Riding Across the Face of the Sun: the Case for Beauty

A sail is a solar-powered device, which inserts itself within the intersections of solar, aquatic and atmospheric energy, all of which ultimately formed either by the sun or by the forces of gravitational attraction which created the solar system and which remain in the spinning of the earth.P2010217

Sailing On Lake Okanagan on a Smoky Afternoon

A sail acts, in other words, like water tension, as demonstrated yesterday in the shared (although reversed) mechanisms of the water strider…

… and the leaves of the big sage.

If you missed that post, you can read it here: click. For today, here’s another creature riding the winds of the sun.

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I know, solar winds are winds of energy, photons and waves, ejected from the sub-nuclear processes within the sun. My point is that once they strike the earth, a planet in which light, stone and the orbiting water of crashed comets are united in matrices much like water tension, called life — a planet in which the sun joins with atmosphere and water to lose its straight lines and flow in new form — wings, sails, splayed legs and leaf hairs are all devices for moving through the sun. Your lungs ride boundaries in much the same way. So do these sumac leaves:

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They too are walking on water. They too are riding the winds of the sun. I point this out because the world is beautiful, and this conception fits with the beautiful order of the universe, but also because it can lead to new technological breakthroughs that will bring technological science closer to the universe and will lead technological civilization farther from the impoverishment of the earth. Beauty matters. It can change the world.

Climbing The Waterfall

On Friday, I talked about The Moods of Colour. In short, I argued that the different plants, lichens and rock in the image below were all different moods of light, different levels of energy excitement, for instance, which humans like you and I can read very precisely. Notice how the red oregon grapes, the yellow lichens, and the green mosses are all tracking water across the face of the rock and in its crevasses. cliffred

 

The water, in other words, has taken on moods as well. We can talk about the diversity of plant life here, or the diversity of water, its moods, or that the oregon grape is climbing the water, rather than being washed down with it, as are the mosses. The latter sounds good to me.

Next: more on the tricks of water.

 

 

The Moods of Colour

Look at the colour of this water.P1680668

Pretty nice stuff, for sure. Look at the colour of this water.

lakeFun stuff, isn’t it. And this water.

bottomWhy, it’s hardly there! And this…P1670546It’s coming to life. And this …track

Glorious! We could go on all day with this kind of fun, but think of this: that’s two stretches of water, not five, on two separate days. Here, I’ll show you…

two2

three

Of course, in the cultural manners in which we’re all trained today, I’m being poetic here. I assure you, I’m being something more than that. To begin again, my moment of awareness looked a bit like this …

P1660987and a bit like this …

poison

… all at the same time! I realized in a flash that the images, of oregon grape (upper) and poison ivy (lower), were the same colour.

cashews

To unravel this odd (to scientifically-trained eyes) colour shift, maybe it’s best to go back to the water.

snag

Ah, that’s better.

I know, I know, what we’re looking at here is light not water, and all of it interpreted by our minds, too, and by a camera, AND by an electronic screen set to parameters that pleased a designer in a cubicle in California one day, or perhaps that was India, but it’s still water, even so, or an image of it. Standard physics will talk about angles of refraction and reflection, clarity of water, wavelengths of light, electron excitement, and so on, which all add up to what we see above. Pretty brilliant series of deductions, really. Goethe was onto something different, though. Maybe this image will help get at that …

two

 Winter Grass and Water Cress in Mid-February

This image shows two moods of the colour green, or to break that down further, two moods of the colour blue. In the bottom one, blue is in a yellow mood (blue + yellow = green, right?)

bottomcress

Note: rather than speaking of moods of colour, classical physics talks of this:

threecolours

Note how the colours are jazzed up to give our brains a good kick. This is just one of the many ways in which physics and psychology meet.

In the bottom image (below), the blue and yellow have faded to pale pastels. Both have shifted together into a red mood.

top

In other words, it’s like the sun casting shadows, or ever-changing ripples of light.

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Perhaps, though, that is all illusion. The poet-scientist, Goethe, said as much in his treatise, “A Theory of Colour” (Die Farbenlehre) in 1820. Colour, he pointed out, is not light. Light, he pointed out, is white. When you break it up into a spectrum of colours you are projecting an emotional image of the device by which you broke it up. (Physics would call this “vibrations of energy” and would dismiss the “emotional” term as poetic. Both, you will note, however, are poetic terms.) Goethe’s version of the above image, in other words, would look like this (without the frame):

white

Except, of course, Goethe wouldn’t have made such an image in the first place. What he wanted to do was make images of those emotional states, and he wanted to do that to show the link between perception and God, as he conceived of God to be. That was, mind you, also the approach of Newtonian physicists, with their talk of wavelengths of light. To Goethe, the light was not colour, but illumination itself, which came through the human mind and saw its emotional states cast on the world, and the emotional states of the world cast within itself: a unity, in other words. To Newtonians, who used physicals tools of measurement, it was all physical. This drove Goethe to distraction. He stressed again and agai nthat Newtonian physics looked at qualities of light that had been technically manipulated, whereas the goal was to consider light in its totality, as no colours at all, only the effects of light upon the receiving apparatus (whether that was eye or cantelope), which caused certain vibrations, depending on the mood of the object. By ‘mood’ of, say, a hard-backed chair, he didn’t mean its psychological state. He meant the amount of energy it contained of a person in the world, as a radiation of divine energy. Now, you might be particularly interested in divine energy, fair enough, but Goethe was. Whereas the Enlightenment made a science out of folk knowledge by structuring it in a hierarchal fashion predicated upon objective, experiment-based measurement of physical phenomena, Goethe wanted to extend the Enlightenment, to include the part it left out as being too poetic to measure: God, spirit, emotions, what-have-you. The Enlightenment left that to art. Goethe was only pointing out that it stopped too soon, and that a fully ‘modern’, self-aware consciousness did not have to discard the knowledge of the past, or the dignity and power of human observation, or relegate them to other forms of investigation, such as religion or art. He went even further, in fact, to suggest that colours themselves were created by the human mind, but that is, perhaps, splitting hairs. The moods, though, can be read precisely. So, to look again …

