Natural and Built

by Deb on May 16, 2012


I‘ve always been a bit meh about natural and built landscapes. I mean it’s so obvious – do we seriously need to point this one out? But then a whole series of little things happened at once, as they do, and I realised that maybe it does need to be discussed. Not taught as such, because even toddlers work out the differences between plants and buildings pretty quickly, but part of the conversation – how do people change the environment? How is life different now to what it used to be? Don’t forget that as far as little kids are concerned the world has always been this way. And what messages are we subconsciously sending through our choices of images and activities?

When I look at my photos and craft, it is unrelentingly NATURE. I’m not certain why this is, although the fact that I choose to live in the middle of nowhere is probably a pretty good clue. But I ruthlessly crop photos and draw and paint trees, fish, flowers, butterflies or abstract patterns. No buildings or cars to be seen. And yet, I wouldn’t be here without the roads, power lines, cars and fences I don’t include. Air conditioning and houses. Schools.

Built things can be very, very good. And nature can be pretty darn annoying, as I run out and scare off the hawks for the umpteenth time today. So I set a little challenge – to include built things in our art and photos. To represent the world the way it is, rather than only bits and pieces of it. To stop treating some things as if they were bad and instead look at the whole. And to talk to my kids about it – how clever we are and how we have a responsibility to think.


The part of my backyard I usually crop. Home made piece-meal fences, the shadecloth is from an old chicken enclosure, the rest of it has been re-used. The rope across the gap is a temporary fence to stop horses coming into the house yard.

One thing that is unique about our place is that it is a hobby farm, and we inherited a truly mind-blowing amount of  stuff from the previous owners. There is an old climbing frame and part of a horse-yard in that picture as well.

chicken enclosure

The new chicken enclosure, mostly recycled materials. Star pickets, fences, a sheet of tin and some shadecloth. There is new bird netting for part of the roof and some new chicken wire fencing to fill in gaps and keep little chicks in. The bath wasn’t popular as a nest, but the old set of lockers is brilliant.

I’d love to have a pretty new enclosure and fences where everything matched, neat nests and roosts. I’m vaguely embarrassed by this one, because so much of it looks like it should be at the tip. But I’m secretly proud of the ingenuity and that we did it ourselves.


The cropped other half to one of last week’s sunset photos. You can see our shed, wheelie bin and the power poles marching along the road.


Big girl’s collage house and unfinished fence from one of our art sessions, my cityscape is up the top.

The built environment is here to stay. It’s mostly a good thing, or at least necessary because of our choices. And even if things aren’t pretty, they have history and reasons behind them that deserves to be shown as much as the lovely trees and clouds. My children need to learn about the whole environment, then they have a chance of seeing how things fit together and interact, and thinking critically about complex decisions.

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