Greetings

What's all the fuss about?

Since 2009 we have been practising natural living. Our actions and activities focus on establishing and refining a sustainable, enjoyable and meaningful existence that works in harmony with natural systems.

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Summer produce

Summer produce

Details  Fresh chilli and capsicum from the plastic houseDate  April 08, 2015Tags    Capsicum  Vegetable 
Reciprocal roof (self supporting)

Reciprocal roof (self supporting)

The reciprocal frame is a roof structure where each beam both supports and is supported by other beams in the roof structure. A minimum of 3 beams is required to create a reciprocal frame roof. As each beam supports the next in a reciprocal manner no internal support structure is required.  Only the outer end of each beam requires support which will normally be a post used for the wall.  The roof loads are transferred to these posts and in turn to the supporting foundation. The beams can be fabricated from timbers, laminated wood, steel or reinforced concrete. A very inexpensive roof structure can be made from logs.

While building it you need to support the first beam temporarily; when the support is removed the whole structure should neatly lock together.
https://web.archive.org/web/20081227232...   wood  construction  plans  design  calculator 

Bumblebee nest

Our efforts to create a hospitable environment for bumblebees seems to be paying off. The fuzzy little creatures can be seen on almost any of the numerous types of flowers we have spreading across the property. To top if off we discovered a nest inside the concrete block wall of the chook house and piggery.

There is a contented buzzing humming emanating from the wall and every now and then individuals can be seen bumbling in and out.
November 20, 2012  Bumblebee  nest  hive 
Snow

Snow

Nothing says winter quite like snow. Despite being cold and inconvenient it's also magical and exciting.
We are warm by the fire and watching the snow drifting down outside.
The cat is not too sure. This is his first snow experience and he seems a bit nervous about the white stuff falling out of the sky.
July 25, 2011  snow  winter 

Energy efficiency with hot water

Currently most of out hot water heating is done by electricity although we are are working on a number of strategies to reduce this component. One part of the approach is to keep the thermostat set so that the water is just hot enough.

I was having a conversation with someone about energy efficiency and hot water heating and what was the best temperature setting for the hot water cylinder.

The friend was operating under the incorrect assumption that it was better to have the cylinder as hot as possible so that when water was taken out, for a shower say, there was less cold water entering that required heating. There is a certain surface logic to this but it seemed to me that it doesn't matter what temperature the water is, when you have a shower or do the dishes you are extracting the same amount of energy (in the form of hot water) from the tank and so the energy needing to be replaced is the same.

The issue with keeping water extra hot then, is more to do with the extra energy that is required to maintain a greater temperature  differential between the temperature inside and outside the hot water tank.

According to one website:
"The ideal setting is 60°C. It is important that the water in the cylinder is this hot to kill bacteria such as legionella but higher temperature settings only increase your power bill."
June 17, 2011  energy  hot water  electric  temperature  efficiency 
Exploration

Exploration

As a random act of 'leisure' I decided to extend the frontier and go exploring. Following the currently dry creek bed up into the hills with a packed lunch and camera.
The 2 highlights of the walk were the inlet of the neighbours unpopular water reservoir (why the creek is dry) and three wild deer.
5km loop in 3 hours
February 20, 2011  deer  walk 
Food forest concept discovery

Food forest concept discovery

In early 2011, after discovering the food forest concept, we launched into action and began the process of converting the barren chook paddock into an edible, multi layered botanical paradise.
Not much to see at this point, seen looking south back towards the house.
January 03, 2011  food forest 
First decent snow in a while

First decent snow in a while

Details  A nice clear day after several wet, dismal snowy ones. We're going to have some cold nights now but it's a nice way to recieve moisture.Date  August 07, 2016Tags    2016  August  Snow 
Mila & Mattia

Mila & Mattia

Plenty of energy and enthusiasm for permiculture, Mila & Mattia spent a week of hot summer days helping out in the garden, pruning and mulching and building another H├╝gelkultur / log mound garden.ItalyFebruary 23, 2019  intern  work  wwoof  garden  exchange 
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 

Grafting stored Almond (All in One)

August 27, 2018Scions collected July 14 from All in One
Grafted August 27 to various seedling and one mona vale of various ages.
  almond  graft  august  2018 
7 years of permaculture progress

7 years of permaculture progress

Details  A serious amount of improvements resulting from considerable effort. Learnt a lot along the way.Date  November 05, 2016Tags    progress 
Rota takes a bath in a swale

Rota takes a bath in a swale

Details  We have a number of swales out where the pigs live but this one is their current favourite. Nothing better for the pig than a mud bath on a hot sunny day. It seems that the action of the pigs hooves (feet) and their rolling in the mud actually help seal the swale so it holds water better.Date  October 31, 2013Tags    pig  swale 
6 year old silver wattle

6 year old silver wattle

Details  This tree has put on exceptional growth. It will be coppiced for firewood,Date  November 04, 2016Tags    progress 
Phacelia, blue tansy or purple tansy

Phacelia, blue tansy or purple tansy

Latin name  PhaceliaDetails  Quick and easy to grow, this fantastic bee plant can get up to a meter tall, covered in purple flowers. As it produces a large amount of plant matter it is also useful as green manure or mulch. Produces plenty of seed for next season.Colour  PurpleForest layer  herbaceousPropigation method  Sow directTags    purple  bees  seed  Price  $3.90100 seeds
Willi from Germany

Willi from Germany

Our second WWOOFer, Willi helped out on a large number of jobs despite the frequent rain. Besides all the digging there was tree cutting, rock work, concreting and construction.This is an amazing place for wwoofing. I love the view and the nice bush walks with Olmec. The food from Melisa is awesome! :)
-Willi
August 10, 2012  WWOOF 
Pig on a leash

Pig on a leash

Ever since we got our first kune kune pigs we had imagined tethering them, or using them on a leash to 'mow' grass in various areas where free ranging pigs would be a disaster. Our most recent addition, Potamus, is proving to be very willing and trainable and quickly got the hang of the harness and the resulting reward of visiting fresh pasture.August 05, 2018  pigs  grass 
Quail

Quail

While cutting wood the other day I uncovered a nest containing 14 quail eggs. These birds are common round here and apparently make good eating so I transfered the eggs under a clucky hen in the hopes she will hatch them out.November 29, 2009  quail  birds  eggs  incubate 

Water wise land shaping and rain harvesting

  • Visual presentation covering key concepts and strategies
  • Tour the numerous swales and water catchment systems and learn how they intercept, redirect and retain water in the landscape
  • Witness how swales and raised beds can be deployed in a food forest setting and how they benefit chickens, ducks and pigs
  • Discuss and demonstrate various tools and techniques
  • Utilising grey water and run-off
  • Mark out a contour line ready for swale construction

Suitable for 1 - 5 people. $5 for each additional person.
1 and a half hours  swale  water  education  $60.00
European hazelnut

European hazelnut

Latin name  Corylus avellanaDetails  Broadly columnar, deciduous. Very edible hazel nuts in March with yellow autumn leaves in April. Make great windbreaks yielding nuts, small poles and rods. Coppice readily.Height (m)  5Seeds / nuts / tubers  Jugulone tolerance  Forest layer  low-treePropigation method  Sow pot / trayWind tolerance  HighTags    nuts 
Polycultures

Polycultures

The other end of the spectrum from monocultures, polycultures are mixed plantings of various species that work together and may imitate naturally occurring collections.

Unlike monoculture, which is prone to pest and disease, depletes and degrades soil, polycultures are ecosystems in themselves, utilising the balancing and collaborative effects of nature.
November 13, 2011  Mixed planting  polyculture  permaculture 
Grubba the ginger pig

Grubba the ginger pig

Date  October 12, 2014Tags    pig 
Autumn bounty - pears

Autumn bounty - pears

Details  Ripe pears are simply wonderful and one of the easiest fruit for us to grow.Date  March 02, 2013Tags    pears 
Swinging

Swinging

Last weekend we were inundated with overly energetic little people (boys) who proceeded to vigorously damage our nice hammocks. Motivated by this and wishing to avert future destruction (unlikely) I put together a robust tyre swing for more aggressive boyish entertainment.January 27, 2013  swing 
Blackberries

Blackberries

Wild blackberries are a bit of a curse round here, growing rampantly wherever they can. However at this time of year they redeem themselves somewhat by offering up sweet berries.
In addition to the thorny wild plants, we have a thornless variety in the garden that produces larger, more accessible berries.
February 16, 2010  Blackberries  weed  fruit 
Little brown frog

Little brown frog

Often heard, never seen, this little creature has been chirping away quite frequently since our wetland has matured.
I was surprised and excited to discover it hiding in the pile of bricks.
March 01, 2013  frog 
Visualising yearly rainfall distribution

Visualising yearly rainfall distribution

This chart shows annual rainfall by month for the years 1990 - 2014 (and partial 2015). While there is a definite tenancy for rain to occur in June and July there is also obvious bumps in October, March and April. Wider areas of colour represent times of high rainfall while narrow regions are dryer.
It becomes clear that rainfall can occur at any time throughout the year and that dry years follow periods high rainfall. With this in mind it makes a lot of sense to be approaching water catchment and management with a multi year view of charging up soil moisture during wet times to carry us through periods of below average rainfall.

Data obtained from NIWA Ferniherst dataset
September 20, 2015  weather  rain  climate  chart 
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 
Rooster

Rooster

Having a rooster offers a number of benefits, if you can overlook the noisy crowing:
  • Helps encourage the chooks to start laying earlier
  • Provides some level of predator protection
  • Creates fertilised eggs if yo want to hatch baby chickens
October 01, 2014  Rooster 
Star tetrahedron rising in Kaikoura

Star tetrahedron rising in Kaikoura

Details  Constructed from recycled 10mm steel rod as a gift for my mother-in-law.Date  December 04, 2017Tags    art  sculpture  kaikoura  tetrahedron  2017 

Trees, trees, trees...

