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11September2018

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 
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 

05August2018

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 

30March2018

13March2018

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 

19December2017

First internship

First internship

Another first for blockhill, hosting an overseas intern / student for 3 months. Zach joined us in September for a deep immersion permaculture internship and learning experience as part of his agronomy studies. As anticipated he participated in a wide range of activities and events.December 19, 2017

04December2017

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 
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 

01November2017

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 

25October2017

06October2017

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 

09May2017

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 

18March2017

Earthquake repairs

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

09March2017

Banjo is her name

Banjo is her name

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

28February2017

February 2017

February 2017

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

31January2017

January 2017

January 2017

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

14November2016

Blockhill survives 7.8 earthquake with off-grid resilience

Blockhill survives 7.8 earthquake with off-grid resilience

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

01November2016

8 Years Wedding Anniversary

8 Years Wedding Anniversary

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

17September2016

Food Forests, Permaculture & Water Harvesting

Food Forests, Permaculture & Water Harvesting

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

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

14August2016

Garden working-bee

Garden working-bee

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

07March2016

22January2016

09October2015

19September2015

Digging with a digger

Digging with a digger

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

13September2015

12September2015

Drought proof edible landscaping - presentation

Drought proof edible landscaping - presentation

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

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

24August2015

Garage 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 

31July2015

Shed upgrade

Shed upgrade

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

08March2015

Food forest gardening site visit, tour and workshop

Food forest gardening site visit, tour and workshop

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

02March2015

15January2015

23December2014

Greenhouse

Greenhouse

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

03December2014

Freshly created swale

Freshly created swale

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

27November2014

Area of new development

Area of new development

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

Wide open area, under development

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

25November2014

Transformation of existing orchard

Transformation of existing orchard

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

18September2014

Friendly kereru regularly visit the orchard

Friendly kereru regularly visit the orchard

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

12September2014

Garden tours

Garden tours

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

25July2014

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 

13July2014

06July2014

Silver wattle growing madly

Silver wattle growing madly

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

26April2014

24April2014

Grubba, the ginger pig

Grubba, the ginger pig

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

30March2014

4 years of 'development'

4 years of 'development'

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

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

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

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

March 30, 2014

13March2014

02February2014

Black tomato

Black tomato

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

01February2014

25December2013

A Merry Little Christmas Tree!

A Merry Little Christmas Tree!

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