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thoughts and update

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  • Larry Haftl
    Hello All, Thought I would post an update about my Fukuoka Farming experiment and add a comment to the current conversation. First some background for those of
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 3, 2002
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      Hello All,

      Thought I would post an update about my Fukuoka Farming experiment
      and add a comment to the current conversation.

      First some background for those of you who may have joined this list
      in the last few months:

      I live on one acre of land in Western Oregon (few miles outside of
      Eugene, Oregon). I have a few fruit trees, some large firs, and the
      rest is more or less prairie - mixed grasses and "weeds". Last year
      I decided to try Fukuoka's method (or at least a variation on it).
      Started in the fall by cutting the "grass" as low as I could and
      broadcast New Zealand White Clover seeds all over the place. No tilling,
      no weeding, no herbicides used at any point.

      Over the winter I made seedballs using almost seven pounds of seeds
      - a mixture of more than 300 varieties of herbs, vegetables and flowers.
      In early spring I again cut the "grass" and clover low and broadcast
      the seedballs.

      We have had more than 12 inches of rain since broadcasting the seedballs,
      and the current weather is about normal for this time of year in
      our area - warm, partly sunny most of the time, "dry" season setting
      in.

      The result... interesting but disappointing. I have a yard full of
      diverse green stuff - several types of grasses, lots of dandelions
      (at least three different types), patches of clover, a few wildflowers,
      lots of other plants I have not yet identified, but so far not one
      recognizable vegetable, herb or flower plant from the seedballs.
      There may be something out there that I haven't found or recognized,
      but I have looked. Daily. Often for an hour or two each day with
      seed catalogs and plant identification books in hand.

      I am going to let the area go until next summer just in case there
      are seedballs out there that have not yet been disolved. Our winter
      rains will definitely do that this winter if they are there. Should
      I see any changes in the next month or two I'll let you know, and
      when I get the time I'll post a writeup and photos of the project
      on my website.

      So much for the update. Feel free to ask questions or make comments
      about any or all of this if you want to.

      As to the recent conversation... cows are not a problem, people are.
      Cows don't practice slash and burn argriculture, people do. Cows
      may indeed belch or fart methane, but it becomes insignificant in
      comparison to the crap people put into the air and the water. A hundred
      million cows would certainly have a significant impact on their environment,
      but again, it would be insignificant in comparison to what eight
      billion humans do to this planet every day. As a species we humans
      are far too successful for our own and the planet's good. Nature
      has a way of sorting out the problems created by overly successful
      species. Usuallly it's by massive die-off. Unfortunately, in our
      case we will probably take most of the other life forms on the planet
      with us unless we are able to significantly reduce our numbers and
      demands on the environment. Just feeding a little lower on the food
      chain is not going to do anything more than delay the inevitable
      unless the total number of feeders is also reduced.
    • souscayrous
      Hello Larry, Thanks for the update. It s interesting to hear of natural farming experiments, whether the results are positive or not...all information is
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 4, 2002
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        Hello Larry,
        Thanks for the update. It's interesting to hear of natural farming
        experiments, whether the results are positive or not...all information is
        useful after all. With 300 species in your seedballs you certainly have
        attempted diversity. I remember someone commenting previously, Emilia
        perhaps, that for vegetables to grow in Fukuoka's "semi-wild" manner it is
        necessary to be blessed by a similar climate to his, semi-tropical, with
        reliable spring rains. Also, I believe most of the herbs we use in
        'traditional' western cooking are of Mediterranean origin. If these two
        points are added to the fact that seeds that are generally available are
        highly cultivated (have had much work done to breed desirable traits -
        flower colour and size, vegetable or herb flavour and aroma) it may be that
        the majority of seeds used are just not able to compete in nature's rough
        and tumble.
        Below is what Fukuoka says about semi-wild vegetables and includes an
        editorial note from the One Straw Revolution;

