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Re: [fukuoka_farming] Flirting with nature

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  • 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 1 of 6 , Feb 5, 2007
      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

      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
      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.

    • 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 2 of 6 , Feb 5, 2007
        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@...>
        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?


        ----- 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@...>
        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

        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.


        --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "Jamie Nicol" <jamienicol@...>
        > 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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      • 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 3 of 6 , Feb 9, 2007
          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
          To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
          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...

          All best,


          *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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