Low Tech Greenhouses for Deep Winter Gardening

It is time to plant a rock! There’s nothing like a rock to create a world. Look at this beauty, rounded by a glacial river long ago, high above today’s valley. It catches the sun under the snow, creates a hollow down there where it’s nice and warm, waters the soil, and then melts the snow cover to let in more light and air.

Note how the up-slope portion of the rock continues to melt snow, to keep water flowing through the garden below. If the slopes are steep enough, with enough sun, the slope of snow will slowly slide downhill over the rock, which will cut it like a knife, allowing for an ever-extending downslope garden. Summer is that garden at its fullest extension. What’s more, there are a lot of gopher hills in the summer. Perfect for a bit of rock-sowing. Your garden might even be out of the reach of quail, who like to nibble sprouting seeds from February on. But they can stand up above and fertilize it, that’s ok.

Oh, those poor people who live where there are no stones!

Using Gravity Propulsion to Reach the Sun

The grasses below, in a rainwater pool in Grundarfjörður, Ísland, sure do. They are expressions of a force stronger than gravity. It is the force that holds water molecules together, and holds them together with each other. There is nothing in the image below which is not water, except for some carbon and some light.p1380044The grass is water, the water is, well, water, the carbon is bound with the water, and so is the light. If you look closely, you will see how the water’s surface actually denies the pull of gravity, when it strikes the edges of carbon strings (it could have been stone or any old thing). That is the force stronger than gravity which the grasses constrain in ladders of carbon, which they then used to force the sun to draw water up the ladders. By building the ladders tightly behind this rising flow, the grass has built a stalk, and onto the stalk, in the same process but drawn into far subtler dimensions, it has grown seeds, from the same process. It is all a process of water, soil and sun, held in tension by gravity but not defeated by it. Gravity, you see, doesn’t just pull things down (which it does well.)


Berserkjarhraunfoss from Behind

It binds them as well, but then, it is a binding principle, formed from a spinning world. The surface tension of water is just such a force, formed from a stronger energy: the cores of suns.


So, when someone tells you that the Okanagan is a land without water…


… you might tell them that when it was like Iceland (55,000,000 years ago), the stuff flowed all over the place, but now that gravity has woven the water into the land, it is more filled with life. It is dense with it, where we don’t force the water out and make it flow again.


If you work with that life, you will find that water, and you will begin to understand gravity as a living force.

At Home in the Earth Community

Like the grass on the Big Bar Esker below, I don’t live in the straight beams of light. I live at the continuity of points of intersection with them, which bend in the wind.


The flows of water and time create the same effect. The image below shows them in action, at the old Secwepemc village site along the Bonaparte River, alienated by the Hudson’s Bay Company long ago.

The forms of the land intersect with water and light over the seasons here, to create patterns which lead game animals down to the river, and to the people who live at that intersection. Those of us, all of us, who live on this earth live right there: humans, deer, bears, porcupines, eagles, whoever we are. I’ve provided a second image below, for a closer look. When looking at it, I suggest a close look at the ridge line, the boundary between snow drift and sun drift. Note the game trails that follow those crests, and the meltwater trails that break down the faces of this volcanic ash.


In that dance with water and light, I live too. There are many other patterns here. Here are just a few…


Green Water Zone (Low Gravity): plants move water so slowly across the slope that it, and the gravity that intersects with it, essentially pool, like lakes; as the sun mixes with them, they are also lakes of the sun. The esker grasses I showed you express this zone well.

Vertical River: Douglas fir trees take excess water up out of the energy field, as transitional gravity engines.

Gravity Brakes: Douglas fir trees catch the water at the base of high volume flow catchments, and are, essentially, a continuation of the flow into life. In effect, life concentrated in high energy systems takes on secondary living forms (such as Douglas fir trees)

Movement Zone (High Gravity): in this zone, water, earth, sun, wind and time move water rapidly from the pooling of the low gravity green water zone to the pooling of gravity, movement, and all other boundaries in the …

Horizontal River (Boundary Gathering): low pressure zone. Here, where all forces (and game) come together, humans, the boundary-dwellers, naturally collect.

Cold Pole/Heat Pole: the high gravity Movement Zone is powered by the alteration of the earth across seasons (time), across hot and cold faces, an effect extended between the cold and hot seasons of the year by the storage of snow on the cold faces by the wind, which is then released throughout the hot season, not as wind but as water and cold. This pumping action creates the details of the topography of this zone, which is an expression of life (ie boundary) energy.

