Video made by Olly Roy and Dane Scott Creative
ROY’S WHAKAMARAMA MAGIC
3 October 2020 by Catherine Dunton-McLeod
Having participated in 10-12 Permablitzes, I am curious how every one of them has had a magical quality. Of course they were all unique, yet they all have had a similar, sacred sort of undertone that warms the heart and makes one feel more connected and more human. What causes that? (Feel free to skip my musings and scroll below to the pics and video.)
Is it that Permablitz co-founders Dan Palmer and Adam Grubb did such a bang up job designing Permablitz that anyone who follows their system could create a beautiful day?
Maybe it’s because people who sign up to host are usually so lovely and
generous, and grateful to have dozens of people showing up at their property to shovel, plant and construct, that the flow from them trickles down to everyone who participates?
Or perhaps the beauty of this blitz was the unique design team:
– Our hosts who had attended many blitzes as volunteers and had significant permaculture education;
– Three to four brand new permaculture designers eager to learn how to run a blitz;
– Tess, our lead designer, is a very competent permaculture gardener;
– Back up senior designers who were there as mentors, watching,
encouraging, stepping in if anything was going awry.
– Was it that our MC Leo is a fab group coordinator who can bring people together as a synced-up, cooperative team?
– Maybe the magic just occurs anytime a group of people come together to help others?
I bet it’s probably a mix of all of the above and other things I’ve not thought to add here.
What ever it is, Permablitzes in the BOP are consistently magical and I
am honored to be a part of them. If you are thinking of coming along to a future blitz, it’s highly recommended.
Oh, and if you participated on the day, our hosts Sharon, Dave and Billy issue you an open invitation to stop by and see how things are growing!
Check out some of the magic of the day:
(Photos by Olly Roy, Dane Scott Creative and Catherine Dunton-Mcleod)
To the relief of the design team the day dawned clear and cool.
The gorgeous welcome area was ready
About 50 people showed up with food, tools……..
Leo brought us together and helped us come together as a group…
We all offered a stretch to get warmed up and ready to dive into working.
Our hostess Sharon and our lead designer Tess shared the guiding statement of the family, the property and the day’s activities.
Tess gave us a choice of three projects to work on.
Catherine and Trish introduced Christopher Alexander and The Living Design Process to about 15 of the group. Here’s the before, during and after of creating a privacy hedge between the main house and Dave and Sharon’s hide away….
Playing with hoses to find the best shapes for the new gardens…
After lunch, the drone shows us taking away the grass and the final shapes emerging….
These koru shaped gardens will get planted out over time creating privacy and allowing access.
The boys and others keen to learn from artist and stonemason and our host David Roy, got stuck in on the rock wall activity.
Click here for a 9 minute video of David summarizing how low rock walls can be made with concrete and mortar.
Our host Billy had been working for weeks, prepping for the blitz and still on the day he had the energy to lead the hugulkulture construction, the banana planting and give a talk on fungi. (I missed his fungi talk so I have no pics or video, however Billy has promised to offer it again at a future blitz.)
Click here to catch a bit of video on how to plant bananas.
Lunch is an incredibly important part of any permablitz, and Melissa and Beth laid out a marvelously colourful, healthy and plentiful feast. Many thanks you two!
Digestion was accompanied by Catherine sharing an exercise on permaculture design.
The biggest activity was the food forest and citrus area activity, led by Byron and Tess. A huge project made light by many hands, backs, space and wheel barrows!
Food forest and Citrus area before……
The whole food forest area can be seen from the air….
And at the end of the day, areas weeded, cardboarded, mulched and herbal ley planted.
Thanks to AgriSea for the generous donation of a trailer of seaweed and 20 Litres of Foliar Nutrition!
About 20 people got to meet Julia Sich and accompany her on a short edible weed walk. Click here for the link.
The day wrapped up with shares, hugs, acknowledgements, and gratitude expressed. Another magical Permablitz.
Permablitz #29: Maria’s Place – July 25th, 2020
It was a very exciting moment for everyone to be back at a new Permablitz after a break away!
Maria, William (Maria’s Son) and Katie (William’s partner) welcomed us onto the site, a beautiful urban property in Tauranga, Otumoetai. The weather was perfect for a day of fun and hard work to transform Maria’s garden; which originally was made of grass, paving stones, a couple of hedges and a garden bed.
Maria decided to transform her garden in to an Edible Paradise to become more resilient. After the lockdown period a lot of people realised that they could be providing more of their own food from their land, Maria is one of them, she was convinced before but even more after going through that experience.
Maria, William and Katie had done a big job preparing the property for the permablitz, they pulled all the paving stones out, the grass, the pre existing garden bed as well as all the hedges, just a few trees were left on the day.
