Category Archives: growing food

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-25 at 6.53.38 am

Avos nearly ready.

Screen Shot 2019-05-25 at 6.53.59 am

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

Screen Shot 2019-05-25 at 6.54.39 am

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

Screen Shot 2019-05-25 at 6.54.16 am

Always exciting growing a new crop for the first time.

 

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Update: Avocado, Pork, Honey and Olive Block

We’ve reached a major milestone in the development of our perennial food systems on Kaitiaki Farm. The fencing is in and we’ve just built our kune kune pigs a shelter in the top corner of our valley horticulture block. (Note the hives in the background.)

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.15.58 pm

The pigs were very happy to see the new growth as the days get slightly longer.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.16.29 pm

The windy hillside has already been planted with olive trees. The higher slopes and stream have been planted with native trees, including many manuka for honey production.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.18.09 pm

We have over-wintered the avocado trees to protect them from frost, so they are still in their tubs. They will be planted further down the valley in the spring.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.16.56 pm

These tagasaste (tree lucerne) will act as nurse trees for the avocados next winter and beyond. By then these little seedlings will be over 1.5 metres tall.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.16.46 pm

Within a few years this view will be transformed into a textbook perennial polyculture food production system. Can’t wait.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.17.13 pm

A huge thanks to our friend and probably NZ’s best permaculture horticulturist, Rob Bartrum. Chu, bro.

 

Peace, Estwing

What I have Learned About (Permanent) Agriculture

When I arrived to New Zealand a month ago, I had no idea how it would be to work on a permaculture farm. I hardly had any idea of what permaculture was about. I grew up at a hobby farm with 190ha and have recently been working on a duck farm with 500ha, so I thought that the Lebo family’s 5ha would be ‘piece of cake’. But I was wrong!

16122348_10211495302365581_2118633362_o

My home country, Denmark is, like New Zealand a proud farm country. We produce a lot of grains and potatoes on our very flat landscape. I expected to see something similar here. But arriving in New Zealand has taught me that not only climate, but also landscape decides what the farmers grow and produce on their land. New Zealand has the most beautiful hilled landscape, where it’s often impossible to plow a field. Instead they produce a lot of wool and dairy from sheep and cows that easily graze on the hillsides.
The Lebo family has been taking advantage of the landscape of their property as well. Not only for their own benefit but also to benefit nature and the environment.

16129846_10211495301045548_431072028_o

Their farm is 99% organic, where vegetables are grown in the flat parts of the property, while cows, sheep and goats are fed with grass from the hillsides. They have rehabilitated the biology of the soil of a compacted horse field, where they today grow lots of garlic, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and different kinds of fruit trees. They have started rehabilitation of wetland on their property, and planted poplars to keep the soil from sliding down the hill. All of this has already proven worthwhile and will continue to pay off in the future, to them and to the environment, which I found out is exactly what permaculture is about. Permaculture (Permanent agriculture) is about working with nature instead of fighting against it.

Since the day I came to the farm, we have been working hard on both small and bigger projects. I have been fighting thorny thistles and gorse with loppers and a spade. I have been fencing in the hills, which I find ten times harder than fencing in flat Denmark. I have planted, transplanted and watered hundreds of trees and vegetables. I have been weeding, feeding and sweating in the burning sun and I got to know the world’s best tool; the stirrup hoe.

16129468_10211495316645938_556347326_o

At a permaculture farm you have a small scale but big variation in plants and animals, which gives you different kinds of chores than on a traditional farm, which is often specialised in a curtain plant or animal. I knew that farming was hard work, but at this farm we do everything by hand and tools. No machines. That is hard work – and fun work. It gives me skills that I have never thought, I would get, and I am looking forward to learning more the next few months.

