To help transition Japan to a peace promoting post-carbon country while enjoying every step of the process.
僕のビジョンは、祖国日本で、平和文化を育みポストカーボン(Post-Carbon) 社会を促進してゆく事です。

Monday, May 31, 2010

Food Market Weirdness

Some funny but actually not funny political cartoons related to news the last few years. Its pretty crazy what kinds of food we pay for and eat.

But, if you grow your own food or buy from someone/some place that you trust (ideally actually see and participate in the production process like a CSA*), then you can eat in health and happiness.

*Community Supported Agriculture

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thoughts on natural farming/gardening 1

It depends (the answer to most questions here at the Bullocks).

A simple summary of what I understand shizen no (shizen-nature/natural and no-farming/gardening) is growing food without tilling, fertilizing, or weeding. Those are the 3 elements that both Fukuoka (One Straw Revolution) and Kawaguchi (the one I met) use as the foundation of their gardening method.

But to reduce shizen no to only the above would be misleading and disrespectful. There is a deep spiritual dimension to our relationship to the web of life, and shizenno is an intentional relationship with nature, to grow food in harmony with all life. It is an art, a spiritual practice, and a path that will help us look deeper into how everything is connected. Similar to permaculture, its not another farming method or style, it is not just about growing food, it is a way of life. Well, at least that is how I receive it. I'll share more as I learn on my first adventure actually doing it. My intention is to share in a nourishing way without becoming dogmatic, which is a common criticism about Fukuoka. And please let me know how I can support your interest in shizen no.

Kawaguchi, who has been doing shizen no since the 70s, says "growing food in a way where we do not till, we do not fertilize, we do not spray pesticides, and we do not treat weeds and bugs as our enemy." His main principles are, "no tilling, no importing materials, and no exporting materials." Respecting all life by not straining our environment.

This is an invitation to try it out with me and enjoy a new way of growing food, a new understanding of life. There may not be any epiphanies, much "production", and you might struggle with the pureness of your experiment, but until you do it natural farming will only be an idea.

The picture on the top is the site of my experiment before any of my interventions. Looks quite lush with volunteers. The bottom is after I cut all the grass with the kama, Kawaguchi's tool of choice. I also staked it with bamboo to help envision the dimension of the garden beds.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Deep Quotes

Hello friends,
I'm working on my write up of the intro course but its really hard to sit and face a computer when I can hang out with cool people, feast, and garden. But, I'll quit whining and get my act together (5/28 finished it! Its actually below this entry). In the mean time, I want to share a few quotes that really resonate with me from those I call my teachers. Some of you might recognize these.

When you understand, you love. And when you love, you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people. -Thich Nhat Hanh ティク・ナット・ハン(禅の先生)

Farming is a way of life in which one constantly reaffirms the source of life. - Fukuoka Masanobu 福岡正信(自然農法)

Work is energy. Two crises of our times are intimately connected — the climate crisis and the unemployment crisis.....To make the energy transition beyond oil, we need to bring people back into the economy, bring human energy back into production, respect physical work, and give it dignity. - Vandana Shiva ヴァンダナ・シヴァ(食料システム活動家/エコフェミニスト)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Intro to Permaculture Course


Last weekend was the annual Permaculture Intro Course, starting on Friday evening and concluding on Sunday afternoon. About 30 folks including 2 super enthusiastic permy kids attended the learning party.


The schedule was something like this

Friday was arrival day and it turned out to be a glorious day.

Saturday 土曜日
730-830 Breakfast 朝食
830-1230 What is permaculture (Pc), History of the Bullocks brothers and this site, Pc ethics and principles.
1230-1400 Lunch 昼ご飯
1400-1700 Tour of the site in 3 groups 三つのグループに別れて、ブロックスホームステッドの三時間パーマカルチャー・ツアー。
1700-1800 Free time 自由時間
1800-1930 Dinner 晩ご飯

Dave and Doug on tour of the property. In 3 hours I feel that they just scratch the surface because the site is so dense with permaculture goodness. The tour is a good workout and therapeutic too. Lets call it the permaculture diet, good for you, good for the planet. The site tour is definitely one of the coolest parts of the course as you see best practices and failed experiments in action. And there is a story to every piece of it.


