By Paul Myers
–Piece originally published in the Gibsons Farm Collective newsletter–
Before I wised up, the Protestant Work Ethic nearly killed me. You know it: work hard, save your pennies, then work harder. Then die. This principle, and not piety alone, will redeem you. Or so it is said. Today I have a new ethic, and I say it without shame: I’m trying to find ways to do less work. There are a few methods to go about practising my new principle. One is to just get lazier. I’d like that. Seriously, and it sounds really good on paper. That might be possible somewhere; say, in a goofproof job where it would cost more to fire me than keep me. Or possibly, if work is more of time-filler than a stomach-filler (which it isn’t). But on a farm this method will not fly. Yes, you can skip weeding the potatoes and they will probably give you some return anyway because, after all, tubers live mostly bombproof, hermetic lives below ground. But if you choose not to feed dozens of livestock you might end up with a scene out of Jurassic Park. No, there’s no escaping work around here. The other method is to obtain a greater reward for the work you do. This, of course, is the smart way. How can we do less and get more? Double or triple the current return on every calorie burned, every hour clocked, every buck spent?
Once again Nature provides us with instructions. For instance, mulching around trees (as Nature does) or, better yet, introducing perennials that are symbiotic with that tree are one such way (goodbye Weed whacker!). Another way is to ease up some on the penchant for tidy edges and other very non-Nature human obsessions for order, predictability and calm. It is actually just fine to just “let it go” here and there. “Wilding” parts of the landscape are both beautiful and provide habitat for beneficial species of birds, insects and other creatures. These, in turn, will work for you; birds, for instance, being Nature’s best pesticide, while bees and dragonflies will happily pollinate the crops. Yet another is to “multi-task” plants, animals and structures. A plant may in succession or all-at-once provide shade, windbreak and food. Before an animal becomes your dinner, it can mow your grass and provide fertilizer. A structure can have one use in Spring (such as propagating seeds) and another in winter (such as cold storage). The more hats we can put on various farm elements, the less work we will end up doing. Multiple functions reduce work and waste, maximizes resources, and strengthens your systems with the homerun power of Nature, diversity. Even around the house, finding and then using objects that do more than one thing will save us work, money and space, and reduce our consumption. Let’s find creative ways to get the real down-time we deserve.
Dawn and I have finally got hold of a principle that becomes more important with every advancing year: Success is succession! We are so pleased to now have two outstanding farmers doing much of the work this season at Brookbank Farm. Stephanie Grindon is a permaculture enthusiast, has her own landscaping business on the Sunshine Coast, and is an observant and skilled market gardener. Elly Rakhmetouline brings equal talent with seed and soil. She recently had a flower farm in Richmond, lives in Vancouver and spends 3-4 days a week here on the farm growing great food and beautiful flowers.
They form a very dynamic duo, and they are growing some amazing annual food crops and flowers, provided to you through GFC and at the farmstand. If you see them wandering about, be sure to say “hello and kudos!”