Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

Industrial Hemp

For decades, farmers and environmental activists have been trying to legalize nonpsychoactive hemp for cultivation in California. The plants require far less water and fertilizers than cotton, need no herbicides or pesticides, and produce fibers that can be used in everything from paper to clothing. The crop can renew itself every 90 days, making hemp and excellent natural and biodegradable material. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 566 into law allowing hemp to be grown domestically. California joins nine other states and over 30 countries in its decision to raise hemp. Already a $500 million industry in the state, California will now no longer have to rely upon importing hemp to support manufacturing demand.

The bill was introduced in 2005 by Senator Mark Leno. Since its initial proposal as HR 32 in 1999, the legislation was vetoed  four times by three different governors. Governor Brown struck down the bill in 2011 citing a gap in state and federal policies, although he acknowledged it was “absurd” that the state had to count on Mexico and Canada to provide hemp. With his approval, farmers will now be able to raise “nonpsychoactive types of the plant Cannabis sativa L. and the seed produced therefrom, having no more than 3/10 of 1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops.”

“I have great confidence in a recent statement by Attorney General Eric Holder,” Leno told the SF Bay Guardian. “He’s said that if a state puts into place a legal allowance and regulatory scheme, that the federal government would not interfere with marijuana. Now, we need clarification between hemp and marijuana, but there’s no sensical way that that could be interpreted that hemp is excluded, given that hemp’s not a drug.”

Bambu Batu offers a few hemp items in the shop, but looks forward to seeing more sustainable, locally-grown fibers on the market!

Morgana Matus

One of the perks of being the caretaker of the Bambu Batu blog is that I, Morgana Matus, can engage in a little shameless self-promotion from time to time. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that I have started a photoblog over at that will be a chronicle of my past adventures, explore visual culture, and be a repository for terrible puns. In the coming months, I will be posting images taken in Norway, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and San Luis Obispo. You can expect tales from trekking in the frozen north, slogging through the jungles of Central America, and fooling around in clown college.

So, next time you are surfing the web, stop on by! And I promise, no more shameless self-promotion. That name again, Morgana Matus.

Directly alongside Highway 1 it is possible to witness one of nature’s most extraordinary spectacles.  Behold!  A beach full of snorting, sand-tossing, sun-bathing, breeding, molting, fighting, enormous Northern Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris).  Practically in our backyards in Piedras Blancas, we are fortunate enough to observe these magnificent marine mammals from only feet away.  For eight months out of the year, these pinnipeds spend their lives out in the open ocean, only to come ashore after swimming nearly 12,000 miles to mate in late November, give birth, and raise their pups.

On the beaches, massive males fight for dominance, often leaving each other bloody and tattered. The seals form harems, with a male surrounded by several females and their offspring.  The alpha male spends a good deal of his time keeping betas away from his ladies, and it is quite a scene to see a several ton male move with surprising speed across the sand to ward off competitors.  When feeding, the adults can reach depths of 5,000 feet and spend from 20 minutes to an hour under water.  Females search primarily for squid while males are thought to pursue a different diet of sharks, rays, and bottom-dwelling fish.  In their quest for dinner, males travel along the continent to the Gulf of Alaska and females head out towards the open sea before returning to their rookery on the Central Coast.  Northern Elephant Seals can live up to 14 years in the wild, making the migration multiple times once reaching maturity.

During the 1880’s Northern Elephant Seals were hunted almost to extinction by shore whalers for their blubber and oil.  Only between 20-100 of them remained off of Baja California before being protected by the Mexican government, and later the United States.  Today, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 keeps them secure and on the road to restoring their numbers.  Today, their populations have grown to 170,000 and continue to increase.  Organizations such as Friends of the Elephant Seal have taken it upon themselves to educate the public about the remarkable animals, and offer docent lectures, live web cams, and visitor center.

Get in touch with nature and view these magnificent marine mammals before they take off for another year!


Wild chanterelle mushrooms


Someone you know may be a member of a secret society.  Shortly after a rain, clad in heavy slacks, long sleeves and sturdy shoes, they leave the comfort of their living rooms and televisions to hunt for gold in the oak forests of California.  What they seek cannot be melted into a ring or fashioned into a trophy, but certainly can be heated in a skillet and transformed into a miracle of culinary science.

