backyard inari

turning an urban backyard in Japan into a vernal permaculture paradise

Monday, May 19, 2008

I've set up shop on another blog called The Capacity Evolution blog. Check it out!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Long Time No Post!

I have been wrapped up in family (speaking of family check out my brother's gig Out in LA), my studies and my work and in response to a prolonged rainy season the backyard has both suffered and thrived.

We are finishing up an excellent tomato crop but, alas, the etamame and the green beans withered away, never quite living up to their promise. The basil has been rescued from caterpillar invaders as has the spearmint--the latter I thought literally rose back from the dead.

The orphaned strawberry plant we adopted yielded a few tasty berries before finishing up for the season and the parsley and peppermint is happy as can be.

Speaking of happy, I have a thriving bucket-full-o-worms. They are doing great and have easily doubled, if not tripled in population. I think it is time to put the provisional bucket to rest and go with a commercially produced composter. The little guys deserve it!

More pictures on the way soon!

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Unfortunately there are no pictures for this but I have some new inhabitants in the 'yard. Three very young toads. I raised them from tadpoles and today, the 2nd day of the rainy season, I released them. I hope that an urban backyard in Kichijoji proves to be a hospitable environment for them. There is certainly no shortage of bugs.

I also have what is shaping up to be a bullfrog it seems. As I won't be able to keep him, I'll probably try and raise him for part of the summer. and then release him in a nearby pond in mid-summer.

So far, I've noticed that by mixing my herbs with marigolds, other herbs and vegetables that, although there has been some damage from hungry caterpillars and slugs that the wholesale destruction I had experienced in the past is not going to happen.

Also harvested a good amount of compost today. Will mix it in with dirt from the yard and into the dirt around the plants over the course of the week. The worms have been doing an admirable job. And, as I sifted through their pungent (but not unpleasant smelling) castings I was pleased to see some younger members of the tribe of wigglers. Looks like reproduction is well underway!

I have also started actively harvesting rain water. I've got a number of catchment containers accumulating a surprising amount of water. I'm actually going to have to go and buy a container to store it all in. The water comes in handy for raising tadpoles, mixing with the worm tea (nutrient and microbe rich liquid) that drains off from the worm composter, new water for the turtle as well as reserve water for the plants. In the former three cases rain water is considerably better than tap water in terms of the health of the creatures concerned.

All for now. Oyasumi Nasai!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

One thing my readings of Permaculture have emphasized is taking advantage of the margins. That is-using marginal area one one would not normally consider for growing. In the yard I have started to do this in a couple of places. There were bare patches on either side of the air conditioning unit. now I've spearmint coming up on one side and beans on the other.

Other areas I'm eyeing now include an area around the corner that we have used as storage (it gets light for most of the day)as well as area behind our laundry poles which gets less light but has always produced a wide range of weeds and grasses.

This approach to the margins is significant. There is so much "marginal" land that sits fallow in urban areas. Whether the surface be dirt or concrete the land could be in use. Recently, I came across the concept and practice of urban farming. Very interesting, useful and easy to implement in virtually any urban environment. For more information see:

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Been reading about permaculture and "do-nothing" farming ala Masanobu Fukuoka and The One Straw Revolution and David Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability. They are must reads for anyone interested in learning how to live with and benefit from local ecologies.

Fukuoka is able to maintain the same high yield of rice as "modern" mainstream farmers on his farm in Shikoku without the use of herbicides, pesticides and labor intensive wet field farming. And, he does it with considerably less work.

Granted it took him a while to get "in tune" with how things work but after figuring out how things wanted to be on his farm he has been able to join and improvise on the natural rhythms there.

Permaculture demands observation and a deep, almost instinctual awareness of one's environment. On the other hand it also demands a rigorous, systems analysis of the forces at work (and play!) in the local ecology.

Simply, living in rhythm with local ecologies means developing a deep empathy and systems based understanding of how things work and learning how to harmonize with those workings. Once "in synch" it then becomes possible to improvise, create and sustain development.

One of the key dynamics of true long-term sustainability is the relationship to energy capture and storage, use and return. Basically as a user/consumer of energy, if we aim to live sustainably we have to not only limit our consumption but also focus on creating robust systems for catching and storing energy as well as systems for returning energy to the ecology.

Vermiculture is a good place to begin. I buy/grow and consume organic material to generate energy to live. What I don't need or don't consume I give to the worms. The worms, in turn, while converting my organic waste to energy, produce compost that is useful to plants to help them grow. Importantly, though, the compost also enriches and improves the soil thus improving its capacity to catch and store energy as well as provide energy to plants, insects and other critter-participants in the local ecology.

It's a system that, when deeply understood and properly managed-yes it does have to be managed if it is intentionally for my benefit-creates wealth and benefit throughout our home.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Went to the DIY store and picked up some plants and seeds. Got mint and clover for ground cover and marigolds to help keep our insect friends at bay. Also picked up some basil, oregano and rosemary and cilantro for herbs. Wanted dill but the DIY dill was in pretty dire shape.

For veggies and legumes we will be growing tomatoes, green beans, “eta-mame”, and hot peppers for now.

It shouldn’t be too long before I can start mixing the compost in with the soil. Also starting to get some “tea” from the worms as well. That should make the plants pretty happy!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The worms are doing their thing. They’re tearing through the organic waste we’re depositing in their bucket every couple of days. The initial newspaper shreddings are also being converted. See the pictures.

Not quite sure when to take out the compost though…more research should hopefully shed some light on this. You can see what I have been able to harvest so far.

The smell coming from the bucket is dank, like what you smell when you scoop up soil and loam from a forest. Not pungent nor offensive. Flies have been attracted to the bucket as well but no more so than they would any decomposing material one might find in a garden.

It will be interesting to do a worm count to see how quickly these critters are multiplying. If conditions are favorable, how fast can they procreate? Again, research should help with this.

Here is a basic systems view of the dynamics involved in vermiculture. Of interest is that it is fundamentally a set of positive, reinforcing links. However, as always, too much of a good thing can push the system out of balance. This can be seen in the links involving moisture and adding organic material to the process. Another interesting point is that between each link there is a significant time delay. Thus if the balance is disrupted it may be awhile before the effects of the disturbance are noticeable. This is generally the problem with pollution. It takes a long time before we notice that the materials we release into our environment have significantly disrupted ecological systems.