“This first experiment, simply doing nothing, was a magnificent failure. It was not natural farming; it was abandonment.” – Masanobu Fukuoka
When I first began my search for a way of life, I reached for any available opportunity. It was an expansive expedition to do everything.
For a few years, this type of journey falls apart. It never gains traction in any area and it’s a common pattern for people who hold an idealistic view of their journey, everything will work itself out. In time, it does, but at the beginning, I found it was best to seek many opportunities and begin the process of filtering out the chunks that didn’t work for my present needs.
Because of it, I was about to determine projects that suited my visions and goals. It enabled a greater capacity to devote more time and energy rather than spreading myself too thin in many areas.
This is the process of reflection, knowing the areas in life to expand or contract. The timing in my opinion is less important. It’s far better to make a decision and take action than to do nothing at all. In this way, it’s not a matter of if it will happen just when.
It’s a concept that is used to describe the amount of resources available for the amount of children that you have.
The theory is based on the idea that parents only have a limited amount of resources. With each additional child the parents resources get diluted. Imagine two families with the same amount of resources, one family only has one child and the other family has four. The family with one child has four times the amount of resources available for their one child than the other family.
This same idea is true for projects, friends and just life in general. The more you do the more spread out you are, the less energy, time, and resources you have for each addition to your life.
The common pattern is that less is more. Don’t fall into the trap of doing everything. You’ll end up with nothing.
The exception in my opinion is when a person has conquered a project to the point where people and their environment can build up on it or when a person is questioning what they truly want to do with their life. For example, conquering a project to benefit mankind and nature could be feeding and growing the soil to cultivate food for us and the microbes in the soil, win win. Next steps in succession could be selling the extra produce, giving it away, or making value added products like making pickled vegetables or raising farm animals. Questioning what you want to do is simply trying a lot of things to find the few things that you are passionate about, running through the gauntlet.
All of this is slow and small solutions in permaculture or the Tortoise and the Hare if you like fables.
I continually hear gardeners talk about raised beds as if it’s a holy grail.
I hate bursting bubbles, but this cookie cutter approach to gardening and life needs to end. Lets begin.
Better Water Retention
Yes, when you build a bed and fill it up with healthy soil it will retain water better. However, this is true of all garden beds with healthy living soil, not just raised beds. Living soil helps to retain, capture, and recirculate water endlessly as organisms drink, pee and eat each other in the soil biome. You can do this without building a box.
There is a downside to raised beds and water retention in particular areas. Here in Texas, we tend to have high winds and high heat through a large portion of our year. When you raise anything, it’ll catch more wind. Water will wick away much more quicker when you raise your garden bed. Heat rises and will have a similar effect as the wind. These two things combined and you’ll have to drown the soil to get the moisture to stick around.
This is partially true. You’ll live weed free for a while, but nothing stops weed seeds if you continually till the soil. Enjoy it while it lasts. The best way to eliminate weeds is again to build on soil and to eliminate the tillage. The weed seeds are adapted to frequent soil disturbances. Eliminate tilling and there are no more weeds.
Warmer Soil + Earlier and Longer Season
This is more true for colder climates. Texas has a growing season that is all year round. You can extend the year longer for particular crops, but if you are willing to wait a few weeks, you can get away with doing less work for similar yields. In colder climates, the need to get crops started earlier is more apparent since their growing season is shorter compared to Texas.
Every Garden is Raised and Other Considerations
When you build soil, you are raising the bed without the frames and the extra materials. You’ll have more gardening space without the frames, and it’s much easier to change a design over time to something that could be more functional. In my opinion, the main driving force to raised bed gardening comes from advice from people who are already doing it and have established credibility in the field. The majority then follows and it spreads. This is true of many other fields and disciplines and not just gardening. The sad truth is that although it worked in their area, it doesn’t always replicate itself in another location or condition.
The Greater Debate
This brings us to the greater realm of design. The first step is identifying the building blocks and the limitations enabling a greater realm of creation to unfold. Copying ideas can be successful when the elements of design are taken into consideration for various climates and conditions. Otherwise, ideas should be constructively criticized and thoughtfully questioned.
So. . do you raise a garden bed? You can, but think about the factors that are going to interact with the garden, and you may find other paths instead.
Once you get past the limits, the game changes.
For example, the major limitations for breeding rabbits in Texas is the heat. Rabbits have a body temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The head scratcher is that everyone I know that breeds rabbits has a hutch that is above ground. Basic lesson in science tells us that heat rises. The major limitation for breeding is now confronted with a huge hurdle that we created for ourselves by working against nature, creating homes for rabbits above ground when heat rises. To overcome this hurdle, people freeze bottles of water and allow it to melt next to their bunnies with fans blowing on them.
This is hell for a poor bunny.
Questions begin to rise about how rabbits take care of themselves during our hot summer heats. The answer is surprisingly simple. We look at nature and observe how these geniuses survive. They live in the Earth.
