All posts by Estwing

Late Summer Permaculture Update

Sorry we have not posted a ‘permaculture update’ in ages. We’ve been busy with our great interns plus this is the busiest time of year for fruit and vegetable production.

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As always, our summer crops focus on tomatoes and squash/pumpkin.

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Lots of Black Boy peaches and Monty’s Surprise apples.

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The yakon we planted is going well.

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The first Jerusalem Artichoke are flowering.

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After pruning, the avocados are showing new growth.

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We’ve got trays and trays of tagasaste going.

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On the animal front, the flock of muscovies has grown dramatically with over one hundred ducklings hatched.

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We have a Billy now so we hope to have kids in five to six months time.

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And appears we may have piglets any day.

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Peace, Estwing

Solar Power: When, How and Where is it Right for You?

Passive solar home design is always a good idea, but if you’re not building or renovating what are the best choices for using solar energy at home?

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We are offering a pair of workshops on solar power both low-tech and high-tech.

Sunday, 26th March 2017

Whanganui, New Zealand

Workshop 1) Solar and Alternative Cooking for Fun or Emergency.

Emergency preparedness is just as important as day-to-day sustainable living in a volatile world where power outages are possible without warning. We will cover a variety of solar cookers, rocket stoves, and ‘the best solar dehydrator’ design. 4-5 pm. $10

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Workshop 2) Solar Electricity and Solar Hot Water: Making informed investment decisions.

There is a lot of hype and misinformation when it comes to domestic solar energy. The bottom line is that it may not be a sound economic investment for most NZ households. Find out if and how it may be right for you? 5-6 pm. $20

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Space is limited. Preregistration essential. theecoschool at gmail dot com.

Peace Estwing

Selling a Dream: Outstanding Permaculture Property

Could this be the best value permaculture property in New Zealand?

Lovingly renovated seaside villa combines old and new to achieve a sunny, warm, dry and comfortable home while retaining distinctive retro character.

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Over the three years we lived here our power bills averaged $26 per month while running a refrigerator, freezer, washer, hob, jug, wifi, etc, and enjoying abundant hot water.

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Much of the interior features native hardwood built-ins such as this three and a half metre rimu shelf unit.

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And this bespoke totara and rimu vanity.

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The kitchen features hardwood shelving with antique lead light doors and vintage light shades, along with a new Tasmanian oak floor and cosy old school Shacklock cooker.

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With great indoor/outdoor flow, the living spaces are bright and airy throughout the day.

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A pizza oven and vege gardens are just outside the French doors.

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The private back yard is lined with fruit trees and natives while retaining enough lawn for a play.

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Over 30 productive fruit trees fill the 700 square metre section.

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Grapes and Jerusalem artichoke fill the spaces in between.

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New roof, new cladding, insulation and solar hot water are among the features of this highly resilient home.

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This property has been featured by the national and international media and represents a gold standard in suburban permaculture. The renovation is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s current project: RetroSuburbia.

All of this can be yours for 85% less than the average bog standard Auckland home.

Enquiries through the blog’s home page. Or comment.

Peace, 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