That’s right, do nothing for months. Well don’t do nothing, but don’t jump in and start any major projects until you’ve spent some time observing your property. In permaculture, this is the “Observe and Interact” principle. You need to understand as much as possible about your property before you make any major decision. This is also a good time to use the principle “Use small and slow solutions” because they are much easier to change if you realise you missed something later on, compared to big and expensive projects which you will be effectively stuck with.
Things you should be observing during this time include:
Water flow, rainfall (when and how much), frost/snow times and severity, high temperatures (when and how high), wind direction and speed, vegetation types, soil types, local animals (native and feral), slope/terrain, sun position at different times of day and times of year.
Obviously during this time you need to maintain what you already have on the property, but if you have a few months or even a year before you HAVE to make major changes, this is a fantastic opportunity to observe your property and decide what you want to do in a way that works with the property and the natural resources available.
Next, plan, design, envision what you want for your property.
|A worm farm generates compost, worm wee and worms|
This is where you start combining elements that work together, and then you can start thinking about how to locate those elements so that they are at a sensible distance to reduce the work that you have to do on a regular basis. Perhaps you intend to use the chickens to fertilise the garden – then you need to design a way that they chickens can be IN the garden so you don’t have to move chicken manure. Or if the worm farm is going to take your garden waste, put the worm farm in the garden. Not everything is going to work out perfectly and there are going to be other factors that prevent your optimal configuration from working, but it is worth taking the time to plan. This is where you should also start to think about permaculture zones and sectors, but this post is getting too long already! I got into this a bit in another post last year.
|Splitting Cheslyn Rise into zones for land use|
A word of caution though, don’t get stuck in this phase, you can over plan and never get anything done, give yourself a time limit, work through everything a couple of times, and then get started. If you use slow and small solutions, and keep observing your plan, you can change things as you go. Also, make sure you include future elements in your plan, if you know you want to keep goats, think about how they will fit in and where you will keep them, so that you can integrate them into the system more easily when you are ready.
|The dairy cow provides milk for the dogs, the dogs provide... security duty and cuddles|
Get started! But don’t start everything at once!
On our property at Cheslyn Rise we have been really lucky to have so much TIME to observe. We had the property for 9 months before we started organising our house, so that was plenty of time to think about where to put it and how to position it (and it was kind of a relief to have the removal house as we didn’t have to consider the layout of the house as well!). We did a rough plan of the house yard so we could decide where to put rainwater tanks, septic trench and driveway around the house immediately, and also pencilled in where the shed, garden, orchard and “dairy land” would go in future, so it can all work together. Unfortunately our local electricity utility put the power pole in the wrong place, so we had to respond to change and move the house pad over a bit! Luckily it was a few weeks BEFORE the house arrived! And we have continued to observe the property and think about what we are going to do next.
What do you think? How do you design a new property?