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RE: [fukuoka_farming] Flirting with nature

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  • Steve Gage
    Jamie, 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
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 5, 2007
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      Jamie,

      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
      meaning.

      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...

      All best,

      Steve

      *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 :-)
    • Robin, Maya, or Napi
      Another thanks to all the wise questioning that goes on here, making every day a celebration of Masanobu Fukuoka s birthday. The practice in letting go of
      Message 2 of 6 , Feb 5, 2007
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        Another thanks to all the wise questioning that goes on here, making every
        day a celebration of Masanobu Fukuoka's birthday.

        The practice in letting go of attempts at control in Natural Farming is a
        skill that I am trying to practice with the current situation in the
        community garden here. The thoughts expressed on this newsgroup, always
        fascinating, have been especially helpful lately.

        As submitted in our report a while back, our school has for some years been
        involved in various park & neighborhood projects that were based on
        no-till, mixed seed grouping (not in clay balls, though), weed & insect
        inclusion & study. The park projects, planted borders along an alley, were
        repeatedly, if inadvertently, mowed down by constantly changing maintenance
        crews who simply saw them as a big jumble, even after official meetings &
        signage. The park border projects have been frustrating as well as
        intriguing.

        We contacted other schools & churches in the area to found a community
        garden on land that one of the churches could share. From the outset, we
        spelled out that we wanted the garden to contain examples of Fukuokan
        inspired gardening, as well as allowing all other gardeners their own
        choices of models to follow (from reading Ruth Stout's lasagna gardening,
        Mollison's permaculture, Jeavons' biointensive, or just what they remember
        their grandparents telling them) as long as no petrochemical,
        non-biodegradable fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides were used. Another
        community garden in the city got a grant for their professional designers
        to serve as consultant to new gardens, & we invited them into our garden.
        To our surprise, the first thing that they had to say was that everything
        that we had done in the months we had spent building the garden should be
        back-hoed & the whole thing started over (after they spent a few months on
        their paid professional design.) A contract requirement for community
        gardeners would include keeping the bed weeded.

        The conflict in the community garden is a force that is pushing against
        allowing anyone to maintain a Fukuokan respect for studying their garden
        bed, & my lesson in letting go seems to be yield like the willow so that
        the passing storm will not break my stance. In this case, it may be called
        "smile as if saying "Okay, we will all do what the consultant says,"
        without actually saying "Okay, we will all do what the consultant says."
        Eventually, the consultants, conventional organic gardeners, will likely
        make an example of our school's garden, probably using the standard
        comparison of yield in weight, to show that Natural Farming methods "do not
        work as well" as labor-intensive control of more aspects of the garden bed.

        This community garden, however, was founded as a project of the
        neighborhood's Emergency Preparedness & Sustainability Committee. The
        stated purpose of the garden includes examining how well the garden could
        be sustained during changing times, including really hard times, including
        emergencies, including the likes of James Howard Kunstler's book, The Long
        Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, & Other Converging
        Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century
        <http://www.amazon.com/Long-Emergency-Converging-Catastrophes-Twenty-First/dp/0871138883>.
        That possibility stands in contradiction to the presumed requirement for
        every food plant everywhere to be dependent on a double-digging rototiller.

        The toad sitting passively in the hole has challenged the rototiller, & the
        lesson has not been lost. Flirting with the toad is playful enough. If
        anyone has to kiss it though, the consultants may have to learn to
        demonstrate that.

        Peace,
        Napi
      • Andrew E Fister
        Another way to say what Jamie said....I think. Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub. It is on the hole in the center that the use of the wheel hinges. We
        Message 3 of 6 , Feb 5, 2007
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          Another way to say what Jamie said....I think.

          "Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub.
          It is on the hole in the center that the use of the wheel hinges.

          We make a vessel from a lump of clay,
          It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful.

          We make doors, walls and windows for a room,
          But it is the empty space contained that makes the room livable.

          Thus, while the tangible has advantages,
          It is the intangible that makes it useful."

          This is my experience of NF. Whatever advantage I may perceive in some
          method for handling the tangibles of gardening, it is ultimately and
          always only the intangible I serve. Thus, I have noticed, my own
          usefulness in NF is not in culturing nature necessarily, but in being
          cultured by the intangible. And this is not to say that I need to be, or
          do anything differently than I am already, until that changes. It seems
          to me every step on the path of NF is stepping into empty space and
          seeing I am there.

