While building it you need to support the first beam temporarily; when the support is removed the whole structure should neatly lock together.
Bumblebee nestOur 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
Trapping water in the landscape is a valuable technique for buffering rainfall to later irrigate downhill crops and trees.August 13, 2012
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
Energy efficiency with hot waterCurrently 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
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 hoursFebruary 20, 2011
Food forest concept discoveryIn 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
GreenhouseDetails 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, 2014
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.
Phacelia, blue tansy or purple tansyLatin 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 directPrice $3.90100 seeds
Willi from GermanyOur 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! :)
-WilliAugust 10, 2012
- 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$60.00
European hazelnutLatin 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 High
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
With so many wild ones about, we don't need to grow any on the property. Id rather use the space for something more valuable.October 31, 2009
In addition to the thorny wild plants, we have a thornless variety in the garden that produces larger, more accessible berries.
February 16, 2010
Visualising yearly rainfall distributionThis 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 datasetSeptember 20, 2015
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
August 08, 2012
Mower madnessToday 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
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.August 20, 2011
This is an early variety called monavale. I only hope it is not too early as we have been getting the odd frost.August 10, 2011
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
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
New BloodAs 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
Freshly created swaleDetails 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, 2014
A little bit of windWe 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
eco-cabin profiled in Good MagazineOur much loved eco-cabin accommodation has just become a little bit more famous after featuring in a nice write up in the November - December issue of Good Magazine.November 01, 2017
June 01, 2011
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
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
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
Blue lupinDetails Grows well in most locations where it improves soil with organic matter and nitrogen. Bees enjoy the flowers.
Plants for a futureCommon name Blue lupinLatin name Lupinus angustifoliusFamily LeguminosaeHeight (m) 1Forest layer herbaceousNitrogen fixer Propigation method Sow directFlowers Blue
Green TeaDetails 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, 2013Colour WhiteSource Trademe
OrangesDetails 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 shrub
The Triplets of blockhillOf 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
Old iron sidesThe 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
A stylish mail receptacleAfter 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
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
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
Here are a few photos that sum up the past few days.September 01, 2011
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.
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, 2010
Making use of left over bricks and the surplus cast iron bath.
Looking forward to soaking under the stars.
June 17, 2010
As with the plums we have more than we know what to do with and so jam making was in order.
February 15, 2010
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
Naughty ferretThe 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
Warning: disturbing imagesJune 04, 2010
This is the continuation of a process I first reported in 2009.
15 Service Stations for sale - http://newzealand.businessesforsale.com/newzealand/search/gas-petrol-service-stations-for-saleJune 02, 2015
The swale situationThings 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
He (or is it a she?) spends a good part of the day climbing awkwardly around the tree devouring buds and taunting the cat.August 22, 2010
Since we had the digger on site I figured we should give it a go - stay tuned for results on thisOctober 12, 2011
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
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
Shortest dayThe 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
The little fellasIn 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
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
Ride on mower - fossil fuel extravaganceHaving 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
Returning to the new and improved Blockhill, Steve made use of the hammock and stretched his legs with a cycle ride.
January 06, 2010
EmilyEmily 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
The top swaleFinally, 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
No doubt as other fruit come ready I'll be experimenting with other flavours.
January 30, 2010
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.
March 15, 2010
With several trees yet to ripen there is no end in sight.January 08, 2010
This chart is based on 4 years of personal expense figures and shows a 50% reduction in average quarterly living costs.
May 02, 2010
So far we think we feel warmer. In a few weeks I will be able to provide conclusive numeric verification based on temperature recordings.
EECA Energy Wise provides funding for insulation.
UPDATE: Click through to see the temperature difference chart from before and after.July 07, 2010
The way of the swaleA 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
The forest garden tool beltWhen wandering around the forest garden I often notice something that needs to be trimmed or weeded or a space where I could plant something. But what if the tools are back in the shed....?
Using a cheap tool belt I have assembled a collection of useful tools and accessories that frequently come in handy.
From left to right:
- nested plastic plant pots hold larger seeds such as beans and lupins
- secateurs or pruning shares
- jars of seasonal seeds
- serrated sickle
- hand hoe (niwashi)
- small dibber
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.