        In growing vegetables in a "semi-wild" way, making use of a vacant lot,
        riverbank or
        open wasteland, my idea is to just toss out the seeds and let the vegetables
        grow up with the
        weeds. I grow my vegetables on the mountainside in the spaces between the
        citrus trees.
        The important thing is knowing the right time to plant. For the spring
        vegetables the right time
        is when the winter weeds are dying back and just before the summer weeds
        have sprouted
        (this method of growing vegetables has been developed by Mr. Fukuoka by
        trial and
        experiment in accordance with local conditions. Where he lives there are
        dependable spring
        rains, and a climate warm enough to grow vegetables in all seasons. Over the
        years, he has
        come to know which vegetables can be grown among which weeds and the kind of
        care each
        requires. In most parts of North America the specific method Mr. Fukuoka
        uses for growing
        vegetables would be impractical. It is up to each farmer who would grow
        vegetables in the
        semi-wild manner to develop a technique appropriate to the land and the
        natural vegetation).
        For the fall sowing, seeds should be tossed out when the summer grasses are
        fading away
        and the winter weeds have not yet appeared.

        Page 31 in the electronic version (PDF) of One Straw Revolution available
        for download from the Files section of this group


        The above is not an attempt to be wise after the event but to suggest that
        Larry not end his experiment but refine it. Through having seen what has
        happened this season, having watched the succession of weeds, often for
        hours at a time, he has grown intimate with the expression of nature in
        Oregon. Just as Fukuoka did over many years of trial and error, he came to
        see what would work and at what time, depending upon the waxing and waning
        of his seasonal weeds. Though it should also not be forgotten that when
        Fukuoka casually talks about seeding amongst his citrus trees he does not
        mention the fact that the earth there has been improved over many years by
        the clover and the addition of mulch from his nitrogen fixing trees.
        Still, there is time for some of the seeds to still take root. The clover
        will have improved the soil and the autumn and winter rains should manage to
        break the dormancy of any remaining seeds in time for the next spring.
        Perhaps it would be worth scattering seedballs containing more pioneer
        species this autumn?

        Does anyone else have any other details of their natural farming
        experiences, good or bad? I'll let you know the success or failure of my
        attempts to grow vegetables here in Mediterranean France without watering at
        the end of the summer, but in the mean time perhaps some of the antipodean
        members could let us know what they did this year, what worked and what
        didn't...over to you Rex et al.


        Souscayrous



        -----Original Message-----
        From: Larry Haftl [mailto:larry@...]
        Sent: Thursday, July 04, 2002 2:09 AM
        To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [fukuoka_farming] thoughts and update

        Hello All,

        Thought I would post an update about my Fukuoka Farming experiment
        and add a comment to the current conversation.

        First some background for those of you who may have joined this list
        in the last few months:

        I live on one acre of land in Western Oregon (few miles outside of
        Eugene, Oregon). I have a few fruit trees, some large firs, and the
        rest is more or less prairie - mixed grasses and "weeds". Last year
        I decided to try Fukuoka's method (or at least a variation on it).
        Started in the fall by cutting the "grass" as low as I could and
        broadcast New Zealand White Clover seeds all over the place. No tilling,
        no weeding, no herbicides used at any point.

        Over the winter I made seedballs using almost seven pounds of seeds
        - a mixture of more than 300 varieties of herbs, vegetables and flowers.
        In early spring I again cut the "grass" and clover low and broadcast
        the seedballs.

        We have had more than 12 inches of rain since broadcasting the seedballs,
        and the current weather is about normal for this time of year in
        our area - warm, partly sunny most of the time, "dry" season setting
        in.

        The result... interesting but disappointing. I have a yard full of
        diverse green stuff - several types of grasses, lots of dandelions
        (at least three different types), patches of clover, a few wildflowers,
        lots of other plants I have not yet identified, but so far not one
        recognizable vegetable, herb or flower plant from the seedballs.
        There may be something out there that I haven't found or recognized,
        but I have looked. Daily. Often for an hour or two each day with
        seed catalogs and plant identification books in hand.