two

The grass and the cress are the same. They differ to perception and measurement because they’re in different moods, recorded not by a camera (a device proficient at recording precise measurements of the spectra of light and thus registering them as difference colours, in accordance with the science used to envisage the camera) but by an emotional, water-based, organic creature — a human, in other words. Moods are what we have. Goethe pointed out that people are the absolute most powerful technology for measuring and viewing light, but he never said why. I think this is what he meant. When the grass is growing, it has a certain energy. When it is dead, it has a different energy. All colours are present, which is to say “light” is present, or illumination, but they vibrate differently, displaying the ‘state’ of the object struck both by the light and the observation of the light. Classical physics hands this one over to classical biology, which points out that these are effects created in a long series of incremental evolutionary changes, and do not, in and of themselves, have ‘meaning’ or ‘significance’. They are tools of manipulation and survival. Again, a brilliant series of deductions, based on millions of hours of observation, experimentation and deep thought. Nonetheless, we are the product of that evolution, and have a complex ability to register tiny nuances of energy in the landscape. Any discussion of their evolutionary purpose, to aid with hunting and gathering and survival, is secondary to that truth. We can do this. Here, I’ll put it another way:

pine

All parts of the ponderosa pine above, bark, needle brushes and cones, are moods of blue. The needles are in a yellow mood. The cones are in a red mood. The branches are in a nearly purely blue mood. The differences in colour that I see in the image (I presume you do, too, unless you are a Google robot checking up on the humans today, in which case, Hi.) are contrasts. They’re like shadows of black and white. This observation doesn’t negate Newtonian physics and the marvellous world it has revealed to us all…

ripply2

… but it has added this …P1660612

 

Think of the image above as a dark field, illuminated by a colourless “white” one. The boundaries between these energies, the points of intersection between them, creates an expression of the substance and state of the smooth sumac bushes here, the cliffs, the lichen, the moss, but also reveals characteristics of linearity, angularity and extension. Like the moods of the colour, those are moods as well. In those terms, the cliff and the bushes have the same linear (and angular and extensional) energy, but the way it manifests itself in them displays different tendencies, which are corollary to the moods of colour. Any tools we use to measure or analyze these effects are always going to be lesser than the mind that sorted them out of the world in the first place. Here’s another example:

wall

 

 

Oregon Grape? Or water, collecting at the base of the cliff, rising up again, drawn upwards by the sun? In other words..this is a mood of water. I hope to suggest that this way of thinking has the ability to present as complex a model of the world as conventional science, and that it should never have been hived off of it. Our earth would be in better shape if it hadn’t. What’s more, socially it seems that by controlling the tools by which humans, such as you or I (Sorry, Google Robot, but I think you’re up to something different, but, hey, Hi.) individuals can be channelled into certain forms of social behaviour and political organization, to the exclusion of others. I don’t particularly like that. Do you? (Yes, Google Robot, I know how you feel about this, shhh, don’t scare the humans, would you?) Social parameters aside, there is still considerable ability in the human measurement tool, to precisely observe complex relationships, like this:

ripply2

Colour, mood, linearity, extension, time, edge effects of myriad kinds, life, angles,and so forth, are all instantly perceived above by the human mind. Forget for just a moment about the social cues placed upon them, that see them as “beauty” or “water” or “gas effects” or “refraction” or “gravitational effects” and so on, and look at them. You see it all, instantly. That’s what Goethe meant about light. And so the four images of sumac below, display different moods. You can read them as well as I.

smoothshore smooth2 Remember, the only difference (in this line of thought) between these images is their mood …wall2 … the boundaries between forces, and their energy…P1660803 smooth

 

… and, of course, how you receive them, and what you do with them. Whatever it is, though, it’s not ‘nature’ and it’s not ‘science’. Goethe was trying to point that out, too. So was I, when I showed you this…

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… and said, so to speak, hey, it’s this:

poison

 

Put it this way, the difference between the energy of the bottom image and the top one, or the difference between its colours, which are the same, because they receive the same light (and absorb different parts of it, reflecting the rest), is what I mean by mood. Out of that mood (in the guise of reflected light), physicists can measure the precise chemical composition of either the poison ivy berries or the oregon grape leaves, and Goethean scientists can measure particularities of life energy within them, to the same degree of precision, or perhaps greater, because of the ability for creative interaction and inspiration. Here’s an image for next time …

reach

I’ll be extending this discussion into “paths of water”.

 

Walking in the Snow

When the fog and the frost roll in and the snow crunches underfoot and the air nips at the fingers and the toes freeze in the boots, it’s time to go pruning fruit trees. In some cultures, it’s the symphony season. In others, it’s the season for trips to Mexico, to lie on the beach and turn brown (or red) in the sun. In my culture, which, unfortunately, as died out, it’s time to go out and prune fruit trees. My nectarine tree and all my memories are calling.P1610898

 

My apricot tree and the starlight I learned to prune trees by is calling.

 

 

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My Fintry apple tree is standing in the open sky, rising out of the snow, with all my hopes for her as a native apple pie apple for this corner of the earth.

