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New Book Chronicles the Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims

Smithsonian Magazine

All too often, murder victims’ stories are relegated to the footnotes of history, overshadowed by not only their violent ends, but the looming specter of their killers. In The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, historian Hallie Rubenhold sets out to correct this imbalance, placing the focus on Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly—an eclectic group whose ranks include a fraudster, a traveling chapbook seller and a spurned wife who entered the workhouse after discovering her husband’s infidelity—rather than the still-unidentified serial killer who ended their lives in 1888.

“We always start with the murders, then focus on who Jack the Ripper was, to the point that he has become a supernatural creature,” Rubenhold explains in an interview with the Guardian’s Sian Cain. “... But he was a real person, who killed real people. This all happened. And our disassociation from the reality is what dehumanised these women. They have just become corpses.”

Perhaps the most significant takeaway of the new research is Rubenhold’s debunking of a popular myth surrounding the so-called “canonical five”: As Maya Crockett points out for Stylist, Jack the Ripper’s victims are often identified as prostitutes, but in actuality, there is no evidence tying Nichols, Chapman and Eddowes to the profession.

Kelly was the only one making a living as a sex worker at the time of the murders, according to a Penguin Random House blog post. Stride, despite finding herself entangled in a state-run prostitution ring back in her home country of Sweden, pursued alternative paths—including running a coffeehouse and, upon that venture’s failure, masquerading as a shipping disaster victim in order to defraud the well-to-do—upon immigrating to England.

What united these five females, in the words of the Times’ Daisy Goodwin, was not their occupation, but the fact that during the twilight of the Victorian era, “it was all too easy for women to end up sleeping on the streets.” Indeed, Frances Wilson writes for the Guardian, the five’s lives traced the same broad strokes: Born into poverty or reduced to it later in life, the women endured faithless and abusive husbands, endless cycles of childbearing and childrearing, and alcohol addiction. Sooner or later, they all ended up homeless, spending their nights in the winding alleys of London’s Whitechapel district.

Wanted poster seeking information regarding the murders (Public domain)

The Ripper’s first victim, Nichols, was murdered at age 43. According to Stylist’s Crockett, she was a blacksmith’s daughter who grew up in the fittingly titled Gunpowder Alley, a neighborhood known for inspiring the sleazy character Fagin’s lodgings in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. In 1876, Goodwin notes for the Times, Nichols, her husband and their three children moved into tenements built by philanthropist George Peabody to house the “deserving poor.” Unlike most cheap accommodation at the time, the apartment buildings boasted indoor lavatories and gas-heated water.

But within a few short years, Nichols, disgusted by her husband’s philandering, left the relative comfort of home for a workhouse, which Londonist describes as a seedy institution where society’s poorest labored in exchange for food and shelter. After a subsequent spell as a maid, Nichols landed on the streets, where she soon encountered the Whitechapel killer.

Unsurprisingly, the Guardian’s Wilson reports, an inquest into Nichols’ death revealed investigators’ attempts to blame her murder on the transient lifestyle she was leading. As a coroner reportedly asked her former roommate, “Do you consider that she was very cleanly in her habits?” (In other words, Wilson translates, “Was Nichols a prostitute and thus deserving of her fate?”)

Annie Chapman in 1869 (Public domain)

Chapman, the Ripper’s second victim, might have led a middle-class life had she not suffered from alcoholism. The wife of a gentleman’s coachman, she had eight children, six of whom, according to the Guardian’s Cain, were born with health issues stemming from their mother’s addiction. At one point, Helena Horton writes for the Telegraph, Chapman visited a rehabilitation center in search of treatment but was unable to make a full recovery. Alcoholism enacted a heavy toll on her marriage, and by the end of Chapman’s life, she, like Nichols, was sleeping on the streets of Whitechapel, a “fallen woman,” in Rubenhold’s words, destroyed not by sexual transgressions but the equally unenviable label of “female drunkard.”

Stride and Eddowes—victims three and four—were murdered within hours of each other the night of September 30, 1888. Stylist’s Crockett suggests that by the end of her life, Stride, the sex worker-turned-maid, coffeehouse proprietor and finally fraudster, may have been experiencing debilitating mental health issues linked with syphilis.

Eddowes, comparatively, came from a more advantageous background: Thanks to a primary school education, she was fully literate and, as the Guardian’s Wilson notes, able to transcribe ballads penned by her common-law partner, Thomas Conway. The couple roamed England, selling poetry pamphlets known as chapbooks, but after Conway became abusive, the two split up. Astonishingly, some 500 friends and family members turned up for Eddowes’ funeral.

An illustration of Mary Jane Kelly, the Ripper's last victim (Public domain)

Kelly, the Ripper’s last victim, was the only one of the five to be labeled “prostitute” on her death certificate. While all of the others were in their 40s at the time of the murders, she was just 25 years old. Given her age and profession, there is little reliable information regarding her life. But as Cain writes, Rubenhold’s research has led her to believe Kelly narrowly escaped sex traffickers during a trip to Paris. Upon returning to London, she moved between brothels and boarding houses; of the Ripper’s victims, she was the only one murdered in a bed rather than on the streets.

Significantly, Goodwin observes for the Times, Rubenhold dedicates little space to the man who killed her subjects and the gory manner in which he did so. Beyond positing that the women were asleep when murdered, making them easy targets for a prowling predator, The Five emphasizes the victims’ lives, not their deaths.

“At its very core, the story of Jack the Ripper is a narrative of a killer’s deep, abiding hatred of women, and our cultural obsession with the mythology only serves to normalise its particular brand of misogyny,” Rubenhold writes. “It is only by bringing these women back to life that we can silence the Ripper and what he represents.”

This Secret Corner of California Is a Paradise for Lovers of Great Food and Top-Notch Wines

Smithsonian Magazine

Seemingly everyone you meet in Anderson Valley can tell you a migration story that has the flavor of myth — a tale that casts their arrival in this shockingly picturesque corner of California’s Mendocino County as the climax of a great quest, or the punch line of a cosmic joke, or both. One of the best yarns, surely, is Bruce Anderson’s. In 1971, Anderson, an avowed “big hippie,” rolled out of San Francisco in a Volkswagen bus, heading, like many pilgrims of the period, back to the land. For years, Anderson had lived in the thick of San Francisco’s counterculture. He had played a leading role in anti–Vietnam War protests. But as the 60s turned into the 70s, the city’s bohemian enclaves were gripped by malaise, Flower Power dreams withering amid rising violence and a plague of hard drugs. So Anderson hit the road with his wife, his young son, his brother, and a handful of friends, heading up the coast in a caravan, seeking spiritual rejuvenation in a landscape of stretching redwoods and soaring oceanside cliffs. And they had another plan in mind: to raise a dozen troubled Bay Area foster children in the countryside, far from the deprivations and vices of city life.

Anderson and company hadn’t decided exactly where they were headed, but the decision was soon made for them. About 125 miles northwest of San Francisco, Anderson pulled into a service station in a tiny town whose name, Boonville, made no secret of the fact that it was, well, the boondocks. “We barely knew where we were,” Anderson recalled. “We just happened to run into a guy who told us there was a ranch for lease south of town.”

They drove to the ranch and stayed. The basics of rural homesteading proved a mystery. (“Gravity-flow water systems, septic tanks — all that was completely new,” Anderson said.) As for the foster kids, that plan didn’t work out too well: “We had the delusional idea that juvenile delinquents would be less delinquent under the redwoods than they were under streetlights. They turned out to be twice as delinquent.”

But nearly a half-century later, Bruce Anderson has become so synonymous with Anderson Valley that he’s often mistakenly assumed to be its namesake. Today he lives with his wife in the center of Boonville. He works steps away, in a 40-foot trailer that serves as the headquarters of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the weekly newspaper that he has owned, edited, and largely written for 34 years. At 78, Anderson looks and sounds the part of an éminence grise, with an ample white beard and a commanding basso profundo. He is a fount of local lore. Ask for a history lesson and he will tell you about successive generations of economic refugees, fortune seekers, and utopian questers who made their way to the valley: the European pioneers who pushed into Pomo Indian country in the mid 19th century; the Arkies and Okies who arrived after World War II, finding work in the then-booming timber industry; the members of his own hippie tribe, who came in the 70s, buying up cheap logged-over land where they raised kids and communed with nature.

From left: Donnelly Creek, outside Boonville; Daniel Townsend, co-owner of the Bewildered Pig, chats with a guest outside his restaurant. (Alex Farnum)

A fourth wave of Anderson Valley migration is under way. The climate and topography that for decades nurtured the valley’s agricultural staples — first apples and pears, then cannabis—has proven ideal for growing grapes, especially Pinot Noir. Today, Anderson Valley is California’s most exciting emerging wine region, a magnet for the 21st century’s new class of NoCal back-to-the landers: oenophiles, foodies, and others who want to live simply but sumptuously. Travelers who once bypassed the valley, following the siren call of Mendocino’s famous coastline, are increasingly journeying inland. What they find there is bounteous farmland and deep forests, a food-and-wine scene slowly but steadily coming into its own, a place that has maintained the funkiness that was long ago gentrified out of the county’s more well-trafficked communities. For locals, the transformation of Anderson Valley is nothing short of surreal. “It’s like something out of science fiction,” marveled Anderson. “Everywhere you look, you see vineyards coming over the ridge.”

My first glimpse of Anderson Valley came on a vibrant morning, when the sun streamed through cracks in a ceiling of magnificent gray-white clouds. The night before, I’d completed my own trek to the valley from San Francisco. The last leg of the journey was hair-raising: a 30-mile-long drive along fearsomely twisty Route 128, which slaloms north and west across a forested mountain pass before dropping into the valley at Boonville. (Locals credit the challenging drive with keeping the area’s population down.) I quickly got my reward in the form of an early lunch at Boonville’s Pennyroyal Farm, which for the last decade has been producing excellent wines and the valley’s most famous small-batch cheeses.

In the tasting room, locals and visitors crowded around the bar, sampling whites and rosés. I made my way outside, taking a table on a canopied patio that offered views of the vineyard. Twenty-three acres of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapevines lace a landscape roamed by sheep that do double duty as cheese suppliers and weeders of the vineyard floor. The food arrived on heaping platters: charcuterie; pickled vegetables; a big dollop of Laychee, Pennyroyal’s signature goat cheese; a slab of Boont Corners Vintage Tomme, a tangy, salty goat-and-sheep-milk cheese. I washed it down with a bracing Blanc. A couple seated at the next table, Pennyroyal regulars, told me, “You can’t leave without trying the Pinot.” The advice was less a suggestion than a command; it seemed foolish to ignore it. The pour of the day was Pennyroyal’s 2015 Jeansheep Vineyard Pinot, dark and spicy with notes of morello cherry. I ordered a glass, drank it, and ordered a second.

House-made cheeses at Pennyroyal Farm, in Boonville. (Alex Farnum)

The first Anderson Valley vineyards appeared in the 1970s, but it was the arrival of legendary French champagne maker Louis Roederer in the early 80s that established the region’s bona fides. Since then, dozens of vintners have set up shop, specializing in wines that thrive in the region’s distinctive terroir. Anderson Valley is a narrow strip, just 25 miles long, tucked between coastal redwoods and inland oaks. It’s threaded by the Navarro River, which passes through Boonville and two smaller hamlets, Philo and Navarro, on its way to the Pacific. In summer, fog drapes the valley in the morning. Afternoon temperatures can reach 100 degrees; in the evening, the thermometer may plummet 40 or 50 degrees. “When it comes to grapes, the temperate climate here makes all the difference,” said Matt Parish, a winemaker from New Zealand who in 2017 took the helm at Philo’s Lula Cellars. “You get that nice, even ripeness without blowing out the fruit flavors in too-hot weather.”

Lula Cellars is a favorite of valley cognoscenti. The wine is superb: meaty Pinots, holding lingering notes of dark fruit, with tannins that tickle the palate. The vibe at the vineyard is High Quirky. The tasting room manager, Dan Reed, is a burly man with a courtly manner and a wit as dry as the Pinots he pours. His business card reads pushy salesman, but his technique leans more toward gentle persuasion. “I think you’ll like this,” he told me, offering a glass of 2014 Costa Pinot Noir. (I liked it.) Reed lives on the property, in a house that he shares with Honey, a yellow Labrador mix, who has her own Lula business card (head of barketing). When visitors bring their dogs—a practice Lula encourages—Honey leads them on bombing runs into the vineyard’s pond to chase frogs. Honey often rides shotgun in Lula’s house car, a vintage Morris Minor, when Reed does errands in Philo and Boonville. “Me and Honey, we’re a little bit famous around here,” Reed said.

In years past, visitors who sought upscale lodging were forced to leave Anderson Valley and spend their nights on the coast, where options are plentiful. But today the valley has its own high-end Shangri-La, which sacrifices nothing in the way of amenities while offering the kind of oddity that can’t be faked.

The Madrones stands behind a grand gateway entrance in Philo, just across the Boonville line. The property includes a rose garden and a working farm. There are tasting rooms for three local wineries and an excellent little restaurant, Stone & Embers, that serves exquisite wood-fired pizzas and small plates.

There are four guest rooms in the compound’s main building, and five more in guest houses situated on the raffishly landscaped grounds. The rooms are appointed with a variety of antiques, nearly all from the collection of Jim Roberts, the owner. Weirder items from his stash—19th-century German anatomy posters, Victorian embalming machines—are on sale in the hotel’s curiosity shop, the Sun & Cricket. The main building has the look of a Mediterranean villa, with a shady courtyard and tiled roof. But there’s also a scattering of Asian statuary, a huge bronze dragon that presides over the hotel’s circular drive, and two fierce Chinese lions painted a lurid shade of pink. The first time I met Roberts, I confessed that I found the architectural hodgepodge delightful but disorienting. “Is this Tuscany? Spain? China? I’m not sure where I am,” I told him. “Good,” he said.

Roberts grew up in Orange County, California. “I always wanted to live in Mendocino,” he said. “I read about it. I dreamed about it. So I packed up my car and went.” For years the property was his home and the office for his now-shuttered interior design firm. In 2011, Roberts decided to try his hand at hospitality and, in the succeeding years, has gradually expanded the Madrones. Now, Roberts and his partner in business and life, Brian Adkinson, have added an adjacent property to the compound. One afternoon they took me to the Brambles, which occupies sprawling acreage in a grove of old-growth redwoods a short distance from the Madrones. The Brambles’ guesthouse, holding three spacious suites, is a Victorian stick-and-shingle structure. It looked like something out of a Grimms’ fairy tale.

Roberts and Adkinson epitomize the new breed of Anderson Valley refugees: creative, unconventional, entrepreneurial. On Boonville’s main drag, you can shop at Farmhouse Mercantile, a housewares emporium as tastefully rustic-chic as any in San Francisco’s hipster redoubts. Even the old Boonville Hotel—which dates back to the town’s rugged mid-19th-century frontier era—bills itself as a “modern roadhouse” where the restaurant serves food “inspired by whim and season.” It’s a big change for a place that has always been hardscrabble. A century ago, Boonvillians developed a language impenetrable to outsiders, Boontling. (A few old-timers still speak the argot, which is heavy on sexual and scatological terms: “moldunes” are large breasts; to “burlap” is to have intercourse.) On weekends, the streets ran with blood from bare-knuckle bar fights, and the brothels heaved. “This was wild country,” Bruce Anderson told me. “Lots of little mill shacks and people who worked hard, played hard.”

The valley grew more sedate when the timber mills began to shutter in the late 50s and 60s. But the outlaw spirit endured in the formerly illicit trade that has formed the backbone of Mendocino’s economy since the 70s: growing and selling marijuana. On New Year’s Day 2018, California’s first retail weed shops opened their doors, and the question hovering over the region today is how life will transform in the era of legalization. Everywhere you go in Anderson Valley, you hear grumblings that the pot business is facing a corporate takeover and that mom-and-pop growers will be left in the cold. Some imagine a time when marijuana farms and tasting rooms will line Route 128 alongside the vineyards, with “ganja sommeliers” proffering varietals to “weed tourists.” But if that day comes, who will reap the profits?

For now, the answers—like the pungent scent of Mendocino cannabis that locals proudly pronounce the world’s best—are blowing in the wind. In the meantime, curious new forms of life are taking root in the valley’s loamy soil. Oddly enough, the place that may best embody Anderson Valley’s iconoclastic spirit is its fanciest restaurant.

The Bewildered Pig sits on an otherwise sparsely developed stretch of 128 in Philo, about two miles south of the Navarro line. Janelle Weaver, the Bewildered Pig’s chef, and her partner, Daniel Townsend, fit the archetypal profile of Mendocino pilgrims. For seven years, they rolled up and down the coast in their 1978 Volkswagen Westphalia camper, seeking the ideal spot for the restaurant they envisioned. Weaver grew up in Michigan and Alaska, where she hunted and fished with her family; her first professional cooking job was at a breakfast counter, at age 12. Townsend spent much of his childhood on the White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona. (His father was a missionary.) The couple met in 2004, in Napa Valley, where both had worked for years as chefs. Townsend is also a landscape designer and tinkerer whose touch is all over the Pig: a “cactus wall” that shields outdoor diners from traffic; gurgling fountains ingeniously crafted from repurposed industrial scraps; a gorgeous adjacent patio, where they plan to host DJ nights and other events. The dining room is an enchanted space. Weaver and Townsend like to throw around the term “refined rustic,” an apt description of both their design aesthetic and Weaver’s astonishing cooking.

From left: Anderson Valley sheep supply milk for cheese; miso deviled eggs and a salad of foraged greens at the Bewildered Pig, one of the area’s best restaurants, in the town of Philo. (Alex Farnum)

I had one of the great meals of my life at the Pig. It was a lavish six-course tasting menu with wine pairings, highlighted by dishes like the explosively flavorful spruce-tip custard garnished with maitake mushrooms and locally foraged herbs, and an obscenely delicious sunchoke bisque with house-smoked black cod and smoked trout roe. There are notes of Eastern European cooking in Weaver’s plates. (Her Polish grandmother was an early influence.) There is a classical French sense of balance, too, and the requisite Alice Watersian emphasis on garden-fresh ingredients and regional sources.

But Weaver’s style is bold and unusual; an inventory of influences doesn’t tell the tale. Maybe, eventually, Weaver’s innovative food will simply be called Anderson Valley Cuisine. To say that the Bewildered Pig is the valley’s best restaurant is not to insult the area competition: soon enough, it may be the best restaurant in California. With its mix of revelatory food, conviviality, and ambition without pretension, it feels like a dream of what a restaurant should be.

Tourism isn’t rocket science. But Anderson Valley is the kind of place where you can get sightseeing advice from a rocket scientist. While sipping Pinot at the Lula Cellars tasting room one afternoon, I met a Lula regular, Todd Lukes, a southern California expat who moved to Mendocino five years ago. Lukes has the languid, sun-fried look of an aging surfer, but he works in the aeronautics industry. After quizzing me about my visit to the valley, he concluded that I’d spent too little time experiencing its natural wonders. He asked if I’d explored Hendy Woods State Park in Philo. Yes, I’d done that: I’d been struck dumb by the cathedral-like groves of ancient redwoods. “Then you have to head to the beach,” Lukes said. “You can’t leave Mendo without hitting the coast.” Where exactly should I go? “Blues Beach, just outside the town of Westport. There’s no sign. But you’ll know it when you see it.”

Lukes was right. On a shimmering morning I guided my rental car down the steep curves of Route 1 until I spotted a little jog off the big road. I practically drove right onto the beachfront, an unspoiled, unpeopled coastline that seemed to stretch to infinity. I scrambled down to the sand and marched north, stepping over chunks of seaweed the size of large squid, with the wind and surf roaring. It was a scene of almost unseemly beauty. The sky was a deep, dusty blue, roiled by swiftly moving clouds. About 500 yards from the beach, two giant outcroppings rose from the deep—rocks that animist ancients might have worshipped as gods. This was Mendocino utopia: a place on the edge of the continent, where nature at its most untrammeled is on display, and freedom seems absolute.

From left: The Brambles, a new property in Philo by the owners of the Madrones, consists of a cluster of cottages nestled in a grove of redwood trees; the Mendocino coast south of the town of Little River. (Alex Farnum)

An hour passed, maybe two. It was time I moved along. The next day I would have to follow Route 128’s zigzags out of the valley, to Route 101 South and on to San Francisco to catch a flight back to the East Coast. In the meantime, I longed to get back to the valley, which offers its own mellow version of splendid isolation: a glass of something strong and red, a vineyard vista, a landscape gradually turning deep blue as the sun drops into the sea on the far side of the pine-lined ridges. I remembered a comment Jim Roberts made about Anderson Valley’s slowly-but-steadily rising profile. “The secret is out,” Roberts said. “But, you know, it’s not tooout.”

