Category Archives: permaculture

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

Spring Permaculture Update

The equinox has come and gone, and it’s all go on the farm. Longer hours of day light and plenty of water in the ground have vegetation in overdrive. Luckily, three interns arrived last week to learn and help out on the farm.

Strawberries are forming.

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And plums.

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The garlic is high.

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And the grass.

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Hawthorn is blooming.

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And poplars are leafing out.

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Bees are swarming, so our contracted beekeeper came to divide his hives.

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The interns headed down the hillside to weed the young olive trees we planted this winter.

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Followed by a lesson in goat pedicure.

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And a dinner of solar chicken.

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Happy the sun has returned.

 

Peace, Estwing

Regenerative Land Management: The Power of Plants

It’s been 13 months since we finished fencing our stream and had the first school group come for a planting day: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Tupoho. Since then we have planted over 1,600 trees and plants with the help of three local schools, two community working bees, and 11 farm interns.

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What a difference a year makes!

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Last Year

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This Year

All of the work has been carried out with help from the forward-thinking and generous funding schemes administered by Horizons Regional Council. The final bill exceeds $10,000, and HRC has paid half of that. Thank you!

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Last Year

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This Year

For the most part Regional Councils manage environmental quality in New Zealand with a particular focus on water quality and flooding. By encouraging farmers to fence riparian corridors and plant native trees Regional Councils achieve both of these mandates in a holistic rather than reductionist manner. Other benefits include wildlife habitat and increased biological diversity.

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Last Year

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This Year

Thanks to a wet summer last year and the help of our farm interns – who hand weeded the native trees four times between October and April – the trees have thrived. As you can see from the images, some of the natives have tripled and quadrupled in size – in one year! The Horizons rural consultants said they had never seen anything like it when they came to do an audit in June. Of the 1,600 natives planted we’ve only found one that died.

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Last Year

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This Year

Given the investment of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of labour, there is a huge sense of satisfaction seeing the plants thriving. It was a big decision to fence off 15% of our land from stock and return it to native bush – permaculture zone 5. Looking at it now there are no regrets.

You can support the further planting of native trees along the stream – still about 600 to go – by purchasing a copy of the 2018 Permaculture Calendar. 100% of the income from New Zealand sales goes directly to this project.

2018 Permaculture Calendar Cover copy

Orders: theecoschool at gmail.com

 

Peace, Estwing

2018 Permaculture Calendar

For the fifth year we are distributing the Permaculture Principles calendar in New Zealand. The calendar is published in Australia using David Holmgren’s 12 permaculture principles.

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Our ‘business model’ for the calendar is based on the permaculture ethics. We practice “Fair Share” by offering the calendar at the lowest price worldwide, and we practice “Earth Care” by using all ‘profits’ to restore a stream corridor on our farm.

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Our strategy is not based on financial gain but on promoting permaculture through the informative and motivating calendar, and using the minor income to improve water quality and reduce storm damage in our region. It’s a win-win design.

2018 Permaculture Calendar Cover

The 2018 Permaculture Calendar, now in it’s 10th year, is ethically produced with the wholesome look and feel of post-consumer recycled paper printed with vegetable based inks. Internationally relevant and filled with inspirational and thought provoking images that support and reinforce your values every day of the year.

Learn each of the 12 design principles over the course of a month and be reminded of suitable garden activities with daily icons and phase times according to our moon planting guide. Includes a handy rainfall / temperature chart to keep track of the years events and moon icons for north and south hemispheres. Read more about the calendar here.

Produced in Australia on 100% recycled paper using vegetable based inks. Size: A4 (210mm x 297mm) opening to A3.

$16 postage paid/ $14 pick up

Twin Pack $29 postage paid


Order From:  TheECOSchool@gmail.com

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Plants

All plants are created equal – some are just more equal than others.

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For those who practice permaculture, certain plants are key elements for regenerative design, serving to: build soils; provide wind breaks as well as fodder for stock and bees; protect other plants from frost and excess sun; hold stream banks and hillsides; serve as firewood; and of course provide food.

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Tree lucerne (tagasaste) is a prime example of a permaculture plant. We use it on our farm to: fix nitrogen in the soil; protect young avocado trees from frost and sunburn; provide wind protection for the market gardens; feed bees and hungry mama goats.

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We plant hundreds each year so we propagate them ourselves on a regular basis.

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Another example that many farmers in our hilly region use is poplar in the form of 3 metre poles. They are used in slip-prone areas to stabilise slopes while stock is still present. Cows should be excluded for 3 to 4 years. The regional council subsidises the cost of them and offer free advice and which varieties to plant for different conditions.

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Poplars can also be used as wind breaks. We planted these just over a year ago between two paddocks. Those are willow wands planted around the duck pond.

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Along our stream we are planting  sheoak (casaurina), also called river oak in Australia because of its extensive root system.

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Cabbage trees are a NZ native that also help stabilise stream banks. We’ve planted hundreds over the last 18 months.

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We have found hawthorn growing on our hillsides. It has a number of useful traits.

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And finally, Jerusalem artichoke is another great permaculture plant. It’s an edible perennial that also produces a lot of organic matter above ground each year, which dies off in the winter. The tuber is the bit that’s eaten.

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Favouring perennials over annuals is central to permaculture design. While we also have market gardens, I find it more fulfilling these days to be working with perennials.

 

Peace, Estwing

Boredom Punctuated by Terror

It does not matter what the weather is like 99.9 percent of the time. The other bit can destroy roads, homes, lives and cities. Extreme weather events have been on the rise for over three decades and seem to be picking up in force and frequency in the last five years. The news provides a steady stream of such catastrophes. Climate scientists often call this, “an increased incidence of extreme weather events.”

Two months ago we had a strong wind event that brought down lots of branches on our farm.

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It only takes a few hours of high winds to do the damage.

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In April we had two rain events that caused a large slip – mostly due to a neighbour illegally dumping water onto our land.

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A major challenge for permaculturists is to design for extreme weather events. It will be the greatest challenge of our time. We are developing a resilient farm that can best resist both droughts and floods by turning liabilities into assets and buffering shocks.

Our garlic is high and dry – by design. All of our growing beds are raised rows perpendicular to slope with drainage on the ends.

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Meanwhile, this is how the Whanganui District Council responds – bulldozing wind- and wave-driven sand back into the Tasman Sea. Fighting climate change with diesel fuel! Good luck with that.

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Peace, Estwing