What about the horses, eh? Pretty intriguing creatures to share a planet with. You saw them yesterday, recolonizing the mistake of an orchard at Kiona, after the seduction of cheap water evaporated in the heat. Truth is, as soon as we get south of the border, there are horses everywhere. What’s with that?
White Horse at Palmer Lake
I remember when these almond trees were someone’s newly-planted dream. If there hadn’t been a border cutting the Similkameen in two, I would have been drawn to this soil myself, big time. Now it has been given to the horses.
It’s murder on the filberts, though:
What Horses do to Filberts
Filberts renew themselves by shooting up new trunks from the ground. Horses eat new filbert shoots. For this reason, fences were invented. Here, not so much.
Let’s see if I understand the scenario: the area is settled by gold miners in 1857, who drop out of the military guard for the Border Commission that was busy dividing our land here in two by laying down just that border that will keep one young Similkameen man from planting an almond nursery at Palmer Lake; some of the miners and military men stay and become ranchers; the first orchard goes in, down the road in Oroville, in 1867; a hundred years later orchards are everywhere, with their sprinklers swish-swishing in the heat; by 2012, people have walked away from the agricultural dream, back to 1857. Cool, huh. Here, too, fifteen minutes away, on the old stagecoach road:
Horse Checking Out the Guy With a Camera, Whitestone Lake
Trampling the Sagebrush all to Hell
It’s intriguing. Mining, fruit trees, and ranching were all integral to the Wild West, yet only one has stuck — the one with the least technology and the greatest independence. I get that. Thing is, though, this is retirement country now. The horses aren’t working. The land isn’t being worked. It’s as is if a people were abandoning their country, which was built at great cost, and are living off its bones, while trying to get back to a primary encounter with the land, one that has no economic connection at all. The way to do that appears to be through lonely white horses. I get that, too. Who’s going to pay for that, though, in twenty years?
Land for sale here, aplenty, as one generation leaves the land and another does not come to take its place.
Is some young woman going to realize the unique potential here and come and plant almond trees again? Or a planting of Grüner Veltliner or Pinot Noir? Will some young man follow her? Will he turn his love for her into the sweat of working her land and bringing her children to adulthood within it and within their mutual devotion? Or will the area remain a stage set for the dreams of physical release for a people living in tense, wired cities far away? These were the concerns of the 19th Century. They appear to be ours again. It’s as is everything in between hardly happened and we are being given a second chance to get it right.
Similkameen Valley Almond Orchard
Palmer Lake, Washington
Stay tuned. Time, no doubt, still has some tricks up its sleeve. It’s like it’s playing with us, you know.