The gratitude is deep.
And first of all it goes to friends who posted this video: Back to Eden. A video on gardening.
A video we thought we’d watch for a few minutes to get the gist…only to realize at the credits that we hadn’t torn our eyes away.
A video that–if you even tinker in the dirt–or if you don’t–will change your life.
Our second thanks goes to Paul Gautschi, who poured truth into our family on Friday.
This is Paul Gautschi.
And even though we’ve known him twenty seconds here, he feels like family.
What Paul does on his property in Sequim, WA, is garden with wood chips.
Not bark. Not manure. Not Round-Up. Not even elbow grease–anymore.
Which may not sound like it makes sense. Because nothing grows in wood chips.
But after years of toiling in his own garden, Paul said he asked God if there was an easier way to do all this. Which was when he noticed for the first time how soft and bouncy the ground was in the forest. When he scraped the pine needles away, there it was–rich composted soil.
What he realized was that the forest floor had a covering upon it. A protection of needles and leaves. A lot like what our skin on our body does for us.
And he realized his garden needed the same thing–a covering. Because tilled ground, is exposed ground. Is vulnerable ground. Is unhealthy ground. Is mineral deficient ground. Is ground depleted of everything.
Which is why the wood chips are so valuable. They turn gardening into a one-tool kind of job.
What the wood chips do is compost. They break down and replace the ground with minerals and nutrients. They also absorb and retain water–which means the ground NEVER needs to be watered. And when the ground isn’t watered, the produce pushing up through the chips is clean. Then because the wood chips cover the ground, and because nothing can grow in the chips, only the luckiest weeds ever make it. Finally, the chips make the ground richer year after year, which means the food from it only becomes better.
Here is an apple tree start Paul planted in April.
Already it’ll bear fruit in its first season.
That rake…that’s Paul’s one tool.
What he’s done here is scrape the top layer of chips away and exposed the dirt.
Which is damp. And…
Mostly what we see on Paul’s property is just wood chips and plants.
Which doesn’t mean weeds can’t grow, if their seeds blow in. Like these.
It’s just that when they do, even little guys can feel like they have huge muscles easing them out with their hands.
Behind us here is Paul’s orchard of dwarf apple trees. He hasn’t watered them for 34 years. He just adds another layer of wood chips every three to four years.
And what’s happened is the trees have nearly bent to the ground with the weight of each year’s fruit.
Which means kids can harvest apples on their knees. And those apples that do drop aren’t bruised when they land in the chips half a foot away.
It’s probably impossible to visit Paul’s garden and not sample the greens.
Here our kids are eating kale.
Right off the vine.
And liking it.
Here’s another leaf…
that the water can be sucked out like a straw.
“So how do you do it?” we asked. “How do you plant in wood chips?”
Here’s the paraphrase.
Since seeds won’t grow in the chips, the chips have to be brushed aside until the dirt is revealed. That’s what Paul’s doing now. He’s just parting the chips until his rake reaches the soil. And then that’s where the seeds go–in the soil. When the plant has pushed its way through the dirt, then the wood chips are brought closer to the plant to cover the ground around it. When the plant is an inch or so above the ground, the chips surround the plant completely.
Our onions at home have a lot to aspire to.
Now even though the Back to Eden video has been seen by millions, and even though visitors find their way to Paul’s property daily, there’s Paul’s neighbor a hundred yards away zapping his weeds with Round-up.
But back to the spinach, which is the size of a small blanket…
and goes down pretty easily without salad dressing.
What we can’t get over is the size and the health of these plants.
None of which are watered, except by rain.
In the background, where it looks like nothing is growing, rows of tiny plants are just pushing through the dirt.
As his greens mature, like lettuce and spinach, Paul plants another row of the same.
So what makes gardening with wood chips worth it, is the quality of the food. And why the quality of the food matters is because it directly impacts our health.
And why our health matters…well I guess that’s up to each of us.
Chemists have tested food from Paul’s garden and gawked as it has exceeded their numerical charts for mineral content. Even organic produce tested the same way could not compare because it was grown in soil deficient in minerals. A plant can only pull out of the soil what is in the soil. And if minerals are not in the soil, they won’t be present in the food either.
It’s no accident that Paul has no gray hair.
Nor is it a mistake that he doesn’t get sick.
Right now his legs don’t move the way they used to. They can bend. And yet when he walks, his legs stiffen like boards and drag behind him. Neurologically, the message never gets from his brain to his legs to bend his knees.
But Paul tells us that as long as he eats from his garden, he’s pain free.
The food is life-giving.
Here’s a few of the things Paul’s got growing.
Cilantro. Sweet and tingly.
And a view of it all from the side.
This is asparagus.
Tender and sweet.
Planted 28 years ago. And still popping back up through the earth.
No steaming or garlicking or buttering would make this taste better.
This might be her eleventh carrot.
And he might have a new friend…
that he cares more about than a piece of asparagus.
Oh…and these are blueberries. One or two…
So the last big piece here is Paul’s chickens. He’s got thirty of ’em. And one happy rooster.
And what he feeds them is the stuff from his garden. Spinach leaves, carrots, turnips, kale…
And what they do with that buffet is turn it over and over in the dirt, pecking at what they want and composting it all right back into the ground.
These guys eat better than most of us.
And they even smell fresh.
It isn’t easy to leave. Life here is slower.
Calm and invigorating.
There’s peace here, too.
But it’s ‘goodbye’ for now…
with a promise to return to taste those apples.