Tag Archives: permaculture internship

Permaculture Internship: Paying-It-Forward

Interns come to Kaitiaki Farm for 8 weeks at a time to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate. That’s not long enough to grow anything from seed to plate except radishes or maybe salad greens depending on the time of year. As a result, we’ve developed a form of ‘paying-it-forward’ from one group to the next in the annual garden, or even from season to season by making and freezing pesto or broad bean falafal or sliced peaches, loquats and feijoas.

One group plants tomatoes that they will never eat, but enjoys crown pumpkin, spaghetti squash, dried chilis, and dehydrated apples grown and prepared by other interns months earlier.

The most recent group has been able to experience much of the best aspects of harvest season and their work in the annual gardens has been relatively light. But instead they’ve been planting natives along the stream, helping put up firewood, and transitioning the beds to winter crops such as broad beans, brassicas and garlic. They have even helped organise and run a Curtain Bank for the Whanganui community, to help low-income families keep their homes warmer during the coming winter months.

Previous groups have helped with drainage on the land, built animal shelters and chicken tractors, and planted poplar poles, avocados, olives, and around 2,000 native plants. Each group makes compost that will be used by future groups and raises ducklings or chicks that they won’t see as full grown.

Paying-it-forward on Kaitiaki Farm may serve as an example of what is sorely lacking in much of the rest of contemporary human society. Instead of paying-it-forward we see rampant stealing from future generations in terms of biodiversity, climate, and financial debt.

Even during an 8-week permaculture internship one can only learn so much. So instead of trying to ‘teach’ heaps of ‘stuff’ we take the approach of helping to develop a more holistic vision and four-dimensional design thinking skills. As our interns plant vegetable seeds in the gardens and native seeds in pots in the nursery, as instructors we’re planting seeds of the ethical approach to ecological design that is permaculture. Once interns leave the farm we rely on them to spread out across the planet and pay-it-forward in communities worldwide. We need to make sure they are well nourished for such a weighty job.

Peace, Estwing

Produce No Waste: A Case Study in Building a Pig Shelter

One of the first skills we teach our interns is how to pull and straighten nails.

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Some interns describe this as the Karate Kid induction to Kaitiaki Farm, and call me ‘Mr. Miyagi’.

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Critics have challenged the notion straightening and reusing nails when they are so cheap to buy in the shops, but to me the intent and process go to the heart of permaculture. A huge amount of permaculture can be distilled into one word: mindfulness. Most of the permaculture principles are simply different ways to say, “Be mindful of…” Perhaps no more so than Produce No Waste.

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I bought some second-hand trusses this week from Reclaimed Timber Traders – an amazing social enterprise in Palmerston North that diverts construction demolition material from landfill and resells it to the public. I got a good price because they had not yet pulled the nails themselves.

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Along with some pre-loved 4x2s and roofing iron we carried the trusses down the hill to the plateau near our hives.

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Reusing the trusses made building the pig shelter quick and easy. As I told our interns, Dani and Felicity, “The key to building is a dry head, dry feet and diagonal bracing.”

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We made sure that the iron overhung all of the timber, that we blocked the structure off the ground with off-cuts of treated pine, and we braced it in all directions. “We are not building for a beautiful, calm day like today,” I told them. “Imagine a gale southerly blowing in the middle of the night. That’s what we’re building for.”

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The whole job took less than three hours from off-the trailer to completion – all while entertaining a three-year-old boy and six goats. The pigs paid us little interest, but hopefully they’ll appreciate the final product made entirely of reused materials save for the roofing screws.

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The 2.7 metre by 2.0 metre shelter cost a total of about $40.

Peace, Estwing

Making Permaculture Pay

Permaculture is often described as a “lifestyle ethic” but not often as a way to make a living. There may be some permaculture designers out there and some permaculture educators, but how many people can earn an income from ‘doing’ permaculture?

Now, of course, this is a loaded question because everyone has their own interpretation of permaculture and who qualifies as a permaculturist. I’ll start by saying that permaculturists are self-identified. In other words, there can be amazing organic farmers or super-duper green builders or spectacular orchardists, but the only persons who can label them as permies is themselves.

Next we have a look at what ‘doing’ permaculture means. At it’s core it requires an ethical approach to food production and to housing; it is holistic; it involves design thinking always; and, it engages humans in more resilient and sustainable thoughts and actions.

From these perspectives, making a living from permaculture might include a diverse income stream involving some or all of the above. As a short case study I’ll list some of the ways we are beginning to earn a permaculture living.

Over the last fortnight we have: sold 7kg of organic garlic to a restaurant; sold seed garlic on TradeMe; sold garlic at the local Farmer’s Market; sold gum branches to a florist; completed a design for a suburban property; advised a hotel on heating and cooling issues; carried out an inspection of a mouldy rental property; taken bookings for upcoming workshops; received payment for our PDC Internship programme (along with teaching our current group of PDC interns); taken bookings for a school holiday Nature Play programme; received pre-orders for 30 muscovy ducks.

Additionally, in the near future we anticipate selling a few hundred tagasaste seedlings, ten kune kune piglets, strawberry plants, grape vines, and chicken tractors.

But making a living at permaculture does not only involve earning money. To a large extent it means what I call “cost avoidance” by growing one’s own food, slashing one’s power bill, finding free or low-cost building materials and compost ingredients. In other words, punching above one’s weight by living large on a small amount of money.

Anyway, that’s what I think. What do you think?

Peace, Estwing

Late Summer Permaculture Update II

Summer is always a busy time of year – made busier by a drought. Thankfully we have had nine amazing interns on the farm over the last four months.

After a hot and dry summer we’ve gotten a good soaking rain – about 60 mm over three days. Enough to dampen the soil and plant a winter crop of leeks.

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And also to prep a new annual bed and soak the compost piles through.

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Strawberries and yakon are responding to the rain.

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Some pumpkins have been harvested and are curing on the edge of the stone driveway.

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There are more ‘winter squash’ among the second planting of tomatoes.

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The third planting of tomatoes is starting to take off.

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We’ve been drying chilis on the solar dehydrator. These will be the next batch to be harvested.

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The beans are going gangbusters even through this trellis has been knocked over twice by severe winds.

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And finally, to bookend our summer the first lot of ducklings are nearly full-grown…

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…while the last lot of ducklings has just hatched.

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Looking forward to a slower autumn.

 

Peace, Estwing

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