We have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives…labeling various things as religious or secular, but in reality there is no such distinction. Brigham Young said on this topic, “In a public meeting of the saints, I said, ‘Ye Elders of Israel,…will some of you draw the line of demarcation, between the spiritual and temporal in the kingdom of God, so that I may understand it?’ Not one of them could do it… Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be.” (Journal of Discourses, 10: 363-64) God is interested in every aspect of our lives and the spirit will testify of all truth, irrespective of topic.
About 6 years ago, my husband and I attended a log home building class geared toward the do-it-yourselfer. They taught how to build a log home simply and in a traditional way (without a kit) as a means to becoming mortgage-free. We found out that the two teaching the class were lawyers who had given up their “day job” (or retired young?) to teach these classes, build and sell houses. We had just started learning about homeschooling and were really getting into the freedom movement when we attended this class, and they were actually very much on the same page, on all fronts, and helped to spur us on with further learning resources. It was a wonderful weekend that taught us much, but one thing that I’ve reflected on frequently over these past 6 years is a basic principle within their building style that is applicable to so much more than just log home building: “Work with nature, not against it.”
I’ve been learning how to apply that same principle to my life in other ways. It is interesting how principles and truths work that way…applying to more than just one area. While I surely have yet more to learn, I tend to study by way of topics. Thus far, I’ve found that this same principle applies to many topics that are part of my daily life: building, food production, parenting, nutrition, healing, childbirth, raising livestock, education, food preservation, and the list goes on. I’d happily share all I’ve learned thus far, but to help get my understanding of “working with nature, not against it” across, I’d like to share some specific examples of applications I have learned in just one area. But before I do, let me be clear that when I say “working with nature” I do not mean giving in to the natural man, but following and using the “laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” All of nature testifies of deity, and a study of nature will increase our knowledge of God’s laws and our understanding of His character.
One of my most favorite primary songs starts as follows: “I feel my Savior’s love in all the world around me.” Our Savior and Heavenly Father do indeed love us and the world around us testifies of that truth, not just because we are here on earth and that is a necessary step in our progression, and not only because of the beauties so plentiful around us, or how our needs are supplied. As important and amazing as those blessings are, God has also given us the ability to learn of Him and His laws simply by studying His creations. It is clear that as we fight against the laws of nature and nature’s God, our path is harder and we will undoubtedly lose the battle. As we follow God’s laws and the laws He has instilled in nature, we are following the Savior’s admonition found in Matthew 11:28–30 to take His yoke upon us and learn of Him, and we will receive the accompanying blessings:
“28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
As we prepare and seek to become more self-sufficient as a family, I have been studying different methods of growing our own food in the most efficient and productive way we can. It is amazing how many times the principle of working with nature, of imitating it and helping its own processes speed along, has come up in my studies, and how clearly setting yourself up to fight against nature is an ever-losing battle.
A man, named Paul Gautschi, was frustrated with the amount of work he was doing in his garden to keep his soils healthy, and, upon looking over his property, wondered why the fruit trees growing in the ground he’d never actively tilled or fertilized were growing so well in comparison. He realized that God didn’t actively till the earth before planting seeds, spread extra fertilizer every year, or spray pesticides and herbicides so that his plants could grow in nature…it was all part of a natural process that took care of itself. Paul studied that natural process in an effort to duplicate God’s method in Nature. By doing just that, in the form of deep ground coverings, he has been able to decrease his work load dramatically while also ADDING to the health and even amount of soils on his land, where intensive farming depletes the nutrients of soil, eventually eroding the soil away and making the land barren.
I’ve learned about companion gardening, where certain plants are planted next to each other because they either aide in the growth of the other plant type or naturally keep pests away, and are planted literally beside each other giving you more growing space. Conventional gardening would have like-plants growing in long rows with other types of plants in other rows, or in separate beds or even farms. And there is a wide path separating all rows. The conventional/commercial model requires intensive fertilizing, far fewer plants per square foot, poisonous chemicals, and a higher cost and effort level. When companion gardening is properly planned and executed, little to no outside purchases are required for fertilization and equipment, pests can be controlled much more easily and without the use of poisons on your food, weeds are much less of a problem because there is no room left for them (or they are there to add to your soil’s health), and you’re leaving the land healthy and ready for future growth. Obviously it isn’t without effort, but your efforts are better spent and more efficient, and you’ve protected both your family who eats the food and your land that grows it.
My most recent study has been of aquaculture, the use of fish to feed plants and plants to, in turn, feed the fish- both ultimately feeding the farmer. It is again a method stemming from a study of nature and the processes of ecosystems and the cycles within them. When properly set up and run in a certain way (there are different goals and different methods), it requires little outside energy, little effort for weed and pest control (if any), little outside resources like fertilizer, can be sufficient to sustain a family’s food supply year round, and can grow healthy, better-tasting produce faster than hydroponics alone (using water with commercial fertilizers).
There are even ways to use nature to heat and cool a greenhouse…everything from a 600 gallon water tank used for thermal mass (keeping the greenhouse cooler in summer and warmer in winter), designing for optimal convection air flow (such as with domes), extra protection and insulation as with earth berms, the insulation value of trapped air, to a compost pile within a greenhouse as a source of heat in winter. Thinking of these various methods reminds me of 2nd Nephi 28:30, which reads:
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”
These gardening methods all focus on different natural laws or principles of nature and any one of them can increase our productivity, but imagine the benefits of combining them together. We can learn truths line upon line, here a little and there a little in every aspect of life, even gardening. And as we receive those truths, we will increase in wisdom and receive yet more truths. If we rely upon the arm of flesh and decide that we’ve learned enough, we will eventually lose what we have.
I testify that God loves us. I testify that as we labor in this life and take His yoke upon us, He will make our burdens light and we will find rest.
In this fast-paced, technological world that trusts in the arm of flesh more than the arm of God, we would do well to “stop and smell the roses” and learn the wisdom God is teaching us. How blessed we are to have scriptures and prophets that testify of truth and teach us our Father’s ways, but let us not forget Nature’s witness right outside our window.