It's getting late in the planting season but we have finally taken delivery of more trees and after several days of planting have them all safely in the ground. Let the growing begin.
August 08, 2012  trees 

Mower madness

Today I attempted to use the mower on the rough grass and blackberries down the back. I got down the track ok and was able to do a pretty good job on the flattest areas but anywhere there was the slightest rise or unevenness it proved useless. Getting back up the track proved challenging with such poor traction. Eventually, after all kinds of runups, digging and pushing I was back in the flat paddock.

Late evening bottled first batch of plum wine and moved next batch from brewing barrel to demijohn. The concoction was super active, bubbling right up through the airlock.
March 03, 2011  mower  wine 
Reinventing collapse

Reinventing collapse

I'm not sure how I originally came across the name Dmitri Orlov but I have been a follower of cluborlov.blogspot.com for some time, relishing the dry, dark wit and practical experience Dmitri brings to the collapse narrative.

His no nonsense acceptance of the inevitable outcomes resonates with my own desire to build a lifestyle that is as resillient and self contained as possible: We are actively working to reduce our external inputs and produce as much food as possible while practising useful skills such as sewing, wood working and animal husbandry. I'm even in the process of refurbishing one of the outbuildings should we need to house a psychosocially unstable security expert, although I am hopeful it won't come to that.

While his recently rereleased book, reinventing collapse, focuses on the trajectory of the United States versus the former Soviet Union there are many aspects which relate to some degree to the situation here in New Zealand. To support Dmitri in his efforts I felt compelled to purchase a copy of this book as well the accompanying Tshirt, an essential component for the upcoming summer uniform.
cluborlov.blogspot.comAugust 20, 2011  collapse  Dmitri Orlov  TShirt 
Chooks are laying again!

Chooks are laying again!

We were beginning to question the commitment of our chooks (and the manhood of our rooster) as the winter egg famine failed to break.

I spent numerous evenings digging the ground to expose worms, collecting sea shells for grit and finally they are away.
August 29, 2010  Laying  eggs  spring  chooks 
Home office refit

Home office refit

After almost two years of working out of the previous owners spare bedroom I have finally invested the effort in a thorough refit of my home office.
Considering how many hours of the week are spent in here it makes sense to have a comfortable space that inspires creativity.
May 30, 2011  office  work  renovation 
Drying Fruit

Drying Fruit

Another way of dealing with surplus fruit is to dry them in the sun for use over winter.

Use a simple wooden frame with fine mesh / gauze stretched over and then place the cut fruit and put the whole contraption out in the sun.
February 17, 2010  Fruit  Drying  Preserve  Summer 
Autumn

Autumn

Autumn is here and I couldn't resist making this autumn bouquet, combining flowers and leaves in an array of autumnal hues. It brings some nature into the house and gives a nice feeling of the seasons passing.April 18, 2011  autumn  flowers  leaves 
New Blood

New Blood

As our flock of chickens has been actively breeding for a number of years using offspring roosters we thought it might be time to refresh the gene pool.
Until we 'dispose' of our current rooster the new guy must stay in quarantine to avoid bloodshed.
The friends who gave us this good looking fellow said he is a Rhode island red, for meat and eggs, perfect
July 22, 2011  Rooster 
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 
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 
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 
Over the edge

Over the edge

Why did the chicken jump off the cliff? We will never really know for sure. But this morning she was a bit jumpy and a bit edgy...and then she just jumped right over the edge and went flapping and squawking to the blackberries below.
June 01, 2011  Chicken  Ladder  Cliff 
Concrete bench top - faux granite

Concrete bench top - faux granite

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen as we do you will appreciate the value of a quality bench and sink configuration.
The one we had was a single tub with a wooden bench top constructed of poor quality materials and it wasn't living up to our requirements.
In typical style I decided I needed a challenging new project and launched into building a complete replacement with a concrete bench top and double tubs. This is the story.
August 01, 2012  concrete  kitchen  bench  tub  sink 
Garden swales

Garden swales

Reconfiguring the garden after some inspiration from Geoff Lawton permaculture DVD.
By laying out the garden beds along the contour we get easy access with improved water infiltration and retention. The width allows for easy reaching to the centre from either side. In the rare instances when we want to irrigate it is simply a matter of flooding the path for a while.
July 31, 2015  swale  garden  2012  2015 
Rota and Mowa the kunekune pigs

Rota and Mowa the kunekune pigs

Ready to move to the next level of small scale, high intensity land management, it's pig time.
We picked up a deal with some guy giving away these 6 month old kunekune girls.
Very friendly, seemingly live on grass and hopefully turns the ground for planting.
October 25, 2012  pig  kunekune 
Blue lupin

Blue lupin

Details  Grows well in most locations where it improves soil with organic matter and nitrogen. Bees enjoy the flowers.

Practical Plants
Plants for a future
Common name  Blue lupinLatin name  Lupinus angustifoliusFamily  LeguminosaeHeight (m)  1Forest layer  herbaceousNitrogen fixer  Propigation method  Sow directTags    Bees  Flowers  BlueRating  
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Green Tea

Green Tea

Details  The leaves are infused in hot water and used as the drink that is commonly known as tea. It is widely drunk in many areas of the world. Green tea is made from the steamed and dried leaves.Latin name  Camellia SinensisFamily  TheaceaeHeight (m)  2Forest layer  shrubEvergreen  Perennial  Date  June 29, 2013Tags    Tea  Colour  WhiteSource  Trademe
Oranges

Oranges

Details  Somehow we are able to grow oranges out doors without cover. There is good wind protection in place and I have been mulching and fertilising regularly with seaweed and pig manure. The tree looks a lot better and the fruit has improved dramatically as a result.Evergreen  Edible  Flowers  Frost sensitive  Fruit / berries  Height (m)  1Forest layer  shrubTags    orange  citrus 

The Triplets of blockhill

Of the twelve eggs, only three have successfully hatched.  There are three little fluffy feathered babies...all black like the mother, though they may be from other hens eggs...we aren't too sure. We have put some of the remaining eggs under the speckled hen who has also gone clucky, but it's been a few days now, and no other baby chickens have emerged. So it looks like we have just the three. Hopefully they will survive the ferrets and the cat!November 10, 2009  chickens  hatch 
Construction process

Construction process

Fortunately the skeleton and shell of the building was quite sound and really just needed a few minor alterations before we could run wiring and pipes and close the walls and finish the interior.  accommodation  sleepout  guest house 
Old iron sides

Old iron sides

The weather boards on the exterior walls of the house were looking tired and required patching in a few places. Also, white was not our favourite colour.
Rather than continue to patch new problems and run on the painting treadmill we decided to go for a more serious and long term solution. After much consideration and deliberation we settled on colour coated corrugated steel. Long lasting, easy to install, made of recycled steel (or can be recycled) and available in a range of non-white colours.
The end result looks good and should last for some time.
July 20, 2013  progress  house  weather  construction 
A stylish mail receptacle

A stylish mail receptacle

After two years working through the high priority, biggest benefit projects on the property I am finding time for the less essential tasks, like building a new letterbox. The one we had was fine, a fully functioning, conventional metal mailbox, a little small but did the job.

I felt it was time, being winter with dark idle evenings, to create something more. A letterbox that not only kept the mail dry but also said something... Using offcuts and trimmings I pieced together something that looked and felt a bit more us.
June 15, 2011  mail  letterbox  wood  carpentry 
Extra long chicken run

Extra long chicken run

The idea behind this chicken run is to provide the inhabitants with a reasonably large area (21 square meters) while being easy to move and providing adequate protection.

Using odds and ends I was able to construct something that looks like it will do the trick. Read more about materials and construction process.
January 30, 2011  chicken run  chicken tractor  fertiliser 
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 
Creating a pond

Creating a pond

Having recently purchased Gaias Garden, a book on back yard permaculture, I was inspired to create a water 'feature' to extend the diversity of the local biological system.
This is an unlined pond dug by hand down into the clay and has a water depth of no more than about 40 centimetres when full.
May 29, 2011  pond  water  frog  fish 
Tui

Tui

Today I saw the first Tui as he flew lazily and dipped across the paddock, settling on the tip of a tall pine.

Over the next half an hour or so he explored the gully and I could hear his distinctive voice as he called out, seeking cousins.

I just hope he decides to take up residence and not just pass on through. There is plenty to keep him here, but no mates at present.

UPDATE
For the next week or so, 2 Tuis set up residence in our orchard and could be seen and heard playing noisily. At present (24 Aug) they seem to have gone again. We hope they return.
July 17, 2010http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tui_%28bir...   Bird  Tui  First Sighting 
Bunny time

Bunny time

Having recently returned from a 'round the world' trip. Deschia decided to hang out with us and re-acclimatise.

Deschia is holding a baby rabbit that Gibson caught and was slowly playing to death.

Thanks for bringing us a hammock from Thailand!
December 07, 2009  Deschia  rabbit 
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 
Peaches

Peaches

Our crop of peaches came ready unexpectedly early. Thanks to the wet season they are sensationally juicy.

As with the plums we have more than we know what to do with and so jam making was in order.
February 15, 2010  Peach  Jam  Preserve  Fruit 
Plastic house

Plastic house

Details  Well designed plastic house offers plenty of space for growing exostic and out of season cropsDate  July 30, 2013Tags    garden 

Good News and Bad News...

Well, the bad news is, I found one of the baby chickens dead this morning. Something ate half of it and left the rest. And whatever it was must have gotten into the crib-house which means it is likely a ferret. It is sad. But somewhat expected. We didn't think all three would necessarily make it to full adulthood. I hope the other two will though!
The good news is, a few days ago I found a nest of 13 eggs! One of the bantams has gone clucky again and has hidden her nest right in the middle of the paddock. We've marked it with a white pole so that we won't step on her. So in another few weeks, we will have more babies!
Update: 12 chickens hatch
November 24, 2009  bantam  clucky 
Twelve

Twelve

So, the bantam that was sitting on 13 eggs out in the grass just hatched out 12 chicks.
As these are all from her own eggs they share a resemblance to the mother, all tiny and shades of brown.
December 07, 2009  chickens  hatch  bantam 
Naughty ferret

Naughty ferret

The ongoing battle against nature.
Unfortunately if we want to protect our chickens (and local bird-life) we need to control the pests that prey on them.

