All posts by Estwing

A Living Willow Bridge

“If you’re not having fun, there’s something wrong with the design.”

I can’t remember where or when I heard that, but I’ve always recognised it as true when applied to developing permaculture properties both large and small. Regenerative land management is hard work and burn out is a real possibility. Pacing oneself, enjoying the work, laughing and playing are hugely important. We embrace all of it at Kaitiaki Farm.

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Back in September when we were planting hundreds of native trees along our stream we had to cut back some willows. We could have discarded them but that would have been no fun. We planted them instead to form a bridge for the children involved in the Kaitiaki Forest Preschool Programme.

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Not much later they came to life.

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Not much later branches were growing.

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And growing.

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And growing.

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And growing.

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Once the branches were long enough, I pruned out most of them and wove the rest together.

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The chief engineer turned up to do some strength testing.

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When work is play it’s effortless.

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Case Study: A Spring-Fed Water Trough

One challenge we have faced while fencing off our stream from stock has been supplying them with drinking water on the far side. (This is part of our wetland restoration and stream protection project: https://ecothriftylife.com/2017/02/01/world-wetlands-day/  )

Here are three ladies shading themselves near the stream on the valley floor.

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After fencing the entire stream we put in a Taranaki Gate to get stock across a few times each year. Obviously they are not drinking from the stream anymore, so we needed to figure out a way to keep them watered. One option was running the farm’s bore water to them, but that would have taken a bit of time and money.

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The far side of Purua Stream has a large number of springs, so I decided to do a little experiment.

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I located a spot just below the spring source and dug a small hole.

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I cut a six metre section of plastic pipe and placed one end in the hole. I drilled holes on the sides and top of the pipe and raised it off the bottom with twine and a broken fence post. These steps will help prevent soil getting in the pipe and clogging it.

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The pipe runs downhill to a second hand bath.

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Knowing how mischievous cows are, I used warratahs to hold the pipe in place and then the interns covered it with gorse branches that they were cutting nearby. The tub filled overnight and has worked brilliantly since.

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This is what the spring-fed trough looks like from across the stream with the pipe covered with thorny gorse branches.

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This is what it looks like from higher up the valley. This photo shows the cows near the trough.

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This simple and elegant system is a great example of what permaculture design thinking is all about.

Peace, Estwing

World Wetlands Day

It’s World Wetlands Day and we should remember these things about them. From the DOC website:

“Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and associated plant and animal life. They can be freshwater or estuarine (located at the coast with brackish water) or both!

Wetlands are where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is permanently or temporarily (as with the tides) covered by water. Although once thought of as mosquito-filled swamps or bogs, wetlands actually perform many valuable functions.

Wetlands act like the kidneys of the earth, cleaning the water that flows into them. They trap sediment and soils, filter out nutrients and remove contaminants; can reduce flooding and protect coastal land from storm surge; are important for maintaining water tables; they also return nitrogen to the atmosphere.

In the past, those soggy areas of land were often drained and ‘put to better use’ but now we know they are essential and one of the world’s most productive environments. In New Zealand they support the greatest concentration of wildlife out of any other habitat.”

We have a remnant wetland on our property that has been overgrazed for many decades. It can be described as a compromised ecosystem. This is what it looked like last summer when we had been on the land just over a year. The image shows how our three cows have grazed the grass but not greatly impacted the central channel.

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But not far away – just over the fence to a neighbouring property – it is evident how cattle can do extreme damage to stream banks.

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So the first step in wetland restoration and stream bank stabilisation is to keep the stock out.  These are our three ladies just over the fence from the photo above: our side of the stream is fenced but the neighbour’s is not.

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Keeping stock out of streams means fencing.

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Lots and lots of fencing.

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And the hazards of fencing.

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Next up is planting. Lots and lots of planting. We have had about 1,800 native plants donated to the restoration project, which covers about two acres of land along almost half a kilometre of stream.

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We have had a number of working bees: all spades on deck!

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Two school groups have come for planting days this spring. Here is Tupoho on the 1st of September.

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Community members have come up for another planting day. Here is a group during Whanganui Permaculture Weekend in mid-September.

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Because we got our plantings in at the end of the winter planting season, our interns have been consistently tending the plants this summer – making sure they are watered and weeded.

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Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours have been invested during the last six months. These efforts are about making a brighter future.

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Wetlands are critically important for water quality, wildlife habitat and reducing the impacts of flooding. Celebrate the value of wetlands today.

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture: Viewed from Above

After two and a half years on a worn out horse property, we are seeing progress. This paddock is slowly becoming a market garden above a swale with peaches, blueberries, key apple, feijoa, jerusalem artichoke, currants and pomegranate.