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I know little about the seasons of Facebook or the intricacies of the poetry circuit in slam festivals in global cities, in which the young put their bodies on display, in electrified dances with their beautiful bodies, because I learned to dance with peach trees, and know them as my people. I learned to climb to the sky on a peach tree. I learned how to come back down to the earth: strange knowledge in the Anthropocene Age and the Age of Cities and Performance Art:

peach

 

Nature is a creation of the Romantic Age. With the old, earth-based and community-based, consciousness set aside for revolutionary individualism, the place for the precise knowledge of how to move through and sculpt bodies in time, in concert with the earth and fruitfulness, has become an emotional reaction. That is such a profound romantic way of being in the world, that it is scarcely noticeable, yet it is what it is. The photographs that punctuate this note, with their emphasis on bodily perception and spiritual sublimation in perception, are a technology of that age, but I know an older technology. Its images are made in life, and in the channels of life.

fintry2

 

Ah, Fintry, There You Are Again

There is knowledge in the romantic approach, and other knowledge in living inside the world it transformed. In my country, Canada, sadly enough, the pruning of trees is done just before harvest now, not as an art but as a technological intervention, to remove branches and to colour the fruit by exposing it suddenly to the fall sun. The fruit gains colour but no flavour, and the men who do this work (for it is men who do this work, men from the Caribbean) need no training and do not follow their trees through the years. There is no history in this. The result looks like this:

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This is not pruning. It’s hacking, and the apples taste of it. In the country in which I live, an ancient art of gaining sustenance from the land, in which winter is a time of the greatest joy and creation, has become an unskilled industrial task dependent upon the technological insertion of chemical fertilizers to replace human skill, and, I’d just like it to be on record, of joy. Here are the pink blossoms of spring and the peaches of next summer. I have been caring for this tree for four years. This twig is an extension of myself. I am these peaches.

peachtwig

 

I don’t ask, or expect, you to understand. It’s an uncommon idea. Still, with that important social task, once shared by thousands, now being an almost private ritual of memory, I am left with memory and nature, not as loss, in the romantic sense, but as replacements for an entire language and wisdom tradition that was once known as art, and once in awhile a vineyard in the fog, planted much like a photograph.

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It is for this reason that I have been wandering away from the orchards (and vineyards) in this blog, as much as they tug at my heart, and deep into the land that was here before they came.

hill

 

My country was never about romantic images of the past. It was about definite knowledge and personal work on and with the land to create material of social use, with deep roots in the past and deep fruitfulness in the future. As a pruner, my job has always been to pay very close attention to growth, and to sculpt time. With the orchards now turned into industrial plantations, it is in old Indigenous land that I find a remnant of my culture. Yes, people in the romantic tradition of radical selfhood will call the image of a combined porcupine, mule deer and coyote footprint on a well used trail below a picture of nature …

island

 

… but to me it is joy. This is how life is spread across the land. This is how the sun is captured and winter is extinguished. You can’t get that by flying to Mexico. This is what the future looks like, rooted in the past. This is what I know when I’m pruning fruit trees: potentiality, which can be developed into new technologies for the earth. Strange, I know, but I want this knowledge to go on record, in a country which has, for the most part, walked away from it, while still claiming ownership of the land under the concept of nature. Don’t get me wrong. Nature is beautiful. It’s just that the sagebrush twig melting its way out of the snow in the image below is not nature. The image is.

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This is a concept so foreign, I expect, to people in my country, that I can do little except leave it here as a record that in 2015, one man had a kind of knowledge that came down from 20,000 years of human care (and likely more), and would like to pass both it and the earth down to others who followed, before they both are lost. I used to think that I could pass on this knowledge through poetry, which I learned from pruning peach trees, but poetry has become an industrial art, embedded in book culture and a complex culture of courtly social clues, not in the culture of the earth. Perhaps, though, I can show you a few footsteps I have taken through my days. Perhaps you will share them and pass them on, like these crabapples, that the waxwings will come to in a few weeks as they pass north …

P1620381 … or these filberts, for whom there is no winter, only spring and summer.P1620428

 

Perhaps you will come and walk with me for awhile in the snow.

 

 

 

How Universities are Causing Global Warming and What to Do About It

I would like to show you the little valley I live in. I think the future depends on what we see here.view

 

Vernon Creek Valley, Okanagan Landing.

Okanagan Lake is to the right of this image. Downtown Vernon is to the left. My house is just off the right of the image, in the settlement of dark trees halfway up the image’s border.

Now, I don’t know what you see, but I’ll give you some context by turning you around gently. Look again. Different light, different colour in the grass, same hill.

P1520181Plus, there’s less cheatgrass (red) when you get this high. And what if we look more closely?

wings2

At the top of this rare bit of remaining grassland, there’s this:

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So, that’s the context. So, let’s look at the valley again. I want to show you the ideal university of the future. It’s in the 33 acre abandoned orchard below the sagebrush hill, in the middle of the image, between the two 1970s-era subdivisions with their dark evergreen trees, and below the yellow splash of choke cherries in the ravine and the blob of dark poplars along Earl Grey’s old irrigation canal. Yeah, the tea guy. That’s right.

view

I envisage it as a large outdoor classroom and laboratory, teaching farming, innovation, plant breeding, plant propagation, new plant species, new water regimes, new food processing opportunities, land-reading, agriculture (the intellectual version) and its appropriate spiritual components, along with appropriate engineering, mathematical, geological and artistic opportunities and interventions, as it supplies food for people and extends the deepest traditions of human culture forward in step with the earth. This is a form of Enlightenment, which was the process by which pre-industrial society in Europe was reformed along industrial and intellectual models. Some stuff was left out, for no good reason. The earth of today is a mirror of that process of leaving out. Here’s a cottonwood tree that was left out. In its place are some uses for cottonwood trees and some methods of observing cottonwood trees, but not ones which start from the actual energy of cottonwood trees.

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Cottonwood Tree on the Grey Canal

Hence, my farm university, or my university based on touching the earth.

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Earth Language. Repair Needed

Here it is from the golf course (to the right of the subdivision like a green island of trees).

highup

Unfortunately it is selling for $1,900,000, a price set by the standard of the golf course developers who have bought the hillside we’re standing on. It’s not a farming price. It’s a luxury price, set by the value of oil in the tar sands in Alberta. It’s a social price, which the retired farmer deserves, given the social context in which she must live. The culture that scars the boreal forest for oil, however, and sets such prices, is the same that uses the lake in my valley as a playground. Here’s an image of the lost wetland in my valley bottom, in the approach to winter. Forget this as an image of fall…

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Carving Pumpkins (Recreational agriculture.)