-Rikke (from Randers, Denmark)

Growing Great Garlic

The keys to growing great garlic are these: start with high quality seed garlic; plant with ample balanced compost; mulch thoroughly; water as needed.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-7-01-54-am

Bed preparation is similar to any annual vegetable crop: remove perennial weeds; aerate the soil; adjust pH as needed.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-7-01-07-am

Planting is anytime between the beginning of June and end of July. The go-to date is 21st June. Here are some sprouts under a hard frost.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-7-02-18-am

Harvest is between mid-December and mid-January. The go-to date is 21st December.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-6-57-36-am

We grade it into three sizes: seed, sell and eat.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-6-57-46-am

We tie it into twin bundles of ten for easy counting and easy hanging.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-6-58-35-am

The Great Garlic Parade!

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-6-58-46-am

We hang it for three to four weeks and then cut off the tops and tails. It stores for up to 10 months.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-6-59-07-am

Wait six months and repeat the process.

Peace, Estwing

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

Following the flooding of last year most of our time, energy and money has gone into protecting our stream sides from further erosion, which appears to have accelerated since the flood. The process involves fencing off the streams from stock and planting lots and lots of trees, shrubs, flax and native grasses.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-23-22-pm

All of that work means I have spent hardly anytime in the annual gardens, except getting all of the garlic in before the end of July. We sold out last year and have about 2,000 in the ground this year. We are establishing new beds on an ongoing basis – converting an old horse property to annuals production is not easy.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-20-50-pm

Somehow a few months ago I quickly put some broccoli and cauliflower in the ground. It has thrived in the cool weather with heaps of great compost. Now we are reaping the benefits. This is my favourite variety – Marathon.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-21-59-pm

As per my tradition, I also planted Early Girl tomatoes on the 21 of September to ensure ripe tomatoes before Christmas. Can’t wait. These have been interplanted with garlic as a space-saving staggered planting technique.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-22-22-pm

Just this week the peach stones have started germinating. They have been in damp sand for about 4 months. We expect around 100 to germinate.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-21-34-pm

Here is an example of a yearling Black Boy peach trees, which are selling nicely at the moment. We sold out last year and expect to sell out again this year.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-20-24-pm

These were a great surprise this morning. In the years to come we hope to branch out into organic strawberries.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-21-25-pm

And these two arrived last week.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-20-35-pm

Never a dull moment and never a lack of jobs to do.

Peace, Estwing

Remaining Currant

About a year ago I got a request from a friend to prune her black currant bushes. She has lots of them.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 11.13.45 am

After I finished, I took the prunings home to distribute to other friends and to propagate for ourselves.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.29.20 pm

Now that they have been in the garden for a year establishing their root systems, we’ve transplanted them out into two rows, each about 20 metres long. They are just budding out now.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 6.49.29 am

Looking forward to a big harvest, but will probably have to wait until December, 2017 to get anything like this.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 11.13.54 am

 

Peace, Estwing

Growing Great Garlic

I’ve been growing garlic organically for well over a decade. The product is second to none. We have marketed it as “The World’s Best Garlic” for the last five years. Nobody has disputed the claim.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.42.27 pm

There are a few essentials of growing great garlic. First of all, you need the best genetics – ie, seed garlic. We save ours from season to season. After storing for six months, we divide it in the evenings inside where it is warm and dry.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.39.57 pm

Another essential component is abundant high quality compost. We make ours by the cubic metre.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.47.33 pm

Planting involves generous amounts of compost. It serves to feed the garlic for the six months while it is in the ground as well as retaining soil moisture.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.38.57 pm

Once the garlic is up about 150 – 200 mm we mulch with newspaper and hay.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.46.02 pm

The mulch suppresses weeds and retains soil moisture.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.46.27 pm

The planting design and management relies on these resources: stirrup hoes, newspapers, mulch and compost. See here for detailed description: https://www.fix.com/blog/how-to-grow-garlic/

Harvest usually occurs in late December.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.42.49 pm

The garlic is cured and stored…and the cycle repeats.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.42.00 pm

We have a very limited supply of seed garlic left for sale. It can be planted up to the end of July. Contact me if you’d like some.

Peace, Estwing