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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Avalanche Control


Avalanche control above the top station of Versettlibaha in the ski resort of Montafon Silvretta Nova, Vorarlberg, Austria: photo by Friedrich Böhringer, 16 March 2008

You can't shake a stick at

avalanche control

without risking having it all

come down over you

at once -- Oblivion deep cool

difficult and steep

little gaps or gasps

between steps or breaths

Control of gorse by burning, Dartmoor, Devon, UK
: photo by Herbythyme, 16 March 2010


Curtis Faville said...


When I saw this, I thought: Couldn't gorse be a source of peat?

In Scotland, where most of the trees were cut down decades, if not centuries, ago, there are hillsides of this stuff (right along side the heather). Twiggy, bunchy, itchy stuff. Is it a scourge?

Then sure enough I found this link--

which reports the experiment.

Peat is interesting stuff. The Wiki entry is fleshed out and fascinating.

Seamus Heaney wrote poems about peat bogs. I haven't read them, though.

Cheers to you.



Beautiful ---
"little gaps or gasps
between steps or breaths"

--- isn't what it's all about?

(The top of Mt. Lincoln up at Sugar Bowl last week sure didn't look like the top of Versettlibaha at Montafon Silvretta Nova on March 16, 2008.)


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, shadowed sparrow landing on post
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

thing to do with experience,
that this is here and

becoming a thing, is always
action, as it appears

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
sunlit white gull flapping toward ridge

Hazen said...

Tom, Today you're a master of minimalism. Earth and sky . . . and oblivion cool and steep. Like it.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Beautiful avalanche poem and gorse control notwithstanding, I can’t help myself—any mention of gorse immediately sends me to Seferis’ last poem “On Gorse”—a short but scathing poetic indictment of the Greek dictator Papadopoulos published three days after the poet’s death. We have gorse profusely growing throughout the surrounding countryside which makes a walk there in early spring pure gorsean delight.

TC said...

Many thanks Curtis, Steve (our snow scout!) and Hazen.

Minimal, ah, a sort of heaven.

There are places where humans might prefer snow and gorse to be kept, if not always to a strict minimum, then at least somewhat beneath the level of the extreme maximum.

But of course petty human interventions in these areas may not always succeed quite as desired.


When conditions are right, as here on Dartmoor as pictured, gorse becomes dominant, and where this is undesirable for ecological or agricultural reasons, gorse stands are reduced, during the spring growing season, by regular burns like this one. The controlled burning is called swaling. The gorse is burnt off in a controlled manner to allow grass and heather to regrow and feed livestock. In this photo, beaters are working to prevent the fire burning outside the designated burn area.

Once the process was done by cutters. In Hardy's Return of the Native, set in these parts, Clym Yeobright becomes a furze-cutter on Egdon Heath -- furze being the local name for gorse.

In New Zealand, gorse is regarded as a major invasive plant species, something along the lines of short, yellow, scratchy Triffids.

My wife, who grew up in NZ, remembers the gorse as a troublous infestation on the hillsides.

Down there, various biological agents of control have been tried over the past century, none entirely successful nor without drawbacks.

It's lately been found however that when the gorse gets old and "leggy", other sorts of plants can be seeded in, and grow up through it. In thus wise has occurred the experimental revegetation of such areas as that encircling the central remaining patch of gorse here Here native bush has reclaimed the re-seeded perimeter of the gorse patch.

As to the use of composted forest gorse as a peat substitute, as proposed in the interesting linked article, it would seem that, were this to be found practicable, somebody would have a go at it.

But Nature has its own ways of having a go-back.

The point of this post, in brief, was to suggest that some things are anyhow beyond our control.

Angelica's father, as a lad, was an avid mountaineer, and while at a Swiss boarding school, went into the mountains one day to ski with a friend. There came an avalanche, separating the two friends. When A's father got back to the bottom, he learned that his friend had been lost. This was, of course, a pretty traumatic experience.

Those few precious last gasps...

TC said...


Sorry to have missed your bright sprig of gorse-defense, stuck here in the holding tank. Let the gorse flourish then, and let us grow to love it, and the snow as well -- after all it's their planet at least as much as it's ours. And probably even more so, when one comes to consider the matter.

Martha King said...

loose strife - mellow purple
broom - bubbling yellow
phragmites - feathery beige, catching winds as wheat
kudzoo -deeply shining green, heroic devourer

are we supposed to hate ourselves


TC said...

Martha you have caused me to wish to don a beekeeper suit and roll about in beautiful fields of tangly, prickly things.

Anonymous said...

This is very timely because we've hit a spot of mild weather, and every couple of days here there's a roar and a rumbling noise, and every time you wonder what the hell it could be, and it's the snow and ice sliding off the 60-degree roof of this house. We're a bit worried it's going to hit one of the dogs; they move fast but it moves faster, I think.


Chris said...

That first photograph is very disturbing. The futility of it.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Fascinating exchange, literal and philosophical, on gorse/furze. Laurie works for the local parks conservancy and every time she uses the term "invasive species" I just have to smile.

Who looks like the invader on the Dartmoor heath pictured here, eh?

Tom, the whole world spins and just keeps coming back to Mr. Hardy. Thanks.

TC said...

Artur's observation about the relative speed of avalanche and dog does bring home the immediacy of the futility.

Yes, Don, the Avalanche Menace seems altogether more ominous than the Attack of the Killer Gorse.

Though come to think of it those intrepid gorse-torturers themselves might pose something of a threat, if turned loose upon society at large. Why didn't someone think of calling upon them, as the Triffids marched toward London?