Farming Dystopia

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Farming Dystopia is an inquiry into radically holistic farming.
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First Revolution

Jan 1: A poem is nice to start, though this one is a little out of season! expand


whispers the scythe under the leaves.
I'm harvesting milk and cheese.

Someone else has asked me what to do-
It's a question on everyone's mind it seems,
and sometimes it screams,
and I hear you,

and I hear the goats crying at the ga-a-ate,
and I know what I am doing is wrong.

But not all of it.

And when that question is on my mind,
I trust my body, because my body knows
that today is a good day
to put a fork in the ground.

And today is a good day to wake the sweet potatoes from the longsleep,
and maybe I wonder if they won't this time,
that maybe grandmother calls them back.
I question my celebration, that's a fact.
Why should they?

But that's another kind of question.
My body knows, but my mind was not made for this.
Enlightened faces drowning in screenlight,
my mind was not made for this.
Enlightened skies drown out the dark abyss
of home.

My mind will not have much to answer for your questions.
It wanders, looking for the dark.
But your body knows that the tension in your neck
is a manifestation of the train wreck
that we call civilization.

And I can't tell you what to change,
there used to be some kind of exchange
between us and the stars.
My goats want their freedom, and I want ours.

I want milk without plastic.
I want to do something drastic,
but I will remind the rules:

A cartload of grass makes milk for three days.
It's a contract of ages that's been lost in the haze
of backbiting bosses in back rooms of the maze
that we're running.

But it's stunning,
when the questions fade away.


Jan 3: Frisky goats and chicken whispering. expand

This morning, when I went to let the goats out, they surprised me by running down the powerline easement to graze in the blackberry patch. For the last few weeks, they've been running across the road to eat the acorns out of my neighbors' yard. Maybe the acorns are getting old. I don't know these things.


Privet and Nugget.

I followed the goats, even though I'd been intending to feed the pigs and work nearer to the area I expected the goats to be foraging. The blackberries where they were grazing are near the chicken barn, and I could check on the birds. I'm keeping the chickens locked up right now, because hawks have been attacking them. We wanted to have enough birds that maybe it's ok when the hawks take a few, so I traded with two different neighbors for more chickens, and now we're up to 14.

Bringing new birds into a flock is often a bit dramatic. The new birds have to get comfortable in the barn, so they'll return there at night where I can protect them from possums, raccoons, and whoever else eats chickens. But the new roommates didn't all get along: some of the birds were driven into the upper roosts and wouldn't readily come down—even for food and water. So over the course of the last two weeks, I've been sectioning off sides of the barn and rotating the birds through them so that they can get used to each other in smaller groups and without anyone getting beaten up. They've settled down a lot now, and this morning I removed the partition so they can mix freely. I think tomorrow or the next day I will be able to start letting them out in the late afternoon, and hopefully they'll all come back before dark. That will be nice, for them and me, I think.


Chickens in the covered yard.

By the time I've finished my chicken social engineering project, the goats have moved on from the blackberries and started eating rutabaga tops and mustard greens in the garden. I run them out, but I appreciate the reminder that it's time to gather some of these rutabagas. I pull a few of the larger ones, take them in the house, and clean them up a bit. Then I go back outside and run the goats out of the garden again.

I'm on the opposite side of the farm now from where I'd expected to be this morning, but when the goats settle into the blackberry patch again, I'm reluctant to move them. I don't like moving goats when they aren't getting into trouble: it's a rare enough event that I'm willing to let them be. I can split firewood nearby and keep an eye on them while they're grazing, so I bust wood until I'm tired and the goats are bored with whatever they can find among the blackberries. Then we all walk back up to their yard, and I feed the pigs. Then I cook the rutabagas with some potatoes for lunch.


In reflecting on this morning, I see that my activities were shaped by decisions that the goats made about where to forage. I don't know what I'd be eating for lunch today if the goats hadn't started on the rutabagas. Maybe cabbage and potatoes, but I'm bored with cabbage and happy for the rutabagas.

I think I often operate with this kind of flexibility and mobility. I'm aware that many growers and aspiring growers wouldn't enjoy such flexibility. In early years at this farm, I'd not have been able to follow the goats around so much, because I frequently had to leave and work on another farm. The goats could have stayed in their yard all morning and eaten hay, but their quality of life and maybe their health would have suffered, and I'd have had to buy more hay.

I am left reflecting on the subtle ways that my own liberty enables me to efficiently shift between tasks and manage my time organically so that I don't have to struggle more than necessary against the goats' natural behaviors; and I can even find a delightful reminder of fresh rutabagas in their antics. I suspect it would be more difficult to do what I do without this flexibility, and so I see how dystopian farming is not simply a means to achieve liberation, but also an exercise in some degree of sovereignty. In that sense, there is no clear distinction between means and ends, but I may have to emphasize scenarios where flexibility and opportunism are more clearly labor saving for this tactic to be meaningful for readers who can't rearrange their day on the whims of a goat.


Jan 5: Out of hay. expand

Goats are hell-bent on shitting in their food. Back in October, I rolled a big round bale of hay into their yard and wrapped it with fencing. They'd love to play "king of the hill" on top of their dinner, which would leave it covered in droppings—it's not hygenic. The fencing holds the bale together and mostly keeps them off of it. They can reach through the wire to eat.

A couple of times since October I've had to cinch the wire up tighter as they've eaten away at the bale, and it's been clear for a while now that this hay isn't going to last the winter like I'd hoped. It doesn't help that Nugget slipped under the loose wire this morning, climbed on top of the slumping bale, and stood there confusedly—half stuck and half triumphant when I found him.

So if Wednesday's post was a reflection about liberty, Nugget reminds me this morning that dystopian farming also means obligations. Whatever else I had planned, I really must now take about 45 minutes to cobble together a new hay feeder with metal fence posts and scraps of wire if I'm to salvage the last couple weeks of hay from this bale. And sometime in the next couple weeks I need to string up some temporary fencing so the goats have more space to graze, or buy another bale of hay.


We all have obligations. Hay for the goats in January is one of mine.


Jan 10: Garden prep. expand

I have a feeling of expectancy these last few days, and I'm making small motions toward seeding of early annuals. I make sure that I have plenty of seeds on hand. I pull out my screens and sift some rotted wood chips for potting soil. Terra cleans off the shelves behind the wood stove where we germinate flats of seeds during early spring and which collect random clutter from late summer onward. I lead the pigs out of the garden where they've been tilling the soil and leaving their manure, so it all has time to rot before I plant anything there.

pig fence

Heavy rains this week! Pigs have cleared the left side of the fence for later planting.

