Here is a little playbook on our experiences with co-designing and co-hosting the Unschoolers Winter Camp at Shikshantar.
One Straw Revolution
I believe that a revolution can begin from this one strand of straw. Seen at a glance, this rice straw may appear light and insignificant. Hardly anyone would believe that it could start a revolution. But I have come to realize the weight and power of this straw. For me, this revolution is very real.
Take a look at these fields of rye and barley. This ripening grain will yield about 22 bushels (1,300 pounds) per quarter acre. I believe this matches the top yields in Ehime Prefecture. And if this equals the best yield in Ehime Prefecture, it could easily equal the top harvest in the whole country since this is one of the prime agricultural areas in Japan. And yet these fields have not been ploughed for twenty-five years.
To plant, I simply broadcast rye and barley seed on separate fields in the fall, while the rice is still standing. A few weeks later I harvest the rice and spread the rice straw back over the fields.
It is the same for the rice seeding. This winter grain will be cut around the 20th of May. About two weeks before the crop has fully matured, I broadcast rice seed over the rye and barley. After the winter grain has been harvested and the grains threshed, I spread the rye and barley straw over the field.
I suppose that using the same method to plant rice and winter grain is unique to this kind of farming.
But there is an easier way. As we walk over to the next field, let me point out that the rice there was sown last fall at the same time as the winter grain. The whole year's planting was finished in that field by New Year's Day.
You might also notice that white clover and weeds are growing in these fields. Clover seed was sown among the rice plants in early October, shortly before the rye and barley. I do not worry about sowing the weeds-they reseed themselves quite easily.
So the order of planting in this field is like this: in early October clover is broadcast among the rice; winter grain then follows in the middle of the month.
"And yet these fields have not been ploughed for twenty-five years" In early November, the rice is harvested, and then the next year's rice seed is sown and' straw laid across the field. The rye and barley you see in front of you were grown this way.
In caring for a quarter-acre field, one or two people can do all the work of growing rice and winter grain in a matter of a few days. It seems unlikely that there could be a simpler way of raising grain.
This method completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. It throws scientific knowledge and traditional farming know-how right out the window. With this kind of farming, which uses no machines, no prepared fertilizer and no chemicals, it is possible to attain a harvest equal to or greater than that of the average Japanese farm. The proof is ripening right before your eyes.