Observations and Natural Patterns
One of the main things that Master Cho talks about is observing Nature. This he says, is the way to find the answers. Sepp Holzer, a world renowned Permaculture Master from Austria, in known for telling people to “Read the Book of Nature.” How does one do that?
Many people understand how important observing Nature is, many even understand why that is important, but few understand how to observe Nature, especially those in modern and western societies. We have been cultured to be as removed from Nature as possible. It is something “out there.” It is wild and dangerous and must be controlled. And exploited.
The truth is you are Nature. You are just as much a part of Nature as a tiger, or an elephant, or the tiny microbes that live on your skin and in your gut. In fact you would not be able to digest food without the microbes in your gut. You intimately interact with Nature with every breath, with every bite.
Furthermore, it is the truth that you understand much more about how Nature works than you realize, even if you are a big city apartment dweller who only sees an occasional tree or house plant. You instinctively understand Nature because you are an integral part of Nature. You will be surprised how much you already not just know, but understand.
While Master Cho talks about following the Law of Nature, Permaculture talks about designing your food systems to follow the patterns of Nature. Both are the same approach with different language.
A Law of Nature means a regular pattern of order can be seen. Gravity, for example, is considered a Law of Nature. It can be experienced the same everywhere on the planet. The pattern for gravity means that water and soil run off from high places to low places. The mountains crumble into the sea eventually.
We’ve been taught that wild animals have instincts, but all life forms have instincts, even people, even you. Learning to observe can begin by simply paying attention to your instincts, your automatic reactions. Avoiding pain and discomfort is an instinct. If you are hungry or thirsty your body sends signals to the brain which causes you to do what you need to do to get food or water. Instinct. If a food or drink is not good for you then your body will not feel good, like having a hangover the day after drinking too much alcohol. If a food may be toxic or poison you may be able to detect a bad odor or maybe it looks gross, or tastes funny. Certain smells are powerful enough to make a person throw up without actually eating the offending food. This is an instinctual response to purge a toxin that may harm or kill you. The response is automatic.
Pay attention to your senses
Pay attention from the inside out
Watch how things, living and natural, interact
Keep a Field Log
Spend time just watching something Natural. The more time you spend watching Nature the more things you will see that you had no idea existed. You will see creatures you had no idea were in your yard. You will see creatures interact in ways that will amaze you. The Natural world is more fantastical than any imagined alien world.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SENSES
Pay attention to how things smell and taste and what feelings you get from your senses. In Natural Farming, particularly KNF, sight, smell and taste are used as accurate instruments for quality control. Build your senses skills. Take time fully tasting and smelling your food. Eating is one of the most intimate acts, yet one most people take for granted. Pay attention to how foods make you feel, not just when you eat them but for the next two to three days as the food moves through your biology. Learn what healthy feels like, what it smells like, what it tastes like. The more you develop your senses, taste, smell, touch, sound and sight, the better instrument you will be in analyzing the Natural world. You will also increase the pleasure in your life, body and soul.
PAY ATTENTION FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Pay attention from the inside out. If you see a pest, don’t think first how to kill it. It may be important in ways you don’t understand. Rather, look at your system, your design, and see where the unbalance in coming from. Pests and disease are symptoms. When you look at a sick plant, first look at the roots. Again, look from the inside out.
WATCH HOW THINGS INTERACT
Watch how different things interact, plants, animals insects, sunlight, wind, and temperature, the living creatures and the vital forces. What comes out when it rains? What goes away? How do plants and animals act differently on a full moon compared to a quarter moon? What happens when a bird makes a particular call? Is it a danger alarm? What animals other than birds respond to an alarm? How do they respond?
KEEP A FIELD LOG
Keep a field log and observe your property every day. Sometimes you will spend only a few moments doing this. Other days you may spend a couple of hours or all day. Note what day a migratory bird first arrives or when you see the last one to leave. Note the day when the butterflies bloom. Is it related to time of year, phase of the moon, or other changes like rainfall or changes in temperature? Some patterns will be immediately obvious, others will take years to see. If you keep notes the process of seeing patterns will be faster and more obvious. Don’t rely on your memory. Memories are fickle things. Notes give you solid data. Notes are best kept simple. Formal notes can be copied later from your field log to analyze something in greater detail.
FIND YOUR ANSWERS IN NATURE THEN USE NATURE'S POWER
Perhaps the most important key to successfully growing food, even if it is not Natural Farming, is to develop your observation skills. Look for patterns, look for connections, look for disconnects. In modern agriculture this job has been given over to scientific establishments. While the scientific endeavors have led to great understanding of our Natural world, the result has been to take the Power of Nature away from farmers.
Modern farmers get their information, their answers, from scientific experts.
Now the farmer must buy the type of seed or variety that is suggested by experts. They must learn what (now mostly chemicals) to give to crops and livestock according to a study (results of which constantly change, often in response to a profit motive). They need advisors to tell them how to control pests and disease. But laboratory studies and controlled field trials (often in faraway places) are not going to tell you what is going on in your food system at any given time. Your farm is not a controlled scientific experiment, but a complex and dynamic system.
What works for a neighbor may not work for you. What worked for you last year may not work for you this year. What works on a south facing slope may not work for a west facing slope. In order to make good management decisions for a food production system we need to take back our Power! That power comes from working with Nature rather than fighting Natural Laws. Fighting Nature never works. In the long run you will always loose. Working with Nature you will always win.
There is infinite Power in Nature. Observation will teach you how to use it. Learn to see the patterns. Follow them. Learn from Nature. Be like Nature.