Vertical Lakes, Subsoil Dams and the Bear’s Cold Storage

There was forty centimetres of snow on this draw a couple weeks ago. Don’t think it’s all gone.

The shade on the south western slope is keeping it damp in the soil, and the bunchgrass on the hot north eastern slope is holding it in its roots. Same thing one cut to the west, below.

Welcome to the vertical lakes of Bella Vista! The saskatoons and choke cherries in the gap between the two regimes thrive on the water gravity draws down from the lee slope and the warmth from the grassy one.

As the winter progresses, the snow will come again, and will be caught in the tangle of bushes, effectively making tiny lakes of cold — artificial glaciers, if you like.

We could, of course, encourage this snow collection, by cutting the land so that the wind deposits the snow in these draws, which can be planted and harvested. Even hot, dry cuts, with inopportune sun exposure, can still delay the drought of August by enough weeks to support a few shrubs. If this were a flat hillside, they would not be here.Even without enough water to host some shrubs, the shade effects create two separate harvesting climates. That’s useful, too.

We could, of course, help out, as the rain erosion in this abandoned housing excavation suggests. Currently, snow is pushed to roadsides, so it can flow through storm sewers into the lake system. We could store it, instead.We don’t have to think small, either.

Look how a natural stone dam in the middle of a draw forces the subsoil water up the slopes and creates a lake of trees, effectively moving the boundaries upslope and using gravity to pump water to the bushes.

The harvesting period of a crop can be extended in this way. Think of it as cold storage, at no cost. Mind you, there are bears. Here’s his tunnel through the hawthorns.

I usually think like the fruit grower I am, but, hey, if it’s more productive to set up these orchards and harvest the game that shelters in them, that would work, too. It beats saying that the land is so weedy and overgrazed that it has no agricultural value any more and should be turned into housing, for which there is no water. It is called “doing something in particular.” I like that.

Oh To Be a Heron in the Springtime

The Okanagan hosts the world’s only urban heron rookery. Things are full of action there at the moment.


The Rookery, Vernon

The rookery, however, is on private land, surrounded by tire dealerships, a walled housing village, and various mechanical shops. Currently, the “owner” of the land is protecting the herons’ right to this, their space, despite the protests of neighbours about the danger these trees present. If life is to survive the industrialization process in the Okanagan, land ownership rules will change to give priority to these birds, in the way that agricultural land uses are currently protected. When all thrive on this land, all thrive. Blessed be.

Playing with Land

The British Columbia Agricultural Land Reserve Commission, created to protect agricultural land from development, has just approved the transformation of 10 acres of agricultural land on the Okanagan College Property in Vernon into sports fields, although originally the commission had expressed a wish that the college would develop an agricultural program on the land. Full details here on CHBC TV news. The 7.8 million dollar project will now go to the voters of Coldstream and Vernon, to see if they wish to spend their money on this project. Meanwhile, the Okanagan remains the Western world’s only major agricultural area without a college facility for training in agricultural practices or for agricultural research. It is not an area short of sports fields. I believe this is a missed opportunity. We could have developed alternate agriculture on this site, even a traditional first nations garden. Now, I should explain where I’m coming from. Take a look at this:

Six Mile Ranch, Kamloops Lake

This land is not dissimilar to the Kalamalka Lake land owned by Okanagan College. It is no longer in the Agricultural Land Reserve, because in 1997 and 1998 the citizens of Kamloops raised a big stink about how no commission from outside of the Kamloops area should have a say in their economic future. Their future, they argued, was in using this land to create wealth for a generation, out of a world class golf course and residential development. After a lot of political strings were pulled, local politicians and Eastern developers got their way.

Here’s what that development looks like fourteen years after that debate:

All the Roads are In …

But where are the people?

The Ranch has been sculpted into the Tobiano golf course and development, advertising 18,000 acres in which to live, rest, and play. Here’s a view looking from the eastern edge of the development, towards the golf course:

Live, Rest, and Play?

And work for two men.

Things haven’t worked out as planned. The thing is, the development came in just before the provincial government pulled the rug out from the middle class in most of the Province of British Columbia, by balancing its budget in 2001 and 2002 through the cancelation of all policies that placed governmental management services within the communities of British Columbia and withdrawing them to Vancouver in the far southwest. It’s attractiveness as a rich person’s playground has diminished. If the investors had actually been British Columbians, they would have known this and gone to the Dominican Republic instead. Here’s what has happened to the investor’s plans:

A 30% Loss over 14 years.

At this rate, in 30 more years, the lots ought to be worth about zilch.

This isn’t good business. Actually, it’s not business at all. The following, however, is good business:

A Good Harvest

Hay grown this year on a small plot of land on the eastern edge of Tobiano. The Tobiano development could have quadrupled this pile, easy. Or it could have grown enough potatoes to supply a good-sized city.

Agricultural cities that don’t have colleges with programs in agriculture and agricultural innovation screw things up like this.