About Harold Rhenisch


You Say Tomato, I Say Apple



I’m still slowly picking and savouring this first crop of Benvoulin apples in 20 years. Here is one of them hanging out with the gals from the tomato patch, just for fun. There are three left on the tree, too. You can read the story of this unique apple here. The discovery, breeding, saving, grafting and distributing of apple varieties is an art form older than most others. It is illuminating to contemplate it beside such new forms intervention with the natural world, such as farmer’s markets, community gardens, food banks, and university-based GMO breeding programs. Those are all social forms of art, while this is an individual, poetic one that comes from a man being the land he walks. I doubt any of the newer art forms would ever lead to an apple so powerful that one bite beats a $30 bottle of riesling— and yet which everyone can afford. In this respect, the simple image above is an image of wealth.

Teleportation, Anti-Gravity and Art

Defying gravity?P1540796

It’s a trick of light.

bright If the sun had moved its substance to earth physically, there would be no water and no life.


Reforming itself in a new form, that’s the trick.


The process of the sun transferring itself is not finished.


At the moment, it is both here, and there. Look at it caught in this old, exploded star that my ancestors call, variably, water and Wasser and wetter and wody.



It is the sun, defying gravity and moving itself across space by turning itself into energy, and then, through the lens of the earth, turning itself back.


Art matters.


Wine Secrets

Wine making is such a romantic business.P1530740Noble Ridge Vineyard, Okanagan Falls

It’s a way of selling peasant culture as elite culture.P1530745It’s done within a metaphor of capitalization. Only industrialists need apply. It is very expensive.
P1530726Instead of people, it employs machines. This is part of the adaptation of agriculture to a capitalized model. Capital depreciation replaces wages. It is a way of concentrating flows of energy in single hands.

P1540498Vineyard at the Rise, Bella Vista

Standardization is part of this process. The image below is an image of what the contemporary social culture of Canada looks like.

P1540471Against that are the anarchists.



This is a coyote vineyard access road. Every year it gets dug at a different spot. Every year it gets blocked, and the coyotes let it be, until a week before harvest, when they dig it again.


The Tragedy of My Generation… And Its Hope

This is what our parents’ farms largely look like today, after we were taken away by promises of distant glories.oldfarmThis too is an image of war. Our parents came through the Second World War as children. We came through its consequence, the Cold War — again as children. After all of that, this. We left it for arts, of various kinds. That was also the story of war. Perhaps we come back to it with art as well. Perhaps that art has been cleansed. That tree is hopeful. That is one beautiful tree.


Porcupine the Gardener

Some people just can’t help gardening. Take the local porcupines, for instance. They love to chaw down on the pile of cull apples a farmer dumps at the top part of his property, up against the old canal. They have a little road there, actually. Here is one on its way back from lunch three years ago. You can see that the edge of the canal makes a great hideaway.



These guys are not always so discrete. Here’s a member of the family cutting from one gully to the next mid-winter.


Gullies are great for porcupines. There’s shelter, and you can make a road there going up and down from the high country to the sagebrush and, ahem, that pile of apples. Rocks are great, too. Here’s one hiding from me, high up… again, between gullies. Note, though, that there is a saskatoon bush. Porcupines like bushes. And cull piles of apples.



Why do I keep mentioning the apples? Ah. Take a look at the main porcupine freeway. My camera had a hard time with the variations in light, but the choke cherries love it, and it makes a good highway.




And by highway, I mean this:


That was the uphill grind. Here’s the downhill swoop:P1540325There is even a traffic monitoring system. No lie. It looks like this:



I tell you, a magpie sat in this tree the other day and squawked and crackled for five minutes as I came up the deer trail on the other side of the gully, to let this guy know that this lumbering nut with a camera was creating traffic congestion and it would be wise to skedaddle.



The gully, though, ah, it has so many good things to eat. No, not this …


Choke cherries are nowhere as good as apples. No, the bark, man, that’s the ticket.

p1210457 Very tasty.



It is an excellent form of pruning and branch renewal in trees that are short-lived because of insect damage. But, you know, all that work whips up an appetite and when you’re tired of roughage, a bit of desert is just the thing, and then, well, it’s back uphill, and maybe you, ahem, leave a little gift behind, a little memento, a little pile of apple seeds and mush, and ten years later, why, what then?


Oh, let’s go see.P1540285


Come on, it’s not far now. Ah, here we are:


Nice huh. This apple seedling is obviously a Spartan x Red Delicious cross. It has a pretty shape.P1540304 And an old-fashioned approach to colour.P1540307 It wouldn’t sell, you know, but it sure is a survivor. The deer have cleaned it up up to six feet, and did that stop it? No, it did not.P1540299 When the apples fall, they’ll fall on the trail, and the porcupines can snack on their way down to the cull apple pile and back, which is nice.P1540300


Well, except for one.



