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do nothing, know nothing, why does/doesn't this philosophy work?  RSS feed

 
                                
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I read a thing with fukuoka where he advocates minimal intervention and no tilling. Presumably he is very wise and old and knows things that the rest of us don't.

I have read other perspectives that involve creating lots of microclimates and broadcast/clayball seeding climate-suitable species randomly across it, then maybe if something is growing well in a particular spot you can transplant other things into similar locations. Maybe its because an ecosystem or a forest is so complex as to be nearly un-knowable. Humans have been living with/in nature for so long and to this day understand little of how it works.

Do many others advocate these approaches? Why does it work for some and not others? This is not a situation where I imagine a specific system or particular crops, and then spray-and-pray and hope to get it. This is for a formless garden that feeds people without preconcieved notions.
 
ronie dee
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I'd say that do nothing works aho lot better than know nothing. I've had a food forest on my place for 30 years and just recently found out that it is called a food forest.

Do little - know much and add stinging nettles if needed.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm a huge fan of Fukuoka, though I've found I need to do quite a bit to grow vegetables here.  It took me a long time to find out what that "do" actually seems to be. 

I still don't know much, just learning. 
 
Benjamin Burchall
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If you haven't read his book One Straw Revolution, give it a look. Fukuoka was the one who advocated seedballs.

I think people fail when trying to implement  Fukuoka's system because the try to do what he does rather than using the principles he used. He said not to duplicate  what he does. It's not about his techniques, but his principles.

Look up Emelia Hazelip's synergistic gardening on YouTube. She translated his principles to vegetable growing. I used techniques similar to her's.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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The better the climate is, the less to do. Dry areas will need a bit of work (such as the establishment of drought tolerant legumes) before you can kick back and relax. Once the system is up and running, It should continue with very little management (this is the principle behind food forests in general).
 
Tyler Ludens
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Kirk Hutchison wrote:
The better the climate is, the less to do. Dry areas will need a bit of work


"a bit" 
 
Paul Cereghino
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I believe that Fukuoka reports failing for around 20 years before figuring out his clover/rice/barley cycle for his climate and soils.  I'm with Mr. Burchall -- the principles provide a framework for honing observation.

When you attempt to slip seamlessly into natures cycles, I think that timing becomes ruthlessly important.

And it helps to inherit land.
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Paul Cereghino wrote:And it helps to inherit land.


Ain't that the truth!  I'm trying to get my hands on some now. I wish I had more money to work with.
 
Terri Matthews
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My 5 rough acres does not get watered or weeded or tilled. So, in that respect I "o nothing", except perhaps fertilize in the spring. Maybe.

On that land I have asparagus, daffodils, Louisiana Iris, and American plum trees.

What FAILED was corn, sweet corn, squash, and I forget what else.

Once you realize what is well suited to your land, then you really can have a do-nothing philosophy. The daffodils are bright and my asparagus is sweet, and I rarely do more to them than harvest.

Fukuoka, by the way, appears to have worked very hard indeed, in spite of not plowing. He harvested, seeded, marketed, taught, tried out new techniques, and checked his land often to monitor the health of the ecosystem. Once in a great while he stepped in and used a mild chemical.

A do-nothing philosphy words very well if the crop you are planting is suited to your land. If it isn't, you will have to do more work. For instance,  I cannot grow semi-wild vegetables like Mr. Fufuoka did, because my land is more suited to grass than it is to radishes and carrots, and the grass will choke out both. So, for my land, I cannot raise either with a do-nothing philosophy.

I CAN raise them in my garden as long as I weed and water, but in a land where the grass  naturally grows "as high as a horses withers",  as the first settlers happily declared, small vegetables will be choked out by grass unless they are weeded.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Terri wrote:

Once you realize what is well suited to your land, then you really can have a do-nothing philosophy.


So far I have found very little which is well suited to my land without irrigation and other changes.  In this drought, even the cactus are dying.

 
Hugh Hawk
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Do nothing, eat nothing Ludi?
 
Tyler Ludens
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That's about right!

 
Saybian Morgan
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Has anyone read accounts of people who spent time with fukuoka, you do plenty, it's the degree of genius that exacts such efficiency that your relatively doing nothing.
Fukuoka's Zen Master talk get's disseminated erroneously to such a degree that people run out and do nothing, and get a big whack of nothing in return.

I can remember and say I was one of them, I've thrown allot of seed balls away in my life with dreams of steroid rampant yield, it's like emulating sepp holzer based on a youtube clip.
 
Terri Matthews
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SaybianTv wrote:
I've thrown allot of seed balls away in my life with dreams of steroid rampant yield, it's like emulating Sepp Holzer based on a youtube clip.
LOL, so did I ! It was not until after I succeed with the asparagus and the Louisiana Iris and failed with the squash that I realized what made things work.
 