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In the extreme foreground in the photo below we have planted avocados among the tagasaste serving as nurse trees.

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The west side of this paddock has some heritage apple trees, persimmon, hazelnut trees, more peaches, raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries. At the top left of the frame beneath the power poles are black currants.

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The lower eastern paddock has a small hand-dug pond that holds 25,000 litres of water. The fence line to the upper eastern paddock has a new windbreak consisting of poplars and  harekeke (flax).

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Here is another photo that also shows the goats happily eating some prunings in the upper paddock. To the south of the goats (out of the photo) is the orchard with 80 mixed varieties of fruit trees.

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Our interns, Liz and Rikke, have been helping in the annual beds where we are growing tomatoes, corgette, pumpkins, potatoes and spaghetti squash. There are also some yakon in there. We recently harvested 1,500 garlic.

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Manu and Bee are supervising the interns. The dog named Boy is supervising ducklings in a tractor.

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With each passing week this place is looking less like a tired horse property and more like a permaculture farm.

Peace, Estwing

Amazing Abundance: 6 Years on 700 Square Metres

Six years ago we moved onto a weed infested rubbish tip. After a month we had planted a vege garden, fruit trees, nurse trees and natives.

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After six years it looks like this.

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In a coastal environment, the keys are wind protection and enhancing sandy soils.

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This was the same corner a year later.

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Wind protection is great for annuals too. This is a different fence line four years ago.

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That fence line now looks like this: apples, plums, grapes, guava, Jerusalem artichoke, and a small annual vegetable garden.

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The opposite corner of the section looked like this four years ago. Note the peach tree in the bottom left corner.

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And now.

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This area needed attention five years ago.

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And today: feijoas, apples, olives

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Reverse angle shot with firewood storage area in lower right corner.

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In front of the house where there was overgrown grass, lupine and pampas lilly of the valley – and a large pile of rubbish – there is a grisselinia hedge for privacy and eventually wind protection.

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This beautiful, super-abundant suburban permaculture property from scratch in six years has been included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburbia project as the only case study outside of Australia.

A one-off tour/workshop on this property will be offered Sunday 12th February 1-4 PM.

Space is strictly limited.

Register: theecoschool at gmail dot com

 

Peace, Estwing

Kaitiaki Farm Work Study PDC Internship

 

Earn your Permaculture Design Certificate while working on a premier permaculture demonstration farm in New Zealand.

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Our work study internship programme is unique in the world of permaculture education in that it combines best practice teaching and learning with best practice regenerative land management.

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The programme balances content, process and reflection, while nurturing systems thinking skills. It’s about developing a way of thinking that recognizes the connections between diverse elements on the farm and how they interact in four dimensions (over time), along with the hands-on skills required to work effectively with cultivated ecologies.

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Kaitiaki Farm is an exemplar permaculture property that is blessed with a diverse array of microclimates and growing conditions. The 5.1 hectare (13 acre) property is located 4 km outside of Whanganui with a population of 43,000.

Along with holistic land management we also embrace appropriate technology, renewable energy and human-scale solutions.

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Many of our interns come with low or no rural skills. Motivation, a love of learning, and a strong work ethic are the most important elements for success at Kaitiaki.

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We spend a lot of time teaching and talking. This slows down our work but makes the internship what it is – an endless series of ‘teachable moments’. It is also the best way to earn a PDC. This type of learning experience is extremely rare anywhere in the world and would not come from a book or standard PDC course. That said, we have a huge library of great books and lots of connections locally and nationwide of practicing permaculturists.

Interns work three-ish full-ish days and two half days per week, with two days off.

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Kaitiaki Farm Work Study PDC Internship

The ECO School

Whanganui, New Zealand

Fees: Contact us

Time: 10-week minimum stay

Next intake: April, 2017

Tuition includes a copy of An Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture and a copy of the annual Permaculture Calendar

Inquiries: theecoschool at gmail dot com

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Eco Thrifty Renovation Revisited

It’s been over six years since we started the Eco Thrifty Renovation in Castlecliff, Whanganui. That seems like ages ago.

Here is a series of before and after shots, along with a little background on the design inspiration.

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Then and Now

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Before

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After

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Before

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After

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Before

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After

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Before

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After

The focus of the renovation was sunlight: free energy delivered without a service fee. As a passive solar retrofit, the project exceeds expectations and has delivered a warm, dry, comfortable home with exceptionally low power bills.

Let the sun shine in.

Peace, Estwing