… this is the real image of fall in the valley:

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The golf course is not doing well, by the way. There might be a lost boreal forest behind it and a lot of aerial carbon and a lot of wealth created by this transformation, but, socially and ethically, the money created by it doesn’t flow very well. It’s like bitumen in a pipeline at times. They can’t even fix their road. Look.

P1510641This 3-metre deep gully was 10 centimetres deep 3 years ago. This is runoff from the golf course road.

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Our little gully is behind the dump truck up above. It is being filled with crushed “mantle”, or the ancient bedrock below its overburden of seabeds and volcanic flows and glacial till. They ignored the ditch (a metre deep at that point). They had some decorating to do instead…

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Crushed Mantle as a Decor Element

This is a replacement for landscaping with living things. This is called being “water smart”. It is called being ethically responsible.

Three years ago, one of the bankers holding the whole hillside in receivership could have fixed the gullet on a lunch break, by taking a bag lunch, driving up the hill with a shovel in the trunk, moving gravel for 1 minute, or even less, eating the lunch, and driving back to work, but, no. That didn’t happen. Now it’ll cost a few thousand dollars, with back hoes and dump trucks and what-have-you.

gulch

What a waste. Now, a politically-correct and academically-correct (which means scientifically-correct) stance towards this bit of human self-absorption is to approach it neutrally, which is to say to observe it but nothing more. Here, let’s try that:

curve

Hmm

There’s an issue at play here. Humans, who do this observing, are social creatures. If they’re going to look at the earth, they’re going to see social stuff. This is social, for instance:

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Weedy Grassland Along the Grey Canal Trail

Observation works for social relationships, but it doesn’t mean that they develop into healthy ones. The gulch above is an unhealthy social relationship. Now, let me show you another unhealthy social relationship.

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The Green, Green Grass of Autumn

This cheat grass is growing on a deer trail. It takes all the water from the spring earth, reducing the earth’s ability to store water for an entire season, transfer it to the wetlands below, and support hundreds of species along the way. It reduces the ability of the land to support human populations, or any others. Socially, its presence is heavily tied with a crazy colonial social idea that things sprout in the spring and mature in the fall. Cheatgrass is smarter than that. In its social relationship with humans, humans are not. They don’t adjust grazing patterns or land use patterns to cheat cheatgrass out of its cheat. Ideology stands in the way of that, as does a cultural insistence on raising children in different environments. Concrete ones, for instance.

Forty auto minutes south of this point there is a university that trains thousands of students in the set of disinterested observational skills I mentioned above, extends those concrete worlds, and embodies some unhealthy social relationships. The result is this.

ubco1

The Enlightenment Botanical Garden Becomes Decorative …

… and then invisible. Not only is the earth, at this university that prides itself on ‘green’ values, a decorative element, but it’s mis-treated as well. What a change in 200 years!

I think it would be fair to say that this university represents a culture that has turned from the earth. I think it’s a powerful culture. I think it has many strengths. I also think it has a tragic flaw. I also think we can turn this thing around. To do that, let’s look at the set of intellectual approaches it has laid over the earth. First, the valley again …

view

… and now the annotated version, showing a little of what I see here…

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I suggest opening the image in a new window (or just clicking on it) to see the details. When you do, I hope you will notice that barely one single thing here, short of the deer, coyote and bear trails squeezed up onto a hillside where none of them belong, represents an ability to work with the earth. Even the grazing lease and the no trespassing areas are heavily compromised and nearly non-productive. There are a few remaining farms, although heavily industrialized and producing petroleum-dependent and nearly-unaffordable food, and the habitat in the ravine and in the subdivisions is important, but beyond that? There’s a tiny riparian area winding through the stream in the residential areas on the far side of the airport, and a bit of weedy grassland on the hills across from us. I hope you will see as well that all this stuff represents an application of university culture, or, rather, the culture the university serves, and which we need it to do a better job of challenging or re-imagining. That’s where that $1,900,000 farm comes in. It has the potential to change everything and to build, on a rigorous foundation of practical, scientific and artistic work, a new paradigm, and, in a century, a new valley. Here’s the current state of affairs…

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Still Fixable

From foreground to background: deer fence, weedy grassland, vineyard designed to raise house prices, two abandoned orchards, a productive ravine full of coyotes and hawthorns, and just the hint of the beginnings of the city housing in the wetland below.

We can do better. We must do better. It’s a matter of ethics, and survival. The university’s stance, of ethical disinterestedness, has lead to powerful technical science (in this sense, psychology and the arts are powerful technical tools as well) and an ethical situation that is far from disinterested. Here, let me show you. The depth of magenta in the image below indicates the depth of ethical compromise present in the land. Notice that the closer one gets to water, the more compromised, ethically, land use becomes. Notice as well the green areas.

ethics

The green oval is Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park… the only piece of permitted human habitat in this scenario. Even there, however, the grasslands are being heavily taken over by trees and park staff spend their time making urban social amenities (paths, picnic areas, shooting cougars, and so on).

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Kalamalka Provincial Park: In a Grassland, Trees are Weeds

It’s a strange kind of “nature” or “wilderness” that allows the replacement of the only habitat for butterflies, succulent plants, edible bulbs, and hundreds of other species, to be replaced by over-crowded, fire prone groves of low-value trees and only a handful of other species. This is actually called desertification. The only ‘nature’ it displays is ‘human nature’ and the ethical stance it displays is ‘disinteredness.’

