New Technology: Solar Powered Water Pumping

So much technology remodels natural processes. Current water use regimes pour water on the surface of the soil and watch it sink in. Natural processes also bring water to the surface. The water surface is a kind of lung. But there’s more. Natural water processors draw water high above the surface of the soil. Like this Italian lady …
P1200292

Lombardy Poplar

In fact, trees can draw water hundreds of feet vertically. Lots of water. In excess of a 1000 litres a day, each.

P1100219

Perhaps the Okanagan’s Highest Ponderosa Pine

Drawing water from a hilltop into the sky.

Trees do this by using the power of the sun and the molecular bonds of water. The surface tension that allows a water strider to stand on top of the water …

P1630009

Water Strider in the Rain

See how the surface tension of the water converts the energy of a raindrop into wave forms, without splashing or breaking the water’s surface?

… also turns it into something like high-tensile steel if it is in columns or piping of exactly the right dimension, such as you find within a device such as this…

ancestor

Douglas Fir and Ancestral Rock, Ellison Provincial Park, Okanagan Lake

The sun draws water through the first leaves, which then pulls it up through the fine piping of the tree. It starts like this …p1180657 … and becomes like this …

P1100519… or even this …

P1050897Choke Cherry and Deer

Note the flat plane gravity water collector just above the tree pump (the yellow-flowered mustard).

A humanly-engineered pump can lift water no more than 32 feet, due to the weight of the atmosphere. Trees have no such problem. They can lift it from roots fifty feet below the soil to branch tips a hundred feet or more above. Surely there is a way to use all this energy and this ability to lift water great distances and to use the natural processes by which trees make this possible, to pump water from underground clouds and fogs not only to the surface, but uphill, and even to use it in a series of stages to go, say, from the wetlands in the valley bottom (or any point in between) to the tops of the hills …

P1230776First Snow, Turtle Mountain

After all, the trees are doing it all the time. In this way, the 18 inches of water that fall on this land every year can be used over and over and over again, powered by the sun and gravity and the particular molecular energies of water. What one needs is a solar collector (leaves), a capturing mechanism (roots), piping in between (xylem and phloem) …

250px-Stem-cross-section2Plant Water Transport Systems, Source

… and some form of water collection technology. This is entirely within human technology capacity. After all, we do it all the time, in a similar but more energy hungry process, that looks like this…

800px-Anacortes_Refinery_31911Anacortes, Washington Oil Refinery Source

Crude oil is separated using heat, evaporation and pressure into various grades of petroleum products. 

Here’s another kind of technology that should provide ideas …

Krone-Schnaps-0045Eau de Vie Still, Germany Source

Again: heat, upward movement of water, condensation, collection. This can be repeated.

And another source of inspiration for the development of this technology (there is more than one path to the waterfall, so to speak)…

farm_solar.3205037_std

Solar Farm

Electrons trickling across a barrier and collecting into a flow of current. That is not that much different than transporting water through harnessing the electron bonds between water molecules (water tension). Other extrapolations of photoysnthesis should be able to do much the same.

And don’t forget medieval technology …

gmill1The Grist Mill, Keremeos Source.

A waterwheel powered from above can also lift water from below. Like here:

bautzen_wahrzeichen_1Alte Wasser Kunst, Bautzen, Saxony

It lifts water 47 metres by water power and cleverness alone. It ran until 1965, when it was retired. It was still working.

We are close. Small or large or both, using trees or artificial substitutes, we can move water wherever we want. We can do it in individual trees (or devices) …

p1010529Young Ponderosa Pine, Okanagan Landing

100 metres above Okanagan Lake.

… or in vast plantations, to shift water in large patterns (forests) …

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Eskers, Big Bar Lake

.. which would then be delivered to gravity reservoirs …

shanker

Enloe Irrigation Reservoir, Similkameen River

… or delivered back to the valley as rain …

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… or fog …

P1230774

Fog can be collected, too.

Let’s remember: Indians were created by a colonial misunderstanding that there were something like 500 separate peoples living in North America; Whites were created through the same misunderstanding; the idea that the West is a desert was created through the same misunderstanding. It is not a desert. We can have enormous volumes of water if we live with the land rather than against it. I would expect that the other social divides would dissolve at the same time. Environmental health is social health. To start, we need some clever technology, as clever as this…

trailsDeer Trail and Ponderosa Pine Working the Edge of a Syncline Slope

… and as joyful as the tree behind the goof in the orange shirt here …

humanHarold When His Hiking Boots Were Still New, Cape Scott, Vancouver Island

This blog has worn the soles away. They squeak. You can always hear him coming now.

Next I will talk about herbs for the Okanagan, and then I will get into the other tech that could be developed out of close observation of this land at work. Right now, I’m going camping in the hills.

Over to you.

10 More New Water Collection Technologies for the Okanagan (And an Extra One for Fun)

Currently water is collected in the Okanagan by three methods. The first is to turn high country lakes and streams into reservoirs, which are then piped down into the valleys, to provide water pressurized by gravity. There aren’t any untapped lakes left. The second is to pump water out of the lake. There isn’t any capacity left. The third is to pump water out of underground reserves. Water tables are falling. It’s time to think how else we can catch water and store it. Our teacher is the land itself. A few weeks ago, I talked about new ways to collect water in the Okanagan. You can read that post here: click. Below are more observations about some ways in which we can keep the plentiful water that falls on this land from evaporating away before it can be used to sustain life. These are our new water sources. You might notice a little bit of repetition from the previous post. I’ve tried to add new information and a new perspective whenever that happens. After all, I’ve worked for nearly two years getting to this point. It’s hard not to be excited! This is material for the final chapter of my book.

1. The Road Surface.

P1100447

Good Old Gravel Road!

Sure, mud puddles like the one don’t make for safe driving and lead to washouts, but the dips they fill are efficient at collecting water, and the fine glacial silt and clay of the valley’s upper soils are very effective at keeping it from draining away. Bumpy roads are a bad idea, and waterproof roads prevent frost heaves, but why are we rushing through our residential areas anyway? We can build landscaping cloth that lets water through but prevents weeds from growing upwards, and we can manufacture diapers that wick up a colossal amount of baby-processed milk and water in one go, without dribbling a drip, and we can’t build a road surface that traps and channels water, like that mud-puddle? Ah, but as I mentioned in my previous post on this subject (here) we do…

P1080225Alluvial Channels of a Roadside River

That’s the curb on the left.

The only problem is we drain that water into waste water systems and then deliver it to the sewage treatment plant. It costs a humungous amount of money. In fact, the 40,000 people of the city of Vernon are currently facing a $100,000,000 dollar upgrade cost, to bring this system up to speed. That’s $2500 a person. Surely, since most houses in Vernon are on a hill of one kind or another, we could work out a system in which block by block, kilometre by kilometre, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, the water is stored in cisterns, or is diverted into a series of greenhouses, growing first watercress and then tomatoes, before it is delivered into vertical gardens planted in holes drilled in standing water pipes, before, well, you get the idea. The upgrade could pay for itself and when the water finally got to the lake, it would have produced a huge volume of food along the way.

2. Underground Waterway Construction.

P1080468Choke Cherry Grove and Its Water Collector

I spoke about this concept at some length yesterday, and talked about this natural system in my previous post on new water technologies. What I want to add today is the concept that the earth has underground channels of rubble, solid rock, silt, clay, and soil, working together with gravity, that concentrate, move and deliver water — usually right where the best soil is, with different plants thriving in different regions of the system. Such underground damming and delivery systems, built out of rock, concrete, sand and clay, could be easily inserted into the hills to deliver the invisible dryland water into productive areas, within a few metres, or at most a hundred metres, from the point of collection. In a drying (but not a dry) climate, look underground for the water. Collect it there. You don’t need enough to pump. Let gravity do the work. Now, let me clarify my perspective: at the tiny wages society pays its young people today to look after an economy for the aged, they will not be able to afford $100,000,000 upgrade bills. Let’s give them the gift of ingenuity and creativity instead. Let’s proudly work with what we have. This system could be combined with the road system above.

3. The Plastic Bag (And its Friends)

P1090127Weed-whacked Weeds, Bagged for a Community Compost Program…

…where it will be tossed and turned and heated and will steam all this water away. Hunh?

Currently, the water is right where we want it, in a portable form, the collection apparatus is present, and … we’re not collecting the water that evaporates from the weeds? Not only that, why don’t we just build a device that will dry the weeds on the spot, for the cost of a lawnmower, let’s say, and collect the water. The bag above, left for a few hours in the June sun, shows how readily the water from the weeds collects on the plastic. This should be an easy one. How much water would we get? Huge amounts. Plants are well over 50% water.

4. The Pile of Rocks

P1090417Leave a Pile of Rocks Lying Around on a Clay Base

It will collect water. Don’t forget to capture and store that water. Letting it muck up your road is just disrespectful. I covered this concept in my previous post. Today I’d like to add that in this climate wells don’t have to be underground. In an atmosphere stripped of water by depressurizing and re-pressurizing effects on a roller-coaster ride over the mountains, everything is in reverse. Once you learn to think like that, you will find your missing water, like here:

5. The Parking Lot

P1100280 This Soil is destined for the Patchwork Community Garden, on the Okanagan College Site.

It did an effective job of stopping the water drainage from this student parking lot and turning it into …P1100277

Life!

Notice how the parking lot construction method separated this water from the ornamental growing space beside it, which then gets reconstructed into an artful water channel, using landscape cloth, to prevent plant growth and piped-in water from high in the mountains.

P1100245 Notice the Automatic Irrigation Hose on the Left, Behind the Tree

Might this not be the community garden? 

No, of course not. The real one is behind a fence, with the food growing in artificial soil from the composting facility, and irrigated by …

P1100258

…water piped in from high up in the hills. The food is then given away. It might be time to connect the dots. The water source and the sun are right here. Still, it’s a beautiful garden with an exciting mandate. I just think an opportunity was missed.

