Tag Archives: featured

Zero Tolerance Weeds

I have been farming and/or market gardening for nearly two decades. One of the first lessons I learned (the hard way) was the importance of proactive weed management. Bind weed (convolvulus) made its way onto my land (New Hampshire, USA) in a load of organic matter meant for composting.

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On a tour of another small organic farm in Keene, New Hampshire, I observed first hand how it can take over entire fields of vegetable plants. Scary stuff.

Yesterday while top-feeding some transplanted feijoa trees I recognised the familiar pattern I had come to loath.

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I dug it up as best I could to get as much of the root as possible.

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I don’t believe in putting weeds and diseased plants in plastic rubbish bags and sending them to landfill as is often recommended – I just can’t do it. So I put the convolvulus in the solar dehydrator, which we are not actively using at the moment but will be using in another months time.

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The hot, dry air inside the dehydrator will dry out and completely kill the weed. Then I’ll probably put it on an iron shed roof for the rest of the hot summer. No Mercy for invasive weeds.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping weeds off your farm with a Zero Tolerance policy early on will pay off in the long run.

 

Peace Estwing

Kaitiaki Farm Weekend 2019: 23rd-24th March

We open the farm to tours twice a year: March and September.

Kaitiaki is an exemplar permaculture farm where we engage whole systems design and management in food production, land restoration and water management. The internationally recognised ‘learning farm’ draws students from over 20 nations to enrol in the eight-week PDC internship programme.

Our focus is on resilient farming and regenerative agriculture.

 

Saturday 23rd March

11:00-12:30. Building and Managing Weed-Free Garden Beds. This hands-on workshop covers all the steps for converting a lawn or paddock easily into a low-maintenance/high-productivity garden.

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1:30-3:00. Innovative Cookers and Dehydrators. This hands-on workshop covers the use and construction solar dehydrators and rocket stoves as well as solar cookers.

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3:30-4:30. The Affordable Eco Home Tour. This is a chance to have a look at a low-cost high-performance passive solar home. This smart design requires virtually no heating or cooling costs. Featured in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.

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$20 each or $50 for all three.

Meals and accommodation available. Please inquire for options and prices.

 

Sunday 24th March

9:00-3:00. Permaculture Farm Tour. We run a fully-integrated diverse operation on 5.1 hectares integrating plants and animals in distinct relationships based on potential synergies.

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The morning session covers what would be considered permaculture zones 0 – 3 focusing on eco-building and alternative energy, market gardening, hot composting, tractoring fowl, soil fertility, water management, wind breaks, and orchard planning.

The afternoon session covers what would be considered permaculture zones 3 – 5 focusing on water management, erosion control, slope and stream bank stabilization, browse blocks/pollarding stock fodder, and wetland restoration.

$75 Individuals, $120 Couples. Includes Lunch.

Location: Okoia, Whanganui.

Primary Tutor: Dr. Nelson Lebo is an eco design professional with two decades experience in permaculture.

Bush Restoration: Permaculture Zone 5

It’s been two years since we fenced off and started planting the stream and remnant wetland on our farm to native species, with 2,000 plants in the ground thanks largely to Horizons Regional Council, our farm interns, and local schools.

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Before fencing and planting the stream was in rough shape. Our stock was grazing up to the water line and putting pressure on the banks.

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This is a photo of the day after the 2015 floods showing the culvert just below a bend in Purua Stream. The water overtopped the culvert by almost half a metre.

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This is a photo of the same area this month. Note the two large willow trees in each photo.

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We have dedicated this area, which is used for outdoor education with children, to Dr. Chris Cresswell who helped plant trees here two years ago. We call the area “Chris Cressant” because of the bend in the stream.

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This week we found a giant kokopu living in the pool underneath the culvert. Screen Shot 2018-10-25 at 5.57.07 am

In June we found an eel just upstream of the culvert, which appears to indicate that the concrete rubble ‘fish ladder’ we built has been effective at allowing aquatic species to get through the formerly ‘perched culvert’ and upstream to the restored wetland.

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Horizons is back again arranging more school plantings along Purua Stream on our farm and hopefully other land owners will do the same. What a difference it will make for everyone living downstream, which includes much of the Whanganui community.

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To get your school involved contact Horizons Regional Council or contact us at Kaitiaki Farm, www.theecoschool.net

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

Permaculture Internship: A Day in the Life

Our first-of-its-kind Permaculture Design Internship attracts the highest quality candidates from around the world to Kaitiaki farm in Okoia, Whanganui. We are blessed to have three incredible interns at the moment: Karen, Avery and Sarah.

On a recent Wednesday their experiences included milking goats, care-taking ducklings, checking stoat traps, picking strawberries, mulching tomatoes, discovering two naughty children had eaten half of each strawberry, an impromptu lesson in wire straining, feeding and watering pigs, remediating a slip on the hillside, solar cooking, a formal lesson on plant propagation, and eating lots and lots of fresh plums.

The eight-week internship programme immerses learners in farm living and eco-design thinking. Here is what a recent intern had to say after his experience:

Forever thanks! This is exactly the kind of experience that makes me feel that quiting my job to travel and learn new things, was absolutely worth it. I will always be thankful for making me feel at home so far away from mine. You are definitely one of the most amazing and authentic families that i have ever met!

I am taking with me the best memories and also the inspiration i needed to keep on following my goals! And be sure that i will never forget of how i started this voyage on Permaculture at Kaitiaki Farm with my kiwi-american family =)

 Much love and my best wishes to all, Manu, Verti, Dani and Nelson.

Always count on me on anything! – Mario.

Details of the programme can be found here: http://www.theecoschool.net/workstudy-permaculture-design-certificate.html

Kaitiaki Farm Work Study PDC Internship

 

Earn your Permaculture Design Certificate while working on a premier permaculture demonstration farm in New Zealand.

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Our work study internship programme is unique in the world of permaculture education in that it combines best practice teaching and learning with best practice regenerative land management.

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The programme balances content, process and reflection, while nurturing systems thinking skills. It’s about developing a way of thinking that recognizes the connections between diverse elements on the farm and how they interact in four dimensions (over time), along with the hands-on skills required to work effectively with cultivated ecologies.

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Kaitiaki Farm is an exemplar permaculture property that is blessed with a diverse array of microclimates and growing conditions. The 5.1 hectare (13 acre) property is located 4 km outside of Whanganui with a population of 43,000.

Along with holistic land management we also embrace appropriate technology, renewable energy and human-scale solutions.

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Many of our interns come with low or no rural skills. Motivation, a love of learning, and a strong work ethic are the most important elements for success at Kaitiaki.

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We spend a lot of time teaching and talking. This slows down our work but makes the internship what it is – an endless series of ‘teachable moments’. It is also the best way to earn a PDC. This type of learning experience is extremely rare anywhere in the world and would not come from a book or standard PDC course. That said, we have a huge library of great books and lots of connections locally and nationwide of practicing permaculturists.

Interns work three-ish full-ish days and two half days per week, with two days off.

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More details here: http://www.theecoschool.net/workstudy-permaculture-design-certificate.html

The ECO School

Whanganui, New Zealand

 

Inquiries: theecoschool at gmail dot com

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