Terri Matthews
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
So far I have found very little which is well suited to my land without irrigation and other changes.  In this drought, even the cactus are dying.


Droughts happen to us all.

But, since cactus apparently grows, perhaps prickly pear cactus? I see teh fruits offered for sale at the supermarets. I now that prickly pear needs more water than some cactus, less than other varieties.

Mesquite trees? I hear the beans are edible.

Flower bulbs, perhaps? They would make use of the winter moisture and then go dormant.

Lastly, do you have mild winters? There is a variety of asparagus grown in California that goes dormant when it is dry instead of going dormant when it is cold. I know that asparagus loves water, I do not now how much winter rain your area gets. In California it is quite wet for 4 months out of the year  in the winter time and dry for perhaps 8,
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, Terri.  Believe it or not, it is so dry some of the native cactus are dying, I think Opuntia humifusa, the Eastern Prickly Pear, which apparently prefers more water.  We have a couple mesquite trees (not producing pods), but have not so far been successful starting more.  Bulbing plants I have tried to grow have died. Our normal rainfall is about 15 - 40 inches, this year we've had about 6.5 inches.  Called "exceptional drought" and expected to continue or intensify for the rest of the year and possibly next year as well.   Trees are beginning to die, even quite large ones. 

There's only so much cactus one can eat. 
 
Abe Connally
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Ludi, do you have wild plums and/or grapes near you? What part of Texas are you in?
 
Terri Matthews
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velacreations wrote:
Ludi, do you have wild plums and/or grapes near you? What part of Texas are you in?
If Ludi does I will be surprised: I grew up in an area that got 12 inches of rainfall and the wild plum only grew where the coastal fogs rolled in. The fog does not leave much soil moisture but it does leave some, which was good because 6 months without rain was very common.

There were no wild grapes at all.

There WERE huckleberries where there was the fog, LOTS of them, but huckleberries are very fussy about soil PH.
 
Abe Connally
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well, I used to live in Central Texas (near Abilene), and it doesn't get much rainfall, but there were loads of wild plums and grapes.

I lived in west Texas (less than 10 inches of rain a year), and all the arroyos had Texas persimmons and many edible plants/fruits.

There are a wide variety of climates in Texas, but it seems like even the drier areas have some wild fruits.

I'm currently in Northern Mexico (about 20" of rain a year), and we have wild grapes, wild cherries, and lots of wild foods.
 
Tyler Ludens
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We have several kinds of wild fruits on our place and in the area, but the humans don't tend to get much fruit.  The Texas Persimmons did very well this year and we're very fortunate to have many of them on our place.  Our neighbor across the road poisoned his because he hates raccoons and raccoons love persimmons.  I've only seen grapes on our wild grapes a couple times, they usually get eaten before total ripeness.  Large grapevines in the area are dying. I believe all the wild plum trees on our place have died, I know one I planted died.

 
Abe Connally
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yeah, that's a side affect of drought, animals are hungry, too.  We got bombarded by grasshoppers this year cause our fruit trees and gardens were the only green things around.

Needless to say, if the heat and drought doesn't kill it, the animals will.

We used to make a really nice fruit leather and jam from the Texas Persimmons.  Nice.

Grapevines will die back in the drought, but they'll come back with some rain. Grapes are amazing survivors, especially the wild ones. 

On our place, the plums are the ones that are doing the best.  They're still hanging in there, even after the grasshopper assault. The drought didn't phase them at all.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Might be a different species of wild plum from ours.  There are a couple different ones here.  The thicket-forming ones called "Cherry Plums" seem to be doing fine, but we don't have any on our place and my last attempt to dig up and propagate shoots died.    The large-growing Wild Plum trees that don't thicket are the ones suffering and dying.  I still hope to get some starts of Cherry Plum one of these years. 

The edible plant Sotol is doing fine all around.  I transplanted some to my place and most of them are doing well.  These have edible stems that take several hours to cook.  They aren't all that yummy, but were a staple of the natives here and to the west.

My "o Nothing" diet might be composed of Prickly Pear, Sotol and Persimmon-stuffed varmints.   
 
rose macaskie
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Its hard to know exactly how to take things from a different culture, like we have heard christian things criticised and defended through centuries,which makes it easier to evaluyate them. I have heard of times in history when confession was attacked as being abusive and I have heard of confession being upheld as a healthy process, I know a bit about how that one `ñays out if people gt very over excited about it and there are public confession it can start to hurt the population. With reality shows it looks as if confession is getting abusive again, psychology sort of put confession back on the map and I dare say people will find reason to wonder about how abusive psychiatrist are soon because not all of them are going to be good people and so they might make bad use of confessions but i have no idea how buddhist things have played out historically, under the march of time and the effects they can have if people take them too far, so buddhist ideas are very exciting but not easy to evaluate or to know what is going too far, what is taking it to crazy saint level and what to sensible usefull level that merely stops you being to hasty and makes you observe things more turns everyone into a scientist and makes them think before they act. agri rose macaskie.
 