Sunday 日曜日
730-830 Breakfast 朝ご飯
830-915 Q and A 質問の時間
915-945 Introduction to the work project (Guild planting in Zone 4 Walnut orchard) みんなでやるワークプロジェクトの説明。今回はゾーン4(パーマカルチャー用語)にあるクルミ園のギルドの整備。
945-1000 Break お茶とトイレ休み
1000-1230 Work project ワークプロジェクト開始
1400-1445 Pc network/resources: Global, North America, Pacific North West パーマカルチャー関係の国際、北アメリカ大陸、そして現地(ワシントン州とカナダ西海岸)のネットワークとリソース
1445-1500 Closing circle 締めくくりの輪(参加者への感謝と参加者の感想)
Most people were off to the ferry. 殆どの人はすぐにフェリーに向かいました。
1900 One of the course participants talked about pedal power and the organization he is part of, Maya Pedal (

The food was cooked by the wonderful team of Yuriko and Maria, and without going into any detail, lets just say it was delicious.

I was reminded of how impressively knowledgeable and articulate the course teachers (Sam and Doug Bullock, and Daver) are, especially their ability to thoroughly address different elements of Pc and field questions. That was a major element that drew me to this internship program. They are also jokers with an an endless repertoire of stories.

Something that stood out to me was the Bullocks sharing about how having mechanical, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and other trade-skills helped them immensely in the permaculture adventure. I think they also have experience in the commercial nursery trade. I don't think any of them have a college degree, and here I am with a lot of education and very little to show for it....well I have a fancy piece of paper somewhere. Much of what I am learning are these very skills that they probably taught themselves or learned on the job. Its quite an opportunity to learn these skills pretty much for free with such exceptional teachers in a beautiful environment with other enthusiastic youth. That just seems too good.

A few notes from the Pc Ethics discussion

Care for the Planet:
  • Pc is not about taking a pristine ecosystem and bulldozing it to plant fruit trees.
  • Since our modern life-styles have degenerated much of our life-support system (aka nature), working toward sustainability is not good enough at this point. We need regeneration!
Care of People: We need to design systems that takes care of people......all people!

Careful Process:
  • Changing the mentality from scarcity to surplus and distributing that surplus. Like the Bullocks share their knowledge, living space/experimental and education farm, and palnt materials among other things. Love and enthusiasm too!
  • Transitional Ethic: we want to invite everyone so we need to be welcoming not discriminating
  • Use of appropriate and intermediate technology while using high-tech minimally
We did an activity for the Pc principles where we break-up into groups and each group explores one of the principles, then come back to share to the rest of the group. Our team had the principle: use biological resources. It seemed obvious and there were endless examples that we could discuss but I was really impressed at how Daver put it. Non-biological resources continually degrade, whereas biological resources regenerate. There is one thing in our world that seems to move against entropy, and that is biology.

On this topic of biological resources, I also thought about Vandana Shiva's quote that I wrote in the next blog entry on work and human energy. I think we have an opportunity to replace fossil fuels, machines and chemicals, that displaced people from work and nature, with the massive population of growing unemployed people! Many of whom are young and disenchanted in our current politico-economic landscape, which can lead to social instability and political volatility. Of course we need to do this in a dignified way and not just creating more wage slaves or slave slaves. E.F. Schumacher is a good person to look up on this issue. His book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered had quite an impact on me.

And now for some more pictures. These are from the guild planting work project. We explored the concept of guild planting, useful guild plant functions (nitrogen fixers, dynamic accumulators, barrier plants, insectary, etc), and looking into the successes and failures of the zone 4 walnut orchard guild on the property. The work project not only was an opportunity to learn and spend time outside doing stuff, it also fulfilled a need on the property to give these plants some attention. It was also a fruitful space for deeper interaction with all the cool people who were out there.Everybody is hard at work. About 3-4 people clustered around each guild planting with someone explaining what plants were there, and what we needed to do to improve the condition (a lot of weeding, mulching, and deer proofing).

Daver gloriously explaining about the plant guild as the other men toil beneath him. I think this is a sterile French broom x2 (nitrogen fixer), autumn olive (n-fixing shrub with edible fruits), walnut sapling guild.

