Archive for May, 2012

The gross value of Marin County agricultural production last year totaled well over $70 million, up almost 25 percent from 2010. So says Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen in his just-released annual report on livestock and agricultural crops.

Gross profits, of course, are not the same as net profits. On the other hand, the total gross was no doubt higher than $70 million because not every farmer and rancher responded to the county survey.

Holsteins by Tomales Bay. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

“Milk is the long-standing premier commodity for Marin, and this year accounts for 44.7 percent of the crop report’s total value,” wrote Carlsen.

“The average market-milk price for 2011 was higher than 2010, contributing to an 18 percent increase in the overall milk value of $4,835,000,” the agricultural commissioner added.

On the other hand, “2011 was the third year milk values were not at least 50 percent of Marin County’s total agricultural-production value; the only other years were 2009 and 2010.

Commissioner Carlsen’s chart of the sources of Marin’s 2011 agricultural income. “Miscellaneous” includes goats, hogs, and rabbits.

“Field crop values for 2011 increased by $4,082,157, representing a 74.1 percent increase when compared to 2010. The increase was a result of increased pasture values and greater survey participation,” Carlsen noted.

“It is postulated that the 74.1 percent increase in value is a correction to 2010’s 38 percent decrease.” Also contributing to the increase were livestock producers who bought more feed at higher prices.

Silage harvested awaiting collection. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

While the gross production value of hay was down by a measly $9,816 from 2010, the value of silage grew by a whopping $223,671.

Production of oysters, as well as clams and mussels, increased 9.3 percent or $398,566 “as production in the industry as a whole expanded, following a 10-year tend….

“Marin is California’s second-largest shellfish producer, and growers are gearing up to expand [further]… while the oyster industry elsewhere in the nation and in the state is struggling.”

Wine grape value dropped 16.7 percent to $883,312 last year because fewer grapes were harvested.

Nursery products have maintained a fairly constant total value over the past three years: $1,000,401 in 2009; $991,983 in 2010; and $1,004,764 in 2011.

Fruits and vegetables enjoyed a comfortable increase in production value last year, totaling $2,687,630 compared with $2,488,000 in 2010.

Free-range chickens. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

Poultry last year brought in $253,888 compared with $278,833 in 2010, but the comparison is somewhat deceptive because the 2010 total included eggs along with fryers.

Sheep and lambs accounted for $1,084,479 of Marin’s agricultural value last year. There were fewer sheep and lambs grazing in Marin in 2011. The total number of animals was 10,912, down from 15,326 in 2010, and they produced less income: $1,084,479, down from $1,523,155 in 2010.

Sheep grazing in Point Reyes Station.

With fewer sheep around, Marin County’s production of wool correspondingly dropped, but the price of wool increased, resulting in a slight rise ($857) in production value.

Lest invasive pests damage Marin’s agriculture, the county does its best to control them biologically.

The county is attacking gorse (the yellow, prickly plant found around Tomales and elsewhere) with gorse mites and seed weevils. Bull thistle is being attacked with bull thistle gall flies.

Seed-head weevils, gall flies, hairy weevils, and peacock flies are being used against yellow star thistles. Italian thistles and purple star thistles are being targeted with seed weevils, and the list goes on.

Some 1,623 quarantine inspections of plants from infected states were carried out in the county last year. This was done by monitoring plant shipments “at Federal Express, UPS, nurseries, ethnic markets, and aquatic supply stores,” the agricultural commissioner wrote. Some “77 gypsy-moth inspections of household goods from infested states” were also conducted.

An additional 1,276 checks for glassy-winged sharpshooters were conducted on plant material from infected California counties. (Sharpshooters are insects that feed on grape vines, oleanders, citrus trees, almonds, and various other plants.) “One rejection of plant material was made, and the plants were inspected and released,” the agricultural commissioner reported.

In looking for evidence of exotic pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and Oriental fruit fly, Japanese beetles, light-brown apple moths, gypsy moths, European grape vine moths, and others, the county also serviced 1,172 traps.