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
Only so many hours in the dayA 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
PhaceliaDetails 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 directShade / Sun Full sunSoil type MostFlowers PurpleSource http://www.kingsseeds.co.nz
Basically just fermented apple juice.
This excel file has multiple worksheets with numeric values and charts of sunshine hours, rainfall, monthly frost count and temperature for several South Island locations, including:
Data sourced from NIWA (http://www.niwascience.co.nz/edu/resources/climate).December 20, 2008new zealand climate stati...
Chimney OvenI 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
Building water catchment swales with a tractorFor 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.
Use as much mulch as you can get your hands on.June 06, 2015
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, 2017
The brazierDetails 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, 2016
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 SinclairJune 08, 2011
Complexity vs resilience
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.
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.
Assembly was relatively simple and I am now looking forward to allocating a piece of ground to it.November 10, 2009
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
With an opening front and lid it provides an ideal (small) space protected from wind and extreme cold.January 01, 2010
Rather than unleash the chickens in the garden I decided to take the garden (at least bits of it) to them.January 31, 2010
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, 2010
- Focus on the root zone
- Apply water only when needed
- Water deeply and thoroughly
- Water in the morning
- Mulch around plants
- Use the right tool
PDF version of slideshow presentation covering food forest gardeningMarch 02, 2015 forest gardening food for...
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
Baking apples with waste heatDetails 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 July
My primary motivation at this point is having a robust backup power source for the freezer, solar hot water pump and drinking water pump for when the grid is down. This seems to happen a couple of times per year and when it does fail (often from strong winds) it can take several days for it to be repaired.April 26, 2014
There was considerable plastic left over from our other 'glass' house so decided to put it to good use.June 30, 2010
Always room for more swalesA brief spell of rainy weather revealed a few swale 'deficiencies' and so I got to work rectifying the situation. This latest effort really fills out the young food forest area nicely. Over the next year or so these will be amended slightly and planted up with edible plants and support species.July 02, 2013
This will be setup to collect water from the roof of the house as a backup drinking supply.March 13, 2014
Solar - third time luckyAfter 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
Production has startedIt'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
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
Braeburn AppleDetails 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) 2
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
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
The flowers give the drink a light, sweet airy flavorNovember 10, 2009
It turns out this hoe is known by many different names, including:
- Stirrup Hoe
- Hula Hoe
- Scuffle Hoe
- Oscillating Hoe
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, 2010
I have a reasonable assortment of purchased, traded and gathered seeds that was in dire need of a tidy up.September 19, 2010
I used douglas fir cones that I raked up from around the trees, packed in the central canister and 'baked' with a fire of coal and wood scraps from the workshop.September 25, 2010
The general topic was low energy input farming and gardening in an unstable climate.
Was good to meet people at my end of the 'crazy' spectrum and witness the interest in my scything demonstration.November 21, 2010
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
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, 2010
December 09, 2010
While the power is still reliable and affordable, freezing is our preservation method of choice.February 09, 2011
February 16, 2011
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
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, 2011
Snow is falling and the fantails have come in under the deck to get out of the weather. Eventually they come inside for warmth and a few flies.June 08, 2010
Eel for proteinWhen 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
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
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
Both of these trees have been improved with supporting / companion plants such as bulbs, foxgloves, lupins and strawberries.Date May 18, 2011
Measuring the sunAs 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
Knowledge toursDetails 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, 2017
Now with wheels!January 20, 2011
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
The bees and the beesWith 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
Melting BeeswaxI 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
January 24, 2011
Spinning with the windExperimenting 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
Exciting and novel for the first 24 hours it quickly becomes cold, mushy and tiresome.
On the upside, it turns out snow has measurable benefits to the soil. Some even call it poor man's fertiliser.
August 15, 2011
PomegranatesWe 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
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
March 06, 2011
Nice to have a change of scene and step outside the routine.
The photo is Lake Hanlon, on the main road, the north side of the Karamea bluff hills. A 15 minute walk from the road.April 22, 2011
- Correct setup for your body
- Posture and motion for effective use
- Different blades for different jobs
- Sharpening and repairing
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.June 10, 2011
Going forward it will mostly be shrubs or replanting specimens that don't survive.July 30, 2011
New roof for the guest houseThe 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
Chicken PrismThe 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.