6. Wild Harvest

P1100519Don’t capture the water. Eat it.

Or plant grapes …

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Seedless Grapes Gone Wild, Bella Vista

These grapes have survived for many years without irrigation. They’ve found their water where it concentrates along an underground cut (an old water canal that’s now a walking trail). They draw it up, and concentrate it in their berries, where it can easily be harvested. Miles of grapes could be planted like this. Huge amounts of water can be captured like this.

7. The Loader Bucket

P1090115That’s Enough Iron-Rich Water for a Row of Carrots for One Week

The next time it rains (and enough rain comes in June to last the summer, if it were all carefully used and conserved), put all your pots and pans and wine glasses out. Either that, or collect it from your roof…

8. The Roof

P1080822Downtown Kelowna

And grow a tree.

P1080803If You Plant the Right Kind of Tree, You Can Harvest it Later

Downtown Kelowna

Either that or let the homeless people who live in this alley do so. After all, they live here.

9. Invent Water-Absorbing Artificial Grass. 

P1080584Plant it by the Roadside.

Harvest it once a year, instead of mowing the real thing.

Oh wait, why not just plant real grass on the roadside, harvest that while mowing, and process it in the sun-powered evaporator the plastic bags are suggesting above? Yeah, why not.

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10. Suck the Water Out of a Wasp

P1100394Crab Spider, Unlucky Wasp, and Canada Thistle

Oh, wait, leave that for the spiders.

10.5.  Plant a tree

P1100480Northern Flicker in a Chinese Elm, Grey Canal Trail

Every tree is an amazing water pump, powered by the sun. Tomorrow I’d like to talk about the technological implications of that. I think it’s pretty exciting. I’m sure the flicker agrees.

Remember: choose life!

10 More New Agricultural Locations for the Okanagan

Because land in the Okanagan Valley is vastly overpriced, due to its demand by Alberta oilmen for planting an American idea of French vineyards (a pure example of colonialism, if I’ve ever seen it), food farmers in the Okanagan Valley need to look to previously unvalued land if they are going to coax the earth into providing food. Fortunately, there’s lots of it. All of it can support non-traditional crops that make no demands on the monopolized water resources of the colonial society, which makes good political, environmental and economic sense. Just to clarify: the colonial period spans the years from 1858 to 2013. The colonial homeland has changed from England to Alberta and the colonized people from the Syilx to food farmers, but nothing much else has changed. Look what I’ve found, outside of that society’s interests …

1. Underwater Clouds

Take a look at the above ground clouds here, and the large fir trees at the crest of the slope. 

P1100098Bella Vista Hilltop from Below

The trees at the hill’s crown are rooted in the water of the lee side of the hill behind it, where the sun is less successful at drawing it from the hill and the trees do so instead. They indicate the place where water enters the subsoil atmosphere, where it reforms as clouds and flows downhill in winds of gravity and stone, subjected by increased atmospheric pull the further they descend. I call it clouds instead of rivers, ponds and lakes, because if you were to dig down into it, your hands would come up with dust. To flow in a depressurized and repressurized landscape is to vanish. The defence against it is to flow through life.

We all know this effect from watching above-ground streams. Here’s what it looks like when the stream is an underground fog…

P1100150Natural Hillside Garden, Vernon

There is enough land in this one shallow depression to provide a family with food for a year. The trees go up against an underground stone wall at the left, with other plants spaced out according to their water and soil requirements in the differing cloud densities to their right.

Oh, I know that hydrologists don’t talk like this. What I’m trying to do is to create a different story out of their technical wisdom — one that makes space for people, rather than one that fits the procedures of government. I believe that if we tell ourselves better stories, opportunity (and science) will follow. For example, let’s look at the top of this underground water system and the life it supports…

P1100102Water from Rock!

This volcanic outcropping lying atop old seabed is the deep, fortified retreat of some yellow-bellied marmots currently being harassed by some very industrious badgers.

The underground cloud system starts here, and draws fertilizer down from the impressive quantities of dung left behind by the marmots. In conventional agriculture, you lay your manure on top of the soil, or dig it in, and water it from above. In subsoil agriculture, you put it in at source and let it pass downhill, drawn by gravity. Take another look at that outcropping: what it takes to irrigate the whole three acres of this water system is the amount of rain and snow that collects against the face of this rock, plus that which falls on the three acres itself. In other words, the rock provides enough extra moisture to enable the right plants, growing in the right patterns and locations, to thrive, where they would otherwise not. There are several important principles here:

1. If you don’t waste your water on the surface, you only need enough to tip the balance over a threshold; you’re not starting from zero, and what water you put in largely stays in the system. Evaporation is prevented in numerous ways, including the pull of gravity, which keeps the water dilute enough that it attaches to soil particles rather than to itself.

 

2. Fertilize at the top of a system.

 

3. Different crops thrive at the centre of the cloud than at its margins. The greatest water users are at the margins, where the underground system strikes stone.

 

4. The system can be self-fertilizing, if animals that feed upon it are kept at the top of the slope; they must not graze on it directly, as their footsteps will damage the soil profile and allow the water to escape.

2. The Hillsides

P1100218

300 Metres Above the Lake (700 metres above sea level at this hill’s crest).

This is prime gardening ground for dozens of indigenous plants. The altitude change of 300 metres, plus the variety of harvestable plants over an extended spring harvest season mean that labour costs can be extended over time. A farmer here does not have to hire a big crew, because there is no rush. As a result, storage costs are minimal.

3. Riparian Areas

Some of the cuts in the land are larger than the small trough I showed you above. These riparian areas (with minimal or no flowing water) are home to slow underground streams, where subsurface clouds have condensed against narrowing walls of stone. They are rich farming environments for berries and fruits, and can support rich crops of other streambed plants as well, such as medicinal docks, mallows, high carbohydrate rushes and herbs, such as mint. As well, they are vital wildlife and bird corridors.

P1100180

 Life here goes up and down, like the water. The hillsides of the Okanagan are covered with underground water condensers like this. Plants can take advantage of that water because of the shading effects of the steep sides of the slopes. Often one slope is exposed to the sun at any one time. When that effect happens in above-ground atmospheres, the result is wind. Underground, I expect it works like a lung or a pump.

4. Wetlands

After its long journey into a highly-pressurized, water hungry atmosphere of the lowlands, the water hits the end of the road and is pulled from the soil by the accumulating pressure of the water descending on it from above and the atmosphere drawing it out of the soil. Here, after its long journey through a rich and complex chain of life down the hills, largely intact, it provides its greatest wealth. This is a large version of the system we saw in place  above.

p1330257 Cat Tails

This is an incredibly productive plant, which far outproduces  conventional grain crops. All of the nutrient wealth of the hillsides above is concentrated in this environment and these rushes. It is also easily killed by covering it with two metres of gravel and building houses upon it. It’s not the only thing that can thrive in the open water, before it flows into the lake.

watercressclose Watercress!

That’s the trick. Use your water over and over and over again.

black

Red Winged Blackbird

With Grub. Mmmm.

5. Roadside Ditch

P1090935Volunteer Plum Beside the Road

This small thicket produces a crop year after year, on water running off from the road into the ditch. Before the water evaporates, it is turned into plums. There are tens of thousands of kilometres of road ditches. It is all productive space. The water collection devices (roads) are already in place and operate like the volcanic outcropping that opened this discussion. Entire industries can be built around this crop. Cost to produce? Zero! And not just plums, but …

p1610103

Black Locusts!

Grow them for their beans; grow them for their wood. Stands of juvenile trees, regularly mown off, would produce stakes for an agricultural industry, without the need of wood preservatives. Black locust fence posts last in dry soils for 100 years.

And not just the ditches, but …

6. Road Shoulders and Other Gravel

P1090920Chamomile with Pollen Harvesting Beetle

This chamomile has escaped from a garden and is thriving just inches from passing cars, year in and year out, demonstrating that roadside gravel environments are incredibly productive. Purslane likes these environments as well, as well as clovers.

7. Bare Rock

P1060235Brittle Prickly Pear Cactus Growing on Bare Rock

A delicacy! 

The lack of soil is not a difficulty if you can quickly acquire the water the rock collects and then not let it go. Great for the bees!

P1060223Wild Bee Kind of Wallowing in a Cactus Flower

Bzzzz!

8. Dirt Piles

P1010306

Who Said a Field Has to Be Flat?

1/3 inch of soil over 100 square feet, or three feet of soil over 10 square feet? The latter will produce more, and earlier, to beat the coming heat when the water dries up. Here it’s a collection of weeds, but it could be spinach or lambs’ quarters. The alternating warm and hot sides of the mounds could be cleverly used to maximize cropping, cooling, and water flow.

9. Fence Posts

purse

 

Fence Posts Provide Productive, Sheltered Environments

And they’re everywhere. Whether it’s herbs, pot greens, or asparagus, there are few better locations. There are millions of posts in the region. Many could support crops. In fact, you could plant them into hedgerows and crop those.

Vast acreages in aggregate, all easily accessible.

10. Lawns, Parks and all Green SpacesP1600765Dandelion Seeds Blowing in the Sky

With the removal of poisons from public space, dandelions could continually be harvested for most of the year from spaces in which they are currently poisoned. I bet there are other plants willing to give it a try, too.

So, that’s ten spaces. There are many more. Most of them rely in one way or another on the water that passes in clouds through the soil, drawn by winds of gravity rather than the sun’s heating. The water that flows over the surface is largely all spoken for. Fortunately, it’s the minority of the water present here. The water might be hidden, but the potential for social renewal is not.

