All posts by Estwing

Produce No Waste: A Case Study in Building a Pig Shelter

One of the first skills we teach our interns is how to pull and straighten nails.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 5.43.39 am

Some interns describe this as the Karate Kid induction to Kaitiaki Farm, and call me ‘Mr. Miyagi’.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 6.04.06 am

Critics have challenged the notion straightening and reusing nails when they are so cheap to buy in the shops, but to me the intent and process go to the heart of permaculture. A huge amount of permaculture can be distilled into one word: mindfulness. Most of the permaculture principles are simply different ways to say, “Be mindful of…” Perhaps no more so than Produce No Waste.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 6.27.17 am

I bought some second-hand trusses this week from Reclaimed Timber Traders – an amazing social enterprise in Palmerston North that diverts construction demolition material from landfill and resells it to the public. I got a good price because they had not yet pulled the nails themselves.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 5.43.59 am

Along with some pre-loved 4x2s and roofing iron we carried the trusses down the hill to the plateau near our hives.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 5.43.16 am

Reusing the trusses made building the pig shelter quick and easy. As I told our interns, Dani and Felicity, “The key to building is a dry head, dry feet and diagonal bracing.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 5.42.35 am

We made sure that the iron overhung all of the timber, that we blocked the structure off the ground with off-cuts of treated pine, and we braced it in all directions. “We are not building for a beautiful, calm day like today,” I told them. “Imagine a gale southerly blowing in the middle of the night. That’s what we’re building for.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 5.40.52 am

The whole job took less than three hours from off-the trailer to completion – all while entertaining a three-year-old boy and six goats. The pigs paid us little interest, but hopefully they’ll appreciate the final product made entirely of reused materials save for the roofing screws.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 5.41.34 am

The 2.7 metre by 2.0 metre shelter cost a total of about $40.

Peace, Estwing

Late Autumn Permaculture Update

The rains have come and much of the ground is now saturated. Many of our pathways have taken on a distinctive brown colour.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.01.45 am

After being nearly dry this summer, the pond is filling.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.02.04 am

And I’ve taken the pump out of storage to pump out the swales as there is more rain in the forecast.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.01.57 am

We’ve planted some beds to winter vegetables…

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.02.46 am

…and built new beds for garlic planting.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.02.30 am

Here are 2 & 1/2 cubic metres of compost ready for the garlic plantings starting later this month.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.02.59 am

This weekend marked eight weeks for our kunekune piglets and so six of them were sold to new homes. Here is one of the remaining three. No more fighting over the scraps!

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.03.47 am

We have approximately 100 muscovies hatched this summer almost ready to be sold.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.03.17 am

And these nine are just two weeks old.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.03.32 am

Tractoring birds for the last three years has done wonders for improving soil quality and regrowth of favourable grasses.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.02.17 am

And finally, we say goodbye to our three fabulous interns, Karen, Vera and Ali. The next two interns arrive tomorrow.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 4.44.09 pm

 

Peace Estwing

Designing for Climate Change III

In the previous two posts I wrote about the work we’ve put into restoring our riparian corridor and into stabilising our slopes. This final post is about work we’ve carried out on the plateau at the height of land to drought-proof and flood-proof our property simultaneously.

It’ll be impossible to explain everything we’re doing and why in a series of blog posts, but hopefully readers will get an idea of the intention behind our work: primarily slowing the flow of water during peak periods, storing water safely for later use; redirecting water away from vulnerable areas; planting trees that will hold the soil; planting drought-tolerant stock fodder; decompressing soils to improve their function; designing in seasonal change to our systems.

One way we slow flowing water high on our property is with a series of swales and a small pond. Most of the swales are in and around our market gardens.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 6.53.05 am

The image below is when we just started putting in beds from the top after building the swale at the bottom.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.02.07 pm

This photo was taken a long time ago but shows the water very clearly in the mid-slope swale.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.25.55 pm

This larger swale is at the bottom of the market gardens and is large enough to store significant amounts of water. In winter we have the option of using a submersible pump to direct water in a variety of directions depending on the forthcoming weather and other factors we may consider.