Rainfall catchment calculator
|Catchment Area (hectares)|
- Identify and intercept water flows to keep moisture on the landscape
- Improve soils ability to absorb and retain water
- Reduce the impact of hot, dry winds
$30 for first person, $5 each additional person45 minutes
This represents about 40-50% of the crop and is the first time we have grown garlic at our place.Date December 27, 2011
Spread lime fertiliserHand spread 800kg zoom fertiliser from Conway river lime. Contains sulphur, mag rock...
Focused around trees and productive garden beds.
September 04, 2012
Electric lawnmower upgradeAfter 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
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
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
Garden working-beeA 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
Batch tree planting 2013Details 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, 2013
Hand woven flax basketsDetails 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, 2016
Win-win-win with pigs and chickensWe run a small flock of mixed breed mongrel chooks. Our primary motivation is a quality source of eggs but there are many other benefits to having a few poultry.
In addition to the hens and their loyal rooster we keep 3 kuni kuni pigs. This is a small breed, hairy and very affectionate. Their roles are as lawn mowers, soil cultivators and manure makers. Kuni kuni pigs are unique in that they can survive on a diet of grass and need very little supplementary food unless raising babies.
Over the last few years we have been impressed with how the chooks, young chickens, rooster and pigs all get along in the slowly emerging food forest they call home. They range freely together and at feeding time jostle with each other for access to kitchen scraps and grain.
Our chooks and ducks get fed supplementary grain that has been soaked in water. This makes it softer, easier to digest and because it swells up means they don't eat as much.
One unintentional positive side effect of feeding grain to the chickens while the pigs are present is they inevitably end up eating some of it. Being greedy, they swallow most of it whole and it passes straight through and ends up spread around their territory in the manure. The chickens have discovered this and are very eager to get at the grains embedded in the poo. This results in frantic scratching and disintegration of the pig turds resulting in faster breakdown and absorption into the surrounding landscape.
Provided the pigs have plenty of grass and other green edible herbage they seem to leave young trees alone. We have found that at certain times leaves of peach, almond and apple may be palatable.
Pigs love to rub and scratch against things, especially after emerging from a muddy bath in the swale. Consider having a suitable tree or post nearby.May 26, 2014
GraftingAugust 08, 2017Grafted direct 1 plum rescued from last years damaged grafting. Also stored plum scion wood for the following cultivars:
- Elephant heart
- Black Doris
- 32 pages
- Colour illustrations
- Spine: perfect sewnbound
- Width: 280mm
- Height: 210mm
Run off swale for pigs and ducksDetails 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.
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
Terracing and treesDetails 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.
Sprawling forest garden in the makingDetails 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.
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
Diversity is keyDetails 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.
- Collecting and storing grafting (scion) wood from desired trees
- Understanding and propagating rootstocks
- Grafting tools and techniques
- View many examples of grafted trees of various types, complexity and age
Monday 30 April 2018April 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
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, 2014
Horse Chestnut SeedlingsThe 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
Apple - Tydeman's Late OrangePropigation method GraftPrice $3.00200mm length
High success for those in growing bed in front of sgipping container.
Low success in amphitheatre.
Planting shelvesI 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
Wild-flowers spreadingAs 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
Predatory insectsSince 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
- Fresh leaves / foliage
- Fruits and berries
- Nuts and seeds
Sustainable firewoodA 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
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
Direct graft nectarineJuly 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
Pigs in the young food forestOur 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 since 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
Apple - FujiLatin name MalusPrice $3.00200mm lengthPrice for 4 or more $2.50200mm length if you buy 4 or more
Plum - Black DorisDetails Japanese plumPrice $3.00200mm lengthPrice for 4 or more $2.50200mm length if you buy 4 or more
Making a wetland in a stony holeDetails 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, 2018
- 32 pages
- Colour illustrations
- Spine: saddle-stitch
- Width: 190mm
- Height: 148mm
Click the pdf link below to see the first few pages.$18.00Weather or not - sample p...
SCES heritage apple scion grafting 2017September 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
- 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