Exploring Mendocino County

Three days in Anderson Valley allows time to sample local wines, experience gastronomic nirvana, and immerse yourself in natural beauty. Add two or three days to your itinerary to visit the county’s famously dramatic coastline.

Getting There

The scenic way to reach Mendocino County from San Francisco is Route 1, which winds along the coastline. The drive takes roughly four hours; stop at Point Reyes National Seashore if time allows. If you’re in a hurry, take inland Route 101 to Route 128, which reaches Anderson Valley in three hours.

Anderson Valley


Boonville Hotel In the 19th century, this place was a raucous roadhouse. Today, it has 15 comfortable rooms, including a private creekside bungalow with a screened-in porch. Boonville; boonville​; doubles from $155.

The Brambles From the owners of the nearby Madrones hotel, this renovated homestead in a secluded redwood grove has three suites and two adjacent cabins. Philo;; doubles from $250.

The Madrones Nine accommodations in a gorgeous setting that is part Tuscany, part Alice’s Wonderland. Philo;; doubles from $252.

Philo Apple Farm Hidden in one of the valley’s last fruit orchards is this exclusive hotel with four chic guest cottages. Visitors can choose to “just stay” or to “stay and cook,” joining staff in hands-on farm-to-table meal preparation. Philo; philoapple​; doubles from $300.

Food & Drink

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. This 30-year-old valley institution is one of the country’s pioneering craft-beer makers. Try Frisbee golf on an 18-hole course that wends through oak groves and pasture. Boonville;

Bewildered Pig The Anderson Valley culinary revolution starts here. Janelle Weaver’s “refined rustic” food will bowl you over; the dining room feels like your long-lost home. Book in advance. Philo; bewildered​; entrées $26–$32.

Goldeneye Winery “The Pearly Gates of Pinot Noir” is this vineyard’s none-too-humble tagline, but the wine merits the boast. Experience an Essentials Tasting for $15, or book the Elevated Tasting, a deep dive into the winery’s portfolio. Philo; goldeneye​

Lula Cellars The wines are delicious and surprisingly complex; the vineyard views, gorgeous. Philo;

Navarro Vineyards One of the valley’s oldest vintners, with a charming, barnlike tasting room. The Pinots are big and flavorful, but don’t miss the Gewürztraminer. Philo; navarro​

Pennyroyal Farm Come for the farmstead cheeses, stay for the wine. Anderson Valley’s most hopping lunch scene. Boonville; pennyroyal​

Stone & Embers This delightful restaurant on the Madrones property makes the most of its tiny space. The inventive wood-fired pizzas have toppings like “turducken sausages.” Philo; stoneand​; entrées $15–$19.

Table 128 The Boonville Hotel’s restaurant serves family-style dinners. Reservations are a must. Boonville;; prix fixe from $38.


Hendy Woods State Park To step into the redwood groves is to enter a sublime space—nature’s own Chartres Cathedral. The trees are towering (some stretch to 300 feet) and ancient (some are more than 1,000 years old). Philo; 


Farmhouse Mercantile This lovely Boonville shop sells housewares, clothing,

Point Cabrillo Light Station, outside the town of Mendocino. (Alex Farnum)

The Coast


Brewery Gulch Inn A perennial on T+L’s World’s Best list, Brewery Gulch Inn overlooks a spectacular swathe of coastline. The inn combines the best elements of luxe resort, bed-and-breakfast, and rec room; in the high-beamed dining-room-cum-lounge there are plush couches, board games, and picture windows that frame eye-popping views. Mendocino;; doubles from $385.

Inn at Newport Ranch This brand-new hotel is situated on a 2,000-acre working ranch with more than a mile of private coastline. Take advantage of the hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails that run through the property. Fort Bragg; theinnat​; doubles from $375.

JD House This just-renovated bed-and-breakfast is named for John Dougherty, its original resident. The rooms are a modern take on a sea captain’s quarters, with fireplaces and Persian rugs. Mendocino; bluedoor​; doubles
from $159.

Food & Drink

Circa ’62 at the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek A quaint inn uphill from Route 1 serves a decadent brunch. Menu highlights include kimchi pancakes and bacon-and-sweet-corn hash. Little River; schoolhouse​; entrées $7–$17.

Trillium Café Housed in a whitewashed clapboard house, this restaurant is beloved for its quintessential California cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Mendocino; trillium​; entrées $24–$37.

Wild Fish At this Pacific Coast Highway restaurant on the cliffs above Little River Cove, all ingredients come from local purveyors or are grown on the property. Little River;; entrées $22–$39.


Blues Beach Located just south of the town of Westport off Route 1, this pristine stretch of shore is officially known as Chadbourne Gulch Beach. You can drive your car right onto the sand.

Mendocino Headlands State Park The town of Mendocino is surrounded by 347 acres of protected green space. Visit for the pleasant nature trails and the park’s two beaches, which draw fishers, sailors, and scuba divers. Mendocino;

Skunk Train This 133-year-old train line, nicknamed for its diesel fumes, winds through the forest for more than 40 miles. Fort Bragg; skunk​; adult fares from $25. — Jody Rosen and Hannah Walhout

This content was produced with the assistance from Brewery Gulch Inn and the Madrones.

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King of The Mud Dragons

Smithsonian Magazine

A serrated rostrum of a sawfish shares wall space with a dozen or so carved wooden masks from Madagascar, Tahiti, Chile, Peru, and beyond. Behind the couch hang four paintings—Chinese landscapes delicately rendered on silk—each depicting a season. On the bookshelf, 80 or so small flags stand at attention, lined up like a miniature United Nations court of flags—one for every country Robert Higgins visited in his lifelong quest for dragons.

Now 85, Higgins’s dragon-hunting days have passed, but the work he pioneered continues—younger searchers are off on modern expeditions. And while the world Higgins traveled was large, the world he studied was not. He spent a lifetime searching for animals smaller than the dot on a 12-point i. His specialty is a group of marine organisms called kinorhynchs, aka mud dragons.

Mud dragons are just one type of meiofauna, animals so diminutive they live between grains of sediment. They swim through the watery film surrounding each grain, or navigate the terrain of sand and mud—veritable mountains to scale—using suction pads, hooks, or tiny toes. Just a handful of marine sediment is a meiofauna metropolis. They’re so numerous that under a single footprint on moist sand there could be up to 100,000 individuals. A brief walk, say just 85 steps, might tromp over eight and a half million organisms, a number equivalent to the population of New York City.

For over 60 years, Robert Higgins (right) traveled the world collecting microscopic meiofauna from their sand and mud habitats. Here, in the late 1980s in a makeshift laboratory on a hotel terrace, Higgins and his colleague Fernando Pardos search for life in samples collected earlier in the day on the coast of Santander, Spain. (Photo courtesy of Fernando Pardos)

But for a group of animals so plentiful, they are little known and poorly understood, except by a dedicated few. Meiofauna means lesser or smaller animals, and Higgins has spent a lifetime challenging such a dismissive descriptor. Far from being “lesser,” to him this abundance of life speaks of endless opportunity. Higgins’s passion has been to bring these animals the due they deserve, to bring the obscure out of obscurity.

Forget Daenerys Targaryen, mother of dragons, and her quest for the Iron Throne—Robert Higgins was the original. This father of dragons has been building his kingdom since he snagged his first mud dragon over 60 years ago.

Today, Higgins lives in a modest two-bedroom apartment in a retirement community in Asheville, North Carolina. Widowed in 2010 after his beloved wife, Gwen, died of cancer, he shares the space with a fluffy, white Havanese, Susie, who today is tricked out in a pink, ruffled collar. A talented artist, he spends some time oil painting—a recent subject is Echo, his African gray parrot of 30 years—but is still keenly interested in meiofauna research, and signs of his life’s work fill his home.

A balsa wood model of a mud dragon is prominent atop his media cabinet. The model was once on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, where Higgins spent 27 years. “They had a terrible model of a kinorhynch,” he says, “so I carved this one.”

About the length of his forearm, Higgins’s model is no delicate tchotchke. Scaled up to about 500 times the actual size of the largest kinorhynch, the model brings to life the 13-segment creature, with its retractable head covered in recurved spines. To move through the sediment, a mud dragon thrusts its head out of its cylinder-like body, hooks its spines on the grains of sediment, and then hauls itself forward. Its mode of locomotion explains the etymology of kinorhynch, Greek for moveable snout.

Nearby, a packed bookcase speaks to Higgins’s fascination with the natural world—several atlases, titles on birds and insects, the textbook Cell Structure and Function. The lower shelves hold two bulging black binders filled with copies of Higgins’s professional publications, all neatly collated in color-coded plastic sleeves. Together, they form a paper trail, documenting a career spent searching for life in the world’s sediments.

Robert Higgins samples the bottom sediment for meiofauna in the waters near the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Florida. Various sampling devices including corers and dredges are used to gather the top layers of sediment, which is the most oxygenated and hospitable to meiofauna. (Photo courtesy of Robert Higgins)

Higgins’s travels with meiofauna began in 1952, when he arrived as an undergrad at the University of Colorado Boulder, fresh-faced and buzz cut, newly released from the Marine Corps. In his second year there, he met professor Robert Pennak, who introduced him to the world of invertebrates, including tardigrades, a type of meiofauna so pudgy they’re called moss piglets or water bears.

Pennak hired Higgins for 35 cents an hour to work in the university’s moss and lichen herbarium, where he’d regularly find hundreds of microscopic animals, including water bears, in the moss samples. “If you take a lush piece of moss, put it in a bowl of water and squeeze it … you have about a 50 percent chance of finding a tardigrade,” he says.

Higgins was enamored by the tenacity of tardigrades, with their death-defying adaptions to desiccation, freezing, radiation, and other extreme environmental stresses. So after taking every available course on invertebrates and completing his bachelor’s degree, he went on to do a master’s degree on the life history of a tardigrade species living in the mosses of the Boulder region.

He thought about staying at Boulder for a PhD on water bears, but Pennak encouraged his protégé to go elsewhere, and also delivered some prophetic advice. “He said, ‘Do something no one else has done, and then you make your own science,’” recalls Higgins. “I was quite affected by that.”

Tardigrades are also called water bears or moss piglets. They are a well-studied group of meiofauna, famous for their ability to withstand numerous environmental stressors. Tardigrades were Robert Higgins’s first introduction to meiofauna and the subject of his master’s thesis. (Photo by Papilio/Alamy Stock Photo)

Higgins applied to five universities, was accepted to five, and chose Duke University in North Carolina. But between leaving the Colorado mountains and arriving on Duke’s Atlantic shore, Higgins made a trip to the Pacific for a summer fellowship at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor marine laboratory. Before he left, Pennak asked Higgins to try to collect a few samples he was lacking in his teaching collection, including kinorhynchs.

Even though he’d never seen a kinorhynch, Higgins accepted the mission. Within days of arriving, he was on a boat dredging sediment from the seafloor. Back in the lab, he was confronted with a bucket of mud and water and the tactical problem of trying to extract minute creatures from the crud. “Self, how the heck am I going to go through all this mud?” Higgins recalls of the moment.

The only information he had on technique was from the one scientist who had previously found a few kinorhynchs at Friday Harbor. Squeezing a pipette, she’d added bubbles one by one to the sample, relying on the physics of bubbles to find the animals. The exoskeletons of kinorhynchs and other hard-bodied meiofauna are hydrophobic—they repel water—causing them to stick on the bubbles in the surface film.

Higgins tried the method, picking the speck-sized animals off the water surface using a small tool with a tiny wire loop at one end, but it was tedious work. After an hour, he’d managed to snag just four; his days of squeezing dozens of tardigrades out of Colorado moss seemed halcyon in retrospect. But, just as a weak batch of adhesive gave 3M its Post-it note, a fumble in the lab that day proved serendipitous, perhaps not for the world, but at least for those trying to separate infuriatingly small creatures from a slurry of sand and water.

Higgins accidentally dropped a piece of paper into the water and when he pulled it out, it was covered in specks. He washed the sample into a petri dish and took a look under the scope—kinorhynchs were everywhere. The low-tech, highly effective technique, “bubble and blot,” was born. And so was Higgins’s life’s work.

The senior researchers at Friday Harbor were astounded when Higgins showed them the wealth of kinorhynchs he’d managed to find, and after working on the samples for his summer term’s research paper—and finding a paucity of literature on kinorhynchs—Pennak’s advice was staring him in the face. He’d found his “something” that few people knew anything about.


Back at Duke in the fall, with his Friday Harbor kinorhynch collection in tow, Higgins informed his PhD supervisor that he was switching from moss piglets to mud dragons. His adviser admitted he wouldn’t be much help—he knew next to nothing about kinorhynchs—but provided what support he could. “He bought me the equipment I needed and turned me loose,” says Higgins.

Higgins worked through the hundreds of mud dragons he’d collected, painstakingly detailing the morphological minutiae of spines and scalids, oral styles and cuticular hairs. The seven species he’d found were undescribed, which left the meticulous work of scientific description up to him. “Doing my thesis on the life history of kinorhynchs got me started,” he says, “and that got me everything.”

He became an expert in kinorhynchs, and quickly became the go-to taxonomist for that phylum as well as many other groups of meiofauna. Soon researchers from around the world leaned on his skills, shipping all manner of unidentified animals his way. “Send them to Bob, he works on these weird things,” Higgins later recounted in a speech.

But Higgins didn’t want to remain the only guy who works on weird things. As he progressed in his career from Duke to Wake Forest University and finally to the National Museum of Natural History, where he served as curator in the department of invertebrate zoology, he nurtured a community of researchers who collectively animated the hidden micro-kingdoms below our feet.

In 1966, he cofounded the International Association of Meiobenthologists and launched its newsletter, with an eye to keeping the communication, both professional and personal, flowing. Three years later, while working for the Smithsonian in Tunis, Tunisia, he co-convened the first International Conference on Meiofauna. Twenty-eight participants from seven countries attended. It was a start.


Almost 50 years after Higgins first snagged some mud dragons on a sheet of paper, María Herranz, a kinorhynch biologist doing a postdoc at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, is bubbling and blotting the sediment sample she collected that morning near the Hakai Institute’s Calvert Island Ecological Observatory on British Columbia’s central coast. As she works, she recounts the story of how Higgins discovered the technique—with slight tweaks as one expects in an as-told-to story (her version had Higgins with a cold, and a tissue in his shirt pocket falling into the sample). The details of paper versus tissue don’t matter so much, but what is clear is the legacy that has come down via the generations from when Higgins was pretty much on his own studying kinorhynchs, and today, when the international kinorhynchologist club has grown to about 10.

Out sampling, Herranz uses a dredge, modeled after one designed by Higgins, to grab the top layer of mud . (“The first five to 10 centimeters is where the action is,” explains Higgins, “that’s where it’s still oxygenated.”) All the other dredges he’d tried dug too deep, so Higgins designed one. Rather than patent it, and hold the idea close, he readily shared the plans with any researchers who asked so they could build their own.

When she’s ready to strain the creatures she’s blotted from the mud slurry, Herranz uses a small net (think butterfly net meets coffee filter). It’s another Higgins-designed piece of equipment used by kinorhynch researchers, and each one was sewn by his wife, Gwen. The net’s resemblance to a bra cup—a pointy vintage number—was not lost on a crewman on one of Higgins’s research expeditions who saucily held the net to his chest. The name “mermaid bra” stuck and regularly makes its way into the methodology section of scientific papers. During her lifetime, Gwen made nets for anyone who asked and they all came with a label and serial number. Herranz’s reads: Gwen-Made Ltd., Mermaid Bra, SN 070703. (To recognize Gwen’s contribution to the science, Herranz named a new species of kinorhynch after her: Antygomonas gwenae.)

Herranz has never met Higgins, but his name comes up often in her kinorhynch work. There’s bubble and blot, the dredge, the mermaid bra, the meiofauna bible—Introduction to the Study of Meiofauna—he coauthored, but most importantly there is lineage. Higgins and Herranz are linked by Fernando Pardos, a zoologist at Complutense University of Madrid, who encouraged Herranz to study kinorhynchs instead of jellyfish, a suggestion strikingly similar to the encouragement Higgins once gave him.

The mermaid bra is standard equipment in meiofauna research. The net was designed by Robert Higgins and for years sewn for researchers around the world by his wife, Gwen. Here, Robert Higgins and Reinhardt Kristensen ham it up at the Den Lille Havfrue (the Little Mermaid) in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo courtesy of Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen)

In 1986, fresh from completing his PhD, Pardos, then 30, was applying for a university teaching position. In preparation for the interview, and anticipating he’d be asked to teach invertebrate zoology, he was searching for information on a newly described group of meiofauna. Pardos knew Higgins had been involved with the discovery, so he wrote him a letter asking for information.

“To my surprise, Bob Higgins answered with a stack of scientific papers and a letter,” says Pardos. In the chatty letter, Higgins noted that his specialty was phylum Kinorhyncha and added a sentence that would send any ready-to-launch zoologist’s heart aflutter: “Did you know there is nobody studying [kinorhynchs] in Spain?”

Just as Pennak had encouraged Higgins to study something that no one else was, Higgins was offering the opportunity of a lifetime to Pardos. And it came with room and board. In his letter, Higgins invited Pardos to stay with him and Gwen in Washington, DC, despite never having met the young student. “These are the kind of things that happen maybe once in your life,” says Pardos. “My only English was, ‘My tailor is rich,’ but I traveled to the States and I found there the most generous people, both in personal terms and in scientific terms.”

Pardos and Higgins spent two weeks together in the summer of 1989, one in Washington at the National Museum of Natural History, and one at the Smithsonian’s field station in Fort Pierce, Florida.

“Bob opened my eyes to the meiofauna world,” says Pardos. “He was so enthusiastic and could transmit the excitement of seeing something that very few zoologists have seen.” He recalls a quiet moment in the lab when they were both at the microscope looking through samples, when Higgins cried out, “Kiiiiiiiiii-no-rhynch!” “This may have been his 100,000th kinorhynch, but he looked as excited as the first time,” says Pardos, adding that when he found his very first mud dragon, Higgins took him out for a beer. “It was the first time I’d seen a kinorhynch alive and I thought, ‘This is fascinating.’ I am still fascinated.”

From that initial time together, Pardos and Higgins forged a strong bond that persists to this day. The summer after Pardos’s stint in the United States, the pair met on the north coast of Spain where they collected and described the first two species of Spanish mud dragons. Their collaborations continued until Higgins’s retirement, but they still have long chats on the phone every few months during which Pardos passes on research updates. “He is absolutely curious about my work and he’s very proud,” says Pardos.

With Pardos and other colleagues from the meiofauna nexus, Higgins traveled the world collecting wherever he could, taking along a portable dredge—the “mini-meio”—in his impeccably packed luggage. No meiofauna anywhere was safe from his shovel and sieve. Higgins was encouraged by the Smithsonian to describe and collect what he could, snagging life from marine sediments, piecing together a picture of life in the mysterious muck animal by animal. His work created an international repository of meiofaunal life, an essential time capsule given that coastal habitats are dredged and polluted with astonishing speed.

Meiofauna live within moist sediments throughout the world. Robert Higgins (left) and his colleagues Yoshihisa Shirayama, from Tokyo, Japan, and Supawadee Chullasorn, from Thailand, search for meiofauna on a Japanese beach. (Photo courtesy of Robert Higgins)

And the collection is still a meiofauna mother lode for contemporary researchers. “There is more than one scientific life of work waiting there,” says Pardos, who regularly sends students to the Smithsonian for research, scouring Higgins’s collection of prepared microscope slides and tiny vials with their impeccably lettered labels.

In a world with macroscopic spectacles such as Komodo dragons, sea dragons, snapdragons, and dragonflies, it might seem like the epitome of obscure pursuits to geek out on row after row of jars and slides and lipstick-sized vials housing microscopic mud dragons and other species from this nanosized wonderland. But as with many scientific pursuits, you never know where a serendipitous sample causes a life to zig when it might have zagged.

Higgins recognizes that serendipity—“my old friend” as he once called it—is a central character in his life story: a sheet of paper falls into a bucket, a letter from Spain crosses a desk, an almost-missed train leads to the discovery of an entirely new life form.


Years before Pardos received his life-changing letter from Higgins, another meiofauna researcher, Reinhardt Kristensen, was sampling the sediment near the Roscoff Marine Station on the coast of Brittany, France. It was his last day in the field and he was racing against the train schedule. Kristensen, then a senior lecturer at the University of Copenhagen and a colleague of Higgins’s through the meiofauna network, was processing a large sample, preserving it for future study. The protocol for separating the meiofauna from its sediment is multistep, but Kristensen didn’t have time, so instead he quickly rinsed the sample with fresh water. The temporary salt imbalance shocked the creatures within, causing them to loosen their grips on the sediment. He strained them into a vial, and was off to catch the evening train to Copenhagen.

