Principle 1: Observe and interact

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”


Design Principle 1: Observe and Interact

By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

This icon for this design principle represents a person ‘becoming’ a tree. In observing nature it is important to take different perspectives to help understand what is going on with the various elements in the system. The proverb “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds us that we place our own values on what we observe, yet in nature, there is no right or wrong, only different.

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An old gas oven gets rocket powered

This low-tech workshop began by explaining the fundamentals of how a rocket stove works to illustrate how this super efficient ‘engine’ can be adapted to a multitude of uses. A number of examples were demonstrated before commencing with this unusual upcycling project, using many materials found laying around the farm. With the knowledge and hands-on experience gained, attendees are now able to apply their own ingenuity to other rocket stove powered constructions.

‘An old gas oven gets rocket powered’ Photo contributed by Richard Telford and featured in the 2017 Permaculture Calendar


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Design Principle 1: Observe and interact

2016 Design Principle 1

Connecting to the source of nourishment

Dharmananda community has a small herd of well loved cattle, several of which are producing milk at any one time. The herder monitors the health, well-being and feeding of the cows through the course of daily tasks. Over time that person gets to know each of the cows by name, how old they are and how they are related. By keeping closely connected, the herder builds trust and both cows and people gain a sense of well-being from those relationships.

Photo contributed by Helen iles.

Principle 1: Observe and interact - Discovering Springtails

Discovering Springtails

Once classified as an insect, springtails like this Dicyrtomina sp. are one of the most abundant macroscopic animals. They play an important role in spreading spores to help establish plant-fungal symbioses and in controlling fungal disease. Because of their sensitivity to pollution they are used by scientists to determine soil health. Though difficult to see, you can find the six legged critters, often less than 2mm in size, on the underside of damp wood using a magnifying glass.

Photo contributed by Andy Murray.

Principle 1: Observe and interact - Bringing the concrete jungle to life

Bringing the concrete jungle to life

Pop up Patch in the heart of Melbourne shows what’s possible on a rooftop. Soil placed in reused fruit crates provides growing space for Lisa and Roy (right), who don’t have access to land. On site tools, books, seeds and guidance give them all they need to produce fresh food near where they live and work. The process of gardening reconnects them to the seasonal harvest, the cycles of nature and their community – bringing vibrancy and activity to the city skyline.

Photo and accompanying text contributed by Richard Telford

Class-free room

Class-free room

Grace is caring for a little bird that was stunned after flying into a window. Here under the shade of the grape pergola is an opportunity to care for and play with a wild creature. Each year we prune these vines and train them to the pergola wires. We watch them grow and extend their summer shade over the sun facing windows, and we keep an eye on the developing grape harvest.

Photo and accompanying text contributed by David Arnold

Principle 1: Observe and interact

Feel it

Kai, 2½, is delighting in a rare summer storm while his father observes erosion control measures. The chains of ponds observed in some stable streams have been replicated here. Rocks have been laid across this diversion channel to slow the flow and catch sediment, and branches laid across the staggered outflow to spread it across the grassed gentle slope in the background. Kai is playing, and learning without trying.

Photo contributed by Richard Telford

Principle 1: Observe and interact

Goslings with geese, watching and being watched

Social animals survive and thrive by observing and interacting with each other and their environment. By penning geese with newborn goslings on the lawn in front of the home office we can understand their behaviour and hear any alert calls warning of predators.

Photo and accompanying text contributed by David Holmgren

Principle 1: Observe and interact

Northey Street City Farm, a haven amongst concrete

Clare finds a quiet space as she harvests salad for a shared community meal. This is also a time for observation and reflection. Clare helped develop an organic market garden at Northey Street City Farm. Observation and learning from the world around us are really only truly valuable if they “reconnect us to the wonder and mystery of life through practical interaction.” [David Holmgren]

Principle 1: Observe and interact

Weed or medicinal herb?

Consider a plant with leaves that, when used as a poultice, has the ability to radically speed up wound healing. When eaten they boost the immune system, while the seed heads produce the digestive aid psyllium husk. Where could we find such a remarkable plant? Often within metres of the back door. It is plantain, a plant we usually dismiss as a ‘weed’. However in Norway it’s known as groblad, and in the Isle of Man as slan lus, both translating as ‘healing herb’.

Photo and accompanying text contributed by Adam Grubb. See The Weed Forager’s Handbook for more.

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