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(Food Wisdom & Technology)
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The Black Bear
The Black Bear is one of the four food chiefs of the Okanagan People, recounted in the story "How food was given". As the oldest and wisest of the prehuman people he modelled for the other food chiefs (salmon, bitter root and saskatoon berry) laying down his life so that the new people (humans) could eat. (Legend retold by Eric Mitchell and found on You tube in a video by Sarah Alexis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfF-XR_DxJw.
Wood burning cook stove
The kitchen stove was the centre piece of the homesteader's food production. On the stove you can see bannock or fry bread that was a staple for settlers and indigenous people in the colonial period.
But Dr. Nancy Turner, professor of Ethnobotany at The University of Victoria, says Indigenous people already had their own version made from a wild plant called camas. The camas bulb would have been baked for long periods of time, dried and then flattened or chopped and formed into cakes and loaves, similar to modern bannock. Turner suggests that unleavened breads made from the starch/flour of bracken rhizomes were probably “cooked/baked on rocks over the fire, in sand, or in cooking pits or earth ovens.” Moss, black tree lichen, ground cat tail roots and ground bracken rhizomes are all known to have been used to make a type of bread-like food.
Turner says that since the Aboriginal peoples of Canada were consuming these bread-like foods pre-contact, the Scots’ bannock was easily adopted.
Flour-based bannock became a common food among Indigenous people across the continent. Bannock keeps without spoiling for a long time and is a good source of carbohydrates, which historically was hard to come by in some regions of Canada.
CBC radio “Unreserved” 2016
The drone with a suspended camera is a harbinger of future food production technology.
An Oil Lamp: Artificial light
One aspect of settlement was the use of artificial light. Coal oil, a by-product of the production of coal gas and coal tar, was in use by the late 18th century. Coal oil that burned cleanly enough to be used to light homes was first produced in 1850. In the United States, coal oil was widely manufactured after the 1850s under the trade name Kerosene, a process invented by a Canadian geologist.
Hydro generated electricity gradually replaced the use of kerosene lamps even in the countryside. In British Columbia, private companies were quick to develop hydro-power. Locally, the Wilsey Dam and generating station at Shuswap Falls was constructed in 1929. The concrete dam was built at the site of the original 21-metre-high Shuswap Falls while the spillway channel was blasted through solid rock immediately to the north.
Initially, the facility was "run-of-the-river", without a storage reservoir. The Shuswap River flows powered this 4000 HP generating unit. In 1942, a second dam was constructed at the outlet of Sugar Lake to increase generating potential. This new dam allowed for another 4000 HP generating unit at Shuswap Falls, which translates to another 5.2 MW of capacity.
From 1929 to 1951, the Shuswap Falls facility provided most of the electric power for the North Okanagan region.
Recently greenhouse cultivation has extended the North Okanagan growing season. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers even eggplant have become easier to grow. With the trend towards eating locally this has meant that vegetables once only to be found shipped from California or Mexico can now be found farm gate, in farmers markets and in local food stores.
The baskets remind us that we can reduce our use of plastic and shop locally in farmers markets, or at the farm gate.
Vineyards and wineries are now a common sight in central and south Okanagan.
Bok choy, sui choy and other asian vegetables popularity is rising with the patterns of immigration to the country. As each population of the Canadian multicultural mix arrives they bring their preferred vegetables and recipes.
In North America, home canning is usually done in brand name jars which have thicker walls than single-use commercial glass jars. The food being preserved needs to be highly acidic, salty or sweet and to be processed in a non-pressure canner. Pressure canners are capable of achieving the elevated temperatures needed to prevent spoilage with non-acidic foods and fish or meat.
Thomas Bulman had started an apple dehydration plant in 1916 on a 4,000-acre ranch just north of Kelowna. The company outgrew the dehydrator in 1926, and the operation was moved to Vernon. Two hundred people could be employed at the peak of season. The company prospered during World War II and expanded to canning and freezing when the technology became available, finally closing in 1977.