We trapped this ferret with some old cat food, out near our chook house.

You can guess what happened next. At least he'll contribute his elements to our compost.
March 23, 2011  ferret  trap  pest 
The King is Dead!

The King is Dead!

This morning the king (rooster) was noted absent from breakfast around 8:30. The discovery a mass of scattered feathers at the far end of the track at 11 made his disappearance more sinister. Was it a plot by the 3 young brothers, to unseat their father as head of the tribe. Or was it some kind of wild animal?
Warning: disturbing images
June 04, 2010  Rooster  Death  Stoat  Ferret  Pests 
Bird Safety - The clown cat

Bird Safety - The clown cat

Gibson had been catching an unfortunate number of birds over the winter months (as well as mice which we are greatfull for) so something had to be done.

He doesn't seem to mind his bright 'bird safety' collar.
August 04, 2010  Gibson  birds 
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 
Vegetable Dinner

Vegetable Dinner

Fresh vegetables from the garden are quickly and easily converted to a tasty meal.
Part 1 - Mashed potato, beetroot, onion and basil
Part 2 - Steamed beetroot and silverbeet leaves and beans
Part 3 - Salad of carrot, peas, radish, pepper and feta
February 23, 2010  Vegetable  Food  Cooking 
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 
Baby praying mantis

Baby praying mantis

A recently hatched young praying mantis. These guys hunt and eat other insects which is generally a beneficial trait.  insect 
Log Swale / Hugelkultur

Log Swale / Hugelkultur

There is a theory that burying rotting logs can improve the water retention and that plants growing above can tap into that water trapped in the rotting 'sponge' of wood.

Since we had the digger on site I figured we should give it a go - stay tuned for results on this
October 12, 2011  Water  Drought  Digger  Swale 
Medieval

Medieval

An evening of social merriment and music.
We made our way to an interesting party out at port robenson where people dressed medieval and enjoyed a robust meal, drinks, flaming fires and music.
It made me think of something from Alice in Wonderland, a kind of mad hatters tea party as the monk played the trombone, costumes and hats swirled in dance surrounded by Ashley's bizarre décor.
partyMusic.mp3July 24, 2011  Music  party  community  medieval 
Pruning fruit and nut trees

Pruning fruit and nut trees

Time of year for pruning, and an attempt to improve the shape of the trees for easier picking.

Our orchard has a number of large trees as well as a collection of younger ones, all require attention.
June 16, 2010  Fruit  Trees  Pruning  Almond 
Reinventing the parking structure

Reinventing the parking structure

A look at possible urban farming in the post petroleum future, making the most of the situation and thinking about survival.

The voices in the peak oil conversation have made it clear to me that problems with the production and transportation of vegetables will demand more food to be grown closer to the point of consumption - back yards, roof tops, window sills and so on.
Kunstler believes that cities will contract, and those on the coast (exposed to sea level rise) are certainly likely to, as are those that require air conditioning or heating to make the climate bearable.

June 21, 2010  Urban  Future  Farming 

Shortest day

The winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.
The good news is that it's going to get progressively lighter day by day (until the end of the year).
June 21, 2010  Winter 
Resurrection

Resurrection

As the number of chooks steadily increases so too does the need for housing.
In attempt to prevent the family of bantams from visiting our garden everyday we decided to resurrect the old shed down the far end of the farm.
Click the photo to see before and after
March 09, 2010  Chickens  Construction  Renovation 
Oaks from acorns

Oaks from acorns

Growing oaks from seed using locally collected acorns.
This is a low cost approach to establishing a wood lot from seed. By mowing the thick grass and then scattering the hundreds of acorns and covering with grass mulch.
May 13, 2010  oak  acorn  seedlings  timber 
The little fellas

The little fellas

In an attempt to diversify our gene pool and add a touch more variety to our flock we acquired 6 new chooks.

The 3 little english game hens, as seen in the foreground, are cute little midgets and the rooster has a hilarious crow...

Also in the mix, 2 bantams and a lavender arikana.
June 29, 2010  English Game Hens  Small Chooks   
Of motorcycle and fiddle

Of motorcycle and fiddle

Kerry stopped in on her way south, spent a couple of days enjoying the nice autumn weather and entertaining us with her fiddle before packing her motorcycle and continuing on.April 18, 2010  Visitor  Fiddle  Motorcycle 
Portable Electric Chainsaw

Portable Electric Chainsaw

Configuring an electric chainsaw for mobile firewood collection.

Electric chainsaws are light, with no fumes, less noise and fewer complex parts to cause issues.

The problem is they require a fair amount of power, thus limiting their portability.

Check out how to set up a useful system for mobile sawing...
April 27, 2010  Chainsaw  Electric  Inverter  Firewood 
Ride on mower - fossil fuel extravagance

Ride on mower - fossil fuel extravagance

Having no grazing animals leaves us with an abundance of tall grass that is beginning to get out of control in the places where I have not attacked it with the scythe.
Bring on the old mower I 'inherited' from my father. Time will tell if it's a useful tool or a lemon...
December 04, 2010  grass  mowing  fuel  energy 
Tamara

Tamara

Tamara visited us as a WWOOFer (Willing worker on organic farms) and spent several days helping out in the garden and cleaning bricks.February 23, 2010  WWOOF 
Steve

Steve

It's been a year since Steve stopped in and planted a tree to offset his flight home to New Zealand.

Returning to the new and improved Blockhill, Steve made use of the hammock and stretched his legs with a cycle ride.
www.stevemarksphotography.comJanuary 06, 2010  Steve  visitor 
Emily

Emily

Emily came to stay between Christmas and New Year and was able to do a short day trip to the Hot Pools at Hanmer Springs. During her stay at Blockhill she explored down into the gullies of native bush and also got to enjoy the early season plums that had started to ripen in the orchard.December 30, 2009  Emily  visitor 
Frosty

Frosty

Clear calm winter days usually result in severe frosts. After all the rain and with things still being so damp there has been some impressive ice.July 11, 2010  Frost  Winter  Ice 
Yurtopian swales

Yurtopian swales

I provide some basic guidance and marked out a short length of swale for Deschia and Daniel. This will infiltrate excess water from their yurt roof into the nearby garden.May 10, 2013  yurt  swale  garden  teach 
The bees are back

The bees are back

This year we have seen an impressive rebound in bee numbers. It is unlikely due to anything we have done but it is wonderful to see them working frantically on all the things we have planted in the last couple of years. So we are helping them in some way.January 13, 2013  bees 
The top swale

The top swale

Finally, after discovering and experimenting with swales for some time, I have rerouted the rainwater from the house roof to a newly created TOP SWALE. The new excavations run in a fairly straight line through the orchard and overflow into the recently reconfigured garden swales.January 18, 2013  rain  water  swale 
Plum Wine

Plum Wine

With an excess of plums and apparently to much spare time, I decided to try and make wine. The process is reasonably simple, so I have high hopes.
No doubt as other fruit come ready I'll be experimenting with other flavours.
January 30, 2010  Plums  wine  fermentation 
New garden swale

New garden swale

I still got the swale itch and couldn't stop myself creating a new excavation along the top edge of the garden as a second stage catchment for roof run off. This version has a layer of cardboard that spent a week on the floor under the chook perches.May 07, 2013  Swale  garden 
Farming USA

Farming USA

I listened to a recent edition of the podcast "2 beers with Steve" in which he discusses small scale local agriculture and the failings of mechanised, chemical based industrial farming.

In order to better visualise the rise of the mega farm I put together this graph (click to view larger) that depicts changes to US farming over time.
It would be interesting to get hold of similar statistics for NZ.
http://twobeerswithsteve.libsyn.com/ind... March 15, 2010  Farming  History  USA 
Solstice Gathering

Solstice Gathering

In an attempt to break up the gloomy monotony of the long dark winter months we organised a family get together.
Lots of food, good company and the obligatory bonfire.

The burned circular area has subsequently been dug and mulched in preparation for planting in spring.
July 03, 2010  Winter  Solstice  Bonfire  Party 
Cherry tree

Cherry tree

The bright autumn colours of the wild cherry tree.May 10, 2010  autumn  cherry   
A hot day at the river

A hot day at the river

When it gets hot it's time for a dip down at the swimming hole. A 5 minute drive down the road to the Leader river for refreshing, clean clear water. Perfect way to cool off.January 31, 2013  summer  swimming  river 
Plums

Plums

A bumper crop of plums this year. We have been eating them, freezing them, giving them away and trading into the community.
With several trees yet to ripen there is no end in sight.
January 08, 2010  plums  trade  organic fruit  freezing 
Lowering the cost of living

Lowering the cost of living

I'm pleased to be able to verify (to myself at least) the lower cost of country living.
This chart is based on 4 years of personal expense figures and shows a 50% reduction in average quarterly living costs.
May 02, 2010  Economics 
More Trees

More Trees

This weekend I planted a number of crop trees. For the most part it was seedling walnuts collected from under my grandmothers tree but also included 5 grafted fruit trees I purchased.