Tess played her Magic to make a permaculture design to allow Maria to grow as much food as possible from her land, Marco built four wicking bed frames in the garden ready to be filled. A wicking bed is a garden bed with a waterproof lining that holds a reservoir of water at the bottom from which water is drawn upwards like a wick to the surface of the bed via natural soil osmosis or through the roots of plants in the bed. After a little warm up loading Marco’s trailer with the grass and shrubs (the pile that’s Maria, William and Katie did pre-blitz) we had a nice cup of tea and lovely muffin made by Katie.
We started the day with a welcome circle of sharing the design and sharing our skills with each other.
Maria welcomed us and thanked us for being part of the day.
Then Tess presented to everyone Maria’s Guiding statement and wish list, a map of the property with what is staying and the different areas of the design…our mission for the day.
We had 4 different zones to work on:
-Wicking beds led by Marco
-Fruit trees and theirs Guilds led by Kylie
-Berry and Medicinal plants area led by Carol
-Pathways area led by Byron
Marco did a mini workshop on Wicking Beds, everyone was really keen and happy to know more about them and how they work.
Everyone went straight to work and got stuck in, in groups of 2-4.
Making decisions around the Berry and Medicinal plant area.
Mike and Byron making plans on the pathways.
The 1st zone of Fruit trees is taking shape.
Martin, busy loading and unloading wheelbarrows of stones to help create the reservoir at the bottom of the wicking beds.
Path in progress between the wicking beds, Byron very focused! It has to be level.
Mike and Tess are starting the pebble pathway to create access to the garden from the house.
Work in progress by Kylie and Tom in the fruit Tree area.
And now lots of lovely plants are going to cover the soil under the fig tree (preexistent), the new plum tree and the blackcurrant to create a guild (a beneficial grouping of plants that support one another in all their many functions).
And more and more wheelbarrows to fill those wicking beds, after the stone layer a geotextile fabric layer is added to avoid the soil mixing with the stone.
For lunch, Maria and Katie made us some beautiful pumpkin soup, a fresh salad and some homemade bread.
While we were having a piece of pie, Byron talked about a subject he is passionate about: food forests – the different levels of a forest that create an ecosystem, rich healthy soil and diversity. Thanks Byron for sharing your knowledge, it was very interesting.
Back to work, a nice layer of mulch to cover the soil around the new plants.
Marco is making sure that the wicking beds are going to be nice and strong for the years to come.
Carol and Katie are happy to be able to start planting in the wicking beds, it looks amazing and the height of the wicking bed makes it easier to plant and will be comfortable to harvest food. It was these reasons that Maria wished to have wicking beds (and the fact her soil was super sandy, and she likes to go on holiday and the wicking beds can self water for 1-2 weeks in the Summer).
More edible trees are getting planted, feijoas and pear and apple trees – which will be espaliered.
Last wicking bed in progress.
The raspberry plants and the trellis to support them while they grow.
The pile is going down, well done for your hard work guys what a team! The space is nearly ready to plant more trees and plants.
Marco tracing the curve between the pebble and growing area to keep them on the path, it is looking amazing and easy to use.
More fun creating curves and a new space to plant more food.
Planting, planting, planting, citrus this time, and lots of beneficial edible plants to cover the soil, it is looking amazing, nearly the end of the day.
The photo says it all – everyone is very proud of the hard work they have accomplished. Maria, William and Katie are delighted about the result. The power of people is amazing and it was so rewarding to be part of that day to transform a garden into an abundant, visually beautiful backyard – full of food, herbs, medicinal plants, berries and flowers.
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.
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!!
Permablitz BOP is firing up again! On Saturday 9th December 2017 we held the first mini permablitz on Julia Sich’s 870 sm property on Chadwick Road in Greerton, Tauranga.
This mini-blitz was a small group of ten people coming together, bringing a shared lunch, for half a day. We got tons done, met some lovely new people and learned about Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language, double digging, grape pruning and wicking bed construction.
The design team of Cath Goodrick, Nicole Buhrs, Julia Sich, headed by Sharon Watt met late November to start the process of planning the blitz and scoping out the section. During the week before the blitz Nicole and Cath had to pull out due to unexpected accidents. Help!! A distress email for additional support drew in Catherine Dunton-McLeod, with her permaculture knowledge and superb organisational skills.
The day of the blitz dawned with blue sky and sunshine, thank goodness – organisers are always a bit nervous about the weather the day of a blitz.
Sharon welcomed everyone, Julia gave the history and an overview of the property, and Catherine Dunton-McLeod led a permaculture exercise in Pattern Language.
