Category Archives: permaculture

Permaculture Internship: A Day in the Life

Our first-of-its-kind Permaculture Design Internship attracts the highest quality candidates from around the world to Kaitiaki farm in Okoia, Whanganui. We are blessed to have three incredible interns at the moment: Karen, Avery and Sarah.

On a recent Wednesday their experiences included milking goats, care-taking ducklings, checking stoat traps, picking strawberries, mulching tomatoes, discovering two naughty children had eaten half of each strawberry, an impromptu lesson in wire straining, feeding and watering pigs, remediating a slip on the hillside, solar cooking, a formal lesson on plant propagation, and eating lots and lots of fresh plums.

The eight-week internship programme immerses learners in farm living and eco-design thinking. Here is what a recent intern had to say after his experience:

Forever thanks! This is exactly the kind of experience that makes me feel that quiting my job to travel and learn new things, was absolutely worth it. I will always be thankful for making me feel at home so far away from mine. You are definitely one of the most amazing and authentic families that i have ever met!

I am taking with me the best memories and also the inspiration i needed to keep on following my goals! And be sure that i will never forget of how i started this voyage on Permaculture at Kaitiaki Farm with my kiwi-american family =)

 Much love and my best wishes to all, Manu, Verti, Dani and Nelson.

Always count on me on anything! – Mario.

Details of the programme can be found here: http://www.theecoschool.net/workstudy-permaculture-design-certificate.html

2017 in Review: Success Breeds Success

2017 was a year of extremes worldwide in terms of weather and politics. It has been tough on farmers in our region. But is has also been an incredibly successful year for The ECO School and Kaitiaki Farm.

Some highlights include:

Our PDC internship programme is the first of its kind and we are receiving amazing interns from around the world.

Our pre-school outdoor programme was a finalist in the WWF (NZ) Conservation Awards.

Our Eco-Thrifty Renovation project has been included in permaculture co-founder David Holmgren’s new book.

We surpassed 2,000 trees planted on the farm.

We ran a hugely successful Curtain Bank in Whanganui providing free curtains to nearly 100 families in two weeks.

For the fourth year we provided free workshops during Adult Learners Week.

We hosted the 5th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend – attracting people from around the lower North Island.

And we are still growing the World’s Best Garlic.

A huge thanks goes out to the interns who have helped us achieve the vision of a resilient and productive farm. We couldn’t do it without you!

Peace, Estwing

Solstice Permaculture Update

We’ve had challenging weather the last nine months: a record wet winter and now eight weeks with essentially no rain. This is exactly what climate change looks like and it’s extremely stressful for those in agriculture. Nonetheless, we’ve managed to get an annual garden in and we’re minding our 200 fruit trees carefully.

Tomatoes are ripening.

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Heaps of zucchinis.

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And beans.

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The corn is thriving in this hot, dry weather.

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We can’t pick and eat the strawberries fast enough.

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The same will soon be true of plums.

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Trees are laden even after significant thinning.

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Not so many peaches this year, but we look forward to a better peach season next year.

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We’re approaching 100 ducklings on the farm with more on the way.

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Sadly, it’s been our worst growing season for garlic. It was on track to be the best but rust set in during the last five weeks and stunted growth right when it is most important. It’s hugely discouraging to put in so much effort and not achieve the yield I was expecting.

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But in a world of climate change, this is ‘the new normal.’

 

Peace, Estwing

Kaitiaki Permaculture: 2018 Programme

Tours – Workshops – Events

Autumn 2018 Programme

 

28th January – PDC presentations & Shared Meal

 

3rd – 4th March: Farm Weekend. Accommodation & meals also available.

3rd – Workshop Blitz: Backyard Chickens; Organic Gardening Master Class; Innovative cookers and dehydrators. 90 minutes each. $20 each or $50 for all.

4th – Farm Tour: Best Practice Holistic Management. Kaitiaki Farm is an exemplar permaculture farm just outside Whanganui. The tour will cover: market gardening; hot composting; the best tools for farm and garden management; tractoring fowl; water management; building soil fertility; wind breaks; orchard planning; erosion control; slope stabilisation; stock rotation; wetland restoration; alternative energy; and, eco-building. 9 am – 3 pm. Includes lunch. $75 individuals, $120 couples.

 

25th March – PDC presentations & Shared Meal

 

* Easter Weekend – How to Build an Affordable Eco Home…Legally. 2 days to be confirmed. $170 individuals; $250 couples. Includes lunches.

 

22nd April – Chicken Tractors; Growing Great Garlic. 1 hour each. $10 each.

 

20th May – PDC presentations & Shared Meal

 

9th June – Garlic Workshop. 1 hour. $10

10th June – Garlic Workshop. 1 hour. $10

 

Registration: theecoschool at gmail.com

Big Picture Permaculture: A Watershed Perspective.

The world faces crises of both water quality and quantity. While water quality is almost continually in decline, water quantity both rises and falls – meaning an increase in both severe droughts and major rain events. Extreme rain events are increasing worldwide and we’ve had two here in the last three years, causing flooding and land slips – both of which are made worse by common land use practices in this region.