I used to sprint into my spring seeding, because I germinated the flats in a standalone greenhouse heated separately from the house. It didn't make sense to keep a fire going out there for one or two flats of seeds, so I would fill the shelves up quick to make best use of my labor and firewood. Two or three years ago, we moved the seedlings into the house, and it's more low-key now that I can start just a few flats without committing myself to much extra work.

I don't know which seeds I will start first, or when I will do it. I don't know where the plants will go when it's time for them to move out to the field, or what the weather will be like then. We do have rather heavy weather this week, with several inches of rain and lows forecast in the teens. That might slow my roll a little. Or maybe I'll like the idea of little seeds uncurling in a warm corner of the house while the pond freezes over and we speculate on whether it would ever snow.

screen screen screen

I make potting soil from screened well-rotted wood (and whatever grows in or on a pile of well-rotted wood). When we first started farming here, I would dig rotten wood out of a slash pile that loggers had left behind. More recently, I've found that I can pick up loads of wood chips for free from a local tree service. The piles take 3-5 years to rot. I screen to 1/2-inch (1.25cm) for 3-inch pots, and 1/4-inch (6mm) for 50-cell flats or for six-packs dumpster-dived from garden supply stores. Any well-rotted compost should work. When I didn't have screens, I just picked out the bigger pieces, and crushed the medium as fine as I could.


Jan 16: Used up archetypes and frozen trees. expand

It used to be normal to get lows in the teens (Fahrenheit) for a week or so in the winter. I remember losing half my fig trees during the winter of '08 or '09 when temperatures sank into single digits, and I learned to plant them up against a building where they'd be more sheltered. We got a hard freeze last year, but before that we had several winters where lows didn't drop much below 20. Today everything is coated in ice—and it'll drop into the low teens for three of the next four nights.

Farmers like to complain about this sort of weather. Actually any weather will do, but this cold makes it mandatory. When I used to sell at market, vendors would shiver over their coffee and swap stories about frozen plumbing, machinery that wouldn't start, or hours spent covering crops only to have them freeze anyway. I guess I did this myself a little; I don't remember the details. I only know that for me as a market farmer, complaints about the weather were part of a powerful shared script about what farming is, and there's a lot of pressure to act it out.


Throwback photo from our market days (2016).

I quit market for a variety of reasons, but one of them was this pressure from customers and other vendors to act out a farmer archetype that didn't feel real to me. I still see social media posts from other farmers about their cold weather struggles—and it's true that I'll be knocking extra thick ice out of the pigs' water for the next few days—but I guess I don't relate. To me, the archetype just feels like a used up man vs. nature marketing gimmick: "Look at us out here miserably braving the elements to bring you grass fed beef and out-of-season produce! Come buy our stuff!" All this from people who lament in the next breath that young people don't want to go into farming anymore. Big surprise.

Beetles and ice

I did lose a persimmon tree to the cold weather last year. We had a freeze in late April or maybe May (I don't keep track) when many of the trees had already leafed out, and several were seriously damaged. Ambrosia beetles colonized the trees that were hardest hit, and people told me to cut them out and burn them before the beetles spread to other trees. I didn't do this, and we harvested figs from some of these trees toward the end of the season, so I'm optimistic, but at least one of them died, and maybe others will too. I'll know more when they leaf out in a few months—or don't.

dead tree

Fallen persimmon done in by cold and beetles.

So yes, cold weather can be troublesome in a way. I liked that tree. She was five or six years old, and had only just started producing in earnest. On the whole, we didn't have a great fruit year; I'll probably have to buy about twenty pounds of raisins in February or March when we run out of canned pears, or maybe trade some sweet potatoes to another farmer for a bushel of apples. Something to last us until May when the strawberries come in.

I did some running around yesterday to mitigate damage from the cold. I covered the strawberries (though maybe they'd have been fine anyway—strawberries are incredibly tough.) I drained the plumbing in the outdoor kitchen. During the fall, Terra had picked up several bags of leaves that were left on the side of the road in town, and we spread these around the base of the fig trees and some young mulberries. We spread more leaves in the goats' shelter and I covered the pigs' house with cardboard. I expect to do these things in the winter, just as I expect to plant seeds in March, can vegetables in June, and dig sweet potatoes in October. It's a rhythm, and I'd be a little confused or out-of-step if it didn't happen. It would mean that something was wrong.

Still learnin'

Maybe some other trees will die this year. I'm probably growing all the wrong varieties. This is what happens when you're a settler-colonial farmer. I don't have ten-thousand years of culture to inform my choices about fruit varieties. The dystopian culture I do have recommends varieties that turn out to be dependent on me to spray fungicides or to thin fruit to ward off blight. I've had to cut out many of my original plantings, because they don't produce without my intervention. Random seedlings with wild genetics frequently out-produce my grafted varieties. It takes years to figure all this out. There's a lot of starting over. We're still learnin'.


Jan 24: Conservation of energy. expand

After some relatively intense cold (the little pond froze enough for us to stand on it!), we've had a pretty steady rain. Farming isn't something that takes up much of my time when it's this cold and wet. There are things I could do. I could shell a box or three of peas and beans, which isn't an unenjoyable job, but something I can do almost anytime, so of course it never gets done. Maybe, having written this, I'll take an hour or so and shell them later—or not. Weevils might find them if I put them off much longer though.

I did start a few seedlings, and the first broccolis are popping up in trays behind the woodstove. I will take them outside to get extra sun in the mornings now, and then bring them in at night if it's cold. There are fifteen or twenty of them, and cabbages will be popping up tomorrow I guess.

I also went through crates of vegetables in the cellar to be sure nothing was rotting, and found I could spare about 100lb (45 kg) of winter squash and sweet potatoes to sell.

So I have a few things I can do, but until the weather dries up I'm probably enjoying the last really long stretch of really slow time. When there are a few sunny days in a row, I'll start getting space ready for potatoes, sugar snap peas, and more or less the whole spring garden falls into step after that.


