Construction Gone Bad in Vernon

Men have been digging at the hill to make a level place to build houses, and have put up a wall of blasted rock to hold the hill back. Note the deer.

In the two months since this wall was constructed, it has rained, oh, 0.5 millimetres once. It was enough to barely wet the soil.

But still it flowed.

And flowed!

Imagine what 2 mm. would do!

Imagine 1 cm.!

What were they thinking?

Were they thinking?

It sure doesn’t look like it.

It will be the city’s problem some day.

Someday soon.

How embarrassing.

As for the deer, she has been doing a little erosion of her own.

Her angles are precise. Note how she has loosed a little avalanche on the left.The rain ought to make good use of that when it comes.

There should be laws against this kind of stupidity and carelessness.

What is Nature?

Stein am Rhein

It is not to be confused with the Earth or the biosphere. That is to continue the white shaming of the earth that plagues North America. Sometimes “nature” is just an old roman fortress, rebuilt over the years, with weeds growing up in old cleared lines of fire, old farms, and over old paths. It is, in other words, a force of erosion of expressions of human will.

Appetite, the Commons and Private Land






Henry David Thoreau argued that industrial agriculture and slavery were expressions of the same impulse, which led towards the replacement of common experience and trade with private possession and sale. In the cattle ranching West, this experience has led to an earth which reflects a mirror of human appetite.V0021621

That cow has been set on this hillside to graze weeds that have come from France. She and her sisters and their kids have been ignoring the weeds from the Ukraine. Her cousins across the valley have been munching on grass grown on treated sewage water. That is the state of the commons today. This is the state of privacy.

The Earth Has Beautiful Skin

Or at least it should. A few days ago, I showed you what the practice of grazing cattle on grassland slopes has done to the earth. Here’s an image of a destroyed slope.P2240186 And here’s an image of one of the trails they make as they wander back and forth in hunger and boredom.P2240044I love cattle. That’s not the point. The point is that in this climate, the earth has a skin, made up of hundreds of species of life, and it looks like this, sometimes …. P2250059… and sometimes it looks like this …P2250060

…and sometimes like this …

… and even this …

There are hundreds, even thousands, of other local variations, but in all of them the earth has a living skin, which modulates water and gas exchange (it breathes, and not as a metaphor), such as in leaf photoplasts or in human intestines, lungs and other cell membranes, and captures seeds and water, in a process analogous to the molecular captures of the carbon strings of photosynthesis. Seeds here don’t sprout in dust or in mud. They join a living community. This “pasture”…


… is not a living community. It is dead. On an earth like that, humans start fantasizing about zombies and artificial intelligence. Oh, people, look in a mirror …


… and see poverty.

Private Property, Cattle and Environment in the Okanagan Valley

The above image shows what lives here: ponderosa pine, a thick ground cover of lichens and mosses, saskatoon bushes, giant rye grass, bluebunch wheatgrass, hawthorns, chokecherries, and mule deer. That works well. This doesn’t work:

These animals screw things up. These ones too:


It might be pretty, but it’s a nine species ecosystem: (red and purple) cheatgrass, big sage, mustard, and horses. There are likely grasshoppers, a mess of sagebrush sparrows hanging around too, a meadowlark or two, a bunch of voles, and a hawk. Land like this once looked like this (1000 species):


And even that remaining grassland on the Chilcotin River is not precisely pristine, as the deep erosion of the streambed in it is the result of trapping all the beavers to make hairpieces like this:

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (r), with Sir Winston Churchill (l), ca. 1939. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Grassland like that attracted cattlemen from Oregon. Within two decades, it looked like this:


There’s a word for that: inedible. When the cattlemen came through, it was rich and productive land, capable of supporting a large number of animals. In fact, British Columbia was built on the stomachs of those cattle. This is what was lost:


As you can see, it has a lot of cellulose but not a lot of green. It’s also on hillsides, and what do cattle do on hillsides? Why this:



This too:


(Note the 100% lack of bunchgrass, which is capable of surviving the summer heat and modulating the flow of water down the slope) Worse yet, cattle do this:


They are tramplers, that’s what they are. Not only does this water have no more ability to hold water, but it has no ability to support any animals except, um, god, I don’t know. Beetles maybe?P2230947

