Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Well! Spring brings a whole new set of work parameters! These are our Hoop houses, built over raised beds for our kitchen garden. Jim & I have been quite turned on by some old-timey garden & agriculture books, mentioned at the side-bar to the right. Perhaps the most eye-opening book is The One Straw Revolution, recommended by my dad, Stan Gauthier of Parksville, BC. The main premise is this:Farming (raising food) is a joy that requires no chemicals, tilling or heavy machinery. Too many farmers (gardeners) spend money they don't have to amend soil that likely doesn't need it, break it to useless bits with equipment that chugs diesel & spews carbon, and ends up harvesting the same edible portion as a natural farmer, who does none of these things. The author's main concern is for farmers & gardeners to take better care of their soil by amending it with the previous year's straw & leftover stalks, vines, etc. and to allow for natural decomposition and build the soil up year after year. No till? Hooray! I hate tilling even more than I hate shovelling! Mr. Fukuoka discusses the Japanese Ministry Of Agriculture's tests on soil quality, crop yield & insect damage, among many other things, and reveals that all things are not as they seem.
He calls his farming method the do-nothing method, or no-till. It is defined as growing cover-crops amongst his main crop, then leaving that cover crop plus the straw to decompose in the field producing an enriched humusy soil that is fully nourished for the following year. This means he doesn't need fertilizer. Because he grows a variety of plants and shades the soil with cover-crops, he also has a variety of insects that benefit his fields, so he doesn't need pesticides. All those roots do a good job of aerating and breaking up the soil, so he doesn't need to till. Refuses to squash this light & luscious soil with a tractor, so he harvests by hand, with a paid crew. No tractor or combine. No diesel. No fumes. No monthly payments. Better yield than a conventional farmer per acre. Doesn't need an outside job. Huh?
The part about Japanese farmers of a century ago having time to goof off in the winter and write Haiku is my favorite! Today, these poor guys have to work part time just to afford all the chemicals and machinery for their crops, plus feed their families. Read The Book! I got it through inter-library loan.
We have started many veggies indoors already, the tomatoes already have flower buds! Some of them are destined for what Jim is calling a One Straw trial. He is going to plant some fava beans in a grassy area, protected from all the wind we get here by scrub (short) Junipers. He will also put in some tomato & pepper plants. I'll keep ya all posted!

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