        I am going to let the area go until next summer just in case there
        are seedballs out there that have not yet been disolved. Our winter
        rains will definitely do that this winter if they are there. Should
        I see any changes in the next month or two I'll let you know, and
        when I get the time I'll post a writeup and photos of the project
        on my website.

        So much for the update. Feel free to ask questions or make comments
        about any or all of this if you want to.

        As to the recent conversation... cows are not a problem, people are.
        Cows don't practice slash and burn argriculture, people do. Cows
        may indeed belch or fart methane, but it becomes insignificant in
        comparison to the crap people put into the air and the water. A hundred
        million cows would certainly have a significant impact on their environment,
        but again, it would be insignificant in comparison to what eight
        billion humans do to this planet every day. As a species we humans
        are far too successful for our own and the planet's good. Nature
        has a way of sorting out the problems created by overly successful
        species. Usuallly it's by massive die-off. Unfortunately, in our
        case we will probably take most of the other life forms on the planet
        with us unless we are able to significantly reduce our numbers and
        demands on the environment. Just feeding a little lower on the food
        chain is not going to do anything more than delay the inevitable
        unless the total number of feeders is also reduced.















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      • Chuck West
        souscayrous added to the discussion: (Referring to Fukuoka) ... Over the years, he has come to know which vegetables can be
        Message 3 of 5 , Jul 4, 2002
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          "souscayrous" <souscayrous@...> added to the discussion:
          <SNIP> (Referring to Fukuoka) ... Over the years, he has come to know which
          vegetables can be grown among which weeds and the kind of care each
          requires. In most parts of North America the specific method Mr. Fukuoka
          uses for growing vegetables would be impractical. It is up to each farmer
          who would grow vegetables in the semi-wild manner to develop a technique
          appropriate to the land and the natural vegetation). For the fall sowing,
          seeds should be tossed out when the summer grasses are fading away.


          Maybe 15 years ago I acquired a book, _Companion Plants_, by Helen Philbrick
          and Richard Gregg. It was copyrighted by The Devin-Adair Company and based
          on research by Sir Albert Howard, J. I. Rodale, and others and primarily
          espoused the ideas and theories of Bio-Dynamic Methods for farming and
          gardening. I suspect many of you know much more about this than do I, and I
          must admit that I've been entirely out of gardening for a number of years
          and am rusty on what I once knew. But it seems to me that the success of an
          approach like Fukuoka's would be significantly enhanced if one knew in what
          way different plants interacted and then formed the seedballs accordingly.
          Of course, Fukuoka might say that's too much effort, let nature (including
          chance) take its course. I'm more interested in getting useful results,
          and--frankly--don't mind being criticized for "tinkering." What do the rest
          of you think?

          Chuck in Indiana
        • blugra
          I would think, knowing the Pacific Costal planting patterns for the last 30 years,(N. Calif) that the broadcast of seed would have to be timed in two groups.
          Message 4 of 5 , Jul 4, 2002
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            I would think, knowing the Pacific Costal planting patterns for the last 30 years,(N. Calif) that the broadcast of seed would have to be timed in two groups.
            One in late February or March just toward the end of the rains but not quite. Enough time to have rain to start the seeds, just as the lush new green growth of grasses is still rather low. This would establish the annuals, vegetables and such early enough to get them up and near to fruiting by the time the dry season had set in in earnest. I have seen this pattern in my yard where and when volunteers arrive. The main problem with our costal weather is, most of the volunteer plants survive nicely into late June, early July growing deep roots chasing the water (because we have no rain after May usually). But toward July and certainly in August, when most annual vegetable plants mature, they are dwarfed or fail from lack of water. I think one would have to give such a semi-wild planting some water to get any yield at all.