Sudden Oak Death continues to infest Marin County. The disease is “caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum,” commissioner Carlsen reported.

“Increased infestations have been detected in West Marin. Tree mortality in wildland and urban/wildland interface areas causes dramatic changes in the landscape, affecting ecosystems, increasing fire and safety hazards, and decreasing property values.”

Bay trees, like oaks, play host to the pathogen, but bays are not killed by it and merely spread it to oaks.

“The phosphonate product Agri-Fos continues to be the only registered product for control of P. ramorum on oaks,” Carlsen wrote. “It works best as a preventative by simulating the tree’s natural defense system to prevent the disease from infecting the tree.”

Graph from agricultural report

The agricultural report was reviewed by county supervisors last week and adopted. It will now be sent to the state Department of Food and Agriculture and then distributed.

I was rounding a curve while driving up to Mitchell cabin last week when I encountered a doe in my driveway. I stopped so she could calmly move on, but while I watched, two small fawns struggled out of tall grass and crossed the driveway in front of my car to catch up with their mother.

No doubt the mother would have preferred to proceed into the field in front of her, but in order to feed her hungry offspring, she was willing to accept my being present.

The fawns were so small they frequently disappeared while walking in tall grass.

When following their mother through the grass, the fawns at times had to bound over it to make any progress.

The fawns never got too far away from the doe, but they were even more intent on staying close to each other.

As I observed them from the driveway and later from my deck, the ability of their spots t0 camouflage them became all the more evident.

If their mother leaves them on their own while she forages, the fawns lie down in the grass. Should danger approach, they don’t move and even slow their breathing. This trait has in the past allowed me to stand over a motionless fawn, bend the grass aside, and snap a photo.

I later asked Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens about the fawn’s not flinching while I photographed it from just a couple of feet overhead. “He probably thought he was invisible,” Jules replied.

The fawns, however, can no longer count on their spots and diminutive size for hiding in my grass. Tractor operator Gary Titus of  Tomales came by last Thursday and mowed my fields and my neighbors’. The county fire department requires us to do this every year in the interest of homeland security.

Making a few spring days agonizing is the annual removal of thistles. I’ve already put in five full days cutting hundreds of thistles and weed whacking others that I could not easily cut by hand. My partner Lynn Axelrod spent three days at it.

I also cut thistles in two neighbors’ fields because if I don’t reduce their thistle problems, they will quickly add to my thistle problems.

As a result, the garbage company in the last month has hauled four green-waste containers’ worth of thistles from Mitchell cabin. That represented the contents of 12 tightly packed contractors’ bags.

Days later, Lynn and I are still finding thorns in our arms, hands, and socks. (The stickers don’t all come out in the wash.) Our faces are sunburned, and we’ve both been exhausted by the end of several thistle-cutting days.

Back on the ecstasy front, we have more quail pecking around Mitchell cabin this spring than I’ve seen in the last several years.

Looking every bit as self-important as a courtier during the reign of King George I, this portly fellow struts along the railing of my deck.

A little ecstasy cum agony: For the first time last week, a peacock showed up here. Perched on the limb of a tree next to the house, it was the first peacock I’ve ever seen at Mitchell cabin although I used to frequently see them around Nicasio.

By the way, it’s true what people say: their calls sound like a woman screaming in distress. At first, having a peacock around was fun, but after its piercing screams started waking Lynn up in the early morning, she soon became impatient with the bird.

Signs of life. Lynn was walking down our outside steps last week when she noticed on the ground half the shell of a small egg. With it were a couple of shell fragments and a bit of a nest.

On our next trip downtown, Lynn and I stopped by the Institute for Bird Populations where Rodney Siegel determined that — based on the egg’s size and spots— it belonged to a towhee (left).

There was no tree over the spot where the egg was found, but Rodney told us towhees nest on the ground. After the eggs hatch, the mother towhee often takes parts of the shell out of the nest, flies a short ways, and dumps them on the ground.

Lynn and I were worried that another bird or four-footed predator had stolen the egg from the nest and eaten its contents. Rodney, however, said the broken edge of the shell was typical of what remains after a chick pecks its way out.