Several months later, in the fall of 1982, newly arrived at the Smithsonian Institution to do a postdoc in Higgins’s lab, he showed his colleague one of the unfamiliar animals he’d collected that day near Roscoff. It looked familiar to Higgins. “I went over to the cupboard and pulled out a little vial and dumped it into a petri dish. They were the same things, or species of the same things,” Higgins says.

Eight years before, Higgins had found a single specimen of this type of animal among thousands of meiofauna collected on a six-day expedition off the North Carolina coast. From the moment he looked at it under the scope, Higgins knew he had something special on his hands, but with only one specimen, there was little he could do but preserve it and file it in his collection. “Every once in a while, I’d take it out of the cabinet to take a look,” he says.

When you’re working with poorly studied yet ubiquitous animals, finding organisms new to science is not uncommon. (As Pardos notes, “Every time I look at a sample, I see more things that I don’t know than things I do.”) But while finding a new species may be almost routine, the higher up you move on the classification ladder, through class, order, family, and such, finding new animals that deserve an entirely new grouping is increasingly implausible. And discovering an organism different enough to warrant its own phylum comes only to a rare few. After all, all known animal life on Earth—to date almost one million species and counting—is categorized into one of only 35 phyla.

And a new phylum is just what Higgins and Kristensen had on the lab table before them.

This illustration shows the loriciferan Pliciloricus enigmaticus, the species found by Robert Higgins off the Atlantic coast. (Illustration by Carolyn Gast, National Museum of Natural History/Wikipedia)

An ocean apart, the two men had discovered two species of a new kind of animal. Higgins had found an adult of one species in 1974, and Kristensen found the full life cycle—adult and larval stages—of another species in 1982. Using the Latin words loricus (corset) and fero (to bear), they called the phylum Loricifera, the “girdle wearer,” to reflect the corset-like rings making up the animal’s armored cuticle.

After painstakingly detailing the original specimen for their proposed new phyla, Kristensen, now curator at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, made the announcement of their discovery with details of Nanaloricus mysticus, the “mysterious girdle wearer,” to the world in a 1983 paper. Loricifera was one of only four new phyla described in the 20th century.

In honor of his colleague’s contribution, Kristensen named the loriciferan’s larval stage the Higgins larva. “That was my payoff and a wonderful one,” says Higgins.


Beside the balsa wood kinorhynch on Higgins’s media cabinet, sits another sculpture—this one a 3D computer-generated glass model of Pliciloricus enigmaticus, the loriciferan Higgins found off the North Carolina coast. The art piece, which renders the animal in delicate bubbles, was made by Kristensen and created in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of the new phylum Loricifera.

Kristensen and Higgins continued to work together throughout the rest of Higgins’s career, in the United States and around the world, discovering and naming many new species, including a loriciferan they named for Gwen Higgins—Nanaloricus gwenae. As with Fernando Pardos, Higgins was a professional colleague, a mentor, and a generous personal friend to Kristensen and his family. At times, Higgins, who is 16 years older, offered some life skills to help the young scientist launch his career. He gave him pointers on delivering scientific talks for instance, and even instructions on how to tie a tie. “You can’t go to meet a president without a proper knot,” says Kristensen. It was a life skill that came in handy as the men were recognized for their discovery in several ceremonies, including one at the Smithsonian hosted by then-US vice president George H. W. Bush, and another in Denmark where they were honored by Queen Margrethe II.

But for all of the accolades—the times his colleagues have added higginsi to a newly discovered animal; the hundreds of scientific papers with Robert Higgins as contributing author; and even to his part in discovering a new phylum of animals—it is the work that Higgins has done to build networks, foster relationships, and share generously that is, perhaps, his greatest legacy.

At its core, at its purest non-cynical, non-competitive center, science is about sharing. Through journals, researchers share their discoveries; at conferences, they speak a common language with their peers, reveling in the knowledge that, for a few days at least, they’re not the only wonk in the room; in the field, they slog through the mud and haul nets, and share a beer at the end of a hard day. And, just as for Higgins’s prized meiofauna, where a magnificent world unfolds in the interstitial spaces between the grains of sand, for scientists it is often in the interstices between all the formalities—a chance comment over coffee, a tossed out phrase in a presentation, a brief mention of something observed or collected or pondered—where the wonder happens.

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The Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.
—J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

The first person I meet in the Kalalau Valley is a shoeless veteran from the Iraq War with a sun-faded REI backpack slung over his tattooed shoulders like a trophy. Barca, as he calls himself, heard that a kayaker had abandoned the pack in a beach cave and made a beeline out to the bluffs to claim it.

Visitors are always just throwing stuff away in this place. Over here, a folding chair with a broken arm rest. Over there, a half-empty fuel canister. Now, the backpack—that’s a rare find. “Do you know how much these are worth?” Barca asks me.

In, like, dollars? Ten, tops.

“A lot!” he says without waiting for my answer.

Barca, who is 34, subsists as a scavenger deep inside the Nāpali Coast State Park on Kaua‘i’s west coast. The centerpiece of this 2,500-hectare park—the Kalalau Valley—forms a natural amphitheater that opens to the ocean and the ocean alone. The valley’s steep, green walls rise up on three sides like curtains, sealing it off from the island’s interior. Glassy threads of water are tucked into every crease of these walls, cascading down from a height greater than Yosemite Falls. First farmed by Polynesian settlers centuries ago, this remote paradise is nothing short of a feral garden, a breadbasket bursting with nearly everything a crafty human specimen needs to survive. “This is the closest that mankind has come to making Eden,” Barca says. “When the avos are in season, we eat avos. When the mangoes are in season, we eat mangoes.”

Barca is one of the squatters who lives in the Kalalau Valley, in the Nāpali Coast State Park on Kaua‘i’s west coast. (Brendan Borrell)

If you’re wondering whether he’s allowed to be living off the land here, the answer is no. Barca is a squatter in the eyes of the Hawaiian state government; he’s an eco-villain, a rule-breaker who needs to be eradicated. Barca, naturally, calls this slander. “If you don’t love this place with all of your heart, you couldn’t live here,” he says. Though he has only been a resident for eight months, which by valley standards makes him a relative newcomer, he’s already well on his way to becoming an expert in what he calls “Kalalau-ology.” He’s not only a trash recycler, he’s also a defender of the land, a gardener, a botanist, a cultural interpreter, and an anarchist-theorist. His tendency to grin and stroke his goatee when he’s talking gives him a puckish air, which underscores his antiestablishment streak. Spotting a group of tourists clambering across a stream in their pristine Gore-Tex boots, he is contemptuous. “Most of the people who come out here don’t know how to live in the woods,” he says. “They don’t even bury their shit!”

His rapid-fire diatribe is a lot to take in during my first five minutes in the valley, particularly since I’d woken up before dawn to hike the 18-kilometer trail to get here. At the moment, what I want more than a feast of mangoes or a discourse on backcountry sanitation is a place to drop my own pack, which I paid US $200 for and filled with a week’s worth of freeze-dried provisions (the horror). But where to sleep? Camping permits are hard to come by in Eden, and I hadn’t been able to get one before my last-minute trip, so, like it or not, I, too, would have to be an outlaw. I ask Barca if he knows any low-key spots to pitch my tent.

“Follow me,” he says, wrapping a kaffiyeh around his head to shield it from the sun. He needs to pick up an old cooking grate from another campsite and knows of the perfect hideaway for me. The next thing I know, he is off, bounding from rock to rock in his bare feet. To my right, I look down and dizzily watch the waves crashing over rounded stones more than 30 meters below. Next, we hug a boulder and Barca points toward a tunnel in the vegetation that leads to a campsite invisible to the rangers hunting squatters from helicopters.

After dropping off my things, Barca and I head down to the white sand beach and he unspools his life story. After a tour of duty in Iraq a decade ago, he struggled to make sense of the fact that he had killed people and had been nearly killed himself. “I had my issues when I got out,” he says.

Kalalau Valley (iStock / MartinM303)

He worked as an archaeologist in Northern California but realized that he was ill-suited to modern society. He felt as if his brain, rattled from his war years, needed a respite. He was repelled by the idea of walling himself off from his neighbors in a house in the suburbs or paying taxes in support of a system he no longer believed in. Even the idea of ordering a coffee each morning—from that multinational corporation with a mermaid logo—was too much. “It was hard to come back to the real world and take the minutiae of the day seriously,” he says. He’d get angry. He’d get drunk and fight. A friend told him about this dreamlike valley in Hawaii where you could live in the eternal present. Kalalau. He came. He stayed. “I don’t know if any place has felt this much like home to me,” he says, shortly before dropping his camouflage cargo shorts and diving into the surf.

Barca is not the only one who has felt such a bond with this place. Since at least the 1960s, the Kalalau Valley has been a magnet for long-haired hippies, crystal-stroking New Agers, deodorant-free backpackers, and others seeking a spiritual awakening—or at least a good place to skinny dip. During the Vietnam War, a group of draft dodgers and disillusioned veterans living in tree houses at the end of the paved road on the north coast realized that it would be the perfect place to grow marijuana in the summers.

It was the peak of counterculture activity, but as the years wore on idealism smacked into the messiness of society. This haven transformed from an idyllic retreat to a millennial party zone and an occasional pirate’s lair, and right now tolerance is wearing thin. After a local woman was killed when her car was hit by a fugitive named Cody Safadago who had spent some time in Kalalau last spring, the state launched a crackdown to clean out the squatters. They ticketed a total of 34 people last year and took at least one man out in handcuffs. Barca escaped unscathed. “I fucking live here and I know which way to run,” he says. “It’s my house and you’re not going to get somewhere in my house faster than I am.”

Sympathy for the squatters’ plight was scarce around Kaua‘i, however. Photos from the raids showed town folk just how elaborate the valley camps had become. One camp was outfitted with an earthen pizza oven and a queen-sized bed on a bamboo frame and contained what the state referred to, somewhat hyperbolically, as a “marijuana growing operation” complete with solar- and battery-powered lights. The valley also featured a secret movie theater and a library—a musty old tent filled with vintage treasures like The Joy of Partner Yoga and a book of Cat Stevens songs. All told, the state hauled out 2.5 tonnes of trash. “There’s a sense of entitlement,” Curt Cottrell, head of Hawaii’s state parks, told me. “People were crapping on archaeological sites and digging in the beach sand like cats.”

The squatters have made themselves comfortable in the valley, building beds, furniture, and a pizza oven. (Brendan Borrell)

The uproar brought to the fore deep questions about race, sovereignty, and the future of the natural world in commodified, modern Hawaii. How can society benefit the most from a place like Kalalau with its complicated history? Do we give it over to the well-heeled tourists who book hiking permits six months in advance or pay $200 a person for 60-minute helicopter tours? Or does it still belong to the native Hawaiians who rarely visit, but whose ancestors were the first to shape the landscape? And what do you do about the haole (white) outlaws like Barca who, in their ragamuffin way, carry on the countercultural project of the 1960s and maintain some kind of order in a place with only an occasional government presence.

The one thing that is undeniable is that the valley is one of the most desirable places in the world for people who have practically nothing to take a break from the rules and rituals of modern life and eke out a simpler existence. Barca calls it a “Disney forest,” a tropical refuge devoid of venomous snakes or man-eating tigers, where almost everyone speaks English and looks pretty much like everyone else. Living here is like popping a Prozac each morning but without all the bad juju. A fruit smoothie for your soul—or something like that. All I know is I want to experience it before it’s gone.

There’s no easy way into Kalalau. The ring road that wraps around Kaua‘i has a 30-kilometer gap that is the Nāpali coast. For most of the year, the ocean is too rough to bring in a kayak. Motorized boats are forbidden, and the state has cracked down on locals offering an illegal water taxi service. Your best bet is to lug in supplies on the Kalalau Trail, which crosses five steep valleys and has been called “the most incredible hike in America.”

The cliff-side path also happens to be one of the world’s most dangerous. One wrong step at Crawler’s Ledge could send you careening into the sea. The many stream crossings are prone to flash flooding. At the three-kilometer mark on Hanakāpīʻai Beach, a white cross stands in honor of Janet Ballesteros, a 53-year-old woman who drowned there in 2016—the 83rd victim of its treacherous waters, according to a somewhat dubious tally on a sign there. Along with nature, you also have to contend with the people. In 2013, for instance, an Oregon man on a bad acid trip shoved his Japanese lover off a cliff.

Before my trip in July, it was hard to find information on how effective the raids really were and how risky it would be for me to head there. Mango, a former resident who had fled for greener pastures in Oregon, told me he was still getting text messages from a satellite communicator that the valley residents had at their disposal. I was surprised to learn that some of the most die-hard Kalalau outlaws were actually supportive of the rangers. “They are the predators culling the herd,” another regular visitor told me. “They are keeping the people in there strong and vigilant.”

My best bet for sneaking in undetected is to leave before sunrise one Saturday morning. As the first light breaks through the forest canopy, I pad my way down the trail and try to envision what this place was like before the squatters or anyone else set foot here. For one, I would have found little relief from the sun’s rays. The six-meter-high guava trees that now make up most of the forest were only introduced in 1825, and they quickly outgrew the native Hawaiian flora that featured a more open canopy.

In the late 1700s, when George Dixon, a British fur trader who once served under Captain James Cook, sailed along this coast, he concluded that it was barren of civilization. “The shore down to the water’s edge is, in general, mountainous, and difficult to access,” he wrote. “I could not see any level ground, or the least sign of this part of the island being inhabited.”

Dixon was, of course, mistaken. Thatched huts blend in well with the vegetation. In Kalalau, which offers about 80 hectares of agricultural terrain, the population likely numbered in the hundreds, according to subsequent missionary censuses. The oldest known human settlement on Kaua‘i, which dates to the 10th century, was situated at Kēʻē Beach—the starting point of the Kalalau Trail.

While the Nāpali coast is often described as a “wilderness,” the truth is it’s more like an abandoned supermarket surrounded by some epic scenery. The place is crisscrossed by stone walls, remnants of the terraced gardens, or lo‘i, Hawaiians constructed hundreds of years ago to cultivate taro, the principal “canoe plant” that Polynesians moved across the Pacific. These settlers gradually replaced the native forest shrub lands with kukui nuts and ginger, along with pili for their thatch roofs.

Kalalau Valley (iStock / MartinM303)

Later residents and white ranchers brought in livestock, including goats, pigs, and cattle, and planted the guava and Java plum trees that form most of the forest. “As in many lowland areas in Hawaii, introduced plants now form entire communities, dominating major portions of the park,” reads a 1990 report from Hawaii’s Division of State Parks. The Kalalau Valley, the largest valley in the park, is one of the few places on Kaua‘i where you won’t hear roosters crowing each morning. Instead, the forests are filled with another immigrant, Erckel’s francolin—a ground bird from Africa.

As the valley’s hodgepodge ecosystem took shape, it also began to develop its outlaw reputation. In 1893, after a group of American businessmen overthrew the queen of what was then the Kingdom of Hawaii, they decided to round up native Hawaiians under the auspices of a leprosy quarantine.

Sheriff Louis Stolz and two policemen headed out to Kalalau to remove one rogue band of lepers. There, a cowboy named Kaluaikoolau, or Ko’olau, shot the sheriff twice with a rifle, killing him, and became a hero of the native resistance. A bungled manhunt ended with more casualties and Ko’olau remained in the valley, unpunished, until his natural death two years later. “Free he had lived, and free he was dying,” the author Jack London eulogized in a short story about Ko’olau’s life.

Kameaoloha Hanohano-Smith, whose great-grandfather was part of the last generation to grow up in Kalalau, says it took a while for the Hawaiian people to understand what was happening to their culture. “One day we were a kingdom, and the next thing we knew we were part of the US,” he says.

In December 1959, Ebony magazine profiled the only permanent resident in Kalalau: a black physician named Bernard Wheatley (“a crank, a holy man, a schizophrenic and a genius”) who spent a decade living in a cave there until hippies started crowding him out. “Longhairs seek a place in the sun on Kaua‘i,” reads one headline from the time. The Hawaiian state government bought the property in 1974, and tried to evict the squatters before establishing the park in 1979, but they came back. They always come back.

“We were free-minded people looking for a better place to live without the restrictions of society,” says Billy Guy, who first visited Kalalau after serving as an army medic during the Vietnam War and has returned for long stretches over the decades. “I’m fulfilling a dream.” By the mid-1990s, there were as many as 50 or 60 haole frolicking in a paradise that the kanakanative Hawaiianshad created.

Freedom means different things to different people. While the hippies and latter-day outlaws may chafe under the norms of mainstream society, they still have to create their own rules for living together peacefully. The most that even the most hopeful can hope for is not a society without rules, but a tolerant one. And a tolerant place is bound to attract its share of misfits.

From the beginning, something seemed a little off about Cody Safadago. He had washed up in Kalalau last April with almost no possessions and had taken over a communal camp down by the beach. He was a rough-looking fellow in his early 40s with a buzz cut and two fleshy lips that hung on his face in a permanent scowl. Safadago had spent time in prison for beating his wife back in Washington State and, in 2014, was arrested in Belize after absconding from his parole officer and fleeing the country. He had been bumming around Kaua‘i since January at least, and had been arrested for disorderly conduct and assaulting an officer.

Billy Guy first visited the valley after his service in the Vietnam War. (Photo by Brendan Borrell)

The people of Kalalau were wary of Safadago. He insisted, incessantly in almost every conversation he had, that he was God and everyone should bow down before him. “I talked to him for literally two hours,” says 30-year-old Carlton Forrest from Phoenix. “He was crazy, iced out beyond belief.” In the valley, it’s not easy to get help in the event of an emergency. The ranger station is usually empty, and cellphones don’t work here. The “family,” as the squatters sometimes call themselves, knew they needed to boot Safadago before something terrible happened.

A rangy outlaw in his 30s, who asked me to call him Sticky Jesus, began dismantling Safadago’s camp one morning. Befitting at least one part of his name, Sticky has long brown hair and a prophet’s beard. “You need to leave,” he ordered Safadago, who was sprawled out in a lawn chair.

Safadago opened his mouth to protest, making wild accusations about other residents. Sticky spun around and kicked him in the chest, knocking him out of the chair, according to an account described by Sticky and confirmed by other valley residents. “Can I just get my things?” Sticky remembers Safadago begging.

Sticky tossed a few of Safadago’s possessions his way and then pulled a flaming stick from the cooking fire and hit him with it as he retreated from camp. Safadago kept a low profile for a few days until he was ordered onto the back of a jet ski making an illegal drop-off and banished from the valley.

He wasn’t their problem anymore. At least that’s what they thought.

Safadago landed in the town of Kapa‘a, on the developed east side of Kaua‘i, where he got drunk and stole a Nissan pickup. He was driving over 140 kilometers per hour—three times the speed limit—when he crossed the centerline of the highway and struck a Mazda sedan head on. The young woman in the car, Kayla Huddy-Lemn, was pronounced dead at the hospital. Safadago stumbled out of the pickup—face covered in blood—and wandered up to a shopping mall, where he was arrested.

When a person dies like that, the whole island hears about it. About 50 kilometers in diameter, Kaua‘i is about the size of London and has a population of just over 72,000. As the news came out that Safadago had spent time in Kalalau, locals discovered a Facebook group called “Kalalau!” that appeared to show squatters moving stones from an ancient Hawaiian temple, known as a heiau, to divert water for farming projects. A hillbilly hippie named Ryan North (alias: Krazy Red), who spends a few weeks there every year, posted trippy videos of himself saluting the camera while bare-chested white women danced in hula skirts.

Squatters have built furniture and created homes for themselves in the valley. (Brendan Borrell)

“Bitches, this has nothing to do with race. It just so happens all of you fucked up, selfish Kalalau hippies are white,” one angry Hawaiian vented in a social media post.

Some observers complained that the squatters were collecting food stamps, known as electronic benefit transfers, to support their hedonistic lifestyle (true). Others argued that the place had become a breeding ground for sketchballs (sorta true). “You just don’t know who could be hiding out in Kalalau,” a woman named Kristi Sasachika told a local reporter. The vitriol was so worrisome that the Garden Island newspaper published an editorial warning locals against a “vigilante mindset.”

Long-term residents say that it’s not fair to lump them in with the careless partiers who often get dropped off by boat with a case of beer and a pile of Walmart camping gear they’ll probably leave behind. As in any society, there are good actors and bad ones. Kamealoha Hanohano-Smith, one of the locals with a genuine tie to the land, also takes a more measured tack. “I have a lot of aloha for people whether they are haole or whatever,” he told me over the phone. “I understand why they want to be there. They would love to believe they are appropriate stewards of the area, but the better thing would be for them to work with Hawaiian families.”


On my second morning in Kalalau, I decide to go looking for the community garden. Starting at the beach, there’s an official trail that heads about three kilometers up the valley before hitting the steep back wall. It’s possible to walk up and down that trail a few times before you notice an unmarked spur off to one side.

