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18March2017

Earthquake repairs

Details  Another project that can finally be crossed off the to-do list. The earthquake in November 2016 caused cracking in the brick wall behind our fireplace. While it was still standing and looked ok we were not happy about having this unstable stack of bricks there waiting to come down. I decided to remove most of them before another quake brought them down and caused damage to the hot water pipes that passed through to the log burner. It also allowed for the insulation of these pipes which had foolishly never been done in the first place.
The project required carefully chiselling the bricks apart and reducing he height of the wall to a satisfactory level. Than a concrete bond beam was poured, encasing the top layer of bricks, locking it all together. Finally, after adding some additional timber framing the opening was covered by mini corrugated sheet metal.
Date  March 18, 2017Tags    construction 

09March2017

Banjo is her name

Banjo is her name

Details  It seemed like a good idea (at the time) to get a puppy. Banjo is fox terrier / jack russell cross and bursting with energy and an insatiable need to chew on things.Date  March 09, 2017

28February2017

February 2017

February 2017

Details  Ah summer, so hot and dry... Well it has been a good year for fruit, considering the ongoing drought. I spend a lot of time moving hoses around, delivering precious water to young trees, tending vegetables and propagating new plants from seed and cuttings. Several 'construction' projects are under way including an 'upgrade' to roof water distribution and shipping container bunk house. More about these in due course.Date  February 28, 2017Tags    Summer  February 

31January2017

January 2017

January 2017

Details  It's been a hot, dry summer (again). Despite the ongoing drought things are looking fairly good. Most of the trees have a decent amount of fruit set with apricots already harvested and drying. There are lots of flowers buzzing madly with insects. Guest numbers have picked up again post earthquake and now all we could wish for is a drop of rain.Date  January 31, 2017Tags    Summer  January 

14November2016

Blockhill survives 7.8 earthquake with off-grid resilience

Blockhill survives 7.8 earthquake with off-grid resilience

We were shaken violently awake around midnight on the 14th of November as a series of massive earthquakes rocked the region causing widespread damage. Fortunately we (and the guests who were staying) were not hurt and all buildings and infrastructure at blockhill came through virtually unscathed. Lots of broken plates, jars and bottles but with a freezer full of food and a functioning solar backup system and hot water heating array we are living comfortably. The garden is supplying more salad and beans than we can eat and the chooks are laying a steady stream of eggs.
Electricity was restored on the evening of the 15th but there is no indication of when water pumping will resume. Fortunately we have a big water tank and a couple of rainwater tanks just in case.
Aftershocks continue to roll in but things have quieted down considerably.
Despite the poor access over cracked and slipping road, we have had a number of locales pop in to make sure things are ok here. Since there is so much damage to the coastal Kaikoura road there is a focus on opening up the inland route, which connects to our road, so we are seeing a lot of heavy machinery heading through that way.
November 14, 2016

01November2016

8 Years Wedding Anniversary

8 Years Wedding Anniversary

Details  So we made it eight years so far and the traditional gifts are either bronze or salt.Date  November 01, 2016

17September2016

Food Forests, Permaculture & Water Harvesting

Food Forests, Permaculture & Water Harvesting

Olmec will show you how he and his wife Melisa designed permaculture-style food systems by nurturing and enhancing the natural features of their land. Together they have created a diverse, beautiful and bountiful environment.
During a tour of the property, you'll learn about planning an integrated system that includes plants and animals, natural methods of fertilising and soil conservation. Olmec will also demonstrate how to drought-proof your property using swales; that is, earth-shaping to harvest water.

Contribution: 2 time-bank credits or $10 suggested fee
To register contact: Belinda Meares, 03 314 3406, tbhlearningexchange@gmail.com
(Car-pooling can be arranged).
September 17, 2016

14August2016

Garden working-bee

Garden working-bee

A group of us gathered to help install a new vegetable garden for Heidi and Nuk out at Gore Bay. Many hands made things progress quite quickly and we were able to create and plant an area directly beside the house for easy access as well as a new contour garden mound in what was lawn.August 14, 2016  garden  community 

07March2016

22January2016

29October2015

09October2015

19September2015

Digging with a digger

Digging with a digger

There's always digging to be done and much as I love moving earth about it is hard, tiring work. Sometimes it pays to get a machine to help. A little bit of diesel goes a long way and having an efficient operator helps also.
This year we did some more terracing, created a large catchment pond, some additional swales and a flat area for a future natural building. All in a days work at blockhill.
September 19, 2015

13September2015

12September2015

Drought proof edible landscaping - presentation

Drought proof edible landscaping - presentation

As part of the Cheviot Spring Festival, Olmec will be explaining how to create a water wise forest garden. Learn how to outsmart drought and develop lush landscapes full of edible plants.

