To Grow in Nature Requires Observing Nature

In order to grow food using natural processes, it requires us to shake dogmatically held views and letting things progress as they will. Through the power of observation we derive our strategies and our philosophies.

Natural Energy Forces Are Quite Strong

If you have ever stood out in the sun in the middle of summer in the southeast for any length of time you begin to gain an appreciation of just how strong the natural energy forces are. We are not even talking about the occasional chaotic storm (hurricanes or tornadoes), just a regular clear and sunny day. Through observing, studying, and more observing of how energies flow we begin to get a deeper appreciation of what is actually at work.

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Spending time in this can provide considerable insight. What is surviving? What isn’t?

Comfort Has Changed Our Ability to See

The conditions that plants must endure are completely lost by the majority of humans. Modern humans live in bubbles of shelter that remove uncomfortable conditions, conditioning us to ignore what makes that possible. This ignorance is important because until we take these things into account, we won’t take real world conditions seriously enough to realize that natural energy forces can be excessive. Nature operates in this environment 24/7 and has adapted to these conditions since the beginning of time. Seeing where and how plants germinate makes this clear.

Everything Coevolved With Something.

The complex inner-workings of nature should make us consider that everything coevolved together. Apple trees co-evolved with forest edges and forest growth as you can see the germination of apples occur along shelter edges. Observation makes this clear.

Roadsides Are Our Teachers

When we actually adopt the view that growing using nature is possible given that nature is all around us, we can actually begin to see and understand where living things should be placed.

When you go out for a drive, make sure to pay attention to the most unkempt of roadsides. Every inch where the natural environment is left to its own devices will give clues about how nature continues to thrive and grow. It is difficult to refrain from giving reasons about “why” until much observation has been done. This is what permaculture educator Geoff Lawton must mean when he talks about looking as through you are through the eyes of a child.

What you are seeing at this moment is the progression of many past events culminating into what is before you.

Trust Your Eyes and Experience Over Books

Nature takes shapes and forms that will give you ideas of how things actually work, not just written about in books. Patterns begin to emerge that you never considered before, and even if you have come across concepts such as “forest layers” the actual reality of them will start to put everything into context.

When some people in “industry” describe that “weeds” compete with trees, it is clear they are no longer looking at things from the eyes of nature, but their own frail artificial systems. Nature is far, far more robust than that.

Time Between Disturbances Is Actually Visible

One area that I am constantly comparing is the length of time (period) of disturbances of areas and watching what comes up. What is actually dominating (growing well) in those situations? Depending on the time between mowings/clearings an area can really take different shapes. It seems that the “invasive” plants that people focus on so much, are commonly found in the most frequently disturbed sites, while areas where disturbance happens over longer stretches, the more “native” plants seem to grow.

Let’s Use Our Senses a Bit More

Even though I have been trained in the sciences and think with an engineering mind, I do not let these things cloud my intuitions. We clearly have, and have had in the past, the ability to see and observe what is going on nature and use it to our advantages, long before complex abstract concepts came around. The advantage of using intuitions, especially in a try and fail scenario, is we won’t be trapped into a distinct box that our concepts will put us in.

Grow Fruit Trees Like Weeds

Let’s face it, our fruit trees are weak. The ones we choose, how we cultivate them, and our entire relationship with them encourages poor results. Why do you think spraying is a “must” now? We willed that into existence.

Our short term focus drives us rather than our long term one which is odd considering the long term benefits are actually the reason for trees themselves. Instead of planting trees that will fruit for 100+ years, we are planting ones that might last 10 or 15 years on dwarf rootstocks (laughingly called disease resistant) followed by creating a “disease” that prevents the replanting of those trees (called replant “disease”). This trading of long term stability for short term gain, is quite clearly a recipe for complete disaster.

As a potential patch to this problem of non-evolution, perhaps we should start taking the place of weeds with our fruit trees. Nature gets better and stronger by being put to the test, so naturally we should do the same with our trees.

Since “weeds” germinate when there is bare soil present, why don’t we go ahead and throw some tree seeds in there while we are at it. Not because we are interested in the fruit (that comes later), but because something was going to grow there anyways, might as well be one that we think we like. Cut those fruit tree weeds in winter if their looks are unpleasant and in a few years time, perhaps you will have a best tasting local fruit variety.

You can only win nature games with nature tactics.