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Personal observations

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  • Larry Haftl
    Hello to all, I ve been reading the posts of this group for a little more than two weeks now. Since I am not a farmer, not much of a gardener, and have only
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 22, 2001
      Hello to all,

      I've been reading the posts of this group for a little more than two weeks
      now. Since I am not a farmer, not much of a gardener, and have only recently
      decided to experience Mr. Fukuoka's method of farming/gardening, it's likely
      I would have continued to read the posts with interest but without much to
      contribute to the discussion. However, Jim Bones' recent personal
      observations posting nagged at the back of my mind until I finally decided
      to come out of the electronic shadows and offer some thoughts that you may,
      or may not find useful.

      To begin with, we (me, my wife, our 24-year old son, my 87-year old mother,
      and our 12-year old mutt) live on a little less than an acre of land about
      8 miles from Eugene, Oregon. Even though we're close to an urban center, the
      area where we live is rural, not suburban. We've got a well with great
      water, and blacktail deer, racoons, gray squirrels, the occasional possum,
      and all sorts of birds, bugs, and other creatures wandering through the
      place at all times of the day and night. We've got a few fruit trees, fir
      trees (a few are big enough to qualify as "old-growth"), and a yard (can't
      call it a "lawn") with moss, grasses, and a wide assortment of plants
      usually called weeds. Until a week ago we had a solid wall thirty feet high,
      thirty feet deep and about one hundred feet long of blackberry vines. The
      vines are now a pile of ashes, but don't worry, they'll grow back with a

      We don't have a garden. The closest thing we've ever had was growing a few
      tomatoes in containers. I'm not sure exactly how it came to be, but we've
      decided to plant the whole place following most of Mr. Fukuoka's
      suggestions. I say most because we will do some weeding. Those blackberries
      I mentioned are an extremely aggressive non-native plant that will literally
      blot out the sun if left alone. I've got them on the run using muscle power
      and fire and will continue to do so. We also intend to irrigate. Mr. Fukuoka
      lives in a place that gets abundant rainfall all year round. We don't.
      Contrary to popular opinion, our summers are dry even in normal years, and
      lately even our winters have had lower than normal rainfall.

      One other area of difference is in the composition of the seedballs. I can't
      recall if it was in one of his books or in an interview but he talked of
      including all sorts of seeds in the seedballs including seeds for trees and
      other plants. We've decided to limit the types of seed to vegetables, fruits
      (wild strawberries), herbs, flowers, and some grasses/grains. The reason for
      this is tied directly to one of our goals -- to produce mostly edible

      That brings me to my first thought. In his personal observations posting Jim
      Bones wrote:
      "The best we may be able to do at this point is determine and designate
      areas of the earth that stand a relatively good chance of retaining some
      biological diversity and concentrating our preservation and rehabilitation
      efforts there. Forget about the deceptive notion of "restoration" of
      environments. Too much is changing too fast to make that possible any
      longer. We can try to
      protect and preserve, but nature is in the process of selecting right now
      from the world gene pool who and what will survive. The greater the extent
      of wild and natural landscapes that continue to exist, the greater the
      diversity of possibilities life will have to work with in the next phase of
      evolution, the next act in the great play."

      I agree with almost every word he wrote. Where I paused is over the words
      "wild and natural landscapes." It's not that I disagreed with them, it's
      just that they are, to me, too often used to mean some sort of undefined
      ecological paradise that supposedly existed way back when. I probably
      reacted that way because I spent four years at enviro-nazi headquarters
      (University of Oregon undergrad and graduate programs) and had to listen to
      too many ill-informed, inexperienced, but passionate students preaching the
      gospel according to the Sierra Club lawyers. Judging by the content of his
      website (which I personally found extremely helpful in interpreting the
      mechanics of Mr. Fukuoka's seedballs) I don't think Mr. Bones is using those
      words that way, but let me offer a thought on very local, very limited
      biodiversity enhancement without using either "wild" or "natural".

      If I was dealing with a piece of land that was measured in square miles
      rather than square feet I might be tempted to try some form of restoration
      back to an environment that was limited to only native species. I'm not. I
      have a small parcel of land that sits between a major highway and our local
      road, with neighbors on both sides that participate in the endless dance of
      cutting, fertilizing, watering and cutting their lawns. Even if I could
      restore my small parcel of land to what it looked like a few hundred years
      ago I wouldn't. There were no tomatoes around here back then. I don't mind
      helping to create a biologically diverse environment that feeds every living
      thing in the area as long as it feeds us as well.

      So what I intend doing is to plant the entire property in white clover this
      month, scatter seedballs with about 200 different types of seeds in them,
      and watch what happens over the next three years. There will be no tillage,
      no fertilizers, no pesticides or herbicides and, with the exception of my
      on-going war with the blackberries, no weeding. What I wind up with will
      probably not be what most people call "wild", and since it will have all
      sorts of non-native plants in it most people would probably not call it
      "natural", but it should be pretty biodiverse and crafted primarily by

      In the world that Mr. Bones described (and I agree with most of his
      description) I think that is about the best I, and most people not involved
      in public lands management, can do. Is it enough to significantly impact the
      world? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure it will significantly impact me, my
      family, and the young neighbor kids I've already drafted into helping me
      find and identify what all is going to be growing out there.

      There are some other thoughts I've had about this but I think this email is
      already too long and may be of little or no interest or use to anyone else,
      so I'll leave it at that.

      Larry Haftl
      Journalist * Photographer * Videographer
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