A new chapter, Esther the cowgirl…

Growing up in a suburban town and living in Northern Irelands’ capital city of Belfast most of my adult life working mainly as a performer and artist I have been far removed from where my food comes from. Feeling separated from the food chain and unaware of how my everyday actions directly affect the environment (like the majority of city dwellers are). I set out to change this just 9 months ago when I left Ireland. I have learned more living on Kaitiaki farm in 3 weeks than I have in the previous 8 months! My teachers and hosts Dani and Nelson emphasize the importance of the three T’s, Tools, Timing and Technique before we start any project and encourage a broader type of thinking necessary on a permaculture property. Looking at the farm as one living breathing organism, a spiderweb of interconnected life we must see the everyday tasks in the bigger picture, carefully observing any minor or major changes and what knock on effects they may have.

We do a bit of everything on this farm from growing and harvesting a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables, planting and maintaining young native trees, raising birds for daily eggs, design projects and so much more. I surprised myself by joining in with the processing of some cockerels. I plucked and gutted a whole bird for the first time, (having been vegetarian for 5 years of my life this was a big step for me). But I have to say my favorite job of all has to be the most difficult one of catching the escapees. This job requires quick thinking, team work, ninja reflexes and determination. We have to catch the odd duck pretty regularly but it gets a little more tricky when it comes to Susan who is the most nervous and athletically advanced goat of all time. It took 3 interns, two chains, a rope, tasty branches and at least 4 different strategies to catch her, get her over several fences and bring her back into the paddock. The sense of achievement after this is indescribable as I was living out a childhood dream, becoming Esther the cowgirl, wrangler of goats.

Since arriving here I have witnessed two freak rain events, having once in a hundred year storms only two years apart. People on lower ground were evacuated from their homes, land slips all around in the naked overgrazed hills, the rivers bursting and casualties on the farm all reinforcing the reality that climate change is happening and we need to be proactive and progressive to provide a future for our children. I feel that learning and practicing permaculture to improve the environment around us and creating good deigns in our homes and in our fields to protect us is the way to do this. This eco thrifty lifestyle and approach to sustainable farming with such a loving family here on kaitiaki farm is the most rewarding course I have ever taken. I am more in touch with nature, my environment and myself. Witnessing life and death as a daily occurrence on the farm definitely makes you appreciate and understand a little more as each day goes by.

– Esther

Sector Analysis: You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

After the permaculture ethics, one of the first things we cover with new interns is sector analysis.

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Sector analysis is a great way to start talking about sun angles and seasonal patterns. Many people are totally unaware of the differences between summer and winter sunrise and sunset angles.

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It is especially important to understand winter midday sun angles if you want to embrace passive solar design. For example, we increased the size of our kitchen window in order to get more winter sunlight into the previously dark and cold room.

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It’s also important to know summer midday sun angles in order to exclude the sun from overheating your home or for solar water heating for a swimming pool. We placed these PV panels to maximise summer sun energy as a dedicated summer domestic water heater. (We use a wood stove “wetback” to heat our water in winter.)

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Another major natural factor we deal with here is wind. One of the first things we did when we arrived 2 and 1/2 years ago was put up wind protection before we planted an orchard.

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The netting is a short-term solution while the harekeke (flax) is the long-term solution to protect the trees from the prevailing northwest winds. It is hard to over-emphasise the importance of wind protection for fruit trees.

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Sector analysis helps our interns to understand the big picture of our farm and the holistic design and management plans we have developed along the lines of regenerative agriculture.

Peace, Estwing