Category Archives: Eco Thrifty Life

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 to tours twice a year: March and September.

Kaitiaki is an exemplar permaculture farm where we engage whole systems design and management in food production, land restoration and water management. The internationally recognised ‘learning farm’ draws students from over 20 nations to enrol in the eight-week PDC internship programme.

Our focus is on resilient farming and regenerative agriculture.

 

Saturday 23rd March

11:00-12:30. 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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1:30-3:00. Innovative Cookers and Dehydrators. This hands-on workshop covers the use and construction solar dehydrators and rocket stoves as well as solar cookers.

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3:30-4:30. The Affordable Eco Home Tour. This is a chance to have a look at a low-cost high-performance passive solar home. This smart design requires virtually no heating or cooling costs. Featured in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.

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$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.

Location: Okoia, Whanganui.

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

Bush Restoration: Permaculture Zone 5

It’s been two years since we fenced off and started planting the stream and remnant wetland on our farm to native species, with 2,000 plants in the ground thanks largely to Horizons Regional Council, our farm interns, and local schools.

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Before fencing and planting the stream was in rough shape. Our stock was grazing up to the water line and putting pressure on the banks.

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This is a photo of the day after the 2015 floods showing the culvert just below a bend in Purua Stream. The water overtopped the culvert by almost half a metre.

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This is a photo of the same area this month. Note the two large willow trees in each photo.

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We have dedicated this area, which is used for outdoor education with children, to Dr. Chris Cresswell who helped plant trees here two years ago. We call the area “Chris Cressant” because of the bend in the stream.

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This week we found a giant kokopu living in the pool underneath the culvert. Screen Shot 2018-10-25 at 5.57.07 am

In June we found an eel just upstream of the culvert, which appears to indicate that the concrete rubble ‘fish ladder’ we built has been effective at allowing aquatic species to get through the formerly ‘perched culvert’ and upstream to the restored wetland.

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Horizons is back again arranging more school plantings along Purua Stream on our farm and hopefully other land owners will do the same. What a difference it will make for everyone living downstream, which includes much of the Whanganui community.

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To get your school involved contact Horizons Regional Council or contact us at Kaitiaki Farm, www.theecoschool.net

Peace, Estwing

Drainage Around the Home

When asked at 3 years of age, “What is Dada good at?” my daughter answered, “Digging!”

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Both before and after the Whanganui floods of 2015 I have focused on drainage on the farm and especially around the house where pretty much everything had been done wrong – causing a lot of water to flow underneath leading to serious damage over the last three decades.

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Managing water can be done well or can be done poorly. I took this photo at work one day.

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It is important to direct water away from homes. Retrofitting drainage where it has been done poorly can be difficult and expensive. Along with a number of other approaches – including cutting channels in concrete – I put in a French drain on the high-side (South) of the house.

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Ironically I finished the drain two days before the 2015 floods.

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The perforated pipe runs the length of the south wall.

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It’s surrounded by stone and wrapped with filter cloth.

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Water flows through the stone and into the pipe.

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Stone covers the filter cloth to keep it tidy and out of the sun.

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At the southwest corner the perforated pipe enters a sump and then flows under the entire home on a gentle slope through a solid pipe to the north side, and then away from the structure.

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Any amount of drainage that directs water away from a home is important!

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Peace, Estwing

Making Goats Cheese

After a mid-winter break we are back to making goats cheese on the farm.

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We had a cosy Friday afternoon/evening by the cooker warming the milk (and making a shepherds pie for dinner.)

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We heated about eight litres of milk to just below boiling and then added 700 ml of lemon juice.

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After about 30 minutes we poured the contents into a cheese cloth and let the whey drain out. (We have mixed the whey with grains to feed to the chickens and ducks.)

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The final result is about 2 kg of cheese.

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Thanks for our new intern, Jasmine, for taking some of these and many other great photos of ongoings on the farm.

 

Peace, Estwing

Disbudding Goats for Rednecks Like Me

Horns on goats can cause problems. For me, the greatest concern is animal welfare – in other words, a goat sticking its head through a fence and getting stuck because the horns act as a one-way barb. Two or three days in the hot summer sun can lead to death.

In nature there are no fences so horns do not pose this risk. But in farming there are heaps of fences so we need to design our animal systems with that in mind. We take animal welfare very seriously, so I’ve learned to disbud young kids to prevent horn growth.

I watched some youtube videos and looked at this site.

The first time we tried it my helper who was holding the kid flinched at the wrong moment and we ended up with a unicorn.

So I have added another element to my redneck operation in order to hold the head and neck steady during the process.

This heavy vice works perfectly with a towel draped over it for cushioning. It worked as planned for two kids this morning – they were held in place by my helper who did not flinch at all. (Note: Do not tighten the vice!!!)

My disbudding tool is a pipe of the right size with an improvised but sturdy handle. (Note: Sorry, no duct tape on hand at the time.)

The disbudder has to be hot enough to burn a circle in a piece of wood. I use my camping stove to heat it.

I also use my clippers to shave the area around the buds so I can see everything and because I’m not fond of the smell of burning hair. (I also trimmed my beard at the time as long as I had the clippers out of the cupboard.)

Apply heat for 10 seconds before horns break through the buds – usually between three and ten days after birth. The kids exhibit no signs of post-traumatic stress as they are returned to mum for a quick drink of milk and then frolicking with their mates in the paddock.  

Rednecks rule!

Peace, Estwing

Building Beautiful Beds

We’ve run this workshop three times this year with great feedback. I promised to summarise the process, so here goes.

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Step 1) Lay polythene for five months or longer to kill the perennial grasses and weeds. We cover our polythene with mulch to prevent UV degradation of the plastic and to make the market gardens look nicer. After 20 weeks peel back the much and reuse it somewhere, and then lift the polythene.

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Step 2) Loosen the compacted soil. We use stainless steel broad forks that I had welded up by a friend for a box of beer. Any broad fork will do or garden fork. The point is to mechanically break up the soil. First go lengthwise.

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Then go crosswise.

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Step 3) Break up the soil cubes you’ve just formed into smaller chunks. This is best done when the soil is not too wet and not too dry. It may pay to wait a day or two before doing this step. A rake or a hoe or a garden fork or a spade can be used.

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Step 4) Form beds. Standing on one side of the 1.2 metre wide bed rake the path from the other side up onto he bed. The switch sides and repeat.

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Step 5) Continue to pulverise the soil and rake the beds flat with a back and forth motion to prepare a fine planting surface.

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The end result is a series of raised rows in a no-dig system easily maintained with a stirrup hoe.

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Peace, Estwing