The North Okanagan Valley Gleaners Society was created in 2007 in response to the problem of world hunger. The society makes use of the donated excess vegetables and fruit produced in the Okanagan Valley. Volunteers help with the cleaning, chopping, and preparation of the produce for the dehydration, as well as packaging the final product.. Distribution is done by reputable and established Christian aid organizations.
The origins of pickling may date back to 2400 BC in Northern India however most cultures world-wide have developed unique pickling methods for preserving food. Kimchi, sauerkraut, dill pickles, piccalilli, and many more.
In traditional pickling, fruit or vegetables are submerged in brine or shredded and salted and held under the resulting juices by flat stones layered on top. In fermentation pickling, the food itself produces the preservation agent, through the presence of Lactobacillus bacteria which produces lactic acid. Alternately, food can be pre-soaked in brine before transferring to vinegar. This reduces the water content of the food, which would otherwise dilute the vinegar. This method is particularly useful for fruit and vegetables with high water content.
Glazed lidded crocks for pickling were a common household item before the advent of canning jars.
Dairy farming has always brought with it the home based manufacture of secondary products: butter, cheese, yoghurt. However the development of commercial cheese production in the area is fairly recent. There are now several cheese factories in the Lumby area.
The Kitchen Garden
It was the duty of the housewife and children to tend the pioneer vegetable garden, to grow fresh fruit and vegetables in summer and preserve enough for winter use. A typical 19th century kitchen garden included basic root plants such as beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes, and leafy vegetables such as lettuce, chard, cress, and legumes. (source: Stanhope Heritage Museum)
According to Ignace, people of the Secwepemc relied on salmon for 40% of their protein and an adult would consume approximately 250 salmon per year. (p 162)
Domestic honey bees were brought to North America by early European settlers. Father Pandosy has been credited with establishing honey bees in the Okanagan Valley in south Kelowna. Domestic bees have been increasingly threatened by use of weedkillers, pesticides and other chemicals.
Pre-contact, the cedar tree was a vitally important source of fibre for basket making.These baskets carried roots and berries and served as cradle baskets for babies. If woven tightly enough the baskets served as cooking pots. People would heat up stones in a fire and then add the stones into the water tight basket to cook meals. Cedar root baskets are very durable and many have survived many years of use and storage." information from the Lake Country Museum.
Other plants were important sources of fibre: Indian hemp and hazelnut roots were both used.
Okanagan and Secwepemc Technology
The glaciers had retreated from south central BC about 13 thousand years ago. At first the land was barren but gradually plant and animal life moved in to the raw land. By 11 thousand years ago the warming trend resulted in an opening up of the valley bottoms and archaeological consensus is that human occupation likely followed soon after (Ignace p 80.) Solid archaeological evidence secured by carbon dating has given us 8,340 years ago as a fixed date for " Gore Creek man" from the South Thompson River valley. The variety of tools discovered in the central plateau area of BC indicate the cross roads between several different traditions south, east and west, but by about 7,500 years ago a distinctive Nesikep culture had solidified. The continuity, variety and sophistication of the stone points: spear heads, knives and scrapers are evidence of long historical development and are found "in almost every environmental niche and geological context and at almost all altitudes. " throughout the region. (Ignace p 87) Archaeological evidence is clear that the Interior Plateau and Valley systems were continuously occupied for thousands of years.
Shovel & Scythe
The shovel in the mural is a square spade used for french intensive gardening. French intensive gardening was developed in the 1890s near Paris as a way of providing fresh vegetables for the city. The crops were planted in 18 inches of horse manure, a readily available fertilizer(given horse transportation), and planted so close together that the mature plants' leaves touched their neighbors. This method of gardening was introduced to the United States by Alan Chadwick in California in the late 60s, early 70s. (Wikipedia)
The scythe may have dated back as far as c. 500 BC but became more common in Europe with agricultural developments during the 8th century. Initially used mostly for mowing hay, it had replaced the sickle for reaping crops by the 16th century as the scythe was more efficient. The scythe remained in common use for many years after the introduction of machines because a side-mounted finger-bar mower, whether horse or tractor drawn, could not mow in front of itself and scythes were still needed to open up a meadow by clearing the first swathe to give the mechanical mower room to start. Scythes are beginning a comeback in American suburbs, since they "don't use gas, don't get hot, don't make noise, do make for exercise, and do cut grass." from Wikipedia
German Cabbage Shredder
Cabbage and the technology to preserve it (sauerkraut) was one of the mainstay European crops to make it's way to the valley with German immigrants.
