May 2017

Wild Horses

Anyone who says beauty is only skin deep has never seen my pancreas.


He’s done it again, The Donald has. As best I can recall, the first thing he did right was killing the TPP. Now, hidden way down in the depths of his despicable budget is the remarkably reasonable proposal to sell wild horses without the requirement that the buyers guarantee (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) they won’t be resold for slaughter.

A little background here.

The genus Equus originated on this continent millions of years ago and eventually spread over the intermittent land bridge to Asia and Europe.  Then, about 12,000 years ago humans came this way across the land bridge and, not recognizing the horses’ potential as draft animals and pets, ate them all.  The Spanish conquistadores reintroduced the horse, and it became very popular, not least among the cowboys and Indians.

Naturally some escaped and became wild again, but since we’ve killed all the wolves and most of the mountain lions, they now have no predators and have reproduced to stress the carrying capacity of parts of the BLM-managed range.

And that’s a problem because they compete for forage with the cattle that the BLM lets the Bundys run on public rangeland for about a dollar an acre a year, so the ranchers want Something Done.  Since Americans get all warm and fuzzy about horses, we can’t just send in Apaches (no no, the helicopters) to gun them down.  So they’re rounded up and sold.

Ummm, except who wants a wild horse?  Well, our neighbors in Mexico and Canada will pay enough to make it worth shipping them.  Oh, but then propaganda groups like Wild Horse Education started wondering why our neighbors would be so kind as to provide loving homes for our excess horses, and it didn’t take them long to figure out that our uncivilized neighbors were eating all the pretty horses!  Thus the campaign to make the buyers declare that the horses wouldn’t be slaughtered.

Backing up a bit, when i lived in Germany i was horrified to discover that the French and Germans ate horses, and then when i started visiting the Netherlands noticed that horse meat was also sold in Dutch markets.  By then, my culinary curiosity had advanced to the point that i was willing to try eating it, but i kept putting this off because i knew it would be disgusting even though a Dutch confidant disclosed that the real connoisseurs like to eat it as carpaccio.  Finally, near the end of my last visit, i bought a fillet of horse and then let it sit around until a couple of days before my departure when i cooked it as a simple steak au poivre.  I sat there in front of it, steeling up my nerve because i knew i had to take a bite to get the bragging rights.  OK, OK, i thought, all i have to do is swallow one bite, and then i can say i’ve eaten a horse.

I cut off a small bite, lifted it to my trembling lips, stuck it in my mouth, bit down, and went into shock.

It wasn’t good.  No no, it was absolutely delicious.

Late Note:  Ten days after i posted this, the Atlantic came out with a splendid article.  Do click on that.

Meanwhile, since i don’t have a recent pic of a fine horse, here’s one of the flower and seed ball of a Tragopogon porrifolius growing in the field to my east.  (Identified by David Ogden and Sharon Goetz)

flower and seed ball

And backing away, here’s a shot showing some buds to help you identify this thing.



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The Hamadas

“Did you sleep well, dear?” i asked the Muse as she fluttered down with my morning inspiration.


I tuned in to the Hamadas in 1994 when the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market was new and Yukio and Yonki were bringing their cherries and nectarines.  I found them delightful.  No no, Yukio and Yonki were delightful, the cherries and nectarines were merely delicious.

And it wasn’t just Yukio and Yonki.  I immediately hit it off with their workers, Gordon and Janet, somehow jumping to the conclusion that Janet was a family member on the sole shred of evidence that she was Japanese.  So early on they became one of my favorite vendors, and i gradually expanded my purchases beyond the cherries and nectarines to their other offerings, most spectacularly the Buddha’s Hands since i’d never seen one and Yukio was the first vendor to bring them to the market.

But it wasn’t just the cherries, nectarines, and Buddha’s Hands.  Oh no.  There were apricots and apricot-plum hybrids like pluots and apriums as well as peaches and wonderful grapes, most particularly the Niabels that i used to make the best grape jelly i ever ate.  Not to mention yuzus and other citrus varieties you rarely saw elsewhere like shaddocks and pomelos and citrons.

And then, in the early 2000’s Yonki died suddenly and tragically, and shortly thereafter Yukio turned over operation of the farm to his son Clifford, who was just as delightful and just as innovative.  On a lark back then he brought to the market some Marsh grapefruit, not from their groves but rather from an old tree in their yard.  I went wild over these things because finally finally i got to again eat the grapefruit of my childhood, quite sour like God intended rather than hybridized for increasing sweetness.  These fruits are virtually extinct now since farmers have ripped out the old Marsh trees and replaced them with sweet varieties that pander to the American taste for sugar.