 

10 New Agricultural Locations in the Suburban Okanagan

British Columbia, the province of Canada that claims the Okanagan as its own territory, is a jurisdiction in which some 94% of land is owned by the government, in trust for the people. Largely, this means that the land base is viewed as the hinterland for early agricultural settlements — carved out of Indian Territory since approximately 1870. As this agricultural land is very limited, it has largely been filled with cities or their loose suburban substitutes now. As a result, and because these are now populist political societies, the land base is used to support demographic majorities, ie. urban agendas, whether that is the use of the entire province of British Columbia to support the city state of Vancouver or the use of the Okanagan Valley to support the central city of Kelowna or the use of the Okanagan plateaus and side valleys to support agriculture in the main valley. In all cases, the land that could support many is used to support a few, often to excess. In other words, instead of moving onto the land, Okanagan, British Columbian, and Canadian societies are mining it for energy; wealth is created by concentrating that energy in as few hands as possible. Notice that this is not true wealth. It is only a concentration. The situation is similar in the American Okanogan, except only 42% of Washington is government-owned (although that’s still a substantial percentage), the city state is Seattle (also completely outside of the bio-region) and the economic hub city isn’t even in the Okanogan at all, but further south, in Yakima. In both jurisdictions, the land serves the political agendas of a certain political and economic class. In other countries, this kind of situation might lead to land reform, and the dispersal of land to the people. Sometimes that works. Usually not. Sometimes, it’s a nearly-unparalleled disaster, such as in Zimbabwe. Here, it’s not even in the cards. That’s understandable. This model of concentrating resources works too efficiently for people to give up its seductions easily, and the image of the regions within the National states of the USA and Canada mean that there are millions of people willing to exploit the original colonizing metaphors. One option we do have to ensure that the wealth of the land flows through all of the people and that the land is given back the capacity to feed the people who live upon it, is to change how we use the land we have. Much can be done. Currently, the primary agricultural model is to give private citizens or corporations monopoly rights to land, and to subsidize them with low taxation, cheap water and other incentives, with the social expectation that they will use this monopoly (private ownership) to create jobs, food, and wealth. The miles upon miles of abandoned orchards in the Northern American Okanogan, the lack of even adequate returns on many of the thousands of acres of vineyards in the Canadian Okanagan (and their subsidy with vast amounts of oil money from the tar sands in Alberta), the insistence of Okanagan fruit farmers on growing apples that no one wants, usually for less than the cost of producing them, and the untenable prices for scarce agricultural land caused by its exploitation as urban investments, should indicate that the current situation is fragile and will soon either collapse or need to change. If it collapses, it is likely that much land will be gentrified, and food production will be out-sourced to Mexico, with all the environmental and social costs that accompany that (among them, the fact that millions of Mexicans come north to work, because this system is starving them, because their land is used to feed, well, us). This is an acceptable risk for transient urban populations. It is not an acceptable risk or outcome for people who wish to live as the spirits of this place, and have their grandchildren’s grandchildren do the same. It is also not an acceptable outcome for all the species that humans share this valley with. Now, in some other country, under different political ideologies, it would be possible to have the city states take on the role of exploiting land monopolies and growing food from them. That’s not in the cards, either. What is in the cards is the repurposing of the land that is already public within urban areas, and the use of land outside of urban areas in ways that do not interfere with the current water delivery systems, in which great political power and debt is invested. This is an avenue of great hope, and holds within it the capacity to change social perceptions and ideologies, land use, and to feed the people whom the current monopoly system is depriving of food. We can, in other words, feed ourselves from the land we have. To do so, we have to work with the life processes that surround us, instead of relying on the current colonial technologies, such as upland dams, public water delivery systems, and the skewing of food production (Well, largely its silencing) by the supermarket food selling model. What follows are some thoughts on the potential within the region for new food production areas. Many of them could be easily used, some with and some without adaptation, in other areas, as these tensions between the commons, monopoly rights and privilege are pretty universal across the continent. I won’t document all the exciting work that is taking place in reclaiming land in Detroit, or the communal gardens that saved the East German people from starvation under the continual capital depletion of their society under stalinism, or any other exciting movements like that around Canada, the United States, and the world. It will be enough if I add my perspective to the discussion, by documenting what is possible in a desaturated atmosphere east of the Coast and Cascade mountains on the Northeast shore of the Pacific Ocean and the Northwest beach of North America. There is much that can be done, and all of it is socially transformative. What’s more, it’s cheap. Young people without deep capital reserves can farm again. Sometimes it will be one weed at a time. Here are a few urban opportunities. I will show you some rural ones tomorrow. So, here we go…

1. The Boulevard Median

P1090328

 

There are several acres of easily accessible soil in this subdivision boulevard alone, beautifully sloped and with prime sun exposure. The land could be watered solely by water collected from the road surface, which would cut down on infrastructure costs. It could supply vegetables and fruit to the people living here on the hill. Instead, it supplies decorative plants meant to give the image of agricultural bounty, including the jerusalem artichokes in the foreground, which are grown for their flowers and not cropped, although harvesting would actually increase the size of the flowers. Currently, strata fees in the residential neighbourhood pay for the aesthetic upkeep of the boulevard. Free land for a farmer would mean that instead of paying, the residents would receive wealth from their common land, plus they would be giving one young farmer space. In a society which exports most of its young people to distant city states, it’s vital to hold onto as many as possible, by offering real opportunities. And, yeah, that’s a single family castle.

2. Denaturalized but Undeveloped Land

P1090325

It took five years, but the clover has finally moved into the bare gravel on the road margin to the left of this image, turning a failed subdivision into productive space, supporting many wild insects and birds and with the potential to support a large honey industry. Last year there was virtually no clover here. Clover has the advantage of being able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, and to grow without real soil. It would cost next to nothing to seed all subdivided or otherwise unused land into clover and use it to support an expanded honey industry. God knows, the bees need all the help they can get. Alternately, the clover could be grazed, mown and fed to livestock, including rabbits, or harvested for seed and fed to free range chickens, etcetera. There is no reason that private land monopoly should extend in situations in which the public interest in the land, that granted the monopoly in the first place, is not being upheld. Clover is only one of many crops that could be grown here. Mustard is another, as indicated by the bright green and yellow patch on the hill below the house and above the boulevard median in this image:

P1090329

 

Yeah, that’s the castle again. This time, notice as well the potential for fruit trees. These flowering plums are suffering, due to poor varietal choice and ridiculously inept rodent protection, but it could easily be done better. This, too, is what could be done better:

P1080674

 

Clover, People!

For the love of the earth, if you don’t plant clover the skeleton weed will come and then, soon thereafter, the whole ranching industry will collapse, as well as most species on the grasslands. Private ownership rights do not extend this far. $40 worth of seed. That’s not a lot to ask.

3. The Retaining Wall

P1090339

 

What? You like to bend over while picking vegetables?

4. The Crack in the Asphalt that No One Can Afford To Fix

P1630256

 

Might as well build it right in, to harvest this water, and to grow beautiful purslane (like this) for salads, or if there’s a contamination issue, just to mine contaminants from the road runoff, so the water can be used elsewhere. Purslane is a mighty fine water purifier.

5. The Street.

P1080713

Street Sidewalk in Kelowna

So what if homeless people eat the stuff. Is a food bank more efficient? Hardly.

Yes, this is a downtown Kelowna street, not an alley. If it can grow wild lettuce and mustard, it can grow herbs, spinach, cress, lettuce and even grains. There is no need to protect farm land and production monopolies from the stomachs of poor people. Let them eat their city.

6. The Road Margin

P1080256

Same deal with the wild lettuce, except here it’s against the road surface instead of the building surface. Self-irrigating. This location can also be used to mine run-off water for sand and soil, like this:

P1080224

Plants will do as well at this as rocks. Queasy about road contaminants? Fine. Go for the honey again:

P1080226

7. The Base of a Retaining Wall

P1080235

This escaped lavender is showing the way: in this landscape, any cut made in the soil profile will concentrate water. Placing rocks along the cut face will deliver the water underground directly to the plants at the face’s base. Similarly, this fire hydrant …

P1080227

 

In this case, that’s a bit of domestic russian sage that has escaped from the boulevard above. Hey, beats the skeleton weed I yanked out of here before snapping the image. You could grow a decent crop of currants along that entire wall, for kilometres, like these that have moved in just down the hill…

P1090361

 

Wild Syilx Currant, Bella Vista

Fruit and honey for free.

If you’re going to cause the hill to cough up its hidden water, you might as well use it rather than running it down the storm drain or growing knapweed or skeleton weed with it.

8. The Rooftop

P1080753

 

Alley, Downtown Kelowna

Note that a tree growing on one square foot of space and irrigated by a downspout is capable of being trained to provide cooling shade, beauty, and fruit to a rooftop garden. Notice as well, the garden to the right of the tree, and this one…

P1080727

 

Tomatoes and Beans Above the Restaurant, Downtown Kelowna

If you cover the land with buildings, it doesn’t mean that the exposure to the sun is lost. Irrigation can be done with grey water from the kitchen and the bath.

9. The Subdivision

All that’s missing is a collection and distribution network. I promise you, if there were even a small food collection fee, the gleaners and bottle collectors of the valley would regularly pick up everything. There are many people who look to $100 dollars of money a month as the difference between existence and a healthy, happy life. Currently, the natural gleaners of the human genome are being under-utilized. That’s a big price to pay for ideology. Here’s a little tour of a mature subdivision. There are thousands of acres of stuff like this in the Okanagan, all growing more food than the inhabitants can deal with. All that’s missing is a collection and distribution network. I promise you. These are just a few of the many crops that could be harvested…

P1090981

Assorted Fruit Trees (in the grass.)

P1090986 Honey Locust

P1090975 Smokebush (red)

P1090983 Sumac

P1090958 Walnut (The tall one)

Currently, this homeowner bags the nuts for disposal in the annual garden waste pickup program. The labour is not the issue.

P1090980 Elderberry (Behind the Post.)

P1090974 Cranberry Carageena (for the bees)

P1090947

A Much-Loved Cherry Tree (and a smaller peach tree too)

P1090949

Junipers for the Floral Industry (and for gin)

Well, you get the idea.

