Imagine the Technological Possibilities!

Imagine if you could regulate heat loss and roof melting simply by switching from a flat roof to a roof covered in river rock, or a lightweight approximation of it. The insulating properties of the rock would keep the cold of the snow away from the roof, while the relative warmth of the snow would insulate the rock. Temperate change be gradual. What’s more, air flowing around the rounded forms of the rock would draw off the heat they give off while cooling under the effects of the snow, which would draw off the snow in channels, while allowing the insulating processes of snow and rock to continue. The rounded rocks are essential to make the process work. 

One Day After the Snow

Such a construction technique applied to even greater open spaces would allow for the gradual melting of snow, preventing sudden run-off events and allowing for a steady pumping of water through an environment. Notice how cheat grass uses thatch (below) to incubate seed in warmth, along a similar principle…

… while using the thatch to keep a warm layer of air next to the soil. By the time freezing happens, the soil will be drenched with melted snow. At that point, melting will add heat to the soil.

Three dimensional roofs with channels, that manipulate freezing and thawing processes to maintain steady states or gain an advantage on climate, that’s the way. Of course, you could farm like this, too. Then again, is that not the general form of Cascade, with an uneven surface generating warm valley floors?

The Big Bar Esker Against the Marble Range

And again?

My Grandfather Bruno Leipe and His Dog Pootzie Above the Similkameen, c. 1963

photo Hugo Redivo

In the case of the Similkameen, the warm valley floor is a sea of infilled river gravel in a deep glacial trench, which takes us back to where we began…


Cascadia is a dynamic land, isn’t it! By reducing run-off, and spreading out growing seasons, much of the work of industrial agricultural systems can be done at no cost, after original set-up. And we’re still talking about systems of depreciation and extraction, why?

Island in a Grassland Sea

p1500421Rocks are one of the richest grassland environments. They turn bodies of heat into surfaces and surfaces of heat into bodies. They turn winter into spring, spring into summer, and low into high. We would do well to plant rocks. Planting the right ones would take place of much technology. Plus, fun work, right?

Sustaining the Okanagan 14: Plant Tech

We exceeded the valley’s population carrying capacity 25 years ago. Our issue is water. You’d think it would limit human population expansion, but humans are socially clever and limit social access to water instead. To forestall an inevitable class revolution, it’s time to develop new water technology now. The plant world offers many examples of what can be done. All that is absent is the application of human cleverness to something other than social manipulation and IT. For example, the beautiful weed, Bladder Campion…P1180659

Silene latifolia


Look at how the flower forms around an open chamber, with a spray of petals around its lips.


This arrangement is not designed to capture water, but no matter. We have the technology to use this example to create water collection devices, which could stand inert until it rained, catch the rain, and store it by funnelling it from their petals into their bells. At that point, the water could be drawn down a hollow stem (tube) into a larger collection device, or when the level in each bell reached a certain weight the bell could tip, the water would pour out into a trough, which would then deliver it to a collection or distribution point. Alternately, little collectors like this (or banks of them) could be placed beside individual plants. They could collect rain, just as the plant, its root systems and the soil do, with this exception: when the water evaporated out of the soil with the sun that follows rain these little bladders could release more water, slowly, to make up for the loss. I’m sure devices could even be built that could be laid out as sheets, or which could be laid out in banks like solar panels. We have the technological intelligence, we have the manufacturing ability, we have a university, we have the thunderstorms, we have a great need, we have burgeoning social pressures, and we still have the possibility of a bright future. Bright futures are made. We would do well to get in focus.



The Okanagan Meets Its Salad and Lemons Go Away to Cry

Remember my green grapes?
That tasted, I promised, like lemons?
Because until they turn colour, grapes are little suns made out of citric acid —so, like lemons, right?
Well, I picked some.
Those are Bacco on the left and Concorde on the right. Here are the Baccos. Very sour!
And then I juiced them.
Oh, my, soury-sweet. The colour settled down to pink (from the stems, I’m guessing), and, oh, if I may say so, it’s sooooooo perfect. It tastes like lemon juice, with a hint of fresh berry. Sour, but not overwhelming, and perfect for my salad, with apricots, spinach, romaine, and a few dashes of Greek olive oil. This is a very exciting day in the transformation of this valley! I’ll preserve this litre of juice in eight 125 ml jars. Do you know a chef who needs one of these? By the way, these grapes were growing wild, without irrigation. No birds will eat them at this stage … what potential!