So it goes. Land which was once valuable and rich …



… becomes valueless by ignorance, and rich grazing land …



… becomes a sand pile lightly cloaked with weeds that shrivel up in summer… P2230831

… and quickly become capable of supporting nothing.P2240186

A cow could get the nourishment of the slope below, with its lost mosses and struggling, thinned-out bunchgrass …


… or of this one …


… or this one …P2240179

… out of a couple handfuls of weeds pulled out of the ditch, where the water flows. That’s why horses are always leaning over the fence, by the way. They’re hoping for mercy. So if anyone tells you, ever, that the Okanagan is a dry, parched land …


Not parched! Those stalks are just there to catch the rain.

… please tell them of the culprits. This:P2110800

That’s how much land one cow needs now!

and this:


Unidentified Chief in the B.C. Interior, c. 1897, possibly mis-dated and Chief Nkwala (This bunchgrass was his).

Note the cylindrical beaver on his head for which his people traded their water in a gamble for survival, only to lose the land.

Here’s some bunchgrass doing well.P2110734

Here’s some cow hell:


And that’s the good part. The land below is even more of a desert.P2240263

Private property rights should not be allowed to negate the power of the land, so that the land can be disconnected from life and then sold as a commodity. That way lies poverty and the entrapment of people into communication chains powered by petroleum and distant political forces against which one is powerless to effectively act.


Private property was meant to give freedom. It has become, in this land, a tool by which to deny it to ourselves while denying life to the earth. This is not an insolvable problem. The solution is simple. First, get the cows off the grass. Second, get the horses off the grass. Third, tie land ownership to land stewardship instead of to non-organic “improvements”, which is a word for “estrangement from life.” It can be done. It has been done. The land below was grazed down to cheatgrass 140 years ago.


Junction Sheep Range, Chilcotin River

This is what its slope looks like now.


This is a planted bunchgrass slope in Vernon, in the Okanagan:


This slope gets about 2 centimetres of water a month, including up to 60 centimetres of snow. None of it flows away. Not a drop. The grassland below is grazed for two weeks a year and walked on for many more:

IMG_1579 copy

Hikers Returning from the Farwell Dune, Chilcotin River Canyon

It can sustain that, forever. Two weeks, by the way, supports a far heavier cattle population than this:


It’s not dreaming. It’s simple dollars and sense. What stands in the way? What it always was: bad land use policy. Remember we began here:

Nothing begins here:


Except hunger.


Don’t Mess With the Earth, I Say

Some people look at the flax, that used to keep people clothed in the cold, and think, “My, that makes life worth living.”


And other people just whack it down.



Yeah, that looks better.



Heck, might as well have a go at the sagebrush, too.



Cuz, what’s that, a weed or something.



Yeah, that’s it. But, you know, with all the concrete and the $300 per month in strata fees for a front lawn the size of a putting green, and all the red, Eastern Canadian Maples planted to make retirees from Canada feel at home here in the West, there is revenge. And not just the wild lettuce and mullein moving in.



I mean, even the romantic maples along the boulevard aren’t quite as romantic as you might think.



They’re making their move! That’s a seven year old sidewalk, that is. By the looks of it, in a decade, it’ll be a all broken up. My money is on those maple seeds. Well, and the flax, too.



Like I said, don’t mess with the earth.

The Problem With Petrochemical Agriculture

It’s too easy to do it wrong.



View of Spallumcheen Farm from Swan Lake

A 10,000-year-old lakebed gets thrown up into the wind while boaters get ready to be pulled around at speed on a bird nesting lake in a dip in the old post-glacial lake’s bed.

Vineyards in Germany and Canada Compared

Here’s the wall of a vineyard road in Germany (Schlossberg, Rüdesheim am Rhein)


Vineyard Stair, a Self-watering garden zone.

The wall collects water and delivers it to a reservoir. Here, the land is reformed to grow a native plant, riesling.

Here’s the wall of a vineyard road in Canada (Vineyard at the Rise, Vernon)


The native plants are gone (erosion), the soil is flowing away (erosion), water is piped in (erosion.)

So live the Canadians, on land that is not theirs. Pity them. They don’t have a clue.