But, again, our ethical valley.

ethics

The green line in the foreground is the only allowable natural animal habitat outside the land use grid. Note how it dead ends, without access to the water it leads to (the water goes underground from there, but life doesn’t follow it.) Every scientific approach and attitude is an ethical decision. Every view of the land is ethical at heart. The current university teaches young people how to benefit from and fine tune the predatory land use shown above. It is a form of schooling, in, I may add, an attitude that has an end date. Predatory? Yes. Humans are predating on the earth. And, may I say, also on themselves and their ability to form social bonds with the earth. Here, this is another social image:

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On a  healthy planet, it will be recognized as having equal social value to humans as inter human relationships. Instead, it is called “nature” or “art”. That’s a start, but after a couple hundred years of separating that from scientific procedure, it has led to an overly-disinterested science, so technically powerful that its power has blinded it to all of which it is ignorant, including that “nature” or that “art”, and because it is all-powerful, those unseen elements become obliterated.

humanwater

Road Overspill

This is the best that environmental science can do to save a riparian area in a dry grassland hill.

I think a correction can and should be made. Opposition to the blind spots of disinterested science is why I have been arguing for a different kind of science, not to replace science but to rebalance its abilities to allow for outcomes that include the earth and the wealth of resiliency, and why I propose a different kind of university. It’s time to remake the earth. Remaking it, and ourselves, in the image of an android phone is a dead end. That path leads only to the replacement of humans and this …

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… with robots, or at least with robotic intellectual tools, which, ethically, is almost the same thing. That work is nearly complete. Global warming? Well, when one removes the ability of the earth to utilize solar energy and translate it into cooling ecosystems, what do you think is going to happen? Oil is not the cause. It is the symptom. This is global warming:

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Eroding Vineyard Hillside

Ten years ago it looked like this:

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Ten years ago it stopped water and the sun in their tracks and turned them into life. We can still repair that loss.

 

The Best Apple Pie in the World: a Very Slow Recipe

Here’s how to bake the best apple pie ever.

1. Go for a drive on the far side of the lake towards Fintry. Be curious. Stop.

First Growth Apple Orchard Gone to Roses and Elders…

and mud. Don’t forget the mud. This is Ewing in early October 2012.

2. Wander around. Taste a few seedling apples growing here and there. Let the rain run down your neck. Find this:

Apples Just Out of Reach

I jumped up and down. I worked my fingers along the branches, and eventually I got a taste. It tasted like … a bottle of apple cider in my hand. You know, the kind of stuff made by people who chisel a hole out of the mountain and keep it there in the dark and check on it once in awhile when the snow blows.

3. Dream. Remember this:

Cider Tree Smelling So Sweet

Darling of the Sun, Taste of the Earth, Beloved of the Sky, Elixir of… well, you get the idea.

4. Go back mid-March to get some grafting wood. Find this:

Bear Attack!

Black bears like apple cider, too. Good to know! Our brothers and sisters have taste and class, because this one left the other trees alone. So did I. Bah. But I think the bear who did this might do well to learn to climb a ladder.

5. Dream some more.

Mmmmm!

6. Graft it at home.

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Spring, 2013. The Fintry Apple Grafted onto a Transparent.

Note: the transparents from those blossoms were great.

7. Grow a tree. Tend it carefully. Bend the branches down and tip the ends to encourage early fruiting. Dream.

8. It grows, winter comes, you wait. You dream of apple cider.

9. Spring comes, with blossoms. You get a couple dozen apples. Amazing! Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

10. Finally, it’s late September, 2014, you pick an apple, and … it tastes exquisite, but it’s way too soft for cider. It’s an old, soft variety, not a juice-laden marvel.

11. Make apple sauce. Aha! It’s just as good as Transparent apple sauce, which is high praise indeed.

12. Make an apple pie for friends. (Shortening, flour, salt, water, apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, you know the drill. Easy does it.) It’s tart, it’s rich, it’s sweet, it’s really grand. Everyone is pleased. If we want a processing industry, and the best apple pie in the world, this is our baby.

P1500847Welcome, Fintry!

These darlings are about 2 inches in diameter, and oh-so-fine.

So far, four people and one bear have enjoyed the Fintry apple. Oh my, that just won’t do.

 

Ethnobotanical Knowledge: The Language of Science Part 2

Remember? Yesterday I pointed out that each of the plants below, although far apart in botanical class-action, share the power of redness, which arises at different points on each plant, stem, leaf and fruit, at different intensities, at different times, and in different ways. Here they are again.redsstuff

To refresh, the various points at which the colour red are manifested take on significance and can be developed into technologies. Two observations.

1. This was once common knowledge. Indigenous plant usage, especially medicinal plants, did not come about by trial and error. People could once read the natural world in its own language. In other words, they could read this with the ease with which people today read their smart phones.

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Staghorn Sumac (Female)

Have you ever wondered why universities don’t teach this stuff?

Most new pharmaceuticals come from harvesting substances found in indigenous plant materials, patenting them, and then marketing them. Think of it. The scientific tradition, with all its wealth and power can often do little more than refine discoveries already made, and then profit from them. I bet your local pharmacist would have difficulty reading the image above. Or this one:

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Staghorn Sumac Opening into the Light

2. The progression of plants into and through the colour red is much like the variations of plants themselves as they respond to different environmental zones. I used the example yesterday of two red osier dogwoods with degrees of redness differing because of their particular growing situations. Here’s the redder one:

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The redness of this plant is the result of shutting down photosynthesis — not because of a decrease of fall light, but because of a decrease of fall light in relation to leaves that have grown in great drought and heat. If the red appeared because of fall conditions in and of themselves, then the neighbouring red dogwoods wouldn’t look like this:

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These colour differences encode very specific differences in the efficacy of the medicinal compounds in these plants. Magic was once based on such readings, to various degrees of accuracy. Science largely set it aside. Pity. Perhaps these plants could all be classified according to their degrees of redness, rather than according to their genetic lineages. After all, there is nothing particularly special about genetic lineages. Their use as a classification system is purely random, yet has profound results. In terms of genetics, however, those red pigments come from common sources, and thus form very alternate genetic lineages of their own. What those are remains unexplored. That is an effect of language. If one says that the shape of a leaf and the manner of fruiting are the signifiers of a familial relationship, then it is so, and other relationships are seen as adaptations arising in parallel, but subordinately to the main genetic line. That might, actually, not be the case. Take, for instance, the lowly pinot (little pine) grape.

