Category Archives: Eco Thrifty Life

The Resilient Farm Tour

Extremes of climate put pressure on farmers and food production worldwide that is only expected to increase.

On Kaitiaki Farm we’ve spent the last six years developing strategies to ‘climate proof’ our farm against the extremes of both drought and flood. These include: protecting slopes; planting the riparian corridor; wetland restoration; soil improvement; multiple approaches to water management; diverse income streams; and more.

Because of a diversity of land forms, slope aspects and micro-climates Kaitiaki Farm is an ideal place to learn many different and holistic approaches to land management. It is a walk-through textbook in permaculture.

23rd April, 1-5pm followed by an optional meal. $60, + meal $25

Registration essential: theecoschool@gmail.com

Kaitiaki Farm is a  5.1 hectare (13 acre) property located 4 km outside Whanganui, New Zealand. We operate as a mixed-use operation leveraging niche markets for annual crops, perennial crops, nursery trees and animals. 

Our primary interests lie in holistic land management, regenerative agriculture, market gardening, appropriate technology, renewable energy and human-scale solutions, as well as home building and renovation. 

New Year Permaculture Update

The farm is thriving as we enter 2021.

The 3,000+ trees we’ve planted have benefitted from recent summer rains, especially the stone and pip fruit orchard. Shown below are plums in the foreground and apples in the background.

Earlier this week we were gifted about 80 avocado, walnut and macadamia trees. We borrowed a friend’s van and took a day trip to Waikanae to collect them.

They’ve been placed in the back of the nursery for some TLC before being planted out. They join peach, oak, guava, fig, and olive saplings along with grape vines.

Meanwhile our avocado trees have set next season’s fruit while still hanging onto this season’s.

We’ve had an excellent garlic harvest this season and now it’s been hung to dry.

We’ll be selling organic seed garlic starting in April.

The goats are producing plenty of milk…

…and we’re making halloumi multiple times each week.

We’ve had two litters of piglets with another on the way.

Heaps of tomatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins and cucumbers in the ground but rabbits have eaten all of our beans and snap peas.

Lots more going on but to be honest I need to head out the door and get to work.

Peace, Estwing

The Spice of Life

I’ve been growing garlic organically for two decades and this may have been the best harvest yet.

After a crop failure two years ago due to ‘rust’ I was considering giving up. But instead I made some alterations. Last years crop was small in quantity but huge in bulb size and amazing flavour.

This year was even better.

Here is a blog I wrote a number of years ago explaining some of my key strategies and techniques.

https://www.fix.com/blog/how-to-grow-garlic/https://www.fix.com/blog/how-to-grow-garlic/

The photo below is of three farm interns and our daughter taken four years ago.

We sell top quality organic seed garlic across New Zealand by post from April through July. Pre-orders welcome: theecoschool@gmail.com

Nga mihi, Estwing

Fruit Set

Although I’ve seen fewer bees on the farm this spring than usual the fruit set has been excellent. The weather has been relatively good for stone fruit and pip fruit and we especially welcome the rains forecast for this week pre-summer.

Below are a selection of plums, peaches, apples, pears, quinces, blueberries, grapes and of course lemons.

The featured image is Manu next to his lock-down Birthday Strawberry Bed!

Peace, Estwing

Friends of the Eco School

2021 Membership: Individual $40; Whanau $50

Benefits:

2021 Permaculture Calendar

Organic Garlic Bulb

Family-Friendly Farm Day – Registration Required.

20% Discount off Plants

20% Discount off Workshops

10% off Consultation Services: Permaculture Design; Healthy Homes; New Build; Home Renovation

Bi-monthly e-updates.

Plus every Membership funds a Scholarship to a Workshop for a Community Services Card holder!

Workshops:

Whenua

Building Beautiful (garden) Beds

Easy Tomatoes and Pumpkins

Growing Great Garlic

Fruit Tree Pruning Basics

DIY Chicken Tractor

Reading the Landscape

Organic Gardening Master Class

Intro to Permaculture

Goats 101

Whare

The Affordable Eco Home

Dealing with Damp Sections

Double Glazing DIY Options

Solar Cookers & Dehydrators and Rocket Stoves

Plants:

Seed garlic

Black Boy Peach trees

Tree Lucerne (Tagasaste)

Strawberry Guava

Albany Surprise Grape

Flax

Join today! theecoschool@gmail.com

Equinox Permaculture Update

Kai ora koutou! What beautiful spring weather we have had the past three days!

The sunshine and warmth following recent rains have created the perfect conditions for new growth. Some signs of spring on our farm include: our black boy peach trees in full bloom;

last years peach stones beginning to germinate;

strawberries blossoming;

the broad beans not knocked over by the wind are flowering

Meanwhile our garlic is flourishing;

I have planted my early tomatoes;

and we have three new kid goats.

Peace, Estwing

The Affordable Eco-Home: 12th September

This workshop is part of the 7th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend. Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 5.05.35 pm

Saturday 12th , 4-6 PM: Building an Affordable Eco-Home: Key Points.