The permy kids showing everyone how its done. We need more permy kids!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beautiful Creatures

This is a bug we encountered during a tour of the site for the Intro to Permaculture Course.

A banana slug look alike crossing the path. After living in Santa Cruz and co-existing with bright and mustard yellow banana slugs, I've become a fan of them. Never thought I would be excited with slugs. But, I just found out these guys are called European Red Slugs and is a "pest" in the Bullock's gardens.

Below is a Banana slug I took (a picture) in Santa Cruz. Such beautiful creatures.
This guy is the famous mascot (Pulp Fiction anyone?) of University of California Santa Cruz. I think the sports teams suffer from a lack of edge from their mascot, but most people love them.


Sebastien, the Homestead guard dog.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

トマト植えとクイズ Planting tomato and quiz

A few days ago Yuriko gave me 3 Japanese tomato starts. 2 Momotaro (Peach Boy) and one Odoriko. She told me that Momotaro is one of her favorite tomatos, and knowing her as a gardener and cook, I trust her judgment. I like black and wine colored tomatoes a lot, and one of the ones I had fun growing in Costa Rica was Tommy Toe from Seed Saver Exchange. Huge loads of very large cherry tomatoes. I'm a fan of cherry tomatoes.

数日前ゆりこさんから日本産のトマトの苗を頂きました。彼女お勧めの桃太郎2つに踊り子1つ。僕は黒やワイン色のトマトが大好きです。西海岸ではブランディーワインという種類が人気です。コスタリカでNPO Seed Saver Exchangeが販売しているトミトーというミニトマトに惚れました。大きな梅/アプリコットの大きさで大量に収穫できます。どちらかというとミニトマトを育てる方がお手軽なので好きです。

For tantalizing tomato varieties and pictures see the SSE site (below)

Sam suggested to plant the tomato into 50% one year old steer manure that he got, and 50% soil mix (made on-site) for drainage. Both Sam and Doug mentioned that tomatoes grow in straight manure and even sewage sludge.


The tomatoes on the site here are grown in pots in the green house or in a garden bed with a hoop-house over it.


(Front Row: Momotaro, Momotaro, Odoriko)

Where did tomatoes originate? What kind of environment did they initially come from?

What are dry farmed tomatoes?
They tend to be much more flavorful, I love them.

What are the top 3 tomato producing countries?

How did tomatoes become such a key ingredient in Italy?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tranformation: farming with fashion

Coming to the Bullocks is a transformative experience. Life-changing. For example, this homeless-looking dirty young man has turned into a clean hardworking happy gardener fit to be an acceptable participant of normal society. Come to the Bullocks and you will be prepared to sneak back into the mainstream and become a covert Permaculture operative. Spread the seeds of creativity and nourishment.


お花 Flowers

I've been appreciating the abundant beautiful flowers that I am immersed in. So trippy and alluring. I hope some of my amazement will translate through the limits of blogging. You can click on any of the pictures on the blog and I think they will enlarge. Yes flowers! And what are those exciting things that follow flowers! Bees! Yes, that's cool but something that happens after the bees hang out and pollinate. Fruits and nuts and seeds! Yeah! Thus, much appreciation to the existence of flowers. I feel blessed to be in a world with flowers.

By the way, the Japanese word for flower is ohana (read phonetically). In Hawaiian, ohana means family (not limited to blood/legal family).



Yup. Thats James, Lover of food and excitement. A stimulator. He sort of just pops up like that. He might keep appearing on the blog. He's that sort of guy. Tahini.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

植物クイズ Plant Quiz 4

Hint: The ground seeds are an awesome seasoning for fresh water eel (best braised over wood coals).


Recent scenes from the Bullocks

Croissant making or as Dave calls them, Butter Horns. Made with local fresh raw butter. mmmm.

The Beer Brewers Annonymous Club. Surprisingly there is not much alcohol drinking in this group.....but maybe that might change.















Sunday, May 16, 2010

A typical week at the Bullocks

Our typical weekly schedule
Breakfast is served by interns around 7:30, lunch at 12:30, and Dinner around 6:30pm. We're not always on schedule but I'm pretty surprised at how well we do follow a schedule. I used to eat dinner between 9pm or 12am when I lived in the city!

