Ok, these are just too cute for words. Technically Christmas ornaments, but we’re putting them out now.
Abalone Joe came by today & dropped off a new batch of shells. He travels on foot & via bus up & down the coast, delivering shells he has painstakingly scrubbed & polished by hand. This particular batch was probably about 4 years old. These are the “discards” from an abalone farm in Monterey, which is the only way to legally harvest them south of San Francisco. Wild harvesting is legal from San Francisco north to the Oregon border, but you can only take 3 per day and they must be at least 7″ long. They have a 50 year life span and reach up to 12″ long. It takes 20 years for them to reach mature size! The green coloration that is sometimes vibrantly mixed in with the red is from a diet of kelp. By the way, kelp is the fastest growing plant in the world, growing 1 inch per hour! The primary natural predator of abalone are sea otters, who also were a threatened species. Their plight has dramatically improved as well thanks to the designation of a Marine Sanctuary from Cambria to San Francisco. Everyone flips over these shells. They are magnificent little works of art. Abalone Joe says the secret is to keep them polished with mineral oil. Click on the photo above to get an enlarged view.