2 x apricot
2 x nectarine
1 x almond
July 25, 2010  trees  planting  walnut  apricot  nectarine  almond 
Snow in October

Snow in October

After a week of damp and cloudy, the weather reached a wintry climax with flurries of snow and a good dumping up on the hills. The ground was wet and boggy for a few days and the streams gushed noisily.October 09, 2009  snow  spring 
Drying Plums

Drying Plums

The plum harvest has started and we are using every technique to preserve and offset some of the bounty.
Drying is one easy, low tech way to save fruit for another day. I made some trays with fine wire mesh that can be hung in the sun.
January 02, 2011  plums  drying  preserving 
Parnassus Heights

Parnassus Heights

Looking west from the top of the hills that form the southern edge of our valley. The Waiau river can be seen catching late evening sun.March 22, 2010  waiau  view  river 
The way of the swale

The way of the swale

A swale is a permaculture technique designed to improve water catchment and retention on slopes. Applicable to varying scales, a swale is basically a ditch or terrace created along a contour line with the removed soil piled on the downhill side. As rainwater drains down the slope above is is caught and absorbed by the swale. Plantings made along the swale will have access to additional moisture for extended period.

My first attempt at a small swale follows the contour line on a northwest facing slope below an existing track. Because of the small size I was able to dig this by hand over 2 periods, using an A-frame level. Over the course of the next few months we will be scattering the kitchen scraps along the length for the chooks to work over, adding their manure and nutrients from the kitchen. Finally it will be planted up in a variety of different plants from ground covers, bulbs and shrubs to fruit and firewood trees.
June 12, 2011  swale  earthworks  rain water 
Restoring China's Loess Plateau

Restoring China's Loess Plateau

Home to more than 50 million people, the Loess Plateau in China’s Northwest takes its name from the dry powdery wind-blown soil. Centuries of overuse and overgrazing led to one of the highest erosion rates in the world and widespread poverty.

Two projects set out to restore China’s heavily degraded Loess Plateau through one of the world’s largest erosion control programs with the goal of returning this poor part of China to an area of sustainable agricultural production.
  land  water  terracing 
The myth about tree & pasture incompatibility - photographic evidence

The myth about tree & pasture incompatibility - photographic evidence

I am passionate about trees and their numerous benefits so I frequently encounter this commonly held misconception when I try and encourage grass growers to consider incorporating trees on their farms. The argument goes something like this: "I can't plant trees in or around my pasture because they compete with grass for light, water and minerals, grass production would suffer".

This photo, taken a few hundred meters from my home on a conventional sheep and beef farm during the worst drought in decades is evidence that certain tree species can actually improve the performance of grass. If only people were as observant as they are quick to dismiss the value of trees in the landscape.
May 06, 2015  trees  grass  drought 
Quooks!

Quooks!

Today the baby quails have hatched and the big clucky chook has become a mother! There are six babies altogether. There were 7 this morning, but that's a sad and rather funny story.....basically the little quail was sitting up in the nest box and was chirping away. It then got excited and jumped giddily out of the nest box, bounced off the ramp, landed on the floor and was promptly picked up in the beak of hungry chook who thought it was a scrap of food. We tried to rescue it, but it was too tiny to survive such a trama. But at least it got to have a near flight experience in it's short little life.December 05, 2009  chooks  chickens  quail 

Only so many hours in the day

A recent trip to Christchurch took me past Southern Woods tree nursery so I had to buy something. Today I planted out the 5 blueberries (3 varieties) and picked out locations for the 2 fejoa bushes.

The tree felling neighbour offered me the slash and pine cones from recent trees he chopped down so we ended up with 2 trailer loads of pine for winter. And it only travelled a couple of hundred meters.

Pruned one of the olive trees, more for cosmetic reason than to improve the yield.

Melisa put a lot of time into the latest chicken run and got it to a point where we could add the chooks.

Put some silicone sealant on a leaking joint in the solar water heater (so much for zero maintenance)
March 12, 2010  blueberries  pruning  firewood 
Phacelia

Phacelia

Details  Quick growing manure crop or as a sanctuary for predator insects to feed and plan their assaults from. Dig or plough in anytime. Sow from September through to April at a rate of 30g per 10m2 or 1kg per 300m2.Common name  PhaceliaLatin name  Phacelia tanacetifoliaHeight (m)  1Forest layer  herbaceousDate  July 08, 2013Propigation method  Sow directTags    bees  Shade / Sun  Full sunSoil type  MostFlowers  PurpleSource  http://www.kingsseeds.co.nz

Inverted spiral

Details  Combining the popular parmaculture herb spiral concept and the desire to squeeze the maximum amount of edge into a given space, this excavated spiral will serve as an in ground water catchment feature and plant based sun trap with additional aspects such as shaped earth seating and potential fire 'pit'Date  May 24, 2015Tags    earthworks  spiral  construction  water 
Muscovy ducklings

Muscovy ducklings

Details  Young ducklings enjoy exploring the swales with their motherDate  February 07, 2015Tags    ducks 
Chimney Oven

Chimney Oven

I first came across this novel concept when I was a kid and friends of my parents had one. Seems like a pretty common sense idea so I've been on the look out for something like this for years. Finally I got the chance to purchase this stainless steel beauty. On the initial test firing we easily got the temperature up to 350 centigrade and it hovers nicely round 200 with the vents closed and the fire idling.July 17, 2017  fire  cooking  baking  oven  off grid  sustainable  efficiency 
Fertigate with ducks

Fertigate with ducks

A simple and effective way to fertigate (fertilise while irrigating) fruit trees or other productive plantings using an old bath tub. Like all good permaculture solutions, this stacks functions by providing the ducks with a source of water to enjoy while collecting their nutrient, discharging it via gravity. It could also provide some thermal mass to help nearby plants during cold times...  ducks  water  nutrient 
Building water catchment swales with a tractor

Building water catchment swales with a tractor

For those with a tractor, plough and simple drag blade, making large scale swales does not necessarily require employing contractors with heavy earth moving equipment. For the cost of the fuel and your time you can quickly add these simple water harvesting and infiltration systems to your land.  swale  tractor  water 
Mulch, soil carbon and organic matter to improve moisture holding

Mulch, soil carbon and organic matter to improve moisture holding

Mulching is the practice or process of covering the soil with a thick layer of organic matter. This has a number of benefits depending on the mulch material and desired outcomes. Some of the advantages include preventing moisture evaporation, smothering weeds, feeding soil life and increasing soil carbon and water holding capacity.
Use as much mulch as you can get your hands on.
June 06, 2015  mulch  carbon 
Forest garden bounty

Forest garden bounty

Details  A nice assortment of root veges foraged from the forest garden while weeding. Includes parsnip, carrot, radish and potato. These make a great roast.Date  July 17, 2017Tags    food  veges  forest garden  july 
Hot dry summer

Hot dry summer

Details  Early January and things are starting to look and feel dryDate  January 07, 2015Tags    summer 

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 
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 
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 
The brazier

The brazier

Details  Both a focal point for outdoor gathering and warmth with perhaps the option for grilling, frying, toasting etc. Constructed from welded metal fencing standards held within a circular 'collar' made from the cut down wheel of an old sheep shearing machine. Located at the focal point of the outdoor spiral.Date  September 04, 2016Tags    fire 
The reversal of the economic engine

The reversal of the economic engine

A brief article summarising my understanding of the current and possible future economic modal based on energy and resource extraction, consumption and growth.

The picture seems far from bright and there are a number of factors that could influence the outcome but the overall direction seems clear.

Picture: Neville Sinclair
June 08, 2011  future  post peak  energy 
Windows (repair)

Windows (repair)

I discovered some dry rot in the corner of our bedroom window. Being unskilled in the arts of building and carpentry, I put off dealing with it for as long as I could.
Finally I got the courage to pull the rotten bits out and create replacement elements.
May 10, 2010  Window  repair  building 
Visit from Tree Crops North Canterbury

Visit from Tree Crops North Canterbury

Details  We enjoyed a hot and sunny afternoon touring 11 people from the North Canterbury Tree Crops group. I think our alternative and rather unorthodox approach and philosophies were quite an eye opener for most of them...Date  November 04, 2017Tags    education  trees 
Butterfly weed

Butterfly weed

Details  A species of milkweed native to eastern North America. It is a perennial plant growing to 0.3–1 metre tall, with clustered orange or yellow flowers from early summer to early autumn.Common name  Pleurisy Root, Butterfly milkweed, Rolfs' milkweed, Indian PaintbrushLatin name  Asclepias tuberosaFamily  AsclepiadaceaeHeight (m)  0.3ľ1Diameter  0.50Forest layer  herbaceousPerennial  Propigation method  Sow pot / trayShade / Sun  Full sun - part shadeFlowers  OrangeTags    butterfly 
Beneficial insects

Beneficial insects

Insects play an import role in the health of our gardens and the wider ecosystem. By creating a conducive environment we can encourage the tiny helpers to hang around. Insects prey on others, pollinate plants, are food for birds and generally add to the richness, complexity and diversity of a healthy ecosystem.  insects 
Autumn bounty

Autumn bounty

It's harvest time and wine is brewing. This year we got our first real crop of pumpkins, a few of which are pictured here. Also, impressive grape production resulted in 4 litres (7kg) of fermented fruit and an equal amount of cider. Winter is shaping up to be tasty.May 18, 2013  autumn  wine  pumpkin 
Complexity vs resilience

Complexity vs resilience

Complexity

Modern civilisation is a marvel of complexity. An extensive array of entwined and interdependent systems that, when functioning, deliver something much greater than the parts. Unfortunately, complexity isn’t without its failings and is polar opposite of resilience.

It’s easy, as a member of this complex civilisation, to unconsciously introduce complexity into our own projects. The insidious thing about complexity is that it brings with it ongoing support and maintenance which consumes time and resources and in many cases entices the application of further complexity.

Before embarking on something new it is well worth considering what future commitments are required to ensure its continuance. This can then be weighed against the alternatives of less complex solutions or perhaps the simplest of all, doing nothing.

Resilience

The ability to endure changes in circumstance is highly valuable and often the first casualty of the modern drive for efficiency. The current era is likely to be dominated by change (climactic, social, economic) making resilience an essential component to personal future planning.