Feb 1: Foolishness. expand

I'm a little tired now that I've done a bit of digging. We moved a couple of muscadine vines that we had planted some years ago, but which haven't done especially well, because they were too near the edge of the woods. At the time, I had thought I would push the woods back a little, but just after we planted them, many of the trees on the adjacent land were cut, so I don't feel like cutting any more. This week, we also moved a young fig tree who had a driveway pushed into them by a new fence, and we trenched around another young tree near the edge of the woods to cut out creeping tree roots.


Newly planted muscadines (reprise).

Things change all the time. One of the reasons I don't say I do permaculture, is because I'd feel like a fraud if I put 'perma' in front of anything I do. Places I used to farm are now part of the woods; trees move, circumstances change, my body changes.

I've also been weeding parsnips, onions, strawberries, and some greens that are still in the garden. It's been weeks since I've had the right weather for this, so they'd gotten a bit lost among the ryegrass and deadnettle—especially the strawberries.


There is something a little foolish about strawberries. The way I do them, there's always a lot of weeding; and between the weeding and other work with the fruit trees, I'm a little tired. I can feel a familiar ache in my back.

So I wonder sometimes if I'm foolish to grow so many strawberries. I could grow something else that would make more food for less work, no doubt.

But then would I just be wanting strawberries?

Escape goat

Truffle the goat has been making fools of us for a couple of weeks now. We moved the goats into a new pasture with a fence that we cobbled together from bits of wire taken down elsewhere. We're trying to push some kudzu out of a little orchard area, and we don't intend this to be a permanent fence.


The wire is loose, and the mesh has many broken welds. The other goats haven't yet managed to slip out, but Truffle is smaller and keeps slipping under our shoddy fence. I don't terribly mind at the moment, but there will be a day when the garden is off-limits for unsupervised goats, so we've been incrementally shoring it up by laying logs or cement blocks along the bottom of the fence. I think she's stayed in for two days now, so that's something.

The chickens are also not taking our suggestions about the ideal regions for them to forage and spend their time.

So I do sometimes wonder about all this. Perhaps there are easier ways to control kudzu or grow strawberries. I haven't even always grown many strawberries, and sometimes it's ok to let the kudzu go wild (which is how it got into the orchard in the first place). I don't have well-established systems for most of the things I do.

Be a fool

It's ironic that when I tried to systemize the way I make potting soil a few weeks ago, it turned out that the seeds I planted in that soil didn't do very well. This isn't completely foreign territory, but it's also not something that happens a lot. I responded by making more potting soil using different compost, but my point is that systems are continually confounded by circumstances, by change, by irony and foolishness.

Some scientists would ask why plants didn't grow well in that potting soil. This can be a useful approach. I can speculate about pH or whether there's enough nitrogen, but I don't ever measure these things. Maybe there weren't the right bacteria or fungus—or some combination of all these things and others. Some of the seeds did better than others. Why should that be? Am I sure it's the soil?—did I let them get too cold that one morning?

One can get lost along this line of thinking. Controlling all these variables—measuring them, systemizing the plant medium so it's the same every year, making it impossible for any chicken or goat to escape—seems like the sterile modern paradigm that handed us our dystopian reality. It does not feel joyful. It is all potatoes and no strawberries.

pear tree

A pear branch, rooting in a pot below the tree with cameo by Brigit.

To propagate figs, I put a largish pot or a sheet of plastic under a low hanging branch and bury a portion of the branch in rotten wood or soil. After several months or a year, I cut the branch and slide the cutting out from under the tree. There will usually be visible, vertical new growth around the buried branch at this time, and it should have strong roots. This also works for apples, pears, muscadines, and many other plants.


Feb 4: Breaking ground. expand

Over the last two days, I have broken ground on about 75' (23 m) of bed space that I will probably plant in peas or potatoes. In all, I would like to have 200'-300' (60-90 m) of bed planted in these two crops by the end of February. I started working in an area where we had pastured the pigs a few months ago, because the ground is nearly bare and easy to work. I generally use a broadfork for cultivation, and my fork is 21 inches wide (53 cm). These beds are two fork-widths, making a 42 inch bed (106 cm). Sometimes for potatoes and other single harvest crops, I omit paths between beds in favor of a mass planting.

I have also started another 75' bed in a different location, because it is against the edge of the woods, and it has been colonized by tree roots. I haven't planted in that bed for a few years, and I would like to reclaim the space.

Short shifting

I'm watching myself work, and I notice that I bounce between these two jobs in approximately 15-20 minute shifts, working three or four shifts each day in total. The work is somewhat strenuous, especially on the latter bed with the tree roots. After two days of this (and already having dug several holes earlier this week planting fruit trees), I begin to detect some strain in my body, especially in my right wrist. So today I only worked two 8-minute shifts.

Working short shifts gives me time to feel how my body responds to the work and be sure that I'm not overdoing it. I'm also most efficient when I'm not particularly tired, so it makes sense to stop when I get winded. I don't mind a little muscle soreness, but I'm very careful to avoid strain.

The resting time also allows sod to dry so it can be more easily raked off.

Ageing and ability

I have used some version of this short shift method for about five years. When I was younger, I managed more space—some of it further from home—and worked longer shifts. I can cultivate a single row 21" wide and 30' (9 m) long in less than 20 minutes if the sod is light and the soil not too compacted.

I suppose that as I get older, my workflow will continue to change; people with different bodies than mine might use different tools and patterns. Terra doesn't transition between tasks as frequently as I do and typically works longer shifts. She also experiences some chronic pain and adjusts or limits her activity according to her body's needs.


I usually use a short broadfork to cultivate beds, remove sod, and prepare for planting. The tines on this fork are 9 inches (23 cm) long, which is shorter than most similar forks and less effort to use. If the bed has thick sod, I break it up with a cultivating hoe after forking, allow the sod to dry, and flip it over again with the hoe to dry more completely. Then I can rake it off without much effort, because the soil falls off, and it is lighter. I use a deeper 14 inch (36 cm) fork in beds with deep-rooted perennials.


Feb 14: Seed interdependence. expand

In the past five years or so, I've given more attention to producing my own seed. There are practical and economic reasons for this, but they aren't as important to me as an intangible feeling that it's critical to have long-term relationships with the plants I grow—even if I could buy varieties of the same name from seed catalogues or find them on a rack in a box store.

It's tempting to label this effort at seed production "seed independence", but in a sense that's the opposite of what I'm practicing: I am cultivating dependency on specific varieties of plants that I have adapted to. My home, my diet, and my cultural practice are shaped by the plants I am accustomed to growing. Maybe this is "seed interdependence". I don't know what to call it.