Here it goes:
*so much goes on that I forgot what we did, so I'll double check the examples here

FRIDAY: Our farm week (these are our "weekdays") begins.
We start out with a meeting ideally around 8:30 at the Aloha lodge figuring out what has been done and what needs to be added to our to-do list. The Bullocks usually keep us aware of needs and priorities. Then we just get into it. We have planted potatos, moved the electric fencing larger-scale chicken and duck tractors to new areas, grafted, pruned, fixed water pumps and solar panels, etc. It all depends on the week and there is no shortage of things to do.

SATURDAY: is Nursery Day.
The Bullocks have a nursery that helps fund permaculture and other basic projects on the site. One of the interns is the main manager of the nursery and sells the plants on-site and at Eastsound Farmer's Market. So, this is the day we help with the needs of the nursery (spread into several parts of the homestead). We have potted bare-root trees, put up a new nursery fence (to protect from deer), fertilized (organic) fruit trees and all sorts of other plants in the nursery, set irrigation up, weeded, mowed, etc. I'm super biased, but if you are in the area, this is the place to buy plants. These are some of the most nerdy and knowledgeable people on plants, micro-climates, and all sorts of serious and absurd stuff. Lots of the best fruit varieties (because they are super into it), rare plants (plant-maniacs), and amazing tips and tricks. Also, if you come to the site to buy plants, you can check this blissful place out! Some nights we do parties, usually in appreciation to the Bullocks, who invited us to live and learn on their home, and are welcoming, patient, and fascinating people. Great people to know and study under/with.

SUNDAY: Sunday is community potluck day (except when there is a course).
We start the morning with a cleaning party, and try to make the place look nice and tidy. You don't want to invite people to a hippy place thats dirty, it can ruin the experience. Then we jump into more stuff that needs to happen, like building projects and preparing for the Intro to Permaculture Course that will happen this weekend. Sometimes we take the afternoon to work on our gardens.

MONDAY: Overflow day.
We just keep going and finish up projects that need to happen, garden, and enjoy the last day of our farm days. Today we continued on necessary building projects. We also have weekly intern meetings after dinner where we breath together, address general logistics, do the food order (last week we order $800 worth of food for at least the next month), have a skill share or presentation (e.g. how to facilitate effective meetings, how to tie essential knots, Thai massage, living and managing a greenhouse in Antarctica, etc). Also, maybe the most important part of the meeting is a check-in. Its a space where the whole group listens to whatever you want to say, but usually geared toward how your week was, feelings and emotions, experiences, gratitude, needs, etc. Its a very beautiful space and I think not only helps groups function but it is also necessary for the evolution of people and communities. Today we started the meeting by grouping into pairs and doing a 7 minute massage that turned out to be 10 minutes each. What a great way to start a meeting. Imagine people in corporate board meetings giving massages to each other in their suits, and taking breaths to be present, clam, and aware.

TUESDAY: Unscheduled? or free? days.
This is when people rest, hike, eat, go to town or other further places, garden, hangout, eat, work on personal projects, snack, work for money, etc.

WEDNESDAY: same as above.
In the past weeks Yuriko has been inviting us for onolicious (as they say in Hawaii) dinner, prepared with two of us interns.

THURSDAY = same as above - Yuriko's dinner party + Movie night (so far we watched, Dark Crystal, Best in Show, Men Who Stare At Goats, Office Space. Of course, this is part of permaculture).

And back to another exciting farm week of action packed learning, fun, and transformation.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A different kind of luxury

This is a book my friend Andy, who I met at a Japanese Cultural Festival in Santa Cruz wrote. The blurb on amazon goes, "Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the eleven men and women profiled in this book have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. They are today artists, philosophers, and farmers who reside deep in the mountains of rural Japan. Their lives may be simple, yet they are surrounded by the luxuries of nature, art, contemplation, delicious food, and an abundance of time......" (you can read the rest on Andy's blog, below, or amazon).