From the standpoint of resilience, technology is less of a panacea and a potential millstone.

  complexity  resilience 
Rejuvenating a garden fork

Rejuvenating a garden fork

I recently uncovered the head off an old garden fork. It was badly rusted but was a nice size so I decided to make a handle and put it to work in the garden.September 10, 2009   
Plastic house

Plastic house

I recently inherited this kit-set plastic house from my sister (designed by my father).
Assembly was relatively simple and I am now looking forward to allocating a piece of ground to it.
November 10, 2009   
Mouse trappin'

Mouse trappin'

With this year being a mast year for native beech trees there have been an epic number of mice about.
I've lost count of how many we (and the cat) have caught. I have even witnessed the chooks chase down and eat a couple that I disturbed in a grass pile.
May 10, 2010  Mouse  Mice  Traps  Mast Year 
Summer Flavours

Summer Flavours

Details  Now is the time of year when the hard work in the garden is recovered. All the planting, weeding and watering has been converted into tasty veges.Date  December 30, 2009Tags     
The cube

The cube

My micro glasshouse constructed out of 5 windows.
With an opening front and lid it provides an ideal (small) space protected from wind and extreme cold.
January 01, 2010  Glasshouse 
Flavour of the day - Raspberry

Flavour of the day - Raspberry

Details  Over the past few weeks we've been getting the odd handful of berries off our small patch of raspberry canes.
Today I noticed they were dripping with fruit. Some so ripe they fell off as I brushed past the plant.
It's going to be raspberries and ice-cream for desert.
Date  March 08, 2010Tags    Raspberry  Berries  Cane Fruit 
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 
Garden expansion

Garden expansion

We discovered we need more garden area if we wish to grow sufficient volumes of potatoes to see us through the year. As a result I have spent a number of evenings out in the paddock with a shovel, turning over earth and laying compost and mulch.
I have tried a variety of soil amendments including growing lupins, sheep manure from the neighbors shed and cleanings from the chook house.
June 03, 2010  Garden 
Baking apples with waste heat

Baking apples with waste heat

Details  With the recent installation of the chimney oven we have been looking for things to bake and roast. The last of the granny smith apples chopped, drizzled with honey, a scattering of frozen blackberries and a splash of water. Fantastic.Date  July 20, 2017Harvest time  JulyTags    apple  july  winter  baking 
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 
Solar - third time lucky

Solar - third time lucky

After several failed attempts to create a low cost, low tech solar water heater I gave in and purchased a complete kit off the shelf. It's only August but we've been having some nice fine days and the temperature has been getting up to high 50's. This unit has 20 evacuated glass tubes with some kind of antifreeze that exchanges heat with water that is pumped through the header. While I would have preferred a passive system I do like the modular nature and programmable smarts of the control centre.August 21, 2013  solar  energy  water  technology 
Brimming with rain

Brimming with rain

The first serious winter storm hit with a snowy wet blast and dumped over 75mm in 24 hours. This is exactly the kind of situation the extensive network of swales was built to handle. During the day I made numerous excursions out into the cold to assess and marvel at how the water was collected, channelled and redirected, distributed and absorbed.June 20, 2013  winter  snow  swale 
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 
Production has started

Production has started

It's high summer in 2012 and we have had a pretty good crop of nectarines from the 2 grafted trees and I was surprised to see a couple of almonds on the seedling tree. It is only 3 years old!
The food forest area looks completely different now with all the sweet broom (nitrogen fixing small shrubs) and the primary swale feeding nutrient rich water down to the fruit and nut trees.
December 07, 2012  summer  food forest 
Ducklings

Ducklings

After 35 days sitting patiently on 8 eggs, our first time mother muscovy hatched 3 cute little babies.
Now if only we can out smart nature and keep them alive.
December 05, 2012  duck 

9 years anniversary

Details  Our yearly ritual of dressing in aged wedding attire and making a photo shoot to mark the passing of time. This year we had the assistance of intern, Zach, behind the camera to make things more creative.Date  November 01, 2017Tags    anniversary  wedding  spring  2017 
Eating Meat

Eating Meat

We decided to cook our young rooster since he was eating plenty and not making any eggs.
He was about 6 months old, one of our first set of baby chickens.
Follow my easy steps for killing, plucking, gutting and cooking.
April 06, 2010  Chooks  meat  butchering 
Braeburn Apple

Braeburn Apple

Details  This New Zealand apple is now one the world’s top commercial selections. It has delicious, crisp, juicy flesh and superb sweet-tart flavour with a noticeably aromatic aftertaste. Excellent keeper. Late season. Requires 700 chilling hours to set fruit. Spur bearing.

Located in a damp spot and surrounded by twitch grass, the ground under tree has proven more difficult to control. Currently there is rhubarb, chives, strawberry and some self sown mustards.... and quite a bit of grass.
Date  September 01, 2002Height (m)  2Tags    apple 
Bull shit - Garden gold

Bull shit - Garden gold

It's not everyday that you get offered a trailer load of bull shit and hay.

Friends of ours had access to a supply of the rich smelling garden additive just over their fence and I couldn't pass it up.

Our new, extended garden area is now fully mulched and the worms are doing their bit to transform it into the ideal growing medium.
August 29, 2010  Compost  Manure 

Overpopulation

The elephant in the room (or, the 6.78 billion inhabitants of the earth).
Rewarding no-child families in an effort to halt population growth.

An attempt to think our way out of the population situation.
May 30, 2010  Population 
Lettuce inside and out

Lettuce inside and out

Details  One of the first things we started growing in the new tunnel house was some transplanted red lettuce that had been growing nearby.

It is simply amazing to see how different the two sets of plants are. Those that remained outside have hardly grown at all while those inside the warm humid tunnel house are ready to eat.

Listening to someone discussing this phenomenon recently and it sounds like the plants generate their pigments in response to UV light, of which there is less under plastic.
Date  September 18, 2010Tags    Lettuce  Tunnel house 
Seeds

Seeds

Collecting and storing seeds for planting in the seasons ahead is an essential component of gardening.
I have a reasonable assortment of purchased, traded and gathered seeds that was in dire need of a tidy up.
September 19, 2010  Seeds  Seed Saving 
Strawberries

Strawberries

I love this time of year because finally, after the dormancy of winter, the taste of summer becomes evident.
We got a bumper first crop of strawberries (it's still going). All I did was apply some wood ash around the plants when they started flowering, it seems to have helped...
November 30, 2010  Strawberries 
Sprinkling (at high pressure)

Sprinkling (at high pressure)

Details  It has been really drying out and we have been busy moving hoses to  water as many trees and veges as possible.
We have a well with a pump that delivers 25mm of water at high pressure. While I was trying to come up with a way to apply this water gently to the garden I came up with this simple circular terminus mister (click for photo).
It effectively produces a 4 meter high column of mist. Wonderful on a scorching afternoon.
Date  December 05, 2010Tags    summer  water  garden  sprinkler 
Garden update

Garden update

Our garden is bigger and better this year with more planning, improved soil and larger variety of plants in the ground. We are just starting to reap the rewards.
December 09, 2010  garden  summer 
New season potatoes

New season potatoes

We've been waiting, patiently, and finally the potatoes are ready. Here is a selection of freshly dug and washed spuds ready for cooking. The purple ones are a Maori variety.January 01, 2011  potato 
Holy radish!

Holy radish!

An impressive specimen of the common radish. This plant just got out of control. Because it got to be such a large plant I decided to hang onto it for seed. May the next generation be equally extreme.
February 16, 2011  radish  vege  seed 
Got 'matos precious?

Got 'matos precious?

Our tomatoes are out of control, a huge improvement over last year.

We have a bunch of different varieties but the most prolific by far are the roma. Last year a lot of these ended up in the compost and subsequently sprung up all over the garden. Unable to bring myself to pull them out we are now drowning in tomatoes.
February 19, 2011  tomato  preserve  stew 
Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Details  We are finally starting to get some cucumbers out of the tunnel house. Things have been growing like crazy in there, to the point where access is almost impossible.
However, having only one opening prevents airflow making the temperature too high and reducing bees, required for pollination. As a result, yields have been low.
Modifications are in order....
Date  March 05, 2011Tags    cucumber  vegetable  tunnel house 
Eel for protein

Eel for protein

When I discovered there was a rather seizable eel living in one of the pools down in the creek I could think of no better use than chook protein.
After several failed attempts to trap this slimy beast I resorted to the old fashioned spear and soon had him chopped up into chunks for the chickens. Yum!
December 26, 2010  Eel  Chook Food  Protein  Hunting 
Black Turtle Beans

Black Turtle Beans

Four months ago I planted a small handful of beans in an area of about six square meters.

Now they are ready to pick and I have gathered in at least 30 - 40 times what I planted.

This has got to be one of the best and easy to measure returns on effort expended.
March 20, 2011  beans  black turtle  harvest 
Harvesting Potatoes

Harvesting Potatoes

I have been digging potatoes, clearing ground for winter improvements and mulching.

6 of the bigger plants that had been in since late September (209 days) resulted in this assortment of spuds, drying inside before going into storage.
April 25, 2011  Potatoes  Drying  Harvest 
Last of the apples

Last of the apples

Details  The last 2 apple trees are now ready for picking. For some reason, these are some of the cleanest apples we have had this year.

Both of these trees have been improved with supporting / companion plants such as bulbs, foxgloves, lupins and strawberries.
Date  May 18, 2011Tags    Apples  harvest 
Measuring the sun

Measuring the sun

As part of my ambition to get a solar electric system up and running I have been conducting some tests.

My interest is in the effect of the suns angle to the panel array and the relationship to voltage. While there are probably some models put there, I have not seen any and find that actual experience is much more convincing and reliable.

My observations will influence my decision to include tracking capabilities to my solar installation.