Clifford, bless his heart, kept bringing them to the market every January – February even though it was only i and a handful of other old folks who bought them, and this endeared him to me even more.

And then, a couple of months ago, Cliff mentioned that owing to a shortage of things to sell, he wouldn’t be at the market for a while, and i thought, well, i’ll just have to hold my breath until his cherries are ripe.  I’ve been writing about them and their wonderful fruit since the beginning, and i want to keep doing so.

Last Friday the bomb went off.  Things have not gone well for them, and they’re leaving the market.

I’m devastated.  Other vendors of mine have left, but none i was as fond of as the Hamadas.  Worse yet, this departure carries with it an undercurrent of misfortune and makes me wish there were something i could do.  Well, other than fan the flames of my eloquence to their brightest in a letter employing my best penmanship.

Meanwhile, some green plums on the tree overhanging the flood wall downstream from me.  As with the Hamada’s cherries, our lifesaving rains this spring knocked off a lot of the blossoms, so the crop will be small.

Plums overhanging the Petaluma River flood wall

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Eclipse Idiocy

“Put a little piece of tape over the hole in your soul that keeps you physiologically dependent on refreshing your social-media accounts every four minutes.”  Vernon Chapman


Oh good grief.  Sometimes i see a news account so egregiously stupid that i cannot stifle my outrage.  Such is the case with this breathtakingly alarmist coverage of the impact of this August’s solar eclipse on California solar power generation.  Click on the link and read it.

Now let’s think about it.

In paragraph 2 we read, “But the day of the eclipse, much of [our solar-generated] power will be turned off over a period of three hours.”  Ummm, it will not be turned off, but merely reduced.  And the duration of the eclipse is not three hours but rather two hours and thirty-nine minutes.

In paragraph 4 we read, “Skies will start to darken”.  Well, actually, in LA the eclipse will reach a maximum of 62% for about two minutes, during which time the skies will be only slightly less bright, so little that looking directly at the sun then will still broil your retinas.  At the beginning, the reduction in brightness will not be discernible to the human eye.

A few paragraphs later, we read, “As the state loses sunlight, people  will be turning on lights as if it were night”.  Oh no they won’t because it will never get dark, and at maximum there will be every bit as much light as on a hazy day.

This thing is obscenely alarmist, going on to envision such remote possibilities as the overblown problem being exacerbated by a brush fire taking out a transmission line.  Oh please. And what if an earthquake strikes simultaneously!!!!

What we’re actually going to have is two hours and thirty-nine minutes of marginally reduced sunshine.  The impact of a thunderstorm on solar generation would be much greater, but that’s not the kind of news that grabs viewers.


Meanwhile, here in sunny Petaluma, our alley murals are illuminated.

Petaluma alley murals



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Brain Health Registry

Give the reds what they want:  strip mine Utah.


Umm, yes, my fading brain is a source of worry since my greatest fear is that my brain will die before my body does like my mother’s and three of her sisters’.  In that, i’m like everyone else my age because by now we’ve all seen loved ones in the previous generation go out gaga.

My first experience with brain testing was after i’d crashed on the Segway and woke up at SF General Hospital.  A nice young woman there told me that they were doing a study on people who’d had brain injuries, and i immediately volunteered.  Then, after that study was over i volunteered for a UCSF study of older folks who were slipping into dementia, but a day-long extensive battery of tests revealed that i was not yet crazy enough to meet their criteria.

However, they told me about UCSF’s Brain Health Registry, and i’ve been participating in it online ever since.

Then, last winter i learned about a brain study the VA was conducting on veterans with AIDS, so i volunteered for that.  Just to make sure that they knew i was crazy enough, i showed up for my appointment 24 hours and 15 minutes early.  Went back the next day for three hours of testing and walked out with a very nice gift, a new iPad with a splendid little microphone accessory on which i will do monthly testing at home for the next few months.  The plus is that i get to keep the iPad when the study is over.  Not that i could expect them to want it back after i’d been drooling AIDS-tainted saliva over it for a year.

I love being a lab rat, and if you want to Do Your Part for the advancement of science, you can click on this link to the  Brain Health Registry and volunteer to participate in their on-line study.


Meanwhile, some California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) blooming at the edge of the Lynch Creek Trail.

Eschscholzia californica California poppy


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