I have some strains that I've kept for fifteen years or so, and a small handful for twenty. Sometimes I lose a strain to crop failure, unexpected cross-pollination, or simple carelessness. Seed interdependence is a complex science. It adds a degree of nuance to my choices about where and when to plant, or how to fill space. It is a commitment to completion of plant life cycles for those plants whose seeds and fruits aren't automatically collected at harvest. I doubt I will ever master this practice.

Seed potatoes

Seed potatoes. Clockwise from top: harvested last summer; harvested before the first heavy freeze in early winter; just purchased for additional seed; harvested in October from a plant that volunteered among the sweet potatoes.

We eat a lot of potatoes. During early winter, they might account for as much as a quarter of our calories, but it's been a challenge to produce quality seed that I can use year after year. I usually have to buy new seed.

I generally plant potatoes about now, and harvest them in July. This means that I would have to store the tubers for about seven months (July back around to February) in order to plant them again. Usually after so much time, they lose quality and don't produce vigorous plants.

For the past few years, I've experimented with a fall crop that I would plant in July or August (almost immediately after digging them up) and harvest after the first frost. This hasn't usually gone very well, because our fall is short: we don't get much time when weather is cool enough for potatoes, but not actually freezing.

I did have some success with this strategy last year by selecting potatoes that showed signs of new growth immediately after harvest. By planting these more active tubers, I reduced the time needed to break the dormant period immediately after the plants die down in summer.

I've nearly completed my first potato bed, and and I will plant these tubers this week. I hope I am finding a pattern that will help me adapt a true interdependency with my potatoes.


Early morning photo of beds being broken for planting potatoes and peas.


Feb 24: Birth and death. expand
baby goat

Jewel the goat had babies this week. It was uneventful, which is always best: one morning, there were a couple of extra-cute goats in the yard, and that was that. I was a bit surprised, because I expected Truffle to kid first and not for a few weeks yet. Hopefully she still will. I wasn't even sure Jewel was pregnant, though Zinnia apparently knew all about it.

nursing goat

I should be able to start milking Jewel in a few weeks, so that will mark another seasonal shift in my routine. She's a pretty easy milker, but I'll have to get her used to the idea again, and negotiate the proper exchange in fresh cut weeds or grain to get her to keep still on the milking stand. It will be sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating.

If Truffle kids soon, we might have enough milk to make yogurt regularly. Maybe even cheese. We'll see.

Forty-two chickens

The other major event this week was an unexpected offer to slaughter forty-two chickens for meat. These were old laying hens that were no longer laying, and the farmer who had them didn't want to do the harvesting himself, so he called us. We get calls like this a few times a year: people looking to get rid of a couple of aggressive roosters or a goat that won't stay in the fence. An entire market flock of laying hens is a little more than the average call for animal disposal, but we'll take 'em.


I'm not going to reflect too much here about what it means that I'm the go-to guy for killing animals. I've written about it in other places, and I'd like keep Farming Dystopia on topic as an inquiry about growing food, which animal disposal is not.

I think I should only say that for us, getting food is something that happens in connection with other people. Sometimes I help another farmer dig sweet potatoes in exchange for a share of the crop. Sometimes I trade vegetables to a neighbor for eggs or chickens. I give sweet potatoes away whenever I can, and sometimes people give me jars of soup or a frozen ham.

These chickens also gave us an opportunity to connect with our community and teach about making our own food. A few of our homeschooling families and neighbors (most of whom had never slaughtered an animal) dropped in during the harvest to participate, and we were able to give away eleven of the birds.

Radical holism

As a radically holistic framework, dystopian farming can't just be about growing food. I don't know too much about how these chickens were raised (they're organic!), and maybe I wouldn't ever grow sweet potatoes the way my neighbor does it; but if he needs help digging potatoes, it would be stupid not to do it. Just as it would be stupid not to take forty-two free chickens and use them to orchestrate a dozen people learning how to kill a chicken, plus several months worth of soup stock.

Radical holism makes it hard to talk about things. It would be easy to get lost, because when everything's interconnected, nothing happens the same way twice. At some point, we're not even talking about growing food anymore—we're talking about education and community. So I won't go down these roads too often, but we should always remember that they're there.


Mar 2: More death. expand

Truffle lost her babies this week. It was sad.

I suspect that the billy goat—Privet—was harassing her too much, and she wasn't able to get comfortable enough to birth safely. I don't know that this is what happened, but Privet is an asshole, and this seems plausible.

Whatever happened, I'm not too inclined to look for reasons. Reasons would help me to learn something from the situation, but I've already learned to keep billy goats out of the way when does are birthing, so I don't get much value out of that lesson here and now.

Terra and I did hear some noise out in the yard the night before I found the dead babies. We wondered if she was having her kids and whether we should check on her, but we had worked several long days processing chickens. We were both tired, and Terra's back was seriously hurting. I remember saying something like, "I'm not sure I'd have energy to do anything about it if I went out there and found a problem, so I'm not checking."

I suppose I could learn to muster the energy and check on things even if I'm tired, but I've already learned that lesson too. So there you go.

Murphy was wrong

Most things that go wrong on the farm are preventable, but I'm not really willing to pre-empt every possible problem, even the ones I foresee. When I was a young aspiring engineer, I learned about Murphy's Law, which says, "anything that can go wrong will go wrong." This might have been true when I was working on experiments for the space station, but it isn't actually true for complex living systems.

I foresee possible problems all the time, and it would take a lot of energy to ensure that none of them happen. I've also found that trying to prevent all these problems can actually cause problems that I didn't foresee. Irony is real.

And problems aren't simply problems. Even tragic events have complex effects, not all of which are negative. The morning I found Truffle's kids dead in the hay, our Roots of Life homeschool group happened by the farm while I was burying them, and a few of the kids asked to see the bodies. So I ended up having a conversation about death with three children ages 4, 5, and 7 while we buried dead baby goats in the garden. I have no way to know what the impact of this conversation might be on these children. Possibly profound. Possibly nothing much. Who knows?—but the conversation felt meaningful at the time, and it wouldn't have happened the way that it did if those babies hadn't died.

Another result is that Truffle doesn't have babies to feed, so now I am milking her. She's a pygmy goat, very short, never been routinely milked, and right now it's a very awkward two person job. I'd never milked a pygmy goat and wouldn't choose to do it again, but we're getting better, and I think by next week I won't need a helper. She's making about a pint a day, which is a laughably small amount of milk to fool with in my opinion—especially considering the trouble she gives us—but I'm happy to have it.


