The Helpful Gardener
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Post Reading Discussions

I am interested at this point to hear what you all are taking away from this reading. I would also like to take this time to thank Larry Korn for participating in our discussion, offering us the occasional peek behind Fukuoka-san's thinking and a perspective born of the book. How lucky we are to have had that opportunity! Thanks again Larry...

I still value this book as among my top three books on gardening; an invaluable treatise on treading the finest line between nature and man. Even where I begin to dissemble from Sensei's teachings I do so with his thoughts in mind, and the overarching ideals of natural farming at the forefront.

Really the singular point that I find fault with out of the whole tome is the complete eschewing of scientific thinking; it is simply a tool and tools are neither good nor evil. A hammer is a wonderful thing when it is being used to build Habitat For Humanity homes, it is evil when it is being used on somebody's noggin. The scientific community of Sensei's day was heavily invested in technologies of man, but increasingly the science community of today is invested not just in the technologies of nature (although that is indeed burgeoning), but the preservation of Nature itself, as the endless bounty from which we may select the tools of the future.

Perhaps the middle road is the road less traveled here, but it need not be. Both paradigms bring such excellent concepts to the fore that for one to ignore the other is to deny the best possible outcomes. New work on nutrient density in food, rebuilding of depleted soils with natural biologies, and the suppression of pathogens through natural organisms are tools springing from the scientific world ready formed for use by gardeners and farmers.

Is it natural farming if I utilize these tools? I do not care to conject how many angels are dancing on that particular pin head, but do not find any instance of increasing biodiversities in the long term that is detrimental to Nature. As long as one remains cognizant of the natural biota and goes at it with a Hipocratic bent ("Above all else, do no harm"), then in my mind, you are building a better garden, country, and planet...

But that's just me... how about you?

Scott Reil

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Hi Scott, and everyone. I have enjoyed this discussion very much and have personally learned a great deal from it.

Your point, Scott, about eschewing science entirely is, indeed, the most difficult element in Fukuoka's philosophy for me, and for most people, to understand. Let me see if I can take one more shot at explaining it

Gardening and horticulture, in themselves, are a worthwhile activities for people. We learn from observation how to produce more food and live more comfortably without exceeding our niche within nature and alongside other forms of life. Once we plow, however, we step outside our place and set in motion all kinds of problems. Plowed-field agriculture goes along with the mind set that people somehow have license to do whatever we want in the world. With it necessarily comes surplusses that need to be guarded, stratification of society (have and have-nots), standing armies, war, slavery, famine and eventually large-scale degradation of the environment. It also sets the population bomb in motion. Could people have practiced plowed-field agriculture while avoiding these consequences? Personally, I think not. In that case plowed-field agriculture was not a simple tool which could have been used for good or evil, like you hammer analogy.

Science also involves a certain way of thinking...that people can somehow figure out the inner workings of nature and then put them to practicle use. "Practicle use" seems to mean what is good for people. Fukuoka's point is that once we take that road there can only be problems because it is impossible to improve on nature, especially by applying our very limited human understanding. Like what happens after one plows the land, problems spin out in all directions. By applying science, like plowed-field agriculture, the "tool" cannot be sepatated from the consequences.

These days it seems that we are largely trying to deal with consequences of poor decessions made in the past. Then science seems to have some value. Should we rely on the same flawed assumptions to fix the problems that created them in the first place?

I don't have the answers to these questions. And I appreciate the forum for this discussion. Too bad I never had the glimpse of insight Fukuoka-sensei had as a young man.
"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song" --Masanobu Fukuoka

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Have you ever had an experience that you can't explain? When I was younger, I used to have premonitions or dreams that I *knew* would come true... and they did. They were different from regular dreams. I also had déjà vu moments of which I *knew* I had prior knowledge. Yes, I know they have reasonable explanations for them.

A little over 10 years ago, I met an Irish "bio-energy" healer. Around the same time I met a Chinese Chi Gong master. I've come away from those meetings/experiences with feelings and certain sensibilities? sensitivities? that I can't explain.

I've been in emergency situations when I experienced clarity of mind and slow-motion time, with SURE knowledge that I will come out of the situations unharmed... and I did. Yes, they have explanations for those, too.

When I'm in the garden, I sometimes feel myself approaching that sense of... I don't know what. I couldn't surrey the experience with chemicals. Doing certain things feel plain wrong, and when I read or hear about certain approaches, they feel right and obvious. Reading The One Straw Revolution has been one of those forehead slapping "OF COURSE!" revelations.

I'm not saying I understand it fully or that I'm doing it correctly. I just feel like I'm on the right track and Fukuoka-sensei has provided a road marker (道標) -- "this way, this way...."

OK, now I sound like a complete looney! nutz: :lol: I may regret posting this, but I think I'm going to do it anyway. :wink:

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I just looked back through the discussion we had beginning on July 23, the three-page thread in which The Enemy, Scientific Thinking, was discussed and about which I expounded at length. The thread in which the difficulties people were having with delivery of books were enumerated. The thread in which my scouting reports were written.

I had wondered whether it was my imagination...but no. I truly did purchase this book Thursday, August 5, the very day before Vergil began his 36-hour decline which ended in loss of control over all four limbs and his tail Saturday evening, August 7. After diagnostic MRI on Monday, our only realistic option was the drastic spinal surgery on August 10. There was a 90% chance that Vergil would be able to walk to some extent after surgery, but there was also a 10% chance, based on national and international cases, that he would remain helpless....

I am sorry to have missed most of the discussion as it took place "live."

As Vergil continues his glacial recovery (imagine a person learning how to walk, how to eat, and how to toilet independently again after some massive brain/spine disaster), are others reading the discussions, or are these discussions more or less archives, á la Teaming with Microbes?

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

The Helpful Gardener
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To paraphrase the Firesign Theatre, I think we are all loonies on this bus...


I have slowly and inexorably come to the same conclusions Sensei came to about tilling, but my satori, the moment it all came clear for me, was a discussion with Elaine Ingham, the preeminent soil biologist on the planet, and it was a decidedly scientific discussion with microscopes and Latin and everything... :wink: .

But up until my associations there it was simply a wandering away from the professional teachings I had absorbed up until that point, due to unease with things that didn't make sense, didn't feel right, results contrary to what I was told to expect, and a growing conviction that Nature made better plants than we did. So yes AS, an inexplicable feeling, unexplainable, until...

until that conversation with Doc Ingham. Suddenly I had been given concrete explanation for why tilling destroys soil (the downfall of nearly every great civilization to date, by the way; ask the Mayans), for why forests and field need no fertilizer, why compost was such a wonder drug for soil. This was science not as a tool for domination of Nature, but in it's purest form; simply making the best observations we can.

Like any tool science can be horribly misused and abused. But it is indeed a tool and works of great creation can be wrought with lesser tools than this. Sensei offers a cautionary tale for the abuse of scientific power and a model for partnering with Nature in the garden; anyone spending more than a few moments in these forums knows well these are key tenets of my thinking as well. While I may vary tactics from F-san, we are in lock step on strategy. The message in this book is one to be taught in every school, in every community in every country, and again, thanks to Larry for bringing this lesson to our membership...

Scott Reil

The Helpful Gardener
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Yikes, posting right with Cynthia... :o

Hoping the discussion continues for some time, Cyn. Hoping these pages provide fodder for the furtherance of this and many more discussions. As well you know I feel strongly about this book and topic and really can't think of a more pressing or topical point to address, so I hope we get to
continue this for a long, long time...

My best wishes and kindest thoughts to Vergil and you...

Scott Reil

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