Farm Girl

Yesterday morning was spent doing two very mundane jobs: fencing and digging drains. Verti – almost four – spent the morning working with me and Wies, our current intern. Manu – just over one – spent the morning on my back and so he does not feature in any pictures below.

Verti established a good work-life balance by helping out at times but wandering off to pet the goats or play on a pile of branches at others. About three hours passed without a single complaint from her. (Manu got a little fussy after about two hours.)

For her, helping on the farm is normal. For us, it’s learning. As long as she is safe and not tormenting animals, it does not matter what she is doing. It’s all better than sitting in front of a screen.

Peace, Estwing

Early Winter Permaculture Update

We have just passed the solstice, but winter is only beginning. After a long Indian Summer we have had a few frosts but today – the shortest day of the year – it was 18 degrees. I had an awesome surf and planted garlic. As you do.

Other projects we have going on involve planting trees and engaging children in nature. A Denmark-inspired “forest kindergarten” type programme is running two days each week on the farm. The children spend the entire day outdoors.

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I finally finished their ‘storm shelter’ in case the weather turns while they are down in the valley. It can double as accommodation for our interns or guests in the future.

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But for now it’s all for the kids.

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On another note, we have adopted a 9 year-old ‘retired’ farm dog who is loving his semi-retirement.

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He has a fairly small flock to mind at the moment.

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As far as winter plantings, we are planning to re-establish this wetland by planting about 1,000 native plants.

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We are also protecting against future slips such as this one on the neighbours farm one year ago.

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A group of students from Wanganui Collegiate School came last week for a farm tour and a little hands-on work. This north-facing slope is being planted to manuka for bee fodder.

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We’ve had a little trouble keeping the cows out so we’re resorting to barded wire.

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And on a final note, we have our first olives.

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Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Kids: Integrate – Don’t Segregate

There is always a lot to do when practicing regenerative agriculture on a worn out horse property. But instead of the children getting in the way of getting work done, we try as much as possible to integrate them into the day-to-day workings on the farm, as well as with special events.

Verti, who is nearly 4, helps feed the birds every afternoon. She also loves digging drains, planting in the garden and picking fruit. Manu is still too young to help, but I can put him in a backpack and get a good three hours worth of work done. (I do occasionally forget he’s on my back and accidentally bump his head into a branch or low doorway.)

Another one of Verti’s jobs is to welcome visitors onto the farm and give a little tour. Here she is with 17 teenage boys from Wanganui Collegiate School this week.

We believe integrating the children with our work on the farm is all a part of instilling in them what is normal for a family: composting, cutting firewood, growing veges, raising hens, eating cockerels, and soon milking goats.

When we look towards an uncertain future of environmental decline and when many current occupations will not even exist, it’s really time to think, “What are the characteristics and skills we need to develop in our young people and how do we help nurture their development?”

The short answer is getting them outdoors as much as possible and away from screens of all types. That’s a start anyway.


Peace, Estwing

Preparing Annual Beds: No Motors Required

Converting pasture or lawn to annual beds is never easy. The most critical element is to eliminate perennial weeds. The importance of this cannot be overstated, and is lost on ‘Facebook permaculturists’. But any market gardener knows this.

We do our conversions without the use of a rotary hoe/rototiller. It takes time but the end result is far superior.

First step, kill off most existing plant life. We use plastic for four months.

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Next involves forking…

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…and removing any leftover plants.

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Forking is very important because it decompresses and aerates the compacted soil. Again, it’s difficult to understate the importance of this process.

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A broad fork can be purchased in New Zealand for around $300. We made our stainless steel broad forks for $100 each.

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Fairly straightforward process involving some welding…

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…and some threaded rod.

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All ready to plant 2,000+ garlic over the next three weeks.


Peace, Estwing