This is the fourth post in which I unravel a year long walkabout into threads, in preparation for weaving them together into book form, not to mention a presentation next week for The Okanagan Institute. The other three are here and here and here. For the presentation, I am going to give an overview, based around a dozen or so of the best photographs, but first a bit of thinking out loud…
In England, there are 4 seasons. One of the attractions of British Columbia to English settlers before the First World War, or one of the advertising slogans that attracted them, rather, was that it had 4 seasons. This was Good, and European, and not like this:
Monsoon in ThailandSource
Or like this…
Gathering Sticks, Kenya Source
God knows what they’re going to cook.
The thing is, though, it was exactly like that. Rainfall for Vernon in the Okanagan Okanogan is pretty much an average of 33 mm per month. It would be close to a staggering 40, but the spring is dry. And yet, despite this consistency, the summers are “dry” and the winters are “wet”.
Deer in the Dry (Well, Sort of) Season, Bella Vista
The difference, seemingly, is heat. We get lots of that, and it’s very dry heat, too. This alternation between cold and heat is a lovely variation of the classical wet season/dry season situation.
Temperature? Ring Necked Pheasants Take It As It Comes
Temperatures can fluctuate between extremes of -45 Celsius and +45. Whatever it is, it isn’t four seasons. Planting European crops here, that are dependent on four seasons, is a bit environmentally expensive. Does this matter? You bet. Waiting until spring to plant a garden, or even a field, just when the heat is drying the place to a crisp, isn’t exactly a prudent use of precious water. This is…
Winter Wheat and Abandoned Schoolhouse, Highland, Washington
Plant it in the fall and let it feast on winter water and take full advantage of the spring melt before ripening in the drought of early summer. Too bad the schoolhouse is in a kind of permanent drought of its own.
Heck, even these grapes in Okanagan Landing have figured it out…
Note the multiple maturities in each bunch. This plant is ready for whatever comes its way. It doesn’t have a combination of European and American blood for nothing. Resilience is the name of the game.
The way I see it, we need to know what to plant and when the water will be there for it, no matter how the weather fluctuates. Besides, from a purely practical standpoint, in this day and age marketing an exotic wet-dry climate has more potential than marketing a tired colonial one. When the climate, the story of the climate, and the products produced in relationship with it match, then, Bingo!
Tomorrow: A story about the ethics of water policy and the coming crunch, and then, as promised yesterday, atmosphere, both above and below ground.