Category Archives: Uncategorized

Drainage Around the Home

When asked at 3 years of age, “What is Dada good at?” my daughter answered, “Digging!”

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Both before and after the Whanganui floods of 2015 I have focused on drainage on the farm and especially around the house where pretty much everything had been done wrong – causing a lot of water to flow underneath leading to serious damage over the last three decades.

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Managing water can be done well or can be done poorly. I took this photo at work one day.

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It is important to direct water away from homes. Retrofitting drainage where it has been done poorly can be difficult and expensive. Along with a number of other approaches – including cutting channels in concrete – I put in a French drain on the high-side (South) of the house.

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Ironically I finished the drain two days before the 2015 floods.

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The perforated pipe runs the length of the south wall.

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It’s surrounded by stone and wrapped with filter cloth.

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Water flows through the stone and into the pipe.

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Stone covers the filter cloth to keep it tidy and out of the sun.

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At the southwest corner the perforated pipe enters a sump and then flows under the entire home on a gentle slope through a solid pipe to the north side, and then away from the structure.

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Any amount of drainage that directs water away from a home is important!

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Peace, Estwing

Making Goats Cheese

After a mid-winter break we are back to making goats cheese on the farm.

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We had a cosy Friday afternoon/evening by the cooker warming the milk (and making a shepherds pie for dinner.)

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We heated about eight litres of milk to just below boiling and then added 700 ml of lemon juice.

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After about 30 minutes we poured the contents into a cheese cloth and let the whey drain out. (We have mixed the whey with grains to feed to the chickens and ducks.)

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The final result is about 2 kg of cheese.

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Thanks for our new intern, Jasmine, for taking some of these and many other great photos of ongoings on the farm.

 

Peace, Estwing

Building Beautiful Beds

We’ve run this workshop three times this year with great feedback. I promised to summarise the process, so here goes.

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Step 1) Lay polythene for five months or longer to kill the perennial grasses and weeds. We cover our polythene with mulch to prevent UV degradation of the plastic and to make the market gardens look nicer. After 20 weeks peel back the much and reuse it somewhere, and then lift the polythene.

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Step 2) Loosen the compacted soil. We use stainless steel broad forks that I had welded up by a friend for a box of beer. Any broad fork will do or garden fork. The point is to mechanically break up the soil. First go lengthwise.

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Then go crosswise.

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Step 3) Break up the soil cubes you’ve just formed into smaller chunks. This is best done when the soil is not too wet and not too dry. It may pay to wait a day or two before doing this step. A rake or a hoe or a garden fork or a spade can be used.

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Step 4) Form beds. Standing on one side of the 1.2 metre wide bed rake the path from the other side up onto he bed. The switch sides and repeat.

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Step 5) Continue to pulverise the soil and rake the beds flat with a back and forth motion to prepare a fine planting surface.

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The end result is a series of raised rows in a no-dig system easily maintained with a stirrup hoe.

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Peace, Estwing

Transforming a Slope with Regenerative Agriculture

Over the past three years we have been working to make Kaitiaki Farm more productive and resilient. While there are lots of examples of this work on the farm, this is a good case study on what regenerative agriculture can look like using a step-by-step example of transforming a north-facing slope from grazing to a mixed-use perennial and animal system while including native plantings and early childhood learning programmes.

This ‘Before’ picture looks down the hillside into the valley at a shelf where the cows are grazing, a remnant wetland below it, and about one acre of native bush across the valley. We are lucky in that this may be the only native bush along Purua Stream for the entire length of the valley.

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This shot shows a working bee assembling a small shelter for the Nature Play programmes we have begun running on the farm.

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Here the shelter is nearly complete.

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Add children and sheep.

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Then came the massive task of fencing off about 600 metres of the stream to keep stock out of the water and off of the banks. Horizons Regional Council assisted this process by paying half the cost.

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Next we commenced planting the first of over 2,000 natives along the stream, which has involved three school groups and six planting bees. It’s possible to see some of the trees just over the fence in the picture below.

