Tag Archives: permaculture

Using Kunekune Pigs in Land Management

Editor’s Note: This appeared in the Whanganui Chronicle on the 13th of January, 2020.

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

I wrote about George Orwell’s recognizable Animal Farm quote six months ago in a Conservation Comment focusing on my observations of the gradual erosion of the ‘social contract’ as more and more people seem to take an attitude of “those rules don’t apply to me.” Parking on the verge during school pick-up appears to be a common expression of this form of self-applied superiority, and the bigger one’s ute the more likely we are to find it’s driver applying this form of DIY VIP parking.

But this month I mean it literally – some animals are more equal than others. In the eyes of the law certain animals are provided many rights and protections while others provided few.

Fair enough – after all some animals are critically endangered and others are considered pests. We spend millions trying to save some from extinction and millions trying to eradicate others.

Among livestock, the rules are generally the same but with notable exceptions. Take the WDC Keeping of Animals, Poultry and Bees Bylaw 2015. The bylaw takes particular exception of pigs, requiring they don’t come “Within 50 metres of an adjoining Premises boundary in all areas within the District.”

Pigs! Why is it always pigs? Pigs are smart and clean animals, yet we always hear, “This place is a pig sty!” Barack Obama famously said, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” which Republicans claimed was directed at then vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

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I don’t know the origin of the bylaw but assume it dates to a time of poor animal management and/or unregulated hog farms. Times change, and like many outdated policies we encounter a review is welcome. The WDC Bylaw is up for review, which provides an opportunity to consider a pig ‘of a different colour’.

Taking a fresh perspective on land and management it’s easy to see that one porker rises above the rest. Yes, there actually is a pig “more equal than others”, with a name so nice you have to say it twice.

According to The New Zealand Kunekune Association, “The name Kunekune means ‘fat and round’ in Maori. The Kunekune is a unique New Zealand breed of pig. The general consensus is that the Kunekune were probably brought to New Zealand in the 1800’s by whalers operating in New Zealand waters, and were traded with the Maoris. In the late 1970’s the breed was ‘rediscovered’ and at that time it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred Kunekunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only 6 sows and 3 boars in 1978, the Kunekune now numbers in the thousands. It is due to the enthusiasm and dedication of people… that the breed was saved from extinction.”

While it’s important to preserve rare breeds for their genetic diversity, the kunekune can also play an important role in holistic land management, regenerative agriculture, bush restoration and even combatting climate change. Yes, you read that correctly.

I first read about the use of kunekunes as a management tool at Yealands Winery about six years ago. We first employed them on our farm four years ago.

Their unique value in land management is that, unlike sheep, cows and goats, they eat grass but not trees, shrubs, vines or flax. As with Yealands, we employ kunekunes primarily as ‘workers’, although we also eat them. As part of our holistic approach to regenerative agriculture we have engaged them to manage grass and weeds in our mixed fruit orchard; around olive trees on a hillside; in an avocado orchard; and around native plantings used for stream corridor restoration.

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During the last five years we’ve planted 3,000 trees on our permaculture farm as we strive to grow more food on the land while simultaneously sequestering more carbon, reducing more erosion, and virtually eliminating Nitrogen pollution into Purua Stream. This type of win-win-win situation is known broadly as ‘ecological design’ where the aim is to work with nature instead of working against it.

The results on our farm have been profound in just five years, and we certainly advocate the use of holistic design that incorporates animals alongside perennial plantings to provide the opportunities for the land to ‘punch above its weight.’

Where kunekunes may be of most use in our District, however, is on the smaller lifestyle blocks where residents may be planting natives and/or fruit trees. Weeding is important in both cases and engaging these friendly grazers could help avoid the use of chemical weed killers, time-consuming hand-weeding, or expensive mulching. But, as you can imagine, on a one-hectare lifestyle block there is not much land that is more than 50 metres from any boundary, which essentially outlaws the use of this important management tool for growing more trees on these properties, which would help the District address climate change on many levels.

In my experience with kunekunes, when managed well they do not create mud wallows, attract flies, or make much noise, while producing less odour than some sheep and far less than a male goat.

A review of the bylaw is not only an opportunity to reconsider this unique breed and what it can provide us beyond simply meat, but also to think more holistically about the interface between plants, animals and legislation to make sure they are working with each other instead of against each other.

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Nelson Lebo manages Kaitiaki Farm in Okoia, where a Master Class on Holistic Land Management will be held 23rd April. theecoschool@gmail.com

Early Summer Permaculture Update

It’s hot and dry already but we have not yet started irrigating the fruit trees. That could change in the coming weeks. In the meantime we’re enjoying a good fruit set in part thanks to our resident bees. These are early plums that will be ripe in about a month from now.

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Additionally, we’ve got plentiful grapes, apples, pears, peaches, guavas, olives, figs, feijoas, and for the first time quince. Flowering on the avocados is massive so we are hoping for good cross pollination there.

