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June 29, 2022

Oysters and Muscles Alive, Alive, oh!

After driving past the Carlsbad Aquafarm several times, I took the time to register for their tour.  Tours fill quickly, to reserve a spot registration is required online. The cost was $35.

From their website

Just last month (May 17, 2022) Sunset Magazine published a very favorable article, which is available HERE

My tour was 13 people, let by the farm Supervisor – Matt.  We could not have asked for a more knowledgeable docent.  Perfect because I had a few prepared questions!

[softball question 1]: I asked Matt if he had read the Sunset Magazine article – 'YES, I was their guide and did the interview’.  Whoa – didn’t expect that.

He showed us the trays the oysters are raised on.  Initially there would be several thousand little oyster ‘embryos’ to a tray.  As they grow they are separated into more trays for additional space.

Mussels are grown on ropes.  The muscles will send out a ‘beard’ to attach themselves to the rope.  They can detach and reattach beards to find a more favorable feeding spot.

Oysters on the other hand are happy as a clam sitting on their tray.

Remember the massive gray concrete tower standing beside I-5? It was therevsince 1954, for the carbon fired Encina Power Plant?  The plant was retired in 2018 and the stack along with the rest of the plant demolished.  A smaller, more efficient power station was built creating parking area for the Aquafarm ... and tours began.

The Carlsbad  Desalinization Plant  was also built on the property.  The plant provides 50 million gallons of fresh water a day.   

[softball question #2] How much is the water temperature changed by the purification process?  ‘Not at all it's the same, but ~2% more salt on the discharge.’  I asked because the old Encina cooling towers would warm the discharge by 20 degrees.  A great place for the locals to swim or fish.

Oyster eggs and sperm are so small the farm uses a microscope to tell the males and females apart.  An oyster can change its sex several times.  Who knew ?  I mean beside the Kardashians!

Oysters as they grow

The farm is located on the ocean side of the lagoon Agua Hedionda (Spanish for Skinky Water), the larger part of the lagoon is to the east.

[softball question #3]  What is the name of your lagoon?  Matt explained the Spanish raised cattle here and the pollution was so bad it gained the reputation of Agua Hedionda (Stinky Water).  Matt went on to say that for 3 million dollars a parcel of Stinky Ranch (Rancho Hedionda) which is being developed is available as I write this post.  Maybe the developers don’t speak Spanish or they liked the sound and hoped the buyers didn’t speak Spanish.  Would you buy a Smelly/Stinky Ranch lot for 3 million?  Well it is Carlsbad …

We were guided past the pure salt water tanks where the oysters are purified for a couple days.

There are four filter tanks, each capable of holding a dozen oyster trays.  This ensures the final product has no sand, or other contaminants.

While there the team was sorting and cleaning and sorting oysters for distribution
Sorting station

Ready for distribution

After the tour it was time for the interactive part.  Matt demonstrated both the right and left handed way of handling a shucking knife and glove.  Obviously he has had practice.

The idea is to insert the shucking knife at an angle into the hinge and twist.  Not as easy as it sounds!

Each of us on the tour were given 6 oysters, the house hot sauce, lemon wedges and set to strut our skillful comprehension of the shucking task.

Lot’s of fun! 

OOPS got some oyster juice on the camera lens!  Pardon the fuzzy pics :)
We each had our own shucking station where an oyster knife and gloves were provided.

I wasn’t impressed with their house hot sauce.  Next time I’d bring my own Cholula or Tapatio sauce.

Since my daughter is the only other oyster eater in the family I took the afternoon tour, with the plan to take some oysters to her for grilling or smoking.

For $20 I picked up a dozen Pinnacle Point Oysters for her and a pound of muscles ($8) for me.  Of course we shared but I still have enough for lunch tomorrow! :)) … and hers are gone :))
One of her earliest memories is grilling and eating oysters on the beach in Oregon.  Perhaps age 5 ???

So that’s what we did.  She grilled the oysters on her Big Green Egg.  She wasn’t sure about the muscles, so we only added four.  But we are wanting more already!

The garnish she used was fresh from her garden - Thai red peppers – not real hot; garden fresh dill; fresh lemon; and butter (from the grocery).

The oysters were placed on the grill (flat side up) to conserver the 'oyster liqueur' after cooking.

Since she had not had mussels I tossed a few in.  All came out awesome!, and the fresh dipping sauce really brought the flavors to life.

Want one?

Perfect to share oysters without sand and other contaminants found in the ones I've had in the past.

So what happened to the rest of the muscles?  I ate them!  And don't tell my daughter ... I took a couple of her oysters ... :))

The knife is to trim the 'beard' off the muscles.  They generate several strands of hair that they use to find the best food sources.  A single muscle can move about using their beards to find the best food sources. 

I got a nice steamer pot going and tossed them all in for about 5 minutes to cook the muscles.   The oysters would take a few minutes longer.

A glass of white wine and a bowl of muscles with my own concoction of garlic/wine/butter sauce.  Oh so yum!

OK it is a splurge, but I’d do it again!  It was so much fun, educational, and history that I did not know.  Next time my daughter will be there too!  We're gonna have so much fun!, and enjoy a few oysters.  Want to join us?

May 31, 2022

Borrego Springs - tau Herculids Meteor Shower

The night of Memorial Day was moonless and with the possibility of a meteor storm, I loaded up and for an overnight to Borrego Springs.

As typical I stopped a Dudley’s Bakery in Santa Ysabel for a Baja sandwich that will make two meals.