This one the porcupine won’t get.

P1540321Excellent! Look at that gleaming white! It tastes exactly like a spartan. It’ll be a good keeper, too, as it’s two weeks later than a spartan and very firm. And so, with hands smelling of sagebrush and the apple tasting like the spartan orchard of my childhood, up the road I went. Nice view.



Here’s an apricot tree further up, that gets too much frost in the spring to set. Not one of the porcupine’s better plantings.


Still, it sure is pretty, with its blossoms and its yellow leaves. I like porcupine orchards. They are great places to go, in between worlds.

P1520854Porcupines are shamans, that’s what they are.




The Art That Insects Make

In the summer, light strikes the leaves of the dogwoods unevenly, as they flit about in their environment of light and shadow filtering through other leaves that move and shift with sun and wind and the turning of the earth through its days. Look at the result!P1540244Amazing!

P1540242There’s more to this story than just sun and light, and I’ll get to that in a sec, but for the moment look at how small patches of some of these leaves are delayed from maturing and shutting down photosynthesis in preparation for fall.
P1540241Frozen in time, that’s the thing.

P1540239Now, here’s the other player in these beautiful game. See the aphids on the underside of the leaves below, below the fruiting cluster?P1540233They are very responsive to light and growth and settle in the choicest spots, and then, as they divert the sap flow through their own digestive systems, they change everything. In effect, they become part of the plant, and the plant’s living processes are blocked and re-routed by the intervention of the insects and the whole year’s worth of redirected minerals.P1540227Aphids, light, shadow and the mysteries of an earth continually in motion.P1540224The scientist in me thinks this process could be put to use. The farmer in me knows it can. The poet in me is in love with the earth. The artist in me is just plained thrilled to see his body alive in the earth like this, down to the tiniest thing.


Betraying the Earth

Good intentions are not enough. Contemporary systems of governmental organization and the structures that support them ensure that principles of conservation can become something else entirely. The Government of Canada is currently in the process, for example, of side-stepping its own environmental-protection legislation by the simple device of declaring lakes of use to mining companies to be mine effluent ponds, and not lakes. Under that definition, no environmental standards are at play. You can read the full article here. This kind of thing shows up in our valley, too. The image below shows a new stretch of highway, designed to make traffic flow more rapidly through the valley. It has been in operation for a year. Notice that a large amount of input on habitat restoration and protection has resulted in laying (no doubt at great expense) dead fir trees on the crushed rock of the infill slope, as habitat for insects, birds, seeds, and, hey, maybe porcupines and bears. But, look at it in comparison to the slope above. It’s not habitat for anything except for dead trees. A serious attempt at maintaining environmental integrity would not have separated one side of the hill from another, or would, at the very least, have planted oregon grape, sumac, saskatoon, choke cherry, douglas fir, mock orange, rocky mountain maple, poison ivy, wild clematis, blue-bunched wheatgrass, prickly pear cactus, and whatever else is growing on that slope, but, no. A few dead trees and the rest is supposed to follow. In the end, the trees are an expensive art installation, but that’s about it.

P1530091Highway 97

Lake Country, British Columbia

There is a point at which an ideological system takes more effort to maintain than the benefit gained from it. Sadly, we crossed that barrier long ago.


What Trees are For

Trees exist to bring light into darkness, to immerse it in liquid and draw it down into the darkness of the earth.

P1530099Following the light through all the faces of a tree is not possible.



But finding the main flow is. Has rock ever looked so mysterious?



Has the sun? After a year of pouring into the leaves, even it gets into the act.


That’s not to say, though, that darkness serves only the earth’s purposes. Birds, those daughters of the wind, need it as well, and that, too, is part of what trees are for.


Bridging earth and sky, trees are vertical rivers. Sometimes, birds make eddies.

P1540060Ripeness is not just fruitfulness, not when it comes to trees.



Sometimes it is.



But that doesn’t obscure the point that ripefulness is more.


Sometimes it just means being there and being there. After all, the roots that reach into the soil are just the roots that reach in the air. The tree balances in between, these creatures of the air that don’t think to leave, and don’t need to.


They teach us that we don’t need to, either. We might be trees that have pulled up our roots, but we’re still trees. Why fight it? Revel in it!

P1510009 Reach down to touch the soil.

P1500741Reach up to touch the light.

P1500785 And rejoice that you can do it again, and again, and again, and build a life out of this balance.P1540160