June 5, 2021

"The Problem is the Solution"

"The problem is the solution. Everything, works both ways. It is only how we see things that makes them advantageous or not."
Bill Mollison, Permaculture: A Designer's Manual

I've pondered that statement ever since I read it. In fact, I have several problems that I'm puzzling over right now: wiregrass in the garden and ground ivy in the pasture. But also, I have one for which the solution finally made sense, when I thought of each part in terms of purpose. I'm not saying I've come up with THE solution, but I've come up with a solution that works for me.

Every year we grow a small patch of winter wheat. 

This year's wheat crop.

And every year we have vetch growing in it,

The dark pods are vetch seed pods.

and this year, wild lettuce.


Vetch is a nitrogen fixer, which is good, but the problem with it comes at wheat harvest. It tangles up and wraps around the scythe blade, which really hinders the scything rhythm. It's frustrating. The wild lettuce is edible and makes great salads. But it's something else that's in the way, and hence a problem.

This year I decided to go through the wheat and pull the vetch to save for seed. If it was greener, I could save it for hay, but most of it is gone to seed, which I could use in my pasture. Vetch pulls out easily and while it took some time, it wasn't hard work. While I was at it, I cut down the lettuce, because I decided to chop and dry the leaves for the goats this winter. 

One wheelbarrow filled with vetch vines, the other with
wild lettuce. I fed some fresh to the goats and dried some.

So by changing my thinking to see the advantages of the things that were problems, I got some pasture seed from the vetch and goat feed from the wild lettuce. Plus, the wheat was easier to scythe. It was pleasant outdoor work, and I really felt like I gained a lot, rather than being frustrated with the obstacles in the wheat.

This is a permaculture principle that I really need to incorporate in my everyday thinking. If I can, it will certainly make everything easier. 

29 comments:

Gorges Smythe said...

It's hard to argue with success.

daisy g said...

Great attitude! Looks like a win-win-win!

Leigh said...

Gorges, the challenge is being able to see the path to success. :)

Leigh said...

Daisy, I need to learn to do this more often. It solves the problem of frustration!

Tania said...

What a great solution, well done! A change of thought does wonders sometimes.

I should remember this quote more often too!

wyomingheart said...

Excellent Quote! What a great solution to troubling chores. Removing the vetch and lettuce would also keep them from going to seed, which would inhibit growth as well. Love this post! Have an awesome weekend!

Nina said...

This idea is something I've just barely started dealing with this year. I'm just beginning but it's kind of laughable. Don't know why I didn't think of it before!! This thinking outside the box also requires one to dig for deeper knowledge about the wild that's growing around you. Great article and quote!

Leigh said...

Tania, thank you! Learning to see things with new eyes is a learning process, for sure.

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, thanks! It's such a relief to find useful outcomes for problems like this. :)

Leigh said...

Nina, it is a process! Eventually, I hope to change boxes entirely. :)

Debby Riddle said...

I've never eaten wild lettuce as a salad. Can you describe when it is best used. I've heard it is medicinal as a pain killer. Love to hear your take on this annoying plant:)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

A very elegant way to deal with the problem, Leigh. I suspect that Fukuoka would agree: yes, it took a little more time to remove one and then the other, but the overall process was much smoother and I would think you were less stressed.

Leigh said...

Debby, we find it really tasty in a salad, not really bitter at all. The new leaves are good, and it makes a bunch of leaves at the top of the stalk right before it flowers. After it flowers, it starts to get bitter. I just chop those off and add them to a salad. The goats adore it.

It's the white sap that is said to be the medicinal part, and is at peak potency when it flowers. I've got some directions for making a "pain killer" from it, which I'm going to try. I read effectiveness is equivalent to a couple of aspirin. If I manage something somewhat successful, I'll blog about it!

Leigh said...

TB, I think what made this so satisfying is that I was able to take advantage of each things usefulness. Otherwise, they would have pretty much been waste in the wheat harvesting process. Very "added value!"

Boud said...

Now I'm wondering how to apply this to other parts of life than growing plants. I'm guessing there are applications if I can find them.

Leigh said...

Boud, absolutely. The trick is seeing the connections and usefulness. I'm hoping to get better at it with practice.

Staci said...

What a great post and quote! This is so true in many aspects of life and I am going to start applying it immediately. Thank you!

Mama Pea said...

Isn't that a lesson for life? To be able to get past the negativity of a situation and find the positive! Granted, easier said than done, but I love how you moved on the solution to the problem. And gained something in the process!

The Old Dairy said...

What a great post...To learn to live with our land and manage it is a hard thing some times. We battle lantana here..

Ed said...

I once watched a news feature on a fellow who bought an acreage and would go out nearly daily and just weed for a few minutes. On the grand scale of things, each day was pretty miniscule accomplishments but after years of doing this, it really started looking nice.

I wasn't born with that amount of patience unfortunately.

Leigh said...

Staci, thanks! For me, the hardest part is seeing problems in a positive light. Something I plan to practice more diligently.

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, one thing I (think) I've figured out, is that pessimism and complaining are habits. Breaking that habit cycle helps a lot!

Leigh said...

TOD, I agree, it can be very hard. One small step is encouraging, though.

Leigh said...

Ed, that's an excellent example of something-is-better-than-nothing. It seems to me, that it's easy to fall into thinking that wants instant success or else it isn't worth it. But, even small progress is a step in the right direction.

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

Great idea!

Peteforester said...

I had weeds like y'read about in the corral. The residents of the chicken coop were going through feed like after dinner mints. The solution; open that coop door in the morning, and close it at night. The chickens get freedom and nutritional variety. I get what amounts to groundskeeping team that will work for free from dawn 'till dusk. The feed use has dropped to near zero. The weeds are gone. Most of the bugs are gone.
Most of the gophers, deprived of their weeds, are gone. The coop stays pretty much poop-free. The birds are in the coop of their own volition at sundown. All I have to do is open and close a door! Everybody wins!

Leigh said...

Thanks, Nancy!

Leigh said...

Pete, that sounds like an excellent set-up. We find that our chickens eat less feed too, if the grazing is good. Win-win.

Jeff said...

I have occasionally come over to your blog from Ed's blog (and even purchased your book for my wife from Christmas. Last fall we brought a small 6.25 acre farm with a barn. We have a garden and I have planted grapes, but don't think we're going to go all out like you. But I'm interested in growing wheat (much of our fields are currently being cut for hay). https://fromarockyhillside.com