The talk will be held at 10am and 3pm at the school community room
September 12, 2015

24August2015

Garage aesthetic improvement

Garage aesthetic improvement

Details  Secret swale at west end of workshop. Planted with bulbs, tagasaste for nitrogen and quick frost canopy over lemon. Climbing hardy kiwi.Date  August 24, 2015Tags    upgrade 

31July2015

Shed upgrade

Shed upgrade

Details  Progress has been made on the upgrade of our chook and pig shed. The overall objective is to reconfigure the north facing side of the building as under cover growing space that we can rotate the chooks through.Date  July 31, 2015Tags    Construction 

08March2015

Food forest gardening site visit, tour and workshop

Food forest gardening site visit, tour and workshop

We enjoyed showing our garden and emerging food forest to a group of curious individual from the greater Hurunui district. About 20 people made the journey out to Blockhill to learn more about our version of food forest gardening. The event was organised as part of the Hurunui Time Bank Learning Exchange ProgramMarch 08, 2015

02March2015

15January2015

23December2014

Greenhouse

Greenhouse

Details  A well designed, large greenhouse is great way to grow plants that otherwise would have a limited season or not be possible to grow at all. Here we are growing (from left to right) tomatoes, purple passion fruit, thai ginger (galangal) and babaco (mountain pawpaw)Date  December 23, 2014Tags    glasshouse  tomato  passion fruit  galangal  babaco 

03December2014

Freshly created swale

Freshly created swale

Details  It's never too late to add another swale, it's just a matter of squeezing it in amongst the existing plantings, fences and other obstacles.
The swales not only do a fantastic job of capturing and infiltrating surface runoff during rainy times but also break up the land in interesting and attractive ways.
Date  December 03, 2014Tags    Swale  Food forest  Water 

27November2014

Area of new development

Area of new development

Details  Recently constructed wood filled mounds on contour with preliminary plantings of fruit, nuts and berries with some shelter trees.Date  November 27, 2014
Wide open area, under development

Wide open area, under development

Details  Here is quite exposed to the wind but has water nearby and with the addition of some swales and several years of cover cropping things are starting to improve. Many young trees have been planted here including walnut, butternut, hazelnut, gevuina, soap nut, tagasaste, alder, acacia, cape broom, flax, persimmon, fejoa, apricot, bamboo, pear, peach, loquat, dogwood, pomegranate, gooseberry, raspberry, rhubarb, asparagus, green tea, kiwifruit and many more.
Date  November 27, 2014
3 years old food forest

3 years old food forest

Details  This photos shows a young area of planting where pigs and chickens roam free. Largest trees are tagasaste, alder and almond at around 3m. An assortment of fruit trees about 2-3 meters including peach, apricot, apple, cherry. Some black currants and an assortment of flowers and herbs. Additional wind protection and nitrogen fixation from acacia (tasmanian black wood) and cape broom.Date  November 27, 2014Tags    food forest 

25November2014

Transformation of existing orchard

Transformation of existing orchard

Details  Five years ago this was short cut open grass with a scattering of apple, plum, pear and almond trees. Over the years we have been converting it into a multi functional zone with mixed under story of beneficial herbaceous plants, paths, clearings and swales. Some new shrubs and small trees such as cranberry, black current and citrus have been included also.Date  November 25, 2014

18September2014

Friendly kereru regularly visit the orchard

Friendly kereru regularly visit the orchard

Details  Seen sitting here in one of the older plum trees, one of the local wood pidgin helps thin blossoms before flying heavily to the next tree.Date  September 18, 2014Tags    kereru  plum  blossoms  orchard  native birds 

12September2014

Garden tours

Garden tours

Details  As part of the local Cheviot Spring Festival we opened our garden to the public. Being so far out of town we didn't expect a lot of interest but were pleasantly surprised. Friday was a beautiful day and we showed a steady stream of interested people around the garden and food forest areas. Saturday was grey and a little damp but a few adventurous people made the journey and took the time to explore and learn. All up we must have shown 20 people through, many more than I had expected.Date  September 12, 2014

25July2014

Woody swale / hugelkultur

Woody swale / hugelkultur

Details  We used the opportunity of having a small excavator on site recently to construct 5 wood filed raised growing mounds on contour.
This technique is often called hugelkultur and exploits the ability of rotten wood to absorb and hold amazing quantities of water which is later made available to plants growing nearby.
The end result was 5 mounds about 7 meters long and half a meter high packed with a full trailer load of rotten willow logs and a wheel barrow of pig manure.
An assortment of fruit trees and berry shrubs has been planted along side in various locations to capitalise on the moisture, slow release of minerals and micro-climate effects of wind, shelter, sun and shade.
Date  July 25, 2014Tags    swale  digger  water 

13July2014

06July2014

Silver wattle growing madly

Silver wattle growing madly

Planted in 2010, this silver wattle has but put on an impressive amount of height since this photo in mid 2012. Nature only needs the slightest nudge to send it down a path of productivity and abundance.
I noticed fantails use the wattle trees as 'stepping stones' or islands to travel across the open expanse of paddock.
In 2014 the tree is now large enough for an 8 year old to climb.
July 06, 2014  wattle  acacia  carbon  growth 

26April2014

24April2014

Grubba, the ginger pig

Grubba, the ginger pig

Someone nearby was giving away pigs so we went to check them out and fell in love with this little guy. Having 2 female pigs already we decided to take this little boys manhood away for every ones sake.April 24, 2014  pig 

30March2014

4 years of 'development'

4 years of 'development'

Human muscles coupled with hand tools, powered by home grown fruit and vegetables is reshaping the land and nudging nature in a direction that reinforces positive feedbacks while providing a useful surplus.