This began with her reading Julia’s statement of purpose for her piece of paradise as follows:
“Abundance, surprises and a wow factor pervade this garden of aliveness, harmony and colour, which is easy to care for, a haven for wildlife and an inspiration to others.”
A short encapsulation of the homeowner’s desire for the property like this is critical for a good permaculture design and a successful blitz, and is unfortunately a step that often gets skipped. Catherine explained that this sentence would inform everything we did that day on the property.
Catherine then took the group out to the road, to the start of the longish driveway, to get a feel of the property from the beginning and to start to view it as a set of “rooms “. (This is straight out of Christopher Alexander’s books: A Pattern Language and A Timeless Way of Building. Read them!!) Just like in a house, a property can have “rooms” with specific functions. Standing at the start of the driveway we identified a “room” we called “entrance off the street.” Julia’s entrance off the street is functional, but does not yet express her statement of purpose – There was little sense of abundance, surprise or aliveness in this room! There was however a big brown concrete wall that we imagined could have a fantastic colourful mural painted on it bringing in those missing elements. As we walked back up the drive, we experienced two more rooms we decided to call – “getting to Julia’s house” and “arriving at Julia’s house.” We had a good time observing and feeling our way through these “rooms” and this showed up areas for future development.
Heading to the backyard, work got underway to dig over the four remaining garden beds that had been covered in carpet to kill the kikuyu. The garden beds were marked with lines and the paths and beds prepared.
Lora Scully led a workshop on how to double dig a garden bed.
Edging was put around almost all the vegetable garden by the end of the day, leaving about a quarter for Julia to finish.
The greenhouse was erected.
Before lunch, Catherine led a workshop on how to set up a wicking bed. Some variation of a wicking bed design is a fantastic solution to keep plants happy in a dry summer, especially if you are away for weeks at a time. Google “wicking beds” to find out more design possibilities. What we did was to use a 200 litre plastic barrel from the recycle container place in Greerton, cut in half. The bottom of the barrel acts as a water reservoir and is filled with a Nova flow drainage pipe inserted in a muslin sleeve (to prevent the sand clogging the holes). This pipe was coiled in the bottom of the barrel and sand poured on top up to the level of the outlet pipe. Another pipe is inserted into the Nova flow pipe to be able to fill the bottom with water. Then a layer of weed mat is placed over the sand and the barrel filled with compost ready to plant. Catherine suggested that several wicking beds could be set up one under another for a cascade effect.
The finished wicking barrel with a plant under the outflow. The reservoir in this wicking bed should hold about 30 litres of water and can keep it’s plants moist for weeks.
The combined food that people brought along made for a wonderful sustaining, nourishing lunch. Relaxing over the break allowed the chance to chat amongst fellow blitzers and network.
Other tasks completed during the morning were grape pruning led by Julia. Val took on the huge job of clearing fern, alstromeria and stones from around a concrete bordered bed near the worm farms. Shade was also erected for the worm farm area.
Two wooden posts were concreted in between the house and the hedge to form the basis of a fence and gate that would enclose the garden, act as a wind break, provide privacy, and to make it clear when arriving at the property which door visitors should go to.
In the following two days after the blitz ,John, Julia’s brother from Australia, along with Julia built the gate.
A huge thank you to all those who participated and to the design team, Sharon who took the photos, Catherine and Lora for leading workshops and the many hands that made light work! Below a view of the garden after the blitz. Woo Hoo! Thank you Permablitz! Let’s have another Blitz soon!!!
Compare this with the before shot of the same area. WOW!
After a false start the Sunday before, Permablitz #26 took off with a great bunch of people and perfect weather.
This was the second time we have blitzed Beccy Dove’s hillside garden. The first time was in 2015 when we re-invigorated an old orchard and planted lots more fruit trees plus we prepared the framework for our earth wall. Luckily this framework of vertical bamboo was still sound and just needed a bit of reinforcing to make a firm foundation for our wall.
We were lucky that Rose Tuffery was available for this blitz as she is heading to Costa Rica shortly to further her experience with earth-building. Before we got into it Rose showed us how she prepared test pieces using the local clays available and various proportions of the clay/paper pulp/sand/cement mix. Any earth walling project with good hat (roof) and boots (footing) doesn’t require cement but because Beccy’s wall is fully exposed to the elements we had to use cement. We had also had a trial run several weeks earlier so we were confident the mix would be suitable. A local Waitawheta Quarry clay was chosen and a locally sourced mixed grade sand.
Rose showing us how she prepared clay sample tests
We spent some time cladding the bamboo structure of the wall with chicken mesh and wiring this into place to make a solid foundation. Bottles and stacked rocks were used in places to show how various material can be incorporated into the structure.