              
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Fukuoka is all about logic properly understood.
 
Marissa Little
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
My "o Nothing" diet might be composed of Prickly Pear, Sotol and Persimmon-stuffed varmints.   


I'm right there with you!  I can't ever seem to explain to people that this climate just isn't right for a lot of these techniques/philosophies.  When the weather is good, we have a great garden and lots of wild stuff to forage.  But right now, our mesquite tree DIED, as did 3 of our pecans, the cactus is gone, all the grass and small woody plants are brown.  The dewberries didn't fruit, the persimmon was bare all year, even the cat briar (the tender tips are yummy!) didn't grow much.  Hopefully next year it will be wet and wonderful.  But I'm all about the irrigation right now!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Marissa Little wrote:
I'm right there with you! 


I guess if we want to eat more than cactus we'll have to do something. It's just taking me a LONG time to figure out what those things might be.....(like ten years.....) 
 
Tyler Ludens
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DavidT wrote:
Fukuoka is all about logic properly understood.


Could you explain a little bit more what you mean?  Thanks.

 
Paul Cereghino
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If you want a really scary story.  One of the things that killed home gardens in the dust bowl was the static electricity in the dust storms!  When the rain came again, many farmers ripped out the federal windbreaks and started plowing for wheat.
http://www.amazon.com/Worst-Hard-Time-Survived-American/dp/061834697X
 
John Polk
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If that book would be of interest to you, you should watch this 1936 documentary (25 min.).

Though filmed in 1936, there is some much older footage included, such as a team of 20 pulling a harvester.  Lots of WW I vintage plowing, etc.

Sound quality is lacking, but worth the viewing.

http://www.archive.org/details/plow_that_broke_the_plains
 
Jeff Mathias
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do nothing, know nothing, why does/doesn't this philosophy work?


This philosophy is predominately based in the Tao Te Ching, we in the western world tend to be very literal in our interpretations of written words. There are other translations; I prefer to read them all. Some find a translation they like and stick with it. The below comes from here: http://http-server.carleton.ca/~rgray/TaoTeChing/  I use this translation the most when I am online.

Some excerpts that I think might apply:

Two

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other:
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow one another.

Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
Creating, yet not.
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

Twenty-nine

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

Thirty-seven

Tao abides in non-action,
Yet nothing is left undone.
If kings and lords observed this,
The ten thousand things would develop naturally.
If they still desired to act,
They would return to the simplicity of formless substance.
Without for there is no desire.
Without desire there is.
And in this way all things would be at peace.


Thirty-eight

A truly good man is not aware of his goodness,
And is therefore good.
A foolish man tries to be good,
And is therefore not good.

A truly good man does nothing,
Yet leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man is always doing,
Yet much remains to be done.

When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.
When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.
When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds,
He rolls up his sleeves in an attempt to enforce order.

Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.

Therefore the truly great man dwells on what is real and not what is on the surface,
On the fruit and not the flower.
Therefore accept the one and reject the other.


Forty-three

The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.

Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few.

Forty-seven

Without going outside, you may know the whole world.
Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.

Thus the sage knows without traveling;
He sees without looking;
He works without doing.

Forty-eight

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

Fifty-one

All things arise from Tao.
They are nourished by Virtue.
They are formed from matter.
They are shaped by environment.
Thus the ten thousand things all respect Tao and honor Virtue.
Respect of Tao and honor of Virtue are not demanded,
But they are in the nature of things.

Therefore all things arise from Tao.
By Virtue they are nourished,
Developed, cared for,
Sheltered, comforted,
Grown, and protected.
Creating without claiming,
Doing without taking credit,
Guiding without interfering,
This is Primal Virtue.

Fifty-seven

Rule a nation with justice.
Wage war with surprise moves.
Become master of the universe without striving.
How do I know that this is so?
Because of this!

The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons,
The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.

Therefore the sage says:
I take no action and people are reformed.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing and people become rich.
I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.

Sixty-four

Peace is easily maintained;
Trouble is easily overcome before it starts.
The brittle is easily shattered;
The small is easily scattered.

Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion.

A tree as great as a man's embrace springs up from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one's feet.

He who acts defeats his own purpose;
He who grasps loses.
The sage does not act, and so is not defeated.
He does not grasp and therefore does not lose.

People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure.

Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire.
He does not collect precious things.
He learns not to hold on to ideas.
He brings men back to what they have lost.
He help the ten thousand things find their own nature,
But refrains from action.

Eighty-one

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.

The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm.
The Tao of the sage is work without effort.

Jeff
 
Hugh Hawk
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Thanks Jeff, food for thought.