Follow it for a hundred meters and the forest canopy opens up and you can hear a trickling at your feet. A dozen rectangular ponds glisten in the sun, meter-high taro plants sprouting from their waters. Paths leading around the ponds are lined with papaya, banana, jackfruit, soursop, and chestnut trees—all free for the taking. Squatters were once expected to do some work if they wanted to gather some fruit. But things are different now. “There aren’t any rules anymore,” says a resident named Mowgli, who offers to give me the tour.

Slender and muscular with his long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, Mowgli helped restore these flooded terraces, and is one of the hardest workers in Kalalau. His former camp, which sits on a plateau nearby, gives off a Lord of the Flies vibedecorated with dozens of skulls from the goats and pigs he has slaughtered. The raids broke him. “It’s hard to focus on something when they want to take it apart,” he says. “This is one of the big tourist attractions in the valley,” he says of the garden.

Women rarely stay long in the valley, and their absence leads to a society heavy on testosterone. At the time of his visit, the author met 10 long-term residents, eight of them men. (Brendan Borrell)

“People want to come and see us and have Kalalau pizza,” says Mowgli’s female companion, whose only article of clothing is a baseball cap. She calls herself Joules. “Like the energy unit,” she explains.

I had given myself five days to explore the valley and immerse myself in the hippie-sphere. With a few notable exceptions, I learn that women like Joules rarely stay more than a few weeks in the valley, and, for whatever reason, they had become particularly scarce in the aftermath of the raids. At least during the time I was there, the testosterone surplus made the place feel less like a utopian kibbutz and more like a secret tree fort in your buddy’s backyard where girls are little understood or respected. Except these guys are adults. One offensive song I heard performed one evening referred to the “drainbow bitches” who “don’t do the dishes” after stopping in for a free meal. The men, nevertheless, longed for female company. “A woman who does stay has 10 guys trying to find her every day,” a 68-year-old bachelor named Stevie told me, drawing from his 35 years’ experience in the valley.

One evening, I sit with six other guys under the enormous mango trees at a camp maintained by a guy named Quentin. A bearded, genial host with a self-effacing manner, Quentin landed in Kalalau after his dream of making marijuana chocolates fizzled. “It was overwhelming,” he says of his failed attempt at capitalism. He tried to live out here with his girlfriend, but she couldn’t deal with the mosquitoes. “I started building things to make it more comfortable for her, like the cabinet by my bed,” he says, gesturing toward a bamboo console. “But really, she just didn’t like me.” She ended up hooking up with another guy in the valley—Sticky Jesus—when they were both back in town. “I really wanted to punch him in the face, and I even flicked him off once,” he says.

A handmade cabinet is a little luxury for squatters in the valley. (Brendan Borrell)

There was one tense evening when I thought a physical fight really might break out between two of the guys. I watched the only woman present slip away and head back to her tent. When I asked her about it later, she said it wasn’t the kind of experience she was looking for in Kalalau. The boys, she said, were lost in “never-never land.”

It’s remarkable that even in a place like Kalalau, people still get wrapped up in the same petty dramas they face living within four walls and with roofs over their heads. Paradise is never lost because it can never be found. People are jealous. They’re selfish. Thoughtless. Humans create societies for a reason. They create rules for a reason. A limited kind of social contract may exist in a place like Kalalau when few people are visiting and living there, but it easily frays in times of stress.

And as much as Kalalau—or the idea of Kalalau—means to the squatters, they are far from the only people who have a stake in its future.

Sabra Kauka, an educator in Hawaiian culture and past president of the Nā Pali Coast ‘Ohana, a nonprofit that works with the state to protect the valley’s natural and cultural heritage, says people like Quentin and Barca and Mowgli should not be living in Kalalau. It’s against the law and it’s an insult to the Hawaiian people. In the late 1980s, Kauka took part in early efforts to clean up the valley. She and a group of volunteers would haul rubbish down to the beach and load it into slings that helicopters would carry away. “It stunned me that people who wanted a wilderness experience would be so insensitive,” she says. At a certain point, she simply gave up. “You do not want to do volunteer work that makes you angry.”

A state parks archaeologist, Alan Carpenter, told her about a 14th-century village site along the shoreline, Nualolo Kai, accessible only by boat and fringed by the largest reef on the Nāpali coast. For the past 25 years, Nā Pali Coast ‘Ohana has focused almost all of its work at that site. They built fences to keep out goats and established a small native garden to preserve some of the region’s biodiversity. Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, they have even brought back the remains of ancestors who were housed at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and other repositories.

Image by Brendan Borrell. A library tent features all sorts of books to borrow. (original image)

Image by Brendan Borrell. (original image)

Image by Brendan Borrell. (original image)

Image by Brendan Borrell. (original image)

Now, under the auspices of Randy Wichman, a historian and the organization’s current president, they are finally making plans to bring their work back to Kalalau. Whether they can succeed in a place where they failed in the past remains to be seen. Wichman expresses some grudging admiration for the squatters’ ingenuity in terms of the work they’ve done on the lo‘i’s, but he says that some of them have done more harm than good. “Their intentions are good, but you obliterate history by not knowing exactly what you have,” he told me. “The valley would be stunning if it were in working order.”


In 100 years, when their tarps have rotted away and their footpaths have been lost to the forest, I wonder what place the outlaws will occupy in the grand story of Kalalau. Though reviled in some quarters, their ethics questionable at times, the outlaws’ reign demonstrated to the modern world the power of place to the collective psyche. The vulnerable, confused, damaged often end up here, to heal and to grow before they rejoin the world. It’s kind of wonderful. “We’re tool-using monkeys,” Barca told me when I first met him. Being part of an interdependent community like Kalalau feeds a deep primate urge. “Biologically necessary,” is how he put it. More necessary for some than others.

The head of state parks, Curt Cottrell, told me that when he first moved to Hawaii in 1983 as a “bearded hippie guy,” hiking the Kalalau Trail was one of two goals. (The other was hiking to the summit of Mauna Loa.) When his permit expired, he evaded the rangers by swimming a few hundred meters south to Honopū, the next cove over, for a day. When I ask him if one day the park will find a way to commemorate the hippie occupation, he offers a careful response. “We have no desire to erase that history,” he says, “but at this point in time, we don’t feel like celebrating it until we get the place cleaned up.”

Few women choose to live in the valley. (Brendan Borrell)

That may not be so easy. The agency has 117 staff members spread out over Hawaii’s 50 state parks. Kalalau is a priority, but there are so many places for squatters to hide that it’s impossible to kick them all out. The agency had asked the legislature for enough money to have two full-time staff members inside the park. Their request was denied.

Kalalau is already a very different place than it was just a few years ago. It’s undoubtedly the cleanest it has ever been. And apart from the intimate gatherings I’d witnessed up valley, the place had the feel of a ghost town. I spend my days exploring overgrown footpaths from one clearing to another, looking for abandoned campfire rings and other traces of recent human habitation. Even the official campsites were largely empty, hosting no more than 20 or 30 tourists each night while the state allows 60. Though native Hawaiians do visit and hunt inside the park, I met only outlaws during my visit.

Hanohano-Smith, who can trace his family back to the valley, says that he’d like to see regular Hawaiians—not just the state—playing a larger role in the future of Kalalau. He believes that his family should have free access to visit the land without vying for scarce permits and that Hawaiians should be able to benefit from it through jobs, possibly as teachers or guides. “It’s not just an issue of sustainability,” he says. “It’s the pride associated with being connected to the resources that provided for my family 1,000 years ago.”

On one of my last mornings in Kalalau, I see Sticky Jesus and Stevie loading their things onto a kayak on the beach. Stevie, the oldest resident out here, hasn’t been staying in the valley as often as he used to. Five years ago, he qualified for low-income housing and has a small home down in Kekaha. He loves Kalalau but at some point he knows he’ll be too weak to hike in or to take care of himself.

For Sticky, the story is a little more complicated. He is going to live in a van with Quentin’s ex-girlfriend and try to make a little money. I’m not sure if he’s going to come back, and I say as much. “I’ve got a house here still,” Sticky replies. “Most of it got taken a couple weeks ago, but I’ve got a good feeling about it.” He likes being free of his possessions.

A squatter named Stevie prepares to take off, leaving the valley where the outlaw hippies are increasingly unwelcome. (Brendan Borrell)

“You didn’t take it as hard as Mowgli?” I ask.

“I don’t take anything as hard as Mowgli,” he says.

The two squatters hop into the kayak and Carlton gives them one last shove into the knee-deep water. We stand there for a few minutes, watching them disappear around the red bluffs to the south, and then I head back up the trail into the valley. I’m not ready to hike out just yet. I’m not looking forward to pulling out my wallet and paying for a piece of produce with a sticker on it when the fruit out here will drop to the forest floor and rot away without someone here to harvest it. I just need one more day living as an outlaw in the Kalalau Valley. Maybe two.

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Ancient Toes and Soles of Fossilized Footprints Now 3-D Digitized for the Ages

Smithsonian Magazine

While walking in the shadow of their people’s sacred volcano, Maasai villagers in 2006 stumbled across a set of curious footprints. Clearly made by human feet, but set in stone, they appeared to be the enigmatic traces of some long-forgotten journey.

Now scientists have teased out some of story behind those ancient prints and the people who, with some help from the volcano, left them behind. It begins while they were walking through the same area as the Maasai—separated by a span of perhaps 10,000 years.

“It’s kind of amazing to walk alongside these footprints and say, ‘Wow, thousands of years ago somebody walked here. What were they doing? What were they looking for? Where were they going?’” says Briana Pobiner, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History with the Human Origins Program. Pobiner is one of the scientists who has studied the prints at Engare Sero in Tanzania during the 14 years since their initial discovery.

An in-depth footprint analysis has now produced an intriguing theory to explain what the walkers were doing on the day when impressions of their toes and soles were preserved on a mudflat. Pobiner and her colleagues, in a study recently published in Scientific Reports, suggest that a large collection of the tracks, moving in the same direction at the same pace, were made by a primarily female group that was foraging around what was then on or near a lakeshore. This practice of sexually-divided gathering behavior is still seen among living hunter-gather peoples, but no bone or tool would ever be able to reveal whether it was practiced by their predecessors so long ago.

Footprints, however, allow us to quite literally retrace their steps.

When Kevin Hatala, the lead author of the study, and his colleagues began working the site in 2009 they found 56 visible footprints that had been exposed by the forces of erosion over the centuries. But they soon realized that the bulk of the site remained hidden from view. Between 2009 and 2012 the researchers excavated what has turned out to be the largest array of modern human fossil footprints yet found in Africa, 408 definitively human prints in total. It’s most likely that the prints were made between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, but the study’s conservative dating range stretches from as early as 19,000 to as recently as 5,760 years ago.

A previous analysis, involving some of the same authors, determined that as these people walked, their feet squished into an ashy mudflat produced by an eruption of Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, which even today is still active and looms over the site of the footprints.

“It’s kind of amazing," says Briana Pobiner, "to walk alongside these footprints and say, ‘Wow, thousands of years ago somebody walked here. What were they doing? What were they looking for?" (William Harcourt-Smith)

Deposits from the volcano were washed down into the mudflat. After the human group walked across and over the area, creating so many prints that scientists have nicknamed one heavily-trod area “the dance floor,” the ashy mud hardened in a matter of days or even hours. Then it was buried by a subsequent sediment flow which preserved it until the actions of erosion brought dozens of prints to light—and the excavations of the team unearthed hundreds more.

Fossil footprints capture behavior in a way that bones and stones cannot. The process of preservation happens over a short period of time. So while bones around a hearth don’t necessarily mean that their owners circled the fire at exactly the same time, fossilized footprints can reveal those kinds of immediate interactions.

“It’s a snapshot of life at a moment in time, the interaction of individuals, the interaction of humans with animals that’s preserved in no other way. So it’s a real boon to behavioral ecology.” says Matthew Bennett an expert on ancient footprints at Bournemouth University. Bennett, who wasn’t involved in the study, has visited the Engare Sero site.

Fossil footprints are analyzed by size and shape, by the orientation of the foot as it created the print, and by the distances between the prints which, combined with other aspects, can be used to estimate how fast the individual walked or ran. One of the ancient travelers who left a trackway heading in a different direction than the larger group appears to have been passing through the area in a hurry, running at better than six miles per hour.

As these people walked, their feet squished into an ashy mudflat produced by an eruption of Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, which even today (above) is still active and looms over the site of the footprints. (Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce)

The main group, heading to the southwest, moved at a more leisurely pace. The team’s footprint analysis suggests it most likely consisted of 14 adult females accompanied, intermittently at least, by two adult males and a juvenile male.

“I think it looks like it’s a good reflection of what we see in some modern hunter-gatherers with groups of women foraging together,” says Pobiner. Tanzania’s Hadza and Paraguay’s Aché peoples still tackle these tasks in a similar manner. “Oftentimes there is basically gender foraging, where women will forage together and men will forage together. There are sometimes mixed groups, but we often see this kind of sexual division of labor in terms of food gathering,” Pobiner says. “It doesn’t mean that these 14 women always foraged together,” she adds. “But at least on this one day or this one instance, this is what we see in this group.”

While no animals appear to have been traveling with the group, there are prints nearby of zebra and buffalo. The humans and the animals were apparently sharing a landscape that even today isn’t far from the southern shoreline of Lake Natron. Depending on exactly when the prints are made the water may have been much closer to the current site.

“We’re able to give a level of accessibility to everyone,” says Vince Rossi whose team (above on location) has made the 3D footprints available online, and the data from a selection of prints can even be downloaded to a 3D printer. (Adam Metallo, Smithsonian Digitization Program Office)

“It’s possible that these were just people and animals kind of wandering along the lakeshore all looking for something to eat,” Pobiner says. Other sets of footprints, like those made in northwestern Kenya, capture just this sort of behavior among ancient hominins like Homo erectus.

“They did a very nice study on a very nice set of footprints. It’s well executed and they have come up with some really interesting conclusions,” Matthew Bennett says of the research, adding that it’s a welcome addition to a rapidly growing body of scientific literature on the subject of ancient trackways.

Fossilized footprints were once thought to be extremely rare, “freaks of geological preservation,” Bennett notes. An explosion of fossil footprint discoveries over the past decade suggests they aren’t so rare after all, but surprisingly common wherever our ancient relatives put one foot in front of the other, from Africa to New Mexico.

“If you think about it there’s something like 206 bones in the body, so maybe 206 chances that a body fossil will be preserved,” Bennett says. “But in an average modern lifetime you’ll make millions and millions of footprints, a colossal number. Most won’t be preserved, but we shouldn’t be surprised that they aren’t actually so rare in the geological record.”

A famous set of prints from nearby Laetoli, Tanzania dates to some 3.6 million years ago and was likely made by Australopithecus afarensis. At New Mexico's White Sands National Monument, ancient footprints of human and beast may be evidence of an ancient sloth hunt.

Study co-author Vince Rossi, supervisor of the 3D program at the Smithsonian Digitization Program Office, aims to give these particular fossil footprints even wider distribution. His team created 3D images of the site that initially supported scientific research and analysis efforts. Today they are extending the footprints’ journey from a Tanzanian mudflat to the farthest corners of the globe.

“How many people can travel to this part of Tanzania to actually see these footprints? We’re able to give a level of accessibility to everyone,” he says. Rossi’s team has made the 3D footprints available online, and the data from a selection of prints can even be downloaded to a 3D printer so that users can replicate their favorite Engare Sero footprints.

Because 3D images capture the footprints as they appeared at a specific moment in time they’ve also become a valuable tool for preservation. The study employed two sets of images, Rossi’s 2010 array and a suite of 3D images taken by an Appalachian State University team in 2017. Comparing those images reveals visible degradation of the exposed prints during that relatively short time, and highlights the urgency of protecting them now that they’ve been stripped of the overlying layers that protected them for thousands of years.

Finding ways to preserve the footprints is a key prerequisite for uncovering more, which seems likely because the tracks heading northward lead directly under sediment layers that haven’t been excavated. Future finds would add to a paleoanthropological line of investigation that is delivering different kinds of results than traditional digs of tools or fossils.

“Footprints give us information about anatomy and group dynamics that you just can’t get from bones,” Pobiner says. “And I love the idea that there are different and creative ways for us to interpret behaviors of the past.”

The Literary Salon That Made Ayn Rand Famous

Smithsonian Magazine

For 19-year-old Nathan Blumenthal, reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead for the first time was nothing short of an epiphany. Published several years earlier, in 1943, Blumenthal wrote of finding the book in his memoir, My Years with Ayn Rand. “There are extraordinary experiences in life that remain permanently engraved in memory. Moments, hours, or days after which nothing is ever the same again. Reading this book was such an experience.”

Little could the Canadian teen have imagined that within the next 10 years he would, with Rand’s approval, change his name to Nathaniel Branden; become one of Rand’s most important confidantes—as well as her lover; and lead a group of thinkers on a mission to spread the philosophy of Objectivism far and wide.

At 19, Branden was only a teenager obsessed by the words of this Russian-born writer—until March 1950, when Rand responded to the letter he’d sent and invited him to visit her. That meeting was the start of a partnership that would last for nearly two decades, and the catalyst for the creation a group she dubbed “The Class of ’43,” for the year The Fountainhead was published. Later, they knowingly gave themselves the ironic name “The Collective.” And although 75 years have passed since The Fountainhead was first published, the impact of that book—and the people who gathered around Rand because of it—still play an important role in American political thinking.

Leading Republicans today, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have spoken publicly of her influence. In 2005, he told members of the Rand-loving Atlas Group that the author’s books were “the reason I got involved in public service, by and large.” Mick Mulvaney, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus and current director of the Office of Management and Budget, spoke in 2011 of his fondness for Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: “It's almost frightening how accurate a prediction of the future the book was,” he told NPR. Other self-described Rand acolytes who have served in the Trump Administration include former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (“Favorite Book: Atlas Shrugged”) and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Atlas Shrugged “really had an impact on me”).

Initially, Branden was responsible for bringing new members into the “Class of ‘43” and mostly recruited family and friends who were equally riveted by The Fountainhead so that they could listen to Rand’s philosophy. Without him, the group may never have formed; as Rand herself said, “I’ve always seen [the Collective] as a kind of comet, with Nathan as the star and the rest as his tail.” Branden brought his soon-to-be-wife, Barbara, as well as siblings and cousins. Soon the core group included psychiatrist Allan Blumenthal, philosopher Leonard Peikoff, art historian Mary Ann Sures and economist Alan Greenspan. Every Saturday evening, during the years in which Rand was engaged writing Atlas Shrugged, the Collective gathered in Rand’s apartment and listened to her expound on the Objectivist philosophy or read the newest pages of her manuscript.

“Even more than her fiction or the chance to befriend a famous author, Rand’s philosophy bound the Collective to her. She struck them all as a genius without compare,” writes historian Jennifer Burns in Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. As for Rand, she “saw nothing unusual in the desire of her students to spend each Saturday night with her, despite being more than twenty years her junior. The collective put Rand in the position of authority she had always craved.”

Rand’s fiction and her philosophy butted up against conservatism of the era (which saw inherent value in the federal government even as it opposed social programs like the New Deal) and then split from it entirely. She was less interested in reshaping her adoptive country’s democratic government than in upending it completely. While politicians of the 1950s were rocked by McCarthyism and a new concern for traditional values and the nuclear family, Rand took it upon herself to forge a new path into libertarianism—a system being developed by various economists of the period that argued against any government influence at all.

According to Rand’s philosophy, as espoused by the characters in her novels, the most ethical purpose for any human is the pursuit of happiness for one’s self. The only social system in which this morality can survive is completely unfettered capitalism, where to be selfish is to be good. Rand believed this so fervently that she extended the philosophy to all aspects of life, instructing her followers on job decisions (including advising Greenspan to become an economic consultant), the proper taste in art (abstract art is “an enormous fraud”), and how they should behave.

Branden built upon Rand’s ideas with his own pop psychology, which he termed “social metaphysics.” The basic principle was that concern over the thoughts and opinions of others was pathological. Or, as Rand more bluntly phrased it while extolling the benefits of competence and selfishness, “I don’t give a damn about kindness, charity, or any of the other so-called virtues.”

These concepts were debated from sunset to sunrise every Saturday at Rand’s apartment, where she lived with her husband, Frank O’Connor. While Rand kept herself going through the use of amphetamines, her followers seemed invigorated merely by her presence. “The Rand circle’s beginnings are reminiscent of Rajneesh’s—informal, exciting, enthusiastic, and a bit chaotic,” writes journalist Jeff Walker in The Ayn Rand Cult.