            The second time to scatter seed would be in later October or just before the rains begin. These seeds should probably be the perennial herbs and bushes. Herbs often take quite a lot longer to establish and many are low growing. During the early rainy season they can get established while other things are low to the ground in a dormant season. Herbs that Ive grown often take at least a year if not longer to get established. If they are dwarfed by tall growing other plants I dont think they would make it. Perhaps if you scatter seed divided more by growth habit...small and low growing herbs in one group, or perennials divided from annuals (which are usually larger plants but not always) you would get a better result. I think these adaptations would be necessary.

            We do not get heavy enough frost to kill established herbs but I do not know if you do further north. The rare frost will kill the young plants even here. Which is again a problem if you seed at the beginning of the rains. I would think if you wish to have herbs and seed in fall, you should pick a place that is sheltered and not likely to take a freeze as much as the surrounding area.

            I hope this helps. I know it is very general. I've not experimented with wide broadcast of seed so this is only going from a long time experience of watching the growing patterns and seasons of the Pacific Coast. Perhaps if you watch this year which plants start their growth in fall and which in spring you could divide your seeding accordingly.

            blu
          • burt levy
            -Hi I also live in N. Calif., Chico. I was wondering where you live around. It sounds like the north coast. Calif. is so diverse in it s topography and
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 4, 2002
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              -Hi I also live in N. Calif., Chico. I was wondering
              where you live around. It sounds like the north coast.
              Calif. is so diverse in it's topography and climates.
              I was in Laytonville at the Hog farm for a show. It
              was about 90 degrees. I then drove the approximately
              one hour to get to Mendocino. It was foggy and 65.
              Also in winter it could be cloudy and cool in Chico,
              and at the same time only ten miles away it can be
              snowing. It brings up the importance of micro climates
              of a particular area.-- blugra <did_not@...>
              wrote:
              > I would think, knowing the Pacific Costal planting
              > patterns for the last 30 years,(N. Calif) that the
              > broadcast of seed would have to be timed in two
              > groups.
              > One in late February or March just toward the end of
              > the rains but not quite. Enough time to have rain
              > to start the seeds, just as the lush new green
              > growth of grasses is still rather low. This would
              > establish the annuals, vegetables and such early
              > enough to get them up and near to fruiting by the
              > time the dry season had set in in earnest. I have
              > seen this pattern in my yard where and when
              > volunteers arrive. The main problem with our costal
              > weather is, most of the volunteer plants survive
              > nicely into late June, early July growing deep roots
              > chasing the water (because we have no rain after May
              > usually). But toward July and certainly in August,
              > when most annual vegetable plants mature, they are
              > dwarfed or fail from lack of water. I think one
              > would have to give such a semi-wild planting some
              > water to get any yield at all.
              >
              > The second time to scatter seed would be in later
              > October or just before the rains begin. These seeds
              > should probably be the perennial herbs and bushes.
              > Herbs often take quite a lot longer to establish and
              > many are low growing. During the early rainy season
              > they can get established while other things are low
              > to the ground in a dormant season. Herbs that Ive
              > grown often take at least a year if not longer to
              > get established. If they are dwarfed by tall
              > growing other plants I dont think they would make
              > it. Perhaps if you scatter seed divided more by
              > growth habit...small and low growing herbs in one
              > group, or perennials divided from annuals (which are
              > usually larger plants but not always) you would get
              > a better result. I think these adaptations would be
              > necessary.
              >
              > We do not get heavy enough frost to kill established
              > herbs but I do not know if you do further north.
              > The rare frost will kill the young plants even here.
              > Which is again a problem if you seed at the
              > beginning of the rains. I would think if you wish
              > to have herbs and seed in fall, you should pick a
              > place that is sheltered and not likely to take a
              > freeze as much as the surrounding area.
              >
              > I hope this helps. I know it is very general. I've
              > not experimented with wide broadcast of seed so this
              > is only going from a long time experience of
              > watching the growing patterns and seasons of the
              > Pacific Coast. Perhaps if you watch this year which
              > plants start their growth in fall and which in
              > spring you could divide your seeding accordingly.
              >
              > blu
              >
              >


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