[permaculture] Crabgrass, Bermuda grass, etc.

Dieter Brand diebrand at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 22 08:43:19 EDT 2007

Jamie Nicol <souscayrous at gmail.com> wrote:
>Nature is forever particular to place and moment, any comments I make will
>always lack complete understanding. I make my remarks fully aware of this.
>But I made them finally because I felt that while you do know your
>environment you don't understand it!
  Rational understanding always is incomplete. However, living on this land
  for the last 10 or more years, I make an effort every day to understand the
  particularities of the place, throwing overboard one conceived wisdom after
  the other as I go along. I have found this to be a practical application in 
  a myriad ways of Fukuoka’s idea of "no action", which, to me, is beyond
  intellectual speculation and mystical befuddlement and most of all beyond
  linguistic niceties about understanding and knowing.
>You claim you must cut down the madronho to enable the oak forest to
>regenerate. But the madronho is the necessary natural precursor for oak
>forests in this region of Europe. ...
  I think that is a misunderstanding. I like the madrone just as much as I
  like the cork oaks and would never eliminate the one in favour of the other.
  Besides, you know just as well as I do that it is impossible to remove 
  most Mediterranean perennials, such as madrone, by cutting; it is like 
  having your hair cut or cutting the lawn: the more you cut the better it 
  grows. I’m simply thinning out a place that has known decades of neglect.
  Cutting the tangled mass of wood, I let the best one’s standing, allowing
  the others to grow again with fresh green. Of what I cut, every gram of
  organic matter is put to good use by making furniture, beams for the
  house to be build, firewood to keep warm in the winter, shredded mulches
  of the branches for growing our food and to keep the forest floor covered.
  This is what I understand by the term sustainable living.
  2 years ago, I simply tried to voice my reservations regarding the general
  applicability of a "theory of succession" (or something like that) which
  you seemed to consider to possess absolute validity without any regard
  for local circumstances. I don’t know that theory and have no reasons
  to object to its conclusions. I simply said that a theory of succession
  which may lead to certain developments in woodlands over a period of
  100 or 200 hundred years, can hardly be applicable to a place where
  forest plantations are cut down every 9 years by the national pulp 
  industry or where millions of hectares of woodland are destroyed every
  year by wildfire because economic conditions and a mistaken view 
  of nature conservation are driving people off the land. The resulting
  neglect of cultured land, and not climate change, is the reason for the
  devastating wildfires. And let me tell you, a wildfire is just as destructive
  to nature as it is to humans and the environment. While, only half of our 
  place has burned down in the last 10 years, a neighbour has had 2 complete 
  losses in that same time. Even when we are not directly affected, we 
  always have our bags packed from July to September so as to be able to 
  evacuate at short notice and not to get into a death trap. During the last 
  few years there was hardly a summer in which we didn’t have to evacuate 
  at least once or twice.
  >The grass 'problem' you have occurs simply because you try to maintain a
>bare field agricultural system. In a Mediterranean climate forest gardens
>(the incorporation of many types of trees with cereals, fruits and veg) are
>the most 'natural' agricultural form - especially when you seed everything
>and allow nature to choose what grows, where and when.
  Another misunderstanding! There is not an inch of bare ground on the 
  30 or so acres we are the temporary stewards of. Where I can’t use
  vegetation or organic mulches around the house or on the access roads
  I use stones or gravel. If you read my previous messages to this and 
  other groups you will understand that I have repeatedly and insistently 
  argued in favour of a strategy using a combination of woody perennials 
  and green annuals to rehabilitate a land degraded by years of abusive 
  forms of agriculture. This has allowed me to significantly improve the 
  soil of fields in a mere 5 years, while other fields, left untouched for 
  10 years, still don’t show any sign of improvement.
  If you let nature choose what to grow in the arid or semi-arid regions of 
  the world there will be nothing edible for humans to eat and we would 
  all have to come and enjoy the dolce vita in the South of France. 
  A semi-arid climate has nothing to do with drought either. It is simply 
  a climatic pattern dividing the year into a wet season and a dry season, 