Take my advice

Several months ago, when some neighbors had pregnant goats and were asking me for advice about how to manage the pregnancies and births, I told them to expect some dead kids. I told them that with several goats kidding, they shouldn't expect all the babies to survive, and they shouldn't beat themselves up about losses. I think they lost two or three.

I'll try to take my own advice.


Mar 6: Taking stock in muddy weather. expand

It's wet and muddy again, so making food isn't much to do right now. We finally ran out of summer peas that had already been shelled, so I'm using the wet weather to sit and shell the last of these. Perennial greens and overwintered kale are growing quickly now. Early blooming trees are starting to flower: peaches, plums, redbuds, pears. It's quite pretty.


Potatoes went into the field middle and late February. I planted about 75 pounds.

February was good weather for planting, and now I've got a few hundred feet of vegetables in the field. In rough order of quantity, these are potatoes, snap peas, strawberries, alliums, greens (mostly Brassica) and roots (mostly turnips and parsnips). Leeks (elephant garlic) come up on their own anywhere I've ever grown them, and they and the strawberries have scattered themselves across the gardens in patches, sometimes apart, sometimes together, even surviving the pigs who were pastured there for a few months. (Most pigs don't care for alliums, and strawberries are just tough as nails.) No parsnips survived the rampaging pigs, but they have seeded themselves prolifically and I'll work around them best I can.

I have more cabbage in pots ready to go out, and I will need to make a bed for them rather promptly when the weather dries out. The first of the tomatoes germinated today, maybe a few weeks later than I've started them in other years. They'll go out in the field in late April I guess. If I'm lucky I won't have to cover them for late frosts. First cucumbers should be up in pots tomorrow.

I spotted a few shiitakes on our logs today. Would be great to get a large flush, but I don't yet know how many there'll be.



Now that I have several beds to maintain, I will start most of my work shifts by quickly running a stirrup hoe (pictured left) through a few of the vegetable beds. This kills newly germinated weeds, and also breaks up the surface of the soil. Hoeing is especially helpful after a heavy rain that forms a crust on the surface.

Breaking the soil crust introduces air into the top layer of soil, increases the surface area, and dries it out. This reduces mold and other fungus, which seems to improve plant health. It also conserves overall soil moisture by slowing down capillary action that draws moisture from deeper in the soil up to the surface where it evaporates. The thin covering of broken soil acts like mulch during early seedling growth when mulching might be inconvenient.

This is light and quick work, especially if the hoe is kept sharp. I can hoe 250 feet of row (75 m) in about fifteen minutes.

peas1 peas2

Left: young pea plants surrounded hundreds of recently germinated weeds. Right: After hoeing, with disturbed soil between rows and along the edges.


Mar 15: The approximate equinox and some physics.expand

As the season progresses toward equinox, my activities become a little more varied. I'm still establishing new beds, but I'm also giving some attention to crops I've already planted. Some of these are large enough for mulch, and I'm beginning to get a trellis up for the peas.

mulched brocoli

Brocoli plants mulched with dried sod

I don't usually mulch vegetables while they are small (approximately less than 8" (20 cm) tall); I prefer to hoe them initially, and you can't hoe mulched crops. But once the plants are well-established, it works well to mulch them and then leave them alone except for very occasional hand-weeding. I can usually cut grass growing in uncultivated parts of the garden for mulch, and I also return dried-out sod that was earlier removed from the bed.

It's still early enough in the season that I'm also making some last-minute fruit tree plantings: a hawthorn and two mulberry trees that we found locally.


Up until this week, I've been planting in beds that didn't need spring manure. They had either been manured at the end of last season, or I'd run the pigs directly on them for a few months earlier. In one bed that I reclaimed from the edge of the woods, deep rooted perennials had built fertility by leaving ample organic material and hosting many insects.

Now, I am moving into areas that I haven't manured since the last harvest. Adding fertility is a central piece of growing food, and it's probably the first reason we keep animals on the farm. I could do without meat and milk, but I can't do without shit. That's not preference—it's physics, so I've taken a few minutes on a couple of occasions to collect manure from the chicken coop and the pig yard to incorporate into new beds.

People frequently ask me about how much manure to add or how well composted it should be, but as far as I can tell there aren't any firm rules about any of this. Manure isn't the only way to add fertility; sometimes I use composted wood or leaves, but farming without manure is hard. Common concerns about too much nitrogen or pathogens seem easily avoided with common sense. I don't apply fresh pig shit to lettuce that's nearly ready for harvest.

common sense

I don't have formulas for how much to add, but I try to be generous. On occasions when I can't scrape together what feels like the right amount, I note my indebtedness to the space I'm working in and try to make it up next time around. This whole process is very fundamental. The law that you can't take something out without putting something in should be obvious, but it isn't. In an extractivist dystopian culture, it bears reminding that reciprocity is not just politeness. It's the basis of existence.

An engineer's physics would approximate the laws of reciprocity with laws about conservation of mass and energy. If it's useful to draw a box around the garden, and to calculate inputs and outputs to and from that box, and by this process come to the conclusion that a few hundred pounds of sweet potatoes out implies a few hundred pounds of manure in—by all means go ahead. You'll have a hard time modeling a living soil: counting all the birds that shit in the garden, accounting for a season of photosynthesis, keeping up with ants that nest on one side of the line but forage on the other. But AI is getting pretty good I hear, so it's probably possible to approximate.

You'll find that a few hundred pounds of sweet potatoes taken out means a few hundred pounds of manure put in. The soils' physics are not an approximation.

chicken shit

It's what makes the world go 'round


Mar 20: Back where I started with goats and sweet potatoes. expand

I opened this inquiry with an out-of-season poem about feeding goats and planting sweet potatoes. Today is apparently where that poem belonged.


Today, I am starting sweet potatoes in my nursery bed. I broke up the bed two days ago, and now the sod is dried, so I am raking it off and making furrows for the potatoes that will sprout and generate new plants that I'll set in the field all through the summer. I am starting a few extra, so I should be able to give some plants away as well. I have orange, purple, and white potatoes. The white ones will break dormancy first (a few started sprouting in the cellar already), followed by the purples and finally the orange. I need more orange plants than the others, and they're the slowest to sprout, so I am starting twice as many of these. I've been growing these orange potatoes for 17 years.