10. The Walking Trail

P1090438This section of Vernon’s Grey Canal Trail, in the bed of the infilled old, clay-lined Grey (irrigation) Canal, runs for about 3 kilometres and produces two crops of alfalfa without irrigation other than the rain that the clay trap of canal bed keeps in place. You could support several cattle or a kazillion goats on that. All you’d need was some small-scale baling equipment. In fact, this model is so good at retaining water and placing crops within easy human access that it could be used to grow asparagus, dandelion, spinach, lettuce, mustards, grains, amaranth, saskatoons, chokecherries, currants, etc, etc, etc, with easy access to harvesting.

Pretty exciting, I’d say. If you add all these observations up, you get enough crop land to support dozens of young farmers, to feed hundreds if not thousands of hungry people, at zero land cost, almost no input costs, no irrigation costs, and often zero transportation costs. Multiple tons of food could be produced with no cost to anyone other than some labour. What’s more, if we did these things they would develop into an industry of environmental innovation and forms of social renewal that would make us world leaders. Even the commercial farmers would not suffer: truly hungry local people are not the market for their industrial products, anyway.

 

The Social Uses of Colour Theory

 

While I am preparing a discussion of new agricultural sites to develop a renewed farming economy, a meditation about light , to set the scene. The German poet Goethe observed that shade is a part of light. Colours, he pointed out, are shadows, and the result of shade. They are, he said, light itself. He did not mean the kind of light that allows you to view this post on a screen. He meant how light is humanly perceived. Something like this:

P1090386

Early Morning Sun

He also believed that darkness is not the absence of light but a force equal to it. In the image above, this means that colour is formed at the point where the surfaces of light and darkness meet. The first colour to form, as the image above shows, is blue. In his book Farbenlehre (A Theory of Colours), he notes:

Yellow is a light which has been dampened by darkness; Blue is a darkness weakened by light.

Here’s some of that yellow. Think of it as a different kind of shadow (Goethe did):

P1070728
It is, in other words, a form of blue — specifically, as blue manifests itself in darkness. It is a shadow. And if you blend yellow and blue you get, as most every child knows, the colour of life. This too is blue:

P1080611It is, however, a different mood of blue than either “blue” or “yellow”. In its case, it is full of self-replicating vitality and the ability to bind carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into sugars, starches and other carbohydrates. For Goethe, the earth was spirit and the goal of any investigation was to bring its creative power into human thought. When applied to grasses and other plants, even these …

P1040006Algae in a Spring Wetland, Okanagan Landing

it means that at the point where the shadow light casts in darkness meets the shadow darkness casts in light, life arises. I offer the observation that this …

P1080583… is also blue — but in this case, it is the point at which the edge of a light-edge (blue) and a shadow-edge (yellow) meet to form another edge effect. To put it another way, when light is diluted to yellow by darkness and darkness is diluted to blue by light at the same time, darkness and light take on a green mood, together. The real value of Goethe’s theories is not the esoteric, spiritual nature of their discussion of light and darkness, but the observation that darkness and light are full of creative force; by observing them, humans can act socially in the way that grass acts within the earth — to create life. Accordingly, this flax, which has largely stored the combustion of sun and darkness in its seeds now …

P1080665

 

… is the kind of work I hope to present you with tomorrow, in terms of usable agricultural space within spaces of its absence, in just the way the sun, 150 million kilometres away, is almost perfectly focussed in the grass seeds below…

P1090381Through its ability to fix these photosynthetic effects in time, photography is a form of photosynthesis — another green mood of the colour blue. But that’s a discussion for another day.

 

 

 

 

Rain Craters and Rain Fossils

It rained a couple inches in the June monsoons, it drained away, and it rained a little more on the muddied post-glacial lakebed silt.

rainfossil2Rain Craters

The Moon and Mars only get rocks dropping on them. Poor things.

P1090407Rain Fossils

It’s not so much the bird footprint that is recorded here as the moment just after the rain stopped and before the sun started burning once more.

The earth is a time recorder.

 

 

Farms for the People: the Kelowna Model

Over the next few days, I will introduce you to some new farming locations that could help heal the social and environmental fabric of this valley of grass and sagebrush in which I live and out of which my bones are made.

P1080586

A Little Bit of Me Flattened by the June Monsoons

To be absolutely clear, I consider the social fabric and the environmental one to be one and the same. Half a century ago, every day we had our ears and fingernails checked for dirt by our teacher, Mrs. Farmer. It was, really, a way to try to “civilize” farm kids and kids from the Reserve at Chopaka. “You could grow potatoes in those ears,” she’d say to me. My mother said the same thing, and she grew up in extreme poverty. A few years later, in the same school, teachers less fastidious introduced us to the idea that “man” is defined by “reason”. Not so. Humans are most excellent lenses and mirrors. You want to know how the earth is doing, look at how the humans are getting along, and vice versa. So, here we go to Kelowna, the self-proclaimed capital of the valley, a magnate for retirement and vineyard investment dollars from Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton (in other words, a part of Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto, but not of this land here)…

P1080756

Downtown Kelowna, After a Multimillion Dollar Beautification

My idea was to tear out all the pavement and to put an orchard or a golf course right down the middle. After all, a large number of orchards have been torn out for golf courses, so that expensive housing can be sold along the fairways. Why not downtown? Sadly, no one was listening. Still, there are wooden… what? Up-ended lake pilings, I think. Or re-purposed railway crossing gates. Look, I dunno what those things are. There are lights bolted to them, though..

I know this, at any rate. In the alley behind the buildings on the right, we get this, and it’s beautiful.

P1080742

Genuine Human Habitat

And it’s a herb garden, too! You could probably water it with the condensation from that airconditioning equipment!

Look, I have been accused of having no sense of humour when I show pictures like this, and even of being bitter and even unpleasant, so let me be absolutely clear: I think that is beautiful. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a sculpture anywhere, or a painting, that could improve on that. Just to be clear, let me repeat: the following image is beautiful, too:

P1080724

Kelowna Rooftop Garden

The ductwork (a bit fire torched, excellent!), the impeccably placed light, the tomatoes, the beans, the exquisite brick. It has taken close to a century to perfect this. This is the basis for a native Kelowna architectural tradition.

Compared to that, this, in my mind, is not worth millions…

P1080755

Bernard Avenue, Kelowna, at Dusk

Millions? Why, yes. Here’s the skinny on it from the city:

It’s Happening! Kelowna’s revitalization of “Main Street” has begun.Originating from the need to upgrade again utilities and roadway, the Bernard Avenue Revitalization has become an identity-establishing project. The $14-million investment is one of the first porjects to be realized from the City of Kelowna’s downtown plan and will help rejuvenate downtown and set the stage for more activity, attracting residents and visitors alike. Improvements include wider sidewalks, a coordinated complement of street furniture, as well as more trees and vegetation…and it’s going to be spectacular! Source.

14 million dollars! Spectacle is the word for it, all right! Now, to be fair, that money was to replace sewer and water lines, while the whole plan was designed to turn downtown Kelowna into an event space, with room on the sidewalks for restaurant tables and lots of crowds standing beneath the banners unfurled from those wooden railway bridge pylon something-or-others while watching parades. A town needs a downtown, and if Kelowna’s downtown was sucked dry of a raison d’etre by the shopping empires stretching for forty kilometres up and down the highway, then shopping wasn’t going to be its excuse for getting together any more. I get that. I think that’s great. Art, these days, is all about events. It’s about process. The thing I’m having a hard time about is this:

P1080822

Alley Behind the Revitilization

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that is beautiful as well. In fact, I think it’s far more genuine than the event that is being staged up front. This is the signature of the people. It is an art work created in time. It is process. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Harold, Harold, Harold. You impractical poet, you. You can’t sell crumbling alleys to tourists, tut tut.” Well, actually, Cuba does it all the time, but that’s not the point. The point is that the people are showing us the way.

P1080795

One of the Few Non-White Washed Pieces of People’s Art in Kelowna

It seems to be pointing to the dumpster beside it, or is it to Pirate’s Treasure? Hard to say.

Most of the art like that in Kelowna looks more like the image below, which is beautiful, too, because, again, it shows the social dynamic, and all the processes of power that electrify human and environmental relationships in the city, plus it’s just great design:

P1080775Alley Behind Revitalized Bernard Avenue

Look how this attempt at censorship just can’t tell a lie, as it picks up on deeper aesthetic traditions:

P1080763Of course, I’m being unfair. The deeply beautiful aesthetic traditions and industrial languages (and the demands of money) that led to that exquisite artwork above, also led to the new stick sculptures along Bernard Avenue. They are home-grown — they’re just not for all the people, that’s all, but I just don’t understand how you can have a city when it’s not for all the people. Well, I guess it’s someone else’s city. Still, maybe I’m wrong, but even if I am, there’s a question still worth asking: is it really a good idea to separate your city from the agricultural heritage you’re trying to sell it as? Let me answer that: no, it’s not. Agricultural heritage? Why, yeah.

pommes

Agriculture: Vegetable Fields Covered with Car Lots…

…and a power box wrapped in apple-coloured plastic. Have you ever eaten an apple? It’s the kind of thing that can keep you alive.

Everywhere, though, the earth is crying for recognition, and remember, what happens in the environment is happening socially.

P1080749Downtown!

Sure, poverty is beautiful and romantic and all that, but it certainly is way nicer to contemplate it from a cafe stool under the swaying banners of middle class art than it is to struggle within its constraints of powerlessness and hunger, and yet, look …

P1080767… the earth keeps insisting on being alive. Here we are, just feet away from the new revitilization…

P1080797Agricultural Space or What

Even if it’s just up against the wall. You could plant trees there, even.

… and here we are across Bernard Avenue and in the alley in back. This time, notice the tree…

P1080735See That? You can plant a rooftop garden, and an organic airconditioner, on one square foot of space, and you can irrigate it with the water that pours down off your roof.