Again, this is a very old photo taken while we were digging the series of three basins connected by ditches on contour behind the earthen berm.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.25.40 pm

Like all of the swales, we also dug the pond by hand with our interns.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.24.00 pm

It currently holds 25,000 litres but each summer we dig it a little deeper. We’ve planted willow rods around it for goat fodder as needed.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.33.18 pm

The clay soil that we dug out was shifted by wheelbarrow to stabilise a bank under some pines that were cut years ago. This is directly above a track which is vital to farm management. We buried the drain pipe and backfilled up to the base of the pine stumps.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.28.06 pm

A lot of this work was prompted by the 2015 Whanganui flooding (shown above), which left us with slips including one above this track and directly underneath our home.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 3.56.30 pm

We always try to direct water away from buildings. I wrote about this French drain recently.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.34.48 pm

This former stable is at the height of land. When we arrived there was no guttering or spouting on the building and all the water was directed against the east side.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.35.05 pm

I put up the gutters about three years ago and now we have three options for directing the water: in winter we can run it straight into the huge storm drain along the road…

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.35.17 pm

…in spring we can direct it into 15,000 litres worth of tanks inside the stable; and in summer we can pipe it out into the “mud pit” along the ridge but a good distance from the stables. This trickle feeds the paddock and orchard from the top in both directions.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 6.48.58 am

As an old horse property, the soils were compressed and sour when we arrived. We’ve spent a lot of time improving soil function, including liming and putting in the no till garden beds one by one.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 6.52.13 am

We’ve nearly reached the 2,000 milestone for native trees, shrubs and grasses, so I’ve turned my attention to planting more tagasaste about the place for superior drought tolerant stock fodder and shelter.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 7.07.15 am

All of these strategies work in conjunction in four dimensions. In total, it’s a great example of designing from patterns to detail, and is the primary lesson of our PDC Internship programme. Our interns may not go on to manage farms, but everyone of them will go on to live in a world of increasing extreme weather events.

Peace, Estwing

Designing for Climate Change II

In the first post I wrote about stabilising the stream banks and feeding out pollarded willows to the goats. I also mentioned the casuarina and cabbage trees planted in the riparian corridor. Here is an image of them.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.16.59 pm

Much of this work designing for climate change came after the 2015 Whanganui floods. Here is a picture of the neighbours place the day after.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.28.33 pm

This is the neighbour on the other side. Lots of dead sheep.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 3.59.40 pm

But truth be told we had started our work before the June flood. As a matter of fact, just two days before the storm hit the Whanganui region I was finishing up a French drain around our home with the help of my daughter.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.36.44 pm

Because it was mid-June we were also preparing our garlic for planting later that night.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.37.08 pm

At least someone enjoyed the weather.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.37.29 pm

Our calf, Heidi, weathered the storm down in the valley. Note the culvert that I am clearing in the image below and keep it in mind when viewing the image that follows.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.38.17 pm

The willow in the foreground gives you the relative location of the culvert, which you can’t even see due to the extensive plantings along the stream following fencing off the riparian corridor.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.15.47 pm

But this post should really be about the hillsides, where slips occur, and how to reduce the risks of future slipping. We have planted over 100 3-metre poplar poles that come from the regional government. They should be soaked for a week before planting 700 mm deep in mid-winter.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.33.37 pm

We locate them mostly in the valleys where water is concentrated during storms.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.17.34 pm

After three winters of planting, we are now up to the upper slopes. On the side of the farm with the goats we use tree guards and on the side with the kune kune pigs we do not use them.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.17.57 pm

But I am told that it takes seven years for the roots of poplars to grow broad enough to hold the hillsides against slips, which raises the question: what to do during the intermediate years to prevent slips from taking out the poplars? Our answer has been targeted drainage.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.18.20 pm

