This is the inspiring story of one man who learned to work with nature and not against it. A man who learned to listen to his spirit, his Creator, and then took action to implement the knowledge he was given. If you haven’t heard of Paul Gautschi and you love to garden, you’re going to love this story…
Paul Gautschi grew up in Los Angeles, eating everything fresh from his mother’s garden. As the city sprawled, he moved north to Washington and began his own gardens, laboring intensively. And when he wanted to grow fruit trees, he drilled a well and discovered… Nothing. Or hardly anything. Certainly not enough to water gardens and fruit trees.
Then something interesting happened. In his own words, “The Creator told me to go into the forest and look down.”
Ok. Full stop.
The Creator told him? I have to admit that when I first heard Paul say this, one of my eyebrows went up because one doesn’t usually hear gardeners speak this way. And then Paul stepped aside to show his gardens.
Ok, The Creator is definitely talking to Paul Gautschi.
He has lavender growing next to blueberries, which would normally be a conflicting pH issue in the soil, yet both are thriving. He has gorgeous fruit trees, heavily laden. He has — seriously — all kinds of things going on at his little homestead that are the antithesis of what we collectively “know” and do in our efforts to control, manage, and demand Nature work in the way we think it should.
So what happened when Paul went into the woods that day and looked down? He saw that the forest floor was covered in a beautiful, dense layering of detritus that consisted of leaves, sticks, branches, bark, and stems all decomposing at varying rates, but compiling a wonderfully thick carpet of mulch.
The forest doesn’t need watering. It maintains itself through harsh droughts and tough winters. Paul realized in that moment that it is only man that scrapes the earth bare. Nature always covers herself: birds have feathers, fish have scales, prairies have long grasses with dense root systems, and forests have loamy, spongey humus from the decay of old plant matter.
At first Paul was furious, for he’d been laboring in his gardens for 17 years, struggling to weed and water the bare ground in order to maintain his gardens. “How come you never told me!” he shouted at the sky, and the answer came…
“You never asked.”
So Paul literally took the forest to his gardens. He laid wood chips, dense and thick, and began a journey of working with nature’s rhythms, nature’s governing laws that continues to this day.
He claims nature is so very, very simple. It is we who complicate everything with our interventions, and all we do is mess up the natural order of life. By working with nature, he says the work is easy and the burden is so very light.
Today, Paul’s gardens are world renowned and are visited by people from all over the globe. There is a free documentary about Paul and his journey called (surprise!) Back to Eden. And for my green-thumbed friends who would like to bring Paul’s ideas to their own gardens and homesteads, DIY Home has put out a wonderful implementation guide to help you get started.
As for Paul’s gardens? The produce gets sweeter and bigger every year.
And all Paul uses is a rake.