Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hands-On Design Workshop

Immerse yourself in the permaculture design process as part of an innovative new housing development on former horse paddocks.

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Join us for a blank slate design exercise in the field. This workshop engages participants to consider environmental conditions, site factors and human needs to envision the development of a piece of land for multiple households in Aramoho/Papaiti, Whanganui.

Topics covered: sector analysis; zones; eco-home design; co-housing; shared infrastructure; water management; wastewater & compost toilets; bundling services; & more.

What is possible for an ambitious eco-development involving multiple households? Small groups will work on different possible developments and then present to the whole.

(*See continuing the conversation below.)

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Sunday 6th, 2-4:30 PM + optional social gathering*

$40 individuals or $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

* Continue the conversation afterward with the project initiators at a local pub.

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6 Years Hard Yakka

We’ve reached our 6th anniversary on the land so I had a wander the other morning to capture some of our progress. We’ve focused on a number of areas over this time, primarily on fencing and planting the stream and hillsides to prevent erosion and slips. These efforts have been documented thoroughly in this blog so feel free to scroll through previous posts.

We’ve also worked hard on establishing animal systems to enhance our land management. This too has been thoroughly documented.

Early on we established an orchard and harakeke wind break, but it’s hard to see the deciduous fruit trees in winter. In this image you can see guava and feijoa and olives and loquat.

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And finally there are the market gardens, which went on the back burner when we were doing all of the above.

I am particularly proud of the avocado mounds with tagasaste nurse trees. Four of these five trees are fruiting and nearly ready to harvest. Yum.

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Yet it continues…

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Peace, Estwing

The Power of Nature…and Community

It’s often advised to live on a property for a year before developing a permaculture design. After 11 months on our small farm, disaster struck.

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The 2015 flood swelled the Whanganui River and its feeder streams. This is from the New Zealand Herald at the time: “On Saturday, June 20, one month’s worth of rain fell on Wanganui in 24 hours. That night and early Sunday morning the surging Whananui River brought the worst flooding on record. The resultant flood saw the city cut off and about 400 people evacuated mainly in Putiki, Aramoho and Wanganui East. The Whanganui River breached its banks around midnight on Saturday, spilling floodwater into the central business district.”

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Two kilometres from Te Awa Tupua up a side valley, we set out on the morning of June 21st – 5 years ago – to survey the damage, which occurred in both the forms of slips and the loss of stream banks.

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The power of the flooding stream sheared off fencing wire.

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Here is the elevated stream on Sunday morning the 21st five years ago…

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…and now after fencing off and planting the stream corridor with over 2,000 natives.

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That weather event has been on my mind ever since. It has guided our priorities, decision making, spending, and significantly honed our approach to land design and management. I have written extensively about these topics over the last half decade, but in this post I want to reflect on the progress we’ve made and to thank those who’ve helped.

Kaitiakitanga

Before the storm event I had ordered 20 poplar poles from Horizons Regional Council but had not planted them yet – luckily as we would have lost some in the slips. But after the storm our ambitions for land protection expanded far beyond a handful of poplars, as did our relationship with Horizons, who came to the table with advice, financial support and hundreds of native plants.

Our relationship to the land shifted from one of management to one of kaitiakitanga – guardianship. This is from teara.govt.nz:  “Kaitiakitanga means guardianship and protection. It is a way of managing the environment, based on the Māori world view. A kaitiaki is a guardian. This can be a person or group that cares for an area such as a lake or forest.”

We felt a strong urge to protect, restore and enhance our land for the long term. Our priorities shifted from market gardening, raising lambs and a house cow to tree planting and water management. We’ve retired grazing areas and protected wetlands. During the last five years we’ve planted over 3,000 trees, shrubs, wetland grasses and flax in order to stabilise hillsides and stream banks. The efforts started with fencing off the stream with the financial help of Horizons Regional Council and the mad skills of my mate Gavo, who taught me how to brace posts and strain wires.

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Others slept on the job.

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To date we have strung about 2.5 kilometres of fence on the farm as part of our resilient management strategy, which has been thoroughly described in previous blog posts.

On Sunday we hosted our seventh planting bee in five years. We enjoy inviting ‘townies’ out to the farm to get their hands dirty and help our restoration efforts. Hundreds of students, children, parents and adult volunteers have participated. The events are less about getting so many trees planted and more about sharing our love of the land…and some yummy kai!

In addition to the native plantings we have planted 150 poplar poles supplied by Horizons and established a mixed fruit tree orchard, a hillside olive grove, and avocado orchard.

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Our first group: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho students.

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho students.

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Before (above) & After with pig shelter (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Before (above) & After (below)

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Arohanui and thanks to all the friends, interns and volunteers who have planted trees with us. Special thanks to Horizons Regional Council, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho, Wanganui Garden Centre, Bunnings, Whanganui Collegiate School, YMCA Central, Springvale Play Centre, Rob Bartrum, Chris Cresswell, and Gavin Coveny. Chur.