Notice the clever little rod below the panels whose shadow (or lack of) can be used to determine if it is pointed directly at the sun.
May 18, 2011  solar  electric  measure  photovoltaics 
Knowledge tours

Knowledge tours

Details  Students from the Kaikoura Creation Care Study Program spent an afternoon at Blockhill touring and learning about forest gardening, water catchment and other aspects of sustainable land use.Date  May 09, 2017Tags    education 
Cheers!

Cheers!

Improving the quality of seating with a dash of paint and reusing surplus materials.

Now with wheels!
January 20, 2011  chairs 
Bee swarm

Bee swarm

It started with a few bees buzzing around the corner of the house and quickly turned into several thousand.
Hoping to prevent their entry into the roof cavity I blocked up the small hole they had discovered and tried to forget about it. They wouldn't give up.
November 19, 2010  bees  swarm  insects 
The bees and the bees

The bees and the bees

With the invasion of the varroa bee mite there has been a reduction in the number of nearby hives (both wild and domestic).

I was surprised and relieved to witness a large number of bumble and honey bees servicing the apricot tree.

This photos shows one of the more wild bees. Notice the dark colouring, where 'normal' bees are orange an black striped.
September 05, 2011  pollination  bees  blossoms  fruit  apricot  orchard 
Blossoms before the storm

Blossoms before the storm

Spring blossoms on the plum tree before an approaching storm.August 20, 2010  Spring  Blossoms 
Finding the eggs

Finding the eggs

A number of hens have gone clucky, it's that time of year again. Locating the outdoor nests is always a challenge as not only are they well hidden the hens are careful to come and go unnoticed.

Today's nest has 15 eggs slowly turning into 15 tasty chickens.
September 26, 2010  Bantam  Nest  Clucky  Chicken  Eggs 
Earth moving

Earth moving

Today we had the digger come and lay come cables and pipes. As part of the general improvement project we had a number of small jobs that man and a machine could do so much faster than a man alone.

Unfortunately, now there is a big mess of clay and chewed up grass....
October 12, 2011  Electricity  Digging 
Getting older, in style

Getting older, in style

Something of a ritual, we recognised our third wedding anniversary by once again squeezing into our costumes and making a photo for the record.

November is a good time for this with so much vibrant growth and bloom.
November 01, 2011  anniversary  wedding  ageing  2011 
little chickens

little chickens

The little bantams have arrived. There are 15 in total: 7 from one mother and 8 from the other. We have put both groups in the same chookhouse. So they have gotten all mixed together and it seems there is a favourite mother. She has 11 at the moment, and the other only has 4. I suppose they will keep swapping and sharing babies.October 13, 2010  Chickens  Video  Spring 
Melting Beeswax

Melting Beeswax

I hate to see anything go to waste so with the fire going to heat the bath I remembered the deserted beehive with the exposed comb.

Crushed up and sitting in an iron pot near the fire it slowly melts down. Once I have skimmed off the impurities perhaps I can make a candle...
November 11, 2011  bees  wax  fire 
Chopping the clucky chook for dinner

Chopping the clucky chook for dinner

So, our chooks have started going clucky (broody) on us again. That means fewer eggs and the usual dramas of trying to get them 'unclucked'. Since we have been considering downscaling our operation due to the excess of eggs and the damage caused in the garden by the aggressively scratching fowls it seemed like an opportunity to have a chicken dinner.
January 24, 2011  cook  eat  kill  clucky  broody  hen  chook 
Spinning with the wind

Spinning with the wind

Experimenting with vertical axis wind energy harvesting mechanisms.
Using old bicycle wheels and pieces of fat pipe I managed to put together a trial device for collection energy from the wind. Determining the angle of the 'blades' is the important factor. The next version will be bigger and better and allow for fine tuning.
January 13, 2011  wind  energy  VAWT 
The pheasant

The pheasant

For some time we have 'enjoyed' the company of a roving pheasant. Undoubtedly a majestic bird, he spends most of his time in the garden. While not as destructive as a regular chook his presence is frustratingly obvious. Eating off the brussel sprouts, nibbling a cucumber and generally upsetting the progress of the garden.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PheasantMarch 04, 2011  pheasant 
Pomegranates

Pomegranates

We have a small pomegranate tree down the back of the garden. Last year it had 1 small, hard, dry fruit.
This season, after a vigorous pruning, we got 2 plump fruit bursting with pink seeds.
The inside is somewhat like a passionfruit, although not as sweet and tasty unfortunately.
May 28, 2011  pomegranate  fruit  ripe 
Books

Books

New books, how exciting. I splashed out an ordered some books online to flesh out my library and to indulge in on long winter nights by the fire.

Two are practical self sufficiency and permaculture reference books that should be informative and inspiring. The other two are recent publications by thinkers and social commentators focused on the changing state and predicament of modern times.
May 27, 2011  books 
Harvesting rain

Harvesting rain

It's raining today (as they said it would) and it's bloody marvellous. As a free resource, rain should be collected or focussed for use in the right spots at the right time.
One of my processes includes home made guttering, a bath, and an overflow pipe
March 05, 2011  rain  water 
roast & blend

roast & blend

We have an over-abundance of tomatoes at the moment and it's hard to think of what to do with all of them. A fantastic way to preserve tomatoes is to roast them and then blend them... and then put them into freezing containers or bags and into the freezer.
March 06, 2011  tomatoes  baking  preserving 

Learn to use a scythe

This workshop covers the details of using and caring for a traditional Austrian scythe. These tools are ideal for keeping smaller areas of grass under control. You will learn about:
  • Safety
  • Correct setup for your body
  • Posture and motion for effective use
  • Different blades for different jobs
  • Sharpening and repairing
Suitable for 1 - 2 people.
45 minutes duration  scythe  education  $30.00
Energy efficient bulbs

Energy efficient bulbs

I recently purchased a couple of compound LED light bulbs. These use an extremely low level of power (11 Watts each) while providing a useful illumination.

Available in either Edison thread or bayonet they fit into a standard light socket. Being LED they do not contain any mercury.

Unfortunately I have already had one cut out for some reason.
http://www.eoutlet.co.nz/catalog/viribr... June 10, 2011  LED  Light  Energy 
Signs of a greenie

Signs of a greenie

As part of the upcoming elections Melisa organised a sign for us to show off our true colours as the leader road greenies.

Jumps right out at the milk trucks, hanging from our recently erected sign post.
October 28, 2011  Green Party  Election  Signs 
Baby Fantail

Baby Fantail

Known for its friendly 'cheet cheet' call and energetic flying antics, the aptly named fantail is one of the most common and widely distributed native birds on the New Zealand mainland.

It is easily recognised by its long tail which opens to a fan.

February 24, 2010  Fantail  Native  Bird 
New roof for the guest house

New roof for the guest house

The revitalisation of the guest house has been under way for some time but a major milestone has been reached - the new roof is going on.

I had been putting it off for as long as possible (excuses such as waiting for chimney were used) but with summer waning it is clear the leaky old iron needs to go.

This project makes use of most of the recycled concrete roofing tiles I got back before we purchased the property.
February 26, 2012  Roof  Tile  Construction 
Guest-house - first visitors

Guest-house - first visitors

After much work our humble outbuilding has been reborn as a cosy cottage. While there are still a few improvements and finishing touches required Emily and Keith have proved that it is very much suitable for short term occupancy.April 06, 2012  guest  accommodation  cottage 
Chicken Prism

Chicken Prism

The latest development in our seemingly endless quest for perfect chicken containment, our version of the chicken tractor.
The chicken prism seems, so far, to be a fairly successful system. Good for converting grass to garden or invigorating existing garden while restricting the roaming and destructive nature of the birds.
April 07, 2012  Chicken tractor  Teepee 

Rainfall catchment calculator

Rainfall (mm)
Catchment Area (hectares)
Cubic meters ?
Litres ?
  water  calculator 
Water smart design and land use

Water smart design and land use

Plan for dry and survive drought with carefully designed and implemented rainwater catchment systems built directly into the landscape. Three core elements to mitigating the effects and impact of drought:
  1. Identify and intercept water flows to keep moisture on the landscape
  2. Improve soils ability to absorb and retain water
  3. Reduce the impact of hot, dry winds
Find out how simple land use patterns and strategic planting can achieve all these benefits and more.
  water  rain  land  farm  service 

Create a simple flax basket

Learn how to weave a traditional Maori square basket. Made from natural flax fibre grown at blockhill, this simple pattern can be used to create baskets of various sizes. Identify, harvest and prepare flax leaves before weaving a small basket to take home.

$30 for first person, $5 each additional person
45 minutes  education  craft  weaving 
A hint of garlic

A hint of garlic

Details  It's high summer, we've passed the longest day and our garlic had been in the ground for 7 months.

