Regulars and Shorts, Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: November 2011

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.

NOVEMBER 1 Today, the Sun rises at 7:57 a.m., and sets at 6:24 p.m. The average maximum temperature is 50°; the minimum 30°. Average snowfall is 6.5 inches. Today is Samhain, the ancient celebration of the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the Celtic New Year.

NOVEMBER 2 FIRST QUARTER MOON For the next couple of weeks, we lose another three minutes of daylight every day. By the end of the month, it slows down to one minute per day until daylight begins to increase again on the Winter Solstice. 

NOVEMBER 3 Improve your soil the lazy way. You can plant cover crops (also called “green manure”) until the ground freezes hard. Try winter wheat, rye, barley, oats, hairy vetch. (Turn it under in the spring.)

NOVEMBER 4 Don’t waste those nutrient-rich leaves. Shred them with the lawn mower and leave them in place or heap them on garden beds and/or the compost pile.  

NOVEMBER 5 Stinging insects have been used in warfare for thousands of years. The early Greeks built tunnels under enemy walls and released bees and wasps into them; the Romans used catapults to hurl hives; and in the Middle East, scorpion-filled clay pots were dropped from the city walls onto invaders. 

NOVEMBER 6 Daylight Savings Time ends today. Since 2007, Daylight Savings Time has ended the Sunday after Halloween, rather than the one before, thanks to lobbying by candy manufacturers and parents who want that extra hour of light for trick or treating.

NOVEMBER 7 Cool app of the month: “Sunrise Sunset Lite” displays not just rise and set times, but also the beginning of civil twilight (dawn) and the end of civil twilight (dusk). 

NOVEMBER 8 Muck out water features and replace the pump with a deicer. 

NOVEMBER 9 Genetically engineered blue roses are coming to the U.S. this month. Not bushes, just individual flowers, which have been selling for up to $50 each in Japan. The blue “Applause” is genetically modified to synthesize delphinidin, a plant pigment and antioxidant that gives violas, delphiniums and concord grapes their color. In acidic soil, delphinidin changes from blue to red.

NOVEMBER 10 FULL FROST MOON To the Chinese, the “man in the moon” is “the toad in the moon.”

NOVEMBER 11 Looking for something special for Thanksgiving? Check out for seasonal and artisan foods, sent direct from growers and producers. Better yet, place your order with a local producer.

NOVEMBER 12 Late-season cabbage lends itself to making kim chee (can you say lacto-fermentation and probiotic vegetables?).  

NOVEMBER 13 If you haven’t already pulled up and composted annuals and planted a cover crop, pull them now. Mulch beds with three to four inches of straw, leaves or compost (for perennials, four to six inches.)

NOVEMBER 14 Wondering what to do with all that kale? Visit Make kale chips. Remove the tough stems, wash, dry well, tear into pieces and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees on a rimmed baking sheet until crisp, but still green, around 10-12 minutes, stirring once. 

NOVEMBER 15 As the days grow shorter, water houseplants less frequently, mist them more and hold the fertilizer until spring. 

NOVEMBER 16 Pediculophobia is not fear of pedicures, but rather of lice. 

NOVEMBER 17 To ensure the survival of your new tree, an Organic Gardening magazine writer advises: Don’t prune the tree, don’t add soil amendments, DO prune the roots ~ and dig a hole wider than deep. 

NOVEMBER 18 LAST QUARTER MOON. Tonight is the Leonid meteor shower, remnants of Tempel-Tuttle comet.

NOVEMBER 19 Herbs were long called “worts,” defined as “plants grown and used by housewives.”

NOVEMBER 20 Comfrey baths were once a popular pre-wedding night ritual, as comfrey was said to repair broken hymens, thus restoring virginity.

NOVEMBER 21 The Milky Way is on a collision course with the spiral galaxy Andromeda. But don’t worry; it won’t happen for at least five billion years. 

NOVEMBER 22 Under a black light, bananas glow bright indigo blue when they’re ripe. The glow results from a chemical formed as the plant’s chlorophyll breaks down, and likely guides banana-eating, UV-seeing bats and insects to the ripest fruit.

NOVEMBER 23 Your mouth is host to over 500 species of microbes, and the makeup of them differs from person to person. 

NOVEMBER 24 NEW MOON. Thanksgiving Day. In addition to the standard “gobble, gobble,” wild turkeys cluck, putt, purr, yelp, cut, whine, cackle and kee-kee. When a male turkey gets excited, his head turns blue; when he’s fighting mad, it turns red. 

NOVEMBER 25 We have taste cells not just on our tongues, but in our intestines and pancreas, too. Tonight is the Andromedid meteor shower, remnants of the comet Biela. 

NOVEMBER 26 As night falls, look for Venus next to the crescent Moon. 

NOVEMBER 27 An estimated 40% of the food produced in the U.S. ends up in the trash. Alternatives: Freeze (label well) and eat soon; send leftovers home with friends; compost (more challenging in winter); get a worm bin and some chickens!

NOVEMBER 28 This would be a good time to pot amaryllis, daffodils and tulips for mid-winter indoor blossoms. 

NOVEMBER 29 White willow bark, which has been used to treat pain since the time of Hippocrates, and from which aspirin was developed in 1829, is said to be more effective in treating pain and inflammation than aspirin, and it’s easier on the stomach, too. It also has antioxidant, fever-reducing, antiseptic and immune-boosting properties. 

NOVEMBER 30 The Sun rises at 7:30 a.m. this morning and sets at 5:01 p.m. 

has tied me
to an old dead tree
Get word to April
to rescue me.
—Tom Waits

This article was originally published on October 31, 2011.