Observe nature

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One of the first things you should do if you are interested in starting with gardening or Permaculture is to observe nature. It’s easy to get carried away and just plan, plan and plan some more – but if you don’t know how your environment works a lot of that planning will be in vain.

This afternoon I took some time to just walk slowly in the nearby forests and observe what was happening around me. Stopping, looking, taking some photos, listening, feeling the wind. I needed it to wind down from a stressful week, but I also did it to actively practice observation skills. I was asking myself what I was seeing. Why would certain bushes or trees grow on one side of the path and not the other? How come one spot had flowers blossoming on the ground although it’s only February and we had snow on the ground in the morning?

Do you understand what you see when you walk or drive through nature? Or is it just there?

When you start realizing how everything is interconnected you get more respect for natural systems. They are extremely complex and provide us humans with a humbling experience. We tend to overestimate our design skills and believe that everything can be solved with straight lines and a flashy, polished look.

It cannot.

I’ll skip the political rants here and show you what I was able to observe with the help of a few photos. Start by looking at them, say to yourself what you see and then go on to read what is written below. Did you see the same thing(s) as I did? (By no means are my comments a complete analysis – they are just some spontaneous reflections.)
A landscape kept open by animals – but only where it’s easy for cows and horses to walk. Where the slopes are too steep they don’t walk and bushes and trees start to take over. On the other hand, this helps giving them protection from wind and furhter down towards the river they can seek shade during hot days.
A forest road with clear traces of wildboar on the sides. They have been searching for bugs, worms and maybe some tasty acorns hidden in the ground. That’s why the edges look so messed up.
This creek is sometimes almost dry and sometimes has water flooding up one meter higher than the water stand today. Its force erodes the sidebanks and with time the right side will start sliding down if not supporting it with stones (which has been done higher up in the creek). The cows and horses have tread up a clear path on the part which is mostly horizontal. The path follows the contour of the creek.
Look at the middle of the photo. Those worm castings show that there are earthworms here taking advantage of all the oak leaves falling down on these stares. During rains the heavily compacted soil becomes soft enough for them to break through.
Flowers in February. How come? Look behind them. The huge rock warms up in the sun during the day and stays warm during the night reflecting the heat towards the flowers and the surrounding ground. This type of microclimate is something that can be taken advantage of and used in your own garden designs – especially if you are working in a cold climate area.
That weird black blob is a fungus fulfilling the very important function of breaking down the tree it grows on. An old fallen log is being transformed into new soil.
The small grass plant is helping out restoring the compacted and acidic soil where only pine trees are growing at the moment. Its long roots are breaking up the soil structure and the plant material will help neutralize the soil once it breaks down.
Some kids going crazy with their mini shovels? Nope – moles. These fellows are not very popular among hobby gardeners and house owners since they can mess up your garden quite a lot. On the other hand, they can indicate that you have quite good soil since their favorite food is earthworms.

What are you able to see in the photos that I didn’t mention? Feel free to comment below. 🙂

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About Veronica (166 Articles)
Veronica is the founder of Hyperbrain.me. With one foot in the past and one in the future she takes inspiration from older aesthetics and ideas to apply them in updated form today. She is passionate about teaching timeless skills and believes that the world needs more polymaths.

1 Comment on Observe nature

  1. Regarding the photo with the fungus on the tree – have a look at this article that goes more in depth on the topic of decomposition: http://permaculturenews.org/2016/02/11/fungi/

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