Post Hole Digger
The post hole digger and the wheel are included in the mural representing colonization. The cutting up of traditional aboriginal territory with fences and roads interrupted the food gathering traditions of Seswepemc and Okanagan People. (Ignace)
Fences and roads, essential for land preemption, cut through aboriginal territories and trails, limiting and often preventing access to hereditary food production areas. The wheel and the post hole digger represent roads and fences selected to represent the profound changes to the land resulting from settlement.
The milk separator was an essential piece of technology for the dairy farm, separating cream for the production of butter and cream for sale. Excess skim milk was used as food for other animals.
Ingenious methods and the use of found materials to aid in the preservation of fish and meat are represented by a smoke barrel. Many families still rely heavily on locally hunted game and fish and some smoke their own meat. Cold smoking of meat to preserve it is the second part of the process of “pickling” meat. First the meat had to be layered dry with salt, sugar and a few other ingredients in a crock or in a brine solution for the required length of time. Temperature, cleanliness and attention to the process were all important and the skills for meat preservation were often passed on in families.
The smoke can be made from hardwood chips, maple apple, hickory or even very dry corncobs (not sweet corn).
Static Image of the West Wall
(The Fertile Valley)
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"There were about sixteen root plants whose starchy rhizomes , tubers and bulbs were harvested for thousands of years." (Ignace, 180)
Two featured in this mural are Western Spring Beauty and Bitter-root. Western spring beauty or Indian potato was an extremely important early spring source of carbohydrate for the Secwepemc people. The plant could be found along the edges of the retreating snow line and the roots were harvested using the digging stick. The digging stick was used to selectively encourage preferred plants.
Bitter-root one of the most important of all edible roots, grew in gravelly or sandy soil widely distributed in the region. In origin stories, Bitter-root was one of the four "food-chiefs" that provided nourishment to the new inhabitants, human beings. Bitter-root had to be harvested at a specific time so that the outer skin of the root could be slipped off. The bitter-root "heart", red in colour, near the top of the root also had to be removed before eating the plant. (Turner p 137)
There were seven different varieties of Saskatoons in this region each distinguished by their usage. One type was better for immediate eating another for drying, for example. However, Sakatoons or seeya (sp?) in Okanagan were more than an important and abundant food source, they were one of the four food chiefs representing the relationship between pre-human spirits and humans. A number of other berries were also harvested: strawberries, raspberries gooseberries, high bush and low bush cranberries, red and black currents, black caps, chokecherries, Oregon grape and Kinnikinnick. According to Eric Mitchell, Silver Star mountain was the best place for harvesting huckleberries. This wisdom or knowledge was passed on in families with certain people designated as the ones who knew when to start harvesting and where. Various tools and baskets were designed to make harvesting easier and the land was periodically burned and then rested by Okanagan and Secwepemc to keep it in a healthy state.
Trout were also part of the plentiful aquatic life of the region. Rainbow, Dolly Varden, silver, loon lake and bull trout. Records of Pennask Lake show that in the 1920's this lake alone yielded tens of thousands of trout annually "without harm to the stock" (Ignace)
Constructed from sharpened withies of local bushes, weirs were a highly refined technology for harvesting salmon from the creeks and rivers in this region before colonization. Archaeological dating of one weir near Kamloops has shown it to be one mile long with different parts of the construction dated between 120 and 1560 years old, suggesting that this particular weir was in use for hundreds of years and continuously repaired. (Ignace, pp 161-2)
Grain and feed crops
Early farmers grew oats, barley and wheat for human and animal consumption. Apparently, at one time, there were two water mills for grinding grain in the Lumby area. Rogers Mill in Armstrong does not grind local grain.
Hay storage evolved over the decades in response to mechanization: loose hay was replaced by square bales, square bales by round.
