Category Archives: Story

It’s All About Water

Met Service predicted 15 mm of rain for us last night – we got 3 mm. That just about sums up water – too little, too much, and unpredictable. And the prediction is for more unpredictability in rainfall in the future. With this in mind, we are in the process of trying to ‘climate-proof’ our property with regard to water.

There are places on the property where we want more water and places where we want less water. For example, high on the property we are holding water with a new water tank…

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… and building swales.

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Other places, we are trying to direct water away from structures… Screen shot 2015-01-01 at 9.27.46 AM

… and in this case away from a fence that is rotting because it has remained waterlogged for many years.

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Here is a batten rotting from the bottom upward.  Screen shot 2015-01-01 at 9.28.05 AM

The drainage around the house is especially appalling and has required major intervention, such as this.

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And this.

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And this.

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And this.

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Underneath the house looks like this – relocating water from the ‘high side’ of the house to the ‘low side’

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Three drains uphill of the house end up here – draining out and underneath a garden path.

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 Everyone loves Water!Screen shot 2015-01-01 at 9.29.38 AM

 

Peace, Estwing

Stuck in TIme: What Month Is It?

I glanced at the calendar yesterday and it was on June. Woah! Did we miss an entire month? We have been very busy with new jobs, childcare and shifting house.

By the way, what do you think of the entry piece at our new property?

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Seriously. But here is the other side of the drive.

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We spent the weekend doing Beverly Hillbillies from Castlecliff to Okoia.

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This is a chook house that just fits on the trailer with room for some trees to transplant.

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Off the trailer and ready for another load.  Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 7.29.46 PM

This is two chook tractors along with lots of other stuff.

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And we even got a rooster from our neighbour.

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But I did have time to build a quick compost pile by layering wood shavings from our midwife’s chooks…

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and sheep manure from a local sheering shed.

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I continued layering bags of shavings and poo until I had about a cubic meter.

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And amidst all of the frantic moves, the 2015 Permaculture Principles Calendar arrived on our doorsteps. We are taking orders for New Zealand at theecoschool at gmail.com Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 7.30.55 PM

Order yours today.

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Peace, Estwing

World Famous in Whanganui

After nearly four years of determination, coordination, and cooperation, it appears I have become “World Famous in Whanganui.”

First of all, thanks to the thoughtful local resident who nominated me for the Pride of NZ Award. Does this make me a real Kiwi now? It is nice to be recognized for consistent and determined work to make our community healthier and more resilient to economic and environmental volatility. Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 6.59.51 AM

Second, thanks to all of the organizations, businesses and individuals with whom we have partnered over the years. Nearly every community project that my wife Dani and I have embarked upon in Whanganui has been a joint effort with others.

For example, our latest partnership was with the Whanganui Learning Centre and Castlecliff School. The project was an innovative whanau-focused learning initiative all about growing healthy veges in the challenging conditions of a seaside suburb (“with a holiday lifestyle” as the sign says). The project will be featured in a documentary film about school gardens in New Zealand.

Materials for the school gardens were kindly donated by Wanganui Garden Centre and Loaders Landscape Supplies. Both of these local businesses have also supported previous initiatives, such as the community garden on our front lawn. Thank you.

Probably our most successful partnership to date is Project HEAT (Home Energy Awareness Training). Project HEAT was initiated in 2013, and is roughly modeled on the Eco Design Advisor programme offered by seven councils around the country. After failing to gain support from the Wanganui District Council, we turned to the community itself.

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Lots of time and effort went into building a base of nearly 20 local entities that shared our kaupapa: everyone deserves to live in a warm, dry, healthy home.

In a cooperative manner, each entity gave what it could give. In some cases that meant donating the use of a venue for a presentation and in others it meant photocopying information sheets or loaning a data projector. In a few cases it meant donating funds to cover the costs associated with running a community outreach education programme. Overall, Project HEAT operated on less than a shoestring. Well over half of the time that I spent on the programme was in volunteer hours.