Game Trail (cold-heat ridge): At the high altitude boundary zone between heat and cold effects, where sight is possible and wind created by the boundary zones, and by larger ones in the mountains and valleys around, animals, which are the expression of crossed boundaries, flow.

Stream (cold-heat sink): At the low altitude boundary zone between heat and cold effects, water and mud not animals flow. This effect is the concentration of the…

Sloughing (Moving Boundary): At this boundary, the energy of the cold-heat ridge is transferred down to the cold-heat sink, in the same manner as gravity brakes. This energy will flow, eventually, to the Horizontal River, which is an expression of all these forces concentrated together, quickened, and alive in the most complex form. In that web of boundaries, the boundary dwellers, are alive.

Together these energy transfer points add up to a living landscape, as complicated as the photosynthesis in a leaf or the flow of blood through a body.


A “human” body? An “earth” body? An “ecosystem” body? No. A “human-earth-ecosystem” body, or, better put, a community, living, together. They can be separated, but separation will diminish them. Separation will, in other words, also diminish humans. Taken together, its body forms are not human, but human body forms are linked to them. The Big Bar Esker, for example.


The big heads of the Okanogan, for example …


Chopaka Mountain and Hurley Ridge, in the Lower Similkameen…


The power forms of the Snake River …


… which take many forms…


The story-telling cliff faces of the ancestral Nimiípu villages along the Kooskoosie River ..


… or above the Snake, where cloud colours the hills …


… and so many more. Humans can live in any boundary zone, even artificially created ones, and can extend those boundaries into yet further boundaries. The spiritual boundary pools of Buffalo Eddy, on the Snake, for example…


The transportation boundaries of North American cities, such as Vernon below …

Industrial farms, such as this one in Okanagan Landing …


… and many more.


Nonetheless, the richest possible boundary zones bring the richest possible life. At the mouth of the Yakima River (below), for example, where its water meets that of my lake and most of the Northwest, flowing on its way to the sea…


…or here at the sacred Peshastin Pinnacles, above the Pisquouse (Washaptum or Wenatchee) River …


The alternative is a war against life, within monocultures. Its romantic, sure, with gas masks and capital risk and male sacrifice and courage but that stuff coming out of that sprayer is poison. It kills life. We can talk about the ethics of that, weighing risks and benefits, for a hundred years, but the end of it will be just these simple things: it kills life and it creates only the simplest of boundaries, manipulable by those boundary-dwellers, humans, into harnessing the planet to feed them alone. Note the fence to keep out deer.


Industrial Apple Orchard in Bloom, Okanagan Landing

Where do you live? Here?

Moose at the foot of a Big Head on McLaughlin Canyon Road.


Spraying a Cherry Orchard Above Swan Lake






These are not just lifestyle choices.


Next: the self-identity boundary.

The Earth Puts Her Roots in the Sky

I want to draw a correspondence today between leaves and soil. I think it’s pretty cool. First, here are some leaves doing just fine without soil. Welcome to mullein.


When it finishes its second year, it looks like this:


Notice as well, how the seams of quartz and agate in an uplifted and dynamited bedrock wall, create tracks of water and gravity which mullein (and its friends) love.


The sand and clay kicked down by deer following similar patterns through the rock face as they skitter down is not what the mullein below has spent the summer growing in. Instead, it has thrust its roots deep into a seam in the rock, and is using the film of water and minerals between the two walls of that seam, drawn towards it by gravity and the capilliary action of the sun on the hot rock face, which draws the water out like wire.


Here’s what that space of surfaces and the water between them, drawn outward and upward by the sun, looks like when it becomes self-replicating. The wasp is a bonus!


Now, one more ingredient: within all life, including this guy …



… DNA strands are folded in just such a way that they are open to receive just the right genes, in order, and no other. Leaves are extensions of this principle as well.


Cottonwood, Vernon, British Columbia

They extend this precision folding in a way that transfers chemical molecules and photons of light in a specific order, rotates them to expose their weakest electron links, and pressures them to transfer electrons across a membrane. Out of these transferred electrons, they recombine hydrogen, carbon and oxygen in specific ways to create sugars. The biosphere is powered by these sugars, just as the earth is powered by the sun.


