Urban Almanac: May 2022

May 1, 2022

By Greta Belanger deJong


Average temps today: high 67º, low 45º. Sunrise: 6:25am. Sunset: 8:24pm. In 1923, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” became the international vocal distress signal, coming from the French venez m’aider (pron. ven-ay-may-day). It replaced SOS, “[o]wing to the difficulty of distinguishing the letter ‘S’ by telephone.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Aviation_Administration


Baby birds are hatching now, and sometimes they fall out of their nests. 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. Likewise, leave it alone if it has feathers and is hopping around. The parents are probably still watching and feeding it. www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/baby-birds/


Thinking of using weed barrier fabric in your garden? Don’t do it. Among other ills, it kills your soil, writes Jordan Valley Water Conservation District’s Conservation Park lead horticulturist Mike Lorenc. “Worms and other microorganisms break down and incorporate organic matter into the soil, their tunnels aerate the soil and cause aggregates to form, which helps with water penetration into the soil. [But] the fabric prevents organic matter from getting into the soil, which makes it unlivable for those worms and beneficial microorganisms. Without that activity the soil becomes barren, compacted and dry. In other words: dead. The lack of aeration makes the ground compacted which forces roots to stay on the surface, making them less resilient to drought. The compacted soil becomes dry because water runs off the surface instead of penetrating the earth and allowing plants to take it up.” https://conservationgardenpark.org/blog/354/why-weed-barrier-fabric-is-a-weed


The Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks tonight after midnight. Go find a dark place to lie on the ground and watch shooting stars appear to spill out of its namesake, the constellation Aquarius. Visibility should be good, with the waxing crescent Moon. Tonight’s shower is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been journeying around the sun for an estimated 200,000 years. It will return in October as the Orionids in, you guessed it, the constellation Orion. https://www.seattletimes.com/life/outdoors/where-and-how-to-make-the-most-of-the-eta-aquarids-meteor-shower-peaking-may-4-5


Reminder to all hairy people with pollen allergies: Hair can be a magnet for microscopic pollen grains and mold spores. If you’re spending time outdoors during pollen season, follow these practices: Washing your face, particularly the eyebrows, can help prevent eye and nasal allergy symptoms. Wash your hair before going to bed at night. Change pillowcases frequently. Wash or brush your pets before they enter the house. Wash their bedding (which, um, may be your bedding) more frequently. https://www.asthmacenter.com/5-ways-keep-pollen-out-spring-allergies/


If this week’s meteor shower gave you a yen for more star-gazing, head over to the Salt Lake County Library’s Hunter Branch for Salt Lake Astronomical Society’s monthly Star Party. You can approach any telescope operator and ask what they are observing. Families are welcome; masks aren’t a bad idea. Sunset-10pm, 4740 W. 4100 South. http://slas.us/


Today’s the day for plant sale fundraisers! Wasatch Community Gardens’ Spring Plant Sale runs 8am-2pm, at Rowland Hall (720 Guardsman Way in Salt Lake City). Red Butte Garden’s sale is 9am-3pm, by the amphitheatre. Previews and inspiration: https://wasatchgardens.org/plant-sale , https://redbuttegarden.org/events/spring-plant-sale/


Next-level allergy remediation: Sun salutation, a common warmup in yoga classes, is useful for opening respiratory passages. Humming, singing and chanting increase circulation to the throat and sinuses and support the respiratory system, says herbalist and author Brigitte Mars. And, of course, don’t forget the neti pot. https://www.storey.com/books/natural-first-aid-handbook/


Writer and painter Teresa Jordan, who lives in Southern Utah, produced a beautiful short (8.38 min.) video, Birds of Praise. https://teresajordan.com/2022/01/birds-of-praise/ 

You can also still glimpse an exhibit of her work at Phillips Gallery through May 13.