Sustaining the Okanagan 7: Going Lemonless, Mmmmm

Every day trucks from Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and no doubt all sorts of other places with names and histories of their own drive north full of lemons for the houses and restaurants of the Okanagan Valley in Canada. They sure are pretty things.lemon-181650_960_720

Nice sour things full of citric acid.lemon-1117568_960_720


Thing is, we have citric acid here too, and it looks like this (well, growing over the fence of my neighbour down the way.)P1170375

That’s right, until Veraison, that special time when the grape vine lays down malolactic (apple) acids in its skins and starts to colour up with all kinds of exquisite sparks of taste and complexity (in the skin), grapes are almost 100% citric acid.

Veraison usually comes in the third week of July or so here, but it’s going to be early this year. Before then, vineyards need to thin out their extra clusters. They throw them away. We could have a second crop on every vineyard, tens of thousands of hectares of production, of wonderful grapey citric acid, for our salads and all our other special things. I tried it last year, a little past version, and the juice made wondrous salads, with gentle grape flavours, and the whole thing was not so sharp as a lemon, but subtle and very fine.P1170379

Without spending a drop more water than we are spending now, we could transform our food culture and add a completely new souring agent, one with hundreds of complex variations, to the world food table.P1170384

We would be a global food destination. Talk about added value. Talk about something you chefs should be getting onto like last week. I mean, the wine is getting to be pretty generic these days, and vineyards are scarcely paying and all, and this could change everything. Let’s go!

The Sustainable Okanagan 6: Let’s Go Nuts

As part of the effort to make the Okanagan sustainable, we should plant filberts. This scrubby and beautiful bush provides a rich harvest of nuts in the fall.

Filberts are native here, and would grow well in all the boundary areas where Russian olives now thrive. Russian olives are sour dates, with more pit than fruit. No one wants to eat them.

But filberts, ah, they’re wonderful, and their catkins are gorgeous in the winter.

There’s a wild bush down my road, and the one I planted five years ago, as a four-foot-tall sapling, is now fifteen feet tall and rich with nuts. Here’s the wild one, hanging out with a sumac.

There’s room in every yard, along thousands of kilometres of fence lines, along Okanagan Lake, all the way through the wetland hayfields between Penticton and Brewster, for these nuts. There’s no need to bring nuts in from the Coast, where they have squirrels and fungus. Wouldn’t you like your winter’s supply of nuts to come with no additional water expenditure? Wouldn’t you like our recipe base to expand deep into winter? Filberts, that’s the thing. A filbert and almond orchard was planted at Palmer Lake back around 1980, and was abandoned, and turned into horse pasture. The thing is, after all these years, despite the predations of starving horses …

… the filberts are still alive and well, as is that almond you can see in the back. Almonds are more tender and a more finicky choice. This is a remote location. The people are in the main valley, and mostly in the Canadian Okanagan. It’s time to do this right. But, hey, if we want to do almonds as well, I’m all for that too.

But we should do it.

Welcome, Dry Baby!

Welcome to Dry Baby, the Okanagan’s newest apricot. She’s just a bud right now, but next year she’ll have some beautiful, big, orange, tasty and juiceless apricots. She came through the winter well.P2300657

Her mother tree is five years old and growing in a weedy fence in Okanagan Falls. I made these grafts on a St. Julian plum seedling last August. An exciting time around this place, dreaming of dried apricots to come!