Interesting to see the same themes and struggles arising at least two and a half thousand years ago, as what we have today.
 
Russ White
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I have tried to read all do nothing proponents. Fukuoka, Stout, and many of the permaculuture guys seem to make it seem has tough one needs to do nothing to get great results. But all of them tell of fertilizing weather it be with manure or plant matter.  They all also talk of how their gardens progress from poor yield at first to spectacular yields in latter years. Gaias garden by Hemenway, in the final chapter talks about the garden popping, but this is only after a few years of work. We as humans sometimes read these books and only take away the part about the latter. It is only after trial and error do some of us reread and understand what they are really trying to tell us. Of course I say this from my own experience. Have to leave now to go add some more bio matter to garden.
 
Tony Elswick
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you find them.  so when people use fukuoka balls to discover compatible organisms by seeding them into areas to which they can diversify a system within a system... they are simply doing the fukuoka method... they are just doing it with more edge.

one can not observe a micro-system to define the whole system... that is fukuokas principle.

so if people are using more agressive methods based on the same principle that doesn't mean they're perspectives are any different.
 
dj niels
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Just came across this old thread. Very interesting discussion. I believe the whole permaculture idea is to observe the conditions and needs of a specific piece of land, and try to see what would be compatible strategies for assisting the land to help us, rather than trying to force it into a pre-arranged pattern or system that might be counter to what would be "natural" for that land in those conditions. In other words, working With the land, instead of forcing it to do what WE want.

Sometimes, as Hemenway demonstrated, we can help achieve a more useful-to-us system, using landforming, such as swales, berms, mounds, and all the other ideas talked about on the various forum threads, but everything we do needs to be site-specific if it is to be regenerative and restorative.

I have been reading the book, Grassland, by Richard Manning. What I have gotten out of it so far, is that, based on his studies and observation, the whole 'dust bowl' thing was caused by government leaders creating policies based on things that might have worked in the eastern, more humid regions, that failed to consider the very different climate and very productive existing system. The grasses and grazing animals actually produced more meat and biomass in tall grasses and deep root systems, than all the straight-line grids of roads and annual-crop farms that were imposed on the prairies and dry western states, and the huge wheat and corn and hay and pasture systems have become a desert of wheat, that supports very little of birds or any biodiversity.

The native grasses and animals were adapted to the wet/dry cycles in the western regions, but most of the crops and livestock there now aren't, and die off in the cyclical dry season, with tons more work needed for the modern system. To say nothing of the cost in soil loss, petroleum fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel for tractors, etc. It was a different kind of food production than they were used to, so they didn't recognize it as a viable system. Because there were no permanent settlements and plowed fields, they thought it was "empty land."

Yesterday, while traveling to a nearby town, with white cloud cover and white snow-covered ground, I was able to really notice the dark contrast of trees in certain areas, and try to notice where trees grow in this high desert, and what conditions might be conducive to helping some to grow on my bit of land. So, as has been pointed out by many, the key, I believe, is learning to really look and see what is around us.
 
Thomas Alexander
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I just finished watching the HOME documentary. Really good. And it's about how we have messed up such a huge part of our planet using human "knowledge". So Fukuoka's approach is probably the right approach, and according to him, we appeared on the face of the Earth because all the conditions were favorable for us to thrive in CERTAIN environments. Problem is we have spread all over the planet, even on environments that are not naturally producing edibles for us, and then we must adapt nature to fit our needs. Can a balance between us and the environment we live in be reached?

BTW here is the HOME documentary in spanish though you can probably find it in many other languages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFdWIy2E9f4&feature=share
 
Terri Matthews
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We all live in different climates, and what works in one might not work in another. A person has to open their eyes and SEE! if they want to succeed.

When I tried clay balls the resulting plants looked like they were not getting enough water, while some grain I accidently spilled on some on some mown grass right before it rained came up very strongly.

So, this year I am not using seed balls, and I will hopefully get some grain. I scattered wheat seeds right before a snowfall, and hopefully the seeds will sprout when it warms up in a couple of weeks.
 
Allie Green
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Fukuoka's little "One Straw Revolution" made a huge impression on me. But he admits that he is writing specifically about Japan with its hot humid summers. My place is Hot and Dry in the summer but I'm still mulching with straw like crazy and learning the patterns of life on this land as I go along. It is encouraging to me that it took him a good four years to get a good crop from his citrus - learning from his mistakes as I am.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
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An update: the grain did come up but it looks overgrown with grass and tacky. I am going to mow down some of it, and use the rest for seed. This Fall I will plant a solid block (instead of rows) where it is not easily visible from the street: we have an 8 inch weed ordinance where I live and it looks pretty darned weedy!!!

Spring planted seed did not do as well as the volunteer wheat in the Fall. I suppose any farmer could have told me that: Winter wheat is common out here but I do not recall anybody planting wheat in the spring!
 
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