Fire Pines in the Yellowstone Caldera

To recap: the root in the crack and the leaf in the air are doing similar work; the root is tapping into minerals transferred from deep in the rock by the molecular bonds of water drawn into the sun; the leaf is using folded, replicated pieces of bonded hydrogen, oxygen and carbon to allow electrons to drift out into positively charged space, and be stored there in sugars, from which their electrical charges can be released later. It can be a beautiful thing to watch. There is, for instance, more sunlight in the sumac leaves below than there is in the air around them.


Male Staghorn Sumac After Flowering

It works both ways. Those leaves are roots in the sun.

Rowan, Opening in the Spring Sun

The plant is a point of balance: the membrane, or series of surfaces, given form.


Next: the beautiful mathematics of soil surfaces.

Living Soil

Here’s some soil:

It’s a series of shelters, which capture water, minerals and heat, and amplify the conditions for light and seed germination, in the warm area in the first millimetres above the earth’s surface.Yes, I know, this isn’t “soil” as the dictionary defines it:

The top layer of the earth’s surface in which plants can grow, consisting of rock and mineral particles mixed with decayed organic matter and having the capability of retaining water.

But look at this:


That image of moss fulfills this definition of soil (the 5th of five in online dictionaries):

 place or condition favourable to growth; a breeding ground.

Such a breeding ground can become complex:


That’s definitely soil, and is full of life. It’s also a growing surface. The common definition looks like the corn (and tomato) field below:


Note the chopped up cornstalks, and the chopped up and shredded plastic sheeting, designed to heat this ground up to achieve a similar effect to the one the mound of moss in the image below does on its own.


Mounds have been shown to dramatically raise the temperature of their environments and are the chosen form of plants in extreme environments. Notice how the mound above has a fellow traveller, a sprouted flowering plant putting out its first leaves. The flat, warm surface of the earth has been amplified, and in this heat, with the water that is trapped in the moss, like this water caught between these pine needles, …

… the plant has many basic needs fulfilled. Rather than flowing away, the water is held by the tension between two surfaces, at which point its own surface tension, amplified by the support of the surfaces around it, is stronger than gravity.


The “agricultural soil” that is “the top surface of the earth” is doing no more: the soil has one surface, but beneath that surface all the grains of mineral of which it is formed amplify that surface area many millions of times, and allow that water to bind and defy gravity. It makes a web not that dissimilar from the multi-year complex of this stag horn sumac:


Plants pick it up from there. Above ground, none of that is visible. It looks like “soil” is a magical mineral and compost mix, not that that is a clumsy approximation of a complex life-giving environment.



This subterranean story is not much different from the moss story except that the agricultural version of this soil is a simplified, manufactured material. Plant growth is chopped up and tilled into a mineral substrate, along with its plastic heating technology; simple bacterial and fungal growth, feeding off of the petroleum-based fertilizer which has provided nitrogen, essential for plant growth (and otherwise obtainable from the atmosphere, at least in complex living environments) decays that material into water-absorbing cellulose filaments and releases trace minerals, which another generation of plants can use. It’s an intervention.


It’s not pretty, though, and it’s a very simplified system that, without the application of nitrogen fertilizers or industrially-grown and sown seeds, produces only simplified weed cultures, of little value to anyone.



It is a new age of the earth. No-one knows what these weed ecologies are doing, because no-one is watching them. Certainly, they are building soil, and that is most true, but what, then is soil? The manufactured, mulch product, such as this desert landscape with unpicked tomatoes?


No, it’s far more. It is recreating life. Here’s a clue, from the shade under an old sagebrush plant on the hill.



Soil is a complex environment of fungi and bacteria and other microorganisms. They are the living things that cluster around the roots of plants like these blue bunch wheat grasses…


… or around the roots of larger plants like this robin-rich cottonwood …


… and recreate the living soil surface in the complex weather patterns of the underground atmosphere. Yes, there is one. When the air content of soil goes below a certain threshold, through either compaction or water saturation, everything dies. Air is key. After all, these plants couldn’t tolerate drowning.


Neither can their sisters underground. The atmosphere above the soil is turbulent. In it, water is released from saturation into precipitation and is taken back up again to balance the pressure of the air.


