The Fourth of July has come and gone. This year’s version was devoid of the usual sparkle and flash, considering bans on private use of fireworks were enacted across western Montana in the week before the holiday. If you were playing with fireworks in your backyard this year, you were either breaking the law or you were somewhere far away from the Flathead.
The Flathead fireworks ban may have served as a sign the apocalypse is upon us for some. For others it was just the most recent indicator, enacted as it was just two days before the holiday, that the drought that has slammed much of the western United States is deeper, and something far more significant than just a bump in the weather.
Signs from elsewhere include The New York Times publishing a recipe for guacamole that substituted peas for avocados, and the armed guards confiscating fireworks at the California border when I visited last week.
Most of the nation’s avocados are grown in groves covering the steep hillsides north of San Diego. Avocados require plenty of water and since the tree’s feeder roots are mostly near the surface and the groves tend to be in areas with quick draining soils made up of decomposed granite, keeping things wet enough for the fruit to thrive is tricky business.
Irrigation is a major cost for growers and some have been trying to save money by not providing extra watering for the groves. The result is fruit drop, shortages and higher prices.
I suppose you can make a nice dip for tortilla chips out of mushed peas, garlic and chili, and if your household includes folks who can’t eat avocados for one reason or another, then by all means track down the recipe and whip up a batch the next time you invite folks over on game day.
Just don’t make the mistake the newspaper of record made and label your concoction “guacamole.” Guacamole is made from avocados, period. Onions, garlic and chilies are allowed as part of the supporting cast, but the creamy green foundation must be avocado.
It’s a bit like mixing vodka and vermouth. The result may be a fine cocktail, but if it isn’t gin it isn’t a martini.
The fireworks confiscation was a bit of a shocker. I have been driving through California interstate check stations for decades, and can’t remember a time when the fluorescent-vested inspectors did little more than ask where I was traveling from. Usually, they can’t wave vehicles through fast enough.
On that last trip down south, however, traffic backed up for miles. And when we approached the station we could see drivers opening their trunks to be inspected by the phalanx of armed guards on hand. I knew better than to draw attention to myself by rolling down my window and asking what all the fuss was about, but I got my answer once we were waved through. Just beyond the station was a large box truck filled to the brim with confiscated fireworks.
Too dry for avocados is apparently too dry for fireworks as well.
There have been scary signs closer to home. Hoot owl restrictions were imposed on the Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers on July 2, the earliest date on record. The restrictions ban fishing after 2 p.m., when river temperatures climb to levels warm enough to kill released trout. The restrictions kick in when rivers and streams hit 72 degrees. That’s well beyond the comfort zone of native cutthroat and bull trout, and where things get dicey for introduced rainbows and browns.
I suppose an epic fire season is up next. We’ve already got one blaze on the North Fork. More are sure to follow, fireworks ban not withstanding. The ban makes sense, though it’s silly to think it will fix the problem. Only rain will do that.
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