Either that, or you can do this with the water …

P1080811Yeah, it’s beautiful, but this is too:

P1080799Dueling Air Conditioning Systems

Now, again, I’m not being fair. A lot of all of this, including the plan for Bernard Avenue, is to keep homeless people from lying around and shooting themselves up with crack, which isn’t great for business or anyone, really. But wouldn’t it be more interesting to replace the razor wire, barbed wire, bricked in windows and the penitentiary look …

P1080730… with gardens, with food, for people, and life? That is Okanagan culture, too.

P1080727And you wouldn’t have to start big. You could just be modest at first …

P1080733… and the agricultural capital of the so-called Garden of Eden of the West could be so full of agriculture that it would be a model for all cities in the world and people would come, not because the city has been turned into an economic machine, but because it’s a living space, where people wanted just to be, because not only was it beautiful to see people living, despite everything…

P1080793… but it was alive.

P1080785If a restaurant can to it to create a romantic terrace, then it’s good enough for the people too. If not, then it’s not good enough. In fact, as I wandered these alleys for thirty minutes, I came across many restaurant servers sitting on cinderblock back steps, having a smoke or eating their dinner, with the brick wall of poverty instead of the greenery of Bernard Avenue, staring them in the face. Look how the earth is being ignored and its creative potential wasted…

P1080824Boarded-up windows, dysfunctional drainage, anti-human roof fence, and life still refuses to give up, even though it is being treated like garbage.

… that’s human potential being discarded at the same time. Without room in the plan of a city for the life of a city and its environment, it is a city without these things, or one in which they are weeds. It’s about power. It’s about who has it, and who doesn’t. It’s also about beauty, though. There’s beauty for the rich and their patio aesthetic …

foodonterraceMission Hill Winery Restaurant Source

… and there’s beauty for the poor and their patio aesthetic …

P1080739That’s a lot of common ground. 14 million dollars would have more than fixed this. It could have been used to make Kelowna into a city in which the producers and the consumers, the rich and the poor, the new immigrants and the indigenous people, could have all come together in a garden, but no, that’s left to us to do one downspout at a time.

P1080809Beautiful Art Just Waiting to Bloom

Sex in the Grass

So, you see your beloved …P1080401… and you make your move, surrounded by thistle perfume on a pillowy bed suspended in open space and swaying on the wind, ahhh… perfect …

P1080319… and, sheeshHHH! …

P1080349

… it kinda spoils a good bite in the back, that’s what it does …

P1080391Obviously, the world needs more grassland thistles.

 

 

New Water Collection Technologies for the Okanagan

As we move to reclaim natural water processes in the valley grasslands of the Okanagan, we will need new water collection technologies. The systems we have now (upland lakes turned into reservoirs, dry streams, abandoned hillsides and expensive networks of pipes and pumps) are colonial. They are not of this place. They also require a lot of this, which, although most exquisite urban sculpture is very water expensive, too:

P1010660

Water-generated Electrical Power

Think of it as a controlled lightning storm in the mountains, but right here, kazot!

There is much that has never been tried. In this spirit, here are some  water collection devices that could be developed into new technologies. Some are organic. Some are not. All use gravity or heat and pressure differences (caused by or enhanced by gravity). None require large, expensive infrastructure developments that lock us into one model for half centuries at a time.

1. The Half Cone

balsam

Arrow-Leafed Balsam Root

Each leaf is a cupped shallow trough, tilted inwards, with a backsplash wall to force water inward to a channel around a central spine, down which water runs to the core of the plant at the centre. As the plant slowly goes dormant, the leaves begin to tilt outward, depositing water outside of the plant’s core to the ring where seeds are scattered by feeding birds.

Devices like this could be cheaply manufactured and used to concentrate rainwater around seedling plants, or into a central collection device. Here’s a similar principle:

2. A Cone of Sticks

p1160517Blue-Bunched Wheatgrass in Winter Plumage

This is the signature grass of the West. It’s a very fine-leafed grass that grows very woody flowering stems that last for a couple seasons after they have died back in the late summer. The typical brown August hills of the grasslands take on their colour from these stalks. It’s not that the hills are dead, however. The stalks fan out in a cone, catch rain water, or even dew, and drop by drop funnel it down to the lush green leaves at the core of the plant. 

Here it is in the early summer:

P1040760

Bunchgrass in June

The weight of the seed has not yet lowered the stalks into a cone shape, where the plant will dry into the shape it will hold in the dry season. Note that the weight of the water the plant traps is equal to the weight of seed that lowers it into place. This is a plant that lives in gravity.

It would be a simple thing to manufacture single strand devices that could be arranged around plants to gather water for them. What’s more, the strands could be developed to absorb water and pipe it down an internal tube, rather than just on the surface. It might be possible to scale these devices up to considerable size. If so, the temperature difference between the inner and the outer surfaces could be enhanced through material selection, in order to condense water out of the air. Speaking of harvesting temperature differences …

3. The Drill

… here’s a plant that uses temperature differences between two different surfaces, one on each side of the long tail of its drillpoint-tipped seeds, to twist and untwist the seed tail daily.

P1080211

Needle And Thread Grass

Just before drying.

When the seeds are loosened by the wind, many tangle in the stalks their weight has lowered close to the soil. The slow drilling motion of the expanding and contracting stalk drills its seed into the soil and plants it. There is no reason that tiny engines inspired by this principle could not be used to pump water. You don’t need electricity if a mechanical system does the job. However, if you need electricity, you could use it to create that. Gravity water systems, after all, don’t need large altitude changes in order to deliver gravity-fed water, as this technology from 1495 demonstrates…

4. The Bautzen Water Tower

In the eastern German city of Bautzen, the Spree River flows at the feet of the citadel and the old town. To get water away from the feet of the rock to the height of the square in front of the cathedral six stories above, only a few feet of gravity difference in a weir were required.

DIGITAL CAMERA

Die Alte Wasserkunst, Bautzen, Saxony Source

The water reservoir is one story higher than the fountain in the town square — ample for providing water throughout the old town, until the structure was turned into a museum in 1965. Originally, it was powered by a waterwheel, which powered a staged pumping system. Now the water wheel room houses a small electrical generator.

The point I’m making is not that efficient electrical systems should be replaced by high-maintenance, low-efficiency wooden systems, but that a) small amounts of gravitational energy can be effectively harvested and transferred slowly into larger, accumulated amounts, and b) small changes in gravity can be used to irrigate fields; one doesn’t need to draw water down from high country lakes, bypassing living environments along the way. That is only a choice. Here’s an example of a natural gravitational pumping system, that passes through complex living systems along the way …

5. The Trough

mockMock Orange in a Gully

Flat land does not move or concentrate water, but gullies, that harvest the heat and cooling of the sun at various times of the day, and which bring the water condensed out of low pressure air at high altitudes down through the increasingly pressurized and hence dryer zones (it’s the same water and the same air), right down into the the most pressurized zones of all, illustrate the power of farming vertical rather than horizontal space. Instead of moving water in a ditch (or a pipe), the ditch is harvested.

This principe goes further …

6. Dew Condenser

P1070852Look at All the Water!

Rain over Kalamalka Lake.

When rain falls, it’s a matter of pressure. A gully that carries water down from low to high pressure areas, harvests pressure boundaries. Pressure is, however, also influenced by temperature. There are devices that harvest water using temperature differences between earth and air, especially across the day-night boundary. Some are survivalist skills, such as stretching a sagging tarp across a hole in the night, and collecting water that drips from the underside of its lowest point. When this technology is put to use in India, it looks like this:

800px-Dew_harvest_satapar

Dew Harveter in Satapar Source

7. The Dew Roof

Pressure differences don’t have to be large in order to be effective, because they are also temperature differences. Here’s a school roof in the driest part of India, that nonetheless produces water, daily, year in and year out …

Condenser_on_roof_Sayara

School, Sayara, Kutch, India

This 600 square meter roof collects 9000 litres of drinkable water annually from nearly 100 dew-nights. That’s 90 litres a night, which works out to about 48 half-litre bottles of water that can be used each and every day.

Given that many drought-tolerant crops only need water for short periods, one could use such a system to turn such water into agricultural crops, in volumes far beyond the value of 9000 litres of water. It goes without saying, I hope, that the environmental and infrastructure costs of expensive water systems would be absent, increasing the profit for the farmer, and farmers certainly need more profit in these parts. This is one way in which we can turn our farms into producers of energy again, rather than net consumers of it.

8. Air Well

There is, however, also the air well proper, which allows for the intake of warm air and its cooling in inner stone chambers open to the earth …

449px-Puits_aerien_knappen_trans_83_00

High Mass Air Well, Trans-en-Provence Source

The design failed due to a low amount of rough stone contact space. It only collected 20 litres per night. 

It could probably be vastly improved upon. I mean, this interior has very little contact space.

Puits_aerien_knappen_trans_83_03_m

Still, it might be a model for tiny water condensers. Perhaps its design only needs to be tweaked, perhaps on a smaller scale and using different materials. Here, though, is a different design that did work well, but failed due to poor construction of its base (the base developed leaks, due to cracks)…

1-s2.0-S0140196306000322-gr1

Zibold Condenser, Turkey, 1912

The pile of stones had a large amount of rough surface area, and very little contact between stones. 

Hey, we have the rocks already…

P1080292

Subdivision Leftovers

The bigger pile up the hill is actually generating a pond. Fancy that.

Such designs were abandoned, in favour of heat pumps like this:

Yeti_AC-12_atmospheric_water_generator

Yeti Air-Conditioning and Water Generation Unit

Water and Coolness out of the air. Neat, huh. It requires electricity, though. Still, if you’re already cooling, hey, double the bang for your buck. I think the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is an insane building, but its airconditioning system does provide 15,000,000 gallons of water a year, which water nearby landscape plantings. Insane, yes, but I guess that there is at least as much airconditioning capacity than that in the Canadian Okanagan. 15,000,000 gallons of water a year. If you’re going to waste electricity, you might as well get the water.