But if the Saturday salons were exciting, they could also be alienating for outsiders. Economist Murray Rothbard, also responsible for contributing to the ideals of libertarianism, brought several of his students to meet Rand in 1954 and watched in horror as they submitted to vitriol from Rand whenever they said anything that displeased her. The members of the Collective seemed “almost lifeless, devoid of enthusiasm or spark, and almost completely dependent on Ayn for intellectual sustenance,” Rothbard later said. “Their whole manner bears out my thesis that the adoption of her total system is a soul-shattering calamity.”

Branden only fanned the flames by requiring members to subject themselves to psychotherapy sessions with him, despite his lack of training, and took it upon himself to punish anyone who espoused opinions that varied with Rand’s by humiliating them in front of the group. “To disparage feelings was a favorite activity of virtually everyone in our circle, as if that were a means of establishing one’s rationality,” Branden said.

According to journalist Gary Weiss, the author of Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul, all of these elements made the Collective a cult. “It had an unquestioned leader, it demanded absolute loyalty, it intruded into the personal lives of its members, it had its own rote expressions and catchphrases, it expelled transgressors for deviation from accepted norms, and expellees were ‘fair game’ for vicious personal attacks,” Weiss writes.

But Branden wasn’t satisfied with simply parroting Rand’s beliefs to those who were already converted; he wanted to share the message even more clearly than Rand did with her fiction. In 1958, a year after Atlas Shrugged was published (it was a best-seller, but failed to earn Rand the critical acclaim she craved), Branden started the Nathaniel Branden Lectures. In them, he discussed principles of Objectivism and the morality of selfishness. Within three years, he incorporated the lecture series as the Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI), and by 1964 the taped lectures played regularly in 54 cities across Canada and the United States.

“Rand became a genuine public phenomenon, particularly on college campuses, where in the 1960s she was as much a part of the cultural landscape as Tolkien, Salinger, or Vonnegut,” writes Brian Doherty in Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. “NBI’s lectures and advice on all aspects of life, as befits the totalistic nature of Objectivism, added to the cult-like atmosphere.”

Meanwhile, as her books sold hundreds of thousands of copies, Rand continued amassing disciples. Fan mail continued to pour in as new readers discovered The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and these letters were sometimes a useful recruiting tool. Writers who seemed particularly well-informed were given assignments to prove themselves before being invited to the group, writes Anne C. Heller in Ayn Rand and the World She Made. “In this way, a Junior Collective grew up.”

The Collective continued as an ever-expanding but tight-knit group until 1968. It was then that Branden, who had already divorced his wife, chose to reveal he was having an affair with a younger woman. Rand responded by excoriating him, his ex-wife Barbara, and the work that Branden had done to expand the reach of Objectivism. While members of the group like Greenspan and Peikoff remained loyal, the Collective was essentially disbanded; the Randians were left to follow their own paths.

Despite the dissolution of the group, Rand had left an indelible mark on her followers and the culture at-large. Greenspan would go on to serve as Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, while Branden continued working at his institute, though with a slightly tempered message about Objectivism and without any relationship with Rand. In 1998, Modern Library compiled a readers' list of the 20th century’s greatest 100 books that placed Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in the first and second spots, respectively; both continue to sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

The irony of her free-thinking followers naming themselves “The Collective” seems similar to the techniques she used in her writing, often reminiscent of Soviet propaganda, says literary critic Gene H. Bell-Villada. “In a perverse way, Rand’s orthodoxies and the Randian personality cult present a mirror image of Soviet dogmas and practices,” Bell-Villada writes. “Her hard-line opposition to all state intervention in the economy is a stance as absolute and unforgiving as was the Stalinist program of government planning and control.”

Na-pów-sa, Bear Traveling at Night, a Chief

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Bang! Went the Doors of Every Bank in America

Smithsonian Magazine

On March 1, 1933, a hood named Mark Massey had everything he needed for a profitable day: a plan, a gun and a bank to rob. Only trouble was, when he got to the bank it was crowded with desperate folks trying to get their money out before a feared permanent closing. Massey couldn't handle the mob and was caught. "I never got a break in my life," he said from the hoosegow. But on that day bank customers all over America had reason to feel sorry for themselves.

The Great Depression was firmly in place. Bankers had foreclosed on millions of farms and homes, but there was no one to resell the properties to, so banks had been closing all over the country. Then on March 6, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt, just sworn in for his first term as President, suddenly shut all 18,000 banks in America, aiming to overhaul them as fast as possible, and so reestablish people's faith in government and America's banking system. While the banks were closed, Americans lived without cash or credit. People bartered with all manner of things.The price of admission to see the Irish Players in Chicago was two potatoes. Scrip began to circulate, including "dollars" fashioned from clamshells, strips of buckskin and pieces of wood. After FDR reopened the banks, he created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and rushed through the Gold Reserve Act and other laws. It was clear that though the Depression was not whipped, the country had turned a corner toward recovery.

Your Next Favorite European Wine Region Isn’t in France, Italy or Spain

Smithsonian Magazine

The Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Geneva, maintains one of Europe’s great wine cellars. Earlier in the day I’d made my way through it, a maze of 80,000 bottles extending all the way under the tennis courts, with sommelier Thibaut Panas. The cool underground rooms held the usual suspects—grand cru Burgundies, first-growth Bordeaux, Barolos—as well as plenty of fine Swiss wines. It was one of the latter that I was drinking now, as I sat on the terrace at Anne-Sophie Pic, the acclaimed French chef’s namesake restaurant at the hotel: a glass of 2007 Les Frères Dubois Dézaley-Marsens Grand Cru de la Tour Vase no. 4. A Chasselas from the terraced vineyards of the Lavaux wine region, just outside the city, the white wine was rich, complex, and subtly spicy all at once. And it was exactly why I’d come to Switzerland, since there was little chance I would ever find it back home in the U.S.

The Beau-Rivage was built on the Swiss side of the lake in 1861, and it’s what a grand old European hotel should be, which is to say it keeps the feeling that you might at any moment drift into a black-and-white movie set between the wars. Its Belle Époque salons, ballrooms, and suites have played host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel, and countless others accustomed to grandeur and privilege. Case in point: the woman in red leather pants at the table next to mine, who was surreptitiously feeding morsels to her miniature dachshund. The dog would poke its snout out of her red leather handbag to receive bites of $85 duck, then disappear. It had manners. I drank my good Swiss wine, pondering the quirkiness of rich Europeans.

From left: The barrel room at Domaine Jean-René Germanier, in the heart of the Valais, where visitors can taste Swiss varietal wines like Humagne Rouge and Chasselas; langoustines and beets at Anne-Sophie Pic, the restaurant at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel, in Lausanne. (Simon Bajada)

The reason you won’t find much Swiss wine in the U.S. is simply this: 98 percent of it stays in Switzerland, where it’s drunk quite contentedly by the Swiss, who are well aware that their wines are extremely good, even if the rest of the world is not. This situation isn’t entirely intentional. The wines are dauntingly expensive outside Swiss borders, and the fact that they’re made from unfamiliar native varieties doesn’t help, either. A $50 bottle of Swiss Chasselas would be a tough sell in your local American wine store.

That said, once you arrive within their borders, the Swiss are more than happy to share. Visiting wineries in Switzerland is actually easier than in many other European wine regions. Most have shops that double as tasting rooms and keep regular hours. Plus, Switzerland’s wine country, which includes the popular cantons of Vaud and Valais, is stare-around-you-in-awe beautiful.

All that is to say why, the day after my epic dinner, I was standing with Louis-Philippe Bovard on the Chemin des Grands Crus, a narrow road that winds among the ancient Lavaux vineyard terraces east of Lausanne, in the Vaud. Bovard is the 10th generation of his family to make wine here. “I have just a small piece of vineyard, which my father gave me, which the first Louis bought in 1684,” he said with the kind of casual modesty available to you when your family has been farming the same piece of land for almost 350 years. To our left, the green vines climbed in dramatic steps—some of the stone walls are 20 feet high—up to bare rock and, eventually, the Savoy Alps. Below us they dropped equally precipitously down to the ultramarine waters of Lake Geneva.

From left: The waterfront walking path in Lausanne offers ample opportunities for people-watching. The city is the capital of the Vaud canton and close to the Lavaux vineyards, a unesco World Heritage site; a view of Lake Geneva over the rooftops of Rivaz, as seen from the vineyards of Domaine Louis Bovard. (Simon Bajada)

The Chemin des Grands Crus sees a lot of foot traffic these days, a consequence of the region’s having been named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. Bovard tolerates this with equanimity. “In September there will be a thousand people on the route,” he said. “They get very annoyed when they have to move aside for my car! But harvest is harvest. The work has to be done. And the winemakers are the ones who built the road, after all.” To give perspective, Bovard’s winery is located in the nearby town of Cully, whose population tops out at 1,800 or so. “And the other villages around here aren’t even this big, maybe three hundred inhabitants,” he added. “But of those, ten to twenty will be winegrowers.” The Dézaley Grand Cru area, which we were standing in the midst of and from which Bovard makes one of his best wines, is a tiny 135 acres, but more than 60 different families farm it.

The principal grape of Lavaux and of the Vaud as a whole is Chasselas. At one extreme it makes light, delicate, floral whites; at the other, rich, supple, full-bodied ones. “In its variety of expression, it’s like Burgundy,” Bovard told me later as we sampled wines in his tiny tasting room. “Chasselas from one cru to the next can be as different as Chablis is from Montrachet.” All of Bovard’s wines are impressive, but the standout was a 2007 Domaine Louis Bovard Médinette Dézaley Grand Cru, his top wine, its youthful fruit notes now shifting toward a layered toastiness. “As the wine ages you have less white flowers, more dried apricots, honey—much like a white Hermitage but just a bit lighter.”

I was exposed to Chasselas’s chameleonic range of styles again during lunch at Auberge de l’Onde, in the tiny town of St.-Saphorin on the old road from Geneva to the Valais. The green-shuttered, 17th-century building has been an inn for most of its existence, but these days it is known mostly for its restaurant. The feel in the downstairs brasserie is homey: wooden chairs, white-painted ceiling beams, white flowers in the window boxes. (The upstairs rotisserie is more formal, and open only for dinner.) As maître d’ and sommelier Jérôme Aké Béda seated us, a young guy carrying a motorcycle helmet poked his head through a window, and he and Aké chatted in French. “He’s a winemaker, a local guy,” Aké explained. “He makes a special cuvée for me, about three hundred bottles.”

Aké’s magnetic personality and extraordinary wine knowledge are this restaurant’s secret weapons. He’s also quick to note his unlikely path in life: “I’m from the Ivory Coast. I was raised on pineapple juice, not wine! But now I’m in wine because I love it. I swim in wine.”

If not for a chance meeting, Aké might still be living in Abidjan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast. In 1988, when he was the maître d’ at Wafou, one of the city’s top restaurants, he went to France on vacation and ran into one of his former professors from hospitality school. They chatted for a while, and eventually the man asked if Aké might like to be on the team for a project of his—in Switzerland. By 1989, Aké had a new life in a very different country. But it wasn’t until the mid 90s, working at acclaimed chef Denis Martin’s restaurant in Vevey, on Lake Geneva, that he fell in love with wine. He began training as a sommelier and, in a remarkable ascent, by 2003 had been named the best sommelier in French-speaking Switzerland by the Swiss Association of Professional Sommeliers.

Now he’s found his home at Auberge de l’Onde. “Chaplin, Stravinsky, Edith Piaf, Audrey Hepburn, they all came here,” he told me. But it was when he started to talk about Chasselas, not famous people, that he became truly passionate: “I have wines from everywhere in my cellar, but I’m going to talk to you about Swiss wine. And Chasselas—it’s one of the great grapes of the world. When you drink it, you feel refreshed. And it’s so subtle, so sensitive, you must read between its lines.”

Right as I was beginning to wonder if I’d wandered into a novel about the Chasselas whisperer, Aké set down plates of perch from the lake and expertly spit-roasted chicken in tarragon sauce. To go with them he poured us tastes from seven different bottles, all Chasselas. Some were bright, citrusy, and crisp; some were creamy, with flavors more reminiscent of pears. Of the two older vintages we tried, one had honeyed notes, the other a nutty flavor suggesting mushrooms and brown butter. “’s also very earthy,” Aké went on. “It needs salt and pepper to bring out its amplitude.”

The following day I headed west in the direction of Geneva to La Côte, another of the Vaud’s six wine regions, to meet Raymond Paccot of Paccot-Domaine La Colombe. Here the land was less abrupt, the vineyards flowing down toward the lake in gentle slopes. Paccot’s winery was in Féchy, a rural village. Above it, higher on the hillside, was Féchy’s aptly nicknamed sister town, Super-Féchy, “where Phil Collins lives,” Paccot explained. “The rich people.” Even in less celebrity-filled Féchy, the local castle was currently for sale for $36.8 million, Paccot told me. “With a very nice view of the lake, if you’re interested.”

Rather than buy the castle, I ended up at La Colombe’s little shop and tasting room. Paccot, one of the first vintners in Switzerland to farm biodynamically, makes a broad range of wines, both red and white—Chasselas is not the only grape grown here. He set out an abundance of charcuterie and cheeses, and surrounded by bottles, we chatted about the history of the region.

As with essentially every European appellation, it was the Romans who cultivated vines here first. Later, in the 10th or 11th century, Cistercian monks established their own vineyards. Lavaux’s spectacular terrace walls were erected in the 1400s by northern Italian masons. By then the Vaud was part of the French-speaking Duchy of Savoy; that was also, Paccot told me, around the time when his family received its coat of arms, which features a dove (la colombe), a symbol of peace, and of course the winery. “It was given to us by Amédée, one of the Savoy counts, because in 1355, my ancestor helped secure peace. Plus, it was easier to give him a coat of arms than to pay him.” Through Europe’s many wars, vignerons grew grapes and made wine here. In French-speaking Switzerland you find local whites like Chasselas, Petite Arvine, Amigne, and Humagne, together with French transplants such as Marsanne (here known as Ermitage) and Pinot Gris (here known as Malvoisie). In the eastern, German-speaking regions, reds are more popular, particularly Pinot Noir (often referred to as Blauburgunder); in Italian-speaking Ticino, Merlot dominates.

Paccot’s 2014 Amédée, primarily made from the Savagnin grape, was a standout among the wines we tasted—melony and earthy, full-bodied but brightened by fresh acidity. “With Chasselas, it’s the delicacy, the lift, the fruit,” he said after taking a sip. “But with Savagnin it’s more like a mushroom. It smells the way it does when you’re walking in the forest.”

That comment came back to me the next day when I was, in fact, walking in a forest. But I was in the Valais, a very different place. If the Vaud is defined by the openness of Lake Geneva, Valais is defined by mountains. It’s essentially a vast gorge carved by the Rhône glacier, which before it began its retreat some 10,000 years ago stretched for nearly 185 miles and was, according to Gilles Besse, the winemaker I was walking with, “more than a mile deep. But what it left behind was this extraordinary mosaic of rocks. The soil in the Valais changes every fifteen yards—it’s not like Bordeaux.”

A vineyard in the village of Le Perrey, in the Valais, where the winemakers at Domaine Gérald Besse source their grapes. (Simon Bajada)

Nor, except for that mosaic-like soil structure, is it much like the Vaud. Here, the Alps towered up on either side of me, jagged and stunning. The previous day I’d had a conversation with Louis-Philippe Bovard and a Swiss wine-collector acquaintance of mine, Toby Barbey, about the difference between the Vaud and the Valais. Bovard had said, “The Valais, well, the soils are very different, the climate is very different, it’s very dry.” At this point Barbey interjected, “And the people are very different! They’re lunatics over there.”

I told Besse this and he laughed. He is trim, in his forties, with the requisite interesting eyewear and expensive watch that all Swiss men are apparently issued at birth. An accomplished skier, he’d recently completed the Patrouille des Glaciers, a frigid, all-night, cross-country-ski race covering some 70 miles from Zermatt to Verbier. Proof enough of a lunatic streak for me.

His family’s winery, Domaine Jean-René Germanier, opened for business in Vetroz in 1886. But at the moment we were deep in the precipitous Val d’Hérens. The forest we’d walked through gave way to one of his prized vineyards, Clos de la Couta. It is absurdly steep—your average mountain goat would be daunted. But somehow Besse harvests grapes from it, and very good ones at that. His peppery, nectarine-scented 2015 Clos de la Couta Heida (the local name for Savagnin), which we tried later on, was sublime. He also informed me that Val d’Hérens’s true fame comes less from its grapes than its fighting cows.

“Fighting cows?”

“Of course! Really angry animals. A top cow might sell for eighty-five thousand dollars, you know.”

“Not like a bullfight, right?”

“No, the cows fight each other. It’s to determine the queen—which lady rules the herd. There are many fights, but the finale is in Aproz in June. It’s a very big event. People come from all over Switzerland.”

Visual confirmation would have helped me wrap my brain around the concept. But for dinner we did indulge in an equally Valaisian tradition, raclette, at the ultimate destination for it, the Château de Villa, in Sierre.

It’s easy to look at raclette and think, “Well, that’s melted cheese on a plate.” And yes, raclette is basically melted cheese on a plate. But sit outside at Château de Villa on a spring night, looking at the turreted tower and white walls of this 16th-century building, and order the dinner tasting of five different cheeses from five different alpages (high mountain pastures) throughout the Valais. You will realize it’s much more than that.

At Château de Villa, the raclette master slices great wheels of Raclette de Valais AOC cheese in half, mounts them on metal racks, and positions them just close enough to a fire that the edge of the cheese crisps and the center melts without burning. He then scrapes the molten cheese onto a plate with a single stroke. Some cheeses are more earthy, some more oily, some more floral. All are distinct. After you try all five, you can have more of whichever you prefer, along with “light” accompaniments: boiled potatoes, bread, and pickles. And ask for the pepper mill. The correct amount of pepper? That, Besse told me, is a matter of debate.

The next day I took the train to Zurich, because of a new rule I’ve decided to apply to my life: if someone offers to show you vineyards from a speedboat, always say yes.

The someone in this case was Hermann Schwarzenbach, the debonair owner of Schwarzenbach Weinbau, a few miles south of the official city limits in the town of Meilen. Zurich’s not really known as a wine region—the city itself is too dominant, with its focus on international business and the arts—and as the villages on the northern shore of Lake Zurich have been absorbed into its sprawl, the historic line between what’s urban and rural has blurred. But the vineyards are still there, semi-hidden. Schwarzenbach pointed them out from the water—dozens of one-acre parcels up and down the lake, tucked in between stands of old plane trees, riverside parks, and the gabled summer homes of rich Zurichers. “Most of them are on land that’s protected against development,” he noted. “Otherwise they wouldn’t be there anymore.”

After zooming up and down the lake several times, we parked the boat in Schwarzenbach’s boathouse and repaired to lunch in the garden at a local restaurant, Wirtschaft zur Burg, to taste his wines. Though the building dates back to the mid 1600s, chef Turi Thoma is known for his lightly modernized takes on traditional Swiss dishes—pike from the lake simply roasted but served with a poppy, lime, and chile butter, for instance. Thoma, a compact, bald fellow with an impish smile, also buys all the wine for the restaurant. He joined us to taste Schwarzenbach’s 2008 Meilener Pinot Noir Selection. Pinot Noir is a more significant and increasingly popular red grape in German-speaking Switzerland than in the French areas, and the wine was a revelation—full of black tea and spice, intense dried-cherry fruit, juicy acidity. “You can really see the similarities to a great Côte de Nuits,” Thoma said. “You like the food?”

“Great!” I said. “Brilliant.” He was giving me that intent look that chefs give you when they feel like you might be politely hiding your actual opinion, so I ate another bite of the venison course we were on for emphasis. “And fantastic with the wine, too.”

“Great!” I said. “Brilliant.” He was giving me that intent look that chefs give you when they feel like you might be politely hiding your actual opinion, so I ate another bite of the venison course we were on for emphasis. “And fantastic with the wine, too.”

“Good,” he said, leaning back.

I said I was surprised to find Pinot Noir—and very good Pinot Noir at that—by the shores of Lake Zurich. “Yes,” Schwarzenbach said thoughtfully. “But think about it. The tradition of Pinot Noir here is over four hundred years old. Perhaps even longer. It was always our main variety of red wine. Classic cool-climate reds, that’s what we do. Yes, it was brought here by the...oh, the duke of whatever. But it’s our variety. Right?”

Exploring Swiss Wine Country

The cantons of Vaud, Valais, and Zurich offer all the pleasures of the world’s best-known wine destinations without the crowds. Give yourself a week to experience all three, along with the urban pleasures of Geneva.

Getting There and Around

Swiss International Air Lines offers 73 flights per week from Canada and the U.S. to Geneva and Zurich. To get between cities by train, invest in a Swiss Travel Pass. Though you can visit most wineries and tasting rooms unannounced, a good option is to work with a tour company like CountryBred, which plans dinners with winemakers, luxury transportation, tastings, and more.