          Andrew Fister
          Wandafar Sanctuary
          Glasgow, KY

          On Mon, 5 Feb 2007 14:50:41 +0100 "Jamie Nicol" <jamienicol@...>
          writes:
          Dear All, it is very encouraging for me to hear the words of Andrew and
          Bart. I feel in their words my own restless moving from one position to
          another, always attempting to be right, to follow the true...only, of
          course, to time and again to have all positions exposed as false. It is
          indeed our minds that move.

          This, I believe, is why there is NF. There is no better way to be brought
          back time and again to the spectacle of the restlessness of our minds in
          the techniques with which we choose to grow our plants. Because it is
          nature that grows plants, not us. Perhaps it is better not to even
          attribute agency to nature and say plants just grow.

          If we once make that commitment to attempt 'do-nothing' then we discover
          that in letting go we are open to everything and the discovery of what a
          very scary place that is when we have been used to dictating just where,
          when and how a plant should grow. Fukuoka calls NF a 'methodless method',
          but how difficult it is to let go all the techniques we have learnt, even
          the unconscious ones, and it takes a very remarkable person to just let
          go and accept that nature is perfect.

          It would be easy to imagine that NF is simply the words we are
          anonymously sending out into this electronic ether, but NF is nothing if
          it is not what we actually practice. If NF remains just words it changes
          nothing, NF is practice, every day. Working outside with the ever
          unfolding of nature is constantly to be brought back to the
          unknowableness at the heart of existence', which certainly contains fear
          but can also transform into the most extraordinary joy at the simple
          wonder of existence itself: "Why am I alive? I don't know. But I'm just
          so happy to be so".

          NF is not just doing nothing either, it is not renunciation of the world
          and withdrawal into ourselves. The world is real, intimately so. It is as
          if through the resolute practice of NF that we learn through experience
          to stop chasing techniques for this and that, to let all our goal
          directed activity recede like the tide on a beach. Having let go fully,
          the tide does not disappear over the horizon, but at some moment the tide
          turns. I hope that what we can do here with these disembodied words is to
          describe what our practice of NF actually is having experienced the
          turning of the tide. Making what we discuss here the actual embodiment of
          our understanding of NF in our own gardens or fields.

          I live in a bioregion prone to weather extremes, heat in summer, cold in
          winter, strong winds, inconstant and sometimes destructive rain, even
          though it is a wonderful climate for most of the year...what does that
          mean for a natural agriculture on my small piece of land? Fukuoka
          describes the need to know before you begin what a natural agriculture
          should look like. But, therefore, one would also have had to have had the
          experience of letting go all techniques first. So what have I deduced
          (deduction rather than induction, says Fukuoka) in the few years I've
          been here? That NF in this bioregion begins with trees, whether for
          orchards, cereal fields or vegetables. That's it. It isn't much, but when
          I look at the overgrazed hills above and the wasted vines around, I can
          feel the lack of trees like an ache in the ground that passes through my
          boots and into my body.

          So I cast tree seeds whenever I can, on my land and the land above that
          makes up my small watershed. Indeed, it might well be that there is
          nothing else to do but cast seeds.

          I'd like to finish with a question: Is there a difference between
          Fukuoka's NF as detailed in 'One-Straw', 'Natural Way' and 'Road Back'
          and his last book, 'Recapitualtion'? Does anyone know or has anyone had
          an insight in their practice that might have offered an answer to this
          question, because it seems to me that Fukuoka ultimately simplified
          everything to just casting seedballs.

          I've probably gone on longer than I should have and combined too many
          things, but I hope it is still possible to follow what my path of NF
          looks like. I'd love to hear yours?

          Jamie
          Souscayrous

          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Andrew E Fister
          To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Sunday, February 04, 2007 4:30 PM
          Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] Flirting with nature

          I flirt with nature, like the woman I love. One motivation for farming
          naturally as far as I can tell is "First, do no harm". It used to be for
          me that my motivation for farming naturally was to prove I am right and
          anyone not getting on my band wagon was wrong, or greedy, or ignorant.
          Whether the people I know who are farming conventionally are guilty or
          not, my whole motivation was to prove they are. This motivation, until I
          realized it, was nothing less than a form of war. I made conventional
          farming and those farmers my enemies. I judged them and what they were
          doing as criminal and I put them in the prison of the concepts I believed
          in. The result became this great divide between us and I became
          imprisoned in the same prison I constructed for them.

          I now view all this suffering as my greed, aggression and ignorance, not
          theirs, my war in myself with the enemy being me against myself. I
          couldn't see Nature until I stopped thinking in a way that was harming
          myself. Until I stopped believing in the illusion that something or
          someone outside my mind was causing harm, my natural farming was merely
          academic....dead, no joy, like a weapon. Yes, I know the damage done by
          conventional farming methods, but I doubt condemning the people who
          practice it will end the harm.

