Three Cups, One Straw

Despite the similar sound of this blog post title to an infamous internet vid, I assure you, there is nothing lurid or lewd in what follows.

I have simply moved from reading Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, on to The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. You may remember my having mentioned Masanobu earlier when I was blogging from Lost Valley Education Center during my permaculture design class there in December.

I am now about 50 pages deep into his one straw manifesto, and I am loving every bit of it. Besides the fact that in every photo, he just looks like he is the man, gesturing to his un-tilled fields with a smile that seems to say “yeah… I’m pretty sure this is the way you do it”, I find myself hooked on his effortless blending of agriculture, science, and philosophy, all smoothed over with candid humor and insights. The way he casually says things like – “It is nothing you can really talk about, but it might be put something like this: ‘Humanity knows nothing at all. There is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action is a futile, meaningless effort.’ This may seem preposterous, but if you put it into words, that is the only way to describe it.” – is just awesome to me. And yet I will point out again that, like Buddha, I have yet to see a photo where this guy doesn’t have a smile curling at the edge of his lips or contentedness peeking out from beneath his totally rockin’, black framed glasses.

I’ve been trying to think how to summarize what I’ve read thus far, but in looking through these initial pages for a key quote, I find myself coming up short. It strikes me that everything Fukuoka has written thus far is part of a construct of interrelationships he has carefully put together, never viewing one plant or one topic in isolation. As Fukuoka himself says “An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.”

Object in isolation

What I think I especially appreciate thus far is his emphasis on living his philosophies, rather than trying to explain or justify them. The justification is in the doing it would seem, and the yields of his “do nothing” farming techniques are reputed to rival and even exceed that of traditional farming methods, as well as modern technological approaches to agricultural (i.e. dumping massive amounts of fertilizer and chemicals onto plants to control things). What does Fukuoka have to say about all this? ” Ultimately, it is not the growing technique which is the most important factor, but rather the state of mind of the farmer.” I mean, obviously, right?

I am beating back a cold right now, and am all too happy to have this book to curl up with. Since I can feel that race between reading and sleep about to resume, I want to sign off here with some photos from a hike I took today with my wonderful friend (and fellow Mainer!) Nadja. After a lot of travel along route one south of the Bay, it was great to head over the Golden Gate once more towards the northern, winding stretches of the one as it makes its way towards Point Reyes.

Golden Gate

Since Point Reyes seemed awfully far (especially given we set off at noon), we instead stuck a bit closer to home, and made our way towards Muir Beach, and a trail that ultimately took us to Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center (fitting, I suppose, given my current reading choice). Here is Nadja having an OMG (oh my ginger) moment in one of the beautiful circular gardens we found:


And here’s a fun smattering of photos to give you a sense of the place. The day definitely had a zen-like quality to it.

Scoping out the fields

Chard galore

I saw this gal later with another creature in her jaws. She was on the prowl for sure:


What is a farm/zen center without its requisite natural building?

Natural shed

And lastly – the gate to the not-so-secret garden:

Not so secret

I’m just excited to visit again a couple of months from now when everything is in full bloom. For now, I can rest assured that nearby, the ocean will still be looking the same – gorgeous as ever against the California cliffs, reaching out beneath the clouds.


With a heart like a straw,

P.S. It’s good to look back every once in while:

Lookin' back

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