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. Plant seeds directly outdoors now. https://themicrogardener.com/how-to-grow-use-nasturtiums


“Gas-powered outdoor equipment, including leaf blowers and lawn mowers, emit an outsized share of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs),” according to Consumer Reports. “Running a commercial leaf blower for an hour can produce as many pollutants as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry 1,100 miles.” The nonprofit research group recommends cordless electric alternatives. Battery-powered equipment now is on a par with gas or surpasses it in terms of function, efficiency and reliability. Lots more useful info here: https://www.consumerreports.org/tools-power-equipment/reasons-to-choose-battery-powered-lawn-tools-a1182121491/


The 24th Annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival begins today. 40 field trips, 15 workshops, vendor and information booths. Continues through Sunday. Info and registration: https://www.daviscountyutah.gov/greatsaltlakebirdfest/the-festival


Three’s a charm: The twice-postponed Utah Fungi Festival finally gets off the ground tonight at Mountain West Cider, 7pm-midnight. Psychedelia: The History and Science of Mystical Experience will be screened, followed by a panel discussion. The festival continues tomorrow at Mountain America Exposition Center. https://www.wholesunwellness.com/utah-fungi-fest/


Dense and heavily scented, low-growing sweet alyssum is a pollinator magnet. But all alyssum are not created equal. The older varieties (Lobularia maritima) are cold-hardy, easily grown from seed and often self-sow from year to year in our climate. They take a break in the heat of summer and then start blooming again toward fall. On the other hand, the hybrids reportedly take heat better, ensuring a constant succession of blooms from spring till fall, but require more water and do not reseed. The scent may vary, too. They all attract “good” bugs (pollinators and the ones that eat the “bad” bugs). I’ve purchased a flat of L. maritima (‘Easter Bonnet White’) and ordered seeds for the shorter, honey-fragranced ‘Tiny Tim’ (from Botanical Interests), another L. maritima which is reportedly drought- and heat-tolerant


FULL (FLOWER) MOON: 10:15pm. Tonight we can watch our Moon journey through Earth’s shadow. The eclipse begins at 9:29pm in SLC — look to the southeast. The moon is closest to the center of the shadow at 10:11pm. By 10:53pm, the show’s over. https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/salt-lake-city


Store-bought mushrooms have negligible amounts of D vitamins. Here’s how you can dramatically enhance their bioavailability: Remove their packaging. Place mushrooms in the midday sun, gill side up, for 15 minutes to two hours. This can generate enough vitamin D in a quarter pound of mushrooms to approach the daily recommended dose of vitamin D. Transfer them to a brown paper bag to block light and let air circulate. Store in the fridge and eat within a week


The vegetables most popular among home gardeners in the U.S. are (in order of popularity): tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, carrots, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, pumpkins, kale, onions. Last year someone gave me some broccoli seedlings and I grew them, even though broccoli is not among my favorites to eat. But wow — the homegrown broccoli, harvested young, was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. https://axiomcom.com/2021-garden-survey/


When Ed Abbey was a ranger in Arches National Monument (now Park) in the 1950s, about 25,000 visitors a year traipsed through. By 2021, that number grew to 1.8 million — 72 times as many.


Refined white sugar is for the birds — in a good way. It closely mimics the chemical composition of flower nectar. So if you have a hummingbird feeder, do not substitute with honey, which can promote dangerous fungal growth; or organic, natural and raw sugars, which contain levels of iron that could be harmful to the birds. According to the Audubon Society, “The best (and least expensive) solution for your feeder is a 1:4 solution of refined white sugar to tap water. That’s ¼ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water. Bring the solution to a boil, then let it cool before filling the feeder. You can make a larger batch and refrigerate the extra solution, just remember to bring it up to room temperature before you re-fill the feeder.” https://www.audubon.org/news/hummingbird-feeding-faqs

Photo by Christopher Osten on Unsplash


Salt Lake City’s Living Traditions Festival begins tonight, 5-10pm downtown at Library and Washington Squares. Enjoy music, dance, food and crafts by people representing 90 different cultures found in the Salt Lake area. Continues Saturday and Sunday. Free.


