Tuesday, December 28, 2010

served in only the finest establishments

My friend Kerry of Magpie Cafe writes lovingly of Kingbird quince, inspiring me to post this menu shot from a few weeks back.

Ed Rohr and Janel Inouye (good slugs both) birthed Magpie Caterers a few years back and morphed into the Magpie Caterers and Cafe 20 months ago. Ed and Janel have an extraordinary talent for food, and for assembling a talented, well-functioning team. At 14th and R, downtown Sacramento, it's an oasis of good taste and good feelings and one of the best things to happen in Sacramento for years. A perfect place for a good time with friends, or for just a one on one with Pliny the Elder. And the perfect caterer for your next wedding or 60th birthday celebration ...

And Ms Kingbird reminds me that Magpie was one of a handful of inaugural recipients of the "Snail of Approval" a few months ago, a recognition conferred by Slow Food Sacramento on those restaurants best embodying the principles of "good, clean, fair food."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

kingbird peninsula

The storms of earlier this week brought water into the slough that wraps around our property for the first time this year - the earliest "fill" of any of the 10 years that we've been watching closely.

The pounding of the past few days brought the level substantially higher, to within a few feet of our driveway at its low point. The Cosumnes River is flowing at about 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) (and rising) where it exits the Sierra at Michigan Bar, and where California's Department of Water Resources maintains a gauge that feeds real-time flow information to the web (here). 10,000 cfs is less than 10% of the record peak achieved on January 3, 2007, but more than enough to cause the Cosumnes to overflow its banks in the reach below Twin Cities Road, which has no levees. To behave, in short, like a real river.

The forecasts for precipitation over the next few days were, a few days back, fairly over-the-top - forecasters appear to love to dwell on extreme possibilities - but the weather systems aren't coming in or lining up with quite as much punch as advertised.

We're prepared, none-the-less, for anything, with the car parked where it will remain able to access the outside world, and the canoe at the ready.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

weather whipsaw

The photo is just post-Thanksgiving, when for a few nights some local communities set new records for night-time low temperatures and we had daytime highs in the mid-40s.

Last night's low temperature here was 54 degrees, tying or setting a record high minimum for this date. Last night's minimum was above the historic average maximum daytime high temperature for the date (52 degrees) by 2 degrees. The record high for this date in history is 66 degrees. If the sun shows itself (at 11 am it's overcast and 60 degrees) that record may fall.

The (perhaps previous) record high minimum for this date was set in 2004, at the time the fourth-hottest year on record for the planet as a whole. 2004 has since slipped to seventh-place; 2005, 2009, and 2010 all turned out to be hotter. Ten of the hottest years on record have occurred within the last twelve years. 1998 (during a "solar maximum") remains officially the warmest year ever. 2010 is likely to bump 1998 to second place, but that won't be determined for official purposes until early next year.

"Solar maximum" refers to the sunspot cycle, an oscillation of solar heat output (and thus receipt by the earth) that looks similar to a sine wave and generally repeats itself every 9-14 years. Climate change denialists for years took cover from the fact that 1998 was a year of solar maximum (the actual peak was in 2000) and confidently predicted that the years 2005-2010 would log in on the cool side because they coincided with a solar minimum (the peak of the next maximum is predicted for May 2013).  So much for wishful theory. The reality is that the increasing heat-trapping capacity of the earth's atmosphere (a function of increasing carbon dioxide levels - from about 360 parts per million in 1998 to about 390 ppm today) has been more significant to actual climate than declining solar input.

I'm not looking forward to seeing what the 2012-2014 combination of a solar maximum (although it's projected to be a weak one) and circa-400 ppm CO2 concentrations gives us.

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our new financial advisors

Based in the People's Republic of Berkeley, of course ...

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

kingbird annex

Fairsite Elementary School (one of many alma maters, incidentally) is in downtown Galt. Because of population shifts, it's now mostly bereft of students but does host adult education, ESL, Head Start, and nutrition programs. Twenty years ago, several enterprising teachers and their students created an extensive school garden at one corner of the grounds. A year ago, a few of us rehabbed the old garden and planted a range of winter crops. (It was actually a narrow range - from fava beans to fava beans - since we were too late for anything else. But the favas grew exuberantly, giving it that worked-in garden look, enriching the soil, and providing hundreds of pounds of beans in the early spring.)

We followed that winter garden with an aggressive summer garden of tomatoes, beans, squash, and melons, with a handful of volunteers participating and the harvest intended for the Food Bank housed on site. Unfortunately, over the summer we suffered a series of vandalism acts in which most of the crops were destroyed. Boredom + not knowing where food comes from = a tragic equation.

As a result, most of those involved in the garden decided that their efforts would be more productively focused in their own back yards, on growing extra that could be delivered to the food bank.

A few of us have hung in there and we've planted a few beds to vegetables this fall. Kingbird has two beds of broccoli etc. and three beds of fava beans. We're hoping for a decent stream of fresh goodies into the food bank in March and April.

Updating this: Urine separation and reuse makes the New York Times! The report is from Haiti, where the soil fertility and sanitation benefits are both desperately needed ...
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