Tag Archives: permaculture

Hands-On Design Workshop

Immerse yourself in the permaculture design process as part of an innovative new housing development on former horse paddocks.

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Join us for a blank slate design exercise in the field. This workshop engages participants to consider environmental conditions, site factors and human needs to envision the development of a piece of land for multiple households in Aramoho/Papaiti, Whanganui.

Topics covered: sector analysis; zones; eco-home design; co-housing; shared infrastructure; water management; wastewater & compost toilets; bundling services; & more.

What is possible for an ambitious eco-development involving multiple households? Small groups will work on different possible developments and then present to the whole.

(*See continuing the conversation below.)

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Sunday 6th, 2-4:30 PM + optional social gathering*

$40 individuals or $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

* Continue the conversation afterward with the project initiators at a local pub.

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6 Years Hard Yakka

We’ve reached our 6th anniversary on the land so I had a wander the other morning to capture some of our progress. We’ve focused on a number of areas over this time, primarily on fencing and planting the stream and hillsides to prevent erosion and slips. These efforts have been documented thoroughly in this blog so feel free to scroll through previous posts.

We’ve also worked hard on establishing animal systems to enhance our land management. This too has been thoroughly documented.

Early on we established an orchard and harakeke wind break, but it’s hard to see the deciduous fruit trees in winter. In this image you can see guava and feijoa and olives and loquat.

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And finally there are the market gardens, which went on the back burner when we were doing all of the above.

I am particularly proud of the avocado mounds with tagasaste nurse trees. Four of these five trees are fruiting and nearly ready to harvest. Yum.

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Yet it continues…

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Peace, Estwing

RetroSuburbia in New Zealand

20-20 Hindsight Revisited

Nelson Lebo

In just four months 2020 has delivered more life lessons than most years do in 12. Along with those lessons have come new terms and phrases: social distancing; self-isolation; contact tracing; essential services.

Witnessing the ‘essential services’ lolly scramble has been mildly entertaining as different sectors lobbied for essential status with plenty of self-justifying rationalization. Ah yes, all services are essential but some services are more essential than others…

From my perspective I tend to think of the essentials as food, water, shelter and companionship.

Of the latter we have been able to provide safe accommodation for a number of adults who otherwise had no place to go for the duration of the lock down. This has resulted in a large bubble filled with board games, jigsaw puzzles, playing Lego with the kids, and walking bubba up the road to visit a neighbour’s horse. We’ve also enjoyed the regular act of speaking to neighbours ‘over the fence’ which has brought our rural cluster of homes closer together.

Regarding the other essentials, it’s been business as usual on our farm as would be the case on any permaculture property worldwide. Growing food, storing water and creating energy efficient spaces to live are at the heart of the permaculture movement, which provides a ready-made textbook for the type of resilience a wider audience is now clamouring for.

Despite what may be implied by the ‘Billionaire Bunkers’ of the South Island, resilience (and sustainability) need not be expensive. As shown by the 2011 renovation of our home in Castlecliff, meaningful results can be achieved on a shoestring budget. Here are some reflections published in the Chronicle on 30th January 2012.

 

Big savings in a year of living lightly

“We are now over the 12-month mark of renovating an abandoned villa in Castlecliff into a warm, dry energy-efficient home. When we set out on this low budget / high performance retrofit we had no specific numbers in mind for energy savings and waste reduction. We simply wanted to push the envelope and do the best we could. As it turns out, our power bill has averaged $20 per month (this includes the daily line charge) and we have spent a total of $20 in rubbish fees for the entire year. I’ve come to call this our “20-20 hindsight” but there is no reason it could not also be a 20-20 vision for others to work toward by the year 2020.

The first Conservation Comment I wrote in July explained the design principles we employed for our passive solar renovation that have helped us achieve low energy bills. There is nothing new or unusual about those principles: solar gain, thermal mass, insulation and draft proofing. Similarly, there is nothing new or unusual about the design principles for our approach to resource conservation: reduce, reuse and recycle. The 3 R’s have helped us reduce the cost and impact of the renovation project as well as the cost and impact of our day-to-day lives. Here are a few examples.