Andy persistently encouraged me to go meet some of these folks and I was able to visit 3 of them in Kamikatsu of Tokushima prefecture with my dad (thank you dad!). They had a similar energy to Kawaguchi (the natural farmer), extremely friendly, grounded, and aware of our connection and responsibility to the earth. We stayed at Atsuko and Gufu Watanabe's house and they fed us great food, fired up a bath, and showed us around the town like we were old friends. Gufu is a potter and farmer, and if I remember correctly Atsuko is an elected member of the local government among many other things. Although they have never really heard of permaculture, they live in a food forest and are a great example of living permaculture. I think both Andy and Atsuko were involved in the Zero Waste Policy in Kamikatsu.
Here is a short BBC article about it,

I also met Mr. Nakamura who lives extremely simply and seemed to organize every detail of his living space beautifully. He was in the process of transforming an old farm house into his home. I didn't get to spend too much time with him but I left with the impression that he is someone with much experience in the art of living. I learned a lot about simple living and permaculture Japanese style. I know there is a lot I can learn from these unique Japanese people, and I hope I will have an opportunity to meet more of them in the near future. I heard that they all get together at the Hanamatsuri (Flower Festival) in Nagoya, presenting a Nepalese and Indian themed event (?). I think a few of them, like Atsuko, can speak English so check it out if you are in the area.

FYI, Andy is currently doing tours to promote his book. In some ways its a really trippy book, since this is sort of the romanticized "Japan" or "Japanese" that actually exists and lives. The pictures are exquisit and make me want to just go there and start living!

By the way, the rice paddy picture on my blog was taken on our way back from visiting the Watanabe's in Kamikatsu. Many of these paddies are now planted with Japanese cedar as there are less and less people able and/or interested in taking care of them. A major challenge in Japan is depopulation of young people from rural areas, thus the knowledge of the land and the skills passed down from generation to generation is slowly disappearing each day. I'm hoping to reverse that trend as it will need to happen one way or another for Japan to function peacefully. Andy's blog for the book is below so check it out and see if it might be of your interest.

友達のアンディーさんが書いた本を簡単に紹介します。”「日本の経済急成長時代の中、大衆に流されずよりサステイナブルで充実した生活への道を歩んだ11人の日本人のお話です。彼らは日本の山奥で生活をしている芸術家、哲学者、農家などです。シンプルライフを送りながら、森林、芸術、沈思黙考、自然の恵み、と豊富な時間という贅沢に囲まれて生きています。」アンディーさんに積極的に押されて、去年彼の本の中の人物とお会いする事ができました。徳島県の上勝に住む、渡辺あつこさん、渡辺ぐふさん、中村おさむさんの三人にお目にかかりました。とても良い人達で生き方について色々と学ぶ事ができたです。渡辺さん達の家はまさに食べ物の森でした。パーマカルチャーと言う言葉は殆ど効いた事がないようでしたが、彼はLiving Permacultureの良い見本だと思います。僕も、日本産のパーマカルチャーについてもっと勉強していきたいです。中村さんは人生の達人という感じでした。因に、アンディーさんとあつこさんはイギリスのBBCでも取り上げられた上勝のゼロ・ウェイスト政策に取り組んでいたらしいです。


Andy's book blog

Friday, May 14, 2010

Translating Natural Farming (Book 1 Prologue)

去年の夏、自然農を育んでいる川口さんから頂いた本です。彼は最高です。この本を選んだ理由は、日本中にいる自然農を実践者達のお話ときれいな写真が載っていて、アメリカでも自然農の種を植えるのにちょうど良いと思ったからです。簡単に翻訳をしてます。僕が自然農テーマで始めて読んだ本は、福岡正信さんの"The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy"です。そして、この本が第二番目。今度本屋さんで見てみてください。きれいな本です。

There are 2 natural farming books I brought from Japan. One of them is the book to the left titled, "People who live natural farming" that a photo journalist published. This was full of pictures and I was looking at it when I went to Kawaguchi's house. I only had a 5000yen bill and he told me "just take it", and gifted me this book after spending half a day talking to me. He is someone I definitely hope to learn more from, very grounded, humble, and light-hearted.

This book basically holds the stories of various people who were inspired by Kawaguchi and are practicing natural farming all over Japan. Each story is accompanied by a picture of their gardens, full of weeds and garden plants or rice. Beautiful!