Got ants in your pantry? Ants make a scented trail that others follow. Periodically wash away these trails with a fourth cup vinegar, two cups water and 10 drops of peppermint, clove, eucalyptus or tea tree oil. https://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/natural-remedies/pest-free-naturally-natural-pest-control/


Did you plant a new tree in the last two or three years? Remember to water it regularly, as it is still establishing itself. And mulch it: three inches deep, three inches away from the trunk/root flare, and at least three feet out. Use an organic mulch (not rubber, stone, etc.) https://extension.psu.edu/mulching-landscape-trees


Riding a bike burns calories; builds strength and endurance; defines shape and muscle tone; increases cardiovascular fitness; improves coordination and balance; decreases stress levels; reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes; and increases blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to your brain, therefore increasing gray matter. (Biking literally makes you smarter!) https://www.umt.edu/transportation/bike/about/benefits/ Considering the price of gas (to say nothing of parking fees), now is as good a time as any to consider getting a bike (or tuning up the one you have). For a safer ride, use the bike lanes. Check out this map: https://www.slc.gov/transportation/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2019/08/2019-Salt-Lake-City-and-Salt-Lake-County-Bikeways-Map.pdf


May is the time for fresh asparagus. Did you know that fat spears are produced by older plants, and that a skinny spear will never grow into a fat spear.


It bears repeating: Dental floss, hair from a brush, Q-tips, feminine products, needles, diapers and “flushable” wipes do not belong in the toilet — and definitely not oil of any kind. “Liquid fat, in the cold climate of a sewer, solidifies, and in the presence of alkaline substances like bleach, it can actually convert into a crude soap… A fatberg can become as dense and hard as concrete.” Mixed with what else goes down the toilet, the toxic, smelly result requires the removal crew to wear hazmat suits. Nobody wants that job. https://tastecooking.com/whats-a-fatberg/


Almonds are not known to grow in Northern Utah. But if you’re willing to be an early adopter, plant this one: The Hall’s Hardy variety reaches 10-12 ft. in height and is hardy to zone 5, producing 20-plus pounds of nuts in two to three years. 


Knowing your microclimate is as important as variety and zone. Learn about microclimates from this video by John and Holly Trimble, who grow almonds in Ogden’s suburbs: https://foodscapingutah.org/2020/04/15/understanding-microclimates-almonds-in-utah-how-to-get-the-most-of-areas-around-your-foodscape/


Catnip: It’s for dogs, too! While catnip acts as a stimulant in cats, it typically acts as a sedative in dogs, helping with anxiety and improving sleep. Sprinkle an eighth to a half teaspoon of dried catnip on your dog’s food to provide these benefits. Plan ahead for fireworks season by planting this easy-to-grow member of the mint family. Find it in the herb section of your garden center, or get a cutting from a friend, which you can root in water. Plant outdoors in a sunny location. https://blog.healthypawspetinsurance.com/is-catnip-safe-for-dogs


In 1977, solar panels cost $75 per watt. Now, on average, solar panels cost 70 cents to $1.50 per watt (they can run 30 cents to $2.20).


Today is the 39th anniversary of Utah’s epic 1983 Memorial Day weekend mudslide and flood — the culmination of record rainfall in ’82 followed by a record snowfall (can you imagine?). On Sunday morning, May 29, 1983, City Creek in Memory Grove jumped its banks. A massive crew of volunteer sandbaggers participated in directing the flow down State Street. Pedestrian bridges traversing the lively two-ft.-deep river were quickly constructed at First and Third South. A state and federal state of emergency was declared. But everyone who came downtown to see our little Venice, complete with trout and the occasional kayaker, was delighted and amazed. “It’s a helluva way to run a desert,” Governor Matheson famously said.


NEW MOON: 5:30am. New moons are the time for new beginnings. What will you begin today?


Average temps today: high 77º, low 54º. Sunrise: 5:58am. Sunset: 8:52pm. Here’s a poem for you, from our friend Art Goodtimes:

Poein Esti Philein: To Make is to Love

It’s spring! So
raise high the roofbeam.

But don’t make
just anything.

Marry beauty
to intention

& let the wood,
the paint, the

found word fashion
its own wedding dress

so we can begin
the dance.

Not as deed done
But as the fragrant

Branch of the plum
bends its buds

to the wind
wild with love.