One Straw Revolution: Part One
from The One Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (1975)
One straw revolution? My revolution was going to need millions of straws. Selectively attending to this one strand of Fukuoka’s ‘Natural Farming’ philosophy, I’d latched on to his mulch mantra like a baby sucking on a nipple, determined to milk it for all it’s worth.
I could see it: an organic blanket shielding the good earth from harmful exposure, and nurturing the vegetable crops. Weeds suppressed, moisture kept in. We’d be going from surviving to thriving on the land in no time.
I’d start with a cash crop of potatoes. I got in a tonne; it was the early 90s – a hundred bucks. Our revolution wouldn’t just be ‘all muck and magic’, ours would be ‘all mulch, muck and magic’.
The guy who delivered them in 75 kg sacks was tall, broad, solid, young – strong. I was nudging forty back then and a slight, sinewy thing – all the same, no weakling. I took real pride in matching him sack for sack – drag across the truck deck, hop down, hoist onto your shoulders, bend your knees, nice and controlled as you lower to the ground.
My self-propelled rotary hoe, a powerful beast with a 5 HP motor, struggled with the paddock grasses and heavy soil, which when wet clung to the rotary tines and inner housing and needed scraping off at tediously regular intervals. I got there though – a chunk of paddock big enough for a tonne of spuds.
Spud in hand, June plonked it in the bottom of the ‘V’ formed by my shovel. Spud in hand, June plonked it in the bottom of the ‘V’ formed by my shovel. Spud in hand, June plonked it in the bottom of the ‘V’ formed by my shovel.
You can see why we we would have had to put the rest of our lives on hold. There was the small matter of my part-time teaching job, and June’s full-time mum of two young children job and, all the other things needing to be done on a very tight budget to survive the homesteading way of life job.
The several sacks that didn’t get planted ended up as boiled potatoes to feed a couple of pigs.
The bales of wheat straw we used as mulch took forever and a day to spread over the potatoes we did get in. Laid on heavy clay soils that, until the recent rotary hoeing, had been under permanent pasture, the mulch did bugger all for soil structure. We had heavy rain and the mulch matted, speeding up the rot of potatoes planted in the soggy bottom third of the sloping plot.
At harvest, we spent our time (lots of it), prizing spuds out of hard ground, and giving the paddock back the soil that had stuck to them.
We must have sold half a dozen sacks at $10 a sack; we kept back enough to last us a year. Saved a few dollars on pig feed as well. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.
June said she was so ill with the flu, in bed in a darkened room sleeping away the day, that when I went in to run the initial proposal past her, she couldn’t muster the energy to shoot me and my crazy idea down in flames. I guess it doesn’t help that I can be very persuasive when I’m intent on something. Makes it harder “to save me from myself”.
A follower, not someone who wants to lead the way, is how she sees herself. But once committed to following, she’s in there boots and all. I’m the one that’ll forget to put their boots on and get cold feet – a ‘big ideas’ man with an impressive portfolio of aborted projects down the years.
Chalk it up to experience, mate. “She’ll be right”* is where we’re at right now. Take that two ways. First, we’ve got to a stage in our lives where no matter what we choose to do or not to do about the place, she’ll be right. Second, I’m much more likely to accept that June’s probably right: She’ll be right.
In fact, I reckon she’s always done her share of leading the way! A safer bet, I’d say – put your money on her!
*She’ll be right (often followed by a friendly term of address such as mate) is a frequently used idiom in Australian and New Zealand culture that expresses the belief that “whatever is wrong will right itself with time”, which is considered to be either an optimistic or apathetic outlook. The term can also be used to refer to a situation or object which is not perfect but is good enough to fulfil its purpose. (Source: Wikipedia)
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at LIttle Owl Gully for this week. I’ll tell you about our current mulch regime next Monday: One Straw Revolution: Part Two.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.