We’ve also had excellent germination of the Black Boy peach stones. We’ve potted up over 50 and still going.

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On the animal front we’re up to about 60 muscovy ducklings hatched along with 8 goat kids. One of the kunekune sows is pregnant and due in the next weeks. Chooks laying up a storm with a broody hen sitting on a dozen Wyandotte eggs.

Peace, Estwing

Micro-Climates Large and Small

An amazing ‘teachable moment’ occurred recently regarding the concept of micro-climates. The “Black Boy” peach stones have been in sand – black sand from the west coast of New Zealand – for the winter. This is our germination strategy.

About four weeks ago, due to changing seasonal sun angles, morning sun reached under a shed roof and struck one small part of the beds. The resulting warmth caused early germination of five seedlings in one little spot. Only now are stones germinating in the rest of the beds.

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That teachable moment gives way to larger discussions on micro-climates and how they can be embraced, designed and improved. While our market gardens are out in the open and often take heavy winds, we have a smaller ‘kitchen garden’ protected from the prevailing winds that also benefits from the ‘sun trap’ effect created by the home and carport.

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We shifted the herb garden to this north-facing location in the car park. Most herbs love hot and dry conditions, as does the dog.

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Similarly, these grapes grow in a north-facing sun trap that is also protected from the prevailing winds. Additionally, most of the leaves are kept dry by the shed roof, which reduces the chance of moulds and fungus growing on them.

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Plants in the nursery receive morning sun but are protected from midday and afternoon sun in the summer.

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The potting bench also receives morning sun but nothing else. This is good for transplants and hardening off purchased seedlings grown in hot houses.

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With heavy soils we have struggled with where to plant citrus. The solution was to build up a “hugel-mound” to improve drainage and increase soil carbon, and to site it in a spot protected from the prevailing winds by existing lacebark and recently planted tagasaste.

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While micro-climates often seek to achieve protection from the wind, there are instances when the opposite is desired. Evapotranspiration beds seek to draw moisture out for the soil using plants and a windy location. This from Wikipedia:

Evapotranspiration (ET) is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth’s land and ocean surface to the atmosphere. Evaporation accounts for the movement of water to the air from sources such as the soil, canopy interception, and waterbodies. Transpiration accounts for the movement of water within a plant and the subsequent loss of water as vapor through stomata in its leaves. Evapotranspiration is an important part of the water cycle. An element (such as a tree) that contributes to evapotranspiration can be called an evapotranspirator.[1] 

Below is a sketch of a mounded ETS bed for grey water treatment using biomass willows and carex grasses. The idea is that the willows grow rapidly in the presence of the  nutrients in the grey water but transpire excess moisture to the atmosphere. In winter when the willows are dormant the grasses take over the transpiration task.

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By understanding micro-climates we can use them to our advantage. These are examples of using the permaculture principles: Observe & Interact, and Design from Patterns to Details.

Peace, Estwing

Estwing

Kaitiaki Farm Experience

Kaitiaki Farm Experience

7th-8th September, 2019

These events are part of Whanganui Permaculture Weekend.

Choose one, two or all of the events on offer. Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

Saturday, 7th Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui

4:30 – 5:30 Building & Maintaining Weed-Free Garden Beds. $10

6:00 – 7:30 Shared Meal. Bring a plate to share.

Sunday, 8th Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui

9:00 – 12:00 Farm Tour: Diversity and Complimentary Systems

On 5 hectare we integrate plants and animals to maximise benefits for land protection, food production and biodiversity. The property contains many distinct micro-climates within a relatively small area, and we have established all five permaculture zones in five years. $45 (Couples $75)

12:00-1:30 The Alternative Lunch

Learn about solar cookers and rocket stoves (and the world’s best solar dehydrator) while enjoying a delicious lunch. $20

Mid-Winter Permaculture Update

Close to the shortest day of the year we’ve discovered a hatch of 11 ducklings walking across a paddock. We moved them to a protective pen to keep them safe from predators.

Earlier in the day I captured some images of other things happening on the farm, such as these young citrus trees.

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The garlic is starting to grow in the market gardens.

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After four years we have our first avocado.

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The broad beans are thriving in the cool weather.

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Yakon is ready to harvest.

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Peace, Estwing

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Permaculture Weekend 2019: 7th-8th September

The 7th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend is scheduled for 7th-8th September, following as usual the Festival of Adult Learning (formerly Adult Learner’s Week). Thanks to Adult and Community Education Aotearoa (ACE) we’re able to offer a full week of events for the community in addition to Permaculture Weekend.

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Workshops, presentations and tours to include: Small backyard gardens; Basic care for fruit trees; Cheese Making; Reducing plastic waste at home; Renter’s rights and responsibilities; Ensuring a healthy rental property (for landlords); Permaculture Farm Tour; Heritage Seed Swap; Building weed-free garden beds; Forest schooling for children; and more events to be posted soon.

