What the Body Knows in Cold and Light

What is pale and drawn out by light and cold is not dead. The life is within, or, rather, it is concentrated, or distilled.

When you walk through the cold, every twig is power. If you grasp them, you can feel their line down to the roots, bound by ice to all of the earth and through ice to sky and stars. Now that you have found their power, come back in the light and find its concentration.

Welcome to the poetry of the earth, and the open secrets of red osier dogwood, medicine for body and soul.



Red Willow Medicine Opens Summer

Welcome to stektektsxwíIhp, laying down the summer out of her own healing language, spring.

Summer is the medicine.

The berries are edible but bitter, a kind of relish; the inner bark is a blood tonic, heart tonic and contraceptive. All in all, red willow, or red osier dogwood, is an important means by which life on this land is regulated. This summer view is the regulated life. Europeans call that beauty. It’s that, too.

On the Hunt for Wild Asparagus

Hunting for wild asparagus.



Down below the old canal.


In the place between orchards and sagebrush.


Time to pick asparagus for a woman whose husband used to drive her up there.

P1390781You gotta look carefully. In the Similkameen of my childhood, the asparagus came up along the rail line. That, too, was an abandoned space. An in-between space.


The train only ran once a week. We might be wise to build our cities with spaces like that.


Not all invasive species are half as bad as humans. The voles like this stuff.

P1390787A good catch! (I kept 20%). The rest went to my friend and the plants themselves.





A New School in the Okanagan Spreads Its Wings

Living Wild in the Stone Age

Friday, January 10, 2014, Vernon Public Library, 4:30 p.m. (I’ll let you know how it goes.)

wild“Spend a month in the wilderness, with only buckskin clothing, handmade tools and a diet of completely wild foods. The project is based on rekindling ancient knowledge and nurturing an appreciation of the earth as a living organism through transforming the gifts of the natural world in order to provide food, shelter and clothing, while participating in the interdependency necessary of community living.”

The photograph and the model come from the United States. Interestingly enough, the East Germans used to do this for six weeks every summer, dressing up as American Indians and (according to the state) learning communal living and (according to the people) getting away from it. Here they are, deep in the 1980s.



So, this kind of political abandonment of the state and civilization in favour of performance art has happened here, too. Does that mean that the USA – Canadian border (Perhaps our equivalent of the Iron Curtain?) will fall soon? Maybe it has, culturally.

An Oriole, a New Food Crop, Northern Pineapples, and Drinking the Sun

 I am piecing together a guide to new crops that can build a new, sustainable agriculture and food art culture in this grassland sea. Yesterday, I noticed that a late spring crop was at its peak, and I let myself walk for awhile in its story. I invite you to walk along. Watch where you step!
P1610664 Pineapple Weed Making a Carpet of Our Path into the Hills

This little gem is also called false chamomile, which is just plain weird, because there’s nothing false about it. So what that it doesn’t have big lovely white petals like its sister that grows on the road shoulder in front of the old Japanese orchards down below, spread through the gravel by the annual shoulder mowing machines. It smells so fine when you step on it and it lingers for hours on the fingers. Here’s my first harvest, looking very real and pineapply (Pineapplish?)…P1010638 And here it is, catching the sun in a teapot of boiling water, just a few minutes later…pineapple Glorious, isn’t it! Look at the beauty that it makes out of the water. And ten minutes later? Aha. Here we are, out on the deck, with the apricot and nectarine tree in the back and all that lettuce … hey, you don’t want some lettuce, do you?



Pineapple Weed Tea, Ready for You and Me

The top half of the cup and the little waves of light on the railing show the actual colour of the tea: a pale yellow, like sunlight pooling inside a grass blade. The tea smells like fresh pineapple, tastes light and sweet and fruity, like chamomile without the bitterness and with a touch of pineapple honey. It’s a very calming drink, and, oh, did I mention, it smells sooooo good?

Flavour, purity, light, scent, spirit and beauty, all without chemicals, water, tillage or any labour other than a couple minutes on the way home from watching a blackbird dance. It grows anywhere you let it. Currently farmers spray it with Roundup because they are intent on growing Royal Gala apples which no one wants, in tight rows which can only be factory farmed using incredibly expensive machines. Premium teabags go for about $2.50 down at the local tea shop. Imagine growing it in a restaurant or teashop window and serving it in a glass teapot. Imagine what you could do with it. Not only could you build an agriculture and a food culture, but you could stop the insanity of lazy, careless men who react to the undesirability and industrial blandness of their product by doing this:

P1010669 Royal Gala Industrial Plantation Sprayed With Roundup

People, you aren’t supposed to spray it on the tree. It is a systemic herbicide. It goes into the sap of the plant and kills it from within. Is it any wonder no one wants to eat these apples? Yuck. I mean it. Yuck. Look again.

P1010668One second with a pair of hand clippers would have helped, but, you see, in an industrial plantation you do your pruning from a platform. This farmer never, ever walks his soil. It is, in effect, not a farm. It is a factory. Now, I think food is a spiritual substance, and look: while I was sipping my light yellow-green tea, this beautiful creature came a-calling…yellowpickFemale Bullock’s Oriole Pulling the Stuffing Out of My Old Chair to Build Her Hanging Nest

Go, girl! And, would you look, she’s the same colour as the tea. If she was the colour of Roundup, or smelled like that gunk, I’d be worried for us all.

So, this is exciting. The only thing is, what should we call Pineapple Weed when we grow it and sell it and drink it and it makes us as calm as the gentle grassland wind? The name is a bit weedy. Oriole fern? Oriole Blossom Tea? Pineapple Cone Tea? Pineapple Bird Tissane, Desert Pineapple Tea? Feel free to chip in.