Tag Archives: permaculture internship

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

Guest Post: Turning Grain into Goats’ Cheese

Editor’s Note: Avery has just completed an eight week internship on the farm.

 

I’ve been reading this blog for nearly five years, so when I began the PDC Internship I wondered how the experience would differ from what I’d been reading about on my computer screen. Besides the drastic difference between learning by reading and learning by doing, there has been one major activity that only began when myself, Sarah, and Karen arrived – goat milking!

Susan’s babies finished weaning two months ago, allowing us to try goat milking for the first time. Dani and Nelson taught us the process, and the Goat Girl Gang has perfected it with time, now getting two liters per day from each goat. Here’s what you’ll need:

First – goats with udders ready to be milked.

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Susan is skittish and Francis is calm, but all goats will let you milk them in exchange for one thing: maize. They will barrel across the field and trample their own babies for the chance to get even a sniff of that good stuff.

Since setting up the milking stand our job has become infinitely easier.

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Wrangle them into place and get your milking hands ready. Make a tight ring with your thumb and forefinger at the top of the teat to prevent the milk moving back up into the udder, then squeeze it out using your other fingers.

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Milk in hand, it’s time to make cheese! We’ve tried a few variations, including attempts at mozzarella (marginally successful) and halloumi (incredibly successful – hail Sarah), but our standard is a ricotta/chevré that can range from soft to crumbly. Slowly heat about 8 liters, or 2 gallons, of goat’s milk to 180 degrees F or approximately 80 degrees C. An instant-read thermometer would make this step much simpler.

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Then add 2.5 cups lemon juice, or half that much white vinegar, depending what you have on hand.

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This acidity will coagulate some of the milk proteins, separating the curds (what you eat) from the whey (use in other recipes or feed to the pigs!). Let sit off the heat for ten minutes, then mix in salt (~ 2 teaspoons).

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Pour or spoon the curds into cheesecloth and hang to drain between 30 minutes and two hours, depending how dry you want it.

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Time to dig in! We’ve used this cheese in lasagna, on pizza, and with crackers. It’s especially nice with rosemary sprinkled on top.

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Cheers from Whanganui, Avery

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

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

2017 in Review: Success Breeds Success

2017 was a year of extremes worldwide in terms of weather and politics. It has been tough on farmers in our region. But is has also been an incredibly successful year for The ECO School and Kaitiaki Farm.

Some highlights include:

Our PDC internship programme is the first of its kind and we are receiving amazing interns from around the world.

Our pre-school outdoor programme was a finalist in the WWF (NZ) Conservation Awards.

Our Eco-Thrifty Renovation project has been included in permaculture co-founder David Holmgren’s new book.

We surpassed 2,000 trees planted on the farm.

We ran a hugely successful Curtain Bank in Whanganui providing free curtains to nearly 100 families in two weeks.

For the fourth year we provided free workshops during Adult Learners Week.

We hosted the 5th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend – attracting people from around the lower North Island.

And we are still growing the World’s Best Garlic.

A huge thanks goes out to the interns who have helped us achieve the vision of a resilient and productive farm. We couldn’t do it without you!

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.