I'm hoping to contact the author soon for some of the pictures, but for now I will informally share some of my translations. I hope this will help people explore post-Fukuoka natural farming. As an aside, from what I understand Fukuoka was not the only person practicing and promoting natural farming, nor was he the first. But he did have a huge influence on many farmers in Japan and the world, including Kawaguchi. So, I think of our present time as the post-Fukuoka natural farming era....something like that.

Here is the Prologue (first draft of translation):

"Near the roots of the rice there are living insects. Weeds are growing. There are small creatures living in the nakigara layer. Microorganisms are flourishing. This is also where humans live. We are able to live only where other life thrives."

The "natural farming" Kawaguchi Yoshikazu practices in Nara province Sakurai city, is a farming method where you plant what is appropriate for that environment, and you intervene only when necessary in the cultivation of your crop. Recently, there have been an increasing number of people from Hakkaido to Okinawa Japan who practice Kawaguchi's method of rice and vegetable farming. His guidelines are, "no till, no use of fertilizers or pesticides, and not to treat weeds or bugs as your enemy." Just like a tree in the forest naturally grows tall, and the way edible forest plants sprout every year, rice and vegetables are grown in line with the natural order.

Nature will flourish in abundance if people do not excessively interfere. By cutting the weeds above the ground and leaving the roots in tact, then laying the tops on the ground, the soil is enriched as the weeds compost and become accessible nutrients. Wild plants will grow anywhere if the conditions are right. I am impressed by the life force of a weed growing out of a crack in the concrete of the city. If you consider vegetables to be a variety of weeds, as long as the conditions are right, it will grow. On the other hand, even wild plants will not grow on land with bad conditions.

The first time I heard of Kawaguchi was in a documentary film "Natural farming -The World of Kawaguchi Yoshikazu - Records of 1995." (Gendai Group productions) Depending on the listener, Kawaguchi's words may sound religious, and his appearance resembles that of a spiritual leader or philosopher.

Eventually, I was able to meet Kawaguchi at a farm study group at the "School of Kenji" in Tokyo. Unlike the image in books and in films, he seemed like an ordinary old farmer in any neighborhood, making jokes here and there to get everyone to laugh.

Of course, when Kawaguchi began natural farming in his neighborhood, the farmers around him complained. Weeds would spread seeds into their farms and there would be major outbreaks of pests, so he needs to weed. That was their attitude. Kawaguchi would not argue back and in his mild rural Nara accent respond, "I apologize. Let me think about that." But as time passes, it becomes apparent that even if there are weeds growing in his rice paddies and gardens, it does not adversely affect the surrounding gardens.

When I heard this story, I knew this man was the real deal. It is difficult for people to accept different perspectives. If we argue, we may hurt the other person. Without dismissing these farmers, Kawaguchi demonstrates through his actions. Kawaguchi's character most likely has a lot to do with the increase in people practicing natural farming all over Japan."

Natural Farming Experiment begins!

I'm slowly moving into my Natural Farming experiment as I finish my allocated main gardens which I am doing more or less the Biointensive garden method I learned at the University of California Santa Cruz Program in Agroecology and Community (PICA), Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), and the Homeless Garden Project. I've gotten better at it over the years but it just seems like a lot of work and something about it seems "unnatural" to me. Especially weeding. I really don't like weeding, and I think the weeds don't like it too. Also, with the CASFS organic garden apprenticeship, the focus seems to be in production and surviving/thriving in our current economic system as a small-scale organic farmer. In a world where our economic system doesn't fully respect and appreciate farmers and our environment, it seems like an unnecessarily hard path to take. Maybe things are getting better slowly now. I also don't want to mix growing food with money. Growing food and taking care of the earth is a spiritual practice, a necessity for us to survive and live. But, as many will respond, that's too idealistic. We will see about that, after all don't ideals help us to transform and evolve?

I heard about natural farming from one of the gardeners at UC Santa Cruz. He talked about the book "One Straw Revolution" and mildly got me excited. But, I never read that book and instead read "The Natural Way of Farming: Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy" while farming in Costa Rica. That made me want to learn more about the topic and actually see it in practice. In permaculture circles natural farming comes up here and there and it is always associated with Masanobu Fukuoka. And although I met people who have met him (at UCSC and elsewhere), I could never find anybody practicing his method.

