Category Archives: Eco Thrifty Life

Mid-Winter Permaculture Update

Close to the shortest day of the year we’ve discovered a hatch of 11 ducklings walking across a paddock. We moved them to a protective pen to keep them safe from predators.

Earlier in the day I captured some images of other things happening on the farm, such as these young citrus trees.

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The garlic is starting to grow in the market gardens.

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After four years we have our first avocado.

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The broad beans are thriving in the cool weather.

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Yakon is ready to harvest.

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Peace, Estwing

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New Crops

Growing up outside of Detroit in the 1970s I never heard about avocados or persimmons. I would have been over 20 before I encountered either. That makes growing them on our farm all the more exciting. We’ve got our first crop of each, however how small.

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Avos nearly ready.

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We also grew ‘yams’ (oxalis tuberosa) for the first time and dug some yesterday.

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And celery – I had no idea what a long season crop this it!

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Always exciting growing a new crop for the first time.

 

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Internship: Paying-It-Forward

Interns come to Kaitiaki Farm for 8 weeks at a time to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate. That’s not long enough to grow anything from seed to plate except radishes or maybe salad greens depending on the time of year. As a result, we’ve developed a form of ‘paying-it-forward’ from one group to the next in the annual garden, or even from season to season by making and freezing pesto or broad bean falafal or sliced peaches, loquats and feijoas.

One group plants tomatoes that they will never eat, but enjoys crown pumpkin, spaghetti squash, dried chilis, and dehydrated apples grown and prepared by other interns months earlier.

The most recent group has been able to experience much of the best aspects of harvest season and their work in the annual gardens has been relatively light. But instead they’ve been planting natives along the stream, helping put up firewood, and transitioning the beds to winter crops such as broad beans, brassicas and garlic. They have even helped organise and run a Curtain Bank for the Whanganui community, to help low-income families keep their homes warmer during the coming winter months.

Previous groups have helped with drainage on the land, built animal shelters and chicken tractors, and planted poplar poles, avocados, olives, and around 2,000 native plants. Each group makes compost that will be used by future groups and raises ducklings or chicks that they won’t see as full grown.

Paying-it-forward on Kaitiaki Farm may serve as an example of what is sorely lacking in much of the rest of contemporary human society. Instead of paying-it-forward we see rampant stealing from future generations in terms of biodiversity, climate, and financial debt.

Even during an 8-week permaculture internship one can only learn so much. So instead of trying to ‘teach’ heaps of ‘stuff’ we take the approach of helping to develop a more holistic vision and four-dimensional design thinking skills. As our interns plant vegetable seeds in the gardens and native seeds in pots in the nursery, as instructors we’re planting seeds of the ethical approach to ecological design that is permaculture. Once interns leave the farm we rely on them to spread out across the planet and pay-it-forward in communities worldwide. We need to make sure they are well nourished for such a weighty job.

Peace, 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; Cheese Making; Reducing plastic waste at home; Renter’s rights and responsibilities; Ensuring a healthy rental property (for landlords); Permaculture Farm Tour; Heritage Seed Swap; Building weed-free garden beds; Forest schooling for children; and more events to be posted soon.

 

Saturday 7th September

9:00 – 1:00  River Traders Market: Whanganui’s Saturday Market

Whanganui’s Local Currency: The River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) has been operating in Whanganui for nearly 30 years and has had a stall at the Saturday market for over a decade. Come to the stall and learn more!

 

Flax Weaving with Tracey Young. Details Pending

 

1:00 – 3:00 Cheese Making: 30-Minute Mozzarella.

Learn to make 30 minute mozzarella cheese and then we’ll make a pizza with homemade sauce to enjoy the cheese. Recipe provided.
$20 per person

Bronwynne Dowson Anderson

Register: kiwibokslady@gmail.com

 

3:30 – 4:30 Basic Care for Fruit Trees

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. $10.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

 

4:30 – 5:30 Building & Maintaining Weed-Free Garden Beds

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. $10.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

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6:00 – 7:30 Shared Meal

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. Bring a plate to share.

 

Sunday 8th September

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9:00 – 12:00 Farm Tour: Diversity and Complimentary Systems

We manage a diverse 5 hectare farm integrating plants and animals to maximise benefits for land protection, food production and biodiversity. The property is unique in that it contains many distinct micro-climates within a relatively small area, and that we have been able to establish all five permaculture zones in less than half a decade. Kaitiaki is a model permaculture farm that serves as an outstanding learning place.

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. $45. Couples $75.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

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12:00-1:30 The Alternative Lunch

Learn about solar cookers and rocket stoves (and the world’s best solar dehydrator) while enjoying a delicious lunch using the ones we use regularly here on the farm. These tools are great for reducing energy use, saving money and resilience to power failures.

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. $20.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

 

2-4 PM Annual Heirloom Seed Swap! 

This is a chance to meet other Whanganui gardeners and to swap surplus heirloom and open pollinated seed that you have bought or saved. It will be a relaxed, friendly gathering with a cup of tea to follow.  If you have seedlings or plants you would like to share please bring these along too. You don’t need to have seed to share in order to partake.

Bring:   Details of your seeds such as a description, variety, date saved/use by date and any other notes you would like to share.

A pen and envelopes to take seed home in.

By donation

Whanganui Heritage Seed Savers

Quaker Meeting House, 256 Wicksteed Street.  
Queries: nangethepange@hotmail.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