          I am in conflict with and divided from Nature in myself when I believe
          the yield I get "should" be different than it is. I am in conflict with
          and separate from Nature when I get stuck on thinking a crop failure
          shouldn't have happened, or that success is based on a fixed set of
          results. This is not to say that I don't have results in mind. All
          results are exactly what they should be and when I see that, I am
          grateful. There is no harm in being grateful for reality. I get
          aggressive and greedy if I believe it should be otherwise. Conventional
          farming methods and conventional farmers are, in a sense, my teachers. I
          am grateful for that too and then I remember my gardening practices have
          nothing to do with them, not as a means of opposing them. This makes me a
          harmless activist, not because I oppose them. I don't oppose them...they
          don't oppose me. Their minds change when they change, and they are
          changing, just like mine.

          Andrew Fister
          Wandafar Sanctuary
          Glasgow, KY

          On Sun, 4 Feb 2007 06:49:38 -0600 Andrew E Fister <aefister@...>
          writes:
          The only time an argument exists between natural farming and conventional
          farming is when I am having it in my mind. If I am arguing (making one
          view good and another view wrong) that's when I get trapped in the
          illusion of concepts. If I make a distinction between "nothingness" and
          "somethingness" as if they are states of mind I could be trapped in, I am
          also trapped. Once I start having this petty argument with my neighbor, I
          am indeed trapped. Unless of course I also know the trap is an illusion,
          in which case I can play and be in love with my conventional farming
          neighbor.

          If natural farming is about how "to do" and how "not to do" then I am not
          doing it and not - not doing it.

          Andrew Fister
          Wandafar Sanctuary
          Glasgow, KY

          b 2007 08:53:16 -0000 "Bart" <bartovan@...> writes:
          I agree wholeheartedly that this is the real issue of natural farming,
          and that in natural farming yield is not a goal - in a sense, there is
          no goal. Thank you for pointing this out.

          However, let's be careful not to get trapped in Nothingness (which is
          one of the diseases of zen). If my industrial farmer neighbour comes
          to me and tells me, "hey, did you see the sun came up in the west this
          morning", I will tell him that this is not true, i.e. that this is not
          the right way to use these words. I know there is really neither east
          nor west, that these are concepts or illusions, and that the sun
          (another concept) doesn't care, and so on. However, if you open your
          mouth and use words, you should use them correctly.
          In the same way, if he comes to me and tells me "you and your natural
          farming, your yield is pitifull", I think it is important not to let
          ourselves be trapped in his incorrect (selective) use of the term
          "yield", only referring to weight/volume and making abstraction of
          many other important factors.
          Or we can just smile to him of course, but I for one know that if my
          smile doesn't come profoundly from the heart, I better argue :)

          This "industrial high yield"-lie is a stick behind the door with which
          organic producers/consumers/sellers are often beaten on the head -
          with their own full cooperation, choosing to go along with the narrow
          weight/volume-perspective and not finding an adequate response.

          But again, I do think it is very iportant to remember, time after
          time, that he real issue in natural farming is doing nothing.

          Bart

          --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "Jamie Nicol" <jamienicol@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > Dear All, in an attempt to broaden the discussion of 'success' and
          to avoid falling into 'esoteric' chatter, I thought some words of
          Fukuoka would be pragmatic:
          >
          > " To achieve a humanity and a society founded on non-action, man
          must look back over everything he has done and rid himself one by one
          of the false visions and concepts that permeate him and his society.
          This is what the 'do-nothing' movement is all about. Natural Farming
          can be seen as one branch of this movement. Human knowledge and effort
          expand and grow increasingly complex and wasteful without limit. We
          need to halt this expansion, to converge, simplify, and reduce our
          knowledge and effort. This is in keeping with the laws of nature.
          Natural Farming is more than just a revolution in agricultural
          techniques. It is the practical foundation of a spiritual movement, of
          a revolution to change the way we live."
          >
          > Obviously, the tenor of these words seems to suggest that NF and
          'success' might not be to do with yield, qualitative or quantitative.
          >
          > Jamie
          > Souscayrous
          >

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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Jamie Nicol
          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
          Message 4 of 6 , Feb 9, 2007
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            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.

            Jamie
            Souscayrous

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Steve Gage
            To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007 8:38 PM
            Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Flirting with nature


            Jamie,

            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
            meaning.

            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...

            All best,

            Steve

            *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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