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Land as Teacher: The Permaculture Campus

When students enrol in our PDC internship programme they soon learn that human instructors take a backseat to the real teacher: the farm itself.

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Farm life often revolves around problem-solving: restoring degraded soils; stabilising vulnerable slopes; re-establishing a former wetland; planting riparian corridors; mending fences; caring for animals; dealing with drought; dealing with floods; clearing drains; digging drains; addressing pest outbreaks; treating diseased plants; protecting chicks and ducklings from predators… The list, at times, seems endless.

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But it makes for an endless stream of teachable moments over the course of our 8-week residential PDC programme, alongside other projects such as erecting new fences, putting up wood for the winter, propagating grape vines, harvesting garlic, pruning fruit trees, ringing pigs, clipping goats’ hooves, processing cockerels, building chicken tractors, scything tall grasses, dehydrating fruit for storage, or breaking in new annual beds.

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These experiences are overlaid on top of daily and weekly chores: turning the compost; feeding animals; collecting eggs; milking goats; harvesting fruits and vegetables; weed management; solar cooking; making cheese; baking bread; and, starting seeds.Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 6.04.56 am

Interns come to Kaitiaki Farm from around the world – most with little or no farming and building experience. For many, English is a second or third language. Some have already completed a PDC elsewhere. Some left well-paying jobs while others are military veterans. They may be vegan, vegetarian, or paleo.

But what they all share is the desire to learn in an authentic context. This creates an amazing community of highly motivated learners. It’s serious business.

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While we follow the PDC Curriculum, the way in which we do so is responsive rather than prescriptive. In other words, we let the land cover most of the topics and we step in only to round it out. Interns not only learn by doing, they learn the how, why, where and when of managing a permaculture farm.

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Above all else they learn four-dimensional design thinking that can be applied to all aspects of their lives after leaving the farm. In other words, what we really offer is a two-month immersion programme in systems thinking.

Connecting the dots, I believe, is the most essential skill to address the many challenges facing humanity. Not all of our graduates will go on to become organic farmers or green builders, but they all have a role to play in creating a better world through holistic understanding and creative problem-solving.

 

Peace, Estwing

Late Summer Permaculture Update

It has been a long and hot summer – great for growing tomatoes and basil, but hard keeping many young trees alive. We’ve spent a lot of time hand watering but have managed to keep up with it. This is a shot of part of our young orchard.

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Here is the flax windbreak for the orchard that is now two and a half years old.

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This blackbody peach tree had two spring flushes this year. Weird. I have never seen anything like it.

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Not a lot of peaches but they are large.

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A huge number of Monty’s Surprise apples came down in the wind last week. We are storing them to feed out to the birds and pigs over time.

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We’ve had well over 100 muscovy ducklings hatched this year with more on the way.

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Unfortunately not many hens so far.

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These cockerels will be ready for processing in another 2 to 3 weeks.

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Our bee guys came to harvest the honey this week. Sadly, it’s the second bad honey season in a row.

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And of course it was a terrible growing season for garlic, but we have survived as one of the few organic growers in the country with a half-decent crop.

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Some good news is that Rosie has had twins that are doing well.

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And we’ve been potting up tagasaste in the nursery.

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That’s all for now, Estwing.

Guest Post: What Permaculture Is – A Letter to Friends

Editor’s Note: Karen reflects on her two months of learning on the farm.

 

Reflecting back over the 8 weeks of our permaculture internship, I wanted to attempt to distil and share what I’ve learned about permaculture.

For a start, permaculture is one of those terms that a single definition won’t cover – it’s multi-dimensional in theory and in practice. On our first evening here at Kaitiaki Farm, five interns around the dinner table gave five different descriptions of what they understood permaculture to be. For example; sustainable agriculture; a systems/holistic approach to farming; working together with nature and natural processes in agriculture. It is all this and more. It is a blend of scientific knowledge and traditional approaches. It is a framework for resilience in an uncertain world.

At the heart of permaculture are the ethics of earth care, people care, and fair share. It’s about considering the part humans play in natural resource cycles, and designing for sustainability of these systems.

Permaculture is not exclusively for those with land in the countryside. We can be permaculturists on city sections, as apartment-dwellers, and as vagabonds.

Permaculture can inform many of our life choices; how we manage our finances; how we share surpluses; how we design our homes and workplaces; and how we form our communities. Permaculture encourages us to consider our actions from all angles.

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Permaculture helps build sustainable communities: Whanganui has a local “green dollar” currency – River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) – where members can barter or exchange skills and produce using River Dollars (which are equal in value to $NZ). There is a REBS stall every week at the Saturday River Traders Market. We transported garlic from Kaitiaki Farm to the market by bike.

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Permaculture helps us design systems which are multi-dimensional, and which factor in resilience. At Kaitiaki Farm the wood-burner warms the house in winter, while also heating the hot water, and is used for cooking. While there is also an electric stove, often a solar cooker is used to prepare meals. Having several different cooking options means the household doesn’t go hungry in a power outage and makes cooking more of an adventure.

Karen

Farm Weekend 2018: 3rd-4th March

Kaitiaki Farm Weekend 2018

3rd-4th March

Whanganui, New Zealand

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Saturday 3rd March

11:00-12:30. Organic Gardening Master Class: Work Smarter, Not Harder. Being efficient and effective is all about tools, timing and technique. By taking on a market-gardener’s perspective on organic production all gardeners can punch above their weight.

1:30-3:00. Backyard Chickens. Experienced chicken breeder Cyd Welch joins us for this workshop covering the basics of chook care and management.

3:30-5:00. Innovative Cookers and Dehydrators. This hands-on workshop covers the use and construction of solar cookers, solar dehydrators and rocket stoves, some of which we’ve used for over a decade.

$20 each or $50 for all three.

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

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Sunday 4th March

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

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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, building 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, stock rotation and wetland restoration.

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$75 Individuals, $120 Couples

Primary Tutor: Dr. Nelson Lebo has been farming for nearly two decades and teaching for nearly three. He is best known for innovative and holistic design solutions.

Register: theecoschool at gmail.com

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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 Permaculture: 2018 Programme

Tours – Workshops – Events

Autumn 2018 Programme

 

28th January – PDC presentations & Shared Meal

 

3rd – 4th March: Farm Weekend. Accommodation & meals also available.

3rd – Workshop Blitz: Backyard Chickens; Organic Gardening Master Class; Innovative cookers and dehydrators. 90 minutes each. $20 each or $50 for all.

4th – Farm Tour: Best Practice Holistic Management. Kaitiaki Farm is an exemplar permaculture farm just outside Whanganui. The tour will cover: market gardening; hot composting; the best tools for farm and garden management; tractoring fowl; water management; building soil fertility; wind breaks; orchard planning; erosion control; slope stabilisation; stock rotation; wetland restoration; alternative energy; and, eco-building. 9 am – 3 pm. Includes lunch. $75 individuals, $120 couples.

 

25th March – PDC presentations & Shared Meal

 

* Easter Weekend – How to Build an Affordable Eco Home…Legally. 2 days to be confirmed. $170 individuals; $250 couples. Includes lunches.

 

22nd April – Chicken Tractors; Growing Great Garlic. 1 hour each. $10 each.

 

20th May – PDC presentations & Shared Meal

 

9th June – Garlic Workshop. 1 hour. $10

10th June – Garlic Workshop. 1 hour. $10

 

Registration: theecoschool at gmail.com

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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