Shall We Dance, Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: October 2007

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.
by Diane Olson

-e.e. cummings

OCTOBER 1 The Sun rises today at 7:24 a.m. and sets at 7:11 p.m. October's average maximum temperature is 66°; the minimum is 40°. The average monthly rainfall total is 1.44 inches; average snowfall is 2.1 inches. October is often windy, with wild 50-100 mph gusts following cold fronts.

OCTOBER 2 On the Chinese calendar, which breaks the months into chieh – solar periods used to describe the weather or agriculture – the first 15 days of October is the time of The Cold Dew.

OCTOBER 3 LAST QUARTER MOON. Yikes! Be on the lookout for hobo spiders. Hobos mate in the fall, and like to come inside to do it.

OCTOBER 4 Nature is weird: The hairworm parasite, which lives inside grasshoppers, pumps its host full of chemicals that cause the grasshopper to commit suicide by jumping into water, thereby allowing the parasite to swim free and find a new host.

OCTOBER 5 Cosmos, this month's birth flower, was named by Spanish priests after the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe.

OCTOBER 6 Time to plant evergreens, garlic, lilies, rhubarb, roses, shallots, spring bulbs, trees and shrubs. Consider planting trees and shrubs that will provide winter food and shelter for wildlife, such as birch, chokecherry, crabapple, cranberry, dogwood, juniper, hawthorn, holly, oak, pine, snowberry, sumac, willow and winterberry.

OCTOBER 7 If you're up really late tonight, or really early tomorrow, look for Venus, high in the sky and at its greatest brilliancy.

OCTOBER 8 Silverfish are the greased pigs of the bug world, with soft scales that slip off easily in a predator's grasp. When squashed, they leave a slippery graphite-like smear. Silverfish feed on book paste, wallpaper, oatmeal, flour, house dust, starch and each other. They engage in long, stately courtships, exchanging erotic messages through antenna and tail.

OCTOBER 9 Don't fertilize new plantings this time of year: Fertilizer promotes leaf growth and any new leaves will freeze. Instead, use root starter to encourage growth beneath the soil.

OCTOBER 10 When a freeze is predicted, cover tender vegetables with lightweight blankets, sheets, newspapers, floating row covers or buckets. Uncover them after the temperature rises above 32°F. The first frost usually hits this week, on a cloudless night.

OCTOBER 11 NEW MOON. Average first frost date. Look for a gorgeous ménage a quatre with Venus, Saturn, the blue star Regulus, and the crescent Moon.

OCTOBER 12 Fishing will be good for the next two weeks.

OCTOBER 13 It's the perfect time to transplant strawberries, spring- and summer-flowering bushes, evergreens and perennial flowers. Perennials that are overcrowded, or growing in a ring with the center missing, should be divided.

OCTOBER 14 Why they don't appreciate chocolate: Cats can't taste sweets-they lack the receptors to recognize sweet-tasting compounds like sugar and carbohydrates.

OCTOBER 15 After the first hard freeze, mulch root crops with a heavy layer of straw. You might also be able to keep spinach growing all winter if you protect it.

OCTOBER 16 On the Chinese calendar, the next 16 days are the chieh of the Hoar Frost Descends.

OCTOBER 17 Sandhill cranes and snow geese are passing through on their way south. Mountain chickadees and juncos are moving to lower elevations, and California quail are banding together. Mule deer are moving down from the high country and forming into herds.

OCTOBER 18 A spell of warm weather, known as Indian summer, often occurs now.

OCTOBER 19 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Beets, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, squash and turnips are ripening. Plant green manure crops in the empty beds, or augment the soil with a two-inch layer of compost or manure, or a mixture of shredded leaves and manure.

OCTOBER 20 Brine shrimp are laying their eggs (called cysts) in the Great Salt Lake.

OCTOBER 21 The Orionid meteor shower, remnants of Halley's comet, lights up the sky tonight and tomorrow night. Experts predict that this year's show may be better than usual.

OCTOBER 22 Brown trout are spawning. Moose are on the make.

OCTOBER 23 Opal, October's gemstone, is a mineraloid gel deposited at relatively low temperatures, and is most often found in limonite, sandstone, rhyolite and basalt fissures. Most of the world's opals are mined in Australia, though northern Nevada and Idaho also have large opal fields.

OCTOBER 24 Trim raspberry canes and cut back vines to prevent winter breakage. Reseed and fertilize lawns.

OCTOBER 25 Worms reportedly taste like bacon.

OCTOBER 26 FULL FALLING LEAVES MOON. It should be a magnificent full moon tonight, as our satellite makes its closest approach to Earth for the year; its surface will be approximately 221,688 miles from ours.

Well, it's a marvelous
night for a Moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies
-Van Morrison, Moondance

OCTOBER 27 Pot daffodils, hyacinths, paperwhites and tulips now for December blooms.

OCTOBER 28 Time to winterize the pond. Discard annuals; trim back the perennials; move delicate fish inside; remove as much sludge and debris as possible; drain 30 to 50% of the water and refill. Take out the pump and install a floating de-icer.

OCTOBER 29 Rattlesnakes are slithering together to form communal hibernation knots in burrows and under cliffs. Worms are migrating downward, and frogs and turtles are heading into deeper water.

OCTOBER 30 A cockroach can live for nine days without its head.

OCTOBER 31 The Sun rises at 6:56 a.m. today, and sets at 5:24 p.m. Halloween originated as Samhain, a Pagan festival among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain. It was a festival of both harvest and death, when stock was taken of the herds and grain supplies, and places were set at the feast for the honored dead and tales told of their endeavors.

Diane Olson is a freelance writer, proofreader, and wanna-be fulltime naturalist.

This article was originally published on September 29, 2007.