First Peoples

The Harvest Begins, With Desert Parsley (and a very fine rock)

The desert parsley is up in the Similkameen.

This is on the south-facing side of a gulley. The north side was still covered in snow, so perhaps three days before this slope was as well. Just a week ago it was bitterly cold. It shows what a rock can do to advance the seasons. Check out the lichen above the parsley. It shows where the water came off the rock when the snow melted. For another example, check out the rock below. Note the (black) top face of the rock, where snow lay, and the lichen-crusted, south-facing wall of the stone.


Here’s a closer look:

Centimetre by centimetre as snow was pushed off the top off the rock by the heat of this exposed face, its water trickled down and was caught by this lichen. Any that reached the ground would be rich in nutrients and, with a little luck…

… would catch wild parsley. You can even see the little streamed it made to the left of the parsley, as well as to the right of the small lower rock to the parsley’s right. This plant grew in place here even when the rest of the slope was covered in snow. That’s what a stone can do. It’s not a large effect, perhaps, but human survival on this land depended for up to 12,000 years on it. So, not a small effect, really, at all. Two other things are at work there. First, wet spring soil causes the rock to slide down-slope, just a little, compressing soil in a wave at its lower face, precisely where the parsley is growing. Second, the rock is exposed around its edges, providing a crack that can catch seeds. The rock below…

… does not fulfill all these requirements. If I were to plant parsley seeds here, I would know which rock to choose by the pitch of the slope, the soil type, and the speed of water moving downslope. And I would know to plant those seeds in the summer, if I wanted a harvest a couple days after the snow left. I suspect this parsley was left here, undisturbed, because at this time of year, in this part of their local migratory cycle, they are elsewhere. The few weeks that parsley needs to rush off its seeds are probably timed to areas absent of deer at this time. It all goes to show that to plant a garden one doesn’t need to till the soil. Planting a rock might be the best place to start.

2 replies »

  1. I appreciate this exercise in active observation. It reminds me of Calvin De Witt’s and E. O. Wilson’s way of “beholding” rather than (merely) looking at the creation.


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