Category Archives: Uncategorized

Making a Tractor Tyre Farrowing Crate

I have been meaning to build a farrowing crate for about six months now, but it turns out my boar has been sterile. We got a new boar so the clock is ticking. I built this farrowing crate in about an hour.

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I got the idea from a colleague at work and then did an online search, which brought up this article.

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The tyre came from a Kindy – that’s why it’s painted pink and purple.

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I followed the advice in the article from the Farm Show magazine.

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Pretty easy to cut the sidewalls.

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Not so easy to cut through the treads.

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All set for a mum and her bubs

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Peace, Estwing

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

Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Building Annual Beds

A common misperception of permaculture is that “it is a messy form of gardening” – or that it is a form of gardening at all. Permaculture is a system of design. Growing annual vegetables can be a small part of a much larger farm system. For small-scale organic growers, annual veggies are an important source of income especially during the first years on a property.

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We took a totally different approach. Annual beds have mostly (except for our commercial garlic crops) been on the back burner for the last three and a half years while we’ve focused on water management and drainage, planted over 2,000 trees, fenced 400 metres of stream, renovated the house, and improved soil quality in the paddocks. With off-farm income and a fully-booked internship programme we were able to take it slow, which also happens to be the best way to convert paddocks to no-dig beds.

We lay polythene down for six months…

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…and then broad fork the beds.

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Everyone helps.

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We shift the plastic to a new area every six months and cover it with grass or branches to reduce UV damage from the sun. After forking we form raised rows and plant out the annuals from our nursery.

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Garlic takes up bed space for six months each year, which has meant we’ve not been able to grow much else until now.

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Three more large annual beds will go in over the next 18 months and then we’ll have the market gardens fully up and running – after five years.

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Slow and steady wins the race.

 

Peace, Estwing

Slow learning in an age of instant gratification

It takes eight weeks to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) on Kaitiaki Farm. We are slow learners.

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Holmgren’s 9th Principle, Use small and slow solutions, should especially be considered when it comes to teaching and learning. Humans learn slowly, and as our digital worlds speed up, the need for slow learning only increases.

Many PDC classes happen too fast with little time to reflect on the learning and little experiential learning. As someone who has spent their entire life as an educator with multiple education degrees, I steer clear of two-week residential PDCs.

That’s one reason we developed our eight-week PDC internship programme that includes total immersion in the patterns and flows of a permaculture farm. Alongside learning permaculture our interns are living permaculture.

Cultivating learners is what we do.

We start by pulling and straightening nails.

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Holmgren’s 6th Principle, Produce no waste, is experienced by transforming materials that others have destined for landfill into valuable resources for future building projects.

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We often straighten a nail and reuse it within a matter of minutes on the farm. Going back seven years, all ECO School interns have learned this as an essential first lesson.

Another skill taught on Day One is managing hot compost. We usually have three individual piles running: one we build through collecting materials; one that is ‘cooking’; and one that is finished and ready to use. Interns turn the active piles three times each week.

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Finally, we emphasise the permanent in permaculture by planting and caring for trees, whether in the orchard or the zone 5 wetland we are establishing alongside Purua Stream.

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Without fail, four to five weeks pass before we see lightbulb moments happening when interns really begin to understand holistic and four-dimensional design. That’s the payoff as an educator – when you know they get it.

Our PDC internships consist of a thousand teachable moments. 

One insightful intern said, “You really need to learn to do things properly because there is no control+Z function on the farm. You can’t Undo something with your fingertips.”

Indeed.

 

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