It’s the same underground, except there the process is expressed through the work of up to 1,000 different species per cubic metre of grassland soil; there, water, clinging to the mineral particles of the soil, attracts minerals, extracted not from the clouds by the sun and the cold, but extracted by microorganisms, and passed onto plant roots, which provide them with oxygen, which they breathe out. The large cousins of these microorganisms on the surface are doing this work, too. There we call it photosynthesis.


Each leaf is the earth. The earth is a leaf. Soil is not mineral. It is a living process of breath, as is the way leaves breathe the sun and the air and make stone move and bloom.

P2070619 P2020335 P2110471


Next: more on the relationship between photosynthesis, soil atmosphere, plants and the sky.

Just Like Feeding Grain to Chickens!

Lichen: 400,000,000 years of two-species partnership and counting. Fir needles: 280,000,000 years and counting.P2010981

That’s a gap of 120,000,000 years, when lichens got their acids from rocks, rather than from trees, which got them from rocks. But after those lonely days, it’s often been a three-way partnership. Or four. Wolves and coyotes no doubt mark logs like this. And from time to time a bear comes along and gives the whole thing a whack.



Sagebrush and Global Cooling

The image below shows a water strider. It uses the intermolecular bonds of water to hold itself up. If you look closely you can see the water bend beneath it, as if these creatures were walking on a film. They are: a film of energy.Meet the dry land water strider: big sagebrush.P2010108 The leaves of this aromatic plant are covered in tiny hairs.P2010101 These hairs trap the water which the leaves breathe out while they’re making sugar by eating photons from the sun.P2010096 They hold it in place by using those hairs in the way the water strider uses its legs. The result is a bond between the hairs of the big sage and the intermolecular bonds of the water.P2010095 This provides a high water atmosphere above the surface of the leaf, so it doesn’t lose water in the heat of the day, by augmenting the surface tension of the water — water’s own energy — to prevent the movement of water molecules across the barrier.P2010093

Just as water striders use the bonds of the water to hold themselves up in the air. This has been a summer of drought and fire. We would have gone a long way towards preventing it if we had adapted this technology and made membranes for our open water five years ago, or even this spring. It has the same effect as shade.



In an atmosphere in which the loss of water, even from human skin, to the atmosphere creates heat, global cooling can start with the big sage.


Sometimes walking on water means holding it still.

When Volcanoes Crumble Flowers Come

When the earth is spoken of in its own terms it becomes poetry and is a language for spirit, like this…

When rock catches sun and snow, lupins sprout and sagebrush buttercups and desert parsley bloom. Meanwhile the rock draws water out of the body of the earth, cracks with frost, turns to salt, and feeds the soil, over a few thousand years.



The sun draws water through the stems of the flowers in the same process, while the flowers follow underground water, which follows subsurface stone, in the same way …



… and then comes the sun, as called …


If the flowers are stone that has evaporated as salt into the air, then the wasp is salt that has fallen as rain from the air to the suns that salt has made out of water.

This too is science. (It is not, however, erosion.)

Capturing Light

I’ve noticed before that leaves that have finished photosynthesis give off more light than they receive, because their photoreceptive structures, which trap photons of light, bounce them around about twenty times before they are eaten by the blue-green algae they hold captive at the centre of those little light pens. When that little animal, or what is genetically left of it, is dead, the structures still do their work. Instead of capturing light, they intensify it, by a factor of up to twenty times. Look at the images I managed to catch of this magic today!


Yes, that’s a ray of the sun that is shining, and not the leaf, but look how it is shining!

P1590377 Pretty amazing! We’re used to seeing these kinds of effects in plastic, through which a bright light is projected… or at least we were before the invention of digital video, and projection by excited diode instead.P1590375 But that’s not what’s really happening here. Here, the excited “diodes” are the chloroplasts (the light pens of the leaves).P1590366 It’s not the same as exciting individual atoms into high energy states.

P1590365 It is life. No rock could pull this off.

P1590362 Here’s what a leaf looks like that has lost the capacity to capture light.

P1590355 It reflects it instead.

P1590348 In the following image, a little capacity remains.P1590346 If it were summer, this image would be duller, and green, because the algae would be eating the photons that make this leaf so bright.

P1590341 When leaves are surfaces, reflecting light, they are dull. Life is the process of having depths. Well, as far as a leaf is concerned. I can’t but think that there are practical applications for energy capture, lying within these effects.


Until we figure them out, the leaves have us beat … even when they are “dead.” Engineers, come on, you can do this!