The Vaud

To explore the wine regions of the Vaud, stay in the city of Lausanne. The recently renovated Beau-Rivage Palace (doubles from $565), originally built in 1861, has spectacular views over Lake Geneva, both from its exquisitely appointed rooms and from chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s namesake Michelin two-starred restaurant. A walk along the Lavaux terraces’ Chemin des Grands Crus, just 15 minutes from Lausanne, is not to be missed. Then visit Domaine Bovard, in Cully, one of the region’s benchmark Chasselas producers. Domaine du Daley, founded in 1392, is in Lutry. Its terrace has the best view of all the Lavaux wineries. Closer to Geneva in La Côte, Raymond Paccot’s Paccot-Domaine La Colombe is another highlight. Make sure to try the three Chasselas bottlings — Bayel, Brez, and Petit Clos — all from different terroirs. I loved dining at Auberge de l’Onde (entrées $13–$41), in St.-Saphorin, where sommelier Jérôme Aké Béda preaches the gospel of Swiss wine and the rotisserie-grilled meats are incomparable.

The Valais

Hotel-Restaurant Didier de Courten (doubles from $240), in Sierre, is a pleasant, relaxed base for your excursions. Thirty minutes away in Ardon, Domaine Jean-René Germanier is known as one of the Valais’s best producers, both of whites such as Fendant (as Chasselas is known in the region) and reds such as Syrah. Twenty minutes southwest brings you to Gérald Besse’s brand-new winery outside Martigny. Taste his impressive wines, such as the Ermitage Vielle Vigne Les Serpentines, from a vineyard planted on a dramatic 55-degree slope. Cheese-and-wine fanatics should try Château de Villa (entrées $11–$55), in Sierre, not only for the raclette tasting but also for the attached shop, which stocks some 650 different wines.

Zurich and Its Environs

Staying in Zurich gives you access to all the attractions of the big city, but just outside lie wineries that produce lovely whites and surprisingly good Pinot Noirs. In Zurich, the Baur au Lac (doubles from $926) is one of the great historic hotels of Europe, built in 1844 — the same year its founder, Johannes Baur, started his wine business, which the hotel still runs. At Schwarzenbach Weinbau, a wine producer 15 minutes away in the town of Meilen, you can sip subtle Pinot Noirs and citrus-apricoty white Rauschlings, available nowhere else on earth. Dinner at Wirtschaft zur Burg (entrées $15–$30), also in Meilen, is excellent. Chef Turi Thoma relies on ingredients such as pike and hare for his brilliantly executed spins on traditional recipes.

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Bench end, saber back

Smithsonian Gardens
Zinc or aluminum bench end with saber back. The arm rest connects to the seat section with a large scroll. Below the seat the front leg is formed from an elongated S shape. The front and back legs terminate in backwards-facing scrolls and an arched brace connects them. The playful scrolls of this design are in the manner of the late-Regency style wrought-iron furnishings. The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. The most popular style of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century leading up to the Victorian era (1837-1901) was Neoclassicism. In America it has been called the American Empire style, Greek Revival, or Grecian style and was called Regency or Empire style in Europe. Neoclassicism was seen in painting, sculpture, furnishings, architecture, fashion, and even politics. This revival of classical taste was encouraged by the increased interest in classical, ancient, and antique forms inspired by recent excavations of in Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Neoclassicism pulled motifs, ornamentation, and forms from antiquity, as well as the Renaissance interpretation of the classical world. Elements of neoclassical design included fretwork, columns, palmettes, pilasters, acanthus leaves, tulips and lotus motifs, grotesque masks, processional reliefs, mythical creatures, laurel garlands, fruit swags, scrolls, tassels, fringe, passementerie, frieze decoration, lyres, and vases; as well as accurate depictions of flora, fauna, birds, and insects; and repeating patterns such as the Greek key and egg-and-dart. A characteristic of Neoclassical designs is strict symmetry of all the elements.

Bench end, scroll

Smithsonian Gardens
Zinc bench end with saber back. The arm rest connects to the seat section with a large scroll. Below the seat the front leg is formed from an elongated S shape. The front and back legs terminate in backwards-facing scrolls, and an arched brace connects them. The playful scrolls of this design are in the manner of the late-Regency style wrought-iron furnishings. The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. The most popular style of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century leading up to the Victorian era (1837-1901) was Neoclassicism. In America it has been called the American Empire style, Greek Revival, or Grecian style and was called Regency or Empire style in Europe. Neoclassicism was seen in painting, sculpture, furnishings, architecture, fashion, and even politics. This revival of classical taste was encouraged by the increased interest in classical, ancient, and antique forms inspired by recent excavations of in Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Neoclassicism pulled motifs, ornamentation, and forms from antiquity, as well as the Renaissance interpretation of the classical world. Elements of neoclassical design included fretwork, columns, palmettes, pilasters, acanthus leaves, tulips and lotus motifs, grotesque masks, processional reliefs, mythical creatures, laurel garlands, fruit swags, scrolls, tassels, fringe, passementerie, frieze decoration, lyres, and vases; as well as accurate depictions of flora, fauna, birds, and insects; and repeating patterns such as the Greek key and egg-and-dart. A characteristic of Neoclassical designs is strict symmetry of all the elements.

Paper Cup, Fazoli’s Restaurant

National Museum of American History
Table manners: easier to teach at table QUIT THE CUP HOLDER: trade the car for the dinner table tonight REAL MEAL TIP: Sip. Don’t gulp. I believe that fast doesn’t have to mean fried and tasteless. I believe that not all food needs to be drowned in ketchup to taste better. I believe just because it’s soccer season doesn’t mean it’s deep fried season. I believe life should be less overdone and more, shall we say, al dente. These phrases sound like messaging from an educational organization promoting nutrition and healthy eating. But no, they are among the slogans printed on the paper cups used for drinks at Fazoli’s, a “fast casual” restaurant chain with the tagline: “fast. fresh. italian.” And yes, in the complex world of food in 21st century America, the popular concepts of “fresh,” “real,” “dinner table,” and “slow”—not not typically associated with fast food—can find a home in a such a restaurant chain. The first Fazoli’s was established in 1988, in Lexington, Kentu cky, and in the 1990s the chain developed its mission to “Serve America premium quality Italian food, fast, fresh, & friendly.” The “fast casual” segment in the restaurant industry, positioned between fast food drive-ins and casual dining restaurants, gained momentum in the 2000s. Known for providing customized, freshly prepared food in a slightly more upscale environment than fast food chains, “fast casual” places generally do not offer a drive-thru option. As of 2013, Fazoli’s operated 217 restaurants in 26 states. This paper cup was collected from the restaurant in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Paper Cup, Fazoli’s Restaurant

National Museum of American History
Table manners: easier to teach at table QUIT THE CUP HOLDER: trade the car for the dinner table tonight REAL MEAL TIP: Sip. Don’t gulp. I believe that fast doesn’t have to mean fried and tasteless. I believe that not all food needs to be drowned in ketchup to taste better. I believe just because it’s soccer season doesn’t mean it’s deep fried season. I believe life should be less overdone and more, shall we say, al dente. These phrases sound like messaging from an educational organization promoting nutrition and healthy eating. But no, they are among the slogans printed on the paper cups used for drinks at Fazoli’s, a “fast casual” restaurant chain with the tagline: “fast. fresh. italian.” And yes, in the complex world of food in 21st century America, the popular concepts of “fresh,” “real,” “dinner table,” and “slow”—not not typically associated with fast food—can find a home in a such a restaurant chain. The first Fazoli’s was established in 1988, in Lexington, Kentu cky, and in the 1990s the chain developed its mission to “Serve America premium quality Italian food, fast, fresh, & friendly.” The “fast casual” segment in the restaurant industry, positioned between fast food drive-ins and casual dining restaurants, gained momentum in the 2000s. Known for providing customized, freshly prepared food in a slightly more upscale environment than fast food chains, “fast casual” places generally do not offer a drive-thru option. As of 2013, Fazoli’s operated 217 restaurants in 26 states. This paper cup was collected from the restaurant in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

This Device Lets People Video Chat With Their Pets

Smithsonian Magazine

There are "pet owners" and then there are “pet parents.” For the latter, there isn’t an effort to a great or a price too high to make their little ones feel like part of the family.

Over the years, the multi-billion dollar pet market has happily catered to these truest of animal lovers, making it possible for them to spoil their precious furballs with facials and manicures at dog spas, specially-concocted fragrances and custom-designed orthopedic pet beds. Being so attached, you can imagine the separation anxiety pet parents experience when they're at work or vacationing for an extended amount of time.

To alleviate this stress, a Minnesota-based startup has invented a two-way petcam that enables both owner and pet to connect and interact remotely in a manner similar to Skype or Apple’s FaceTime. The $350 PetChatz device features a "chew-proof" intercom-sized unit with a built-in speakerphone, camera system and interactive LCD screen that can be plugged into any wall outlet.

Connected via Wi-Fi, owners would then use an app on their computer or mobile device to start a "chat" session, which can be recorded and shared with others. A special ring tone signals to the pet that someone's calling and an additional motion and sound detection system can be set up to notify parents of any activity around the house. While technically dogs or cats don’t have the ability to chat, people can use the "Greet & Treat" system to reward their pets by dispensing tasty treats and even special scents that are kept in a refillable hidden compartment.

Credit: Anser Innovations

PetChatz was created by Mark Kroll, a medical technology developer with more than 350 patents to his name. He holds the title of Minnesota's most prolific inventor. The idea came to him about a decade ago when, while he was Skyping with his daughter, the family's labrador recognized her voice and came running into the room. Kroll later collaborated with veterinary technician Lisa Lavin to to develop PetChatz and other similar long-distance technologies under a new venture called Anser Innovation.

"As a pet parent myself, I understand how strongly people feel about their pets," says Lavin, who estimates that she has spent a total of $11,200 on vet bills and $80 a month on dog food for both of her live-in poodles. "We miss them. We feel guilty when we're away on vacation and this is a way to alleviate that separation anxiety."

If there is one aspect of these extravagant pet parenting products that some might find troubling, other than the cost, it's that promoting them involves a great deal of anthropomorphizing. Though dogs and cats are intelligent, they still aren't human, and treating them as such hints at a kind of resolute denial to accept the fact that they may not even enjoy being the benefactor of pricey skin treatments. Some experts think its a stretch to believe that the critter on the other end even recognizes a person being displayed on a screen.

"This product introduces the potential for interaction between the dog and the technology," Margaret Duxbury, an animal behavior professor at the University of Minnesota, told the Star-Tribune a year ago. "It will certainly be disappointing if the dogs don't respond at all [to PetChatz]. Perhaps they will respond to the voice but not recognize that the picture is of their owner. Does that even matter if they respond to the voice?''

Lavin claims that the company has since tested the device, with pet and human subjects, and discovered that pets can be easily trained to at least recognize the ring in a manner similar to a Pavlovian response. (Some animals have even been trained to be government spies.) As for whether a pet knows who's on-screen, she says that would depend on how much visual technology the pet has been exposed to.

"What we found was that the pet who spends a lot of time watching TV is more likely to be compelled to recognize your image on the screen and follow commands than one who doesn't," she says.

What's important, she emphasizes, is that this device does more for the emotional welfare of the owner than for the pet. If there is any benefit for the pet (besides food), she adds, it's that the pet, especially dogs, receives some stimulation during the day, which animal behaviorists agree can do wonders for their well-being.

PetChatz is slated to be available for purchase on the product's website and at select independent pets stores nationwide during the first quarter of 2014. For now, the company is taking pre-orders for the device. Packets of special treats and essential oil drops will also be available in the near future.

These Flowers Come Straight From the Farm to Your Door

Smithsonian Magazine

Take a close look at that bouquet that just arrived for Valentine’s Day. Where were your flowers grown?

There’s a good chance they came from Ecuador, raised in a greenhouse on the sun-drenched flank of an Andean volcano. But once harvested, the blooms usually take a lengthy detour to get to you: a third-party handler typically ships them to a warehouse where they can wait for weeks in cold storage before arriving on your doorstep. It’s not their fault they end up looking a little worse for all that wear.

But why go through all that, if less product is wasted (and the resources to grow them) by waiting to cut the flowers until they’re ordered, and shipping them straight to customers?

That’s the approach of The Bouqs Company, a startup headquartered in Venice, California. But the company’s true heart lies in Ecuador, home country of co-founder by J.P. Montufar. Raised in and around agriculture, he returned to his native country after earning business and biochemistry degrees from the University of Notre Dame and working in in the San Francisco biotech scene. Since founding Bouqs in 2012, Montufar and his partner John Tabis have enlisted around 50 partner farms in the United States, Ecuador and Colombia.

A new round of investing announced last month brings their total seed funding to $43 million; clearly more than a few people think the model is worth a gamble.

J.P. Montufar (left) and John Tabis (right), founders of The Bouqs Company (Bouqs)

The flower industry in Ecuador, and rose-growing in particular, has been both a boon and a burden for the country; while it created more than 115,000 jobs in 2008, occupied mostly by women, and exported $800 million worth of cut flowers in 2015, the industry has grappled with water overuse and the human impact of horticultural chemicals.

But going right to the customer is one way, at least, operations like Montufar’s can shield themselves from the vagaries of the international market, says Gregory Knapp, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of an upcoming journal article on the Ecuadorean flower industry.

“Cut flowers are the first highly lucrative global agricultural export from the high Andes, and because it’s decentralized, the benefits are spread fairly widely,” Knapp says. “Plantation workers are paid wages unavailable elsewhere, and they use their earnings to invest in their farms, health care and education. Despite many predictions of its imminent demise stretching back decades, the high Andean cut flower industry has continued to thrive. I wouldn’t bet against it at this point.”

Gail Nonnecke, a professor of horticulture and expert in global resource systems at Iowa State University, says Bouqs’ strategy is made easier by shipping flowers in small batches on existing international flights. It also uses a model that’s been the norm throughout most of the history of modern agriculture: purchasing straight from the farm or a farmers market.

“Having direct-to-consumer flower sales from South America, which are transported on airplanes already traveling to the US and delivered to the US consumer, is a novel adaptation of the earliest forms of agricultural marketing,” Nonnecke says. “It’s the farmer or farm group selling directly to the customer.” reached Montufar on a quick break in a greenhouse near the Cotopaxi volcano outside of Quito, Ecuador to talk about his business and how he hopes his company’s approach can change the flower business. Warning: he gets really excited about mold.

Why did you decide to market directly to customers?

[Co-founder John Tabis] and I realized something is broken in sourcing flowers and servicing customers. Sourcing them directly from a farm means we can offer a fairer rate to the grower. And flowers are the most delicate and time-sensitive perishable product you can work with—the more you touch them, squeeze them, store them and move them, the more they’re affected. Since the life of a flower is short, it seemed obvious to us to get rid of the wasted time in the middle steps of the process. When the recipient gets their flowers, the last time they’ve been touched is by the farmer. We restore a connection that’s been lost.

Talk about your company’s approach to pesticides and chemicals.

For this business to work, one has to be very responsible, both socially and environmentally. From an ethical standpoint it makes sense, but it also makes sense financially. Any farm we work with must be certified by a third party as not using any “red-label” [highly toxic] chemicals, and many have certifications from the Rainforest Alliance and fair-trade groups. We have traceability for each of our stems.

A farm that doesn’t take care of the environment and their people is a farm that will not, in my humble opinion, survive in the medium or the long term. That’s not a farm I want to engage in. If you’re cutting corners environmentally, you’re probably also doing it with quality control practices.

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

How have you used your knowledge of biology and chemistry to influence your fellow horticulturists?

There’s been a huge shift from chemical use to biological controls and sustainable fertilizer. We compost anything not suited for export, and not just waste from the flower farm, but egg shells and orange peels, which by the way also provides a natural fungus that helps convert vegetable matter into available carbon. We’ve also had great success with the control of grey mold, which rots flowers from the inside out, by developing a system at each of our locations to capture, grow and propagate strains of local molds that combat the grey mold but don’t hurt the plant. As well as being more effective and cheaper than chemical counterparts, it’s easier on the employees, too.

But I can’t take credit for any of these ideas. A lot of them come from scientific research papers at universities. What my expertise allowed me to do is see what could be performed in-house and why. I just hope I’ve had some influence as a biological consultant to some of our partner farms.

Has there been much resistance to changing growing practices in Ecuador?

My goal is to get everyone to produce better roses, especially in Ecuador. My expertise is an open book to everyone whether we work with them or not. It’s a cheap and logical change, but if you’re a flower grower, everyone is against you—the rain, the sun, the government, and then when someone comes in and says, try this! I understand why a lot of folks would be hesitant to change what works for them, even if it’s not optimal. But with a little bit of time, data, numbers and proof that the farm won’t go down in two days because you made a change, little by little, there is change.

How does Bouqs build its farm network?

We build up our supply network depending on which flower we need, and where the best of those flowers are grown. For example, the best spray roses are in California and the best roses are in Ecuador. Once we’ve located where those flowers are grown, we have a very thorough checklist of standards and best practices that all of our farm partners must meet. This process includes our farm operations team conducting site visits, ensuring the farm’s certifications are current, making sure they are financially stable, and that there are responsible labor practices in place.

Then the next step is testing the product quality. We know what our customers expect, so it’s crucial that the farm meets those quality standards.

Then lastly, once the partnership is made official, we work to be sure all of the certifications remain current and we continue making regular site visits. We also want to encourage our farms to experiment with new varieties so we can work with them to offer new things.

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

Image by Bouqs. (original image)

How do the farms’ geographic locations affect what flowers Bouqs can offer?

For some varieties it helps to know where they are native. For example, mini calla lilies are native to South Africa and grow well there. Northern California is on a similar latitude as South Africa, which means mini calla lilies will grow really well there, too.

Flowers with bulbs require four seasons, and it is not that easy to mimic that. Tulips and peonies grow much better in temperate zones than tropical zones, so we look for them very far north in North America or further south in South America. But tropical flowers, like ginger, are obviously going to grow in more tropical areas.

For roses, we look at both altitude and proximity to the equator to determine if a geographic location would be ideal.

So your farms can be far apart—how can you guarantee quick deliveries?

With air travel, the world is a small place. Of course the further away a farm is, the more it costs us to bring them in to the U.S. in a timely manner. But it’s not the distance that necessarily affects the freshness of the product, it’s the delays caused by the customs, agriculture and IRS inspections.

Our same-day delivery options are fulfilled by a network of hand-picked artisan florists around the country. We allow our florists the flexibility to be creative in their designs. There’s no “painting by numbers,” which allows for more craftsmanship and unique designs.

The Worst Parade to Ever Hit the Streets of Boston

Smithsonian Magazine

This tale is excerpted from Nathaniel Philbrick's upcoming book Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, available for pre-order now and in stores on April 30, 2013.

Boston had always been a town on tiptoe. Just a square mile in area, with a mere sliver of land connecting it to the mainland to the south, this tadpole-shaped island was dominated by three towering, lightly settled hills and a virtual forest of steeples. From Boston’s highest perch, the 138-foot Beacon Hill, it was possible to see that the town was just one in a huge amphitheatre of humped and jagged islands that extended more than eight and a half miles to Point Allerton to the southeast. Whether it was from a hill, a steeple, or a cupola, Bostonians could plainly see that they were surrounded by two deep and endless wildernesses: the ocean to the east and the country to the west.

Boston’s topography contributed to the seemingly nonsensical pattern of its streets. Rather than follow any preconceived grid, the settlement’s original trails and cart paths had done their best to negotiate the many hills and hollows, cutting across the slopes at gradual angles to create a concave crescent of settlement within which more than fifty wharves and shipyards extended from the town’s eastern edge. 

It was in winter that this city of hills came into its own—at least if you were a boy.  Streets normally crowded with people, horses, ox carts, and carriages became, thanks to a coating of snow and ice, magical coasting trails down which a youngster on his wooden sled could race at startling and wonderful speeds. On January 25, 1774, there were at least two feet of snow covering Boston. Runner-equipped sleighs glided across roads that carts and chaises had once plodded over, moving so silently across the white drifts that tinkling bells were added to the horses’ halters so that the people of Boston could hear them coming. The boys in theirs sleds did not have this luxury, however, and that afternoon a child approaching the end of his run down Copp’s Hill in the North End slammed into the 50-year-old customs officer John Malcom—that is, at least, according to one account. Another account has Malcom falling into an argument with the boy when the child complained that Malcom had ruined the coasting run that passed by his front door by throwing woodchips on the snow.

Malcom, as his vocation as a customs agent might suggest, was a loyalist; he also had a reputation for losing his temper. Raising his cane in the air as if to strike the boy, he shouted, “Do you talk to me in that style, you rascal!” It was then that George Hewes, a shoemaker, came upon them standing at the mouth of Cross Street.

Hewes had recently participated in the Tea Party and was known to be a patriot. But at this point, political beliefs were of little concern to him; he was worried that Malcom might injure the defenseless boy and told him to leave the child alone.

