The Great Tractor Show

In November, the poet Howard Brown and I are giving a show about tractors. He has the long poem. I have gallery walls. Somehow we’ll make this work. We’ve been taking photos. It has been haunting. Two farm boys at the end of the world of farming, suddenly seeing what we just saw before as work.P1410917 Here’s Howard, deep in thought and memory.P1410017So many guys out there, trying to find the shape of their bodies in time. There are no words for it… except for Howard’s maybe. Got any tractor stories? Any tractor photos? Send them along! Look at this old John Deere go, right in traffic!



Amazing. Machines built on a human scale, as if they were tools. They were. Like I said, amazing.


Pollination Dance

When one insect …

P1380650 … crawls, buzzed on nectar …

P1380652…out of a mariposa lily and flies off to the next flower …

P1380653Zebra Wasp Takes Wing

… another insect that was over on the next lily …



Sweat Bee Gathering Pollen

… is not far behind. And when she’s gone, if you go over to the lily just up the hill…


… and the one just to the left of that …


Crab Spider, Waiting for a Nectar Lover

… you may find you’re not the only one waiting. Not to worry, there are other flowers, with other insects, all flitting between the same 200 flowers (except maybe that one with the spider… best to take a pass on that)…P1380694


Tiny Grey Bee (about 1 cm. long)

Of course, some bees are not grey, or neon green, or yellow. Some are as black as ants.

blackbee … and some flowers are, for the moment, without visitors.


There are just a few days for this every year. Out of them is made the next year. That’s the kind of planet this is. Everything else follows.



After You Leave the Nest, What Then? Build a New Nest!

So, you get kicked out of the nest, right? Luckily, there are cherry trees. You can hide.

V0000290Robin Fledgling Without a Nest to Go To

You can wait there for the world to make sense.  Then you can eat it.


Cherries Growing from a Pit a Walker Spat Out 20 Years Ago

Fortunately, this all happens at the same time. Meanwhile, though, it’s scary out there.

V0000297When you have no nest, a cherry tree is a nest. Simple. Profound. It used to be that cherry trees were nests for our fledgling children. Not any more, but it wouldn’t be so hard to start the tradition again.



How to Ensure a Sustainable Food Supply

Here’s how to grow tomatoes using plastic and hydroponic fertilizer. After harvest, this plastic goes to the landfill. Why, you may ask? To get a jump on the season, without having to resort to labour intensive methods. At the end of harvest, the soil is depleted.

P1350808Petrochemical Tomatoes

Here’s how to grow garlic by building up the soil with buckwheat, then planting the garlic, then laying down straw, in the fall. It should have decomposed by harvest, leaving the garlic ready to pick from the ground. This, by the way, is across the road from the farm above. At the end of harvest, here, the soil is enriched.


Organic Garlic

It’s as simple as that.


Peaches: the Wandering Fruit

When the five civilized tribes were driven out of their homelands and into Indian Country in Oklahoma from 1831-1838, they left seeds of exotic persian apples given to them by Spanish Jesuits along their trails of tears, so that something of the earth would be there to receive them when they came back. These fruits became the root of the reconstruction of the American South after the War Between the States (1861-1865), and of the settlement of the North West after the Yakima War (1855-1858), which continued the clearances of indigenous thinking from earth being reconstructed as property. The persian apples, which we know as peaches, continue their wandering, thank God. Here is a peach tree growing from a pit thrown away at the side of Highway 97, as it passes through the oaks of the Yakama Reservation, on the way south to the Columbia.P1280780It is doing well.

peach3 If you’re passing by that way in August, do stop at the shoe tree …

shoe… and eat a peach and carry its pit on down the road.

peach1… and keep the dream alive. Thanks.



Blood of the Earth

I live in the country of the Columbia River, above the lake that spills into one of its tributaries, the Okanogan River. In this country, there are many rivers like the Okanagan, such as the San Poil, the Kootenay, the Spokane, the Methow, the Wenatchee, the Snake, the John Day, the White Salmon, the Willamette, and the Young. That is just one small list of many rivers of energy pouring into one great stream that flows out to sea. Each draws the energy of a piece of land, some of them almost four billion years old, others countable in the tens of millions, together into one flow that pours straight into the Pacific, without a delta or a single shoal, only an underwater bar that brings the desert to the mouth of the sea. Today, I was in the John Day. It looks like this:


Heart of the Earth, John Day River Valley

And look what I found growing out of this old volcanic ash:

bitter2That’s right, bitter root, the most important foodstuff in this country. And she was blooming…

bitter3These are the blood of the land. Together, they flow into the water, and out of the water comes …

,,,our hearts, here in the Columbia Country, the red fish, in this case the Sockeye of N’kmp, that have gone home to Siberia and have come home to the Columbia. This is more than the maple trees of the East. This is everything.

The Non-Wage Economy and Creativity

I spoke about the non-wage economy yesterday, and how it operated by trading work for the opportunity to do more work, rather than cashing out on work produced. Such an economy draws a profit from human effort, rather than by transferring environmental energy into a social sphere. I think this image below makes that clear. Here is my garden, two weeks ago, with the resident dove. You can see rhubarb, raspberries, garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, lettuce (the quail got the spinach), a few rescued trees heeled in, a transparent apple tree (with a  mystery graft), and some grass grown for mulch. The stump is a mountain ash that up-and-died. To create this garden, I spent many, many hours carting away landscape cloth, gravel, sand, a child’s playhouse, which I sadly don’t need, and hauling in soil, manure and peat moss. The neighbours in behind, operating in the wage economy, have spent many hours to reduce their work load with the earth. There are, after all, only so many hours in the day. They have stripped out the overgrown junipers and are replacing them with shade cloth and gravel. The productive capacity of the earth has been removed. You can see which yard the dove (behind the stump) prefers.P1250410Here’s another example. Here you can see my nectarine tree in flower, and my grapes budding out, as well as sugar snap peas, oregano, self-seeded radishes, perennial green onions, chives, and an apple tree I grafted a year ago. Note the blossoms. It takes two years for an apple tree to blossom, but I encouraged this one to blossom in one year, through a couple techniques of  mechanical summer-time manipulation of the flow of its naturally-produced hormones at bud differentiation time (soft-pinching and the weighting down of branches.)

P1250412I think “Work” is the wrong word for what is going on here. “Life” might be a better one, or “enrichment”. Through the giving of my life to this tree, it gives me more life back than it would have without my care. Its capacity to sustain me and my wife and our friends and family has been increased. I would call the reserve of productive capacity within the earth creativity. It is what has been given by human effort, and which can be drawn on without being exhausted, as long as that effort is still given.




The Non Wage Economy

I pruned the apple trees …

P1250367 … and the cherry trees …P1250353The work was joyous. I did it in between stints as writer in residence at the library. Morning: pruning; afternoon: editing. That kind of thing. As payment for the pruning, I was promised cherries, to make juice (so, many hours more work), and a piece of land for potatoes …P1260027

…and more work! I shovelled this plot by hand … P1260032

Finishing Up So I Can Rush to Town for a Discussion About Education

So, that was the potatoes in my basement, and $30 of seed potatoes from the garden centre in town, and 4 hours in the hot sun with a shovel. A guy stopped by and said, “You need to invest in a rototiller!” I answered: “That’s just the thing. I figured it out: the trip to town to rent it, the time to drive it back, the time to get gas, the time to till, and the time to get it back … I’m faster to shovel.” But, yeah, my payment for work was the opportunity to do more work. You know, that sounds good, doesn’t it.