Field corn for silage is an important crop with a variety of means of storage developed: conventional and limited-oxygen tower silos; horizontal silage bunkers; bags and silage bales. Silage is fermented and fed to cattle over the winter months. Formerly wooden silos were a significant farm outbuilding, however these have gone into disuse and been mostly dismantled.
Before the use of internal combustion engines or steam, horse and ox drawn teams were an essential part of settlement farming. Consequently feeding and sheltering this livestock was an important part of farm work. Roy Quesnel is depicted cultivating his field with a Caterpillar tractor. This image is from a photograph taken when Mr. Quesnel was still plowing at age 93
The "White Valley" and other lowlands around Lumby where three creeks meet to form the Bessette, were known as a major migratory bird habitat. Many of the wetlands were drained for farming, however Rawlings Lake and some of the wetlands in the Whitevale and Mabel Lake areas still provide habitat for a variety of migratory birds, including Canada Geese.
the Camel's Hump
The Camel's Hump is a reminder of the volcanic activity in the region. Early Secwepemc legends recall an age of fire and ice which is recognized as referring to this age, dating indigenous settlement to begin close to the end of the glacial era. Pre-contact, the Okanagan called the Camel's Hump "the Listening Place" because "you could hear people coming two weeks away" (E. Mitchell). It was therefore used as a lookout.
Pig City as it has been called was part of the Proctor farm demonstrating a free range approach to raising pork rather than enclosed factory farming.
According to Eric Mitchell the Okanagan tell of COYOTE establishing the limits of the migrating Salmon at Shuswap falls. The West Canadian Hydro Electric Corporation constructed the Wilsey Dam and generating station at Shuswap Falls in 1929 without regard for the cultural significance of the Falls.
As late as the 1960's the remnants of a kquilya and fishing platform could be found on the south side of the Shuswap below the falls. Salmon were so abundant in the creeks around Lumby during pioneer days that farmers speared them by the truckload for fertilizer. ("Grassroots of Lumby")
Deer and other ungulates (bighorn, elk, caribou) populated the region after the retreat of the glaciers. They were a major part of the indigenous diet and elaborate stone blinds or hides were constructed for hunting purposes along recognized animal corridors or near licks. As well, rituals were established that made tracking and hunting from close range more successful. For example using the sweat lodge and fasting meant hunters were less likely to be scented by their prey.
Deer are still popular for game hunting but the activity has to be regulated in order to protect the stocks. Loss of habitat threatens the survival of some ungulates native to the region.
the Proctor Barn
The Proctor barn was built from locally milled timber in the 1920s and incorporated some unique features such as a gantry that raised and moved loose hay.
The early cattle drives from Oregon to the goldfields of BC followed the Columbia River to the mouth of the Okanagan River and then north to Okanagan Lake, turning westward near Vernon. The drovers were mostly Americans who did not settle in the country. However, they influenced stock raising and handling techniques as well as ranching practices
By the early to middle 1880's, most of the main ranches had become established in the Okanagan, Similkameen, Nicola, Thompson, and lower Cariboo regions. Many of the ranch owners were middle class British immigrants. The men assumed community, administrative, and legislative responsibilities and played an influential role in the settlement and colonization of the interior of the province.
Many of the early cattle brought to British Columbia were of mixed breeds from the northern United States. Dual purpose Durham (Shorthorn), Devons and purebred Herefords were brought in by various ranchers.
Originally developed in response to the gold rush, cattle ranching became a major industry in the region. Cattlemen's associations, auction houses, slaughtering facilities, 4H clubs training youthful future ranchers; animal judging at fairs and stampedes all were part of the cattle ranching life.
Recently, in response to concerns about disease, the district Range association has initiated a radio frequency tracing system.
The farmland around Lumby has proven itself able to support a thriving dairy industry. By 1895 the were three hundred milk cows within a three mile radius of Lumby. The "White Valley Creamery " was formed to ship butter to the Hudson Bay Company in Vernon. Recently there has been revived interest in speciality cheese production.