Malcom turned to Hewes and accused him of being a “vagabond” who should not presume to speak to a gentleman such as himself. Besides commanding a host of coasting vessels, Malcom had served as an officer in several campaigns during the French and Indian War; he’d also fought more recently in what was known as the War of Regulation in North Carolina, where he’d assisted Royal Governor Tyrone in brutally suppressing an uprising of citizens who objected to the taxation system then prevalent in this portion of the South. Malcom claimed to have had two horses shot out from underneath him in North Carolina and later wrote in a petition to the king that “none could go further in the field of battle when the bullets flew thickest, he was then in his element.”

Malcom’s love of combat had recently gotten him into some serious professional trouble. Earlier that fall, while serving in the customs office in Falmouth (now Portland), Maine, he’d seized a ship and her 30-man crew under the slimmest of pretexts. His pompous and overbearing manner had so angered the sailors that they’d disarmed him of his sword and provided him with a “genteel” coat of tar and feathers—genteel in that they’d left his clothes on to protect his skin from the hot tar. Malcom had been humiliated but apparently not hurt, and even his superior officer at the customs office had had little sympathy for him. By that snowy day in January, Malcom was back home in Boston and arguing with not only a surly boy with a sled but this prying shoemaker as well.

Hewes was unimpressed by Malcom’s claims of social superiority, especially given what had happened to the customs agent in Maine, a story that had been repeated with great relish in Boston’s many newspapers. “Be that as it will,” Hewes replied to Malcom’s rebuke, “I never was tarred and feathered anyhow.”

This was too much for Malcom, who took up his cane and smashed Hewes in the head, ripping a two-inch gash in his hat and knocking him unconscious. When Hewes came to his senses, a Captain Godfrey was admonishing Malcom, who soon decided that it was in his best interests to beat a hasty retreat to his home on Cross Street.

All that afternoon word of the incident circulated through the streets of Boston. By eight o’clock in the evening, an angry crowd had assembled outside Malcom’s house. By that time Hewes had visited Dr. Joseph Warren, just across the Mill Bridge on nearby Hanover Street. Both a physician and a distant relative, Warren had told him that if it weren’t for his extraordinarily thick skull, Hewes would be a dead man. On Warren’s advice, he applied to a town official for a warrant for Malcom’s arrest, but it was now looking like a different kind of justice was about to be served.

Earlier in the evening, Malcom had taken a manic delight in baiting the crowd, bragging that Governor Hutchinson would pay him a bounty of 20 pounds sterling for every “yankee” that he killed. His undoubtedly longsuffering wife, the mother of five children (two of whom were deaf), opened a window and pleaded with the townspeople to leave them alone. Whatever sympathy she had managed to gain soon vanished when Malcom pushed his unsheathed sword through the window and stabbed a man in the breastbone.  

The crowd swarmed around the house, breaking windows and trying to get at the customs official, who soon fled up the stairs to the second story. Many Bostonians served as volunteer firemen, and it wasn’t long before men equipped with ladders and axes were rushing toward the besieged house on Cross Street. Even Malcom appears to have realized that matters had taken a serious turn, and he prepared “to make what defense he could.”

Collective violence had been a longstanding part of colonial New England. Crowds tended to intervene when government officials acted against the interests of the people. In 1745, a riot had broken out in Boston when a naval press gang seized several local sailors. Twenty-three years later, anger over the depredations of yet another press gang contributed to the Liberty Riot of 1768, triggered by the seizure of John Hancock’s ship of the same name by Boston customs officials. In that the crowds were attempting to address unpunished wrongs committed against the community, they were a recognized institution that all Bostonians—no matter how wealthy and influential they might be—ignored at their peril. On August 26, 1765, as outrage over the Stamp Act swept across the colonies, a mob of several hundred Bostonians had attacked the home of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson, breaking windows, beating down doors, and ransacking the house of its elaborate furnishings. But as John Malcom was about to find out on that frigid night in January 1774, and as Thomas Hutchison had learned almost a decade before him, the divide between a civic-minded crowd and an unruly and vindictive mob was frighteningly thin.


Image by Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, Inc.. Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution is available for pre-order now and in stores on April 30, 2013. (original image)

Image by Ellen Warner. Nathaniel Philbrick (original image)

Image by (c) 2013 Jeffrey L. Ward. Courtesy of Viking.. Boston in 1774, where loyalist John Malcom was tarred and feathered. (original image)

Image by The Granger Collection, NYC. An artist's depiction of the tarring and feathering of John Malcom in Boston. (original image)

Malcom and his family huddled in their home’s second floor. A locked door stood between them and the angry crowd down below. They heard the thud of the ladders against the sides of the house and the cries of the men and boys as they climbed up to the second-story windows and punched through the glass. It was then that “a Mr. Russell,” perhaps William Russell, an usher (or teaching assistant) at a school on Hanover Street, appeared inside the house. Smiling broadly, he assured Malcom that he came in friendship and shook the customs officer’s hand. He then asked if he could see Malcom’s sword. Desperate for whatever assistance he could find, Malcom reluctantly handed over the weapon, only to watch as Russell (who, if he indeed was William Russell, had participated in the Tea Party) called out to the others in the house that Malcom was now unarmed. “They immediately rushed in,” Malcom wrote, “and by violence forced your memorialist out of the house and beating him with sticks then placed him on a sled they had prepared.” One can only wonder what Mrs. Malcom and her sons and daughters were thinking as they watched him disappear into the unlit streets of Boston.

After a stop at a nearby wharf to pick up a barrel of tar (at some point, down-filled pillows, perhaps taken from Malcom’s own house, were also collected), the crowd, which now numbered more than a thousand people, hauled Malcom through the snowy streets to the center of town, where after three “Huzzas,” they loaded him into a cart parked in front of the Customs House. Almost four years before, this had been the site of the Boston Massacre, and as a consequence the building was now referred to as Butchers’ Hall. Bonfires were common in this portion of King Street, a 60-foot-wide plaza-like space in front of the Town Hall paved with seashells and gravel where the stocks and whipping post were also located. One of these fires may have been used to heat the stiff and sludgy pine tar (a distillation of the bituminous substance that bubbled from a smoldering pine tree) into a pourable black paste.

It was one of the bitterest evenings of the year. Boston Harbor had frozen over two nights before. Malcom was undoubtedly trembling with cold and fear, but this did not prevent the crowd from tearing off his clothes (dislocating his arm in the process) and daubing his skin with steaming tar that would have effectively parboiled his flesh. Once the feathers had been added, Malcom was clothed in what was known at the time as a “modern jacket”: a painful and mortifying announcement to the world that he had sinned against the collective mores of the community. Tarring and feathering went back centuries to the time of the crusades; it was also applied to the effigies used during Pope Night; several Boston loyalists before him had been tarred and feathered, but none could claim the level of suffering that Malcom was about to endure.

Soon the crowd began pushing Malcom’s cart up King Street toward the Town House, the cupola-topped brick building emblazoned with the king’s seal that was the home of the colony’s legislature. Once passed the Town House, they turned left onto Boston’s main thoroughfare, known in this portion of the city as Cornhill. With the three-story brick edifice of Boston’s first Congregational Meeting, referred to as the Old Meeting, on their right, they made their way through a gauntlet of tightly packed buildings of varying heights. Lights flared in the windows as they passed, the crowd’s shouts and whistles washing across the brick and clapboard facings and echoing up into the hills to the right, where the almshouse, the asylum for the “disorderly and insane,” the workhouse, and the granary overlooked the rolling 45-acre sweep of the Common.

Cornhill became Marlborough Street by the time they reached the block containing the governor’s official residence, Province House. On the cupola of this stately, three-story brick structure was a copper weathervane depicting an Indian with an arrow in his bow. When the wind was from the east, the Province House Indian seemed to be aiming at the even higher weathercock on the spire of the Old South Meetinghouse just across the street. The crowd stopped between these two soaring buildings and ordered Malcom to curse Governor Hutchinson (who was safely ensconced at his country house ten miles away in Milton that night) and “say he was an enemy to his country.” Malcom steadfastly refused.

On they proceeded through the freezing darkness, the cart’s wheels crunching through the snow. They were now in the heart of the South End, the more affluent side of town, where Marlborough turned into Newbury Street. At the corner of Essex on their left, they stopped at the huge old elm known as the Liberty Tree. A staff rose up out of the topmost portion of the tree’s trunk on which a flag was often flown. This was where the first protests against the Stamp Act had been held back in 1765, and in the years since, the Liberty Tree had become a kind of druidical, distinctly American shrine to the inherent freedoms of man and that Enlightenment sense of “the state of nature” that exists before a people willingly submit to the dictates of a government of their own choosing.

On this cold night, the people of Boston were directing their anger against a man who resolutely, even fanatically insisted that they must defer to a distant king and a legislature that no longer respected their God-given rights, that obedience must be paid not only to their royal sovereign but to a man like John Malcom: a bitter and grasping underling whose world was crumbling beneath him. Malcom stood in the cart below the tree’s bare winter branches and once again refused to curse the governor.

They continued down Newbury to where it became Orange Street. Soon they were approaching the town gate at Boston Neck, more than a mile from the Town House. The old brick fortification dated back to King Philip’s War, when Boston had become a refuge for those attempting to escape the Indians, and once through the gate, they were out onto the thin strand of wave-washed earth that connected Boston to the town of Roxbury. On either side of them, the icy marshes and shallows extended out into darkness. On the left, just past the gate was the gallows.

They placed a rope around Malcom’s neck and threatened to hang him if he would not do as they’d previously ordered. By this time the tar had congealed into a frozen crust; his body’s inner core had probably become so chilled that he no longer had the ability to tremble.  Once again, he refused to curse the governor, but this time he asked that they would “put their threats into execution rather than continue their torture.”

They took the rope off Malcom’s neck, pinioned his hands behind his back and tied him to the gallows. Then they began to beat him with ropes and sticks “in a most savage manner.” According to one account they even threatened to cut off his ears. At last, he said he would do “anything they desired.” They untied him and made him curse the governor and the Customs board of commissioners. But his sufferings were not over.

For several more hours they continued to parade Malcom through the streets of Boston. Not everyone shared in the crowd’s pitiless delight; a few people, including the man whose intervention had started this horrifying concatenation of events, the shoemaker George Hewes, were so appalled by Malcom’s treatment that they attempted to cover him with their jackets. 

By the time the crowd reached Copp’s Hill near Malcom’s home in the North End, he must have passed out, for he makes no mention of this final stop, which is described in several newspaper accounts. Here, in the cemetery near the summit of the hill, was the grave of Malcom’s younger brother Daniel. Daniel appears to have had the same fiery personality as his brother. Whereas John became a customs agent; Daniel sided with the opposite, more popular camp, famously barricading himself in his house in 1766 to prevent the crown’s agents from finding the smuggled wine he had supposedly hidden in his cellar. When Daniel died in 1769 at the age of 44, he was a patriot hero, and the inscription on his gravestone described him as “a true son of Liberty / a Friend to the Publick / an Enemy to oppression / and one of the foremost / in opposing the Revenue Acts / on America.”

Daniel had been celebrated for breaking the laws of his day. That night in January 1774, his loyalist brother John sat slumped in a chair that someone had placed inside the cart. It was true that he was obnoxious and impulsive, that he’d virtually invited the treatment he’d received. But the fact remained that this “enemy of the people” had been scalded, frozen, and beaten to within an inch of his life not because he’d taken a swipe at a shoemaker but because he upheld the unpopular laws that his brother had scorned. It had been a brutal, even obscene display of violence, but the people of Boston had spoken.

Around midnight, the crowd finally made its way back to Malcom’s house on Cross Street, where he was “rolled out of the cart like a log.” Once he’d been brought back into the house and his frozen body had begun to thaw, his tarred flesh started to peel off in “steaks.” Although he somehow found the strength to make a deposition five days later, it would take another eight weeks before he could leave his bed.

Later that year Malcolm sailed for London with hopes of securing compensation for what he’d suffered at the hands of the Boston mob.  In addition to a detailed petition, he brought along a wooden box containing the ultimate trophy: a withered hunk of his own tarred-and-feathered flesh.

On January 12, 1775, he attended the levee at St. James’s, where he knelt before King George III and handed his majesty a petition. What Malcom wanted more than anything else, he informed the king, was to return to Boston and resume his duties as a customs official—but not as just any customs official.  He wanted to be made “a single Knight of the Tar…for I like the smell of it.”

From the book Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick to be published later this month by Viking. Copyright © 2013 by Nathaniel Philbrick

Visit Kennedy Space Center, the Closest Thing to Space on Earth

Smithsonian Magazine

The story of American space travel is ever-expanding, and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex℠  in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is at the center of it all. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard launched into sub-orbital flight from Cape Canaveral and paved the way for a dramatic space race with the Soviet Union. In the coming years, astronauts will venture into deep space from the very same location. With roots dating back to the beginning of the American space program, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the closest you can get to experiencing space here on Earth. From visiting historic launch pads to meeting astronauts and interacting with space artifacts, here are eight can't-miss space experiences at the heart of Florida's Space Coast:

Visit the Restricted Areas of America's Spaceport

From the comfort of an air-conditioned motor coach, visitors to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex can access restricted areas of the working spaceflight facility. On the tour, you'll look both back and forward in time. See where the Apollo program launched its missions to the moon and marvel at the multi-story Vehicle Assembly Building where rockets take their shape. You'll also see where NASA plans to launch astronauts into deep space and learn where its Commercial Crew and Cargo partners, including SpaceX, Boeing and United Launch Alliance, operate.

Experience Space in Virtual Reality Through the Lens of a Custom-Designed Space Visor

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's brand new Space Visor mobile virtual reality headsets immerse guests in a one-of-a-kind space experience that brings artifacts to life. With purchase of a Visor, visitors can download three unique programs—KSC 360 Expedition, Space Dreams and Edge of Home—on their mobile phones free of charge to use with the headset. The KSC 360 Expedition incorporates all parts of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, featuring facts about each rocket in the Rocket Garden, video of the space shuttle Atlantis as she floats in orbit and the opportunity to look through the eyes of Wally Schirra, Gene Cernan and Alan Shepard from the commander seats of the Mercury-Atlas 8, Gemini 9 and Apollo 14 spacecrafts. In Space Dreams, enter the room of a space-inspired child and soak up facts and figures about their galactic-themed décor, including each planet, a Mars rover and a Mercury spacesuit. In Edge of Home, travel to the International Space Station and experience the thrill of an extravehicular activity walk while learning about each module. The best part? You can take the experiences home with you.

Launch Into Orbit

Veteran astronauts say the Shuttle Launch Experience® is the next best thing to space travel. In this simulation, travel from four hours before launch to the final seconds in a matter of minutes. Following a prelaunch briefing by veteran Space Shuttle Commander Charlie Bolden, your seat shifts back into a vertical position to prepare for takeoff. The final countdown commences, engines rev up and suddenly you’re flying at simulated speeds of 17,500 miles per hour. You'll forget that you're not barreling toward the outer edges of the earth. Eight-and-a-half minutes later, a feeling of weightlessness settles over you. The payload bay doors open to reveal Earth—a shifting mass of vivid greens and blues, set against a starry sky only astronauts can recount. “Shuttle Launch Experience is an amazingly realistic simulation of the space shuttle’s eight and a half-minute ascent into orbit," says Jon McBride, former NASA astronaut. "From the custom-designed crew cabins with unprecedented vertical range, high-definition audiovisual effects and advanced seating effects—the sense of realism is maximized. You can literally feel the power that the space shuttle used to propel astronauts into space.”

Hold the History of Space in the Palm of Your Hand

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's handheld digital SmartGuide brings the past, present and future of space to your fingertips. Historic and current space photographs, video and detailed maps customized to each attraction enrich and personalize guest experiences. Watch historic footage of rocket launches, like Mercury-Redstone, and examine photographs of space artifacts, or locate the closest restrooms and dining facilities. It's like having your own personal tour guide.

See Footage Shot by Astronauts in 3D IMAX®

The world’s only twin IMAX® screens, each a jaw-dropping five stories tall, bring footage shot by astronauts to life in two motion pictures. Journey to Space, narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, explores groundbreaking plans to land astronauts on Mars and introduces the team selected for the task. Interviews with commander of the final shuttle mission Chris Ferguson and Serena Aunon, an astronaut selected for future flight, emphasize how these future plans would not be possible without the contributions made by the Space Shuttle Program. A Beautiful Planet, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, casts Earth in a new light from the perspective of the International Space Station. Using Canon 4K cameras, International Space Station astronauts captured all manner of breathtaking natural phenomena, from lightning storms to volcanoes, coral reefs and even the Northern Lights. At night, they documented city lights, a gripping visualization of how humans have shaped the planet.  

Relive the Daring Feats of Early Space Pioneers

Just three years after NASA began work on Project Mercury in Cape Canaveral, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Now, thanks to state-of-the-art technology, Shepard’s heroism and the daring feats of other early space pioneers come to life as never before in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. A 360-degree discovery bay, 4D multisensory theater and interactive exhibits present the stories of pioneering astronauts while exploring how Americans define heroism. Interact with the nearly 100 astronaut heroes inducted to date in the new U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® and watch a hologram reenact Gene Cernan’s hair-raising spacewalk, during which his goggles fogged up and he struggled to reenter the Gemini 9 capsule.

Witness the Launch of Historic Apollo 8

Symbolizing the height of the space race with the Soviet Union, the Apollo moon-landing era was a defining period in American history. Inside the Apollo/Saturn V Center's Firing Room Theater, relive the launch of the first crewed NASA mission to orbit the moon in 1968 aboard the massive Saturn V rocket. Seated behind the consoles used during the Apollo launches, experience the thrill of the Apollo 8 countdown, then see and feel the Saturn V blast into space.

Meet an Astronaut

No one tells the story of space travel quite like the people who have been there themselves. Each day in the Astronaut Encounter Theater, a featured astronaut shares his or her experiences training for and living in space, followed by a tell-all Q&A session. “If you’re bold enough to ask, I’m bold enough to answer,” says astronaut Bob Springer, who served as a mission specialist on the STS-29 Discovery and STS-38 Atlantis shuttle flights. He enjoys the Q&A sessions for the chance to inspire a new generation and share what NASA releases leave out – “the emotional part” and “stories behind stories." After the Q&A, visitors can meet and take photos with featured astronauts, who range from commanders to pilots, mission specialists and payload specialists.

Green Your Kitchen

Smithsonian Magazine

You may not know it, but your kitchen is one of the biggest resource hogs in your house. You use electricity and natural gas for your appliances. You use water in your sink and dish washer. Your fridge is stocked with foods grown and transported from all over the world that require chemicals, water and fuel to be produced and transported. And then there's the non-recyclable packaging that goes straight to a landfill.

Here is a list of things you can do in your kitchen to lower your environmental impact, and also to live in a healthier home. We have recommendations for appliances, products and new behaviors.

Any chance you are planning a kitchen remodel? We also have great recommendations for you– wonderful new materials for countertops,cabinets and floors, leads on top-rated green architects and interior designers, and more. Just scroll down if you're focused on a remodel.

Get Green in the Kitchen

1. Use energy-saving appliances. You can greatly reduce your power and water usage and your greenhouse gas production by using Energy Star appliances. Energy Star appliances can save as much as 50% of your energy and water use, and can cut your carbon footprint by 1000+ pounds, compared to standard appliances.

2. Use compact fluorescent lighting. Compact fluorescent lights use 1/4 the energy and last up to 10 times as long as standard bulbs. And they come in versions that are dimmable, recessed-ready, and daylight spectrum–any version of light type you can think of. Each high-use bulb you replace will save up to $10 and 100 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, and they last for many years.

3. Recycle and Re-use. Can you rinse that ziplock and use it again? Can you reuse the containers you got from take-out? And don't get plastic bags every time you go to the store for groceries– take durable reusable sacks with you.

4. Eat Organic, Eat Local. Not only is eating organic healthy for you and your family, but it keeps chemicals from running off into our oceans and rivers from non-organic farms. Eating food sourced locally–like from farmers' markets– means tons of carbon dioxide are not released into the atmosphere in the process of transporting food to you. To learn more about eating organic,see our selection of great books on organic food and cooking. Also, you can find a farmer's market near you to get delicious, organic, locally-grown foods.

5. Get green cleaners. Each time you spray a standard cleaner on your counter you breathe in a fine mist of harmful chemicals. Use non-toxic, organic dish soap, detergent and cleaners to protect yourself and your family.

6. Compost. Don't throw out those coffee grounds and banana peels– save landfill space and make your own rich potting soil using a composter. It's easy! And there's even a model that works right in your kitchen.

7. Only run your dishwasher when you have a full load. It takes the same amount of energy to run a full or a half load– so wait another day and fill up that machine. Also, remember that washing dishes or pots by hand takes more water than doing them in the washer– so go ahead and put them in the machine.