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Pinot Noir, Meyer Vineyard, Okanagan Falls

This is the wild grape of Southern France, which has thousands of variations, all farmed, and even appears with differently coloured skin (pinot noir, pinot blanc, pinot gris, pinot auxerois), with all of their different flavour characteristics. This is not a matter of breeding. The genetic material of this ancient plant changes to fit environmental conditions. In fact, change is a major characteristic of the plant. The point here is that within the plant there exists a huge potentiality for variation, which manifests itself in different conditions. It is a lesson to remember when looking at any plant. Here are three variations of mariposa lily growing on Turtle Point in Kalamalka Lake…

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That’s not all. In most places where this exquisite grassland lily (and vital food crop) grows, it isn’t this colour at all. It’s usually white, but, well, not exclusively so, and not without variation…

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If you travel through the northwest, you will find the same thing with Indian Paintbrush, as it varies geographically from pinks in the John Day, up through whites and scarlets in the Columbia and the Methow, to crimsons in the Okanagan, deep crimsons, almost purple in the Cariboo, and Oranges up against the shield volcanoes in the West Chilcotin. If you travel across the land with a system of scientific nomenclature in hand, you will be able to record those differences, but you might just miss the story, that there are qualities in the land, and in the plants response to it, rising from an original potential essence, that are causing the changes, and that they show up in more than just lilies. If you travel with the system of scientific nomenclature, you might find it a little to easy to claim that the differences are the result of random variation. It’s the same thing, but it misses the answer to the question of why. People used to be able to answer those questions! They wrote them up in complication systems of spiritual belief, that looked like this sometimes:

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Part of a Reconstructed Map of Giordano Bruno’s Memory Theatre

All areas of knowledge are codified under the influence of various gods and astrological signs.

Sound Whacky? Sound like those rolled-up astrologies you can buy for a buck at the drug store and that look like candy cigarettes? Maybe, but the gallery of the Abbey of Saint Gallen in Switzerland, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, and a top listed UNESCO world heritage site, is arranged precisely like this. And those were the monks who created handwriting and attempted to recreate the world as a book and thus restore God’s creation to its original form (Eden.) Putting all the religious stuff aside, they were trying to find a kind of ecological or environmental balance or unity. Aren’t we all.

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Sankt Gallen Stiftsbibliothek Source

There’s a bust of a goddess (Agriculture, Physics and so on) above each stack. The volumes in the stacks are not “books” but bound manuscripts.

Shakespeare was in on it, too. His stage was a room in which memory was organized in much these ways.

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And so was an alchemist’s workshop.

olaus worm bigger2 And so are early scientific collections. I’d show you the amazing ones in Gotha, but I lost my photos. This will do…

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Science is a continuation of this process of editing, collating and organizing. The how of the organizing is a language, and that language means that some things get spoken and others do not. This, for example, gets left out:

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Japanese Red Maple in the August Sun

I read the colour and the sun here, with the ability to reach deeply recessed parts of the human body and psyche that are probably codified on someone’s zodiacal chart somewhere and rejected as fanciful nonsense.

Of course, much of it is. A series of principles for sorting alternate spiritual systems out would be most helpful.

Tomorrow: Other organizations.

Gardening Without Digging

You just need pots. Here are my father’s early potatoes. Because they like heat. Because he’s not 20 years old anymore. Because he has figured out that planting potatoes in compost allows him to move the compost into the garden, to pick the potatoes by turning them upside down, and to spread the compost at the same time. When you’re in your 80s, smart’s the thing.

P1250502You could plant these pretty much anywhere. His compost recipe? Shavings, manure and sand. Because that’s what he’s got. The potatoes are happy with it all. That’s my Dad: something new every day.

Putting Questions in Place

Well over two hundred years ago, unified traditions of Western thought were recreated as philosophy (including science and mathematics), art (including literature, music, theatre and dance), and religion (including spirituality of all kinds,) all as diversions from nature. Accordingly, today the image below is viewed as an artistic intervention into natural space, in a manner in which art has taken over the former realm of religion and spirit and the natural space is defined by science.

P1130048Vancouver Island Folk Festival, Woodland Stage, Courtenay

I believe that this system of divisions no longer describes the world. What’s more, it means that the research and educational institution tasked with defining that new world, the university, has before it the chance for a kind of renewal that has not been possible since the 18th century. As I have walked the hills this past 22 months, moving through colonial, post-colonial and indigenous spaces, often all at the same time, I have found much beauty, many previously undescribed patterns, and many questions. Some of these questions are aesthetic, like this:

P1070709Is a Smokebush Beautiful to a Human Because it Shows the Mind its Own Neural Net?

Or is it because it shows the human body its arterial web?

Some of them are scientific, like this:

P1070708Why Do Smoke Bushes Have So Much Bloom and So Few Seeds?

Is it the way they are or is it our climate here? And why?

Some of them are philosophical, like this:

P1070137Is the Beauty of Lavender an Inherent Property of the Universe?

Or is it created by a human eye? Or by the technology of a camera? Do these questions have an ethical dimension?

I believe these are all important questions. In fact, I have thousands of questions like this. Tomorrow, I hope to begin a series of posts proposing areas of research that would benefit the growth and sustainability of the Okanagan Okanogan as a place, in all senses of that word, as a counter to contemporary philosophies grounded in a global sense of place. Both are important.

 

Ten More New Commercial Fruit Crops for the Okanagan

Yesterday, I started putting the practical side of this blog into order. I started with ten new fruit crops that could restart a failing economy unable to retrain its young people, to innovate, or to produce food for itself, although it is in one of the three best climates in Canada. You can read about them if you click here. Today, I’d like to add another ten, before moving on to other crops and to new technologies and land use methods.