After shallowly burying the seed, I cover the bed with plastic supported by wire hoops to make a little greenhouse that will help warm the soil and hasten the 'waking' of the seed potatoes. The plastic will inevitably draw ants who will make a big nest in the warm dry space under the plastic and bury maybe a half dozen of the roots. I've done this before all before. I know how it will go. The roots that get buried will sprout through the ant nest, and I'll have to dig them out with quick movements, doing my best to evade the biting insects while I pluck off the new plants and re-bury the root. Maybe I'll set the ants back a bit by soaking them with a hose; but they won't go away. My hands will itch for an hour or so afterward.

It's the same every time.

Cut and throw

At the same time that I'm planting sweet potatoes, the goats are getting antsy for all the new grass that's growing everywhere, and they're either out of hay or tired of it. So now I cut grass for the goats. Except when we don't have goats, it's the same every year with some minor variations.

Some years I've scythed larger areas and stockpiled three or four days' worth of grass to feed out a little at a time. This year, I am cutting long grass out of paths in the garden with the kama, or with a kitchen knife much as I would harvest kale for a salad. So this season I'm just cutting and tossing them a bucket or two, twice a day. Harvesting grass this way is a little more work than scything, but it keeps the garden paths trimmed up where space is tight and I can't swing the scythe.

I will do all of this until the kudzu starts coming in, maybe in a few weeks. After that, my fenced pastures should support the goats without added fodder—though I'll still let them out to keep some of the unfenced areas cleared.


I've only used a scythe for about eight years, but now—like the broadfork—I'd have a hard time imagining how to farm without one. It is the only tool I use to mow weeds for mulch or clear beds for establishment. Except in very tight spaces, I also use it to harvest hay—including kudzu. It's also useful (along with pruners, shears, a saw, and sometimes a mattock) for keeping the woods back along the edge of the garden. Since I cultivate small plots surrounded by woods, I use the shortest blade I can get and one heavy enough to cut small saplings and briars.

The kama is essentially a handheld scythe. If I keep it sharp, it's useful for single handed mowing in very tight spaces. I use it in summer for weeding, because it leaves one hand to lift crops out of the way and the other to mow underneath them. It's usually the best tool for mowing paths.


Second Revolution

Mar 28: Landrace vs heirlom varieties. expand

I've been pondering an interesting tension or ambiguity lately between the cultivation of landrace or heirloom varieties. Heirlooms are stable varieties that are the same every year. Seeds from these plants can be saved, and you always know what you're going to get: a Cherokee Purple tomato makes a Cherokee Purple tomato. Some of these varieties have long histories or interesting stories associated with them. Janisse Ray writes about the importance of preserving heirloom varieties—and the stories that go along with them—in her wonderful book The Seed Underground, arguing that many of these plants help preserve peoples' cultural histories and identities, as well as preserving genetic diversity that could be lost if these varieties were to be lost and replaced with homogenous industrial monocrops.

Landrace varieties are genetically diverse, locally adapted hybrid varieties. In simpler words, they're mutts. These varieties aren't quite wild; but they're also not as uniform as cultivated heirlooms that are predictably the same every year. A landrace can certainly have a story, but the way I practice and understand landrace gardening, the variety is always changing. They take up new genetics from new varieties introduced into the garden, so they aren't stable. If they have a story, it's a bit of this and a bit of that-and mostly unique to the place where they grow. That's still something cool and beautiful, but it's a little different from an heirloom.

I grow both heirlooms and landraces, but you can't really use both strategies for the same crop in the same place in the same season. The landrace would cross with the heirloom, and the heirloom would lose its stability. They are different—and somewhat mutually exclusive—approaches to maintaining genetic diversity.

Stories about some plants

I have a landrace mustard (Brassica rapa) that sometimes looks like pokchoi, but sometimes makes little roots like a turnip. A few years ago, I brought in a giant mustard that crossed with these, and now we get anything from a classic Chinese cabbage to a loose mustard with 30" (76cm) leaves and giant fibrous roots. Occasionally they have red foliage, but less often than they used to. I don't collect and save any of these seeds. I just let the plants flower and drop seed on their own. Sometimes I might grab a few seed heads and shatter them over a freshly harvested bed of potatoes or something, but that's about it. They're pretty wild. We eat them through the winter into early spring.

We also have a butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) that I used to try to keep pure like an heirloom, but now it's crossed with at least two kinds of pumpkin. This landrace squash volunteers all over the garden, and I weed out a few and keep the ones in the most opportune locations. I do also save seed and intentionally plant whole rows of them. They're delicious, produce very well, and store at least nine months in the cellar, but I'm never quite sure what they're going to look like until they fruit. One year, some of them were stark white. I have no idea where that came from, and it hasn't happened since.

In peas, we have a landrace variety that volunteers everywhere, and I broadcast them on disturbed soil or over thatch left in early summer when the first round of annuals die (plants like chickweed, ryegrass, deadnettle, and vetch). These peas are great, but I also have some heirloom Red Ripper Peas that I really like, because the pods and seeds are much bigger. I have a fun story about how I found six Red Ripper peas in a drawer in Asheville back in 2005 and planted them here at the farm the first year we were here. I was astounded by how much space six seeds could cover; they completely overwhelmed the little trellis I'd made, as well as a small neighboring plot of sweet potatoes. I ended up with hundreds of seeds, and I've had them ever since.

The melting pot

I don't really want all my Red Rippers to be thrown into the melting pot with the rest of my landrace peas. I've been able to keep them mostly separate (peas are self-fertile, so separation distances aren't so large), and once when they did cross, I spent a few years breeding the RR's back to the stable heirloom type (which is now part of my story about this pea!) If they had been irrevocably crossed, the RR genetics would still be present in the landrace peas, but I don't feel like I would have my story about them anymore, because they wouldn't be Red Rippers. They'd be a delicious and slightly larger landrace.

I have other stories about heirlooms I grow. There's the black beans I found in a cupboard in 2001 and tossed into the yard, because I didn't think anyone was going to eat them. They all shot up with little bean plants, and I had my first real epiphany that all the food we eat—even the food we buy in the store—grew on a plant somewhere. I wore those beans in a little pouch around my neck for a few years. I like the stories my heirlooms remind me of, and I don't want to mix those stories up in a melting pot with a bunch of other stories—even if those stories come with genetics for great disease resistance or two extra beans in every pod.

