Dear All, when we start on the road of NF I'm sure we all soon start rubbing up against the line we've drawn between intervention and non-intervention, action and 'do-nothing', as Steve points out. Just how much do we let nature be?
Fukuoka realised there is a difference when he destroyed his father's citrus orchard by neglect, this is when he learnt the difference between doing nothing and 'do-nothing'.
But, as I hoped to suggest in my last post, I believe that the personal process that occurs as we follow the path of NF has the effect of changing the very ground upon which this question of intervention rests. When we give up our goal-based, technique-driven orientation to gardening/farming there comes a point when it is no longer about intervention at all. When we have actually seen into 'do-nothing' and can be said to start farming with 'no mind', which Fukuoka says is the prerequisite for NF, it is not a matter of our intervention on nature at all because we have discovered that we are not not nature ourselves.
Therefore, I do not feel that it is any longer about how far we intervene, but from where we begin gardening/farming. As Steve points out, Fukuoka cut down and buried trees on the hillsides he transformed into a citrus orchard after it had been left denuded by a previous culture of potatoes. Fukuoka undertook such an interventionist step because of the felt need for the remediation of the soil.
But, surely, this is just the instrumentalist approach of conventional or organic farming? But, of course, the answer to this question is no: Fukuoka had already had his insight and long started on the road to NF. He knew every contour of the land, every change of weather and the wild foods and their seasons - he had real-ised (ie made real in his own life) already that in life there was simply nothing to do, simply be alive and grateful for it. He knew what to do because he felt what to do, because he wasn't other than what was (nature itself, thusness, tathata).
But, all this is very well, but how can we know that the destruction of the trees, the digging of the soil and the burying were not conventional agriculture but NF? And the answer to this question is what NF itself is, perception - the ability to see what is and not the conceptions and theories with which we normally see the world. The actual fact of the incredibly diverse, lush and productive orchard that soon came into being on that hillside (there are photos in Fukuoka's books and I have also seen videos showing this orchard) and the fact that through the practice of NF, the ever simplifying of the practice itself, Fukuoka realised he could achieve the same effect of the buried trees by planting black acacia (Acacia mearnsii [molissima]).
I do not believe that where we draw the line of intervention (or non-intervention) is in fact a question to be decided from within NF. Or, to say the same thing from a different direction, one can do anything one wants.
This leaves nature wide open to abuse but, as NFers, our work is not to protect nature but to start the long journey that brings us (ourselves) back to nature. If we begin from the right place then what we do will embody our understanding, just as Fukuoka's farm has done, and by this embodiment there will be something from which others can learn if they so desire.
----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Gage
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007 8:38 PM
Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Flirting with nature
I really get a lot from your (and many others of you!) posts here - you help
me realize what it is that I've already been thinking about, or at least the
kind of things I've been thinking about. I love the "flirting" idea - that's
really how I feel sometimes, though often it's just simple all-out love :-)
Here are a few random thoughts from an ecologist (who also teaches a
sustainable gardening class), brought forth by your last post, but also the
past few days' excellent sharing here. Please consider this "thinking out
loud" and sharing, not some dogma that I adhere to or promote. And please
excuse my abundant use of "", but I don't know how else to inflect my
I sometimes think of NF, and "do nothing", in slightly different words - I
think of what I "do" with my land as "allowing", or maybe even better
"getting out of the way as much as possible". Busy-humans seem to have a
need to DO things, and most of what we do is thwart natural processes. Ah,
but what constitutes "as much as possible"?... That seems to me to be where
most of our questions lurk.
The more I learn about soil microbiology and ecology, the more I realize I
don't need to know about soil microbiology and ecology, except insofar as my
learning reminds me continuously to get out of the way! I would no more
"turn over" the soil in my garden than chop off my hand - such a violent and
personal grotesquery - not only because I know what it would do, but equally
because I don't know. To me, science is for wonderment, not control. Every
new "fact" that comes to light merely shows how deep (indeed bottomless!)
the well of the unknown and unknowable truly is.
Fortunately, and this to me is MF's (Happy Birthday, Good Man!) great gift
to us all... We don't NEED to know! Imagine being told that in five minutes,
you were going to be consciously responsible for and in control of all your
bodily functions and metabolisms and whatnot. You'd be dead shortly
thereafter. Fortunately, you don't have to, and life goes on just fine. Just
as impossible and idiotic to me is the notion of "managing" ecosystems. You
don't manage ecosystems, you get out of the way.
That said (here comes the busy monkey!), so much of our land is so hurt, and
it seems natural to want to, well, "do" something to help it along. We throw
seed, we throw mulch. So far so good. Of course we never spray chemicals,
but do we hand-pick bugs? Do we pull up sod-forming grasses coming into our
vegetables? There are plenty of other "weeds". And of course, there's the
ultimate kicker: do we have any "right" to even "grow" "vegetables" in New
Hampshire, USA? Do we only grow what comes up without any help? The "weeds"
that we have around here are 99% introduced by humans anyway - why shouldn't
we pull them? MF writes about chopping down trees and burying them to put
carbon back into the soil - that seems pretty extreme to me...
My point is that many of us, I believe, have our hearts in a very seeking
place, and we get hold of principles, and we want to take them to their
logical conclusions. And at the same time, we want to eat real food from our
land. And we struggle over just where that line falls between "doing
nothing" and "fidgeting". We are all trying to find that line, and trying to
find it under all different conditions of climate and soil. That's one
reason I value this group so much.
I will close with a little story. A very good friend of mine grew up in a
family that always had large vegetable gardens, and grew a lot of their food
with what are, I'm afraid to say, "traditional" methods around here:
rototill every spring and fall, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc. He
knew my gardening ways very well, and needed no convincing to go in a more
NF direction, and tried to persuade his father (a real engineering type) to
at least go somewhat organic, and then, finally no-till. He wasn't getting
anywhere. One day his father called him to say that he was selling his
rototiller - he'd been digging a hole to transplant something or other, and
discovered a big fat toad resting down in the cool earth. It was the very
thought of rototilling that toad* that changed this man's whole notion of
gardening, and indeed soil. The moral of the story? I don't know, but
certainly there is one...
*PS - It helped that he liked toads. I guess that somehow, in his mind, that
toad became "toads", and "toads" became that toad, and *presto*, that was
the end of rototilling. A beautiful thing :-)
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