German and American Creativity and the Fate of the Earth

P1110480The word “creativity” is American and expresses  American culture. If you’re ever in a position to hear this word, be assured, you are in the United States, or some form of it.
School in Winthrop, Washington
The United States is not a place. It’s a state of mind. Another word for that is creativity. Oh, and enjoy for a moment how the sign tells a whopper. That’s part of the creativity.
In American notions, creativity is the fulfillment of individual aspiration, through a process called “self-actualization.” Effectively, self-actualization is a modernist extension of 19th century Methodist theology, in which the faithful achieved God’s Grace by purifying themselves and devoting themselves to fitting into larger religious and state governance and educational structures.
B Reactor, Hanford Washington
The Bomb is the child of this machine.
This grace could be manifest and, in American social contexts, expected as a reward for devout behaviour (the school house above was a form of it, which is why the architecture has been imported from the American East rather than building on any North Western model), but it could always be taken away.
Marilyn Monroe, Still the Definition of American Grace
Before she was taken away.
This grace represented the inhabitation of the human body by God, and it was considered proven when American settlers rapidly inhabited (conquered, but Americans were largely protected from awareness of that by theology and ideology) the continent during the 19th century. It is this actualization of a self (a kind of surrogate inhabitation by God) to which creativity refers.
gracespaceTo Americans, there is another word which represents this force. It is called “Manifest Destiny.”
American Progress, John Gastis, 1872
Manifest Destiny — the term for the American belief that it was God’s Will that Americans settle the entire continent — had its roots in American ignorance and high birth rates. It was considered the destiny of American fathers to have the virility to father many children, as opposed to Native Americans, who were dying of disease and hence, in the ignorant thinking of the day, were not virile. It’s no accident that Columbia, a symbol of the United States, is floating so voluptuously above the settlers above. Sex was the goal. In this sense, self-actualization meant not only actualization of one’s freedom by settling in recently de-indiginenized land but the actualizing of one’s “self” (as distinct from person) in the holy marriage of a man and a woman. Only in that union, blessed by the institutions of church and state, could any body (not anybody, but any body) be complete and a full self (ie. fully merged with a self). A man alone was nothing and, by definition, godless.
That’s creativity. That it is taken up by Creative Writing Schools and is taught as a way of “expressing one’s identity” and is present in cultures across the earth today makes no difference. That’s what it is.
Creative Writing Workshop  Source
That it has been adopted by the Eco-Art movement, as a way in which artists (in technological society, technicians of actualized selves) can guide society into new relationships with the earth makes no difference. That’s what it is. The relationships will be self-actualized and all very human-centric. A tree, after all, would not call an image like the one below art.
WMM-Tauber It’s also technologically centric, but that’s expectable. The image of a database (or a city) of things in a sculpted, religiously-directed landscape (art) below shows this bias well.
ssayler_peru And it’s plain self indulgent. I don’t think an endangered whale shark would see any value in the environmentally friendly competition of creativity in California shown in the image below, for example. This isn’t the way to teach our young people to inhabit the planet. It’s the way to teach actualized selves to adapt their native, technological world to fitting, however clumsily, into a non-technological one.1308840875StudentsStrawBoat_PhotobyHollyGray_AMRF.JPG=s750x1300
That leaves a challenge: to find and nurture pathways that still include the earth…
Cat Tracks Quail on My Driveway After a Night’s Skiff of Snow
… without it having to pass through Manifest Destiny and self-actualization first, which sometimes looks like the man getting down and dirty with the tree above but mostly looks like the image below, because it is far more seductive:
Self-Actualization Devices
If you think these aren’t products of American absorption of your identity, think again. I mean, you might be OK with that, you might not, but these machines, with their limited but hard-wired social codes are what they are. Do you really think it’s a good idea to be hard-wired to them?
A few days ago, I talked about creativity in France and how the term, as American as it is, was qualified there in ways that allowed some connections with the natural world and some limitation of human powers, without loss of human agency. Specifically, the French left the definition open to what American psychology considers a medieval notion: that creation is the province of God and humans who make things are physical representatives (or manifestations) of God’s will.
Jean Cocteau Hard At It As a Conduit
That’s not really all that different from the American point of view, but it’s different enough that it allows for fuller relationships between people and the earth.
 montagne-a-vachesFrench Citizens, After Going to the  Mountains
OK, I jest, but not much. This small difference shows that self-actualization and creation are not unified concepts and that if they appear to be so someone is being less than direct with you and it might be a good idea to think about that deeply. The difference also allows for alternate identity models, which, in turn, allow for quite different outcomes.
Okanagan Red Tailed Hawk Taking Flight
Never talk about creation without talking about the earth. That’s just rude.
I will explore these notions soon. For now, let’s look at yet a different identity model: Creativity (or self-actualization) in Germany.P1110418
Germania, Rüdesheim am Rhein
Germany’s monument to the 1871 victory over France and the creation of the German nation.
Here’s a dictionary definition:
bezeichnet i.d.R. die Fähigkeit eines Individuums oder einer Gruppe, in phantasievoller und gestaltender Weise zu denken und zu handeln.
A rough and ready translation:

As a rule, creativity refers to the capacity of an individual or a group to think and act in manners rich with fantasy or materialization.