Beaver were an integral part of the wetlands before settlement. These industrious animals used the native poplar and cottonwood saplings trees and branches for dams, lodge construction, creating canals to bring food stuff close to deeper water for storage during the winter. In doing this the beaver replanted areas with trees which started easily from dropped twigs. This process continues but on a much smaller scale limited by drainage of wetlands for farming.
Snow shoe hare
Snow shoe hare are prolific in the region, providing food for lynx, bobcat, coyotes, birds of prey, indigenous peoples and settlers alike.
Pheasant are not a native species but were introduced as a game bird by settlers and have naturalized.
Marmots may be considered a nuisance by modern farmers but they were a major meat source for indigenous people.
Pigs have provided an important part of the mixed farming operation. As well as meat pigs often provided assisting with land clearing. Larger scale pig farming has been undertaken (see reference in "Pig City")
Cabbage Moth and other "pests"
The cabbage butterfly is here representing a larger number of insects that we consider "nuisance" or harmful". However, the pesticides that have been developed to eradicate or control such insects have much broader impact on the whole web of life, threatening bees and other beneficial, essential insects.
Quail are native to the area and along with grouse made up part of the indigenous diet and are still hunted as a game bird.
Grouse made up part of the indigenous diet and are still hunted as a game bird.
From time to time adventurous farmers have experimented with more exotic species: ostriches for example. While for some time there is a fashion in raising such species in the end the market has winnowed down the supply to one or two producers.
Sheep, lamas and alpacas
Sheep have been raised for meat but also for their wool. Spinning, and weaving have formed part of the post settlement household arts with the Cherryville weavers' guild and the Monashee Weavers still in existence. Lamas and alpacas have more recently been incuded in this aspect of farming.
Chickens are raise for meat but almost more important for the local food chain is the egg supply. For many years the egg economy was highly regulated by the egg marketing board but recently these regulations have relaxed and a thriving farm gate and local industry in eggs has emerged. Increasing demand for "organic", "ethically produced", and "local" eggs has encouraged more producers in the area.
While not known as a major branch of meat production most farms have kept poultry for meat as well as eggs. Geese, turkeys, guinea fowl and Cornish hens have been raised for local consumption and farm-gate sales.
Root vegetables have formed the mainstay of local farm production: potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips and beets are all successfully grown in the region and store well through the winter. A variety of cold storage methods have been developed for this purpose.
Ginseng, a medicinal root, was a specialty experimental crop popular in the eighties. It is hard to find a ginseng farm in the area now.
Garlic is one crop that has developed from experimental to mainstay. Now several producers in the region are supplying markets locally and further afield.
Grasshoppers have been included in the mural because they may represent the future of protein production.
Sweet corn is grown by many home gardeners and also commercially by several farmers in the area. While corn is native to North America, it was not mentioned as part of the local indigenous diet.
Cabbage and potatoes
Potatoes and cabbage formed a significant part of the north European diet and were brought first to the eastern coast but made their way west with the early settlers. Hundreds of recipes using cabbage and potatoes came with them.
Strawberries and raspberries are grown successfully in the area, both for home gardens and commercially. Homemade Jams and preserves are still a popular product for many families in spite of the availability of imported fruit year round.
According to Ignace (Secwepemc People: Land and Laws") moose did not arrive in the south central interior until the first decades of the twentieth century. Moose hunting is regulated and many households rely on getting a moose for the winter.
Soft tree fruits were more successful commercially further south in the Okanagan. However, apples formed a huge export stream from the Coldstream/Vernon Area and a packing house in Vernon employed hundreds of people in its heyday. Orchardists have responded to market forces by planting smaller trees. This makes harvesting and tending easier but sacrifices some of the aesthetic beauty of the older trees. Cherryville got its name from a marketing campaign that encouraged European settlers to immigrate to develop cherry orchards.
Recently greenhouse cultivation has extended the North Okanagan growing season. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers even eggplant have become easier to grow. With the trend towards eating locally this has meant that vegetables once only to be found shipped from California or Mexico can now be found farm gate, in farmers markets and in local food stores. There are several commercial greenhouses in the Lumby Area.