By digging a home in the ground, rabbits keep cool with the blanket of the soil and the Earth. By doing so, they can maintain homeostasis (their body temperature).
If we overcome the limit of high temperatures, rabbit breeding will reach new heights.
The same is true for every industry. Deconstruct the game, find the limits, and change it.
Imagine life when we did not have irrigated fields of food and we were hunter gatherers. Food had to be identified, found, prepared, and cooked. Sometimes, this required a nomadic way of life or one that was always on the fringes of survival. Getting out of the game requires that old rules be broken and new ones formed.
For the hunter gatherer, getting to know a plant would have provided many clues on forming new alliances with the natural world. Plants can propagate through many types of division; stem, root, leaf, seed, and today cells. Even domesticating animals would’ve been considered crazy. Humans crawl, walk, and run. It takes us time to travel far distances. Imagine the first person who decided they wanted to get on the back of a large animal and ride it across the world. Crazy. I know.
The games we’ve created for ourselves are many. The great news is that we can change the game, make a new one, and create new rules. The game of gathering shifted to the game of gardening, a new game with new rules. The rules now are to learn how to cultivate plants instead of just finding them. As rules change, our knowledge grows and expands to encompass new areas. With the birth of a new idea, more possibilities are available. For example, with gardening came the sciences and the arts. We had more time to waste looking at the stars building civilization as we know it instead of looking for things to eat. The advent of the internet allowed for commerce through online stores rather than a physical one; now, you can shop from the convenience of your home instead of going somewhere.
Game changers create a new way of life, some better some worse. The key is finding a way to change the games you’re in and make it better.
I hear it all the time.
The mistake is acting like you only get to live for today. I understand the appeal of being present and living here, now. However, the idea of being present is misunderstood with actions that destroy the possibility of the future.
Indulging in any activity for a moment because you only live once is an escape. It’s an excuse to fulfill actions that are very short lived.
The perspective is changed when “you only live once” is within the realm of fulfilling a legacy. A legend is not just a pool of people that are near you, but the ocean of life that extends beyond the present and far into future generations that have yet to come.
The choice then is to decide whether you want to occupy a moment and a life that is short lived or a story that will last for ages. It’s your story and your life. Make it the one you always wanted to live; you only live once.
That’s all gardening is, and that’s all people ever do in life.
Take communication as an example. We take our ideas, find the words to sing it to another, and it comes out in a flurry of sound waves that hit our ears. The other person interprets the waves, gathers their thoughts and sends a verbal package in return.
In my opinion, the ultimate form of repackaging is Gardening. Manure (poo, crap, shit) is taken and transformed into a tasty morsel of leafy greens, delicious fruits, or a vibrant display of flowers. In time, the repugnant idea of crap is alchemized into the desired state of good food and well being.
In many ways, gardening is also the ultimate form of forgiveness. Gardeners take the filth of the world and return it in a better state than it was once in. There’s no harsh emotions or feelings. Gardeners willingly take the fermenting pot of vegetables and the stink pile of poo to enrich the soil. It’s a remarkable trait and one that I believe everyone can benefit from.
So. . there are an infinite number of possibilities out there.
Find your passion and Repackage it.
People find every little reason to box your ideas in. I assume it’s done with the positive intention to inform; however, it most often has the criticism with no constructive value to it. It’s simply there to bog you down.
You have to consider these rules and regulations before doing anything. That’s going to take a lot of money and time. There’s no money in that. and so on. .
This phenomenon of criticizing starts at an early age of a child when parents and teachers are telling us, “NO!,” without explaining why not. From there, it snow balls into an idea that we cannot do anything without someone holding our hands.
My suggestion is to unlearn the idea of “NO,” break down the mental boxes and go for it. We have all the resources and knowledge available to us at our figure types. The only reason you need to move forward is if you love it. You don’t need another reason why.
Do it! As soon as you can.
Here’s the rundown. When we are working on our passions and life legacy, it’s hard to see through our own eyes the areas we really need to work on. It’s easy to see the successes. It’s easy to report our wins and ignore the losses.
The shortcomings and challenges we face hit our blind sides or they blur out around our peripheral vision. It’s hard to face the mountain we have to climb. It’s difficult to face up to the reality of a huge portion of ourself, the failures. Many times, we don’t see what’s happening and it continues to happen because of unconscious ignorance.
The cure to unconscious ignorance? Mindful observation, self-reflection, documentation. I’ve been working as a part time educator and a part time gardener. I reflect everyday on what’s going well and what needs work in the garden. As a teacher, it’s difficult to see myself, what I’m saying and doing in the classroom. I get feedback from other teachers, but it’s difficult to get the reality of what’s going on. To change the paradigm of ignorance, my co-worker and I are going to video our lessons, reflect on what we’re doing well, and find potential solutions to our shortcomings, continually challenging us to become better educators.
It won’t be easy at first, it’ll most likely be humiliating, but that’s what makes it fun. In time, we’ll make great strides through many laughable moments and failures, warriors in the field of education and cultivating yourself.