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This older slip is on a neighbouring farm, leaving this fence suspended in mid-air. 

The big picture approach to permaculture on our farm is to drought-proof and flood-proof the land simultaneously, while also improving water quality for everyone downstream of us. High on the property we’ve done heaps of water management, including building swales and ponds, and on the steep slopes planted over 100 poplar poles.

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On the valley floor we have fenced the stream to exclude stock and planted the riparian corridor with over 1,700 native plants.

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Setting fence posts, August 2016.

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Planting Coprosma robusta, 2017.

The photos below are before/after shots showing change over the last 16 months.

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August, 2016

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November, 2017

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July, 2016

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November, 2017

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July, 2016

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November, 2017

But despite all of this work, our creek flooded six times this winter compared with once most winters. From what I can tell, this is down to two factors: the first is an extraordinarily wet winter and the second is recent logging of the slopes immediately upstream. Where pines once absorbed rains and held the slopes now water runs off quickly and fills the creek bed. It almost feels like all the work we have done has been undone by someone else 400 metres up the stream.

What this also means is that in dry spells the stream will be even lower because the water from winter rains has not been stored in the earth to be released slowly in the spring and summer. Clear-felling slopes is a lose-lose situation for everyone downstream.

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Permaculture is about big picture thinking, holistic problem-solving, connecting the dots and four-dimensional design. When designing, we need to look beyond our own properties for factors that may have significant impacts. As the saying goes, “We all live downstream.”

 

Peace, Estwing

Guest Post: A Perfect Day to Pull Weeds

Editor’s Note: This is a post by our intern, Ivy, who just graduated from high school and is now earning her Permaculture Design Certificate with us.
Damp dirt squelching beneath my feet, blustery breeze dancing through my hair, soothing sun shining upon my face. The day brings perfect conditions on Kaitiaki Farm. We have headed down the hillside, ready for a morning of pulling weeds. With native trees speckling the vibrantly green grass, providing a contrasting texture to the sparkle of the trickling stream, the terrain is illuminated by the persevering sun breaking free through the clouds. Our trusty group of determined interns tramp through the grass, clamber over the fence, and meander our way down the stream, finally settling onto a shaded slope to start our work. Weeding, as simple of a practice as it may seem, is only one part of the intricate system that makes a permaculture farm thrive. It is a way of purging the unwanted invaders from leeching upon the nutrients of the soil, stealing from the plants that are actually supposed to be there. Due to the subsiding dampness of a dissipating winter, the past few weeks have been ideal to journey down the hill. Several important steps are involved in the weeding of each individual plant, and it is imperative to sufficiently carry out each step before moving onto the next tree. After removing the grasses and weeds from around the base of the tree,– including the particularly tenacious buttercup weed,–  the extirpated vegetation can then be used as mulch. By tucking it down next to the stem of the tree, it will not only lock moisture into the soil, but also act as a barrier to prevent more weeds from growing. This kind of clever resourcefulness and creative problem-solving is a key concept that closely follows the principles of permaculture. Turning a liability (the undesirable weeds) into an asset (a protective boundary for the natives).

Just as the sun progresses along its arc in the sky, so we progress along our path on the ridge. Worms erupt from the soil, spiders skitter across the leaves, insects leap back into the comfort of covered vegetation, all serving as reminders that the earth below my dirty fingertips is very much alive. Weeding is a rhythmic process, almost therapeutically so. There is nothing like the serenity of nature and the purity of the landscape to revitalize your senses, refresh your mind, and rejuvenate your soul. We yank the grasses from around each shrub, pat them gently around the base, and take a deep breath of fulfilled accomplishment. Then, we methodically move onto the following plant.

Yank. Pat. Breathe. Wild peacocks squawk in the distance, adding to the harmony of twittering bird calls.
Yank. Pat. Breathe. Windy gusts overflowing with the scents of flowers and forests and freshness drift through the air.
Yank. Pat. Breathe. We encouragingly shift as one, the three of us making our way across the hill to care for each tree.
 
Our hands are aching and our backs are sore, but our hearts are full. As we travel back up to the house, we take one last glance at the sprawling valley below. The view is, as always, breathtaking, and not just because the traverse up the hill is so steep. Although we cannot physically see much of a difference, we know that we have made a positive impact, and for that we feel satisfied.

 

Ivy, 18 years old.

Spring Permaculture Update: Part II

So much is happening on the farm these days that it won’t fit into one blog post. With three new interns and some dry, windy weather we are getting a lot of back-logged work done as well as seasonal chores. We recently expanded our annual beds…

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…and planted more tomatoes.

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We’ve patrolled for thistles, but after three years of manual control there are hardly any to be found.

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One of the first things we teach all new interns is pulling nails and salvaging timber.

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We’ve also been busy in the nursery.

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And planting native trees low on the property where soils stay moist year round.

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All hands on deck!

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Some other cool things happening on the farm are our first avocado flower buds forming.

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Our baby goats have become adolescent.

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And we have a new boar, but he’s still just a wee thing.

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Peace, Estwing