Most of the garden beds are dry enough to be forked.
It was beautiful to see everyone outside waking the garden up after a long wet winter.
Spring gardening feels like a new beginning for me.
A commitment to learn and grow while intimately engage with life.
An opportunity to explore the depths of food growing philosophy and practice.
Accepting the challenge of choosing methods and responding to unexpected situations.
This year I decided to continue my exploration of shizeno (natural farming) in the far far garden (its really far), and improve my lazy organic gardening for the communal production focused beds.
Most of my experience has been with the Biointensive model I learned at the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden/Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS). As the name suggest Biointensive is intense! Its a lot of physical work and I feel like its too rough on the soil. Its an awesome method for Santa Cruz if you want to be a small-scale organic gardener pumping out tons of food and you are physically fit. They are some of the most bump'in gardens with beautiful veggies packed tight in a small amount of space. For more on this, check out How to Grow More Vegetables (Jeavons), or go to amazingly beautiful and educational sites like the UCSC gardens, the Homeless Garden Project, or Camp Joy (all in Santa Cruz).
Recently, I've been increasingly exposed to more and more biodynamic practices and philosophy. Here at the Bullocks, Doug encouraged us to use, or at least look through, the biodynamic calendar with the moon cycles and other cosmic elements that illuminate what you should plant at what time during each day. My good friends at the Frey Biodynamic Vinyard in Mendocino, CA are the most serious anthroposophists I know and frequently teach me about the various dimensions of Steiner's teachings. What I appreciate about Biodynamic is the integration of various elements (agriculture, medicine and health care, education, architecture, etc) in to a spiritually rooted humanistic belief system. Really intriguing stuff that I hope to learn more about. I don't know enough to put much of it into practice at the moment. Definitely an important circle for the sustainability movement.
Then there is shizeno, the method and philosophy I am most attracted to.
Whats the difference with organic gardening?
Well, the simple answer I give these days is,
no weeding, no tilling, and no fertilising (including compost).
But, its much more than that.
Those are merely the physical expressions of a way of life.
Shizeno to me is a path of reaching and maintaining ecological balance
through observation, understanding, and minimal intervention.
Like my tai chi teacher taught,
"what can we do less of,
what are we doing that we don't need to do."
Its a practice to transform our perspective
and respect those we struggle to get along with,
like weeds and pests (like our in-laws:)
Weeds, fungi, bacteria, bugs, other people, nature are not our enemies.
We share the earth with all living and non-living things.
Our minds discriminate and we often try to eliminate our problems before understanding why they have have come to be.
I see this as another practice to transcend the dualistic thinking of good and bad.
Its not easy, but its important.
I've been deeply moved by the humility of shizeno farmers,
and their understanding of the soil and local ecology.
They are patient, committed, and hard-working.
More exciting stuff to come about shizeno!
For my assigned garden beds that are to feed the intern community,
I started with my lazy organic method.
We each have a total of about 6-8 garden beds in two different locations.
This year my goal is to use as little or no off island resources,
mainly pelletised chicken manure and crab meal.
I feel that is more inline with my values and I want to challenge myself to localize more.
The Lazy Biointensive Method
I define the edges of the bed with a D handle fork, then I turn chunks of the garden bed with a four pronged cultivator. That way its less work and much less chopping of earthworms. I break the big chunks of soil with my hand or a fork and smooth the bed out with a rake and my hands. I really like touching soil so I try to use my hands as much as possible.
Its really important to touch the soil and be intimate with it. Bare hands is so pleasant.
The Bullocks M.O.
Here at the Bullocks we define out paths with stable litter. Then the following year we scoop the decomposed stable litter (free and from nearby) into our beds to add organic matter. This also serves as a weed barrier where we can easily pull any quack grass that migrates toward the beds. We often use freshly mowed grass clippings as a nitrogen rich mulch that also deters the large slug populations which devastate the sweet little sproutlings. It seems common at the Bullocks to add compost, pelletised chicken manure, and crab meal into the beds.
This year I'm in charge of asian greens, fava beans, chinese cabbage, onions, gailan, cucumbers. My companion plants are kale and several fragrant and delicious Japanese plants: shiso, nira, mitsuba, yomogi. The chinese cabbage transplants looked a bit nitrogen deficient and Yuriko suggested pelletised chicken manure but I'm going to see if I can address it with urine (the bucket). I found a bunch of cut grass so I just threw it on my bed as mulch.
*What I learned from several sources is that the key to utilising urine is DILUTION. 1:10 urine to water seems like what most people say. I'm hoping to get a copy of Liquid Gold (Steinfeld) so I can make use of this amazing resources that I am generating all the time!
In the far far field shizeno beds,
my approach this year is to grow the easiest crops for the climate here.
Mainly brassicas, onion, and maybe some legumes.
I have a long way to go before I get a descent harvest through shizeno,
but I'm committed to get there.
It took Fukuoka and Kawaguchi a few years before they had harvests that
matched their previous chemical farming methods.
In fact I think they both had close to no harvest the first year or two.
I'm in no hurry and luckily I live in an area that i can experiment.
Yuriko commented that I'm too caught up with philosophy.
I do feel like I'm experiencing the gardening version of the Omnivore's Dilemma sometimes.
There are so many styles to choose from.
And gardening is a very intimate element in my life.
I'm having fun though, and curiosity is driving my desire to explore and learn these different methods.
Life is about gardening the soil, the mind, and the soul.
I love gardening!!!!!!!!!
Especially when I start the day off with homemade waffles,
and take a tea ceremony break under the flowering plums and cherries,
accompanied by freshly made mochi balls.
Eat food grow food.