Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A silver lining?

Just in case, fire crews are wrapping Cold Springs Tavern in a protective foil wrapping. That way, if the Zaca Fire begins racing toward the pass, the historic building will be protected.

For some reason, I can't stop picturing the owner returning after the fire burns through to find the foil-wrapped tavern has expanded to twice its original size, and huge puffs of popcorn are spilling out of the doors and windows. Imagine the salty, butterish aroma!

Curse you, Jiffy Pop... I hate what you've done to me...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Are You There God? It's Me, Gloria

Big news here at the ranch... our little chick is now a hen. Gloria laid her first egg this morning. It's tiny, about the size of a quail egg, and a lovely teak brown. So cute!

One of the exciting things about raising eggs here is the variety—so much more interesting than a foam carton of identical orbs from Death Star Farms. The Orpintons' eggs are chai-ish: some just off-white, some almost cafe au lait. When the little araucanas start laying, their eggs will range from ceylon green to china blue. Pictured here (from front to back): a quarter, Gloria's first egg, an Angie egg, an Ethel egg. Ethel's eggs are about 30% bigger than Angie's—much larger than the typical grocery store egg. BIG.

In fact, I've learned that sometimes Ethel's eggs are too big. For example: a pasta recipe that asks for "three eggs" needs less than two Ethel eggs. I'm learning to trust my instincts as a cook, recipes be damned.

It will be a few more months before Gloria lays regularly enough for us to recognize her "type" of eggs—for now, we'll just know they're the little ones. And try to stop strolling around singing, Urge Overkill style: "Chick (ba bom bom bom) you'll be a layer soon..."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

"Welcome to Santa Barbara Airport... D'oh!"

I'm here today as the animated Queen Whackamole, voicing my support of the Light Blue Line Project. There has been a lot of debate about the City Council's choice to spend $12,000 dollars on painting this line—a line indicating Santa Barbara's coastline changed by the (conservatively) predicted seven-meter rise. That is: this is where your kids will want to put their beach towels to watch your grandkids or great-grandkids play...

Scientists don't know precisely when it will get here, but we know it's coming, by trickle or flood. As Bill McKibben argues in his 1989 (almost 20 years ago!) book The End of Nature, climate change means that nothing is known anymore... we're well into "best guess" territory. It's not new information we're getting now (McKibben certainly can't be accused of "greenwashing" in 1989)—we're just finally getting the old information, or kinda getting it. I don't think any of us can really comprehend how much change is ahead. I know I can't. Easier to cross that bridge when we come to it. The future will have lots of bridges: structural, emotional, cultural, economic...

Really, compared to all we don't know, the amount of sea-level rise is a relative sure thing. I don't think of the Light Blue Line as art—I think of it as information.

The value will come if we are able to act on that information. While almost all leaders now admit that global warming exists, they can't seem to incorporate this information into their planning. They say they get it, yet in their actions climate change is nothing but a theory, a remote possibility.

We need to hold our leaders accountable, and give them support, for making difficult and unpopular decisions that recognize the reality ahead. We should be questioning why the airport is being expanded in its current location, on reclaimed wetland that is highly vulnerable to changing sea levels. From afar, we in Santa Barbara can click our tongues as FEMA provides funding for folks to rebuild in Midwest flood plains year after year... we can question the wisdom of rebuilding a sinking New Orleans... but what we really need to do is recognize that change is happening, change will impact us, and the sooner we start responding, the easier our task will be.

Wow. When I get animated, I really get animated! I'm off to Moe's.

A tip of the animated iceberg to both George & Amy...

Jelly time!

Last night we visited the gorgeous (and surprisingly unsmokey) Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, where members of the extended Whackamole family are enjoying ranch living for a week. My brother-in-law greeted us with a margarita, which we sipped by the pool. Turns out, I would be an awesome cattle rancher: I like pools AND margaritas!

Anyway, we heard of their many guest ranch adventures: archery class, five-star dining, breakfast rides, and catch-and-release bass fishing were just a few of them. Alisal Ranch has a private lake, with a pier, paddle boats, and jellyfish. Um, yeah. Jellyfish, the size of a nickel. Swarms of them.

I'd never heard of freshwater jellyfish. How cool!

So, in the labyrinth of government agencies, it turns out that the U.S. Geological Survey keeps track of Non-native Aquatic Species (motto:"Putting the NAS back in NASTY"), including freshwater jellyfish. It turns out, if you flip a freshwater jellyfish over, you will be able to read "MADE IN CHINA" on the bottom.

Reading about these freshwater jellies—Craspedacusta sowerbyi, indigenous to China's Yangtze River valley—it doesn't sound like they're dangerous. They can sting, in theory, but their sting is not powerful enough to be felt by swimmers, in theory. (There are some things I'm just not interested in testing.) Scientists don't know much about them really, but they don't seem to harm local fish or have much effect on local ecosystems. Ah, sweet ignorance...

Jellyfish are fascinating. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an awesome exhibit of jellies, and I spent most of a day mesmerized by little living lava lamps. I wish they had a jelly cam. I wish I could have a tankful of jellies at home. Unfortunately, jellyfish are pretty difficult to keep. Apparently, the freshwater jellyfish are no easier.

Plus, as much as I love jellyfish in the ocean or in aquariums, I'm unnerved by the little creatures suddenly appearing in a local pond. It ain't natchrell. Freshwater jellyfish, indeed. What's next? Sharks in Lake Cachuma?

Picture from the IUP Jellyfish Research Site

P.S. It's not your imagination. Birds really do sing when you visit the Alisal web site. Not that I was fooled at all...