I miss-timed my arrival to Christmas Circle

to attend the complete Veterans Memorial Service, provided by the local American Legion Post 853.  But did catch the bugler playing Taps and the honor guard providing a 21 gun salute.

This Scout Car was used by General Patton while training in Anza Borrego was on display

From Christmas Circle I stopped to top off the truck.  If cost is any indication of quality, Borrego must have some real quality fuel!

gas 6.89;6.99;7.09 - diesel 6.89

The road up to Font’s Point required 4x4.  That’s not usually the case, but the sand and ruts were pretty deep.

At mid-day I was the only one there for about half hour.  It was a nice visit with dad.

After Font’s Point I drove over to the American Legion

with the idea of taking a picture of the Missing Man Table that is always there.  I think all of Borrego was there!  Burgers and war stories for some 500 guests.  Here's a picture from the web of a Missing Man Table.


After the flag raising, I left in search of cactus that might still be in bloom.  What rain that does fall in this area will drain into the Texas Dip.  Nope nothing there.

I headed over to Ocotillo Wells, with the idea to set up my camp there at one of the provided shelters.  Free camping, with showers available kinda appealed to me.  Altho not crowded, the activity was hectic and the sites near the showers taken by two large groups, so moving on.

Slowjamastan is just a bit further east on CA78.  Unlike my last visit there has been noticeable progress.

The boundary fence marks the territorial boarder with the US.

Altho I got a good chuckle out of this warning sign, I did not test it for accuracy

With the population now around 200 Slowjamastanies, I was not surprised to see property signs going up.  This lot belongs to the Palmer family.

I returned to Borrego Springs with the thought the ocotillo garden in Coyote Canyon might have some color left to photograph.

I’ve never encountered such deep sand in Coyote Canyon, again I’d advise 4x4.

A surprising number of ocotillo have suffered from the drought.

Some have succumbed

The ocotillo is drought deciduous, dropping it’s leaves when water is not available.  This one is waiting for better times ahead.

None had any leaves and  Coyote Creek was dry.

I set up camp on the east side of Peg Leg Smith, which is just a short drive way.

The meteor shower radiant should be directly overhead near Arcturus.

I’m the only one here!  Despite a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event it’s just me.

Unfortunately, not only did the meteor storm not occur, the wind was Biblical!  I did see several small slow moving particles that went ‘poof’ in a bright burst.  And several ‘streakers’, that started dim, become bright streaks, before fading away.  There some meteors, just not the anticipated 'storm'.

Although the tau Herculids were just a mediocre performance, I enjoyed the day in Borrego Springs.

May 23, 2022

Fiesta del Sol - Solana Beach

Fiesta del Sol is the Kickoff To Summer held annually at Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach.

I again parked near the arches marking the Solana Beach section of the Coastal Rail Trail.

If you have the chance to walk or bike the Solana Beach section of the Coastal Rail Trail, don't miss the arches.

This history of Solana Beach is displayed via their inlays.  The railroad joined Solana Beach in 1882.

Coastal Rail Trail arch is just inside the Solana Beach arch.

Over a century after the railroad arrived Solana Beach incorporated as a city in 1986.

And today there’s surfing at Fletcher Cove, which is my destination today.

The trail is very well manicured, with its landscaping was in full Spring bloom.  Here's a few pictures I stopped to take of the flowers..


And the elusive desert five spot.  Well it’s a bit elusive in the desert (I’ve only seen a couple), but pretty common in landscaping as a maintained ornamental.

I parked my bike near the entrance to Fletcher Cove, next to a dog friendly drinking fountain.

And the landscaping marking the entrance.

So very many vendors along the main street.  Most were locals offering art, but some offering commercial products.  I suspect this mask vendor would do better at an event closer to Halloween.

The stuffed animal keychains are whimsical and imported from Thailand.

I’m sure Fran would say I have more than enough Hawaiian shirts.  But there were a few nice ones in that collection I thought of taking home.

Of course there were lots of food options.  Thai dishes are usually pretty good.

But they do not compare to a good taco IHMO.

I actually considered that cauliflower taco!  But resisted …

I could hear Mexican music coming from the main stage.  There were a dozen young gals in their folkloric best dancing.

And their older classmates.

I wandered down toward the ocean, where there was a kids play area with various games, including cornhole.  But the kids were tossing the bean bags at each other!  It was kinda fun but they were to quick for a picture, but the rock wall climber was pretty slow.

About this time a band took over the main stage.  I didn’t care for their loud unfamiliar music.  So moved further down the beach.  Just a few surfers out there waiting for the next perfect wave.

For $12,000 I could have driven a street legal golf cart over to the Farmers Market that began at noon.

But I rode my bike over instead.  It's in the high rent area of Cedros Avenue, the Design District of Solana Beach.  Didn’t see any Cedar Trees, guess somebody liked the sound of word cedar in Spanish.

This is a nice market.  It’s not big, but has various offerings from the local backyard growers.


Carrots and lots of vegetables

A Persian booth offering Carrot Jam, new to me

A Chez Christophe booth.  French bakery items, with salads and sandwiches.  Well this is Solana Beach, no hot dogs or philly cheese here.

So where did I end up for lunch? Subway!  Foot long turkey breast with all the entire garden (including peppers) and no dressing.  Half for lunch and half for dinner.  I seem to collect fast food gift cards.  I still have a Carl's Jr, this Subway and TWO for Rubio's fish tacos - one is two years old!  I need to get out more :)

Even under the May Gray skies it was a pretty darn good day.  Trust yours was too.