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Re: Buckwheat

In a message dated 2/2/97 11:53:50 PM, Sue Casson wrote:

>Dan, I did a similar thing last summer in a few of my beds that were
>(I am on the Wisconsin/Illinois border in the midwest.) I wasn't smart
enough to
>plant the second crop, then cut the first and so on like you did: I lightly
>in the buckwheat at soft blossom with a fork for a week or so and then
>After three rounds, I had the most beautiful, fluffy tilth I've ever seen.
>tiller dropped to the axel...my arm could drop to the elbow or above. I put
>my fall greens and mustards in that ground, then undersowed a little later
>oats, that would winterkill and leave me a mulch to plant in this spring. I
>looking forward to seeing how my elbow does come March.
>Since buckwheat seed is expensive, it would be helpful to let it go to seed
>replanting--in other words, let it replant itself. What would that do to the
>mobilization? Other problems? I have a couple of beds where I let the third
>go to seed then slashed it and now it is under a mulch and snow. Last time I
>in the fall, the stalks (which as you know get stiffer at seed) seemed to be
>down well.

Hi Sue:

Well, first I should explain that I don't garden with a tiller on my private
work.  I do everything by hand except some transport of organic materials by
truck.  We used the tiller very little, actually, in my project as well, but
that particular soil had been compacted by repeatedly driving a dump truck
over the area (class A farmland!).  

Expensive is relative to the value of your labor.  If I wanted to save
buckwheat seed, I would grow a patch for seed and continue with cutting the
green manure after blossoming.  Why?  I'm not sure--it is an intuitive thing.
 Most of the gardening decisions I make by this stage in my life are
intuitive.  Usually, a reason that "explains" the decision comes forward,
thanks be to a career as a science writer.  However, this time, just:  it
will work best that way.  Either it is my sliding memory or a non scientific
answer.  It would be interesting to look at the pattern of buckwheat root
development after flowering, to see if any further gains were to take place,
or to compare methods.  At the prison, the cost of the seed was chaulked up,
appropriately, to education and I generally repaid that budget several times
over with production to the kitchen.  (Officially, I was a contract
horticultural instructor.  In practice, it was a permaculture program.)

I guess I should come out of the closet here and confess that I don't think
permaculture can be properly done unless we hone and use the bundle of
faculties our language lumps under the term "intuition."  In my view, the
analytical capacities of the mind are best employed as a check on the
creatitive and interpretitive and aesthetic functions so when you make a
wrong turn in these, there are breaks to limit the damage to a eductional
slap on the ego.  And the analytical function is generally useful in
explaining WHY to someone else.  I also believe that aesthetic
implulses--this would be really beautiful--are important guides in
permaculture design, at unabashed odds with certain well known figures in the
permaculture movement.  We are made to live on the planet and to appreciate
healthful balances of pattern and disturbance of pattern.  These feel
beautiful to us.  The aesthetic faculty is marvelosly complex and integrative
and in my opinion should be a major force in our design processes.

What I am NOT saying is that one does not need to know anything or observe in
the conventional meaning of the term.  An uninformed aesthetic will make
uninformed decisions.  We aren't a collection of little people inside our
heads fighting over who will be in charge.  I get more done more accurately
typing with all ten fingers.

In my opinion, science is not the answer.  Ignoring science, also, is not the
answer.  Personal experience is a redundant phrase.  It is the only kind.

Sorry to drift so far from buckwheat, but it does explain why I can't "justify
" my recommendation to cut while in bloom.  I let them bloom a bit, by the
way, to bring in the insects whose young eat the insects that eat my garden.
 Buckwheat is one of the very best plants for that.  You can sprinkle a bit
of seed here and there in the garden at different times to always have a few
buckwheats in flower.  Then I do let them go to seed as an encouraged weed.

Buckwheat seed will overwinter in the garden--the live plants are unlikely to
do so in places where the garden is covered with snow.  What survives in the
garden in these conditions depends on whether the snow fell before or after
uncovered ground froze.  

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
permaculture training by email. Copyright, 1996, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O.
Box 2052, Ocala FL 34478 USA  YankeePerm@aol.com  

We don't have time to rush.