  just like in the North you have snow in the winter and warmth in the 
  summer. To think that you can fiddle around with the climate by planting 
  a few more trees in a place that already has more trees than at any
  time in history is nothing but absurd.
>You seem preoccupied with the problems nature throws up, but what the
>problems are all due to the previous human actions. If you continue to
>intervene then all your interventions will only produce their own problems
>which you will then desire to correct and these corrections will in turn
>produce problems that must be corrected etc etc
  Jamie, I’m in no way preoccupied by the problems nature throws at me
  (your words). But I do enjoy finding solutions for making better use of 
  the resources (soil, plants, wood, stones, clay, etc.) that nature has 
  blessed us with and try to remedy some of the damage done by 
  previous owners who have moved on to continue the abusive practices
  on another piece of land after all the topsoil had been washed away
  on this one.
  I do take issue, though, with a line of thought, popular among 
  followers of alternative life styles, according to which "you are to 
  blame when something goes wrong in the garden." "You have a 
  pest in your garden? OK, then reflect upon your evil ways and 
  return to the pure way of nature." Arguments of this type are 
  used like a magic wand to solve every and each problem, 
  where in reality, far from solving anything, they often enough 
  lead into the wrong direction.
  If people who dish out remedies of this sort had to pay, out of 
  their own pocket, for any damage that such an advice might 
  result in, each and every one of them would have had to file for 
  bankruptcy long ago. It is easy to be generous with advice
  if one doesn’t have to be responsible for the consequences.
  Even though the Christian churches are on the retreat in the 
  Western world, the fathers of the church have nevertheless left 
  us with a legacy of "guilt", instrument of choice for keeping 
  the lid on the populous in the past. Like the phantom pain in 
  an amputated limb, this phantom guilt, let loose from its former 
  moorings, seems to haunt modern man (and woman) in 
  environmental and nature issues like in issues relating to the
  third world.  I have heard people ask: what did we do wrong to 
  cause the Tsunami?
  >Please disregard these comments if all you were asking for were other
>techniques to fix the problems left by the techniques of previous farmers of
>your land. I offer no new techniques, simply another perspective.
>I am trying to say one simple thing in these posts, trying because we seem
>to share so much in common: there is no technique to use and no technique
>not to use, what must come first is understanding not knowledge.
  Jamie, I respect anybody who wants to go in quest of spirituality.
  My own spirituality is nobodies business. However, I feel that 
  Fukuoka´s type of farming may not be well served by claiming 
  that you can practice natural farming without farming. To me 
  farming must necessarily include growing the stuff for holding 
  body and soul together. That is exactly what Fukuoka has done. 
  After 30 years of practicing organic no-till for small-scale non-
  mechanized farming (for which he provided a very detailed 
  working model) he was able to say: "the proof is growing in 
  front of your eyes." All the theories aside, that is the only thing 
  that counts.
  Today, 30 years after Fukuoka first published his way of farming,
  which he developed over 60 years ago, this type of farming
  is not practiced anywhere; with the possible exception of a 
  couple of places in India. And, as a person with a sense of 
  responsibility, I would certainly not advise my neighbour to 
  convert to natural farming, since I do not have the financial 
  resources to provide for his family when such an advice results 
  in the loss of his farming income. He knows that he can grow 
  enough food by traditional dryland farming which involves 
  pulverizing the soil by ploughing so as to create a dirt mulch 
  which will conserve soil humidity. I have not come across 
  any example in which this could have been achieved without 
  ploughing and leaving the soil bare.
  Spirituality is fine as far as it goes, but alas, so far it has not 
  provided us with any working model for implementing natural 
  farming, and many who are interested in this sort of farming
  most probably rely on other sources of income (like teaching 
  farming) and the local supermarket to provide their food.
  Jamie, it is impossible to describe all of the local caractistics
  of a place without writing volumes, and even then it is still
  possible that others may misunderstand because of 
  preconceived ideas.
  How is the land coming along?
  Dieter Brand

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