Artificial Intelligence and Creation

The people of the world of the creation are creatures. They are creations, created by looking to the world in wonder (or anguish, confusion, need, joy or contentment, puzzlement or any other wave of energy)  and having the world answer with the form that creates a balance in the shape of that space.

That time is now, or it is 200 years ago or 2,000,000 years ago, or just now. The distance a person places it at does not change ability to respond to creation, but at a certain distance it means people will say that “they” will use “their bodies”, or the bodies of others, as tools. That is the original artificial intelligence, the one that calls yarrow and mustard (above) weeds, because they are not forage foods for cattle, without calling to them and accepting their response.  All other forms of artificial intelligence follow.

The Okanagan’s Dirty Secret

Is it the Dirty Laundry Winery?

No. That’s actually a little bit of colonial Canadian culture using the Okanagan to market Canada to itself by romanticizing prostitution. That’s easy. No, no, I mean the freaking air. Or, rather, its replacement with smoke and car exhaust.

Maybe building a city 150 miles long was a bad idea.

But, hey, party on.

But maybe you could walk?

Sweet Apricot Kernels

Move over California, with your water-hungry almonds. 4.5 litres of water to grow one almond? Ridiculous! We have apricots with sweet kernels here in the north, that can grow in the shrub steppe off of a bit of rain and a snowdrift. Are they currently food safe? No. There are issues with poisons in bitter pits and the potential of toxic amygdalin in sweet ones.

These ones are plump and sweet. Sure, most apricot kernels are bitter (as my friends point out below), but I take heart, because there  is an apricot breeder in the valley working on this right now. As you can see above, he has shared his initial success. The world can be remade one seed at a time. Next, some close testing and, I’m sure, a lot of fine tuning, but we’re on an inspiring path here.

Conjoined Cultures on the Cascadian Coast

Here’s a glimpse into the nature of ritual, a favourite human way of dressing the naked world in the stuff of the mind. Here’s the world, on Discovery Passage, on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. Note that it’s a horizontal human figure staring at the sky. This is ancient knowledge.
Now, compare the latest knowledge in the culture of the island: two richly decorated welcoming figures displaying family ancestry and cultural wealth from Kwakwaka’wakw culture, greeting visitors from the sea. Perhaps the stone heads above are an early incarnation of these figures, or perhaps they are a late one. Either way, the giant stone heads of Easter Island are similar, as they should be, given that the cultural similarities between Polynesian and Kwakwaka’wakw culture exceed 90%. 

It would be wrong to see a simple colonial story here. Look how the carvers have incorporated some good boat-building aluminum into their sculptures, to keep them out of the rot, and how the colonial culture in behind, has created symbolic structures of its own: a modern view rancher on the ridge to the left, an older faux-tutor one in the centre, and down at road level, a contemporary urban loft-and-garage style house: all, like the figures in the foreground, looking out to sea, all richly-decorated and even tattooed, and all laying claims to power. These are both cultures of display. Oh, and the view? Well, water, waves, gravel, driftwood and wind: the colonial verities, read by island culture as “the natural world of First Nations culture.”

I dunno. Some of those rocks are richly decorated, too.

There are older stories here, in which water is not water, stone is not stone, and display is not meant for the eyes alone. Look more closely. Old and new mixed together, really!

The modern colonial view is no less a ritual incantation. Look at this combination of industrial wreckage and mourning that has recreated this beach, with the same sense of a ritualized body looking out to sea.

And the same thing at the coffee shop a kilometre to the north. While the sea just keeps coming in, with waves cast off by passing barges on their way to Alaska. In which the people still wade.

Note the exquisite detail of colonial tattooing in this place, from the mouldering plaster of the Tudor house in the back, and its half-timbered, military cladding, to the shrink-wrapped, plastic cladding of the new loft-house, with its old growth pillars replacing the industrial driftwood of the shore, and its simultaneous display and privacy.

White culture here might desire to represent continuity with New York and London, and it does, kind of…

… but it has more in common with this:

Colonial and pre-colonial worlds are still speaking with each other. Bodies are still re-creating themselves as ritual objects in the world and are still facing the sea, and that sea, still, speaks back.

This relationship is not reducible, but we can live in it, together.

Fire Moves Snow As Well As Ice Does

Do you remember the summer of fires? A big one started at Elephant Hill, outside of Ashcroft, and burned to the north for months. Here is an image of the burn area from the first few days. It’s taken out of my car window as we drove through. I was struck by the power of fire, even in the cold. Look how the land, stripped of bunchgrass to hold the snow, holds it in its eroded gullies instead. This effect will only increase erosion, which is not a bad thing on slopes like this, as it creates water environments, which maintain life.

I was struck by how a pattern of fire replacing grass replaced by fire replaced by grass can be a kind of breathing of the land as it arranges water and settles into it. Fire, in other words, acts much like a glacier does in such environments, moving rock to make pathways for water and light and life. And it does so as a kind of breath, amplifying what is already here.