Since a woodstove is the only source of heat in Mitchell cabin, I need to regularly haul loads of firewood from a woodshed uphill to the house. Carrying the loads used to require a fair amount of exertion, but Anastacio Gonzalez of Point Reyes Station advised me to try carrying heavy loads the way campesinos (field workers) do.

Great idea. One’s legs, not one’s back or arm muscles, bear most of the load, making it seem light. I’d put this revelation in the ecstasy column.

With a parade, music, historical exhibits, and sunny weather, Nicasio residents on Saturday celebrated the 150th anniversary of their township’s founding on May 12, 1862, and of their school district’s founding a day later.

An antique paddy wagon in Saturday’s parade.

Although only 96 people live in Nicasio, according to the 2010 census, a variety of businesses have always faced the town square, which is surrounded by prosperous ranches.

The town is at the geographic center of Marin County, and this led its merchants in the 1860s to press for Nicasio to become the county seat with the square to be the site of its Civic Center. Luckily (as is obvious in hindsight) Nicasio lost out to San Rafael because the little town was not easily accessible from the rest of the county.

Its square was subsequently used as “a hayfield, a baseball field (semi-pro and Little League), a pasture, and sleeping quarters for one Nicasio resident, Louie DiGeorgio,” notes Around the Square, an historical pamphlet compiled for Saturday’s celebration.

DiGeorgio “lived there with a bed and other pieces of furniture until the parish priest told him it was inappropriate.”

St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in 1867 of redwood cut and milled in Nicasio.

St. Mary’s suffered a “near catastrophe” (above) on Christmas Day 1921 when “a severe windstorm blew the church off its foundation and toppled the steeple,” Around the Square notes. However, “repairs were made promptly.”

These days the quaint little church is the subject of more photographs and paintings than any other building in town.

In 1867, construction of the Nicasio Hotel began. It was to become the grandest building in town.

“The hotel in its early days,” notes Around the Square, “was equipped with the latest and best in furnishings for the guests’ use in all areas, including the bar, parlor, dining room, ballroom and guests rooms.” It had “an outdoor dance floor and picnic area.”

On Dec. 15, 1940, a discarded cigarette in the parlor started a fire that destroyed the hotel. “John Mertens, who had purchased the hotel just three months prior to the fire, built the Nicasio Ranch House Restaurant in 1941 on the old hotel’s site.” In 1943, it was renamed Rancho Nicasio.

Taft House on the south side of the square was built around 1867 by William Miller, who also built the Nicasio Hotel.

Hiram Taft and his family were apparently Miller’s first tenants. Around the Square says, “On April 18, 1870, the “Nicasio Post Office was established with Hiram as the first postmaster.” He also worked as stage driver and Wells Fargo agent from this house.

The Wells Fargo stagecoach in Saturday’s parade.

“When the narrow-gauge North Pacific Coast Railroad was completed from Sausalito to Tomales [in 1875], a station was established in San Geronimo Valley called Nicasio Station, and stage driver Hiram Taft would now meet trains in his wagon to bring people, mail, and freight to and from Nicasio….

“The house has been owned and occupied since 1943 by four generations of the Dinsmore family.”

Unfortunately for Dave Dinsmore, who now lives in there, the house has periodically had to contend with speeding southbound vehicles. Coming at the end of a long straightaway into town, Nicasio Valley Road’s 90-degree turn in front of the house has sent nighttime speeders flying off the road and into his fence and porch.

The building that once housed the Druid’s meeting room was built in 1885. It included on the ground floor a general store that sold “groceries, clothing, over-the-counter remedies, buttons, ribbons, tobacco, cigarettes, candy, soft drinks, and in later days ice cream,” Around the Square notes. The Druid’s meeting room was on the second floor. “There was a very small but active saloon in the back of the first floor,” the historical pamphlet adds.

This photo of Hank LaFranchi in the general store was among dozens of historic photos on display Saturday.

