Monday, July 04, 2011

Real and Imagined Official State Stuff

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
T. S. Eliot

Like most states, California has a state flag, and a state animal (California grizzly bear, aka Ursus californicus) and a state flower (Eschsholtzia california, or California poppy). Here’s a fun fact not know to many people outside The Inland Empire: April 6 is California Poppy Day, which Californians celebrate by eating lemon poppy seed muffins instead of our usual granola bar.

But wait, there’s more. Because we weren’t satisfied to have merely a flower, in 2004, we selected a state grass. Now, you might think that would be Cannabis sativa, but you’d be wrong. It’s Nassella pulchra or purple needlegrass. Once established, Purple needlegrass is tolerant of summer drought and heat, and a single plant can live more than 150 years, which I’m sure was the deciding factor in picking purple needlegrass over common spurge which, in my yard at least, is as immortal as the legendary phoenix. And of course we have a state motto: Eureka! I’m not positive, but I think we’re the only state who’s motto includes an exclamation point!

California legislators, when not engaged in budget talks or passing substantive legislation, find the time to designate stuff as our official state things. For example, we've had a state fossil (Smilodon californicus, aka, saber-toothed cat), since 1973, by which time I’m pretty sure they were extinct so we could safely designate them as state fossils instead of, say, state park mascots. Not only that, we have a state prehistoric artifact. It happens to be a small chipped stone bear, discovered at an archaeological dig site in San Diego County in 1985, a fact that, since we learned of this in 2011, has made San Diegans very proud.

Some of California’s things aren’t very dignified. Our state insect is the California dogface butterfly or dog head (Zerene eurydice). And while I bet other states’ insects can kick our insect’s butt, but keep in mind our state animal could probably kill and eat yours for brunch (which happens to be our official state meal between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM).

Other official California stuff is just as lame. We have a state soil. Seriously. “The San Joaquin Soil was designated as the official state soil in 1997. The designation commemorates the completion of the state's most comprehensive soil inventory and acknowledges the importance of soil.” Also, being more like compacted clay, a handful of our official state soil will not include fear. All this official stuff I didn’t make up can be found Here.

California is also the first state to have an official state recipe (organic hash brownies, of course), bedroom slipper, (Grandpa Simpson’s footwear), addictive prescription drug, overused cliché, and Starbucks coffee drink. Don’t be surprised if you can’t find these official things on the website. Some of our stuff is password protected and can only be revealed to people who know our official state secret handshake.

But what are we waiting for? Recently some states like Arizona (the Kentucky of the Southwest) have designated official state guns. I wish I was kidding. So, starting today, I'm accepting nominations to a Special Commission that will identify an official California recreational substance, double murder, embroidery stitch, existensial quandry, profane insult, yoga position, processed meat product, outpatient medical procedure, preferred homeless residence, parody motto, excuse for being late, most bitter regret, and favorite method of suicide. The sooner the better, since at this very moment, Arizona is working on an official public official fall from grace, wet t-shirt contest, misuse of a common kitchen utensil (but, being Arizona, they have yet to designate an official common kitchen utensil), auto GPS voice (Elmer Fudd is on the short list) laundry sorting method, texting shorthand, and victimless crime.

Friday, July 01, 2011

All in War with Time

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and cheque'd even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.
- William Shakespeare, Sonnet XV

We finally put netting over the stonefruit tree in the Veggie Garden, but by the time we got to it, all the fruits pictured were pecked to death. While we can't exactly engraft the fruit new, we at least managed to protect a handful of fuzzy peaches.

This tree is a healthy rootstock with three different fruits grafted on top. We've seen peaches every few years, particularly when harvest is preceeded by a hard winter frost (rare). We once saw nectarines. But the third branch, possibly an apricot, has never borne fruit. The lesson here seems to be if you want three kinds of stonefruit, plant three trees. The strongest seems to starve out the weaker grafts. The birds, or squirrels or whoever is taking the peaches the minute they ripen, bothers only to taste a bite and wastes the rest of the hard unripe fruit. Nature can be kind of a dick sometimes.