Report on Permablitz # 28 – Foothills of the Kaimai’s

Permablitz # 28 March 31st 2018

The weather gods smiled upon us on Easter Saturday as we rolled up to Autumn and Jenni’s beautiful piece of land in the foothills of the Kaimai’s on the banks of Te Rereatukahia River, just south of Katikati.

Our hosts, Autumn & Jenni

We welcomed over forty people onto the land, including four or five children and American and Canadian woofers in the opening circle, some who had travelled from as far as Hawkes Bay, Auckland and Raglan to be with us.

Opening circle

First up Catherine Dunton-McLeod from Plenty Permaculture led us in a “Christopher Alexander walk”; bringing the architectural idea of “rooms in a house” to “rooms on a property”. We started where the driveway opened up to the whole property, checked into how that felt and then started walking and stopped when people felt a different feeling, an edge of something new, as if entering a new room. This process involves using your instincts to tune into the land and its character. – the first step in the Living Design Process.

Catherine leading the “Christopher Alexander walk”

Shortly afterwards we split into three groups; one to fence around the chicken enclosure, one to construct a low ponga retaining wall and one to learn about sheet mulching.

Tom and Matt led the construction of a low ponga wall, needed to edge the parking bay and a band of garden to divide the parking area from the rest of the property.

Preparing trench for ponga wall

The chicken enclosure fencing appealed to the mountain goats amongst us as the land is very steep in this area. Waratahs supported deer fencing that will have chicken mesh wired to the lower half. The entire enclosure has a mix of summer shade, sunny spots, leaf litter and a variety of foraging areas for the chickens.

Catherine led the sheet mulching and explained how you can create a layered bed in situ directly over grass or weeds that is based on layered compost.

Autumn and Jenni gave the sheet mulching team lots of design freedom to create a transitional winter veggie bed.  About 15 new and very experienced gardeners enjoyed wondering together about water flow, sun exposure, should the beds be rectangular, crescent shaped? Should they run with or against the slope? How wide should the beds be to suit the size of our hosts? How would these beds blend with the adjacent “car arrival”, “entrance to the house”, and “piles of waiting materials “areas?  Once we had agreed on a design, we were off, alternating layers of carbon (cardboard and bamboo mulch) with nitrogen layers of grass and manure, thin sprinklings of mineral layers – wood ash, egg shells, and seaweed; all topped off with compost and a frosting of bamboo mulch.

Finished bed ready for Winter planting

The materials used were supplied by our hosts and participants plus a big trailer of compost was donated by Brett Soutar of Short Bac’N’Sides, Waihi, the fourth time they have supplied compost to a Permablitz.

Throughout the day a bank of herb teas was provided by Jenni and Autumn, who own the Herbal Potential “Tea Bar” a caravan that many may know from markets and festivals, serving their own herbal tea and coffee recipes and light snacks. Autumn is also a Naturopath with a clinic in Tauranga, so we were in good hands.

 Autumn with herb teas available all day

The vegetarian lunch that they provided, with help from their woofers, was a feast and much appreciated by us all.

The Easter bunny made an appearance and had hidden Easter eggs around the land which the children took great delight in discovering.

Following lunch, Trish Waugh led a workshop on Living Design Process, which was used to establish a base plan for Jenni and Autumn’s land development. She explained that initially they walked their land and noted all the zones that felt as though they had their own unique character, much as we experienced in the morning with the “Christopher Alexander walk”.

She showed us the Land Characteristic map that was drawn from this with thirteen distinct zones. It enabled Jenni and Autumn to start differentiating the land into separate use areas, two of which were the chicken enclosure and fruit tree areas. They had decided to site their compost bins and garden shed in the zone between these two areas so we used the opportunity of the Permablitz to brainstorm how the compost bins and garden shed could be arranged. This culminated in a great position for the compost where the chickens will be able to access one of the bins where the freshest food waste will be placed. Also, with much discussion and with many hands the garden shed found its prime spot.

We were then treated to a talk about planning an orchard, siting fruit trees and then a demonstration by Gisella Warmenhoven on how to prune and then plant a young Peach tree. There were lots of questions along the way and it was surprising how many important pieces of knowledge Gisella shared with us.

We were also fortunate to have with us Julia Sich “Weed Woman Extraordinaire” who took a group of us on an enlightening walk around the land looking at weeds, their medicinal uses and properties.

The ponga wall was finished with a flourish and it was time for our closing circle. So much had been achieved.

The expressions on all our faces at the closing circle said it all; everyone was smiling. This summed up the entire day, a great experience all round.

Since the Permablitz Autumn and Jenni said “The feeling of transformation on the land is incredible. There has been a lot of change over the past few months we have lived here, but the work achieved in a single day with all of you together was amazing!”

Yahoo!! Another successful Permablitz. Let’s do it again soon!!

 

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