The Biotime Log

Jo Barker | Wednesday, 4th July 2018
Jo Barker reviews The Biotime Log, like a diary but without the years added to enable you to record your daily observations of the natural world or the rhythms and patterns of your personal cycles, whether they are emotional, physical or mental. Keeping a log deepens our connection with the natural world and its annual and season cycles. It is a valuable practice makes us slow down, observe and identify patterns both in the outer world and inner world.
Author: Maddy Harland
Publisher: Permanent Publications
Publication year: 2018
RRP: £12.95

Over time connections are made that tune us ever more deeply into the rhythms of our natural world. For instance, sighting of first snowdrop signals the very beginning of Spring. Here is a handy place to catch and store observations in biological time.
Finally, the penny has dropped on the subject of keeping records! When asked to do a review on this book, I replied saying I am probably the wrong person as I am so bad at keeping them. However, I am exactly the right person to be inspired, which I am.
I remember being astonished when the wonderful permaculture elder, Chris Dixon, shared his impressive records spanning more than three decades. I thought “That's amazing” ... but did not understand the significance. When I read Maddy's section on Biotime sayings like 'Plant beans, cucumber and squash when lilac is in full bloom' I had an Aha moment. I know that lilac is in bloom when the risk of frost has passed. It is so much easier for me to be reminded by the lilac in my garden coming into flower than checking my diary. How exciting! Making these connections is part of the intimacy of relating to the land. And, you don't even need a garden to do it!
So, I realised I already use biotime. We all do. I simply have not written it down. When the crops are harvested where I live it is time to buy my winter logs. When the hollyhocks start blooming, it's a sign of full summer. When they stop it marks the end of summer. This influences my behaviour as I make the most out of every day as the hollyhock flowers begin to come to an end (usually around the end of September).
There are rhythms and cycles within cycles generating patterns within patterns. It's actually quite stunning and exemplifies what permaculture is all about.  In fact this log is an interactive observation collector and pattern generator.

Maddy includes other short sections exploring biotime from multiple, enticing angles. The personal biotime is great for observing our health and wellbeing. The section on Personal Resilience shows how you and I can take comfort and hope in the increasing biodiversity of our own systems as we practice permaculture even amidst ecosystem collapse.

The 'Story from Thailand' shows how cultures over time are so in tune that they understand animal behaviour. I remember an example of how a community escaped from a tsunami because they followed ants carrying their eggs up a hill, a sign of heavy rain coming.

The 'Interconnected Web' section demonstrates the thing I love most about permaculture – the natural system is our teacher. In Maddy's book you have an incredible personal tool to help facilitate your learning.

So why should you buy the book and not re-purpose an old diary or notebook? Well it's probably better to do just that, if you can. I bet Maddy would agree being the permaculturally-minded person she is. Yet, if you are like me, this purpose made, beautifully illustrated book will encourage you to record your data treasure. It also makes a great gift for anyone interested in natural rhythms and cycles, not just permaculture designer!