Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book: The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka



Warning: starts out a little metaphysical and allegorical - gets better in the middle, then falls off the deep end in the second half. I enjoyed the book, but disagree strongly with his rejection of science and the scientific method - but don't let that stop you from being awed by his farming!

Fukuoka is the god of no-till farming, he calls it "natural farming." The book is a quick read (well not for me since I'm reading it on my phone during pretty much any short break during the day), and he hammers home one of the same major points as Sepp Holzer: experiment and observe, to which he adds "do less" and mostly "do nothing." He spent years looking for things that humans didn't need to do on his farm: no till, no weed, no standing water, no chemicals.

He describes his system in detail, and it makes for fascinating insight into how much has to be considered. My favorite was the perfect timing for sowing the next season's crop, with all of the reasoning that went into it, though the seed balls for protecting a surface-sown seed from animals is a cool second.

The scale of Fukuoka's farm sounded relatively small to me (at least compared to Sepp's Krameterhof) - 1.25 acres of rice field, and 12.5 acres of orchard. This book has made me re-think my definition of "small" since he averages 1,200 pounds of rice per quarter-acre - times 5, that's three tons a year, enough to feed 64 people every day for a year.

I see that I'm doing a lot of comparing to Sepp Holzer's Permaculture, but I read these two books at the same time, so the similarities and contrasts helped me get more out of each of them.

It isn't a closed system, since some of the produce is removed and he doesn't discuss any black-water recycling, but the only external input is apparently some poultry manure - incredible!

Sadly, it appears that no one has been able to replicate his results here in the US, though many are trying (listen to Paul Wheaton and Helen Atthow).

Whether or not we can design a similar system here, there is no doubt that Fukuoka's ideas will influence permaculture for a long time to come.

Watch nature, do less.

Equivocal recommendation - a lot of metaphysical dross to wade through for the really interesting bits, but on the other hand if you have mystic leanings of your own then this book could be right up your alley.

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