Nicasio Post Office operated in a phone-booth-sized room at the front door of the store from 1885 to 1952. The telephone switchboard for the Nicasio area was on the opposite side of the door. In 1952, a fire that resulted from a short circuit in a fuse box razed the store.

By then, the Druids had (in 1934) built a separate building for themselves next to the store. It was damaged in the fire but was quickly repaired.

A retreat for Ladies of the Night — just north of the square on the west side of Nicasio Valley Road is Madame Labordette’s House mostly hidden by foliage.

Madame Labordette’s house was built in the 1860s, and for “many years around the early 1900s, this was the country home of Madame Marie P. Labordette, a French woman who owned a ‘house’ [brothel] in San Francisco,” Around the Square says.

“According to locals who remembered her, Mme. Labordette would bring her ‘girls’ to Nicasio for a rest, arriving with her entourage, which included a cook, servants, and her business manager.

“Her Nicasio country home was a proper, prim place, and she was a very proper and well-liked heavy-set woman, elegantly attired and covered in diamond rings.”

Saturday’s sesquicentennial celebration was a project of the Nicasio Historical Society. Around the Square: a Walking Tour of Historic Nicasio Town Square was written by Joe McNeil with Elaine Doss and Dewey Livingston.


At least eight of the 11 candidates for Congress from 2nd District in the June 5 election are on record as favoring an end to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency crackdown on medical-marijuana dispensaries and on people using medical marijuana.

Their stance is in accord with that of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who on May 2 condemned the Obama administration’s crackdown on medical-marijuana dispensaries and stressed pot’s medicinal value:

“Access to medicinal marijuana for individuals who are ill — or during difficult and painful therapies — is both a medical and a states’ rights issue.

“Sixteen states, including our home state of California, and the District of Columbia have adopted medicinal-marijuana laws — most by a vote of the people,” said Pelosi (left).

“I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.

“Proven medicinal uses of marijuana include improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions.”

Many other elected officials ranging from Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, to Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee are also upset by the DEA’s raids on dispensaries.

Congressional candidate Larry Fritzlan (Democrat) would like to legalize all drugs for adults 18 and older. This, he says, would allow presently illicit drugs to be regulated, and their cost would drop drastically, driving underground drug dealers out of business.

Fritzlan (below) describes himself as “a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in drug and alcohol intervention and treatment.” He formerly worked at San Quentin prison.

“Today over half of all prisoners in jails and prisons are there because of crimes involving drugs,” he says. If all drugs were legalized, Fritzlan adds, “75 percent of our prisons could be closed….

“Some people think that legalization of drugs would lead to more drug use,”  Fritzlan wrote on his website. They should remember, he added, “Capitalism works. Drug dealers sell drugs to make money. Any drug-seeking person can land on any part of the earth and within hours, if not minutes, find and acquire all the drugs they want.

“Only those who have never visited ‘the street’ could possibly believe that the legalization of drugs would make drugs more available.” He would like to see “all drugs become legal for adults aged 18 and over, and taxed like we currently tax alcohol and tobacco.”

Jared Huffman (right) would prefer more limited reforms.

“I support legalization/taxation/regulation of marijuana and have voted to do so as an Assembly member,” the Democratic legislator (right) wrote me.

“I also support stronger regulations to bring greater integrity to the medical cannabis framework so that we can hopefully get the federal government to show deference to California and stop the raids.

“I do not favor legalization of all drugs.”

Democrat Norman Solomon says, “I support legalization of marijuana use for adults. The federal government should remove marijuana from Schedule I, a classification intended for only the most dangerous drugs.

“State and local governments should have the authority to regulate and tax marijuana.

“I will fight to stop federal threats against jurisdictions that implement innovative and reasonable permitting policies,” Solomon (left) says.

“I will defend the right of patients to safely access cannabis for medical needs.

“Limited federal funds should not be used to raid legitimate collectives and cooperatives. Just as with alcohol in the 1920s, the prohibition of marijuana has created a black market rife with organized crime and other harmful consequences.

“The cultivation of marijuana on state and federal lands and in dangerous, poorly-wired ‘grow houses’ is unacceptable. In addition to legalization, I support targeted enforcement for public safety and environmental protection.