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By the way, we sold the cows as they proved too damaging of the steeper slopes in winter.

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Next we shifted the sheep to the other side of the farm so we could plant the mid-slope on the hill with olive trees that will be able to withstand the hot dry summers and northwest winds that blow up the valley. (Note the poplar pole in the photo below.)

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Here are three of our interns planting the olive trees in April 2017.

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Then we introduced kune kune pigs to eat the grass around the olive trees but not the trees themselves as the sheep and cows would.

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One of the final jobs to do was to fence off the shelf between the hillside and the wetland. This is the only part of the farm that has free-draining soil so we decided to put an avocado orchard there. We’ll temporarily fence out the pigs while the tagasaste nurse trees and avocado trees get established, then we’ll let them back in to graze the grass.

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Here is the final shot for now – taken last week: over 200 tagasaste saplings have been  planted on the shelf and the avocados are waiting until a canopy is formed; two litters of kune kune piglets have been born in the valley (note the pig shelters in the shot below); the 32 olive trees have been staked with warratahs on the hillside as the pigs were walking over some of them.

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On the upper slope (above the farm track in the photo above) we’ve planted native manuka, kanuka and flax, as well as more poplar poles and more tagasaste. On there slope above that are 30-year old radiata pines.

Can’t wait to plant those avocados and retire from my day job!

 

* FYI, here is a great definition of regenerative agriculture from Wikipedia:

Regenerative agriculture (RA) is an approach to food and farming systems that rejects pesticides, artificial fertilizers and aims to regenerate topsoil, increase biodiversity,[1] improve water cycles,[2] enhance ecosystem services, increase resilience to climate fluctuation and strengthen the health and vitality of farming and ranching communities.[3][4][5][6]

Regenerative agriculture is based on applied research and thinking that integrates organic farmingpermacultureagroecologyagroforestryrestoration ecologyKeyline design and holistic management.

On a regenerative farm biological production and ecological structure grow more complex over time. Yields increase while external inputs decrease. 

 

Peace, Estwing

Plastic-Free Playground

Special Edition for Plastic-Free July

My kids had been pestering me about getting a slide for ages, but I did not want to buy an expensive plastic one that at some point in the future would inevitably end up in landfill or somewhere worse due to long-term UV degradation and/or wear and tear. So I decided to make one out of wood and steel instead.

I had an off-cut of galv sheet leftover from flashing the flue for my new wood burner that I decided to use to make the slide. I figured out how I wanted it bent and took it to the boys at Steelform Wanganui. For a box of beer they bent it for me. (Chur Barnsey)

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Then I found some wood diverted from landfill by Reclaimed Timber Traders in Palmerston North that suited the dimensions I needed.

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I made the base for the slide out of pine and rimu

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As Kevin McCloud would say, “This needs to be millimetre perfect.”

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In the end it was the perfect compliment to the fort I made for them out of 100 year-old totara fence battens and driftwood on an existing garden structure.

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And a great compliment to the driftwood swing set I made a year earlier.

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Happy Plastic-Free July everyone!

Peace, Estwing

RetroSuburbia: The Built and Biological Fields

This workshop covers the most cost effective approaches to home renovation and edible landscaping. Using the Eco Thrifty Retrofit as a case study – https://www.retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/ – attendees can expect to learn many of the strategies described in David Holmgren’s book including: eco-renovation; passive solar design; solar energy; energy efficiency; wind protection; annual veggies; fruit trees; backyard fowl; and more.

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Before and After

Dr. Nelson Lebo is a leader in New Zealand’s green building movement. He has worked in the sustainability field for over 30 years. Nelson has an undergraduate degree in geology and environmental science, a Masters in education, and a PhD in science education, along with a Diploma in Permaculture.

Saturday 8th September  2:00 – 5:00  $50 with $10 discount on the book for attendees.

This tour is offered as part of Whanganui Permaculture Weekend.