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Observe And Interact [Permaculture
Posted on April 22, 2015 @ 10:40:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I drove down to the farm yesterday to prune some grape vines and get some repair projects underway (new door and windows). I also came down to observe and interact with the farm during the spring melt period. The water is flowing off the landscape on this wet windy day. The lane is the main channel for moving rain and melted snow off the landscape. The landscape is getting a deep watering which is nice. Some small trees that my wife and I planted in the fall of last year have emerged from the snow intact. The ground is still frozen and there is still around a foot of ice in the harbour. The winds are blowing the ice out to sea today which is good. It will be a late start for the lobster fishermen as they must wait for the ice to clear.

These are some of my observations today. The first design principle of Permaculture is simply to "Observe & Interact" with the system that you are designing. In the context of farming, it is often suggested that you spend a year observing nature around your farm before you make any major design decisions for the farm. If you are planning a business you should take some time to observe and interact with the people and technologies of that business. So the first principle of permaculture design is to observe and interact because when you do so you create better designs. This is true in farming and arguably also true of starting any business. Every day you could be asking What did I learn from my observations? What did I learn from my interactions?

David Holmgren is the author of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability (2002). David is the younger co-founder of Permaculture and some of his best work is his work on specifying 12 design principles for Permaculture. These have become a standard part of the cirriculum. His book consists of a chapter on ethical principles and then a chapter for each principle. In the second chapter discussing the "Observe & Interact" principle, he has a section that is titled "The Landscape is the Textbook" where he elaborates his take on the principle:

The development of good observation skills requires time and a quiet-centered condition. This in itself requires a change from a lifetstyle that is indoor, semi-nocturnal and media dominated to one that is outdoor, mainly daytime, and nature-focused. At Melliodora we try to balance indoor deskwork with observation and physical work in the garden that supplies most of our food. As well as feeding us, working with nature provides the inspiration for, and testing of, the more abstract ideas epressed here. (p. 16)

The interaction part is as important as the observation part. You can observe your garden all you want but until you start growing stuff you won't know some of the things you should be looking for. Ulric Neisser in his 1976 book "Cognition and reality : principles and implications of cognitive psychology" talked about the perception-action cycle and created this graphic to explain the idea.

I'll be reading more of David Holgrem's book at the farm and hope to eventually start doing a mashup of Permaculture principles and Lean Startup principles. I started discussing The Lean Startup in my last blog.

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