44°16' 38'' N, 121°33' 9'' W
44°17' 5'' N, 121°33' 32'' W
44°16' 37'' N, 121°33' 42'' W
April 2022 - ongoing
I am no soil scientist. Rather, I have gotten to know the soil here in the same way one goes about beginning a relationship with a lover. Hello there, who are you? Amongst the three soil profiles situated within the property lines, extreme differences in moisture and consistency were anticipated but not yet understood. Through sustained touch, texture, I have become attuned to each particular soil type. While carrying each soil back and forth across the pasture, the first time as a loose bucket and second time as a dense compacted brick, I learned its weight. The dimensions of each brick (4” x 11.5” x 16”) were dictated by my body’s strength; I can manage a bucket, no more. How unwieldy it is, to carry around dirt.
A soil horizon ⎼ imagine a layer of variable thickness ⎼ is bounded by its difference in characteristics to the soil horizons above and below. The English word horizon is derived from the Greek horos, meaning boundary, land-mark. More of a line, really: the limits of a thing. The uppermost soil horizon (the place I formed a relationship with) is ultimately bounded by air, water, plants, the bottom of my feet. Limits are shifty by nature, however. Changing the surface, I dug three holes around the property.
In each location, there used to be water: a rerouted stream bed, an old irrigation ditch, a canal. The uncovered soil is both local and carried from upstream (transplant / again, shifty limits). This area has been in a drought for two years now, and at the moment the precipitation forecast indicates that this trend will continue. Everyone talks about water here; (rivers don’t stop running until they do).
I walked down to Whychus Creek (running with vibrancy) one afternoon and filled a jug. It seemed right to reallocate a small quantity of water from the creek in the process of soil remediation, and to bind the particles in a structural form.
A structural form. Originally, (before beginning the relationship), the intent of this work was to learn how an architectural form might be able to respect and respond to its environment. I dreamt of rammed earth bricks for weeks. A building material, built of the site itself. And then I learned how loose, how ashy, the soil here is; everything crumbled to pieces before I began thinking about amendment.
Each small 0.37ft³ brick of soil has been augmented with biochar to increase water retention, dolomitic lime to allow plants better absorption of nutrients, kaolin to decrease the runoff of both water and nutrients.
These small architectures were not necessarily intended to remediate the soil. As the relationship evolved, however, the act of removing and returning material required an intermediary step that was more actively beneficial. A friend said, “extraction and restoration”, and this is precisely what ended up happening. One act necessitates the other. You cannot talk about building without talking about soil, about water, about site, about the way everything is bound to change, the way in which that change can be regenerative.
Wrapped / bounded by the earth around them, these are small sites of potential remediation. A space where seeds might start.