“I support the legalization of industrial hemp to create new businesses and jobs in industries ranging from paper and textiles to fashion and food.”

Democrat Tiffany Renée (right), the vice-mayor of Petaluma, says without embellishment she wants to “legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.”

John Lewallen of Mendocino County (below), an Independent whose website describes him and his wife as “wild-seaweed harvesters,” says, “Working with the president, Congress should end the prohibition of marijuana, a prohibition which is causing violence, economic and human waste, and harmful ignorance on many levels.

“This is the year to enact HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which will repeal all federal penalties for production, distribution and possession of marijuana.

“By bringing cannabis into the light of legalization, we can openly discuss and deal with the problems caused by marijuana abuse, and make available the many exciting therapeutic uses of cannabis now being discovered.”

Democrat William Courtney, a surgeon, says his “area of specialty is non-psychoactive, dietary cannabis,” on which he has presented scientific papers across the US, as well as in Germany, Israel, Austria, Luxembourg, Jamaica, France, and Morocco.

Dr. Courtney (left) also says he has written for numerous scientific journals, advocating the use of raw, unheated marijuana, which he “juices” in a blender.

“Cannabinoid acids are, at least, a conditionally essential dietary element required as an antioxidant/ anti-inflammatory for individuals in the 4th decade and beyond.”

He adds that medical studies “argue for the designation of cannabinoid acids as essential across the entire life span. I have thousands of patients who are beginning the largest informal clinical trials in the world.”

On his campaign’s website, the physician includes a video showing him preparing of raw cannabis, which doesn’t get you high. In the video, one of Dr. Courtney’s patients attests to the benefit she has received from his therapy.

Susan Adams, a Democrat, says, “As a doctorally educated nurse whose specialty is addiction in pregnancy, I have some basis for the following comments:

“First, the federal policy on marijuana is a failed and costly policy. Prohibition on alcohol did not work in the 1920’s and it’s not working for marijuana now.

“The people of California voted in a majority vote to allow for the use of medical marijuana, and unfortunately the state has provided no leadership in this area including pushing back on the Feds with a State’s Rights assertion.

“More than 400 cities and towns and 58 counties in California are grappling with how to institute the state law without violating federal law and losing federal funding from a variety of programs. Supervisor Lovelace from Humboldt and I serve on the California State Association of Counties working group on this issue and have posted several papers and reports on the topic on the CSAC website.

“The solution seems obvious. Remove the prohibition. Allow the growth and sales of industrial hemp as well as marijuana. Tax it, regulate it, zone it, ensure the consumer safety of it. We don’t see people shooting each other on our public lands over illegal vineyards.

“In my clinical practice, I was far more concerned about a woman’s alcohol consumption where alcohol is associated with the devastating teratogenic effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome — the number one cause of preventable mental retardation in the United States.

“Last December, I coauthored a letter with Supervisor Kinsey from our Board of Supervisors to the President and the US Attorney General requesting they cease the heavy handed enforcement of legitimate dispensaries. I would rather they focus their energies on going after the illegal grows on our public lands, which are degrading the environment and polluting our waterways and causing a public health and safety crisis.”

Democrat Andy Caffrey wants “a big transition” that includes the federal government’s expanding the “social safety net.”

This would mean Medicare for all, making our public schools the best in the world, free college and trade schools, apprenticeship support, homeowner mortgage support, free public transportation and Social Security for all.

Caffrey suggests several ways to finance all this: ending “corporate personhood,” taxation of the “super rich,” reducing military spending, “ending the War on Drugs, and legalizing marijuana.”

As for the three other candidates in the District 2 race, Democrat Stacey Lawson could not be reached for a comment. I left a message with Democrat Banafsheh Akhlaghi and Republican Daniel Roberts, but neither of them responded.


“Did you know that three-colored cats are almost always female? Years and years ago, P.T. Barnum offered $1,000 for a male three-colored cat. He never got one.”

This bit of trivia comes from the 200th edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which was published in 1992. This year we’ve reached the 220th edition.

