Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Santa Barbara....

What a rich chicken history here in Santa Barbara. Firstly, off the coast of SB are the Channel Islands. These are five islands which are visible from SB, but with a haze in the distance you typically see the silhouette of the islands. The five islands are called; Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Barbara.

These islands are beautiful and are apart of the National Park Service. I found this out while trying to annex some of the land for myself. Actually where this picture was taken, was to be my living room view. Too bad... the government simply didn't see it my way, kind a like not paying your taxes. I swam home.

So, here is the dealio on chickens and these incredible islands.

In 1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese sailor, set sail from Navidad, Mexico with the purpose of exploring the west coast of New Spain. He was the first European visitor to the Channel Islands. He made no mention of the island.

In 1602 Sebastian Vizcaino, a Spaniard, sailed the west coast of California. He bestowed the name Santa Barbara on the channel after the martyred Roman virgin whose feast day was December 4th, a day which found him anchored off the mainland coast. Vizcaino also gave the name to the easternmost of the Anacapa Islands but it was not until 1793 that George Vancouver, an english explorer, finalized the names of the eight Channel Islands. The other three, namely - Catalina... are not National Parks...

In 1821 Santa Barbara Island became a possession of Mexico after a successful revolt from Spain and with California statehood in 1850, unclaimed and uninhabited Santa Barbara Island changed ownership from the Mexican government to the United States. Shortly thereafter, a U.S. Coast Survey team visited Santa Barbara Island, and in 1871 a survey station point was established atop the islands highest point, Signal Peak. For the remainder of the 19th century, this small oceanic outpost was occupied seasonally by fisherman, transient seal hunters and Chinese lobster trappers. In the 1890s, H. Bay Webster, lessee of Anacapa Island, built a cabin on a Santa Barbara Island promontory which today bears his name. In 1909, the island was officially leased by the U.S. government to J.G. Howland for $26 a year for five years. Although his lease forbade subletting, Howland sold fishing rights to Japanese and Chinese fisherman, and rented island space to an abalone pearl propagation business.

In 1914 when the Howland lease expired, Alvin Hyder of San Pedro, California became the second lessee, paying $250 for his five year lease. The subsequent development of Santa Barbara Island became an extended Hyder family affair. Alvin Hyder and his wife and two children were soon joined on the island by Alvin's two brothers, Clarence and Cleve, and their respective families. As many as 17 people lived on this small island which provided no fresh water and little protection from the weather.

To eke out a living on Santa Barbara Island, the Hyders imported horses, mules, rabbits, ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens. Time and again chickens were blown out to sea before they could be cooped at the onset of high winds. The raising of sheep for wool and meat became the mainstay of Hyder operations. Building materials, supplies, water and livestock were hauled to the island by Alvin aboard his boat, Nora, To supplement the family income, he hauled animals and supplies to and from the other islands. During the "dry years" of Prohibition, Alvin Hyder was well known for his prowess and agility in rum-running the length of the Southern California coast.

No way... can you imagine coming out looking for your chickens and realizing they've been blown out to sea? I can hear the conversation taking place in my house....

"Honey what do want for dinner?"

"Uh I dunno!"

"I'm feeling bloated and think a light chicken Caesar might be nice - you can grill the chickens on the BBQ and I will whip up a Caesar dressing"

"Honey it is 1914 and we are living on a remote island, in the early 20th century, this fancy stuff hasn't been invented yet, especially out here"


"OK, but they are gone!"

"Gone? Where are they?"

"Floating in the ocean?"

"Go get them?"

"Really? Can I interest you in a light pork loin marinated in a lime garlic chipotle?"


Anyway, chickens are known for being incredible surfers, I am sure they made it to the mainland and survived!

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