This represents about 40-50% of the crop and is the first time we have grown garlic at our place.
Date  December 27, 2011Tags    garlic  summer  harvest 

Spread lime fertiliser

Hand spread 800kg zoom fertiliser from Conway river lime. Contains sulphur, mag rock...
Focused around trees and productive garden beds.
  lime  fertility 

Star tetrahedron

Details  Constructed from two interlocking Tetrahedron to form the star tetrahedron (also known as the merkaba vehicle of light) – represent the innermost law of the physical world: the inseparable relationship between the two complementary halves – the positive and negative, the manifest and the unmanifest – which form a perfect equilibrium. Depending on your vantage point this arrangement will look different as the photos illustrate.Date  September 05, 2016Tags    art  sculpture 
Electric lawnmower upgrade

Electric lawnmower upgrade

After trying various different 'eco' lawn mowing solutions we were struggling to find something that could live up to our expectations. Our latest attempt is so far proving quite satisfactory, despite my misgivings about battery powered tools capability to deliver enough power. Introducing the STIHL RMA 410C A quiet, exhaust free way of keeping the paths under control.December 01, 2016  lawn  electric  technology 
Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth. Certain plants have a useful ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere. This is often achieved through symbiotic relationship with fungi in the root zone. Being able access unlimited nitrogen allows these plants to grow quickly while also making some available to surrounding plants. The practical reality is that including nitrogen fixing plants of various shapes and sizes amongst other productive plantings improves overall health, vigour and fertility,  nitrogen  permaculture  plants  collection 
Rocktastic

Rocktastic

We took a giant leap toward the long discussed upgrade of garden beds and paths today with the collection of 3 tonnes of river boulders.
The idea is to edge the garden beds to raise them up. This should make weed control a little easier, add some aesthetic and charm and the thermal mass may lengthen the growing season.
July 20, 2012   
Winter vege

Winter vege

Details  At this time of year the garden looks unfortunately grim, with little growing. It was an exciting surprise to discover this beauty.Date  August 09, 2012Tags    winter  vege  purple  broccoli 
Scything like it's 1809

Scything like it's 1809

Trying out some rustic scythe techniques in the orchard. No noise, no smell, just good old fashion manual labour.
The scythe is best known as the weapon of choice of the grim reaper, basically a long, curved metal blade on a wooden pole with handles. Traditionally used for mowing grass and harvesting cereal crops, the scythe has a long history in agrarian (and revolutionary) societies.
December 25, 2009  scythe  grass  tools 
Flea buster

Flea buster

Details  It's hard to see what positive role fleas play in the great biosphere. Summer is coming and the warm dry is ideal breeding conditions in the chicken house. Melisa has declared war and has resorted to chemical weapons (natural neem oil).Date  October 26, 2016Tags    2016  Melisa  October 
More grass than you can shake a scythe at

More grass than you can shake a scythe at

The abnormally wet summer has caused tremendous grass growth. Not that we complain, as other things are also growing well.

Everyday is an opportunity to hack back a bit more grass... if only there were 7 of me!
January 05, 2012  scythe  summer 
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 
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 
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     
Hand woven flax baskets

Hand woven flax baskets

Details  We have been growing flax for a number of years and I use it frequently as a natural, free, biodegradable 'twine' for tying plants. Depending on the thickness and application it lasts a few months to a year.
I had seen fantastic woven baskets, many traditional Maori designs. I wanted to know how to make something practical that was easy to remember and teach. Next stop youtube... A few minutes of video and frequent use of the pause button and I was ready to make my first food basket (rourou). I made a couple more over the next few days and improved slightly.
Date  October 11, 2016Tags    2016  October 
Licorice Mint

Licorice Mint

Details  Also known as Anise Hyssop, this strongly licorice scented mint has a distinctive sweet taste and nice purple flower spikes for the insects.Tags    mint  licorice    Colour  purpleEdible  Latin name  Agastache foeniculumPrice  $3.9050 seedsPropigation method  Sow pot / tray
Only 2 in stock Order
Cacti

Cacti

Details  It's spring, we've had some rain followed by sun and the gardens have burst forth in bud, leaf, flower and young fruit.Date  October 19, 2016Tags    october  2016 
Pigs in the young food forest

Pigs in the young food forest

Our 3 pigs sleep in a long concrete shed, the north side of which is 4 garden beds enclosed in plastic through which the chickens are rotated.
During the day the animals are free to roam up to 1 hectare of emerging food forest which is broken into 8 sections (paddocks) of various sizes.
Many of our pig fences are constructed from short log posts driven into the ground and joined by a horizontal run of old corrugated iron singe there was stacks of it here. Wire fences will not contain a pig, they can force their way under and through.
We find that by providing plenty of space and regulating their access to different areas means they get plenty of variety, don't over graze and start interfering with young trees or rooting up the ground.
September 19, 2016  pigs  food forest 
Japanese Chinquapin

Japanese Chinquapin

Latin name  Castanopsis cuspidataHeight (m)  25Diameter  10.00Forest layer  canopySeeds / nuts / tubers  Evergreen  Edible  Perennial  Date  August 01, 2015Shade / Sun  Semi shadeSoil type  MostTags    nuts  evergreen 

Grafting

August 08, 2017Grafted direct 1 plum rescued from last years damaged grafting. Also stored plum scion wood for the following cultivars:
  • Elephant heart
  • Black Doris
  • Damson
  • Satsuma
Grafted direct apple scions including 1 from previous winters grafting rescued from pig damage. Also late red crab from Iona
  Graft  Apple  Plum  2017 
Round wood timber construction

Round wood timber construction

Details  A newly created 'roof' for grapes to climb and better weather protection for the firewood shed.Date  March 13, 2018Tags    2018 
Hugelkultur gardens in summer

Hugelkultur gardens in summer

Details  Every year, since their construction, our hugelkultur raised woody garden beds have been improving in performance. While waiting for the perennial plantings to establish we have been gardening with seasonal crops including maize, pumpkins, tomatoes, salad, cucumbers and of course lots of beans. Modest additions of straw mulch, trenched in pig manure, compost tea and all plant residues are contributing to the overall fertility of the beds and on occasion where I have exposed the wooden core while digging it is clearly breaking down into a crumbly organic 'compost'.Date  February 18, 2018Tags    garden  hugelkultur  2018  summer 
I am Cat - Popular children's book

I am Cat - Popular children's book

'I am CAT' is narrated by a shamelessly proud feline who is happy to be unique from other animals. The story touches on concepts of self esteem and uses humour to reveal some of the ways in which Cat prefers being himself above all else. With it's simple rhyming text and soft colourful illustrations, the story will appeal to preschool and primary school aged children, as well as young readers.
  • Paperback
  • 32 pages
  • Colour illustrations
  • Spine: perfect sewnbound
  • Width: 280mm
  • Height: 210mm
Click the 'view photos' button to see sample images of the story.
$20.00each$15.00each if you buy 2 or more $12.00each if you buy 4 or more   book  children  art  gibson  cat 

Run off swale for pigs and ducks

Details  6 years on - Basic land shaping to capture roof water from a nearby shed provides nutrient rich passive irrigation for food forest down slope while also creating enjoyable habitat for resident ducks and pigs. Plantings include water loving natives that offer wind and frost protection to climbing vines and citrus.Tags    2018  February  Progress 
Mediterranean style preserved olives

Mediterranean style preserved olives

Details  While looking for the simplest recipe for processing small scale harvest of home grown olives I came across the following process:

Step 1: PREPARING OLIVES
Make a simple, straight cut into each one or poke each with a fork. This will allow them to release some of the bitterness and soak flavour faster. Place all olives in a big pot, cover them with water and place a big, heavy plate in the pot to keep the olives at the bottom, fully submerged. Leave olives in water for 2 weeks, changing the water every day.

Step 2: ADDING OLIVES TO BRINE
Sterilize your glass jars and lids first by washing them with warm soapy water and then popping them in the oven at low temp (120C) until completely dry. Allow to cool before handling. If lids are plastic, do not put them in the oven but pour boiling water over them. Add olives to jars, making sure they are packed as tight as possible. Stuff as many as you can. To make brine, for every 500ml water, add about 100ml vinegar and 2 TBSP coarse salt. Pour brine in the jars filled with olives, to the top of the rim, until it begins to overflow – it is key that no air remains in the jar. Screw the lids on the jars, label them and leave them in a dark cupboard for about 2 months

Step 3: MARINATING THE OLIVES – make enough for 1-2 weeks at a time
Now your olives are ready to take on the flavours of the marinade. Put the olives into a saleable container and add the following:
  • Chilli powder or flakes
  • Lime juice + zest
  • Finely chopped garlic
  • A nice coating of olive oil
Marinade oil leftover after eating will make a wonderful addition to salad dressings! Place olives in the fridge for 1-2 days. Flavours develop as they sit. Keeps well for few weeks in the fridge.
Date  July 03, 2017Link To  http://talesofakitchen.com/raw/easy-hom... Harvest time  Late autumnEdible  Tags    olive  preserve  recipe 

Terracing and trees

Details  8 years on - Adding terraces to steep slopes reduces runoff keeping valuable water of site longer while also improving access for planting, maintenance and harvest. Trees can be more densely planted, stacked and over hanging one another for maximum productivity. This natural sun trap is the ideal location for a solar powered clothes dryer and a wonderful micro climate with excellent cold air drainage.Tags    2017  Progress  September 

Sprawling forest garden in the making

Details  6 years on - Working from an open expanse of grass we are well on the way to a productive forest garden filled with interesting, edible and useful plants. The challenge here was getting wind shelter established, this has reduced moisture loss while contributing valuable biomass and soil improvement, shade and habitat for birds and insects.Tags    2017  October  Progress 
Living on contour - working with water flow

Living on contour - working with water flow

Water is the essence of life and as such we need to be thinking about how to make best use of what we have. The most important work we do is to implement solutions for capturing, storing, diverting and infiltrating rainwater and runoff. This helps build soil, nourish crops, prevent erosion, minimise drought and reduce or eliminate irrigation needs.
Learn about the art of land shaping for natural rainfall catchment, a practical guide to water harvesting and management.
Make the most of the water available, direct surplus water away from wet areas towards dry areas.
Use swales and terraces to halt the flow of water and nutrient off the land and allow it infiltrate and hydrate the soil.
August 21, 2014  water  swale  contour 
Diversity is key

Diversity is key

Details  This wild and and colourful 'garden' is packed with edible and beneficial plants, a completely different ecosystem from the boring grass monoculture that preceded it. Fruit and nut trees mix with annual crops arranged along raised log planting mounds that provide valuable water storage and nutrients.Tags    2017  October 
Early October

Early October

Details  We've been working flat out with our Intern, Zac, and so it's been a while since our last horn tooting photo update. So here it is, bellbirds, blossoms, native nitrogen fixers and food forest progress. Enjoy and then get out there and invite nature into your bit of the world.Date  October 06, 2017Tags    2017  October 

Monday 30 April 2018

April 30, 2018Plant 6 chestnut seed sourced from Mendip road into raised bed in grey shed
Plant out sage and rosemary from pots onto terrace
Cuttings from Elaeagnus (x ebbingei and pungens) into water with willow and into glasshouse shelf
Plant billberry seeds into tray with coffee grinds
Stewed quince (from neighbours), pear and apple mix
  April  2018 
Summer gardening

