Finding a Tribe in the Living River

Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) split level view of annual spawning run, Adams River, British Columbia, Canada, October
20 Oct 2010, British Columbia, Canada — Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) split level view of annual spawning run, Adams River, British Columbia, Canada, October — Image by © Todd Mintz/Nature Picture Library/Corbis

An oddly set allegory and truth and a veiled business strategy

Once farmers adapted to rivers and prospered for thousands of years. In later times farmers and communities adapted rivers to humanity and prospered for 50 years followed by a steady decline. Farming adapted better ways to control rivers more, to control soils, and to control and dominate ecosystems. Cascades of effect made farming industrial and in-humane and destroyed the lives of family farmers and the economies and social systems of farming communities. Let me tell a story, an allegory and a reality of the living river and the farmer.

This story is the convenient allegory, of the entrepreneur finding and nurturing a tribe in a venture of success. This is the story of true agrarian reality in a vision not yet considered in the modern farming or perception. It is a story of what you will not have heard before, and hidden is an consideration not found in You-tube or modern writings. The story begins in the temperate rain-forests of the Pacific Northwest in the Americas.

The river is a complex system where fish are born in the mountain gravel flows from large spawning salmon wallowing trenches in groups to nurture eggs that will be fertilized and hatch into an adventure of self sacrifice.  The rains withhold from July to mid-October when they come in excess to deluge through November and December monsoon followed by heavy drizzle off and on in steady decrease till mid to late June. The height of a person or more falls in rain over 6 months. The summer is hot and dry. The mountains once sustained the temperate rain forest with the tallest tree in the world and 1000 tons or more of Carbon per acre as a shadow of the existing and transitory life of one of the most vibrant and thriving systems on the planet. The trees grew, some for thousands of years, some living through fires and storms, and creating microclimates, deep soils, and subterranean aeration that sustained rain forest conditions and bubbling brooks and rivers through 4 rainless months each year despite the lack of glaciers or any substantial height to the mountains. So that speaks of water, but what nutrition fed the growth? Can trees grow larger and larger to heights over 400 feet and diameters as large as homes without a balanced steady feed of all manner of minerals? Can life amass to 1000 ton per acre without a steady balanced flow of nutrition?

The adventures of the hatching salmon tell the story of a forest miracle and more. They hatch from the round rock gravels in the lower reaches of the mountains and valleys and start their race to the sea where all nutrients somehow flow. They spent lives of abundance growing from fingerling to 3-4 feet in several years before the once in their life pilgrimage back to the land of birth. From salt and deep nutrient loads to fresh waters and nutrient lack they once traveled in runs that smothered rivers in red arched backs of force and power that leaped cascading water falls with ease to reach the lower mountains and valleys. The wallowing again trenches the gravel beds of the rivers, eggs are laid or fertilized, and then they died and sacrificed as all their kin, the adventure of their lives as nutrition to build the slow steady growth of the massive forests and the temperate rain forest effects that defy summer drought and short mountains.

The river is a complex system where the rounded rock and gravel slowly flowing from the mountains is critical to the salmon and the where modern actions act in biological amplification cascades toward far reaching collateral effect. The forests are farmed for timber by large scale land management, managing lands “owned” by multinational investment dollars and wealth collective ownership unaware that forests and creatures are involved. The salmon no longer find what they need to thrive and have all but ceased the adventure of exchange. The soils no longer hold or build-up organic matter and the flora, fauna, and soils add to only 5 to the rare exception of 100 tons per acre of carbon in system right before the next pillage called harvest. Trees are planted and cut like lawns in mono-culture with dwindling stature and size potential, in nutrient and water starved systems of degradation, unprecedented levels of erosion, disappearing streams, and massive rivers that in summer are reduced to stagnant streams or broad channeled brooks. This is not a story of the forest however, but of the river and the farmer, the business strategy, the venture, and the tribe. It is an allegory of finding appropriate tribe by appropriate methods that can cascade into a future.


In the river the inanimate moving components of geology are as people. The water is natural or paradigm driven forces. Rock and gravel, sand silt and clay move past each fall winter and spring while summer moves nothing. Soil texture defines clay as the smallest and finest and most electro-statically active particles. Silt is the mid-size, and sand is the larger portion from large silt size to beach sands before fine gravel classifications. The seasons of rainfall—fall/winter/spring—where the river carries soil are like life’s drama that awakens and drives human perception, activity, and concern. Summer is like the time when everyone sits content, immune to change, unconcerned.  Sifting and disrupting people in summer is ebb and flow sacrilege, in any case there is no need as energy can be better spent.