The gist of it is that creative thinking yokes imagination and the shaping of imagination into physical form, and that “creativity” is a social process by which products are produced. There’s more:

Zu den kreativitätsförderlichen Aspekten der Person gehören bspw. Personenmerkmale wie Offenheit für Erfahrung, Verantwortungsgefühl oder hohe allg. kognitive Fähigkeiten. Der Kreativitätsprozess wird meist als typische Abfolge von Problemidentifikation (Erkennen von Problemen), Vorbereitungsphase (notwendige Informationen werden gesammelt), Generierungsphase (mögliche Lösungen werden entwickelt) und Beurteilungsphase (Analyse der Lösungen) beschrieben… Kennzeichnend für kreative Produkte ist, dass sie gleichzeitig neu und angemessen, nützlich oder wertvoll für die Lösung eines Problem sind.  SOURCE


Rough translation:

The personal aspects of a person conducive to creativity include, for example, personal qualities like openness to discovery, feelings of responsibility, or generally high cognitive functioning. The creative process is most often described as the result of problem identification (the recognition of problems), a preparation phase (necessary information is gathered), generation phase (possible solutions are developed) and appraisal phase (analysis of the solutions.) Hallmarks of creative products are that they are simultaneously new and appropriate, useful or worthwhile for the solution of a problem.

Nothing at all about self-actualization! That difference from the American model is a sign that any definition of “creativity,” including the American one, fits the parameters of a particular culture, and should be read as such. The actual human capacity that leads to creation of products is expressing itself through cultural parameters, all of which have their own embedded contexts, such as this:

P1110461Germania’s Context!
I’ve been waiting six years to use this picture. Happy day!
And that context has a context, like this:P1110507
Celtic Technology, Enthusiastically Developed by the Romans (and the Germans after them.)
Please don’t be confused by words. That has a context, like this:
Vineyard Shrine, With Christ and Flowers, Rüdesheim
These vineyards were heavily bombed by U.S. Airforce pilots who dropped their bomb loads here, twenty kilometres west of Frankfurt (and their target), to get the hell back to England. For over a thousand years before that, the vines were part of the devotional practice of local catholics: devotional practice with practical, earthly ends. Not that different from Methodism, but different enough.
And even that has a context:
Rudesheim and the Rhein, Looking Over Bingen to the Rheinpfalz
And that’s how far it goes, in the present, today: right back to the Rhein, the Ur-River, the “Run”, the river so ancient its name (like the equally celtic Rhone) means only River. That’s the context of a German creative team building an industrial product today:
Preparation of materials for processing by the experimental SFB_TR_166_Holthoff_Mikroskope at the University Hospital in Jena. Germany.
This activity differs from similarly-appearing American technological experimentation because it has a different context. In the German context, it does not represent individual actualization but team actualization, and this team is very old. This guy, for instance, is actualized in this process:
Celtic Skull, Siebenfelsen, Black Forest
In this context, the individual gains power from the team, not the other way around. That difference, even in a highly technological society, allows space for new conceptions of human-earth articulation not based in autonomous, fully-empowered and non-constrained selves expressing actualized genetic tendencies, like this:
Fishing for (torturing) Endangered White Sturgeon in the Shadow of the Plutonium Reactors, While the Grasslands of the Yakima Military Firing Range Burn to the West (Columbia River)
After a few hours of this, these guys will drag up one Caesium-irradiated fish and throw it back, so they can catch it again.
Germans are no saints, but they are heirs of an unbroken tradition in which technologies, even the technologies of the self, have contexts which include the earth in other ways than strict cellular biology. German factories exist in the ruins of medieval forests. American ones exist in the ruins of Native American forests and grasslands. There is room for curiosity and imagination and even creativity on both sides.
Next: Icelandic creativity and Indigenous creativity in the Pacific Northwest.