Summer gardening

Details  It's been another exceptionally dry summer but things are holding on. Our land shaping captures and retains moisture and the mixed planting reduces competition while maximizing shade and surface area.Date  January 04, 2018Tags    2018  January 
Raised woody swale / hugelkultur construction

Raised woody swale / hugelkultur construction

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, each 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  hugelkultur 
Horse Chestnut Seedlings

Horse Chestnut Seedlings

The horse chestnuts I gathered from the local domain are popping up through the grass. I scattered a large number of seed in an area of the paddock then mowed the grass down over top in the hope of both reducing the competition and creating a layer of mulch.
Several sprouted and grew for a couple of years, struggling in the exposed, windy, dry conditions. In hindsight, it wasn't surprising but also for the best, since a horse chestnut tree is not the most practical.
September 20, 2010  Seedlings 

Garage improvement - 3 years later

Details  Secret swale at west end of workshop. Planted with bulbs, tagasaste for nitrogen and quick frost canopy over lemon and climbing kiwifruit. Ground cover of oregano and alpine strawberries.Date  August 24, 2015Tags    upgrade 
Babaco

Babaco

Variety  PentagonaCommon name  Babaco, Mountain Papaya, Champagne FruitLatin name  Carica x heilborniiDetails  Grown under plastic. Produces large, yellow fruit pentagonal in cross-section. Easily propagated from stem cuttings.Harvest time  SummerForest layer  low-treeDiameter  1.00Height (m)  2Flowers  Small whiteEdible  Evergreen  Frost sensitive  Fruit / berries  Perennial  Shade / Sun  Full sun - part shadeSoil type  Rich, free drainingWind tolerance  Low (large leaves)Propigation method  CuttingTags    exotic  sub-tropical  fruit  Rating  
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price  $2.9015cm stem cutting

Direct grafting pear onto quince

September 02, 2017Pre grafted pears sourced from blockhill on beurre hardy direct grafted onto quince root stocks (suckers) sourced from Rosa Reed (Riversdale, next door).

High success for those in growing bed in front of sgipping container.
Low success in amphitheatre.
  pear  quince  beurre hardy  graft  september 
Planting shelves

Planting shelves

I grow a lot of plants and trees from seeds. One space saving way that I have come up with is to use the vertical wall space at the back of the house where my nursery is located. Adding these metal 'gutters' as plant growing shelves has given plenty more growing area situated at perfect working height.March 23, 2019  tree  seedling  planting 
Wild-flowers spreading

Wild-flowers spreading

As part of our commitment to the humble bumble and our general enjoyment of displacing grass, we have established a bunch of micro pioneer gardens. These are bubbles of hardy, self seeding, bee friendly blooms that will (hopefully) expand and spread until they join and fill the available space.
This approach of trying to passively replace grass using seed dispersing annual flowers did not work. Poppies returned for a few seasons before vanishing.
December 14, 2012  flowers  bumblebee 
Predatory insects

Predatory insects

Since arriving at this location in 2009 and allowing it to revert to a more natural way while introducing lots of new biodiversity, we have noticed a continual increase in the numbers and types of insects and other small creatures. There is a whole world of barely noticed activity where spiders and flies, ladybugs and butterflies live out their tiny dramas...
Here a preying mantis devours a fly on a pear tree.
April 02, 2019  insect 
Trees for animal fodder

Trees for animal fodder

By now it should be obvious that we need more trees in our landscapes, however inconvenient that may seem. The benefits are numerous. Using trees for supplementary animal feed is a smart strategy in drought prone areas. This includes:
  • Fresh leaves / foliage
  • Fruits and berries
  • Nuts and seeds
Once established, trees are long lived with a deep root system capable of funding moisture in dry times. Large volumes of edible material can be produced, along with all the other benefits provided by appropriate species of trees.
September 04, 2018  trees  animals 
Sustainable firewood

Sustainable firewood

A lot of activities get labelled as 'sustainable' these days, despite having a hidden subsidy of non-renewable resources or energy. The only truly sustainable energy source is the sun and the various manifestations of that energy such as biomass, wind etc. The rate and method (technology) used to harness or extract that energy determines it's long term sustainability. Wind turbines constructed from huge volumes of concrete, steel and carbon fibre are not sustainable while harvesting a tree with a stone axe is sustainable if practised at a rate that permits regrow under local ecological conditions.

Note: I used a pseudo sustainable electric chainsaw rather than a stone axe to dissect this manuka tree. It will be replaced by a five finger (Pseudopanax arboreus), already growing up out of the decaying stump.
August 19, 2018  firewood  energy  sustainability 
Pumping with free energy

Pumping with free energy

Using water to pump water, now that is cool! I have been building a small ram pump for lifting water. The design uses off the shelf components assembled and then cast in concrete.

Overview: Water from a small creek enters a screened intake and is carried via 32mm polythene piping. This has a drop of perhaps a meter over about 70 - 80 meters. This connects to 18 meters of rigid steel 25mm pipe which drops a further 10 meters to the pumping unit. The outlet from the pump delivers water via 15mm poly tubing up to an elevation of around 30 - 40 meters.

While the device works technically it has a number of drawbacks:
  • The water delivery is very slow, perhaps 1 litre every 2 - 3 minutes. This is a result of the various measurements. More water in, dropped from higher or delivered lower would improve the situation.
  • The pump unit stops every day or so due to (I believe) air accumulating at key points in the delivery line. This can be improved by eliminating high points from the line.
  • Pump stops when river drops too low
August 15, 2015  energy  water  technology 

Direct graft nectarine

July 26, 20183 x scions from goldmine direct grafted onto seedling peach at 2 locations - west end of log mound 4 and in front of container house  graft  nectarine  july  2018 
Natural woven flax weed mat

Natural woven flax weed mat

Details  Here's a simple technique for reducing weeds in a small garden. Biodegradable woven flax mats with seeds or small plants added in the gaps.Date  September 11, 2018Tags    2018  September 
Monarch butterflies enjoying blossoms in the forest garden

Monarch butterflies enjoying blossoms in the forest garden

Details  We've had plenty of nice, sunny warm weather and the monarch and red admiral butterflies are getting into the stone fruit blossom, brassica flowers and tagasaste nectar.Date  September 11, 2018Tags    2018  insects  blossom 
Making a wetland in a stony hole

Making a wetland in a stony hole

Details  Attempting to modify water holding capabilities of this stony soil by introducing water loving, wetland plants while actively removing the rocks and gravel. Pulsing diverted run off water and pigs through this muddy hole is slowly shifting the conditions and creating a new assortment of niches. Amplify the diversity!Date  September 11, 2018Tags    2018  September  Water  Pond 
Weather or Not

Weather or Not

Weather or Not is a little book about changeable weather, changing your mind, and changing your clothes! This story covers terms and concepts of New Zealand weather. It will appeal to preschool and primary school aged children, and is perfect for young readers with its simple rhyming text.
  • Paperback
  • 32 pages
  • Colour illustrations
  • Spine: saddle-stitch
  • Width: 190mm
  • Height: 148mm
Order online and get free postage within New Zealand.
Click the pdf link below to see the first few pages.
  book  weather  children  melisa  illustration  $18.00Weather or not - sample p...
Currently out of stock

SCES heritage apple scion grafting 2017

September 28, 2017All grafted to mature fuji behind the house
1 x Biesterfielder Renette
1 x Black Prince
1 x Blenheim Orange
1 x Claygate Pearmain
1 x Cowies triangle
1 x Devonshire Quarrandon
1 x Early Julian
2 x Golden Hornet
1 x Grenedier
1 x Lady Sudeley
1 x Laxtons Fortune
1 x Ralls Janet (failed)
1 x Red Gravenstein
1 x Ribston Pippin
1 x Rokewood
1 x Sturmer Pippin
  graft  apple  september  2017 

Introduction to forest gardening

Visual presentation and lecture covering the main concepts of forest gardening followed by a tour of our established organic forest garden. You will learn more about:
  • Mixed and companion planted polycultures
  • Edible foodscapes including food forest, forest gardening and guilds
  • Plant succession
  • Beneficial insects
  • Working with chooks and ducks
  • Hand tools
Suitable for 1 - 5 people. $5 for each additional person.
1 and a half hours  food forest  education  gardening  permaculture  $60.00
Feijoa

Feijoa

Common name  feijoa, pineapple guavaLatin name  Acca sellowianaFamily  MyrtaceaeForest layer  shrubDiameter  4.00Height (m)  4Flowers  PinkDrought tolerance  Edible  Evergreen  Fruit / berries  Perennial  Shade / Sun  Full sunPropigation method  GraftTags    hedge  autumn  fruit  Rating  
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
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Russell Lupin

Russell Lupin

Details  This leafy plant can grow to a meter and a half with its tall colourful spires of flowers. Being a legume, lupins fix nitrogen in the surrounding soil for use by other plants making them a useful as well as attractive addition to the garden or orchard. They are also a nectar source for bumblebees and other insects.Tags    nitrogen  legume  seed  Colour  mixedForest layer  herbaceousLatin name  Lupinus polyphyllusNitrogen fixer  Perennial  Price  $3.9030 seedsPropigation method  Sow direct
Only 4 in stock Order
Painted Mountain Corn

Painted Mountain Corn

Latin name  Zea maysDetails  Brightly coloured cobs bred for hardiness, earliness and high nutrition flour. A dry corn rather than a sweetcorn. Height around 1.5m. Early maturing 90 days from sowing.Wind tolerance  poorForest layer  herbaceousFrost sensitive  Edible  Propigation method  Sow directTags    corn  seed  Price  $3.9040 seeds
Only 3 in stock Order Related info
2017

2017

Tags    2017