Then last year when I went back to Japan I started to hear about a natural farmer Yoshikazu Kawaguchi. In Japan, when natural farming is mentioned, Kawaguchi is the person people talk about. A friend invited me to meet and interview him at his home and I was able to explore his beautiful weed filled rice paddies and gardens. I asked him about Fukuoka and shared a bit about permaculture and food forests. I might write more about that later, but for now I'd rather share some translations about him and the natural farming he teaches. Followed by updates on my own natural farming experiment here in Washington.

A little on Yoshikazu Kawaguchi. He was born in 1939 in Nara prefecture. He suffered mentally and physically from chemical (conventional) agriculture and begins to explore natural farming in the mid-70s. He now advises and teaches natural farming all over Japan. He's written a few books such as (roughly translated) "Standing in a strange garden" (1990), "Natural farming-the world of Yoshikazu Kawaguchi" (2000), "The path of natural farming" (2005), and a couple of others. I don't think any of them have been translated.

Thank you sunshine

Today was such a nice sunny day!
Oh so nice.
The sun has been rising around 6am and setting well past 8pm. Its still light around 9pm.
It was so nice out I enjoyed some naked gardening for the first time. Quite a pleasant experience. Highly recommended if you are in the right environment. And this is definitely the right environment. Other styles I have seen are Donald Duck (just a T-shirt), underwear, and loin cloth gardening. I have a vision to garden in a full business suit to encourage "salary men" and "office ladies" in Japan to garden....but probably I will just be amusing myself while profusely perspiring.
What kind of fashion will lure more people into gardening?
That is the question on my mind.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Deer shot

Rise up this morning
Smile with the rising sun
One big deer
Hanging from the woodshed
After waking up, the first thing I witnessed was a skinned deer hanging from the woodshed. I think it was shot at 3am, by Doug (he doesn't consume meat). From what I have heard the deer here have few to no predators and are over populated. They also damage the fruit trees, nursery, and the gardens.

I am not sure how I feel about the whole situation but I guess its a great opportunity to look deeply into how we interact with our environment. For instance, what about volunteers (aka weeds)? Or fungus and bug pests? In Japan monkeys are a vector. Is it necessary and justified to kill monkeys that take from your garden? I remember someone talking about how a natural farmer said he will kill monkeys for the same reasons the deer was killed here. And I have heard of some stories about permaculture bunkers to defend against potentially armed hungry people, when the serious effects of peak oil begin and people do not have enough food. That sounds like an intense way to live.

It can be an uncomfortable topic but its important to look deeply into life and death, and what we need in relation to what we want. A nice opportunity for some introspection. Will I kill for the same reasons if it were my site? Why am I vegetarian? Why not eat meat that is harvested on the land? My answer for now is my sprouts of compassion are still small and I want to grow them stronger before I can even consider taking life compassionately. I do know that I have a pungent desire to kill less and grow more, and that's what I am learning about here.

This picture is after the guts and skin was removed at the woodshed, site 2 of the dressing process. I love the irony that the processing of the animal migrated next to the lone vegetarian having his breakfast.

I will put this in the unique meals memory-box with the time I was having dinner while naked people came out of the sauna, passed in front of the "dinner table" to the shower, and back into the sauna.


手巻きすしパーティー Sushi Party (itadakimasu)



This is a picture of a temaki sushi party at Yuriko & Sam's house. Almost every week we have a Japanese food party there, where 2 interns cook with Yuriko to learn the art of washoku. Then we feast Japanese-style, beginning with "itadakimasu." The sushi ingredients included Alaskan salmon she buys from a fisher-person, avocado, burdoc root, fluffy eggs, shiitake, fried tofu, etc. She also shares home made wines (e.g. plum and blackberry wine, mead, etc). Since its a Japan themed night, everybody did the official Japanese "peesu" (peace) sign, that defines you as a Japanese person posing for a picture (or at least a wannabe). Yuriko's parties are filled with festive clapping, dancing, cheering, and laughter. I think the technical term is, blissed out.

Eating together is probably one of the most important practices for peace and community-building. Its also an excellent space for cultural exchange.

