The fourth principle of permaculture is to apply self regulation and accept feedback. Self regulation is about mimicing the systems of nature to form your own living systems. Natural systems take what they need to grow and reproduce and not more. These systems can adapt to change, which is accepting feedback, and continue to grow without intervention (usually).
When we design with permaculture, we aim to set up systems that flow smoothly, with as little energy expenditure as possible. If something doesn’t flow smoothly, we fix it. If we are getting way too much, we slow things down. The more we use the system, the more we regulate it and the more feedback we get to further improve it. This “system” I talk about can be a living system, like a food forest, or a set up system, like a compost pile.
Living on the homestead for a few years now, we are beginning to understand the usefullness of setting up good systems. Our rainwater system is a great example of this.
For our first rainwater collection system, we set up a tarp in the trees and it sort of drained into a big barrel propped up on some sticks. But it collected water. After we built our cabin, we decided to build a better rainwater system.
We had noticed that tree branches were uneven and made it difficult to put a barrel under the lowest point to collect the runoff. The new rainwater system would have a tarp that was evenly laid over the roof to the outdoor kitchen and have a directed lowest point to maximize runoff collection.
The barrel propped up on sticks was (duh) unstable and would blow over when it was windy. The new base was made of large, oversized, flat rocks that were nicely stacked to form an even base. More rocks were placed on top to weigh it down for the windy days.
Now that we will be buiding a third rainwater system, we have learned even more and have more feedback to apply. We will be using the roof of the cabin with gutters to collect runoff and we will be connecting multiple barrels to form a larger cystern. It will also be uphill from the spot to give it a little more water pressure. Should be much more efficient than our now busted outdoor kitchen rainwater collector.
And the next one we build will be even better!
Here is some more information: