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Starter Biotime Logbooks for Beginning Observers?  RSS feed

 
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My first experience with keeping a log to understand what was happening in a small area of land came in the form of my Environmental Science badge as a young boy scout. At that time, you were supposed to spend several one-hour periods of observation in a small area of land and log everything you observed. I remember loving the remote location, but also feeling a bit lost as to how to log effectively. More importantly, it seemed very difficult to sort out what was relevant and what was just background noise. I ended up logging everything somewhat randomly until I had a jumbled mess of a notebook. Over the years, I got better at filtering and organizing, but I know other people who went for that same badge who avoided similar experiences thereafter because it put them off to the idea so badly.



I haven't read "Biotime Log" yet, so can't say to what degree it helps new folks find their feet. I'm sure it helps a lot with getting organized and creating something that isn't a jumbled mess of information where important details get lost in the white noise. That said, I wonder if there might be another product in existence as well out there. Does anyone know of logbooks or template pages for new observers? Something to help guide them through their first attempts to begin logging the world around them. I suspect that if it exists, it would be very helpful in getting new observers started down the path. If not, has anyone considered creating a biotime log starter book of some sort?

 
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I, too, have struggled with jumbled up messes of logbooks in which it is difficult to find the info I need. I have also gone the other extreme, noting all info in spreadsheets. I have come to the conclusion that a logbook is a tool. We have to ask ouselves, what is the purpose? to keep us on schedule or in alignment with goals? to track what we've done & other progress? a designated place to record assorted observations? a place for inspiration, sketches, ideas? Maybe even all of these things. If we provide a specific space for data, for sure, that info is easier to find. If we can keep it up, we might be surprised by the insights we gain as a result and what a beautiful book we have at the year's end. I wrote a blogpost about creating a logbook / garden journal (Barbolian Fields: Garden Journal) that throws a lot of ideas out there on what you might want to include. I created a Word template & printed copies - but ended up entering notes electronically so I could also include photos. It was very organized and kind of like filling out a form. I have to confess, though, despite good intentions that year, I once again got way too busy about mid-summer and dropped it. I have since gone back to a simple calendar diary that has enough space to briefly jot down the daily accomplishments and maybe a sentence or two about something I observed that really stood out in the day. Sometimes it is a detail - like the dew on spiderwebs that reflects the garden magic - or maybe a fact - like NW wind 30 mph. I no longer keep a to-do list in a column that gives me my marching orders; I don't need to be told when to plant peas - I just wait for the right break in the weather in early spring and go do it (besides, I have countless to-do lists on yellow scratch pads, just so I don't lay awake at night thinking about what needs to be done). I don't keep track of how many pounds of berries I picked, for example, because I don't have a market garden where that kind of accounting might be necessary and I just don't take time to weigh everything. I will, however, jot down when I planted peas & what varieties. More importantly, to me, at least - (it's my tool, after all) - I jot down when I see the first dandelions bloom; when we get a good rain (and how much); what is blooming in late summer when there is little forage for the bees, and where I see the bees congregating the most (plant more of those!); when the first light frost hits...and when we get a hard freeze that terminates the tender. The more I customize the journal to my own needs, without making it overwhelming, the more likely I am to keep it up. I like being able to carry it with me if I want to. It is interesting to look back over several years and see trends. Information might be a little harder to find in a paper version, but when it comes down to it, a logbook is a very individual thing, and the best one is the one you can actually keep.
 
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Thank you for your detailed comments. In the Biotime Log I give a brief introduction to the idea of keeping records but I do not tell people what they want to record. I suggest that we can records seasonal variations, climate events, first and last frosts, volunteer species etc etc. We might also use a log to record our own cycles rather than being a nature record - in terms of physical health and also psychological well-being to identify patterns.

The idea of a log that is a notebook with dates and months but no days or years is that we record brief entries over YEARS and that at a glance we are able to look at the same 4 days per page in a specific month and easily see what happened last year or further back in time. You cannot get that sort of reference so easily with a Word doc or a spreadsheet. I am interested not by specific events so much but by the observations over time and the patterns they produce - very permaculture design! I want to see how the local ecosystem is changing (or not), whether that weather event is unique or did we experience similar 10 years ago, have we lost a species in the local ecology...? We always recorded the first cuckoo call in Spring. Now there are no cuckoos in my area. They do not make it past the guns in Italy. Instead we now receive unusual Arctic visitors because our winters are far colder. I hope that gives you an idea of what we do.

