Growing Food Without Water in the Hot Okanagan

Well, it’s dry, eh. And hot. Whew. P1960593

This is 9:30 A.M. The afternoon was 38. (That’s 100 for you folks down south.)

Forests are burning up. Smoke everywhere. P1960538 All the upland water still being evaporated by the city on the dry hills. Surreal. P1960611 People in town are being asked not to water their lawns. “The lawns will come back,” the officials say. Yeah, right. P1960603 Shrubberies are toast. Wait. Aren’t those coastal shrubberies? What’s with that? I count 7 dead ones at $30 a piece. Crikes! P1960616 And look at this hill, eh. Nothing will grow here without irrigation, that’s for sure. (Those are irrigated trees around a house up top.) P1960687 But, wait, what’s that in the centre of the picture? P1960688 Ah, asparagus growing wild. Without water, except what is shed by that rock. So, maybe not that dry, eh. Maybe it’s a matter of getting one crop off and then having a rest. How many crops come off an agricultural field in a year, anyway? One, usually. Whoa, what’s this, two months back? P1810242 Flax! P1810232 That’s two crops! And, blow me over, what’s this, just to the left of the asparagus, growing on no water but what is shed from the rock? P1960690 Feral plums! P1960696 That’s three crops. Oh, and on the rock? Yeah, watch your step. Again, two months ago. P1830598 Prickly pears! And what grows in cracks in these rocks? P1950621Saskatoons! P1950619 That’s five crops. How many is enough? They are growing with no water. This land isn’t dry. Inappropriate agricultural and water technology is dry. The land is fruitful. It’s close to the end of the year. In a couple weeks it will be the dry season here: effectively winter. People will be on the lake, splashing around in their summer, but that’s all in their heads. So, are those the only crops? No, not exactly. In a ditch down the hill, where it’s even hotter, there’s this:P1960559Feral apricots! And in the ditch just around the corner from our asparagus, cared for and watered by no one, there’s this: P1960626 Feral apples! I could go on. The only drought is a drought of knowledge and technology, coupled with an insistence that food must be grown on private land and then either sold for a profit or donated to charity, by people who have paid for it, to be given to the people who can’t afford to pay for technologically-produced crops. It’s insane. To take productive grasslands, with a dozen or more food crops across a season, and reduce them to farmland for two generations and then let them go to this, on a principle of private ownership is a betrayal of the common good. It is theft. P1960705 You see, that’s not hay. That’s weeds being baled and sold for whatever marginal amount of nutrition there’s in it, to maintain low farm taxation status. Oh, and this…P1960666 No, that’s not a fallow field. A fallow field isn’t weed-killed from one end to the other and let to bake to nothing. A fallow field has a rejuvenating crop on it, to build up its microbial environment, which is the real soil. That’s a dwarf apple orchard in the middle of the picture, and a field of decorative pumpkins in front of it. This is not farming. This is farming:   P1800658That’s the fall crop. (The sagebrush are the result of unethical over-grazing by cattle.) By the time the deer can be harvested in October, early spring’s crop will be sprouting. When the sunbathers by the lake are skiing on the mountain, spring’s crop will already be growing under the snow, which is not, by the way, cold. It acts as a grid of tiny lenses, creating a greenhouse 5 millimetres high. That’s enough. In mid-March, it will look like this, on what are now the driest of slopes. p1600207   Lambs quarters! Better than spinach. This is not a dry country. If there is dryness, it means someone created it. That means it can be reversed. The real global warming is not an effect of smokestack and tailpipe carbon emissions. It is the effect of 19th century technology and thought applied in ignorance. It’s time to apply what we know and start over, in earnest, with open hearts and open eyes, and to listen to the robin wait. P1960557   Everything in its season. rowan1

7 replies »

  1. This is beautiful and brilliant… Thank you!

    If only we could all see with your eyes…




  2. Harold, I will join the other comments in saying this is a beautiful piece. I love your stories, they’re so on point… and you know me, I like to add on my thoughts as well.

    The other thing I’d like to add is that the idea of land ownership has deleterious effects in other ways as well. If we watch and mimic the animals as the Syilx used to do; summer season was a time for dispersal in the high country to follow the productivity of the land into those areas. The valley bottoms are fairly dormant in the summer, but the plateaus continue to produce bountiful crops (unless you hand that land out as ranch tenure where cattle overgraze and destroy it too. Not their fault, but ours).

    Private land ownership holds us in our place and tends to isolate us as it tends to prevent us from living communally. I’ve experienced the power of a village tending to common needs such as food, shelter, fire and water and it engenders an ease of living that very few experience or understand in these modern times. With private land ownership keeping us static, we don’t allow ourselves to be free and mobile to follow the flow of this place and move with the productivity of the land. As you say, it’s theft and very much not in the interest of the common good of the people or the other living beings that share this place with us.

    We attempt to artificially create an environment that will tend to our basic needs and fail in the attempt. It’s isolating, exclusive and destructive. Those are not desirable qualities in my opinion. Again the natural patterns, as you point out, are still there and showing us the way. We need to lose our minds and come to our senses. We need to get out of our own way and reconnect with ourselves, each other and this place.

    I love your blog!


  3. This is a wonderful, provocative article, excellently referenced with photos. Thank you. This grist calls out to be milled. Where else can you publish it?

    The second ponder-worthy surprise was in where your replies placed the blame: private ownership. That interests me, because as I see the Creator’s plan, there is no such thing as ownership, only stewardship. Ownership is democracy in action – mass greed, government by a mob, each voting for self-interest. Stewardship is polity (Socrates), rule by the masses for the benefit of all. The Almighty said “be consecrated, because I am consecrated.” His angel commanded Adam and Eve to “do all that thou doest in the name of the Son.” All in the service of God and our fellow creatures. Fast and feast, work and play, run and rest, give and receive, wake and sleep, dig and dance.

    It is instructive that when people come home from visiting the 3rd world, they almost all say the same thing, “They are sooooo poor, but they are sooooo _________.”

    You’ve heard it. “…sooooo happy.”

    One has to consider that “but” perhaps does not belong in that sentence. Gardening without water may be part of the great search for happiness.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.