These stories are part of my identity.

The tension

So maybe the tension I'm exploring is one between genetic diversity and cultural diversity.

For any given crop, I can increase the genetic diversity of my plants by introducing new varieties and allowing them to cross pollinate. There are good arguments for doing this, and Joseph Lofthouse argues for this approach in his book Landrace Gardening. Breeding plants through introduction of a wide variety of genetics, followed by careful selection of individuals with desired characteristics, can improve quality and productivity over time.

This seems a sound practice, although I don't quite follow Lofthouse's carefully structured breeding programs. I have generally just allowed my landraces (mostly parsnips, squash, greens, peas, tomatoes, and a few trees like apples and peaches) to volunteer wherever they want, and I don't consciously select for any particular traits. A lot of the appeal for me is in the labor savings-which I'd lose if I started managing plant genetics all over the farm. I like to let a little wildness in.

But this detail aside, I'm still hesitant to landrace some of my varieties, because I'm attached to the stories that go along with them. I've been pondering all this, because I think I will increase the proportion of landraced varieties I use. I think it could help solve my problem with seed potatoes for instance, because I could introduce true seed-producing varieties (not grown from tubers, which would be clones) and better control the timing of dormancy in the crop. I'm also moving toward landraces for other varieties that I'm not particularly attached to—like my carrots. It saves a lot of trouble if I don't have to worry about isolating particular varieties.

So this is a change that I'm making on the farm, and I'm trying to decide how I feel about it. Are my shishito peppers special enough to keep, or would it be alright if they morphed into something different shaped by the local environment, by whatever varieties I happen to introduce for the sake of genetic diversity, and by whatever haphazard breeding program I might have the interest to pursue? Maybe they are. I don't know.

I don't think I have any truly special heirloom varieties with long stories that are in danger of being lost, but such varieties exist. Would it be better for me to find some of these and help preserve them? Lots of people do this, and I think it's important work.

Maybe I'm exploring a tension between the past and the future. Every heirloom was once a landrace that someone worked to stabilize and maintain—work that becomes part of the cultural history of that variety. For what it's worth, I don't think we've fully integrated our past. Which of these stories should we revisit before they're gone? Likewise, in the future, any landrace could be stabilized by similar work. What stories will we be telling in the future?


Apr 8: Plasticulture. expand

I'm putting drip tape along rows of potatoes and cabbages. In the next month or two, it'll probably get hot and dry, so I'm installing the irrigation now before I mulch. Both crops produce best in deep mulch, and this should be the last effort I have to put into the potatoes until harvest. (The cabbage will probably need hand-picking for worms every so often, which limits how many of them I'm willing to grow.)

mulched potatoes

mulched potatoes with exposed drip tape

I don't love drip tape, but watering definitely ups my production. Drip irrigation saves a lot of water by delivering moisture under the mulch so none is lost to evaporation. It also saves a lot of time, because I can simultaneously water large areas by simply turning a valve. Systems like this are part of what enable me to grow a lot of food with little work. I'm also able to avoid extracting much fossil water from a declining aquifer, which feels important to me.

The downside is in the plastic. By using drip tape, I'm essentially shifting the burden of watering my plants onto people and places where the materials for manufacturing the tape are extracted, and onto people and places in the future who will deal with any plastic contamination that results from my drip tape use.

Any means necessary

I had a visitor at the farm last week who'd spent some time working on another farm that used plastic high tunnels in their production. We reflected on whether this was a good way to grow food, acknowledging that greenhouses can be highly productive, but also lamenting the waste and exploitation that result from the short life and constant replacement of plastic greenhouse covers.

We didn't come to any particular conclusions about all this, except that maybe plastic greenhouses feel somewhat sterile, and we did not ourselves care to spend time working in them. At the time, I pointed out that with 8 billion people on the planet, we shouldn't be too prescriptive about how food should be grown, but that it should be grown by any means necessary.

This is an uncharacteristically humanist thing for me to say, so I've been reflecting on it since then. What are "necessary means"?

People are going to want to eat. I don't really know how to prescribe farming methods that will work in all the wide variety of environments and social conditions that other people inhabit. I personally find some amount of plastic to be useful—maybe necessary—for irrigation and occasionally for row covers or shade cloth in the field (though I find the latter to be necessary less often than I used to).

I'm also aware that any plastic in the field is detrimental to soil health.

The extent of plastic use in agriculture is truly alarming. Some farmers spray plastic coated fertilizers in their fields. The plastic coating is intended to slow nutrient release, but there's obviously no intention to recover the plastic later. It would be hard to convince me that this is "necessary", because slow release nutrients literally come out of a goat's ass. I've seen a local organic farmer till an acre of plastic mulch into the soil, because they let the weeds grow over it and couldn't get it out. It's hard for me to believe that this is necessary either, but it's a little harder to tell. People make mistakes. There is irony and foolishness.

I doubt that refusing all plastic in the field would be liberating to large numbers of people, although there are probably contexts where it works. In general, somewhere between leaving tons of plastic in the ground and hauling water around in kitchen pots, we should find any number of liberating and pleasurable farming methods. These are the dystopian farmers' necessary means.


Agriculture consumes about 12.5 million tons of plastic each year. Plastic in the field breaks down into tiny micro- and nano- plastics that can be uptaken by plants and soil organisms. These tiny particles damage soil structure, disrupt bacterial communities, and can become widely distributed throughout plant and soil communities. Soil life is very complex, and some of the details about how this plays out are pretty fuzzy—such as the effects of these plastics in the food chain—but the disruptive effects of micro- and nano- plastics are very well established.


Apr 18: A return to physics and archetypes; and The One Straw Revolution.

I'm getting a little tired of other people telling me how I'm spending my time.

I'm accustomed to people assuming that I spend ungodly hours growing my food, but since I've been writing about it and paying more attention, I've noticed that people possess a strange certainty about how much time I must be working: they are more certain about it than I am. I actually find it disorienting.

A friend told me yesterday that he had strained his body from some of his gardening work, and so I suggested that he try working in shorter shifts so as to have an opportunity to feel his body more carefully and avoid strain.

"Yeah, it's true you know," he responded. "I can get a lot done in just two hours."

"Two hours is a very long shift," I said. "I don't usually work for much more than about twenty minutes."