 

Saturday 7th September

9:00 – 1:00  River Traders Market: Whanganui’s Saturday Market

Whanganui’s Local Currency: The River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) has been operating in Whanganui for nearly 30 years and has had a stall at the Saturday market for over a decade. Come to the stall and learn more!

 

Flax Weaving with Tracey Young. Details Pending

 

1:00 – 3:00 Cheese Making: 30-Minute Mozzarella.

Learn to make 30 minute mozzarella cheese and then we’ll make a pizza with homemade sauce to enjoy the cheese. Recipe provided.
$20 per person

Bronwynne Dowson Anderson

Register: kiwibokslady@gmail.com

 

2:00 – 4:00 Caring for Fruit Trees

Learn the basic nutritional requirements of fruit trees, how to prune and train for healthier and more productive trees and basic tool use/maintenance. The workshop will culminate in pruning a tree together to put that theory into practice. $20

Sam Moore. 74A Wakefield Street, Whanganui East

Register: theconsiderategardener@gmail.com

 

4:30 – 5:30 Building & Maintaining Weed-Free Garden Beds

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. $10.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

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6:00 – 7:30 Shared Meal

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. Bring a plate to share.

 

Sunday 8th September

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9:00 – 12:00 Farm Tour: Diversity and Complimentary Systems

We manage a diverse 5 hectare farm integrating plants and animals to maximise benefits for land protection, food production and biodiversity. The property is unique in that it contains many distinct micro-climates within a relatively small area, and that we have been able to establish all five permaculture zones in less than half a decade. Kaitiaki is a model permaculture farm that serves as an outstanding learning place.

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. $45. Couples $75.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

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12:00-1:30 The Alternative Lunch

Learn about solar cookers and rocket stoves (and the world’s best solar dehydrator) while enjoying a delicious lunch using the ones we use regularly here on the farm. These tools are great for reducing energy use, saving money and resilience to power failures.

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui. $20.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

 

2-4 PM Annual Heirloom Seed Swap! 

This is a chance to meet other Whanganui gardeners and to swap surplus heirloom and open pollinated seed that you have bought or saved. It will be a relaxed, friendly gathering with a cup of tea to follow.  If you have seedlings or plants you would like to share please bring these along too. You don’t need to have seed to share in order to partake.

Bring:   Details of your seeds such as a description, variety, date saved/use by date and any other notes you would like to share.

A pen and envelopes to take seed home in.

By donation

Whanganui Heritage Seed Savers

Quaker Meeting House, 256 Wicksteed Street.  
Queries: nangethepange@hotmail.com

Farm Design: The BIG Picture:

Thanks to a drone picture from our interns, I can explain a bit about our farm design from a different perspective. While this image only shows a small part of the farm it does capture an intersection of farm systems.

One of the first major changes we made on the farm was fence off a remnant wetland in 2016 and plant native grasses, flax, shrubs and trees. The aims are to improve water quality, control erosions, provide habitat, and increase biological diversity.

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Next we bisected the valley with fencing and designated one side for goats and one side for kune kune pigs. On the goat side – where you can see the bee hives – we’ve planted around 50 poplar poles to stabilise the slopes. Each of these is protected by a heavy duty plastic sleeve to prevent the goats from stripping the bark.

On the pig side we have planted around 40 poplars, 32 olives, and 60 akeake trees, all of which are unprotected because the pigs eat grass but do not browse trees.

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Next we fenced the rest of the stream, which goes far beyond the picture shown here. Along this stretch of stream we’ve planted primarily cabbage trees and Australian river oak (casuarina). Both are known to have fibrous root systems that are good at holding stream banks.

Part of this area contains a small hillside formerly covered in gorse and thistles, as well as another remnant wetland. We’ve planted more native trees, flax and willows there. This area can be used as an emergency browse block in case of severe drought.

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The area under the pines provides seasonal grazing as needed. We can rotate the goats or  pigs through this area to rest other paddocks.

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Most of the farm has poor soil drainage that does not suit avocado trees. But there is a shelf of land above the stream that has better drainage that will host 30 to 40 trees. We’ve fenced this area temporarily to establish tagasaste (tree lucerne) as a companion to the avocados.

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The olives are on the dry and windy hillside above the avocados.

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We planted 40 ake ake on a dry hillside on one side of the large poplars seen in the middle of the image and another 20 on the other side of them. Ake ake are well adapted to dry conditions.

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In the short term we are having to hand water many of these trees, but in the long term they will contribute to the resilience of the farm. Trees help build resilience to both drought and flood. We’ve planted over 2,000 in the last four years.

At present the bees are managed by a contractor who pays us an annual fee. We have a good diversity of flowering plants that provide more-or-less year-round bee fodder.

Peace, Estwing