While we have followed the New Zealand Building Code and used treated pine, Braceline Gib, building paper, and heaps of insulation, there are also areas where we were able to reduce costs and impacts by reusing materials. Prime examples include the bathtub, vanity, washtub and toilet in the bathroom, and the bench, sink, mixer, drawers, and shelves in the kitchen. Perhaps the most visible example is the vintage Shacklock 501 multi-fuel range that I bought my wife two years ago as a wedding present and we worked with Building Control to find a way to install safely.

Regarding our household waste stream, we compost all of the food scraps and even our fish and chips papers. We save paper to burn in our Shacklock or our outdoor pizza oven (made from an old wood burner) or to mulch our gardens and fruit trees. We reuse plastic bread bags and other small non-recyclable plastic containers. Again, there is nothing special about any of this, other than the fact that we take it seriously and put out one bag of rubbish for every two months. Perhaps the most unusual thing we do at all is emphasize the costs savings rather than simply the environmental benefits. At the end of the day, eco-thrifty living makes dollars and sense.”

 

Along with the renovation we filled the section with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Today the home and section are unrecognizable from a decade ago, and have been included in a recent book written by permaculture co-founder David Holmgren: RetroSuburbia: The downshifters guide to a resilient future.

In the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown – which has forced almost all of us to downshift for six weeks anyway – this book and the greater RetroSuburbia movement seem more relevant than ever. Dani and I feel privileged to work with our Australian counterparts in promoting the movement on this side of the Tasman.

As this is my last conservation comment, I want to make sure to thank all those who have supported our community projects over the last decade including the major hardware stores and garden centres. I especially want to recognize the dozens of volunteers for the Curtain Bank and the Repair Café as well as the Whanganui Learning Centre and the Josephite Retreat Centre for their unqualified support.

Kia kaha, Estwing

7th Annual Permaculture Weekend: Revisiting Resilience

The 7th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend will be held in conjunction with the Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga (Adult & Community Education Aotearoa).

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The focus this year will be on building household and community resilience.

Community Resilience Week

Permaculture and Adult Learning

6th – 13th September 2020

DRAFT

 

Sunday 6th, 12-1 PM: Solar Cookers & Rocket Stoves

Come to an alternative lunch and learn about a range of resilient cookers.

$20 includes lunch. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.comScreen Shot 2020-04-07 at 2.04.42 pm

 

Sunday 6th, 2-4:30 PM: Hands-On Permaculture Design Workshop

Join us for a blank slate design exercise in the field. This workshop engages participants to consider environmental conditions, site factors and human needs to envision the development of a piece of land for multiple households in Aramoho/Papaiti, Whanganui. What is possible for an ambitious eco-development involving multiple households? Small groups will work on different possible developments and then present to the whole.

(*See continuing the conversation below.)

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$40 individuals or $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

* Continue the conversation afterward with the project initiators at a local pub.

 

Wednesday 9th, TBC: Backyard Gardening and Composting

Free. Location tbc

 

Thursday 10th, 4-5 PM: Basic Fruit Tree Care. Whanganui Learning Centre.

Free. No registration required.

 

Thursday 10th, 6-7:30 PM: RetroSuburbia Case Study. Whanganui Learning Centre.

Free. No registration required.

 

Saturday 12th, 9 AM – 1 PM: River Traders Market: River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) is Whanganui’s local currency. Learn more at the REBS stall.

Free. No registration required.

 

Saturday 12th, 2-3:30 PM: Repair Café. Mint Café

Free. No registration required.

 

Sunday 13th, 10-12:30 AM: RetroSuburbia Property Tour

From abandoned villa to affordable eco-home and section. This Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburiba: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

$40 p/p, $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

 

Sunday 13th, 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

RetroSuburbia: Castlecliff, Whanganui

Everyone told us, “Do not buy in Castlecliff!” We ignored them. It was 2010.

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It was love at first sight.

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More than one person scoffed at me for buying this house.

Some called it “A dog’s breakfast.”

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But she came up alright with a lick of paint.

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The home and section were a bit of a mish…

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…but we got there in the end.

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Side yard before…

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…and after.

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This project has become a benchmark for low-cost and high-performance renovation.

There will be a one-off tour and workshop in late April.

ANZAC Day (Observed, Monday) 27th April, 2020, 2:00 – 5:00 PM. $35 p/p, $55 couples.

This Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburbia project: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

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Space is limited.

Registration essential: theecoschool@gmail.com

Peace, Estwing

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