All posts by Estwing

Growing Avocados in Heavy Soils

Our climate suits avocados but not our soils, so we made modifications: in this case digging a drain, building a mound and planting tagasaste.

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Here is how we went about that over the last four years: https://ecothriftylife.com/2017/01/01/permaculture-four-dimensional-design-case-study-creating-a-micro-ecosystem-for-avocados-in-a-marginal-location/

This is the mound two years on from the image above, as we actively prune out the tagasaste and allow the avocados to grow up through.

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This is an example of using tagasaste as ‘nurse trees’: you can see them pruned out as the avo grows.

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And here is that tree on planting day two years ago.

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Here is our intern, Rikke, planting that tree in 2017.

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Here is another intern, Oliver, planting another avocado that day.

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And here it is today.

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Yum! Can’t wait.

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Weekend 2019: 7th-8th September

The 7th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend is scheduled for 7th-8th September, following as usual the Festival of Adult Learning (formerly Adult Learner’s Week). Thanks to Adult and Community Education Aotearoa (ACE) we’re able to offer a full week of events for the community in addition to Permaculture Weekend.

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Workshops, presentations and tours to include: Small backyard gardens; Basic care for fruit trees; Reducing plastic waste at home; Renter’s rights and responsibilities; Ensuring a healthy rental property (for landlords); Permaculture Farm Tour; more events to be posted soon.

 

Contact: theecoschool@gmail dot com

Farm Design: The BIG Picture:

Thanks to a drone picture from our interns, I can explain a bit about our farm design from a different perspective. While this image only shows a small part of the farm it does capture an intersection of farm systems.

One of the first major changes we made on the farm was fence off a remnant wetland in 2016 and plant native grasses, flax, shrubs and trees. The aims are to improve water quality, control erosions, provide habitat, and increase biological diversity.

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Next we bisected the valley with fencing and designated one side for goats and one side for kune kune pigs. On the goat side – where you can see the bee hives – we’ve planted around 50 poplar poles to stabilise the slopes. Each of these is protected by a heavy duty plastic sleeve to prevent the goats from stripping the bark.

On the pig side we have planted around 40 poplars, 32 olives, and 60 akeake trees, all of which are unprotected because the pigs eat grass but do not browse trees.

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Next we fenced the rest of the stream, which goes far beyond the picture shown here. Along this stretch of stream we’ve planted primarily cabbage trees and Australian river oak (casuarina). Both are known to have fibrous root systems that are good at holding stream banks.

Part of this area contains a small hillside formerly covered in gorse and thistles, as well as another remnant wetland. We’ve planted more native trees, flax and willows there. This area can be used as an emergency browse block in case of severe drought.

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The area under the pines provides seasonal grazing as needed. We can rotate the goats or  pigs through this area to rest other paddocks.

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Most of the farm has poor soil drainage that does not suit avocado trees. But there is a shelf of land above the stream that has better drainage that will host 30 to 40 trees. We’ve fenced this area temporarily to establish tagasaste (tree lucerne) as a companion to the avocados.

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The olives are on the dry and windy hillside above the avocados.

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We planted 40 ake ake on a dry hillside on one side of the large poplars seen in the middle of the image and another 20 on the other side of them. Ake ake are well adapted to dry conditions.

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In the short term we are having to hand water many of these trees, but in the long term they will contribute to the resilience of the farm. Trees help build resilience to both drought and flood. We’ve planted over 2,000 in the last four years.

At present the bees are managed by a contractor who pays us an annual fee. We have a good diversity of flowering plants that provide more-or-less year-round bee fodder.

Peace, Estwing

 

Progress

I never take enough “Before” pictures, but in this case I think I may have. Disaster can do that for you.

After the 2015 floods and land slips we changed the priorities on the farm, including planting 125 poplar poles (so far) on the slopes.

Before & After 2

The stream took a beating that day, but has recovered to a certain extent thanks to a whole lot of work by a whole lot of people.

Before & After 3

We fenced the stream off from stock in August, 2016 and since then have planted over 1,800 native trees, shrubs, grasses and flax along its banks.

Before & After 4

A big thanks goes out to Horizons Regional Council, our farm interns, school groups, and others who have helped plant and care for over 2,000 natives and counting.

Before & After 1

Arohanui, Estwing

Creating Magical Spaces for Children…and Adults

Sometimes I like to take a break from farm work and build cool things for my kids.

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Yesterday morning was one such time. Taking a break from mid-summer’s chores in the market garden and orchard I grabbed my favourite materials – driftwood and number 8 wire – and started creating.

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My intent was to give the story circle a greater sense grandeur and mystery by surrounding it with gnarly driftwood poles.

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This is similar to what I did for the entrance to the playground two years ago.

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We recently expanded the story circle and planted sunflowers around it. Come February it will look really cool.

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What fun taking a break from growing food to release creative energy in a different way.

Here are some other examples of creative projects.

https://ecothriftylife.com/2015/12/17/creating-magical-moments-for-children-without-creating-rubbish/

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https://ecothriftylife.com/2018/07/01/plastic-free-playground/

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https://ecothriftylife.com/2017/01/04/backyard-driftwood-playground-wonderland/

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https://ecothriftylife.com/2017/02/25/a-living-willow-bridge/

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A much bigger project that has taken years to ‘build’ is the ‘nature play’ area along Purua Stream. It’s been 26 months since we finished fencing the stream and started planting the 2,000+ native trees, shrubs and grasses.

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The native plants are thriving and have created a cozy nook where children explore nature on their own terms.

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Children, teachers and parents can create lasting memories within this little ‘slice of heaven’ tucked along Purua Stream on Kaitiaki Farm.

 

Peace, Estwing