Practical Ways to Re-Indigenize the Grasslands. Really.

Two days ago, I suggested that the former grassland hillsides of the Okanagan Valley (now large, private expanses of unproductive and water-wasting weeds), an area at least equal to the 100s of 1000s of hectares of lost grasslands on the valley benches and the equally extensive lost wetlands of the valley bottom, can be reclaimed for environmentally productive use by weaving into them again valuable plants that have demonstrated an ability to enter the old ecosystems and fill now-lost niches. The balsam-root niche, a kind of clumping wild sunflower,

First of the Year! March 14, 2015

… could be augmented by forms of domestic sunflower…


My Wildflower Garden, with a Bird-seeded Sunflower

… and extend the season for birds and deer, replacing niches currently empty due to extirpation by cattle ranching, as well as provide seed and flowers for human use. Similarly, as I pointed out two days ago, the niche of early greens such as desert parsley…

Desert Parsley, a Few Days After Snow Melt

Seed is a secondary crop. Other early parsleys provide root flours.

… could either be augmented by seeding wild parsley and other cold climate greens, or extended into the lost lily niche by planting or seeding asparagus extensively, to present not one feral plant (as below) but thousands.

Asparagus Looking at New Opportunities

Should predation be a limiting problem, the plants could be protected by screens of young roses or hawthorns.

Black Hawthorn

Not so young, but it was once. There are several generations here. Note the youngest daughters to the left.

However, the reintroduction of human, nutritional and environmental values into degraded, industrialized, colonized and privatized land and, as I pointed out yesterday, healing its structurally racist agenda, need not solely concentrate on crops such as those above. Crops for bees and birds are also essential, if pollination, seed distribution and fertilization are to take place without human labour. For that, a concentrated reintroduction of grazed-down native thistles, would be a good start.


Cirisium Undulatum, Wavy-leaved Thistle

Thistles want to grow here. Here is a colony of scotch thistle…

… poisoned this spring under government orders to protect the grazing values of hillsides such as this …

In Colonial Society, this land is called a farm.

No, it is a mine. It mined ecological value, and is now a tailing field. So it is in a culture that started with a gold rush.

…which has virtually no grazing value of any kind.The grazing value was actually in the thistles!

Currently, wild bees are in crisis, wandering off the droughted, flowerless grasslands to access flowers in such places as my wildflower garden, which are rapidly disappearing, due to government recommendations to remove vegetation on private land, to conserve water. Soon, they will have nowhere to go, while their European cousins, the honeybees, are dying off because of high tech, nicotine-based insecticides sprayed on industrial farms. These are problems that a rejuvenated grassland could help solve. There would also be winter seed for birds, where this year there is none. We are facing a starvation winter that does not need to be. This is an interwoven grassland, which will provide most of the labour if we set it up and work to maintain its balance.


It would be naive to think that the class of property owners within Canada would relinquish the real social value of their private property rights in order to allow open community foraging on their land, and it is probably equally unlikely to expect that they would hire individuals to walk great distances daily over irregular terrain, in order to harvest a crop, such as asparagus, growing within the interwoven ecology of reclaimed syilx grasslands. However, there are practical ways forward. A burn can get things started.

9 Months After the Fire

It has the advantage of eliminating a great subsidy that communities pay to private land owners: their overgrazed, overgrown sagebrush and weed lands along city margins provide a huge fire risk.

Spot the Bear Trying to Blend In

Should fire come, it will be the communities that pay the price of damage, and pay the cost of fighting the fires. That is a massive subsidy. Levying environmental charges against landowners who cover their land in explosive weeds would be a start.

There are, however, many ways, other than prescriptive fire and penalizing levies, for providing benefit to landowners for a retreat from the industrial land-mining called farming. For one, there is a model from Germany, where land is valued. Take a look at an egg-and-bison (yes!) farm north of Lake Constance:


The upper building is a new chicken barn. To get permission to remove agricultural land from production, the farmer was asked to provide an equal amount of land restoring lost ecological values to the district. He chose to plant the two hectare field inside the corner formed by the approach of the driveway to his larger set of buildings (hen house and packing facility) in wildflowers. He receives no payment for this, other than what he can earn from his eggs. Switzerland does it a little differently, providing subsidies of many different kinds, for such varied ecological values as bird habitat (old apple orchards rather than new ones), wild flowers (fenced off areas of pasture, off limits to grazing and cattle), and so on. We could enact legislation of a similar kind, tailored to meet our needs. What’s more, there’s this:

That’s traditional European farming applied to this land, with its corollary soil degradation. This method of farming allows for efficient machine access, in large unified planes. However, there’s also this…

That’s a shared coyote, snake, porcupine, deer and bear trail up a dry creekbed. Rather than being a plane removed from an interwoven environment, it is a line through it, allowing easy access to varied environments left and right, up and down slope. We could use this model to create access pathways, of use to all who use the hillsides, but making foraging efficient in a new agricultural model. And that’s just for starters. We can do this. If we don’t, we will die. The fence below?

It’s only for people. We can make such violent forms of social interaction unnecessary. And that’s just the start.

Alfalfa Walking

When you rely on animals brushing up against your seeds, or pecking at them, to knock them to the soil, it’s best to fall over with the weight of your flowers, so your seeds are a whole body’s distance away. After all, right down in the middle of beautiful you isn’t going to work so well. Alfalfa is great at this kind of walking.