11. Oregon Grape

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This was Oregon Once. A Syilx Crop.

Oregon grape is not a grape. It is the sourest darned thing you’re ever likely going to come across. There’s a certain point in the development of a grape in which the berries are 100% citric acid. These things are still close to that when fully mature. Two thoughts on that: 1. the other few percent are amazing, concentrated fruit flavours and sugars and 2. citric acid is a valuable crop product in itself. We don’t need to grow lemons here, to flavour food and make refreshing summer drinks. We just need oregon grapes. Souring agents are the foundations of entire cooking traditions. A new souring agent can lead to a new cuisine. This work is beginning. Here’s what Tara is up to at Three Bells Ranch in Oroville, Washington, at the heart of this valley that crosses the border on its way south and crosses it again on its way north:

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Tara’s Sweet and Sour Cabbage in Oregon Grape Sauce

Now we’re talking! You can read Tara’s recipe on this page here: Source.

Oregon grapes also make excellent preserves, especially jellies. Their roots are a potent medicinal  and their leaves are a fine, decorative floral product, especially for the Christmas season, with both red and green colour.

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Sun Dried Oregon Grapes

They go through the same complex fermentations as grapes left on the vine. I think wine and vinegar makers could do wonders with that.

Oregon grapes are drought tolerant and prefer the edges of woody areas, the drip lines of trees, or slopes below cliffs, where they can collect water filtering out of talus slopes, especially ones covered with a bit of silt.

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Oregon Grapes in Full Bloom

They are cold hardy, provide premium forage for honeybees and wild bees, are productive, attractive, evergreen, and come in two varieties: tall and short. Currently, they are used as landscape plants. This is one agricultural niche they can fill admirably. They can bring farming back into the city, or back into the hills, where they can farm water that to eyes trained in European agriculture looks like drought.

12. Wild Rose

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A Syilx Crop

The hips of wild roses are rich in Vitamin C, and taste like incredibly over-ripe apples. Traditionally, they are dried to make a fruity, floral, tart-sweet herbal tea. They are admirable for that and have the potential to be yet another souring agent. They provide excellent and popular forage for bees. As there are a number of varieties, and many different altitudes and climactic zones as the valley climbs up into the mountains, the season can be extend for many weeks. The Hills Guest Ranch & Spa in 108 Mile, up north in the Cariboo, have been harvesting them wild for years (in large volumes) and distilling them down to essential oils, with are used as a high-end, high-priced medicinal tincture. It puts a lot of pressure on the birds, however, which use these berries for late winter forage. Better to add to the environment rather than taking them away. Better to plant them out. They grow on waste fields, in roadside ditches, at the bottoms of slopes, on the sides of arroyos and gullies — anywhere where a small amount of underground water can find them. They provide cover for birds and valuable protection for herbs needing a thorny fence between them and deer.

13. Rose PetalsP1040119

Wild Wasp Harvesting Pollen

You see how that’s done? Straddle the opening stamens, and turn around in a circle to brush all the pollen off onto your leg brushes, then over to the next blossom, to spin around in a circle again. Whee!

All those bees, wasps, beetles, ants, and pollen-collecting flies can’t be wrong: this is one sweet pollen and nectar plant. Blossoms, however, can also be collected, for floral decoration, for rose petal water (for Middle-Eastern baking and cooking and for perfumes and soaps) as well as for tea. Tea? Oh my, yes.

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Wild Rose Petal Tea

It tastes like honey in its pure form, before it has been digested by a bee: spicy, sweet, and aromatic, with flavours both gentler and richer than rosewater.

14. European Currants

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Red Currant

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Black Currant

These cool climate, northern European plants do well in the Okanagan if given ample water. They do even better in the cooler areas around the edges of the valley and up into the hills — areas originally ignored, because the idea was to grow peaches, which need a lot of heat. Currants don’t. Red currants make exquisite jams and jellies and are a staple of Danish cooking. They provide fruit flavours for pickled cabbage, bright notes for cream desserts, and the base of light marinades and meat sauces. Black currants are smoky in flavour, make exquisite jams and form the base of rich, full meat marinades and sauces. They have the potential to replace balsamic vinegars. In Britain, they are reduced to a syrup, which is then reconstituted in beverages of many kinds, including cassis sodas. They form the bases for cassis liqueurs. One of the most popular uses for them in Scandinavia is as a juice mixed with apple juice, in the proportions of 10% black currant juice and 90% apple juice. When the Okanagan Juice company Sun Rype tried this about 20 years back, they hit upon the insane idea of substituting artificial black currant juice and lots of sugar for the real thing, and then still had enough ego left over to announce that North Americans did not like the taste of black currants. Yeah, sure. The plants require little pruning and are regularly grown for mechanical harvesting throughout Denmark. They are also a great source of nectar for bees.

15. Wild Currants

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Native Syilx Currant

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American Black Wild Currant

These native Okanagan currants (red) and native North American currants (black) deal with drought and heat and produce in conditions that would send a European currant shrivelling and back on the boat to Sonderborg to drown its sorrows in Akavit. Other than that, they have flavours that are more intense (more floral, spicy and sharp for the red, Okanagan currants, and smokier for the black ones). They are easy to reproduce. The black currants are currently sold as landscape plants. Early adopters of these plants could make a good living just selling plants to the nursery trade. Where the European currants can harvest the cooler upland climates, these can harvest hotter hillsides. The smoky flavours of the black currants should make steakhouse chefs sit up and take notice.

16. Juniper Berries

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Also Known as Wild Gin

Look, if we’re going to landscape with these suckers, with either these imported varieties or the native varieties that carpet exposed hillside slopes, we might as well harvest the berries and make gin. Fortunately, one Vernon company, Okanagan Spirits, is doing just that, with a fine martini gin. The path is open to explore a wide variety of local juniper species and to create a more extensive, more varied gin industry, and perhaps even a gin strong enough to stand up to a tonic.