Perhaps one doesn’t have to go the electrical route, though.

p1180659

Heat Powered Roof Vent

Every house around these parts has one of these, using the rising heat collecting under the roof, to dissipate air, and also water, that condenses and holds the potential to rot the wooden houses used in these parts. This is half of a water collection machine: it moves damp air between hot and colder environments, it rotates, and thus can produce electricity, and everyone already has one. Some exploratory development might prove quite worthwhile.

Contemporary thinking on water wells and dew condensers is that they must be light, in order to cool quickly, in order to draw water from the air. Grass draws dew from the air in just this way. The transferal of heat energy into mechanical energy, which we saw above, in the example of needle and thread grass, might be one way to create temperature difference, that could harvest water.

p1140127

It would be a fruitful avenue for research.

9. Air Conditioning, the Natural Way

Here’s a natural air conditioner. It uses the water from a house’s septic system to cool the house in the heat of summer.

hide

Good Place for Magpies, Too

Weeping Willow, Orchard Hill

… and not just magpies!

p1240291

Northern Flicker

Try that with your local sewer system! Or your airconditioner.

It’s powered by the sun. You got that? Instead of the sun heating your house, it cools it. Unfortunately, the procedure takes a little cleverness. This tree below, planted for decorative purposes about 40 years ago, and which provided cooling shade (from another septic system), has fallen victim to the desertification of the Okanagan…

p1180795Views Are Now Culturally More Important than Shade

Hence the British Columbia Government is moving forward on another dam on the Peace River in the cool British Columbia north, to supply the power needs created by the lack of creative thinking. Wealth can destroy thought. Exciting trivia for you: that’s the Okanagan Okanogan spruce tree and septic system relief valve right behind the brown roof, in line with the foreground fence post. Every bird going by uses that tree, and at least two species nest in it. Unfortunately, it’s too far from the house to provide cooling shade.

The death of such magnificent and useful trees, powered by the evaporation of water through their leaves, is one consequence of technology. In a society dominated by petroleum and electrical energy, and dominated by a model of payment for energy and the production of work out of bought energy, other sources of energy are largely invisible, or considered inefficient. How a form of energy that costs nothing and yet is still productive can be considered inefficient is curious, but such are the social tales of the tribe. Still, there’s a principle that can be derived here…

p1180657

… as the leaves on these trees unfold in the spring, the evaporation of water within them draws water from the cool soil into the air. The orchard below …

p1010442

… uses this principle to cool the apples. The excessive growth on the top of these spindled trees draws water up through the fruit, to cool it, and drops water vapour back down upon it to transform desiccated, valley bottom air into the low pressure air of natural apple environments. Trees could do this to your house, too. With the right kind of trees, this process wouldn’t have to dissipate 55% of the high country water into the low country air to produce apples that return only enough money to pay the capital costs of their installation. Now, that’s inefficient.

10. Dew Ponds.

On a base of clay, on a hill, you can build this …

3844865_orig

Dew Pond, England

This is an old technology, but a beautiful one. It can double as a meditation site or an artwork!

… to get this …

Chanctonbury_Dew_Pond … and, next to it, this …

Dew_pond_west_leake

No transportation of water necessary.

What? No dew, because the air is too dry? Well, the local ranchers scoop vertical troughs out of arroyos, and dam them with their productive soil at the bottom ends, in order to trap snow melt and rain runoff in volumes sufficient for watering cows. The whole messy thing looks like this…

11. Run-off Collectors

P1010367

Cow Wallow after the Fire

It’s a rudimentary technology, but it’s used in natural systems as well. In fact, it’s a tiny version of the whole system that harvests water in the alpine and delivers it to lake thousands of metres below, like this …

pwc

Human Wallow Below the Fire

Okanagan Lake

Still, small-scale run-off systems exist all over the hills, such as here …

P1080853

Okanagan Falls Monolith

The bunchgrasses here don’t have enough soil to survive, but they can because the stone above them contributes the water that enhances the actual soil volume. 

Imagine, instead of farming tomatoes like this …

P1030054

Tomatoes in Plastic, with Drip Irrigation and Water-supplied Petrochemical Fertilizers

Lots of plastic waste at the end of the season, and ever-declining soil environments caused by heat and non-replacement of cooked-off organic material, but, hey, business is business. The red’s an artful touch. It is laid on a slope to gather the sun, but without regard for the gravitational effects of water and nutrients in the soil atmosphere below.

… in order to harvest heat and eliminate weeding labour, one could orient the crop across the hill, fill the gaps between the rows with a reusable, waterproof membrane (even stone, if you like), and use it to harvest water, which it would then deliver downhill to the plants, or store underground, where the plant roots could access it. A permanent cover would be able to support colonies of insects. What’s more, sun-heated stone would retain heat and warm the nights — always a plus with tomatoes. Many other models exist and many, many more are possible. And consider this bonus: for much of the season, no irrigation would be required.

p1040313

Look at the natural water collection taking placing in the background … and ignored. Water-price subsidy can do that to a man.

Here’s another image of a natural run-off collector…

P1080832 Okanagan Falls Monolith

Here the water is collected on shelf, flat enough and wide enough for harvest. Notice how the greatest growth occurs against the back wall of the shelf and in the depressed channel in its centre. These effects could be used to create a variety of crops in the same location.

Here’s another…

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Eagle Field, Turtle Mountain

In this model, the runoff from the hill percolates through fine, aerial silts left from the draining of Glacial Lake Penticton. An even community of voles, bunchgrasses, pigweeds and flowering and tuberous plants thrives here. Just to the north of this plot, where the slope drains onto the mountain’s saddle, a rich community of berry-bearing plants has established itself. One of Vernon’s so-called homeless people has made a summer home there, on an old mattress in the shade of a saskatoon. I caught a white-tail doe relaxing on it one day. Good on you, girl!

Now, with the image above in mind, look at this one again …

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Cow Wallow

… and compare it to this natural variation …

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Natural Choke Cherry Orchard

Here a natural underground water barrier, likely clay or rock, has condensed water trickling like a cloud through the soil, until it rained into a small underground lake that  is feeding these trees. This a natural Okanagan geological formation resulting from unique local geological history and is present in tens of thousands of sites in the region. That all adds up to something like the same amount of land that is currently used in fruit growing (about 13,000 hectares). Imagine: doubling your land base, while using zero ml more water. In this respect, orchards on this land are adding wealth, while orchards using upland water or subsoil water are merely moving it into privileged hands. There’s a social and ethical accounting that is long overdue.

Here’s a related model:

12. Rock Islands

yellowclover

Clover thriving in the micro-climate created by a stone.

In a sense, water, air density, and heat are all functions of climate over time as the year progresses through its cycles of dry and wet seasons (Dry Cold, Wet Cold, Wet Warm, Dry Hot). Farming is about manipulating that environment for the benefit of certain crops. One can do that by moving wet cold season water from the high country into the dry hot season, or one can change the season entirely by adding a stone and planting against it, where water and heat can both be concentrated. One can grow crops out of season, extend seasons, and grow crops that otherwise would not survive. This is the natural way of the grasslands. Much of their life lives around rocks like this. That doesn’t interest you? Well, try this, then …

13. Heat Walls

P1080231 Escaped Lavender Making a Little Bit of Provence, Bella Vista

You don’t need flat land to farm. Here’s what I mean:

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The Vineyards of Delazney, Lake Geneva, Switzerland

The famous cheese wines of Vevey are possible in this climate because of the stone walls that hold the sun through the night. Do you understand? It’s not necessary to pay high money for flat land and expensive water technology. One can make low value land, lower pressure zone land into high value land, through the addition of cleverness and labour. One can move the sun. That’s infinitely more honest, and makes farming possible for people other than Vancouver stockbrokers and Edmonton oil men looking to store their profits in a bit of colonial romance. We don’t need more colonial romancing.

Here’s another example:

treesup2

Vineyards in the Mosel Valley, Germany

Vineyards like this are still farmed because they make the best riesling wine in the world, and the best rieslings in the world are in a class by themselves. Okanagan wine snobs, with their pinot noirs and their chardonays from France are missing the boat.

The real-estate promotional vineyard in the failed subdivision above my house, installed to add to property values with its hints of heat and a little Provencal je ne sais quoi, occupy what were some of the last Okanagan grasslands. They could still be grass if the miles and miles of stone-lined roads through the subdivision had been set up to be farmed like this instead. They could even have been irrigated by road-run off. The collector is already there, like this …

14. Road Collectors

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Rain Running to Nowhere on the Road Margin ten metres from my house…

… despite the best efforts of purslane to turn it into life.

The water doesn’t have to be wasted. The romans knew about this …

This is a story about water. It begins a long time ago, as some stories do. Back then, the rain fell, as rain does, and the Celts were making wine out of it in their valleys north of Rome. When the Romans showed up, with their swords and their ploughshares, the Celts learned Latin and just kept right on. This is not a story about the Celts, though. It’s a story about water use in the northern reaches of the Western North American desert, but that story just doesn’t make sense in any way that makes sense unless it first trickles East and flows along paths among the vines until it arrives in deep memory. Imagine you’re walking beside that path that is a stream, and you look up, and there, right there, are are some of those old vineyards, that go back over two thousand years. Yes, you are in Rome now, and if the people don’t speak Latin, they do speak a Swiss French Patois that sounds a lot like Welsh.

The Vineyards of Sion

These are among the most dramatic vineyards in the Valais, on the slopes between the blue glacial currents of the Rhone River and the glaciers high above. Some of these planting grounds are over 2000 years old. Most of the stone walls date from the 1890s, but many of the waterworks among them are ancient.