The almanac has to be some of the most-enjoyable reading anywhere.

For example, here are some “actual quotes from accident reports submitted to insurance companies by hapless policy holders, as collected by the United Services Automobile Association.”

They were reprinted in the 200th edition:

• “Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”

• “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”

• “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.”

• “I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”

• “The telephone pole was approaching. I was attempting to swerve out of its way when it struck my front end.”

In the words of Wikipedia: “The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a reference book that contains weather forecasts, tide tables, planting charts, astronomical data, recipes, and articles on a number of topics including gardening, sports, astronomy and farming.

“The book also features anecdotes and a section that predicts trends in fashion, food, home décor, technology and living for the coming year. Released the second Tuesday in September of the year prior to the year printed on its cover, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been published continuously since 1792, making it the oldest continuously published periodical in North America.”

The paperback copies always come with a hole punched through the upper left corner to make it easy to hang the almanac on a nail in outhouses and, later on, in bathrooms. For centuries, both have doubled as reading rooms. And in emergencies, the almanac’s light-weight pages have been substituted for toilet paper. Or so I read.

At the time John B. Thomas launched The Farmer’s Almanac, there were many competing almanacs around. When his outlived the rest, Thomas in 1832 changed the name to The Old Farmer’s Almanac but dropped the “Old” in 1836. Thomas died in 1846, however, and in 1848, the name reverted to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac formula for predicting weather is kept locked in a black tin box at the company office in Dublin, New Hampshire.

For his weather predictions, Thomas studied solar activity, astronomy cycles and weather patterns. He used his research to develop a secret forecasting formula, which is still in use today. Other than the almanac’s prognosticators, few people have seen the formula. It is kept in a black box in the almanac’s office.

During World War II, a German spy was caught in New York with a copy of the 1942 Old Farmer’s Almanac in his pocket. As a result, the almanac from 1943 through 1945 featured “weather indications” rather than “forecasts” in order to comply with the U.S. Office of Censorship’s voluntary Code of Wartime Practices for press and radio. The temporary change allowed the almanac to maintain its record of continuous publication.

Old Farmer’s Almanac founder John B. Thomas at right.

While many people buy The Old Farmer’s Almanac for its cooking and gardening tips, its bizarre tales (all supposedly true) have since its founding been a primary attraction. Take this story written by Bernard Lamere:

“During the Civil War, Union doctor Capt. L.G. Capers was acting as a field surgeon at a skirmish in a small Virgina village on May 12, 1863. Some distance to the rear of the captain’s regiment, a mother and her two daughters stood on the steps of their large country home watching the engagement, prepared to act as nurses if necessary.

“Just as Capt. Capers saw a young soldier fall to the ground nearby, he heard a sharp cry of pain from the steps of the house. When the surgeon examined the infantryman, he found that a bullet had broken the fellow’s leg and then ricocheted up, passing through his scrotum.

“As he was administering first aid to the soldier, Capt. Caspers was approached by the mother from the house to the rear. Apparently one of her daughters had also been wounded. Upon examining the young woman, Caspers found a jagged wound in her abdomen, but he was unable to tell where the object had lodged.

“He administered what aid he could for such a serious wound, and he was quite pleased to see that she did recover from the injury. Thereafter it was a full eight months before the captain and his regiment passed through the same area, at which time he was quite surprised to find the young woman very pregnant.

“Within a month, she delivered a healthy baby whose features were quite similar to those of the young soldier who had been wounded nearly at the same instant the girl had been struck nine months earlier.

“The surgeon hypothesized that the bullet that struck the soldier had carried sperm into the young woman’s uterus and that she had conceived.”

The denouement was that the “soldier and young woman courted, fell in love, and married, later producing two more children using a more common method.”

One of the amazing aspects of The Old Farmer’s Almanac is how inexpensive it has always been. You can buy a copy for only $5.99 online from the publisher or a hardcover edition for only $7.98. I received my 200-year-anniversary copy as a gift from colleagues, and it really is a wonderfully entertaining gift for yourself or a friend.