Over the course of the few years that we have been blessed to be caretakers of our piece of land, we have learned the main design lesson in permaculture over and over and over again. Observe, and then observe some more! Observation is the key step toward any cohesive design, and the more we observe the wiser any of our actions will then be.
Of course without action any amount of observation can just end up being sight-seeing. Action begins the processes that will allow us to continue to observe the next phases, and learn more, and take all that knowledge and make even better decisions or designs.
We’ve learned that making roads and putting up permanent fencing is a very landscape altering and energy intensive activity. We think it is such a key part to any livestock oriented farm endeavor that it pays to take all the time you need to figure out the best possible design for all your particular animals, plants, machines, vehicles, and water management needs. Roads are such a key part of a design as they delineate the landscape around them, creating segments and access ports that otherwise may not exist. They direct water from higher up to lower down, very fast. They become animal routes and the default way from point A to point B.
Arriving here as greenhorns with many great ideas but not much practical experience with landownership, we didn’t put as much priority on the thoughtful construction and placement of roads and pathways as other more exciting things. After a lot of trial and error, we have come to respect the road and all it does to the landscape.