Before this story flows with that ancient water, it might be a good idea if we, its readers, just stepped to the side for a moment, and looked at how water is put to use today, across the sea and among different mountains. Hopefully, then we can then set all that sprinkling and spraying and dribbling aside and look at water in a larger sense, and find technologies that may be useful again in these, the last days of oil. So, let’s just dive in.

Bonk!

Oops! No diving in here. This, of course, is a trickle irrigation system, which means that it delivers water drop by drop by drop to one spot on the soil surface. The water fans out underground to deliver water to the vine roots. It does not, however, go very deep, concentrates salts at the soil surface and leaves each grape vine to survive in one tiny hydroponic environment. It does, however, limit evaporation.

Water is moved around today at great expense. It requires electrical pumping systems, expensive petrochemical piping, high country dams, vast water mains, considerable upkeep, and high annual amortization, energy, and service costs, and there’s just not enough. Here in the Okanagan, society exceeded sustainable water use twenty years ago. We’re just living on borrowed climactic luck. Maybe we can make our own, new luck, though. Back in the Celtic Rhone, for example, there was just no way anyone could pay for the expensive infrastructure that is taken for granted today. People had to start with less, and achieve more. What they achieved is called art today. Sometimes it looks like a lot of fun. For a good example, let’s glance quickly north…

Aquatic Bicycle, Freiburg Im Breisgau

The one-time Roman, one-time Austrian and now German city of Freiburg is cooled by channels of fresh water sluicing through the streets. At one time, these channels acted as a kind of continuous fountain, bringing fresh water to everyone’s door as it flowed out of the Black Forest towards the Rhine. Now it’s there for the delight of it all, and  what better place to cool the tires on your bicycle, eh!

This idea of water being something that flows, rather than something that is blended with liquid petroleum-based fertilizers and emitted in drips is as old as the hills. It’s as old as Rome. It’s older. It’s not, however, a scientific story. This technology was developed before science, and it does not require scientific analysis in order to be grasped and understood. For instance, north and west of Freiburg, along the Rhine, halfway between Switzerland and the Netherlands, a wee bit south of the mermaids of the Lorelei cliffs and legends of dragons and golden rings, there’s a valley of old grain mills, spaced a kilometre apart (just enough to let water drag a bit of gravity along with it, which could be siphoned off before passing it on), there’s an old monastery, that’s now a major pilgrimage site, where the caretaker’s first self-appointed task in the morning is to check the garbage cans outside the entrance to the chapel, to see if any pilgrims left some returnable mineral water bottles there the evening before. It’s called the Cloister of the Valley of Mary, and it looks like this between rain storms in June…

Mariental Cloister

Don’t let appearances fool you. This was once a major industrial centre and one of the world centres of the wine industry. This and the eleven other cloisters surrounding the southern mouth of the Rhine Valley once produced 100,000 litres of wine a year, much of it to the glory of the Bishop of the old Roman regional capital, Mainz. This is the homeland of the greatest white grape of them all, the Johannisberg Riesling.

The church has lost much of its industrial and political weight here, but it’s not dead yet. It’s power is more subtle now, yet is no different from that old industrial model. Here’s one of its engines, powered by beauty and an idea older than Christianity itself.

Mary and Joseph

Look what was hiding inside a chunk of sandstone hacked out of the local cliffs. Pretty nice, indeed!

Yes, this is a story of water. Really. Here, for example, at Mary’s lovely feet, is a map of the Rhine and an idea of how you can press the old gods with the tenderest toe and bring forth, well, something that is best called God. This part of the statue is identical to the one above, just a little bit less subtle. Take a look…

Squeezing that Old Snake

And look what the snake, the Rhine, the dragon, the vine, produces… the triple God himself, in the Highest. The trick is, though, you just can’t apply too much force. The strength has to pushed out of the old God into the new one, slowly and tenderly, without killing him before it’s done. Think of the statue as a clock, moving from bottom to top. Here (at the bottom), at the beginning of Christian Time is the beginning of the end of Christian Time, Mary and her Child (at the statue’s crown). It takes time, but all good things do, just like wine. You can’t rush it.

Now, you might think (and I wouldn’t blame you), that I’m wandering off topic, but water flows, right? And that’s the point. Just a couple hundred metres away there’s this humble little fountain that gives the whole game away…

Maria’s Fountain

Many cloisters are founded around springs, but here in wine country the only still-functioning cloister is founded around a stream. The point to that is given in a poem, left as a prayer by a pilgrim and set on a nearby post. As she meditates, this water does not miraculously appear and bring inspiration from a hidden and unknowable source, but flows openly and simply passes through the fountain as a stream, with no visible source and no visible end. The pilgrim who left the poem found rest by giving herself to the flow and thereby being released from the struggles for definitive (and by my guess male) knowledge and stony rigour.

But, of course, this is not a religion based around Mary, Mother of God, but around God (or Christ) Himself, and here He is, telling the same story, under the ancient, non-Christian trees…

Open Air Altar in a Forest Clearing

With green Biergarten benches, too, which is a really lovely touch. In this pilgrimage church, pilgrims pray together among the trunks and branches of the eternal life that springs from the earth, rather than in a stone hall carved to represent those trees but really holding up a heavy stone roof. Notice the image of Christ on his cross, which is really a vineyard at harvest time. 

No heaviness here!

Christ Springing from the Soil, with Leaves.

A nice takeover of old Celtic and Greek tree technology, if I’ve ever seen one, but with no heaviness to it, just the joy of the trees.

Here is the heaviness.

The Imperial Baths, Trier

It took Christianity to turn monuments to water like this into monuments to air.

And where did the Romans get all the water? From the hills. Down the Mosel River, for instance, an urban villa was built in the little town of Pölch and drew its water from an ancient system of water management designed for arid climates and imported from Iran about a century before Christ. It was a reverse form of trickle irrigation, that relied on gravity and was built to last. It’s called the Qanat. It’s built from a series of underground tunnels accessed by vertical shafts, that slowly trickle water into a central channel, which delivers it through stone to its ultimate destination (in this case a bath of truly upper class proportions). In Pölch, the entrance to the main channel of the Qanat looks like this…

The Pölch Qanat

This ancient waterworks was rediscovered in the 1930s.

This main channel also served as an access channel, large enough for workers to enter and clean out any debris that might be blocking the water flow. Below is a look inside the channel. The light that you will see in the image comes from more recent wells sunk into the roof on the site of the villa itself, at intersection points with the side channels feeding water in from the Qanat network.

The Service Channel for the Pölch Qanat

The floor is set with a layer of slate, so that water can flow beneath it, free of any fine clay silt that might clog it up and impede its flow.

Water was not gathered quickly in a Qanat, but flow it did and, remarkably, after 1800 years (almost all of that without any maintenance at all) the water still flows and provides part of the water requirements for the 447 citizens of Pölch.

Roman Water

The town fountain of Pölch, still flowing after 1800 years.

Now, to bring a meandering, watery story back to its beginning and the irrigation of fields, the thing that ties all of these threads together (Rome, Iran, Mary, Christ, and the Bishop of Mainz) is the grape (an agricultural product), and the slopes on which it is grown. The ancient water of the earth that flows through Mary into Christ and into His pilgrims also flows through the slate that some people might call soil and into grapes, and there reveals itself as wine. Below is an image of the site of the Qanat, to give you an idea of how it all looks. This is where the grapes are keeping up the old work.

View Over Pölch

The Qanat is directly underfoot. The grapes continue its work, above ground. Like the qanat, they are rooted in neither soil nor dirt, just in slate.

Water here is a slow affair that moves through life. It trickles, and without petroleum technology, either. Down on the River Mosel, though, people have a newer idea of water, and I must admit, it’s a heck of a lot of fun…

Petroleum Based Water Technology

Joyriding on the Mosel during the Corpus Christi Festival. The festival that celebrates the body of Christ incarnated in bread and wine is a national holiday throughout much of Northern Europe. Here on the Roman wine river, the Mosel,  it takes on a rather unique form: every winery (and there are thousands) throws open its doors and people ride their bicycles and motorcycles between them. Beer glasses are just not to be seen.

These are not metaphors. In the pre-scientific world this was what technology looked like, and it’s this technology that now looks like spirituality and art that drove water technology for most of Western history, so let’s get right to it and see how all of that developed a technology that survived long after the Industrial Revolution. This story can be told quickly, through a series of images. A good place to start is back at Johannisberg, the holy grail of riesling.

Johannisberg Cloister

The vineyards of this cloister flowed into those of Mariental and Mary’s delicate foot five kilometres to the North. Note Johannisberg Palace in the background, which took over the vineyards from the monks. Note the rain. Brr.

The water that flowed down past the roots of these vines was not captured in the underground leaf-vein-like fans of qanats, but on the surface. The process, however, was very much the same. What was underground was now brought up to the light. These channels were painstakingly rebuilt with concrete after World War II, and they look like this…

Old Surface Qanat, Mariental

Water doesn’t flow here anymore. This death of a technology is what is called romantic now. The tourist industry is based on it.

The water is now captured in wells and pumped into underground piping systems, like this…

The Mariental Pumping Station

Unlike the older systems, it requires extensive capitalization and high annual fees.

It also requires security. Here is the main Rüdesheim station, below Johannisberg itself…

The New Technology with Its Barbed Wire

This is a new definition of public utility… one so expensive and fragile that the public must be excluded from it. In comparison, the old system was pretty much indestructible. (Well, except for the bad aiming of US bomber navigators while being strafed with German flak on their way to Frankfurt, twenty kilometres away.)