Beautiful! What’s more, this is an ancient post-glacial river channel, formed when the ice blocked Glacial Lake Thompson and the Thompson River flowed hundreds of metres above its present banks. That work is not finished yet. We are living in the time of creation.


Getting Down to Some Serious Fun in the Kitchen

There are close to 20,000 acres of wine grapes planted in the ruins of the Okanagan Valley, immensely attractive to tourists and restauranteurs alike. The wine? Well, some is fine and most is a kind of sweet fermented grape juice, comfortable and safe and cozy. What, though, if we got really dangerous and made this stuff instead?

You can see that I’m still alive after cooking with over half of this quart already, or at least alive enough to make this image, so that’s good, right? Here, let me help you with some words to answer that question:

Yes it is!

Harold and Huginn Hard at Work Crafting an Uncombed Okanagan Experience for You

Ah, but what is it? It’s magic stuff, with all the flavours of wildflower honey, if not more, and all the flavours of grapes, and an ability to absorb cinnamon within its taste profile (the taste profile already contains cinnamon, which deepens with the addition of some ground Saigon).

This jar contains about 10 pounds of grapes, reduced slowly over heat to a thin syrup. It is far more useful for cooking than honey, for anywhere where the flavour of honey is required without its thickness. For thickness, simply reduce further. Consider this as well: cold-hardy grapes can be used, cropped far, far more heavily than wine grapes, so heavily in fact that there is enough left over for birds, and an increase in spring bee habitat of several hundred percent. And that’s just a bonus to what it can do for our cooking. If we added to this magic elixir…

…which is green grapes turned into a sour juice, we would have two of the three ingredients for salad dressing right there. Just whisking in some oil and we’d be in green heaven. We could easily turn the world of Okanagan cooking on its head. Just imagine what we could do.

This year we’re going to have fun in the kitchen, right here at Okanagan Okanogan.


Green is the Wrong Colour for a UFO

And now for the backstage view of the Okanagan, that artwork installed in the channel between the basalt seas of the Northeast Pacific Shore.

Colonialism 101

The thing about an alien invasion is that you’d think that blending in with local colour patterns would be the way to pull it off, but that would be so wrong. Just be alien, and celebrate it. Force the locals to adapt, that’s the way.

Our Future is Fruitful

The future opens out of the present. First we see. Then we help others see. Then we build it together.

Staghorn Sumac: Our Okanagan Future

The future is already here. It is what we can imagine and then make real out of that imagining. The potential of this plant for transforming food, environment and agriculture in the Okanagan is enormous. The imagining is the future speaking through us. Do we dare open to it and experiment with the fruity acid coatings on these drupes? Or are we too concerned with immediate profit? Or with using the future for aesthetic purposes only?

Aesthetic purposes that don’t lead to action are actions of distance. Look at the years wasted to make this beauty.

Sumac is showing us the way.

How to Grow Tasteless Apples

For around forty years, the provincial government has been financially supporting this method of apple growing. Looks pretty modern and efficient, doesn’t it!

It’s very seductive. Bankers and government officials love it. Dwarf trees. High capital input, almost no labour, and no skill. Very techno-savvy. Much like a robotic automobile assembly line.

The trees might need support so they don’t fall down, but that’s easy. Yeah, sure, there are sap restrictions and flow problems, but, hey, you can control those by pumping more water and fertilizer through the stalks, using a heavily pruned top to pump water out of the roots. 

Yeah, you get a lot of shade, which is bad for apple quality…

…, but you can train your Mexican workers in five minutes to lop away at that stuff two weeks before harvest and let the sun in, right?

Right. Very efficient. But let’s have a closer look. How many fruit buds do you see in this bearing space, about 20% of the tree’s space? Hint: they’re the big fat buds. What? 10?

And look at how they all hang down.

Argue how you will, apples grow best on shoots above the vertical: they have the highest sugar, the highest nutritional value, the richest flavour, the fewest diseases, and the most even ripening. This method of farming produces lousy apples. Not only that, but all this summer pruning is creating beautiful immature wood, poorly suited to get through a winter.

The upper-tree branch below shows how much good potential can be created by summer pruning… all wasted because this branch is not a part of the structural or bearing potential of the tree and must be removed.

In fact, to grow decent apples, all of this stuff has to be cut off.

And all of this, too.

How much longer are we going to subsidize poor growing practices with cash injections, rather than teaching “farmers” how to farm?

How much longer can we afford to damage our bodies, our society, and our land in this way?

How to Beat Global Warming By Turning the Grasslands Upside Down

Water has a surface tension. It divides light into bands of energy. It keeps some and sends more away, but not evenly.

So does mullein.

In mullein’s case, it covers its pulpy, absorbent leaves with tiny hairs, which capture the tension of water, like this…

… to create an insulating skin stronger than the pull of the sun to draw the water into the air, kind of a miniature atmosphere, really, like the water spheres on the cattails below …

…and then, when it snows, mullein holds that snow up in the air, where the cold air can cool it through the night. Slowly, the sun warms the mullein, from its vertical surfaces, drawing the water down onto its leaves and from there to its core.