In this way she marches a whole body’s distance away, every year. What’s more, because clear ground has no dry stalks of vegetation to hold her up (and prevent her from falling over), it’s exactly there, where there is space for her, that she walks. We too.

Humans and alfalfa share an ecosystem and go out walking there together on a summer’s day.

Midsummer Autumn

Celebrate the season!

It’s a colour palette for rejoicing.

Art without four seasons. Life without four seasons. Life with dozens, often two at the same time, passing through each other like clouds!

What a beautiful dance.

Oh, Grass, My Beautiful One!

Grasses are the children of a warming earth, and this is their season. I’ve been talking of science lately, but a science based in poetry and in ancient earth knowledge, so I thought today, walking out in the grass, hey, why not show you the magic of the grass? Have a look!

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There is More Than One Sun and More than One Earth

In 1543, Copernicus published this book and changed everything:


De Revolutionisis Orbi

Before he did that, the Earth was considered the centre of the universe. After he was done, the sun was considered the centre of the solar system, and the stars, well, they were out there.

514px-Nikolaus_KopernikusCopernicus, the Priest Who Started the Scientific Revolution

His model of the solar system looked like this:



It is an elaboration of the medieval image the poet Dante made of the universe in 1320 — a change of perspective but not much else…


In turn, that image goes back to the Greek tragedies, which were stages to represent the zodiacal codes of the Art of Memory, which eventually was codified like this:


Giordano Bruno’s Memory Map

A Solar System, or a sun, by a different name.

Such maps were incorporated into theatre in the Elizabethan age. Shakespeare’s theatres were built on the model of such maps. His plays place consciousness in the middle of them. Kind of like an updated Dante. Here’s Dante:


Dante and Virgil Looking Up to the Heavens

Dante’s world was a stage. (I think ours is too.)

We stand on the threshold of a similar revolution, or extension of old patterns, should we wish to take it. Today, I’d like to suggest that the earth is a planet with many suns, not just one. Here are two.


Two Suns at Dusk in November

One fuses hydrogen into Helium. Its particles take 100,000 years to get from the core to the surface, and then a few minutes to get to the earth, where they reform the sun in many shapes, which are very slow and bind sun, water and earth into complex organic, self-replicating patterns. The other, this sunflower, one of those patterns, carries particles of that sun through the winter into the spring, for the reaction to continue on earth again.

Meanwhile, deep within the Copernican version of events, humans eventually started doing this:

P1070439Torturing the Last of the White Sturgeon in the Columbia River

Four hours to haul it up out of the radioactive sludge, then you let it go and see if you can do it again. These most ancient fish have mouths full of hooks from previous torture events. This is called sport. yes, That’s 2 of 9 weapons grade plutonium reactors watching. The Cold War was largely conducted here. It still is.

We are inside the reaction. It completes itself when it strikes matter. You could say, we are inside the sun. Everything we see and touch, and every way in which we think, are the result of the imaging of the sun in the material of the earth. Copernicus was only presenting a perspective based on the traditions and knowledge of his time. It has evolved into a powerful scientific and engineering tradition. It is only part of the story. The story has evolved. There are so many earths…

P1360227Choke Cherries in November Rain

There are so many suns …


Wild Grapes After the Birds Were By

There are whole worlds and technologies here, far more capable of healing us and the earth than the Copernican one.


Mariposa Lily: an Indigenous Food Crop Reborn

In open agriculture, indigenous crops take their rightful place as efficient water farmers on dry hillsides. One of the most beautiful of these crops is the mariposa lily. In most parts of its range, it is a white lily, with a dark centre, but here it has a colour all of its own …

Mariposa Lily with a Green Sweat Bee, Bella Vista

This plant maintained early Mormon settlers in Utah during through catastrophic years of crop failure and hordes of grasshoppers. It was a staple of the Sylix, here on the northern edge of Plateau culture.

By mid-summer, once they have farmed the water that is moving through the ecosystem of the hills, mariposa lilies look like this…

Mariposa Lilies

Their seeds scatter at the lightest brush of their pods.

These plants are hardy perennials, with low water requirements, which fall in the wettest months of the year. They have trouble seeding themselves in mats of cheatgrass, but even on cheatgrass slopes, they readily find vole gardens to sprout in, and do very well when planted out as bulbs. In fact, many varieties are commercially available as landscape flowers. They are also well-suited to extreme drought conditions. The bulbs have a mechanism by which their roots flex and lower them to the optimal depth (about fifteen centimetres down). Once established, they last for years. If you don’t eat them, of course! Mariposa lily bulbs are starchy, and not unlike potatoes. The seedpods taste similar to fresh peas. They can be confused with death camas, so have a positive identification. Because of their perennial nature, mariposa lilies can be grown as a starch bank, to be used in years of need, and then slowly built up again in years of plenty. This is a plant that could support an agricultural industry supplying indigenous food crops, as healthy alternatives for the growing North American indigenous population.


They would fetch a pretty price and create a lot of culinary excitement. What’s more, with the renewing capacity of fire removed from the hillsides, extensive replanting would be of tremendous benefit to the ecosystem, especially to its most beautiful bees but also to the honey industry as a whole, and your neighbourhood vole would love you. Hey, love is good, right?