The new system delivers water to household taps, toilets, hotel rooms, and garden sprinklers. It is a system for gathering water, to drink (and sprinkle). The old system was a system for gathering gravity, or the power that fell from God and flowed freely over the earth before moving into God again, and delivering it where it could be used, like this…

Vineyard with Mill

Mariental Cloister is two kilometres away, behind the screen of trees in the background of this photo. The paved vineyard road in the foreground is the old surface qanat. And what did you do in the mill? Why, grind grain into bread, that was, of course, the Body of God. This world was a poem, or a prayer, and it was complete, right down to its technology. If you understood poetry, you could master its machines. A technical education, or even a degree in Creative Writing, was not needed here. You just needed heart, and you needed to look at things and see patterns. Those patterns originally gave us the Industrial Revolution, but now that that revolution is largely over, the patterns remain. They never went away. Neither did Rome. Or Mary. Or the Celts.

Here’s an image from Rüdesheim on the Rhine, that shows how the surface Qanat functioned…

Vineyard Road at Ehrenfels

The road doubled as a water collection apparatus. As a point of interest, Ehrenfels is the honorary home of that other great white wine grape, Ehrenfelser. In the old, ruined castle courtyard you can wander on a June day and pick wild strawberries from among the weed-whacked weeds.

Notice how the road above slopes inward towards the vineyard wall, instead of outwards as a modern road would to shed its water to the slope below. When this device was built, water was too precious to waste like that, and it wasn’t being gathered for the crops. Here’s a better view…

Water Channel Set into the Schlossburg Road, Ehrenfels

Here, as in Mariental, the water was collected, and delivered in controlled streams downhill…

Water Reservoir on the Way to Ehrenfels

Water collected on the vineyard roads high above was delivered here, then channeled directly down to the villages and industrial land along the Rhine below. The reservoir allowed for controlled release of water when and if it was needed, and allowed the maintenance of its stored gravity energy, without lithium ion technology.

And how can all this old technology be used again today? Well, for one, the old channels could be open again and instead of using hydroelectric power, generated in German coal and nuclear plants (really) to pump water to the houses of Rüdesheim and Lorch on the Rhine, the water could be used to generate hydroelectric power, which could then be used to deliver the water, or for other purposes, without eliminating the potential for also using the water for agricultural or any other thing you could dream of along the way. For another, the roads, in a condition of neglect today, show that there is agricultural potential for this technology as well, in an unforeseen way. Here, have a look…

An Accidental Garden

As soil has fallen slowly over the lip of the roads of this old surface qanat system, plants have taken root. The water that slowly trickles down the walls flows into plant life that has rooted there and sustains it in the old qanat channels meant originally to deliver it to the reservoirs at dips in the road.

Huge, narrow gardens could easily be planted in this space. There’d be enough food to feed thousands of people, if not tens of thousands, and all of it could be accessed by foot, bicycle, tractor, or car. The land has no problem with this idea. It’s already working at it, in fact, and not just with weeds…

Dill…

volunteering for future service, and showing the way. Many other food plants have also found fertile ground and water along these old paths.

So, there you have it: old systems that came from studying plants, stone, water, and gravity have gone through technological development and abandonment and have come right back to where they began, with plants and stone and water and gravity, but this time it’s possible to see the whole story in a new way. The original story was a story of gravity. It eventually became a story of blue, surface water, a clean, pure element fitting the period of intellectual earth and the discovery of chemistry and the invention of individual human consciousness. The new story is a story of green water, how gravity and blue water flow not through stone but through life. It’s the old story, the story that was always there, but it has a new focus now — now when energy has become expensive, and technologies to move it around limit human access to the freely given energy of the sun and the earth. Just as the aristocrats of Johannisberg took power away from the church once, so is it possible now to take power away from their intellectual descendants and put it back where we need it now, into life. That is a new story, but it’s also an old one.

Joseph and Son at Mariental

Notice how the rain is slowly eating them away… but not yet.

One more note on new uses for old roman technology takes us back to Trier. Here we are, downtown. Tourists are thronging around us, on their way between Italian ice cream restaurants, the Black Roman Gate and the Imperial Baths, and when it all gets to be too much, well, you can sit down in the sweltering stone streets and be cooled, not by atomic-powered air conditioners but by something the romans would have recognized as their own…

New Tech Water, Trier

An entire square is cooled by this water that flows out of the cool of the earth and back into it again after giving off its invigorating ions and ahhhhhhhh, without the need for any atomic power plants or coal-fired carbon emissions at all. This is the reverse of geo-thermal heating. It could work in houses as well.

What other uses can roman and Catholic water technology be put to today? Many. I’ve brought many other observations home from my research trip in Europe, and no doubt people more familiar with green water systems than I can add hundreds more. We stand at a threshold. To move forward we need nothing more than our bodies and our hearts, as well as open eyes and ears. That being said, one final observation, this one from the so-called New World…

Vineyard Road, Vernon

Here in the Okanagan Okanogan, qanat technology is sorely missed. Here all that useful water is just turned to muck.

Which pretty well is a perfect image of the state of water culture today. So much opportunity stands before us. I find this all very exciting. I hope you do, too.

15. Fog Fences

This is how you comb water out of cloud and mist and drizzle (and let your cattle out of a burn zone for a night on the town at the same time).

Fence Down

More water blows through the fall and winter air in the grasslands than falls to earth. It would be great to farm that fog and those clouds. This combination barbed-wire and fine-meshed bird fence demonstrates the potential for drawing that water out of the air. Here’s what that looks like, up close:

… and closer …

When conditions are right, the wire doesn’t even need to be in a grid …

We don’t need to invent this technology. It exists. Societies have been harvesting water for thousands of years. A fascinating and richly-illustrated history of inventions, modern and ancient, can be found here. The last entry on that page presents the story of a successful cloud fence project in Chile, which collected 10,000 litres of water a day, supported a village, and established a forest, which then was able to collect its own water. Although it was abandoned, because of political reasons, it worked. It looked like this, back in 1987…

Fog Fence on El Tofo Mountain, Chungungo Chile, 1987 Source

On the grasslands, plants have known this for a long time. They have many ways of concentrating rain and dew. Here’s one …

16. Rain Concentrators

Surely, this could be used as a model for a water collection technology? 

Catch it on the ‘leaves’, tilt it to the ‘stem’, tube it to the ground? Cool, huh!

Let’s not forget the clouds. When they do rain in this depressurized and repressurized climate, the air can draw the water away in just a few minutes. In a thunderstorm this last week, a couple inches of rain fell in a few minutes, but 15 minutes later the concrete in front of my workshop door was as dry as if it hadn’t rained in two months. The water just vanished. The trick is to harvest it quickly, as in the image above. You don’t have to, however, turn it into drops to harvest it. Look at how these jerusalem artichokes managed with 12 hours of rain today (Hey, it’s the wet season.)…

17. Rain Sponges

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Jerusalem Artichoke Leaves in the Rain

I’d say they absorbed it. I mean, compare to this lamb’s quarters…

lambleaf A Moisture Barrier Leaf is a Great Adaptation

But a water-absorbing leaf is a great one, too. We can use technology like that.

And what about this?

Apricots in August Keremeos

Thousands of tons of fruit, itself mostly water, are culled every year. They could be farmed for water before being discarded. Similarly, as I mentioned last January, millions of litres are simply evaporated away to create lumber. Meanwhile, through property taxes we subsidize so-called “free”  advertising “newspapers” stuffed full of advertisements for all the manufactured flotsam and jetsam of distant cities that mine the economic wealth of our communities. The purpose? To keep papers that didn’t need to exist out of the landfills. And yet we use water, which every plant, animal and human needs, once and then discard it. Why? Releasing it to the air just means it blows away to someone else in the east. Natural grassland systems, however, passed it on from plant to plant and species to species down through the hills in time and space. They kept it around for a long time before it was passed on to other valleys. We can no longer afford to rely on foreign, surface water systems imported from wetland thinking to turn water into waste. Since we’ve turned our valleys into machines…

Enloe Dam, Shanker’s Bend (Similkameen River)

Why use this water only once?

… let’s at least get some up-graded technology in keeping with current realities, rather than the 19th century technology in use today. In that spirit, here’s another rain sponge. First, the pretty form …

cactus Brittle Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom, Bella Vista

… and then the harvestable form. Remember, this is mostly water…

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Got that? The most efficient way to capture water is to use native plants that are directly edible. That is entirely possible. Do we want this…

P1070677 … or this?

P1070095

… the second option takes less water. Remember: food is water. Really. Literally. Life is built up on a union of water and carbon. If there is no life present, it is because someone let it flow away, killed it, or wasted it. If there is no water, or if water is socially controlled, then 1 out of 4 people will be hungry and short of food, which is the case in the Okanagan today. Water is monopolized in this society, for profit. Fortunately, there is still common land, where it can be freely harvested and used. As I said, these are ethical issues, and that’s where this conversation will be going next, before coming back to crops again. The reason for the detour from crops is that without a common language of the social dynamics of water, some specialized crops will initially appear unprofitable. They aren’t. Remember, there is water here, and it’s a beautiful thing:

P1630129Choke Cherries in the June Rains

Spirit of Place

While I’m working on a post about new water technology, here’s a beautiful image of a wasp foraging in the staghorn sumac flowers up the hill. It haunts me.

yellowwasp

To see an enlarged version of this image (well worth it), click here.

I’ve always wondered how “spirit of place” could intersect with the scientific terminology of dominant contemporary mythologies. I think I get it now. One of the favourite terminologies of contemporary art-making is the concept of space: every gesture makes a space, and it is that space, rather than the made-object, that is the art moment. So the theories go. Well, I was looking at Fuse Magazine’s Palestine issue, and came upon this article

P1080129 Here’s a closer look at the image …

P1080132… and a closer look at the words …

P1080130Space, in the Words of Artists

In the words of a person anchored in place, the right word would be spirit.

It seems a gesture of poverty and imprisonment not to use it in its rightful place.

P1070863Spirit in My Driveway

Purslane, a favoured palestinian salad herb, self seeded in the gravel and thriving in a culture that considers it a weed.

If space is a spiritual frontier, so is spirit a spatial one.

Now, on to the water!