry skin conditioner, pack as many comfrey leaves as possible into a jar containing a cup of almond oil; seal and steep in a warm place for a few weeks, shaking regularly; strain. https://bit.ly/3aGlMRy

May 24  You’ll find the leaves and berries of sea buckthorn (aka sea berry) mostly in skincare products and now in the commercial food market as a healthy additive—it tastes tropical and has more vitamin C than citrus but comes from the forest. Best news: Sea berries can grow in Utah! This vigorous salt/drought/cold-tolerant pest-free nitrogen-fixing shrub needs good drainage (slopes are great), full sun. One male services up to eight female plants. https://bit.ly/3aAE4DP

May 25  “In every gardener there’s a child who believes in the Seed Fairy.” — Robert Brault

May 26  “If all you did was just looked for things to appreciate, you would live a joyously spectacular life.” Esther (Abraham) Hicks

May 27  How to tell a butterfly from a moth: If wings at rest are perpendicular to the ground, and the body is smooth and slender, it’s a butterfly. Horizontally positioned wings on a fat, fuzzy body? That’s a moth.

May 28  Drink your tea or coffee to enhance alertness, mood and concentration. But when it comes to creativity, don’t count on caffeine (www.ScienceDirect.com, March 2020). Better bets: meditation, sleep and fresh air.

May 29  Can you identify the herbs in your yard or neighborhood? Common plants you might see: mints (including lemon balm and catnip), sage, feverfew, Jupiter’s beard, dandelion, dock, chicory, violets, comfrey, clover and, of course, lavender.

May 30  We’re all about planting lots of sweet alyssum—hardy in Utah’s hot sun and cool falls. Besides smelling heavenly, it attracts “good” bugs (the ones that eat the “bad” bugs).

May 31  Average temps today: high 77º, low 54º. Sunrise:  5:58am. Sunset:   8:52pm.

Greta Belanger deJong is editor and founder of CATALYST.  Gretchen@CatalystMagazine.net

This article was originally published on May 2, 2020.