In 2009, when we first moved to the land, it had been extensively grazed by sheep for an extended period of time. This, combined with encroaching weedy growth (barberry and blackberry) resulted in a fairly sterile biological situation.

During the intervening years we have carried out extensive planting along with careful contour earth works.

These simple actions have allowed us to create very obvious improvements in a fairly short time at next to no cost.

March 30, 2014

13March2014

02February2014

Black tomato

Black tomato

Details  A stunning jet black tomato. Originally developed by the Oregon State University from crossing the commercial tomato with the black species Solanum peruvianum. They trusted one man with the seeds for propagation but this guy released the un-finalised version all over the world.  Breeders who got hold of the seeds started using it to improve the taste but keeping the black skin. This version is from about ten generations down the line to make the taste better.Common name  Cesar's 'Truly Black'Latin name  Solanum lycopersicumHeight (m)  1Forest layer  herbaceousEdible  Fruit / berries  Frost sensitive  Date  February 02, 2014Propigation method  Sow directWind tolerance  LowFlowers  YellowSource  Cesar Zapata

01February2014

25December2013

A Merry Little Christmas Tree!

A Merry Little Christmas Tree!

A Christmas tree made from a Cabbage Tree flower. Might have to become a new tradition!December 25, 2013

29November2013

16October2013

11October2013

The swale situation

The swale situation

Things have gotten a little out of hand. Since I discovered the swale concept a little over a year ago I have been unable to stop modifying and shaping the water cycle on the property.
Water now takes a very long time to leave the landscape and all sorts of interesting little garden features and microclimates have resulted.
October 11, 2013  swale 

04October2013

The in-depth experience

The in-depth experience

Soni & Kyle have the dubious privilege of being the first paying guests to stay with us. We shared an enjoyable two days discussing and exploring our permaculture inspired planting and water catchment systems as well as an introduction to scything.A special thanks for the food, super delicious... also very colourful, loved the use of herbs.
May there always be enough water, sunshine and bees to compliment the labour and love you put into the land.
Soni & Kyle
October 04, 2013

01October2013

A day with the bees

A day with the bees

Simply appreciate what you've done for us with warm heart. You and your wife are amazing people who live the nature. We have learnt a lot from you. Hope to see you again one day! With a bunch of thanks
In Suk & 2 friends
October 01, 2013

14September2013

13September2013

A little bit of wind

A little bit of wind

We had a very windy night with some impressive lightning and thunder. At one point it sounded like the thunder exploded directly above us.... an unfriendly way to be woken up.
Power went out for 36 hours and cellphone / internet for 48.
The tunnel house was somewhat damaged, mostly due to the door coming open or disintegrating.
September 13, 2013  wind  storm  weather 

09September2013

Long lasting tree identification labels

Long lasting tree identification labels

While I have a detailed planting map in the computer, it is useful to be able to identify trees out in the real world so I made these metal name tags using sheet aluminium. The names are stamped out using individual letter stamp / punches.September 09, 2013  tree  technology 

06September2013

Batch tree planting 2013

Batch tree planting 2013

Details  It's tree planting time again and as in previous years, we have once again received an order of 130 trees and shrubs. Carefully selected to fill specific niches, these plants will, as they mature, flesh out the natural forest we are attempting to coax into existence.
3 types of flowering native broom handle strong winds and dry soils while fixing nitorgen in the soil and providing a valuable nectar source for bees and other insects and birds.
Hazels, butter nuts, and several berry shrubs will feed us and the wildlife as well as adding an asthetic and natural mixing of scale in the forest.
Date  September 06, 2013Tags     

02September2013

Tomatoes in September

Tomatoes in September

Details  Ok, so it's only one tomato right now but there are more coming. One of the many end of season tomatoes that was composted into the glasshouse beds during construction is off to a fine start.Date  September 02, 2013Tags    tomato  spring  glasshouse 

01September2013

Converting an existing orchard to food forest

Converting an existing orchard to food forest

When we took over the property it came with an orchard consisting of plums, almonds, cherry, apricot, apples, peaches, nashi and pears. The trees are of varying ages and were planted more or less randomly across what was once an open paddock. Slowly I have been contouring, inter-planting, removing grass, mulching and generally intensifying the productivity of the area.September 01, 2013  food forest  conversion  progress 

27August2013

Spring in the 'forest'

Spring in the 'forest'

Spring is here again and this almond is putting on a show. Planted just 3 years ago, this is the second year it has produced a crop. Looking forward to it. Also in the photo is Dmitry the muscovy.August 27, 2013  spring  food forest  duck