Existing disruptions drive movement, sifting, and change. Large-scale logging in the mountains cascades into erosion, landslides, compaction, loss of bio-activity in soils leading to more and more flows of water on the surface in rain periods and less depth penetrating flows to build summer reserves. It is the reality of our time until solved. The drama of human imposed disruption settles the summer with even lower flows in which rivers become creeks and geological movements stop completely. The rain seasons now drive exponential change with expanded flows of rolling gravel and rock in theory still supporting spawning habitat for salmon and the evolved food web. Rocks move into the river in greater abundance, with more landslides and washing soils and mineralogy, sand, silt, and clay clogging the high flows of the river. It is as the boom and bust cycles and environment of business in a multi-synthetically dynamic world.

The farmer/agrarian’s life is the venture in an increasingly tumultuous rainy season environment of floods and flows of soil and rock washing away fields on the outer curves and depositing on the inner curves as always has been but with greater force, and as the venture (farmer agrarian life) perceives in entrepreneurial vision… greater potential.

The forging of a tribe, critical to venture, should not labor, sifting and catching all that pass; but instead the intelligent targeting of the appropriate—the farmer/agrarian within their means, the business venture within theirs. Farming is most beneficially sustained on soils formed in stable times on top of those from tumultuous ones. Hands off observing, the tumultuous seasons of mountains robbed of their forests, devolving past soils as victims, will not help create fields of abundance. Instead it will wash the rich deep evolution and human co-evolution of abundant soils in return for new, shallow and inconsistent ones devoid of life. Nature, so pillaged without much help will return to a 100 to 1000 year bio-geological project someday culminating in richness and diversity in the fertile valley.

Like the non-innovators predicting, forecasting, and watching as victims of circumstance disconnected from the potential of intelligent interaction. The smart ventures and the adaptive farmer/agrarian will see potential, find the tribe and create abundant effect from potential in steady contrived capitalization and achievement.

Soils of the field are built season after season. Each region finds their unique best in a combination of sand/silt/clay that creates a base dynamic which will drive functionality and the need-level for energy input day to day. Our Pacific Northwest, with rain, autumn and spring in excess, and winter monsoon, shies away  from heavy clays, with love for the in between particle size of silt mixed with sand (loams, sandy-loams, and loamy sands so called). Such soils dry quickly drain well, aggregate sufficiently and till and cultivate with minimal power. Coupled to organic matter built by balanced bio-intensive farming they are near perfect. These soils are the regions prime, and can reach the regions full potential. Clay, ultra fine particles with electrostatic cohesion of each other, water, and nutrient is a heavy weight in systems. Arguably the benefit side is minimal in the mix as organic matter does all things better than clay without taxing cultivation and tillage, sealing surfaces, or risking near permanent clods. The chosen tribe is clear. Sand and silt flowing by in seasons of disruption is the intelligent farmer’s tribe to year by year build the soils of abundance. As sands become silts, and silts clays the little yearly addition of fresh toppings of sand and silt create systems of highly dynamic sustainable abundance, or potential-for-such in the presence of knowledge and capability.

The farmer sees the river, watches the washing away of unstable banks and the steady pass of what is now understood to be tribe… “Invite the sand and silt” says the wise owl. “Make hospitality and let the forces drive and coax them to your Inn”.

If you shake soil in water, it separates in settling by physical properties. The sand settles immediately, the silt within minutes, and clay differentiated by electro-magnetic character can take days and weeks. The less electrostatic—less clay like, more silt like—settles over the first few hours while the highly bound and pottery clay holds in hydro-solution often until it hits the de-binding effects of saltwater.

Thus it is that the farmer constrained in legal framework to go no lower than the “normal high water mark” creates “swales”—dips from field to river—to coax high waters in the storm times into a spreading areas of vegetation and once speed is lost into low-lying wetlands and beaver managed estuaries eventually perhaps making it to the river again. Flooding is mitigated and river forces dissipated while the soils are added to with silt and sands, sands in the low spots, silts in the higher and clays moving on as they have for thousands of years to the tidewaters where fresh water meets salt. The tribe sustains the farmer/agrarians who pass on the wisdom and as the changes come, so the farmers adapt in a rhythm of ebb and flow authored it would seem by the living river.

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