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Peace, Estwing

Making A Pallet Milking Stand

We have had new additions to our milking goats…

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…and so I decided to build another new milking stand. But I wanted to see what could be done with a pallet.

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First I cut out a section that will allow for a comfortable seat for the milker.

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With a bit of niggle I got sturdy legs in place, diagonal bracing, and a feed box made from an old drawer.

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To make a pivot for the stanchion I used – what else! – Number 8 Wire.

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The Kiwi fix-all! (The extra wire also binds the pallet to the bearer.)

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The last thing I added was a platform (old cabinet door) so the goats hooves won’t slip through the cracks (although they are amazingly sure-footed) and for easy cleaning. Two pins hold the door in place that can be lifted out so that it can be removed and washed.

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Just add goats.

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Peace, Estwing

RetroSuburbia in New Zealand

20-20 Hindsight Revisited

Nelson Lebo

In just four months 2020 has delivered more life lessons than most years do in 12. Along with those lessons have come new terms and phrases: social distancing; self-isolation; contact tracing; essential services.

Witnessing the ‘essential services’ lolly scramble has been mildly entertaining as different sectors lobbied for essential status with plenty of self-justifying rationalization. Ah yes, all services are essential but some services are more essential than others…

From my perspective I tend to think of the essentials as food, water, shelter and companionship.

Of the latter we have been able to provide safe accommodation for a number of adults who otherwise had no place to go for the duration of the lock down. This has resulted in a large bubble filled with board games, jigsaw puzzles, playing Lego with the kids, and walking bubba up the road to visit a neighbour’s horse. We’ve also enjoyed the regular act of speaking to neighbours ‘over the fence’ which has brought our rural cluster of homes closer together.

Regarding the other essentials, it’s been business as usual on our farm as would be the case on any permaculture property worldwide. Growing food, storing water and creating energy efficient spaces to live are at the heart of the permaculture movement, which provides a ready-made textbook for the type of resilience a wider audience is now clamouring for.

Despite what may be implied by the ‘Billionaire Bunkers’ of the South Island, resilience (and sustainability) need not be expensive. As shown by the 2011 renovation of our home in Castlecliff, meaningful results can be achieved on a shoestring budget. Here are some reflections published in the Chronicle on 30th January 2012.

 

Big savings in a year of living lightly

“We are now over the 12-month mark of renovating an abandoned villa in Castlecliff into a warm, dry energy-efficient home. When we set out on this low budget / high performance retrofit we had no specific numbers in mind for energy savings and waste reduction. We simply wanted to push the envelope and do the best we could. As it turns out, our power bill has averaged $20 per month (this includes the daily line charge) and we have spent a total of $20 in rubbish fees for the entire year. I’ve come to call this our “20-20 hindsight” but there is no reason it could not also be a 20-20 vision for others to work toward by the year 2020.

The first Conservation Comment I wrote in July explained the design principles we employed for our passive solar renovation that have helped us achieve low energy bills. There is nothing new or unusual about those principles: solar gain, thermal mass, insulation and draft proofing. Similarly, there is nothing new or unusual about the design principles for our approach to resource conservation: reduce, reuse and recycle. The 3 R’s have helped us reduce the cost and impact of the renovation project as well as the cost and impact of our day-to-day lives. Here are a few examples.

While we have followed the New Zealand Building Code and used treated pine, Braceline Gib, building paper, and heaps of insulation, there are also areas where we were able to reduce costs and impacts by reusing materials. Prime examples include the bathtub, vanity, washtub and toilet in the bathroom, and the bench, sink, mixer, drawers, and shelves in the kitchen. Perhaps the most visible example is the vintage Shacklock 501 multi-fuel range that I bought my wife two years ago as a wedding present and we worked with Building Control to find a way to install safely.

Regarding our household waste stream, we compost all of the food scraps and even our fish and chips papers. We save paper to burn in our Shacklock or our outdoor pizza oven (made from an old wood burner) or to mulch our gardens and fruit trees. We reuse plastic bread bags and other small non-recyclable plastic containers. Again, there is nothing special about any of this, other than the fact that we take it seriously and put out one bag of rubbish for every two months. Perhaps the most unusual thing we do at all is emphasize the costs savings rather than simply the environmental benefits. At the end of the day, eco-thrifty living makes dollars and sense.”

 

Along with the renovation we filled the section with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Today the home and section are unrecognizable from a decade ago, and have been included in a recent book written by permaculture co-founder David Holmgren: RetroSuburbia: The downshifters guide to a resilient future.

In the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown – which has forced almost all of us to downshift for six weeks anyway – this book and the greater RetroSuburbia movement seem more relevant than ever. Dani and I feel privileged to work with our Australian counterparts in promoting the movement on this side of the Tasman.

