Category Archives: Eco Thrifty Life

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

Solstice Permaculture Update

The longest day of the year has arrived in the southern hemisphere, and it is all on for Kaitiaki Farm. Some 200-odd fruit trees are setting fruit, including apples, apricots, American paw paw, blueberries, avocados, black currants, feijoas, figs, guavas, grapes, nectarines, olives, pears, plums, peaches, persimmons, prune, and quince.

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The market gardens are pumping.

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We harvested the winter crop of broad beans and made about 10 litres of falafel mix.

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We have been milking three goats since September and making goats cheese twice a week.

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Here are the kids.

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Finally, we have been selling grape vines, peach trees, muscovy ducklings, kune kune pigs. Garlic goes on sale tomorrow.

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After 4 & 1/2 years, a kilometre of new fencing, and 2,500 trees planted the farm is hitting its stride. Our regenerative systems are in place and natural processes are now doing most of the work.

Happy Solstice, Estwing

Zero Tolerance Weeds

I have been farming and/or market gardening for nearly two decades. One of the first lessons I learned (the hard way) was the importance of proactive weed management. Bind weed (convolvulus) made its way onto my land (New Hampshire, USA) in a load of organic matter meant for composting.

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On a tour of another small organic farm in Keene, New Hampshire, I observed first hand how it can take over entire fields of vegetable plants. Scary stuff.

Yesterday while top-feeding some transplanted feijoa trees I recognised the familiar pattern I had come to loath.

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I dug it up as best I could to get as much of the root as possible.

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I don’t believe in putting weeds and diseased plants in plastic rubbish bags and sending them to landfill as is often recommended – I just can’t do it. So I put the convolvulus in the solar dehydrator, which we are not actively using at the moment but will be using in another months time.

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The hot, dry air inside the dehydrator will dry out and completely kill the weed. Then I’ll probably put it on an iron shed roof for the rest of the hot summer. No Mercy for invasive weeds.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping weeds off your farm with a Zero Tolerance policy early on will pay off in the long run.

 

Peace Estwing

Kaitiaki Farm Weekend 2019: 23rd-24th March

We open the farm each year in March for tours and workshops.

Kaitiaki is an exemplar permaculture farm just outside Whanganui, New Zealand. The farm is managed holistically for food production, land restoration and water management. We focus on resilient farming and regenerative agriculture.

 

Saturday 23rd March

12:30-2:00. Innovative Cookers and Dehydrators. This hands-on workshop covers the use and construction solar dehydrators and rocket stoves and demonstrates three different solar cookers.

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2:00-3:30. Building and Managing Weed-Free Garden Beds. This hands-on workshop covers all the steps for converting a lawn or paddock easily into a low-maintenance/high-productivity garden.

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4:00-5:00. Growing Great Garlic. Learn some tips for growing delicious garlic organically. Fee includes one bulb of seed garlic and five litres of compost.

$20 each or $50 for all three.

Meals and accommodation available. Please inquire for options and prices.

 

Sunday 24th March

9:00-3:00. Permaculture Farm Tour. We run a fully-integrated diverse operation on 5.1 hectares integrating plants and animals in distinct relationships based on potential synergies.

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The morning session covers what would be considered permaculture zones 0 – 3 focusing on eco-building and alternative energy, market gardening, hot composting, tractoring fowl, soil fertility, water management, wind breaks, and orchard planning.

The afternoon session covers what would be considered permaculture zones 3 – 5 focusing on water management, erosion control, slope and stream bank stabilization, browse blocks/pollarding stock fodder, and wetland restoration.

$75 Individuals, $120 Couples. Includes Lunch.

Register: theecoschool@ gmail dot com

Location: Okoia, Whanganui.

Primary Tutor: Dr. Nelson Lebo is an eco design professional with two decades experience in permaculture.