All the permaculture principles are essential to me, so it's hard to say any are more or less important. This one is seriously key though!
I'm curious how you all interpret this principle and what it looks like in practice. How do you self regulate? Do you have any mechanisms to elicit feedback or is it enough to just accept it as it comes? How do you determine the usefulness of feedback?
I've heard permaculture referred to as "remedial common sense", and that applies to this principle as well as many of the others. In other words, it should be obvious. But people completely unfamiliar with a life in relationship with nature may need to re-learn the obvious. Basically, if something isn't working, quit with it and try something else. This is not the same as not having any determination or follow-through. The difference is in discerning whether something isn't working because you are not giving it the appropriate amount of effort and attention, versus that it's not working because of a fundamental design flaw or other inappropriate choice at the outset. A very similar principle, or perhaps even a generalization that might include this principle and a few others is "It depends". We all have habits and ways of doing things that we have learned, that have worked for us before, or that have worked for others, and we often need to learn to be flexible in how much we expect those practices to always work, everywhere, for everyone. For instance, when I lived in year-round moist climates I became a great fan of year-round mulch in most situations, and very nearly every permaculture and organic-gardening resource I could, or still can find would back me up in that thinking. But when I moved to a different climate, I have found that mulch of any kind is of limited usefulness at best, and long-term mulching of low-growing, irrigated vegetables is almost always a problem for several different reasons. It took me two or three years of stubbornly trying what I was convinced was the right way, and having it fail, to admit that I need to back up and try something else!
Alder Burns (adiantum)
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
Some wwoofers are more ready to offer feedback than others. I've got a good application that helps me identify the best matches and catches red flags. Since I've been using it I've had consistently good help. I'd like to design an exit interview too, that I would even send to woofers from the more distant past like four years ago.
Also I'd like to do more follow up with people who have come here for events or workshops.
Google forms it's free and pretty easy to use so that's what I use now. Making the form is easy and it looks good when people answer then but the data organization of the answers is a little hard to navigate through.
When I asked this question I was thinking about human feedback! But you bring up an excellent and important part of this principle, Alder. The feedback from the ecosystem is so key to bring able to self regulate. I have had great success with certain mulch with some situations and groupings of plants but others have been a dead bust. Some pests love to hide in mulch, some years are too rainy and yucky mold sets in. I write this thread instead of tearing my hair out trying to be Ruth Stout
This feedback/self regulation comes down to observation and pondering I think. Giving every bit of the design a good examination every however often depending on the zone and looking fir patterns.
I'd really like to see what your feedback form includes. We get dozens of volunteers each year, and hundreds of emails from people who want to volunteer. We don't currently take any formal feedback from them (partly because I already have too much work trying to stay up with the emails of the prospective volunteers), but I know that I should.
Thanks if you could share that.
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.
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