"Sure," he said, "but after that twenty minutes, you're on to the next thing for another twenty minutes—and the next. You've got a lot going on here."

I was disconcerted by this, because it didn't feel true, but I didn't have an immediate response.

I had a similar interaction with another friend just a few days before. We were talking about what energizes us toward our goals, and I had said that conditions didn't seem favorable for my goals right now, and so I was mostly waiting for better opportunities to arise, and serving other people, or just not really doing much at all.

"It's funny that you say you're not doing very much when you're working so hard on the farm," she said.

"I don't find the farm to be very much work."

"But it occupies most of your time," she said in a tone that expressed an obvious fact.

I was again disconcerted, "I feel very much at rest when I am growing food," was all I said.

I'm noticing about these conversations how disorienting it is for me when other people contradict my own experience with such certainty, even if that certainty seems misplaced when they don't have direct observation of my daily practice. I presume that they draw their certainty about how I spend my time from their archetypal notions about how food is grown. Their certainty about these archetypes is greater than their belief in my ability to accurately describe my own experience, and it calls that ability into question even for me. That is the power of archetypes.


If Farming Dystopia has an archetypal foundation, it would probably be Masanobu Fukuoka's One Straw Revolution, which describes a method called "do-nothing farming". This is perhaps a misleading name, because I obviously do things—and so did Fukuoka. When I once attempted to describe this philosophy to an old friend, he didn't find it helpful. "Well... you seem to do nothing in a very particular way," he said.

I have read Fukuoka's book many times over the years, but in preparing to write about it today, I found that I couldn't remember much except a broad recommendation to intervene as little as possible, and some specific techniques used on Fukuoka's farm in Japan that aren't applicable for me.

I reviewed the book, and I conclude that I'm not a do-nothing farmer after all. For one, Fukuoka expressly disallows tillage, and I actually break the ground quite a lot. He describes growing vegetables in a way that sounds significantly wilder than about 80% of what I do.

That said, I share the core of Fukuoka's philosophy, which is an acknowledgement of nature's profound inscrutability and a resulting radical uncertainty or de-emphasis of rational analysis. If we admit that our science can only pretend to understand the deeply interrelated webs of life in the soil, we have to step back and intervene as little as possible, because we don't know what we're doing! We don't know how we may inadvertently cause harm with every action. Further, since every action comes with an expense of energy, it is very easy to find ourselves using energy to do harm. Avoidance of this unfortunately common pitfall is for me the crux of do-nothing farming.

Don't work extra hard just to mess things up.

A bewildering cosmology

There's also a funny bit in 1SR that I hadn't remembered where Fukuoka condemns Einstein's Nobel Prize for the theory of relativity:

If [Einstein's] theory had explained clearly the phenomenon of relativity in the world and thus released humanity from the confines of time and space, bringing about a more pleasant and peaceful world, it would have been commendable. His explanation is bewildering, however, and it caused people to think that the world is complex beyond all possible understanding. A citation for "disturbing the peace of the human spirit" should have been awarded instead.

I comment on this passage, because I don't find modern physics "bewildering" any more than reality itself is actually bewildering—noting the root word here being "wild". I think this passage expresses Fukuoka's belief that the world is not "complex beyond all understanding", but is rather accessible to interpretation by laypeople—just not through purely rational discrimination. Since 1SR was written, I think that modern physics has increasingly presented a more radically holistic worldview that closely aligns with Fukuoka's philosophies.

1SR was written in 1975. Some of the most radically holistic interpretations of modern physics—notably David Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order, but also more popular interpretations by physicists like Frijtof Capra—were not published until shortly after this time. So while it's true that highly mathematical language continues to make modern physics impenetrable to many people, these theories now present an increasingly radical and holistic vision of the universe that is—perhaps ironically—completely consistent with 1SR and do-nothing farming.

Fukuoka writes about relativity and science, because his farming methodology can't be separated from his cosmology. As Wendell Berry notes in a preface to the book, "it is also a book about diet, about health, about cultural values, about the limits of human knowledge...It is an inspiring, necessary book about agriculture, because it is not just about agriculture."

The way we think about farming reflects our beliefs about how the world is made. If we believe that we are implicated in a radically holistic universe—as Bohm and other modern physicists now propose—we will act differently than we would if we believed we were somehow separate from the soil, or that the materials we use could be separated from their provenance and disposal.

For Fukuoka and for myself, agriculture is an expression of cosmology: it is the method by which we draw life and energy from the universe in order to exist.

Measuring time

I think when I tell people how little time I spend growing food, I am forcing a cosmological leap. I think I am not believed, partly because my violation of people's archetypes about farming subtly calls into question the very structure of the universe. After all, agriculture is essentially a conversation about what the universe requires of us to exist.

Our archetypes are outdated. If modern physics is bewildering to people, it is time to bewilder them.

But I am still disconcerted. I find myself a little tongue-tied in the moment when people undermine my own cosmology with their certainty about how I spend my time. I question myself. Maybe they know more about me than I do.

So I'm going to measure my time. For the next couple weeks—or however long it takes to satisfy myself that I'm doing what I say I'm doing (or not!)—I'm going to meticulously track my time. I will account for myself in increments of 15-30 minutes throughout the day, and we will determine how much time I spend in growing food. At least next time this comes up in conversation, I will know what to say.


"Science itself is demanding a new, non-fragmentary world view, in the sense that the present approach of analysis of the world into independently existent parts does not work very well in modern physics."

"The attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today."

–David Bohm

"The knowledge of the astronomer who knows the names of the stars, the botanist who knows the classification of the leaves and flowers, the artist who knows the aesthetics of green and red. This is not to know nature itself—the earth and sky, green and red. Astronomer, botanist, and artist have done no more than grasp impressions and interpret them, each within the vault of his own mind. The more involved they become with the activity of the intellect, the more they set themselves apart and the more difficult it becomes to live naturally."

–Masanobu Fukuoka

David Bohm describes the universe as one in which relationships between every part are enfolded in an implicate order. Our failure to perceive these implied relationships brings us toward the brink of collapse.

Masanobu Fukuoka observes that our fragmented worldview—what he calls the 'discriminating mind'—limits our ability to live and farm naturally.

When I am farming, to apprehend the field as a whole, including myself within it, and to discern the right action from that place of non-discriminating apprehension, is always my goal. This could never be a purely rational or formulaic process. To hold also within that perception the dystopian context of the global polycrisis is the goal of dystopian farming.