The Power of Nature…and Community

It’s often advised to live on a property for a year before developing a permaculture design. After 11 months on our small farm, disaster struck.

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The 2015 flood swelled the Whanganui River and its feeder streams. This is from the New Zealand Herald at the time: “On Saturday, June 20, one month’s worth of rain fell on Wanganui in 24 hours. That night and early Sunday morning the surging Whananui River brought the worst flooding on record. The resultant flood saw the city cut off and about 400 people evacuated mainly in Putiki, Aramoho and Wanganui East. The Whanganui River breached its banks around midnight on Saturday, spilling floodwater into the central business district.”

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Two kilometres from Te Awa Tupua up a side valley, we set out on the morning of June 21st – 5 years ago – to survey the damage, which occurred in both the forms of slips and the loss of stream banks.

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The power of the flooding stream sheared off fencing wire.

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Here is the elevated stream on Sunday morning the 21st five years ago…

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…and now after fencing off and planting the stream corridor with over 2,000 natives.

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That weather event has been on my mind ever since. It has guided our priorities, decision making, spending, and significantly honed our approach to land design and management. I have written extensively about these topics over the last half decade, but in this post I want to reflect on the progress we’ve made and to thank those who’ve helped.

Kaitiakitanga

Before the storm event I had ordered 20 poplar poles from Horizons Regional Council but had not planted them yet – luckily as we would have lost some in the slips. But after the storm our ambitions for land protection expanded far beyond a handful of poplars, as did our relationship with Horizons, who came to the table with advice, financial support and hundreds of native plants.

Our relationship to the land shifted from one of management to one of kaitiakitanga – guardianship. This is from teara.govt.nz:  “Kaitiakitanga means guardianship and protection. It is a way of managing the environment, based on the Māori world view. A kaitiaki is a guardian. This can be a person or group that cares for an area such as a lake or forest.”

We felt a strong urge to protect, restore and enhance our land for the long term. Our priorities shifted from market gardening, raising lambs and a house cow to tree planting and water management. We’ve retired grazing areas and protected wetlands. During the last five years we’ve planted over 3,000 trees, shrubs, wetland grasses and flax in order to stabilise hillsides and stream banks. The efforts started with fencing off the stream with the financial help of Horizons Regional Council and the mad skills of my mate Gavo, who taught me how to brace posts and strain wires.

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Others slept on the job.

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To date we have strung about 2.5 kilometres of fence on the farm as part of our resilient management strategy, which has been thoroughly described in previous blog posts.

On Sunday we hosted our seventh planting bee in five years. We enjoy inviting ‘townies’ out to the farm to get their hands dirty and help our restoration efforts. Hundreds of students, children, parents and adult volunteers have participated. The events are less about getting so many trees planted and more about sharing our love of the land…and some yummy kai!

In addition to the native plantings we have planted 150 poplar poles supplied by Horizons and established a mixed fruit tree orchard, a hillside olive grove, and avocado orchard.

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Our first group: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho students.

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho students.

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Before (above) & After with pig shelter (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Arohanui and thanks to all the friends, interns and volunteers who have planted trees with us. Special thanks to Horizons Regional Council, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho, Wanganui Garden Centre, Bunnings, Whanganui Collegiate School, YMCA Central, Springvale Play Centre, Rob Bartrum, Chris Cresswell, and Gavin Coveny. Chur.

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Peace, Estwing

Making A Pallet Milking Stand

We have had new additions to our milking goats…

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…and so I decided to build another new milking stand. But I wanted to see what could be done with a pallet.

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First I cut out a section that will allow for a comfortable seat for the milker.

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With a bit of niggle I got sturdy legs in place, diagonal bracing, and a feed box made from an old drawer.

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To make a pivot for the stanchion I used – what else! – Number 8 Wire.

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The Kiwi fix-all! (The extra wire also binds the pallet to the bearer.)

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The last thing I added was a platform (old cabinet door) so the goats hooves won’t slip through the cracks (although they are amazingly sure-footed) and for easy cleaning. Two pins hold the door in place that can be lifted out so that it can be removed and washed.

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Just add goats.

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Peace, Estwing