ABOUT いただきます
itadakimasu is a greeting that Japanese (not all) say before eating. It literally is a formal way of saying "I am receiving this." Some people put their hands together and bow as they say it. When I was in elementary school in Japan, students would serve each other food and we would wait until everybody was seated with their food. Then we would all sing or shout (me) "itadakima-su" together and start eating. I do this before almost every meal as a way to fully be aware of how amazing it is to have nutritious food, to be alive, to be present, and to eat with others. It also helps me slow down and not just chow down the nourishing food before me. Its a good opportunity to give thanks and send prayers to those who are not so fortunate, as there are many. Sometimes I think about my ancestors who were starving during WW II. I remember reading about children fighting over grains of rice, and soldiers eating maggots off their wounds in jungles they would rather not be in. Its easy for me to forget that having nutritious food, from all over the world, all the time, is a luxury. So, I want to make sure that I am eating it with respect and using that energy to find ways to build a peace-filled sustainable world for all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Robo-farmer 2015

Thought I would add a surreal element of reality to this blog. I believe this student is pulling out a daikon raddish.

Perhaps the increasing unemployed tech-youth will find their niche in techno-farming. It still has yet to be mounted with auto-sensor laser beams to toast bugs and weeds, and water canons to clean veggies. Maybe solar panels and auto-pilot would be good too.....oh, then we could just get rid of the student (representing the aging population of Japanese farmers) and make robo-farmer 2015.

You know the Japanese will go there.

Here is the full article (thanks Marley)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010







5.三時間ツアー。大人は一人あたり$15で学生は$12です。最低人数10人または$150とホームページに書いてあります。二十年以上発展され続けられているあらゆるパーマカルチャー・システムを(例えば、micro-climates, エッヂ作り、チナンパ、様々なソーラーシステム、エコ建築、植物ギルド、などなど)じっくり見学できます。質問は大歓迎です。また、特別なリクエスト(例えばワークショップなど)も受け付けているようです。日本語、ロシア語、スペイン語、ポーランド語の通訳も可能だと思います。



Sunday, May 9, 2010

Party party party!

DAY 1 (Platform completion tea and dinner party) Thursday evening
As a celebration of finally completing my new home, and to appreciate all the interns I live and work with, I invited everybody for a tea party on my platform. I only expected 2 or 3 people, but pretty much everyone came and shared some high mountain green tea from Taiwan a friend gave me, loquat leaf tea I made, and a kichidi inspired millet dish that turned out much better than I expected. Hope to have many more tea parties up there.

DAY 2 (Spa and Music Night at Doe Bay) Friday eveningA happy group of permies after soaking in the spa, cleansing in the sauna, putting on some clay for some smooth skin, and fluffing up our aura. Dinner after the spa that Gina gracefully prepared for us during the day. Permy picnic.
Then off to the live music from San Francisco.

DAY 3 (Bullock's Appreciation Pizza Party) Saturday eveningJames preparing the pizza for the party.
Food prep while a fairy arranges the flowers.
Music around the fire. At one point there was probably about 6 string instruments and almost everybody singing. This is one of those experiences that just make life so much fun! Sometimes I wonder, is this for real?

DAY 4 (Sunday Potluck and Mother's Day) Sunday lunch and evening
We had a nice sized potluck for lunch with plenty of tasty goods, no mas! Its really hard to mediate food consumption when there is such good looking food....all the time.

For the evening, we had a special appreciation of mothers day meal. A bunch of us including two mothers said the names of our mothers while standing around the food, with gratitude in our hearts. I don't have a picture but the food was visually tantalizing. Flowery salad, braised whole onions, stir fried perennial cauliflower, seafood pasta, crab cakes, pesto quinoa pasta (for the "special people" like moa), and two dangerous looking desserts that I didn't eat but I think was something like a rhubarb crisp and a something-shortbread. Yuriko was the mother of honor.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010








Sunday, May 2, 2010

Potato planting and garlic processing

Potato planting. (left to right): potato varieties to plant, weeding and cleaning up the field, trenching the potatoes (dig a trench in a straight line, sprinkle crab meal, cover spuds with about 4 inches of soil).


Sunday potluck in the Aloha lodge. Everybody getting cozy.


Garlic processing as they started to sprout and mold. We ate buttery caramelized roasted garlic around the fire.