Just as important as the material contributions made by our partners was the moral support they provided. In other words, one does not feel like a “voice in the wilderness” when surrounded by others who believe in and support you.

In the sustainability and resilience movements it is our obligation to support all those around us. Together is how we move our waka toward a common goal. After council chose not to support Project HEAT, it would have died a quiet death were it not for a casual conversation with a friend and his show of support.

This year Project HEAT has been back on a lesser scale due to a number of factors. However, our partners deserve recognition for their help and support now that we are easing into the backside of winter.

Yes, there are lots of awesome organizations and businesses in Whanganui contributing to sustainability, and they receive plenty of exposure through our excellent positive-news-based local print media. But today I get to thank our 2014 Project Heat partners because without them there would have been no free series of presentations, workshops, drop-in information sessions, and home energy audits.

Big thanks to Tree Life NZ, Sustainable Engineering, Black Pine Architects, Richard Collins, Progress Castlecliff, the Josephite Retreat Centre, and other anonymous donors.

Also to be recognized are the Chronicle, Midweek and River City Press for helping publicize the 2014 programme.

In the weeks and months to come, our family will be going through some changes that will affect our ability to engage with the Whanganui community as much as we have in the past. Hopefully I will be able to keep up with this column.

 

Peace Estwing

Peas and Carrots: Our Eco-Thrifty Wedding

Way way back, at the beginning of this whole process, over nine months ago, I wrote about how our goal was to have an amazing wedding that celebrated us. By celebrating us, I mean celebrating who we are, what we stand for, how we live. Our lifestyle. A lifestyle of living simply and lightly on the planet.

The Veggies on 350 day last year (personal photo).

I’d like to pretend that this was easy, but the pull of the wedding industry is strong. Actually, maybe that’s unfair, because it’s not just the wedding industry. I am a girl who grew up in a state known for its highways and malls, in the highest consuming nation on the planet, during an economic boom. I was given Barbie dolls, and movies starring Disney princesses, and cassette tapes of Debbie Gibson and told by society, that like them, I too could have it all, especially on the biggest day of my life, my wedding day.

A princess bride? (Oh Darling Photography)

So, yes, even though my heart and my head knew the boundaries that I wanted to play within when planning our wedding. And even though I created those boundaries, not anyone else. Even though deep deep down I wanted simple, and thrifty, and eco. Somewhere even deeper, laid a girl ready and waiting to buy into all of the hoopla.

Beautiful hoopla. (Personal Photo)

So, if my recaps seem a bit schizophrenic… If you wonder why we were so staunch about non-paper invitations, and then printed out eight page programs… If you wonder why my dress is re-used but my flowergirls are wearing new Chucks, all I can say is it was a struggle. It was a struggle between us and what we thought our families wanted, between us as a couple, and between myself and my inner diva.

The Veggies de-stress the day before the wedding. That’s some good teamwork. (Photo by Mamma Veggie)

And as I sit here in my gumboots, wiping the baby duck pooh off my workpants, sorting through wedding pictures to put with this post, I am happy with the balance we struck. In the end, I think we came out on top. We didn’t end up with the thriftiest or eco-iest of weddings ever on the whole planet, but we sure gave it a go. And we did end up with a very eco-thrifty wedding, one that was also very us, and made us very happy.

Happy Veggies. (Oh Darling Photography)

I will try to give out any eco and thrifty tips that we picked up along the way as I go through my recaps, and I will definitely give you both and environmental and financial tally of the event at the end.

P.S.- Wanna see a picture of our new baby ducklings?

I thought you might! (Personal Photo)

Did you have battles with yourself or your SO while wedding planning? What were some of the things you got pulled into that you wish you hadn’t? What are some things you were happily able to resist?

Peas and Carrots: The Veggies Get Hitched

Hi…
My name is Veggie…
And I am a recap slacker.
It has been 85 days since my last post. It has been 129 days since my wedding.