This workshop covers key aspects of designing and building a new home in an urban or rural location including: orientation; materials; energy performance; ventilation; windows & doors; insulation; self-build options; reusing materials; waste water and composting toilets.

$45 p/p, $70 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

 

6 Years Hard Yakka

We’ve reached our 6th anniversary on the land so I had a wander the other morning to capture some of our progress. We’ve focused on a number of areas over this time, primarily on fencing and planting the stream and hillsides to prevent erosion and slips. These efforts have been documented thoroughly in this blog so feel free to scroll through previous posts.

We’ve also worked hard on establishing animal systems to enhance our land management. This too has been thoroughly documented.

Early on we established an orchard and harakeke wind break, but it’s hard to see the deciduous fruit trees in winter. In this image you can see guava and feijoa and olives and loquat.

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And finally there are the market gardens, which went on the back burner when we were doing all of the above.

I am particularly proud of the avocado mounds with tagasaste nurse trees. Four of these five trees are fruiting and nearly ready to harvest. Yum.

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Yet it continues…

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Peace, Estwing

The Power of Nature…and Community

It’s often advised to live on a property for a year before developing a permaculture design. After 11 months on our small farm, disaster struck.

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The 2015 flood swelled the Whanganui River and its feeder streams. This is from the New Zealand Herald at the time: “On Saturday, June 20, one month’s worth of rain fell on Wanganui in 24 hours. That night and early Sunday morning the surging Whananui River brought the worst flooding on record. The resultant flood saw the city cut off and about 400 people evacuated mainly in Putiki, Aramoho and Wanganui East. The Whanganui River breached its banks around midnight on Saturday, spilling floodwater into the central business district.”

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Two kilometres from Te Awa Tupua up a side valley, we set out on the morning of June 21st – 5 years ago – to survey the damage, which occurred in both the forms of slips and the loss of stream banks.

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The power of the flooding stream sheared off fencing wire.

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Here is the elevated stream on Sunday morning the 21st five years ago…

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…and now after fencing off and planting the stream corridor with over 2,000 natives.

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That weather event has been on my mind ever since. It has guided our priorities, decision making, spending, and significantly honed our approach to land design and management. I have written extensively about these topics over the last half decade, but in this post I want to reflect on the progress we’ve made and to thank those who’ve helped.

Kaitiakitanga

Before the storm event I had ordered 20 poplar poles from Horizons Regional Council but had not planted them yet – luckily as we would have lost some in the slips. But after the storm our ambitions for land protection expanded far beyond a handful of poplars, as did our relationship with Horizons, who came to the table with advice, financial support and hundreds of native plants.

Our relationship to the land shifted from one of management to one of kaitiakitanga – guardianship. This is from teara.govt.nz:  “Kaitiakitanga means guardianship and protection. It is a way of managing the environment, based on the Māori world view. A kaitiaki is a guardian. This can be a person or group that cares for an area such as a lake or forest.”

We felt a strong urge to protect, restore and enhance our land for the long term. Our priorities shifted from market gardening, raising lambs and a house cow to tree planting and water management. We’ve retired grazing areas and protected wetlands. During the last five years we’ve planted over 3,000 trees, shrubs, wetland grasses and flax in order to stabilise hillsides and stream banks. The efforts started with fencing off the stream with the financial help of Horizons Regional Council and the mad skills of my mate Gavo, who taught me how to brace posts and strain wires.

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Others slept on the job.

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To date we have strung about 2.5 kilometres of fence on the farm as part of our resilient management strategy, which has been thoroughly described in previous blog posts.

On Sunday we hosted our seventh planting bee in five years. We enjoy inviting ‘townies’ out to the farm to get their hands dirty and help our restoration efforts. Hundreds of students, children, parents and adult volunteers have participated. The events are less about getting so many trees planted and more about sharing our love of the land…and some yummy kai!

In addition to the native plantings we have planted 150 poplar poles supplied by Horizons and established a mixed fruit tree orchard, a hillside olive grove, and avocado orchard.

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Our first group: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho students.

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho students.

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Before (above) & After with pig shelter (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Arohanui and thanks to all the friends, interns and volunteers who have planted trees with us. Special thanks to Horizons Regional Council, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho, Wanganui Garden Centre, Bunnings, Whanganui Collegiate School, YMCA Central, Springvale Play Centre, Rob Bartrum, Chris Cresswell, and Gavin Coveny. Chur.

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Peace, Estwing

Making A Pallet Milking Stand

We have had new additions to our milking goats…

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…and so I decided to build another new milking stand. But I wanted to see what could be done with a pallet.

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First I cut out a section that will allow for a comfortable seat for the milker.

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With a bit of niggle I got sturdy legs in place, diagonal bracing, and a feed box made from an old drawer.

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To make a pivot for the stanchion I used – what else! – Number 8 Wire.

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The Kiwi fix-all! (The extra wire also binds the pallet to the bearer.)

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The last thing I added was a platform (old cabinet door) so the goats hooves won’t slip through the cracks (although they are amazingly sure-footed) and for easy cleaning. Two pins hold the door in place that can be lifted out so that it can be removed and washed.

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Just add goats.

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Peace, Estwing