Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Compost Heaps and Observation Logs (Day 07)

Photo: Building a compost heap.

This afternoon Bek put the group through a compost-heap-building practicum (to get their hands dirty, the blood flowing, and create an experiential learning opportunity which they will replicate when working, in turn, with their students) at the experimental veggie plot he installed in his parents' family compound (in true permacultural-style, a multifunctional activity with multiple benefits - students will simultaneously be providing the labour to prepare the growbeds for this season's plantings).

Photo: Observation Log.

Before students depart the classroom, they create their own Daily Observation Log, in which their observations of the land around them will be recorded; an essential tool for any sustenance gardener, and even more essential for anyone serious about growing enough to bring their surplus to market.  Again, this exercise has multiple functions:

  • To create a journal for students to record their observations during the course (and long after we have departed).
  • To create another review mechanism / assessment criteria for Instructors to use.
  • Teach-the-teachers how to empower their future students with the same simple tool.

When used dilligently, an Observation Log can greatly accelerate the grower's effectiveness and crop yields(i), aiding the user to discover nature's patterns expressed in the landscape around them, to see for relationships between plant species growing together (native localized planting guilds), and to read how natural forces have shaped the land so that each walk outside becomes a mental exercise in designing solutions for capturing, storing, and harnessing water, siting potential agricultural plots, and creating a cycle of constant learning from what nature has to teach.

The biggest obstacle standing in the way of using the Observation Log effectively as a tool?

It must be used consistently in order for it to work.

Simple, no?


(i) Elliot Coleman,  'The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses'

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