The Power of Observation
When we put our attention and our powers of observation onto something, we imbue it with our energy. We begin to see through the veil of separation. We can use all of our senses with our minds wide open. And perhaps learn something.
Know the basics
There are some basic principles that apply to everyone who wants to grow nutrient-dense food
- Use only life-affirming methods. Abandon the use of toxic chemicals and poisons. Cause life to flourish.
- Use your powers of observation. This may require getting down on hands and knees. Or standing back and squinting. Or not listening to the story in your head. A small stool to sit on quietly in the garden is one of our favorite tools.
- Do what works and be cautious. And observe, observe, observe.
- Find out everything you can about your own situation.
Know your location
Be curious! As you understand more about your own place, you become more a part of it.
- What are the limiting factors? Extreme temperatures? Lack or overabundance of water? Fertility? Shade? Drainage? Bugs? Gophers? Wind? Occasional hailstorms or troops of monkeys?
- What are the biggest advantages? Close to the kitchen? Wide open possibilities? Balmy summer nights?
- How does your growing style fit into the larger community? Will/do you grow mostly for yourself? Or do you share/sell surplus? Do/can you have special crops others don’t grow?
- What was the land like in your great-grandparent’s day? What native plants? What native waterways? Was it forest? Was it wetter then? How many people did it support?
- What is the underlying geology of your area? How was the soil built? By wind? By flooding? By truck? How old is the rock beneath your soil?
- How much rainfall do you get in a year? Over 40″? Under 40″?
- If you irrigate, what’s in your irrigation water? If you are using tap water, your water company may be required to publish a yearly analysis of the water they deliver. Is it full of calcium carbonate (hard)? How much sodium?
- What has the land been used for in the last 100 years? Do you have long-term neighbors who remember?
Know your soil
Dig a hole as deep as you can, just to see what is down there. Is the soil the same all the way down? Are there rocks? Is the soil on top imported (this happens frequently in suburban housing developments)? Do you run into an impermeable layer of clay or rock?
It is a good idea to know your soil type. Instructions for determining soil type are in this document:
There are some very handy resources on line to help you understand your soil and its classification. In the United States the USDA maintains a database of information on most soils that includes both its suitability for building on and its potential as agricultural land.
- USDA: http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/HomePage.htm
- UC Davis (US soils data with nice user interface): http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/soilweb/
- The USDA classifications are defined here: Soil Classification Definitions
- Canadian soil surveys are here: http://sis.agr.gc.ca/cansis/
- Australian soil surveys are here (ASIRS): http://www.asris.csiro.au/
- Links to soil maps for Europe and the Rest of the World are here: http://eusoils.jrc.ec.europa.eu/library/esdac/index.html
After the first rains of the autumn, grass grows only under the oak tree, not in the open or under nearby pines
Ancient trees growing in what appears to be pure rock
The plants growing under the hoops enjoy warmer nights, cooler days and less afternoon wind.
This old road sprouts flowers while the surrounding area is mainly grassy. Compaction has created poor soil conditions for grass and good conditions for wildflowers.