Note how the hairs on the leaves strengthen the surface tension of the water and keep it from spilling off onto the ground. Useful? Sure is. Consider other ways in which the life up the hill is slowing down and channelling the melting of the snow that fell overnight, and channelling it. Look how the sun and the angle of the earth …

… are transforming time (as measured by water), depending upon exposure. The cottonwoods do this trick in the angles of their branches, from which meltwater spreads slowly outwards over their bark…

… hold it in lateral cracks, from which it is slowly released…

… and even twist it through a 90 degree turn by balancing the pull of gravity and the build up of tension on the bark to move it as a film.

Note as well the seam running across the upper side of the limb. In cottonwoods, those hold so much water for so long that they eventually rot the tree out from within. It drops branches because of this action, and then houses owls.

It inspires water collection devices which gather snow in multiple ways and deliver it through systems of cracks into an inner trunk, where it can be held through drought. Still, even rock is playing this game.

This rock pile, formed by centuries of water and frost action on stone, is little different than the plants above: snow held away from the sun melts slowly, feeding an elaborate plant community through a series of cracks, while the bulk of the snow melts quickly, disappears into the warm darkness between the rocks, and from there into deeper soil. Protected from the sun, it flows downhill.

All you need for this is two rocks, really:

What is beautiful about this pair is that the larger rock, with its minerals and its seam of quartz, is facing the warm southern sun. Its snow disappeared quickly, into the plant community at the stone’s base, but look what the smaller stone, of more porous material, has done…

Either it has absorbed the snow (or the run-off) and is releasing it slowly, in a kind of reverse of a heating effect, or it provided a surface that allowed snow to adhere to the larger stone. Either way, it transforms the sun, just as this water does:

It is, after all, the same snow and the same sun making all these transformations. Here’s a man-made slope doing this work, but vertically instead of horizontally:

In this case, bunchgrass, rooted in the terraces of a stepped wire cage, is stopping the water from flowing, although not stopping the snow from melting or twisting it through time, as the cottonwood does. It simply melts it quickly, then holds onto it, creating a slow waterfall weaker than the roots of the grass. The base of this simple system…

… is unused, and unlike this slope…

… there is no opposing cool slope to hold the snow, to allow the sun to heat it and slowly melt it down the draw between the two slopes, as the mullein does, in the balance of heat and cold illustrated by this globe of moss.

Still, we could build water dams on the hill like this, which would slow time, to release water through seepage through the long hot summer, without losing any land at all. Simply, a south-facing slope like this:

… could be faced with a north-facing one (instead of the open space in which we are standing), which would collect snow and shelter it from the sun. It could even be constructed to channel winter wind and gather deep drifts, to extend melting effects for weeks or months. The melting would come from the south-facing slope we see here. The channel between the two would hold water, which could then be put to use, much like this stone below…

If that’s too much engineering, why not just take that stone as a model and reverse it, like this:

You: Harold! What on earth is that?

Harold: Dearest, it’s a vineyard driveway littered with gravel.

You: That’s what I thought it was! Oh now, look, I have muck on my shoes.

Harold: Those are nice shoes.

You: They were nice shoes. Now they’re mucky. I can’t go to town like this.

Harold: Oh. Sorry. (Pause.) You want to go to town when you have all this cool muck?


You: Yes!

Harold: Oh.

(Harold blushes and continues.)

So, gravel. Look at what it’s doing. Little rocks rise above the cold soil to collect the sun, to melt the snow, which runs off of them and pools at their bases, slowly seeping into the soil instead of running off.

As the sun continues to warm the stones, the absorption area spreads…

… and we have stopped time by storing snow, releasing it slowly and storing the resulting water at a rate matched to the capacity of the soil. It will be released as life and slow subsurface flow through the spring, which is great, but what if we just reimagined the process slightly, laid down an absorbent mat covered with tiny hairs, like the mullein, with little heat units, either spikes of grass or blocks of stone, rising at intervals out of the hairs, to catch snow at various depths and melt it slowly down into the mat. If the mat were on a wall surface …

the heat unit could be below, and lined, like this wood, with vertical conduits that could fill with water. A fence made out of gravel in a cage, or simply stacked rock, would do as well. If the mat were on a road surface or a walking surface…

… the pressure of traffic could squeeze it into transport or deeper capture structures. In all cases, the water will follow the pressure exerted on it in such a way that it maintains bonds with itself, like this flock of starlings…

… or these juniper berries, so pungent and yet so sweet.

The transportation of water is only the manipulation of water tension and time, in relation to the sun. For that, the transportation is more across a membrane …

…than from high country dams to low country farms…

In this vineyard, much of this work is already being done, but in a model conducive to machine harvesting and the capitalization of water (huge volumes are required to pay for the huge cash outlays required to support the system.)  It might be, however, that the heating and cooling effects are as simple as turning stones over, so that their white bellies, of solidified soil salts brought to the surface by the sun, send that sun away, to allow the stones to operate as the engines of cold we need them to be at this time.

We could turn them over again when we need heat. In fact, if the stones took the shape of trees…

…they could be both at once. Time to go out and plant some trees.