Remodel Your Kitchen the Great Green Way– it's healthy, sustainable and gorgeous!

If you remodel a kitchen the "normal way" you'd likely use some combination of new woods for cabinets, marble or tile for countertops, and perhaps some new tile or wood flooring. These standard materials consume resources and contain many toxic chemicals. Fortunately there is a very different way to design and build your new dream kitchen– a way that is sustainable, healthy and jaw-dropping gorgeous. We'll show you how.

First you should find an architect or an interior designer who is skilled in working with sustainable materials and knows how to build in an eco-friendly manner. Use our nationwide listing of green architects and interior designers to find a great one near you.

Now let's focus on materials you should consider. Let's talk about countertops.

Terrazzo is so beautiful you will not believe it is sustainable. Terrazzo consists of recycled glass and crushed stone held together by cement or epoxy. It is buffed to give it a smooth finish. Terrazzo is low maintenance, long-lasting, and has high recycled content. Recycled materials can make up as much as 95 percent of the materials in terrazzo. Terrazzo from EnviroGlas and Icestone are particularly good for their high recycled content.

"Paper Stone" is another great countertop option. Comprised of paper and other fiber suspended in resin, these materials look surprisingly like stone and come in a variety of exciting colors. The material is heat resistant and very durable. It is also easy to maintain with a nonabrasive cleaner and a cloth. PaperStone and Richlite are two of the more well-known brands. Richlite uses pulp from sustainably managed forests, and PaperStone incorporates up to 100 percent recycled paper pulp.

On to kitchen cabinets.

Everyone automatically thinks "new cabinets" when they start to plan a kitchen remodel. But cabinets are often made from wood harvested unsustainably and saturated with chemicals used in sealing, gluing, and painting. Many of the chemicals used can be cancer-causing and can offgas into your home for years. Fortunately there are some great, safe alternatives.

First, save whatever parts of your existing cabinets that are still servicable. Are the shelves okay but the fronts have to go? Already, you've saved a lot of wood and money. For the new cabinet elements, you can use reclaimed wood, or formaldehyde-free pressed fiberboard. Or you can even get cabinets made from compressed plant material (such as wheatboard).

For the best in wood cabinets, you want to find ones that use either reclaimed wood or FSC-certified wood (FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council–– and they assure that wood is grown and harvested in a sustainable manner). For reclaimed wood, you can turn to several companies that make cabinets using salvaged wood. CitiLogs uses reclaimed wood and custom milling to produce beautiful products. A company that will sell you reclaimed cabinet-grade wood is Elmwood Reclaimed Lumber.

You can also go the "new but sustainable route" with cabinets. AlterECO manufactures cabinets out of bamboo (a fast-growing grass) and wheat board. Check out AlterECO's cabinet selection here. Another great supplier is Breathe Easy. Breathe Easy cabinets are made using bamboo, FSC Certified plywood and/or wheatboard (all formaldehyde free). Both companies offer low- or no-VOC finishes. Also check out Kirei board, which makes panels out of the pressed stalks of harvested Chinese sorghum. Visit

You also have some great flooring options.

Marmoleum is not your grandma's linoleum. It is made of linseed oil, rosins, and wood flour, affixed to a natural jute backing. It is durable, comfortable to walk on and comes in a mind-blowing array of colors and patterns. To learn more about Marmoleum and find a dealer near you, please click here.

Another great sustainable flooring option is bamboo. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass and is very renewable, durable and attractive. We recommend Teragren bamboo flooring, a company whose mission is to help reduce our dependence on dwindling timber resources by manufacturing flooring, stairs, and panels from bamboo sustainably harvested in the Zhejiang Province of China. Click here to find a Teragren supplier near you.

Also have a look at these amazing tiles made out of recycled rubber– they come in blue, gray, shades of orange, and many other colors. They are both durable and springy, which means they're easy on your knees. Visit to see samples.

Lighting is also critical

Why not use some skylights or solar tubes? Natural light is best for your health and for the environment. If you do need electric lights, there are many great recessed, track and decorative light fixtures that work great with compact fluorescent bulbs. You'll save a lot of power and money going this route.

Last but not least, don't forget about appliances. We've already mentioned them in the section above, but don't forget that appliances will consumer energy for as long as they are in your kitchen, so make the right choices from the start and buy Energy Star appliances.

Thanks for learning how to green your kitchen. Please make sure to check out our new Green Products Ratings & Reviews on main site at where we're adding new and exciting features every day!

Lakota texts by George Bushotter, Stories 1-55, 1887

National Anthropological Archives
Digital surrogates are available. Each digital slideshow represents a folder.

MS 4800: ( [103] was arbitrarily broken up into multiple records to facilitate accessibility of digital slideshows.

These 55 stories form a portion of Lakota texts by George Bushotter collected by James Dorsey in Manuscript 4800: ( [103]. Interlinear translations are by Dorsey, aided by Bushotter and Bruyier. Each story is numbered. 1.) Sword Keeper and his brother. The latter meets Two Faces, a mythic giant. Includes 1 page partial translation. 2.) The Mythic Buffalo. 3.) Two Faces. Explains the origin of arrows, pipes, axes, knife-sharpeners, beads, etc. 4.) Three brothers who had a witch sister. (incomplete) 5.) Children, a bad old woman cannibal, and Spider (the Mythic Trickster). 6.) Spider, animals, and women. 7.) A man and his ghost wife. 8.) Two against one: a ghost story with a song. 9.) A man, a female ghost, and a male ghost who wrestled with the man. 10.) Ghost on the hill, who could not be hit by arrows. 11.) Treatment of the sick, burial customs. Includes a sketch. 12.) The man who came to life again. Includes translation and note by Bruyier at end. 13.) The man and woman in the moon. 14.) Man, two in the lodge, female ghost, and the friendly wolf. 15.) The man who spared the wolf cubs. 16.) The Thunder Being and the Unkcegila (a mastadon ?) 17.) Waziya, the northern giant who brings snow. 18.) Buffalo people who attacked the Indian people. 19.) Spider and the land turtle. 20.) The man and his two sons. 21.) The turtle who wished to fly. 22.) The man who could become a grizzly bear. 23.) How the Indians cured the sun. 24.) Spider and the horned water monster. 25.) The strange lake with large subaquatic animals. 26.) The warrior surrounded by a serpent. 27.) The one-eyed serpent with short legs and large body. 28.) Why they pray to stones, the sun, etc. 29.) The mountain in which was a large serpent. 30.) Adventures of a man and his wife. 31.) Spider and the Prairie Chicken. 32.) Adventure of Rabbit Carrier. 33.) The woman who turned to a fish from her waist down. 34.) Spider and the Rabbit; how the latter made snow. 35.) The male ghost and his living wife. 36.) The man with the magic sword, and the one with the powerful breath. 37.) Swift Runner (he who tied stones to his legs). 38.) The man who was rescued by eaglets. 39.) The Double-woman. 40.) Spider and the mice. 41.) Spider and the ducks--how they got red eyes. Includes a sketch. 42.) Spider and the Rabbit; how the latter lost his long tail. 43.) The man who ressembled the man in the moon. 44.) The young lover who was rescued by the girl. 45.) The warriors who met Heyoka (Sunflower) who was singing and dancing. 46.) The flying Santee (a ghoul). 47.) How the Santees first saw buffalo. 48.) How the Lakotas went against the Rees. 49.) Adventures of the Short Man. 50.) Smoke Maker's adventures: a war story. 51.) Fight between the Lakota and the Blackfeet. (incomplete) 52.) Fight between two unarmed men and a grizzly bear. 53.) Treatment of an Omaha spy caught by the Lakotas. 54.) The wild man, a nude cannibal. 55.) He who uses the earth as an ear.

Lakota texts by George Bushotter, Stories 190-240, 1887

National Anthropological Archives
Digital surrogates are available. Each digital slideshow represents a folder.

MS 4800: ( [103, 190-240] was arbitrarily broken up into multiple records to facilitate accessibility of digital slideshows.

These 51 stories form a portion of Lakota texts by George Bushotter collected by James Dorsey in Manuscript 4800: ( [103]. Interlinear translations are by Dorsey, aided by Bushotter and Bruyier. Each story is numbered. 190.) A bird that foretells cold weather. 191.) Cause of scrofulous sore on the neck. 192.) Meaning of ringing sounds in the ears. 193.) The Brave and Fox societies. Includes 4 sketches. 194.) Dog Society. Includes 2 sketches and 1 page drawing. 195.) "Killing by Hitting," or "Taking the Buffalo paunch," a society of women. 196.) Scalpdance society. Includes 1 sketch. 197.) Night dance. 198.) Mysterious society. 199.) Grizzly Bear dance. 200.) Belief about the Kildeer. 201.) The acts of a leader. 202.) Return of the night hawk in the spring. 203.) Belief concerning the Ski-bi-bi-la, a small grey bird which says Gli Hunwo ?" ("Coming home ?). Also earlier version of the same, with mistakes. 204.) About hanging the "tablo" ("shoulder blade") at the door of the lodge. 205.) Trying to excell others. 206.) Scolding or whipping a woman. 207.) How Indian paints are made. 208.) Acting like the buffalo bull. Includes 1 drawing. 209.) Law about bowls. 210.) Meaning of a rooster's crowing. 211.) The taking apart of fetishes. 212.) How one man drowned another. 213.) Concerning warts. 214.) Of a woman who was killed by mosquitoes. 215.) Concerning hermaphrodites. 216.) Belief concerning the grebe or dabchick. 217.) Rules for eating dogs. 218.) Bushotter's recollections of a certain famine. 219.) Why Lakota men should not wear women's moccasins. 220.) Customs relating to bowls. 221.) Meanings of various kinds of twitchings. 222.) "Kicking out his elder brother's teeth." 223.) How a boy wounded his grandfather in the scrotum. Bruyier's revision of the same. 224.) Legend of the nude Spider woman. 12 pages. About the woman who was deceived by the grizzly bear, with an account of the prairie hen. 20 pages. By Bruyier. 225.) "Punishment of the prairie." 226.) Part of the punishment of a murderer. 227.) About a foolish wife. 228.) How a ghost stunned Bushotter's father. 229.) Occasions for scolding wives. Half-page corrected sentence at end by Buyier. 230.) Setting out food, etc. for ghosts. 231.) Concerning widows and widowers. 232.) About a newborn child. 233.) Tatala, a humorist. 234.) Vegetal lore. 235.) About the year when the stars fell (1833). 236.) Concerning shells used as necklaces. Includes 2 sketches. 237.) Game with a ball of mud. 238.) "Throwing fire at one another." 239.) Punishment of a liar. 240.) Invocation of the Thunder.

What Happened to Kalinka Bamberski?

Smithsonian Magazine

The story begins in October 2009, with the kidnapping of Dieter Krombach, who was suspected of murdering his French stepdaughter, Kalinka Bamberski, 27 years earlier, in Germany. Krombach, a German doctor, had been convicted in absentia in a French court in 1995 on the basis of tissue samples that indicated Kalinka had been raped and then given a fatal injection. But the German government claimed the evidence was inconclusive and refused to extradite him. – Joshua Hammer

This piece is an excerpt from "The Kalinka Affair" by Joshua Hammer. The full ebook single is available for sale from The Atavist, through Kindle Singles, iBooks, The Atavist app, and other outlets via The Atavist website.

The abduction of Dr. Dieter Krombach began in the village of Scheidegg, in southern Germany. His three kidnappers punched him in the face, tied him up, gagged him and threw him in the back of their car. They drove 150 miles, crossing the border into the Alsace region of France, with Krombach stretched out on the floor between the seats. The car stopped in the town of Mulhouse. An accomplice called the local police and stayed on the line just long enough to deliver a bizarre instruction: “Go to the rue de Tilleul, across from the customs office,” the anonymous caller said. “You’ll find a man tied up.” A few minutes later, two police cars arrived at the scene, their red and blue patrol lights illuminating the street. Behind an iron gate, in a dingy courtyard between two four-story buildings, Krombach lay on the ground. His hands and feet were bound and his mouth was gagged. He was roughed up but very much alive. When the police removed the covering from his mouth, the first thing he said was “Bamberski is behind it.”

The French septuagenarian André Bamberski to whom Krombach referred was, on the face of it, an unlikely kidnapper. Until 1982, he had been a mild-mannered accountant and the adoring father of a lively young girl, Kalinka. That year, Kalinka attended a French-language high school in the small German city of Freiburg as a boarder and spent most weekends and summers in nearby Lindau, with Bamberski’s ex-wife and her new husband, Dieter Krombach. On the cusp of 15, she was extroverted and pretty, with full lips and blond hair falling in bangs over her blue eyes. But she was also homesick; she barely spoke German, though she lived in Bavaria. She was looking forward to August, when she would move back in with her father in Pechbusque, a suburb of Toulouse.

On Friday, July 9, 1982, Kalinka Bamberski windsurfed on Lake Constance, the sweep of clear blue water edged by the Alps and shared by Germany, Austria and Switzerland. At around 5 o’clock, she returned home, tired and, according to her stepfather and mother, complaining that she felt unwell. The family sat down to dinner at 7:30. Kalinka went to bed early, rose to drink a glass of water at 10 p.m., and, according to her stepfather, read in her downstairs bedroom until midnight, when he asked her to turn off the light.

The following morning, at around 9:30, the 47-year-old Krombach, wearing equestrian clothes for his morning ride through the nearby mountains, came downstairs and attempted to wake his stepdaughter. He found her lying in bed, on her right side, dead—her body already becoming stiff with rigor mortis. Krombach would later tell medical examiners that he attempted to revive her with an injection, directly into her heart, of Coramin, a central-nervous-system stimulant, and doses of two other stimulants, Novodigal and Isoptin, in her legs. But he was hours too late. An autopsy would put the time of death at between 3 and 4 a.m.

At around 10:30 on Saturday morning, the telephone rang at André Bamberski’s home, three miles south of Toulouse, and his ex-wife delivered the news of his daughter’s death. The 45-year-old Bamberski sank into a chair, stunned. Kalinka had been a healthy, athletic teenager, with almost no history of medical trouble. “How could it have happened?,” he demanded. His ex-wife, her voice jagged with sorrow, explained that Krombach had proposed two theories: Kalinka might have suffered from heatstroke, caused by overexposure to the sun the previous day. Or she might have died from the long-delayed effects of a 1974 car accident in Morocco, in which she had suffered a concussion.

For Bamberski, the shock and horror of Kalinka’s death were compounded by the mystery surrounding it. Soon, his suspicions turned toward the last person to see Kalinka alive: Dieter Krombach.

On April 8, 1993, the prosecutor general charged Krombach with “voluntary homicide,” punishable by up to 30 years in prison. If Krombach was upset by the French verdict, he showed little evidence of it. Indeed, he had no reason to be. Judicial authorities in Bavaria and Berlin signaled that they considered the case against him closed and the French trial in absentia illegal. Still residing by Lake Constance and working as a doctor of internal medicine with a thriving practice, Krombach was a member of an equestrian club, and he kept a sailboat in Lindau’s yacht club.

Meanwhile, Bamberski would pursue Krombach across Europe in a relentless attempt to establish responsibility for his daughter’s death. The campaign would leave Bamberski isolated and in legal jeopardy, with his judgment and even his sanity questioned. He would lose touch with friends, family, and colleagues. He would be accused of crossing moral and legal lines, of losing all perspective, of wading deep into groundless conspiracy theories. His one surviving child would find himself torn between his parents. By the end, even Bamberski’s own attorney, one of France’s most respected jurists, would declare himself unable to support his client in his campaign. Bamberski would leave his job, burn through much of his life savings, and devote thousands of hours to pursuing his quarry across Europe.

Checking the Claim: A 3-D Printed Toothbrush That Cleans Your Mouth in Six Seconds

Smithsonian Magazine

Blizzident is similar to a mouth-guard, but it is lined with rows of bristles. Image courtesy of Blizzident.

In an ideal world, people would be as obsessed about their oral hygiene as they are with, say, texting. But with the understanding that many aren’t, a startup has developed a special toothbrush that it claims gives your mouth a deep clean feeling in six seconds flat.

As advanced as it sounds, Blizzident’s unique brush design manages somehow to be both high-tech and conventional. For instance, creating the toothbrush involves getting a standard impression of your teeth taken by a dentist and having it sent to a special lab where it can be translated into a digital visualization known as a 3-D scan. These specs are then uploaded to the company’s website and used as a blueprint to produce a customized 3-D printed toothbrush.

Once the high-tech part of the process is completed, what you’re left with is a simple one-piece tool that resembles a mouth-guard lined with dense rows of strategically-placed bristles. “Brushing” requires nothing more than simply inserting it over your teeth and biting down and releasing roughly ten times, which takes a total of six seconds. And since the bristles are specifically designed to reach each and every crevice and curvature all at once, the company claims their product can prevent common errors like missing spots or brushing too far above or below the gumline. The approach is not unlike putting a car through a motorized car wash to save time instead of manually scrubbing from front to end with a rag.

Oh, if only everything in life were this easy right? Well, not so fast. Some dental professionals have sounded the skepticism bell over some of the company’s claims. Dr. Mark S. Wolff, an associate dean at the New York University College of Dentistry, told ABC News that while the Blizzident was “a novel idea,” it would require additional evidence to demonstrate effectiveness over the long run, especially considering that it takes about two minutes for the fluoride in toothpaste to be effective.

Meanwhile, British Dental Association scientific advisor Damien Walmsley warns that cleaning your teeth in this unique manner may not be entirely safe. “It’s not what you use, it’s how you brush, it’s your technique,” he told the BBC. “It needs to be checked that it’s completely safe.”

Chris Martin, a spokesman for Blizzident, told that while there hasn’t been any published studies conducted on the device, the company knows of  “several universities” and  “hundreds of independent dentists and dental hygiene experts” that plan on testing Blizzident’s overall effectiveness.

For those who find the principles sound enough to be persuaded to at least give Blizzident a try, the company is selling the product through their website for $299. Though the asking price is quite steep, Martin points out that each toothbrush is comprised of the same high-quality source material used in implantable medical devices, and it’s good for an entire year before the need for a replacement. Owners can also opt to replace just the bristles for $89.

“We would certainly offer the Blizzident cheaper if we could,” he said.

Government-Issued Guidelines Warn Chinese Tourists Not to Spit, Shout Or Overeat at Buffets

Smithsonian Magazine

Tourist behavior no-no’s issued by the Chinese National Tourism Administration. Photo: CNTA

As more people than leave China to visit far away places, Chinese tourists have developed a bad rap among the international community, The New York Times reports. Among the grievances, voiced from Thailand to Paris to New York, are Chinese tourists’ tendency to spit, to speak loudly indoors, and to have no concept of how to form or respect a line. Specific recent transgressions that sparked outrage both domestically and abroad include Chinese tourists inadvertently killing a dolphin and a Chinese youth carving his name into an ancient Egyptian relic.

Lately, the Washington Post writes, China has become more self-reflective about this problem:

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang has criticized the “uncivilized behavior” of his countrymen when they travel abroad, which he says has harmed the nation’s image. He blamed the “poor quality and breeding” of the Chinese tourists.

In an attempt to find concrete means to alleviate some of the common complaints about Chinese tourists abroad, the country approved its first tourism-related law in April, which came into effect on October 1, CNN reports. The law includes 112 articles, some of which address shady tour operators within China, but including others that speak to Chinese tourists abroad.

Tourist behavior is even singled out in a couple articles of the new law.

Article 14 states: “Tourists shall observe public order and respect social morality in tourism activities, respect local customs, cultural traditions and religious beliefs, care for tourism resources, protect the ecological environment, and abide by the norms of civilized tourist behaviors.”

To make the new law more digestible, China’s National Tourism Administration issued a 64-page pamphlet on how to behave abroad, complete with cartoon-illustrated dos and don’ts. Kotaku reports a few of the suggested points of etiquette, including:

  • Don’t aggressively ask locals for pictures with you.
  • Don’t assault any animals.
  • Don’t shout in public.
  • Don’t show your bare chest in public.
  • Don’t hoard the public facilities.
  • Flush the toilet after use.
  • At a buffet, please don’t take everything in one go – they will be refilled.
  • Don’t relieve yourself in public.

NBC News elaborates on a few country-specific subtleties the pamphlet covers:

Other snippets of advice were country-specific. The guide warned Chinese visitors to Germany to only snap their fingers to beckon dogs, not humans, and that women in Spain should always wear earrings in public, or be considered effectively naked. Visitors to Japan were advised to avoid fidgeting with hair or clothes in restaurants.

For better or worse, mainland Chinese tourists are likely here to stay. Last year they became the top tourism spenders, dropping $102 billion in destinations around the world, the Times reports. The Washington Post adds that, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Chinese tourism in the States is expected to grow by 232 percent between 2010 and 2016.

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