Friday, February 15, 2013

A Day of Love

A Day of Love

The woman I desire, adore and willingly profess my love to.

Two days ago my wife was talking with a friend. The friend asked "What are you doing for Valentine's Day?" Carolyn said something like "We don't really celebrate Valentine's Day." This, I think, caught  the friend off guard. She responded:  "What?? You don't celebrate it???"  It was if I could hear her thinking, through the phone: "It's about love, caring, being with the ones who you care about. You're SUPPOSED TO do something special! You're SUPPOSED TO buy flowers and chocolate and go out to eat. You're SUPPOSED TO make cards, or buy them, and profess your love to the one person that you want, no, NEED to be with. Your soul mate."

I remember back in my elementary school days getting excited that I could finally send a love letter to Becky. She was that one girl that caught my eye. She was the first girl that didn't have the cooties; or at least the strain that could have any effect on me. She was the one for me. But God forbid anybody know about it. If ANYONE found out that I had a crush on a girl then she would surely be infected with a "dangerous for Rich" strain of the cooties.

I digress, I finally had a chance to profess my love, my undying infatuation and ask her to be MY Valentine. Though to be fair and still prevent the cooties from getting me I had to buy cards for everyone in the class. Including Troy, that weird kid who picked his nose and smelled of boiled cabbage.

That was the beginning of it all, as I remember... my discovery of LOVE!

Found a little Love on the beach one day.

As I sat there listening to my wife and her friend, I thought to myself "Is Valentine's Day just a commercial 'Hallmark' day? Is it a farce? Or is it about Love?" I remembered something about St. Valentine so I sat down and did some Googling. Is that a verb now? Anyway, I started to look things up and was even more confused. I guess that is why as a child you are told "it is a day for love" -- just to keep it simple.

There are many things that are tied to St. Valentine's Day, and I will try to make it quick. There were three St Valentines that I found. About two of which very little is known. The first Saint Valentine was imprisoned for performing weddings for Roman soldiers, who were forbidden to marry, and for ministering to Christians. Differing accounts state that he was executed, or buried, on February 14th.

February 15, has an interesting history as it was Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of Agriculture. On this day priests would sacrifice a goat in the cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. The priests would then take the bloody hide and slap women and the crop fields with it to increase their fertility... Ooookkaaaayyy....

At some point, if I gather, Lupercalia was outlawed at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14th, St. Valentine's Day.  February14th was also viewed as the beginning of bird mating season, so it should be a day for romance.


So let's see if I got this straight:  A priest is executed for preforming his duty; that event falls the day before a religious day of fertility. After the Christians take over, as revenge, they outlaw Lupercalia and make a Christian holiday to help stomp out the old Roman beliefs. Coincidentally birds get it on on the 14th of February so that is a sign that the professing of Love should be on this day. By the early 1900's improvements in printing technology and cheaper postage rates pave the way for the "Hallmark" revolution to happen.

A little love from my wife.

Regardless of why or how it came into being, St. Valentine's Day is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. A lot of people have decided that it is a good day to celebrate their Love for one another, and with the weather like it was, with the sun out and the birds chirping (and getting it on), why not? Works for me!!

Does it really matter where it came from as long as it is about Love and caring? The only major change that I would make is that we have many more Valentine's Days through the year. Like every Tuesday. That would be a good day for me. Or maybe Wednesday, after all as a kid it always sounded like "wedding day" to me.

We should show Love to that person or people who we care about, and do it openly and often. Though we don't have to make it so cookie cutter. Spend some time and make something. Something that they will cherish, something that will remind them of your love for each other. But don't do it once a year. Do it once a week. Now I think that I am going to do my part for Lupercalia, as that is today. Though I'll pass on the goat sacrifice.

Yes, in case you missed it. I love this woman right here.

I leave you with this:  In your quest for love...

Enjoy the journey...


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"You do WHAT to the fish?????"!

Finally!! Back from that field trip and what a doozy it was!! Remember I was telling you about that " been there done that " feeling?  Well we recently took a field trip to the Feather River Fish Hatchery (yes still here in Oroville, CA.)  We've been to the fish hatchery before, a few years back in the Fall when the Salmon were running, but this time was very different. 