129 days!!! What?!? Come on Veggie. Get crackin’. What are you waiting for, anyway?

Well it’s not like I’ve been slacking. The Veggies have been on the move. Since the end of our stay-cation-moon we have: flown back to New Zealand, moved out of our housetruck, and moved into a 100-year old villa shack work-in-progress about 6 hours down the coast. Oh yeah, and we’ve launched a new project for our non-profit, rebuilt our website, and ran six workshops. Phew.

But hive, I’ve been missing you.

And so, as one of many New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to get going on my recaps. I wonder if there might be a few other bees thinking along these lines too.

I leave you today with a little peek and a promise to be writing on a regular basis in the weeks to come. So get ready for some summer campin’, barn dancin’, softball playin’, compost makin’ good times.

Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year!

Photo: Liz Gallo. (Momma Veggie)

Veggie-mooning: Our Family History

So we spent some weeks meandering through the every-day experiences of our families. Waking in the homes of our sibling, parents, and friends. Sharing, playing, and snuggling.
Eating and laughing with them and catching up on all of the happenings we’ve missed while we were away.
Helping out with projects.
Celebrating momentous occasions (Happy 30th Veggie Sister Kale!).

Witnessing the first day of school.

And, in so many other ways, reconnecting with our families’ living histories.

We sat with my grandfather at his house on the shore of Lake Winnepesauke and he showed us albums of photos detailing his life, my heritage. He showed me the first date that he ever went on with my grandmother, a woman who passed away before I was even born. He showed us the displaced person’s camp where they lived in Germany, after fleeing Latvia during World War II. He showed us the General S.S. Sturgis, the ship that they sailed to America on.


Being newly married, with a new last name, I began to think of about our history. The Veggie family history, that will weave together all of the strands of these incredible people and places. And suddenly I felt very underprepared.

Did I have proper documentation of early Veggie Family history? One day will my granddaughter be sitting by my side asking me about our first date? Sorry kid, we were all far too inebriated at the end-of-year faculty party that year to take any pictures. Luckily the final stop on our tour of New England was the very place where Veggie love blossomed many moons ago.

So here you are, Veggie grandkids. A glimpse into the start our family history.

Here’s the 200 yr. old, off the grid, farmhouse that Granddad Veggie restored and was living in when we first started dating. He stole my heart when he brought me here and cooked me a stir-fry of veggies that he grew himself.

Here’s the dormitory that Grandmom Veggie lived in, and around the back is the creaky and dangerous fire escape that Granddad Veggie used to secretly climb up to visit her.And here is Grandmom Veggie, dressed in her Salvation Army finest, the night that she wooed Granddad Veggie and stole his heart.
What stories will be part of your new family history?

Veggie-Mooning: A Little Slice of Americana


So there we were: me, my new husband, a few cases of wine and beer, and a pick up truck. We were free to go and do as we chose, no obligations, no reservations, spontaneously deciding each evening where we would lay our heads.

Well, that’s about half true. There was, in fact, quite a bit of spontaneity in our travels. And we did, in fact, not make many plans on where we would sleep. We did, however have a lot of people to visit in a very short time who were inconveniently spread over 7 states. So we had a tight schedule to stick to as we wandered through the most perfect time of year in the northeast.

There really is nothing better than New England in the late summer. If you haven’t had the pleasure, let me fill you in on this little piece of heaven.


The beauty of New Zealand, our new home, is astounding. The vast rolling hills, expanses of wild coastlines, and the greatness of the fiordlands are overwhelming. When you drive through NZ you can practically feel the landscapes shouting at you. “Look at me! I am beautiful”.

But the humble beauty of New England does not shout.

It is hidden in crumbling rock walls and tree-covered hills. It is hidden in weathered barns and covered bridges. It is the beauty of a well-made chair crafted the 1800’s and the man who sits in it, his familial connection to this place stretching back even longer. For me this simple, subtle beauty is comforting.

But it is also bittersweet; a reminder that for everything gained, something is lost.