I also have a completely separate Biotime Log related to my beekeeping. Every time I work with the bees I record details of each hive, their temperament, how many brood frames and honey supers are full and the balance of honey, pollen, and uncapped and capped brood. I also record the color of the pollen coming in and any other salient details. I want to build a record over years that I can easily compare week on week for every year to identify how the apiary is progressing and how the changing weather and greater threat of diseases and Asian hornets may affect our bees.
 
Blythe Barbo
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Thank you, Maddy Harland, for this thoughtful post.  I really like the idea of keeping an individual Biotime log for the bees. I currently do that on a spreadsheet to keep track of which hives swarm and when and where they go, along with notations on weather and other conditions. It also helps me to recognize when a hive might be weakening. A Biotime Logbook would be an easier way of tracking these things.

I also really like the idea of tracking weather and different plants & animals you see. With so many changes we are experiencing in climate and extreme events, the information we take down now could be extremely valuable 10 years from now. It would also help in seeing the changes we might create, for example, by planting a grouping of shrubs and trees. I am seeing so many more birds now after planting some willows that I have sculpted into a structure of sorts.  The microclimates in our garden have definitely changed over the years, readily visible with the first frosts. Making note of the various dynamics would be a good thing to add, I would think.

Thank you for all this inspiration!
 
Maddy Harland
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Blythe Barbo wrote:Thank you, Maddy Harland, for this thoughtful post.  I really like the idea of keeping an individual Biotime log for the bees. I currently do that on a spreadsheet to keep track of which hives swarm and when and where they go, along with notations on weather and other conditions. It also helps me to recognize when a hive might be weakening. A Biotime Logbook would be an easier way of tracking these things.

I also really like the idea of tracking weather and different plants & animals you see. With so many changes we are experiencing in climate and extreme events, the information we take down now could be extremely valuable 10 years from now. It would also help in seeing the changes we might create, for example, by planting a grouping of shrubs and trees. I am seeing so many more birds now after planting some willows that I have sculpted into a structure of sorts.  The microclimates in our garden have definitely changed over the years, readily visible with the first frosts. Making note of the various dynamics would be a good thing to add, I would think.

Thank you for all this inspiration!



The Bee Biotime Log is very useful as a quick reference year on year and it takes no time at all to enter the details. Using another log to identify unusual climate events is also really interesting. We too have developed microclimates  over 25 years as our food forest has grown (the apiary is in a parabolic arc of stacked flints, for example). The meadow we planted brings in all sorts of seed eaters that we never saw before. It is fascinating to record all this - and certainly makes us happy as we know our positive ecological interventions with permaculture have dramatically increased biodiversity and made the garden more resilient to climate shocks.
 
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My current journal, which I'm pretty sure is supposed to be one-day-per-page journal, has places to write the following:

  • Temperature A.M.
  • Temperature P.M.
  • Weather Briefs (where I write abnormal weather events and late frosts and first frosts)
  • Color in the garden (I usually write when different plants bloom for the first time, like dandelions, as well as when those plants first ripen)
  • Garden Visitors (birds, insects, critters)
  • Special Pleasures (I usually write livestock stuff, like a duck starting to sit on eggs or the eggs hatching or when the ducklings lay for the first time)
  • Lessons learned
  • Triumphs
  • Don't forget!
  • Plan ahead (I've never used this line)
  • Notes:(This is where I write what I've planted/transplanted and when and where I did so)


  • Since I use mine for a month-per-page (rather than page-per-day), I wish my journal had a much larger "color in the garden" section, as well as a larger "notes" (what I planted) section. A specific "livestock" section would be helpful.  I do not feel the need at all for half the page to be filled with "special pleasures," "lessons learned," "triumphs," "don't forget," and "plan ahead." I think having two lines for a section titled something like "notes to self" that encompassed all of those five sections would suffice.
     
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