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As Gentle as a Spring Rain

The combination of juniper flavours with flavours from other wild berries and plants also needs to be explored, to create other gins with distinct local profiles. Dried juniper berries are excellent for wild meat flavours, including wild boar and bison. Most of them have a sharp, petroleum taste, but some are sweet as can be. This is one of those crops used extensively as a decorative ground cover, that has the potential, after further development and exploration, to bring farming into urban gardening. Furthermore, given the wide variety of colours and growth patterns in this species, the potential for a floral industry is extremely strong. Junipers are extremely drought and cold hardy, withstand untold abuse, adapt to a wide variety of soils, are long-lived, require no pesticides or pruning, and are simple to reproduce. Oh, and they smell soooo good.

17. Sumac

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A Syilx and Indigenous American Crop

The Syilx harvested the indigenous Smooth Sumac, which is a smaller version of this giant from the east, Staghorn Sumac (which was also an indigenous crop).

Tanner’s Sumac is an ancient Aramaic, Arabic, Indian, Egyptian and Mediterranean spice, still essential for cooking in the Middle East. It has left India with tandoori cooking, where it has recently been replaced by manchoor, Egypt with Duqqa, and the Fertile Crescent and Greece with an entire culinary tradition — one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of them all. It is made from the dried berries of a European cousin of the North American sumacs. The drupe fruits of our sumacs are too stony for this procedure, and bear a slight risk of allergic reactions among people allergic to cashews (their loving sisters, along with the mangos), but they have long been used by Indigenous North American peoples to create a cooling summer drink, that far surpasses lemonade or iced tea, and which can reproduced into a syrup that can take the place of Mediterranean sumac. The wood of the tree can be reduced to a high temperature, smokeless wax, for candles, and lights up in a black light, which ought to have some interesting applications. Every part of the tree is highly medicinal, with that cashew-allergy caveat, and the leaves are essential to the leather tanning industry. In fact, in the American east, whole groves of sumac are grown for their use as tanning agents. This is a plant that withstands incredible drought, grows anywhere, is highly decorative, and currently lines the short term parking lot of the Kelowna International Airport — for example. Some mature trees in Kelowna are 20 feet tall and dwarf the houses they once stood before. This is a plant with a great future. What we need is a tiny bit of research from a university willing to do so, and we are off. What’s more, this is the real autumn colour of New England. Plant enough of these things, and local tourism operators should be able to appreciably increase the value of fall wine tours, and even provide fall colour tours, for the many partners of wine enthusiasts who just don’t like to play the taste-the-papaya-on-your-tongue-in-the-wineshop game.

18. Soap Berry

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A Syilx Crop

These berries whip. Like egg whites. Whipped, with a little sugar, they form what is locally known as “Indian Ice Cream”. Here is a crop that grows in the cool hills and open upland forests. It laughs off cold and drought. An industry built around it can not only supply
Aboriginal communities with a traditional product, but has the potential to supply the chemical and cosmetic industries with an organic foaming agent. In that direction, the potential is almost limitless. They also make an attractive landscape plant, especially for xeriscape situations. And, yes, the bees love them.

19. Black Hawthorn

little-black-applesBlack Hawthorn (Falkland Clone). A Syilx Crop.

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Black Hawthorn (Vernon Clone). A Syilx Crop.

What beauties, eh! Here is another fruit crop that take fruit farming out of the valley floor into the side valleys, and onto grassy slopes, lake shores, road margins, hedgerows and boundaries of all kinds. They harvest water moving by gravity down gentle alluvial slopes, are favoured nesting sites for magpies, provide early spring forage for bees, and fruits and bark of high medicinal value (anti-cancer drugs). There are indications that the fruit has fresh fruit or processing value as well — again, just a small amount of research is necessary and we will have a crop resistant to deer, needed no pruning, easy to train and hedge, free of pesticides, with incredibly low water needs or none at all, and able to grow in a huge number of currently wasted or under-utilized environments. What’s more, she’s pretty as all heck. This is another one with potential.

20. Velvet Leaved Blueberry

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A Syilx Crop

These North American native berries are traditionally grown on Vancouver Island, in Oregon, on the Olympic Peninsula, in the Fraser Valley, in Maine and in Montana. Montana? Yes. That’s inspiring. The Okanagan Valley bottom does not have the moisture or the acidic soil to grow these berries unless a cheap, easy, organic acidifier can be found and the water issues can be cured with shade, perhaps from mulberries. The high country, though, where the water for the valley floor farms is sourced, that is perfect. The local blueberry is a low-bush variety, with low yields of small, intensely flavoured fruits, hovering just above the 3000 foot level. It should be possible to find enough land to grow enough of these high up there, in that blueberry zone in the pine shade, to keep an appreciable amount of water in the upland system to return some balance to the natural water flow down through the hills. At $3 a pint for decent berries, and $2 a pint for the ones 2 days short of rot, sold here to empty cold storages in the Fraser Valley, it’s worth a go. Besides, the darned things make excellent bison sausages, fantastic preserves, wondrous baking, and a deep wine that puts the low end $15 Okanagan reds into the spittoon. I’m all for wine that regular people can afford. This is one worth exploring. Look up to the hills. There, where the clouds run.

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The Lip of the Plateau Above Vernon

Right now, we ski and snowmobile and snowshoe and cut down trees up there. We could do a lot more.

That’s twenty fruits, and twenty new ways of not only creating new economies and new cultures, with room for our young to grow and invent and prosper and dream, but also to enrich the environment at the same time. Inspiring, eh. There are many further opportunities within fruit crops currently grown here. I’ll be getting back to that. Next, however, I’ll look at vegetables. Until then, you noticed my new mascot, the guy with the tongue, right?

P1060029Click on This Young Buck for a Closer View of the Okanagan Tasting Experience