Category Archives: permaculture

Late Autumn Permaculture Update

The rains have come and much of the ground is now saturated. Many of our pathways have taken on a distinctive brown colour.

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After being nearly dry this summer, the pond is filling.

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And I’ve taken the pump out of storage to pump out the swales as there is more rain in the forecast.

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We’ve planted some beds to winter vegetables…

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…and built new beds for garlic planting.

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Here are 2 & 1/2 cubic metres of compost ready for the garlic plantings starting later this month.

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This weekend marked eight weeks for our kunekune piglets and so six of them were sold to new homes. Here is one of the remaining three. No more fighting over the scraps!

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We have approximately 100 muscovies hatched this summer almost ready to be sold.

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And these nine are just two weeks old.

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Tractoring birds for the last three years has done wonders for improving soil quality and regrowth of favourable grasses.

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And finally, we say goodbye to our three fabulous interns, Karen, Vera and Ali. The next two interns arrive tomorrow.

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Peace Estwing

Designing for Climate Change

Above all else, we design our farm for climate change. Primarily this means drought-proofing and flood-proofing simultaneously. While we employ many strategies along these lines, here is one that is very straight-forward.

In June, 2015 Whanganui experienced an extreme rain event that caused slips and erosion on our farm. In one area approximately 30 cubic metres of stream bank disappeared overnight.

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When we went to inspect it the next day we were awed by the destructive power of the water.

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The flood was so powerful is sheered fencing wire through pure tension.

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From that day – just 10 months into our ownership of the farm – our thinking about how to manage the 13 acre property took a drastic change. We fenced over 400 metres of stream, planted over 2,000 trees, and put in another 500 metres of fencing to exclude stock from sensitive areas.

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Along the stream we planted a host of native species including grasses and cabbage trees known for their fibrous root systems that hold soil in place. We also planted over 100 Australian casuarina, also known as sheoak and river oak.

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As an emergency measure we drove willow poles into the stream bank in the worst effected areas. We intended to use the willow and sheoak as stock fodder – easily pollarding it and dropping branches over the fence for eager goats.

Over the last two years the willows have grown up to the point where this week we were able to cut branches for the goats for the first time. Although we’re not in a drought at the moment this is the type of emergency stock feeding we’ve designed for in case of long periods with no rain.

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Willow is healthy stock fodder. Here is great link to a resource explaining all about it: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/poplars-and-willows-fodder

At the end of the day, by fencing the stream and planting its riparian corridor with the proper species we are able to flood-proof and drought-proof this section of our farm simultaneously. In a future of increased extreme weather events it seems like the only viable option.

 

Peace, Estwing

Making Permaculture Pay

Permaculture is often described as a “lifestyle ethic” but not often as a way to make a living. There may be some permaculture designers out there and some permaculture educators, but how many people can earn an income from ‘doing’ permaculture?

Now, of course, this is a loaded question because everyone has their own interpretation of permaculture and who qualifies as a permaculturist. I’ll start by saying that permaculturists are self-identified. In other words, there can be amazing organic farmers or super-duper green builders or spectacular orchardists, but the only persons who can label them as permies is themselves.

Next we have a look at what ‘doing’ permaculture means. At it’s core it requires an ethical approach to food production and to housing; it is holistic; it involves design thinking always; and, it engages humans in more resilient and sustainable thoughts and actions.

From these perspectives, making a living from permaculture might include a diverse income stream involving some or all of the above. As a short case study I’ll list some of the ways we are beginning to earn a permaculture living.

Over the last fortnight we have: sold 7kg of organic garlic to a restaurant; sold seed garlic on TradeMe; sold garlic at the local Farmer’s Market; sold gum branches to a florist; completed a design for a suburban property; advised a hotel on heating and cooling issues; carried out an inspection of a mouldy rental property; taken bookings for upcoming workshops; received payment for our PDC Internship programme (along with teaching our current group of PDC interns); taken bookings for a school holiday Nature Play programme; received pre-orders for 30 muscovy ducks.

Additionally, in the near future we anticipate selling a few hundred tagasaste seedlings, ten kune kune piglets, strawberry plants, grape vines, and chicken tractors.

But making a living at permaculture does not only involve earning money. To a large extent it means what I call “cost avoidance” by growing one’s own food, slashing one’s power bill, finding free or low-cost building materials and compost ingredients. In other words, punching above one’s weight by living large on a small amount of money.

Anyway, that’s what I think. What do you think?

Peace, Estwing

Autumn Permaculture Update

Autumn has arrived on the farm, although most signs of the season have arrived early. For example, the Jerusalem artichoke is flowering two weeks early.

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And the Monty’s Surprise apples came early, although most of them seem to have been dropped by the trees – possibly due to drought stress and strong winds.

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We’ve had beautiful figs, and the muscovies have enjoyed the drops.

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The feijoas will probably come early as well.

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And the guavas.

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The garden looks like an autumn garden.

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And we’re planting a winter garden.

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The nursery is chocka with over 300 trees to plant this winter.

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And we’re potting up more tagasaste.

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And finally, we’ve had our first two litters of kune kune piglets born.

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Peace, Estwing

Fruits of Our Labour

Holmgren’s third permaculture principle is “obtain a yield.” Autumn is when a lot of yield happens. It’s a great time of year.

Another way to appreciate yield is to plant a fruit tree and then wait for years until it bears fruit. We’ve planted over 200 fruit trees over the last three years and it’s gratifying to see many of them producing, which includes: peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, figs, feijoas, apples, and guavas.

But we’re still waiting for the big payoff: avocados!

Peace, Estwing

Late Summer Permaculture Update II

Summer is always a busy time of year – made busier by a drought. Thankfully we have had nine amazing interns on the farm over the last four months.

After a hot and dry summer we’ve gotten a good soaking rain – about 60 mm over three days. Enough to dampen the soil and plant a winter crop of leeks.

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And also to prep a new annual bed and soak the compost piles through.

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Strawberries and yakon are responding to the rain.

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Some pumpkins have been harvested and are curing on the edge of the stone driveway.

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There are more ‘winter squash’ among the second planting of tomatoes.

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The third planting of tomatoes is starting to take off.

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We’ve been drying chilis on the solar dehydrator. These will be the next batch to be harvested.

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The beans are going gangbusters even through this trellis has been knocked over twice by severe winds.

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And finally, to bookend our summer the first lot of ducklings are nearly full-grown…

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…while the last lot of ducklings has just hatched.

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Looking forward to a slower autumn.

 

Peace, Estwing