The populations of Chinook returning up the Feather River to spawn in the Fall are phenomenal and the season lasts from September through November.  During that time the hatchery maintains spawning facilities for somewhere between 9,000 to 18,000 Salmon -- this process produces, on average 18 to 20 million eggs -- Yes I said MILLION!! Can you imagine??  This hatchery is an essential part of maintaining the sport fishing for the Feather and Sacramento Rivers, AND even contributes to the commercial and sport fishing in the Pacific Ocean.

This time of year Steelhead are running!! So our visit to the fish hatchery was quite a bit calmer than the last time we visited.  Steelhead populations are quite a bit smaller and the run is a shorter period of time, typically December through January.  We had a great "tour" guide, Jana, from the State of California Department of Resources (DWR).  (The DWR was where I called to inquire about tours/field trips, by the way -- a tidbit that might be noteworthy for your 'resource list' -- just sayin'!...) 

As we stood at the viewing window above the spawning area we learned that Steelhead don't die when they spawn, as the Chinook do.  Thus the spawning process involved is much different.  Some of you may know that since the Chinook spawn at the end of their life cycle, the hatchery will anesthetize prior to, then humanely euthanize the fish following collection of, the eggs and milt needed for spawning. 

[SPECIAL NOTE:  Jana shared with us that the meat of the Chinook is not wasted.  It is used through a local program to feed homeless and low income in Butte County.  We thought this was a great community service, and were glad that she shared that tidbit. -- I don't remember that being shared on our previous trip here.  Ahh... another perk of a personal family tour.]

So, back to the Steelhead -- the hatchery worker will introduce the fish into water with higher carbon dioxide to slow down their movement.  The females are then injected with air in order to release the eggs into a tub -- she is then released back into a holding tank until her movement is normal and then released through a shoot back into the river.  As soon as the eggs are expressed from the female, the milt is released from the male into the same bucket and the male is released through the same shoot.

Jana noted that the eggs and milt are mixed quickly and then put into trays and taken to a specially equipped room to be diligently cared for until hatching.  The "nursery" for caring for these fish is amazing!  The record keeping alone is a quite a task, not to mention maintaining water temperatures and tracking each tray for growth, including removal of eggs that fail to thrive. 

Even though the Steelhead population is smaller, they still spawn approximately 2,000 fish each year.  Then the eggs are cared for at the various stages of development, including spending a time in "raceways" as they progress through the stages of "Fry" -- "Fingerlings" -- then "Yearlings" --  It takes many months until they are large enough to be transported via special fish tanker trucks to the San Francisco Bay Delta.

If you'd like to see some video about this I encourage you to visit YouTube and search "Feather River Fish Hatchery" -- You'll see some great video of the fish ladders and get a feel for the numbers and sizes of fish that travel back up the Feather River each year.  It is really amazing to think that the Chinook make the trip from Oroville, at the Feather River Hatchery, down to the San Francisco Bay (and beyond -- some reports as far as Alaska and even Japan!! -- ) and then back again in their life cycle, which averages three to four years. 

It is absolutely ASTOUNDING to think that the Steelhead may make a similar journey several times in their life span of six to nine years; during their life they may spawn between two to four times, on average.  That may not sound like much, but if you take time to look at a map and find Oroville, CA (north of Sacramento and just SE of Chico) then find and follow the Feather River down through the Sacramento River and on to the San Francisco Bay -- Wow!!  And then... think about their ocean travels?? An amazing feat for a fish less than two feet long, don't you think?

One more side note -- I mentioned earlier about searching YouTube for the Feather River Fish Hatchery, and that one of them shows the "fish ladders".  Now there's a term that conjures up mental images akin to a Dr. Seuss drawing, huh? Well, they're not what you think... the fish don't get out of the water and go vertical!  Geesh! Some people... tee hee hee...

The fish ladders were built as a means for the fish to traverse the river that has been impacted by the Oroville Dam (more about the Dam will be in a later blog -- perhaps the next one...?? ) You see, fish in the Salmon family carry genetic markers for where they were born... that is how they navigate their way back to their birthplace for spawning.  Since the placement of the Oroville Dam in the late 1960's has made that rather challenging, the State Water Project incorporated the fish ladders to aid this natural process.

While we didn't take any pictures of the eggs and milt being expressed I did see quite a few cool videos on YouTube, but not sure if I can post without permission -- So I hope you will take time to look up the Feather River Fish Hatchery, Oroville, CA and enjoy the videos.  Until next time...

Enjoy the journey...