Riding Across the Face of the Sun: the Case for Beauty

A sail is a solar-powered device, which inserts itself within the intersections of solar, aquatic and atmospheric energy, all of which ultimately formed either by the sun or by the forces of gravitational attraction which created the solar system and which remain in the spinning of the earth.P2010217

Sailing On Lake Okanagan on a Smoky Afternoon

A sail acts, in other words, like water tension, as demonstrated yesterday in the shared (although reversed) mechanisms of the water strider…

… and the leaves of the big sage.

If you missed that post, you can read it here: click. For today, here’s another creature riding the winds of the sun.


I know, solar winds are winds of energy, photons and waves, ejected from the sub-nuclear processes within the sun. My point is that once they strike the earth, a planet in which light, stone and the orbiting water of crashed comets are united in matrices much like water tension, called life — a planet in which the sun joins with atmosphere and water to lose its straight lines and flow in new form — wings, sails, splayed legs and leaf hairs are all devices for moving through the sun. Your lungs ride boundaries in much the same way. So do these sumac leaves:


They too are walking on water. They too are riding the winds of the sun. I point this out because the world is beautiful, and this conception fits with the beautiful order of the universe, but also because it can lead to new technological breakthroughs that will bring technological science closer to the universe and will lead technological civilization farther from the impoverishment of the earth. Beauty matters. It can change the world.

Light and Shadow in the Grass

I promised I would show you some images of a tension I’ve noticed in Western culture. It’s a living tension, that comes in variable forms. First…


 Shadows of Grass on Stone

… and second …


Lit Grass Within Shadow

… and a third variation of the same effect …

P1500604Light Glowing Within Shadow and Outside of It

… and a fourth …


Leaf Shading a Leaf

We could go on all day playing with such interwoven images of light and dark. That they are easily viewed as light and shadow is cultural, however. They could as easily be named as two separate forms of light, the light, for example, on the brighter cottonwood leaves below, and the dark on the others …


… but, really, they are all lit. There is a kind of light cast by the mind (call it naming, if you like), which consolidates understandings of energy by mapping out their recurrence. You can use it, for example, to map the same patterns as seen above in the image below…


Light and Shade in a Chinese Elm

You could go on to map the variations in this pattern in many different plants, and then make classifications of the effect. If you follow this path long enough, you can see the same pattern, extended across a season, and even across maps of evolutionary time, here…


 Fall Garden

That is largely the science of nomenclature, but it’s also the basic way in which culture operates in the West: it consolidates discoveries by mapping out all possible instances of their recurrence in the world. Heck, you can even find it here…


Red Dogwood’s Time Map

But, of course, if we’re going that far, we’re into the territory of naming as a power of extending patterns. That’s a second kind of naming. Here’s a big leap within it from light to hormonal patterns laid down by light.



Chinese Elm Sapling

On the one hand, there is a leap of understanding here, that the chemical map of the plant is the same as its interaction with light. On the other hand, the intellectual tools for mapping that effect were laid down long ago in different contexts. To view it here is to classify their existence in a new instance. There is no gap between these two forms of naming. They lie on a continuum. A further extension of the energy of naming as extension …

P1500206 … is found in the grasses that evolved to harvest this energy of extension. Each blade is a shadow of carbon in the light, and yet each blade dying in the fall holds a little more light than strikes it in any moment…P1500172

… in a complex pattern determined by the interaction of each blade and stalk with each other one around it, in a pattern continually transformed by the wind. The form of naming I mean here is the one that can see this pattern and add it to the realm of knowledge, so that it can be extended by the other, classifying energy. The two work together, like shade and light. When they don’t work together, effects like the wind-blown patterns of rain-weighted grass below (without the weight of rain, the wind would not have laid it down in its own shape, or at all) are seen as random.


They aren’t. They are a measure of grass health, sun, nutrients, rain and wind. In the grassland, such effects make the difference between productivity and drought. In other words, they make the difference between the continued survival of species in this landscape, including but by no means limited to humans. The tension between these two forms of naming powers Western culture, and it is through it that all who live within that culture view the physical world. In fact, this tension is the physical world, for people in this particular culture. This, for example, is an image of the tension between these two forces.


That these are late-season wild cherries is a part of the classification energy. That the fruits are laid down as concentrations of darkness is a part of the power of extension. Anyone who might suggest that these two energies are separate is likely to think that the world they see is not an image of their culture. It is dangerous to think like that too often.