As this is my last conservation comment, I want to make sure to thank all those who have supported our community projects over the last decade including the major hardware stores and garden centres. I especially want to recognize the dozens of volunteers for the Curtain Bank and the Repair Café as well as the Whanganui Learning Centre and the Josephite Retreat Centre for their unqualified support.

Kia kaha, Estwing

7th Annual Permaculture Weekend: Revisiting Resilience

The 7th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend will be held in conjunction with the Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga (Adult & Community Education Aotearoa).

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The focus this year will be on building household and community resilience.

Community Resilience Week

Permaculture and Adult Learning

6th – 13th September 2020

DRAFT

 

Sunday 6th, 12-1 PM: Solar Cookers & Rocket Stoves

Come to an alternative lunch and learn about a range of resilient cookers.

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Sunday 6th, 2-4:30 PM: Hands-On Permaculture Design Workshop

Join us for a blank slate design exercise in the field. This workshop engages participants to consider environmental conditions, site factors and human needs to envision the development of a piece of land for multiple households in Aramoho/Papaiti, Whanganui. What is possible for an ambitious eco-development involving multiple households? Small groups will work on different possible developments and then present to the whole.

(*See continuing the conversation below.)

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$40 individuals or $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

* Continue the conversation afterward with the project initiators at a local pub.

 

Wednesday 9th, TBC: Backyard Gardening and Composting

Free. Location tbc

 

Thursday 10th, 4-5 PM: Basic Fruit Tree Care. Whanganui Learning Centre.

Free. No registration required.

 

Thursday 10th, 6-7:30 PM: RetroSuburbia Case Study. Whanganui Learning Centre.

Free. No registration required.

 

Saturday 12th, 9 AM – 1 PM: River Traders Market: River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) is Whanganui’s local currency. Learn more at the REBS stall.

Free. No registration required.

 

Saturday 12th, 2-3:30 PM: Repair Café. Mint Café

Free. No registration required.

 

Sunday 13th, 10-12:30 AM: RetroSuburbia Property Tour

From abandoned villa to affordable eco-home and section. This Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburiba: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

$40 p/p, $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

 

Sunday 13th, 2-4 PM: Annual Heirloom Seed Swap.

This is a chance to meet other Whanganui gardeners and to swap surplus heirloom and open pollinated seed that you have bought or saved. It will be a relaxed, friendly gathering with a cup of tea to follow.  If you have seedlings or plants you would like to share please bring these along too. You don’t need to have seed to share in order to partake.

Bring:   Details of your seeds such as a description, variety, date saved/use by date and any other notes you would like to share.

A pen and envelopes to take seed home in.

By donation

Whanganui Heritage Seed Savers

Quaker Meeting House, 256 Wicksteed Street.  
Queries: nangethepange@hotmail.com

RetroSuburbia: Castlecliff, Whanganui

Everyone told us, “Do not buy in Castlecliff!” We ignored them. It was 2010.

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It was love at first sight.

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More than one person scoffed at me for buying this house.

Some called it “A dog’s breakfast.”

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But she came up alright with a lick of paint.

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The home and section were a bit of a mish…

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…but we got there in the end.

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Side yard before…

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…and after.

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This project has become a benchmark for low-cost and high-performance renovation.

There will be a one-off tour and workshop in late April.

ANZAC Day (Observed, Monday) 27th April, 2020, 2:00 – 5:00 PM. $35 p/p, $55 couples.

This Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburbia project: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

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Space is limited.

Registration essential: theecoschool@gmail.com

Peace, Estwing

Fat Goats in a Drought

Turning liabilities into assets is a full-time job on our farm. The 2015 floods and land slips focused our attention and efforts on stabilising hillsides and stream banks for the last half decade at the expense of having a big vegetable garden and…surfing.

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But that storm event also shaped our thinking about the holistic management of the farm and what plants and animals would best suit our conditions, and also work in coordination with each other for synergistic effects. The main goal has been to develop a climate resilient farm that withstands extremes of both wet and dry. This summer we’ve been tested.

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You can see in the image above how dry the hillsides are, although patches of gorse remain darker. You can just make out our white goats grazing a paddock with longer grass that we’ve just opened to them this week. But our main source of nutrition for them over the last month has been poplars on the hillsides and willows along the stream.

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The kune kune pigs even nibbled away at the tender tips of the poplars.

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They left the branches throughly stripped.

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The willow below are the first ones we put in after the flood that took cubic metres of soil with it. We rammed them into the banks with the expectation that we would actively manage them as a chop and drop fodder system for the goats during late summer and early autumn so that they would not get overgrown.

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And the results! It’s been so rewarding to watch our fat and healthy goats munching away happily in the middle of a drought.

Peace, Estwing