There are certain areas where we can capture concentrated surface runoff on the hillsides and leapfrog it over the most vulnerable slopes. This is not ideal, but may be a reality in a world of increasing extreme weather events.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.18.33 pm

In summer we take the pipes down and store them under trees out of direct sunlight. This preserves the plastic pipes and retains water high on the landscape during the dry season. It is an expensive measure but part of what I call Triage Permaculture. Seasonally installing and dis-installing the pipes is part of what I call four-dimensional design management.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.29.45 pm

Sadly, we’ve also had a neighbour dumping water onto our land illegally, which has caused an additional slip.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.29.31 pm

Because they will not take responsibility for their own water as prescribed under The Building Act, I have had to put in a drain and a sump (made from a flower pot) and more plastic pipe to redirect the water away from the vulnerable area.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.29.14 pm

We’ve also put in a surface drain to draw stormwater away from the top of the slip, which is dangerously close to a fence and a major farm track.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.18.48 pm

This has all been a massive effort requiring tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours labour. But at the end of the day, if I want my children to inherit a resilient farm there really is no other option.

 

Peace, Estwing

Designing for Climate Change

Above all else, we design our farm for climate change. Primarily this means drought-proofing and flood-proofing simultaneously. While we employ many strategies along these lines, here is one that is very straight-forward.

In June, 2015 Whanganui experienced an extreme rain event that caused slips and erosion on our farm. In one area approximately 30 cubic metres of stream bank disappeared overnight.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 9.35.53 am

When we went to inspect it the next day we were awed by the destructive power of the water.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 9.36.21 am

The flood was so powerful is sheered fencing wire through pure tension.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 9.37.45 am

From that day – just 10 months into our ownership of the farm – our thinking about how to manage the 13 acre property took a drastic change. We fenced over 400 metres of stream, planted over 2,000 trees, and put in another 500 metres of fencing to exclude stock from sensitive areas.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 9.58.21 am

Along the stream we planted a host of native species including grasses and cabbage trees known for their fibrous root systems that hold soil in place. We also planted over 100 Australian casuarina, also known as sheoak and river oak.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 9.40.19 am

As an emergency measure we drove willow poles into the stream bank in the worst effected areas. We intended to use the willow and sheoak as stock fodder – easily pollarding it and dropping branches over the fence for eager goats.

Over the last two years the willows have grown up to the point where this week we were able to cut branches for the goats for the first time. Although we’re not in a drought at the moment this is the type of emergency stock feeding we’ve designed for in case of long periods with no rain.

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 9.49.17 am

Willow is healthy stock fodder. Here is great link to a resource explaining all about it: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/poplars-and-willows-fodder

At the end of the day, by fencing the stream and planting its riparian corridor with the proper species we are able to flood-proof and drought-proof this section of our farm simultaneously. In a future of increased extreme weather events it seems like the only viable option.

 

Peace, Estwing

French Drains

For most people, their home is their most valuable asset.

Most homes in New Zealand are framed with wood.

Keeping water away from wooden structures is essential to keeping them in good condition.

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 9.19.25 am

The home we bought nearly four years ago has issues: drainage issues. Nearly everything was done poorly or wrong, and it has been a long process sorting things out.

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 9.18.33 am

One major project was installing a French drain along the high side of the home to reduce the amount of water making its way underneath.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 7.53.40 pm

French drains come in two flavours.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 5.34.02 am

I definitely favour the open drain because I a want to minimise the chances of soil or roots clogging up the drain.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 5.35.15 am

I bought in a load of stone to make sure I had plenty to work with.

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 9.18.50 am

My daughter helped digging and moving stone.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 7.54.06 pm

I couldn’t run the water around the house so I had to go under. I used a sump as the transition to a non-perforated pipe that runs on a slight slope to the low side of the house and then over the bank and down the hillside.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 7.55.17 pm

In the end it makes a tidy edge to the damp side of the home.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 7.54.29 pm

Peace, Estwing