Going alone or with clandestine companions, the locations of their wanderings are kept secret so as not to give away the position of their hauls.  They dodge poison oak, slog through mud, and scramble up steep slopes.  What these adventurers are tromping around the wilderness for is the enchanting, delectable chanterelle mushroom. Underneath the cap, pseudo-gills run all the way down the stipe, or stalk.  The emit a fruity, peppery fragrance that fills the air when cooked.  Extremely high in vitamin C, vitamin D and potassium, these delicacies formerly reserved for the tables of nobility are as healthy as they are flavorful.

Cantharellus cibarius, or the golden chanterelle, is a funnel shaped fungus that appears in veins or clusters across Europe, North America and Mexico.  They have also been found as far afield as Asia and Africa.  Popping up along amidst leaf litter and detritus of the forest floor, chanterelles have been discovered near birches, conifers, beeches, oaks and, occasionally among chaparral.  Here in San Luis Obispo, the positions of large crops of these little beauties are kept under wraps, as they can be sold at market for nearly ten dollars a pound.

However, with a little luck and the knowledge of an experienced mushroom hunter, you can capture some chanterelles of your own.  Take care to only pick mushrooms of which you are certain, and when in doubt, leave them in the ground.  It should be mentioned that there is a species known as the “false chanterelle”, and for beginner and amateur mycologists confusion is not worth the risk of slight gastric distress and embarrassment.

For help identifying and cooking the golden chanterelle amongst many other mushies, pick up a copy of All the Rain Promises and More by David Arora.  This guide is filled with excellent descriptions, photos, and stories from fungus fanatics.  Easily stored in a pocket or backpack, the little volume will inspire you to tromp about the backcountry in search of nature’s most fascinating organisms.  After sauteeing nearly fifteen pounds of a recent haul this season, you will definitely spot this hunter in the hills of San Luis Obispo scanning the logs and dirt for tasty morsels and objects of scientific curiosity.  See you on the trail!

Photo Credit: Wild Chanterelles

It’s November here on the Central Coast, which means thousands of little winged tourists are beginning to stop by on their way south to overwinter in Mexico or rest in California’s warmer climate, escaping the northern chill.  Looking up into branches of  the eucalyptus and pine trees of the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove this month, you can start to see the hundreds of monarch butterflies flitting overhead, creating softly pulsing traffic patterns in the air. Towards nightfall, the butterflies cluster like big orange leaves in the canopy to keep warm, protect themselves from predators and resist winds that could possibly dislodge them.  The docents of the Grove (which officially opened to the public October 29) set up telescopes to give visitors clear views of the brightly colored insects and offer lectures about these extraordinary little creatures throughout their stay ending in February.

Located along Highway 1 on the Southern end of Pismo Beach inside the North Beach Campground, the colony of butterflies living there is the largest in the country, hosting an average of over 25,000 monarchs. As juveniles, the caterpillars feed on milkweed which makes them toxic and distasteful to most predators. Adults feed on the nectar of a variety of flowering plants, and drink little to no water during their migration. Once settled, they sip on dew or fresh water close to their roosting sites.

The butterflies return to the same group of trees each year, having migrated thousands of miles to reach their destination.    Generations arriving at their winter vacation home are different than the butterflies that started the journey, and how they orient themselves back to the same location each year is still a mystery. The monarchs typically live for about six weeks, meaning that many of the migrating creatures never see either their starting point up north nor their destination site down here. Once they reach their southern sanctuary, the winter generation enjoys a live span of about six months! In the spring they head north again, and the following generations resume the 6-week life span.

For directions and more information on the Pismo Monarch Grove, visit their website for details.  To learn more about the life cycle of the majestic monarch, visit the Grove’s FAQ page, or attend a talk in person!

bamboo in mexico

Ever have a hard time getting to the bathroom in a foreign country? Sometimes they can be devilishly camouflaged, like this lavatory near Atitlan, Mexico. My brother found it just in time.

The bamboo in Mexico is resplendent, but finding a bathroom can be priceless!