Observations: People and Community

This post was originally posted on the PRI Forum

In permaculture, a lot is said about observation. When one sets out to do a design they ought to spend time observing the features of the environment. For what is observed will inform what is done.

Observations are usually centred around the land and the factors that affect it. The presence of plants and animals. The contours. The flow of water and the regularity in which it falls. The sun. The wind. The fire. Infrastructure might also form a part of the observable. The roads. The telephone lines. But observations should go well further than this.

People, community, feel, the surroundings should be observed.

When I went to inspect a block near Edenhope yesterday I spent a good deal of time observing the town and the people within it. Everything could be well and dandy with the land and I might’ve bought it based on the land alone. However, a piece of paradise is more than it in and of itself. It extends much further indeed. And for me, it extends to the people and the community in particular. The last thing I want is a beautiful block that ticks all the boxes in or near a settlement full of people I don’t get along with – or who are fearful or disdainful of me, or newcomers in general. I am sure most of you would feel the same.

I walked down the main street, devouring my sandwich, taking in the iti-biti details and building facades and air and the sky alike. I spoke to a few people – a passerby and the lady in the takeaway shop. Confident people, with a ‘fair go’ Australian character. Puns and jokes peppered the conversation. Their tone epitomised laid-backness. I told the lady in the shop my intentions “Good on ya mate, sounds beaut. We’d love to ‘ave you ’round. Friendly bunch ’round ‘ere.” I made eye contact with a few older folk as I walked past the bank and the council chambers and the supermarket. They smiled back. A trusting lot that didn’t see the smile of an outsider as threat. As a prelude to me asking them for their wallets. As we drove out of town a lady ranking the leafs in the gutter looked up and gave us a wave. Did she think we were someone else? No, she was just being friendly.