May 15, 2016

You Got Two Buffs for a Gator?

The American bison, a/k/a buffalo, is about to be named our national mammal, thanks to the National Bison Legacy Act, which passed through Congress last week and now awaits the president's signature.

I am all for this —  and let's have a national reptile next. The American alligator?

And why stop there? Put me in charge of America and a buck will mean a buck. In other words, take George Washington off the one-dollar bill and replace him with a buck whitetail deer.

Some people in the Treasury keep saying we should switch to a one-dollar coin: more economical, etc. But they lack the guts to pull in the paper money and force a switch. Well, do it! If the Canadians can put a loon on their dollar coin and call it a "loonie,"  we can have Odocoileus virginianus and call it a "buck."

All will be spelled out in the Charismatic Megafauna Currency Act of 20XX.

The buffalo belongs on five-dollar bill. It just feels right to me, and there are five letters in bison.

Not to be totally mammalian, I will order that the ten-dollar bill carry the image of the aforementioned alligator.

The fifty . . . maybe a bighorn sheep? Something solid and Western? Elk?

The hundred, formerly known as a Ben Franklin, would now be a bald eagle. (Yes, there were other eagle coins in the past. We'll sort it out.)

But the eagle is not worth what it used to be, so how about a five-hundred dollar lynx? Think of the linx/lynx puns.

Or a thousand-dollar bill, for the convenience of those needing to carry large sums of cash around. Reach into the Pleistocene and decorate it with a stalwart Columbian mammoth.

Imagine the conversations:

"He showed up with a roll of mammoths — makes you wonder what he does for a living."

"Anyone got two buffs for a gator?"

"I'm down to my last eagle."

Forget all this Andrew Jackson/Harriet Tubman stuff. My proposed legislation will have people arguing over animals!

May 14, 2016

Now It's Legal in Colorado

I can sell these barrels legally now.
I am not afraid to post this picture anymore, because rain barrels are legal in Colorado. (Not that I have ever heard of anyone prosecuted for saving rain water on that small a scale.)

After several tries, the legislature has passed a bill and the governor has signed it allowing state residents to collect up to 110 U.S. gallons of rain water at a time for lawns and gardens.  Why is 110 a magic number? I assume because 55 gallons (208 l.) is a common commercial barrel size.

Water is serious business here, where the Colorado, Rio Grande, Platte, and Arkansas rivers all begin.

This water is not moving downstream
to its rightful owner, don't you see.
Every little trickle that moves down hill is allocated to somebody, whether an irrigation company, a city, a farmer, whatever. Not only that, but if any other user goes to water court seeking, for example, to change a point of diversion — to remove water from a stream there instead of here —everyone whose rights might be affected will jump into the case lest they be accused of not practicing "due dilligence" and defending their claim.

It's sort of like how former brand names like "cellophane" and "escalator" became generic, because they were not constantly defended in court.

Consequently, Colorado has more water lawyers than the rest of the solar system put together, or so I was always told. (And please, no repetions of the old water/whiskey jokes in the comments.)

Now if Jane and Joe Homeowner catch the water and then siphon it onto their vegetable garden, they are not doing what the big interests do, like moving water under the Continental Divide. Their water moves in the direction that it always would, only just more slowly.
Sponsors of the bill struck a compromise with farmers and ranchers, adding a provision to the bill that says if there’s any proof rain barrels are hurting downstream users, the state engineer can curtail the usage of them
The new legalization is also defended as a teaching tool:
Conservation groups hope the legislation encourages Coloradans to capture and use runoff from their rooftops on their lawns and gardens to help people recognize that water is a precious resource in this arid state, compared to the amount they would have used from their garden hoses, otherwise.

May 13, 2016

Nice Kitty! Hold Still Now!

I don't know the backstory — someone might have found the mountain lion in the trap and alerted Utah Wildlife. Two game wardens arrive to free the cat, and what happens next is a class in Catchpole 101, with a naturally very angry Puma concolor.

If you were wondering, you will find Utah trapping regs here. I wonder if this trap was indeed "marked or tagged with the trap registered number of the owner."

May 11, 2016

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Colorado Flower Growers Assn. carnation ad 
(Morgan Library, Colorado State University).

That line from Pete Seeger's anti-war ballad is appropriate because this story starts (for me) in the 1960s.

I was in Miss Carter's sixth-grade class at Kullerstrand Elementary School in Wheat Ridge, a Denver suburb, and one day she took us on a class trip to her fiancé's family business.

They were commercial carnation growers with a complex of greenhouses somewhere in west Denver, and we were told all about the growing and dyeing (yes, many were dyed) of carnations.

Denver was the "carnation capital of the world," as far as the locals were concerned. The greenhouse industry took off in the 1870s as irrigation systems were built. By 1928 there ws a Colorado Flower Growers trade association, and carnation-growing peaked around the time that Miss Carter became Mrs. Davis (I think), and we kids had to accustom ourselves to her new name.

What happened? This timeline from an online history of the Colorado flower trade tells part of the story:
1976 – The carnation industry in Colorado begins to decline due to increasing competition from Californian and South American flower growers, the rising cost of fuel for heating and air-conditioning the greenhouses, and limited expansion of greenhouses in the state.
Two further explanations: The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 led to the sudden jump in prices for heating oil, gasoline, propane, diesel, etc. And the "increasing competition" from South American cut-flower producers was a direct result of the War on (Some) Drugs, with American dollars going to (chiefly Colombian) growers on the theory that building i[ that industry would make producing cocaine, etc., less attractive.

Judge for yourself how well that scheme worked out, but at least roses and carnations got cheaper at the grocery store flower counter. People were selling cheap carnations on street corners — remember that?

By the time I was in my twenties, you could find numerous empty greenhouses in certain Denver neighborhoods—shattered glass roofs, no sign of vegetative life but weeds. Many were located on sites that were probably attractive to developers.

I wonder, though, what happened to my teacher and her husband. Did they see what was coming and bail out? Did they go bankrupt, eternally bitter at the U.S. government for subsidizing their competitors? Did they close the business, sell the land, and find something new?

That story came crashing back when I saw this headline: "Major Flower Business Fears Migration to Marijuana."
The  CEO of 1-800-Flowers frets he might lose some of his best suppliers in states that have burgeoning marijuana industries, saying he’s afraid growers will realize that cannabis could be a more lucrative profession.

Such an exodus would expand the ranks of marijuana growers, adding a crop of seasoned veterans to the industry’s ranks.
 Too late for the Davises.