Others prepared the paper pulp and sieved the larger rocks out of the clay. Following morning tea, we got into the fun part (all the kids scrambled to have a go), of foot wedging the pulp into the clay.
This activated clay pulp mix was then mixed with the sand and cement with water. It was all hands-on deck applying the clay to the wall with everyone getting a chance to try all of the stages of preparation and application.
Ailie’s first bucket of mix
The afternoon was spent applying the mix to the walls and then adding decorative pieces such as shells, stones, moulded shapes. Christine Burne from Waikino rose to the challenge to create a feature at the start of the walling. We all watched as a taniwha took shape from a pile of rocks.
This was a family affair with mother, son, Tony and grand-daughter all helping.
A delicious shared morning tea and lunch was enjoyed on Beccy’s terrace.
We completed both walls with one bucket of mix to spare. A happy bunch at the end of a successful day with beautiful Karangahake Mountain in the background.
Rachel & Kaine Smith from Katikati had two blitzes….check out the progress!
We recently visited Rachel & Kaines permaculture garden which was developed over two Permablitz’s, the first in September 2012 (permablitz #6) and the second September 2013 (permablitz #13). The site was a large town garden with a mature orange tree centred on the back lawn. The family are a busy couple with two young boys, Ollie and Finn, so Rachel & Kaine wanted a garden that would grow with their family’s needs.
The design included an enlarged deck off their kitchen with raised wicking beds close at hand.
An existing area of pebble was gathered up and reused in the bottom of the wicking beds.
The children love to climb and play around the orange tree so an area of mulch was spread beneath and around the tree, to allow some productive under-planting.
Two existing raised vegetable gardens, much further away from the house, were also converted into wicking beds and filled with compost. The compost bin system was improved and many fruit trees were sited around the garden, including several espaliered pip fruit along the north facing fence.
The fruit tree area near the road was planted with Feijoas, a dwarf Peach, Lemonade and Mandarin. These were thoroughly mulched in the second blitz and inter-planted with other beneficial plants; several Gooseberries, Guava and wayward herbs such as Bergamot, Lemon Balm, Calendula, Marjoram & Nasturtium. A Lemon tree was planted opposite the front door so they can just pop out the door when they need a lemon.
On visiting recently, Rachel took great delight in showing me around her garden. Her enthusiasm was palpable and mirrored by her children who had been very involved in the blitzes right from the start.
The wicking beds near the house have been a great success, the far one now used for strawberries, the closer two connected with a plank off the deck for super- efficient harvesting. The only glitch has been with the nearest bed which was installed slightly off level, making the top end a lot drier than the bottom end. It has meant choosing hardier, drought tolerant plants for the dry end, so herbs have worked well here. They need watering once a week over summer which could have been reduced if they had been constructed a little deeper but overall the wicking beds have been very worthwhile.
The two older beds in the far corner are a lot more productive now also with a reliable water supply from the wicking system which hardly ever needs filling. They are used for longer term vegetables that don’t need regular tending.
The area adjacent is used to store materials such as horse, cow and chicken manure, seaweed, mulch, sawdust, grass clippings, (green waste for nitrogen and browns for carbon). These are added in layers to build a compost in the wicking beds when the soil is replaced once a year.
The area beneath the Orange tree is still used a lot by the boys so any planting here will have to wait. It proved too shady for Pumpkins but we have recommended trying Native Spinach as this should thrive in the dry semi-shade.
Of the espaliered fruit trees on a north facing fence the Apples have been really productive already but the Pear has yet to flower. Rachel plans to interplant with a Nashi Pear as well.
Rachel said “I knew nothing about gardening when we bought this property and I learnt largely by trial and error until getting involved in the Permablitz’s. I have learnt so much”.
Kaine said “The Permablitz’s were a positive experience. Being a kindergarten teacher the importance of our children seeing and being involved in the whole thing taking shape has been really important”.
If the sheer enthusiasm of this family is anything to go by the Permablitz programme has been very worthwhile for them. They have enriched their living environment by not only providing healthy organic food for the family but also by creating a depth of experience for their children within their property that is educational and fulfilling, and full of discoveries.
Written by Trish Waugh, June 2016
THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TODAY
An energetic group of 22 people came together on Saturday 10th October to blitz a suburban backyard in Brookfield, Tauranga.
Host Sharon created the design for her PDC with Plenty Permaculture and this was implementation day!
The main task of the day was to create a series of small-scale infiltration swales on contour with vegetable beds in between. This will take advantage of the gentle slope of the property to harvest rainwater runoff.
The swales were lined with tree branches, mulch and sawdust, which will act like a sponge during heavy rain, then will slowly release moisture to the vegetable beds. The swales also function as pathways between the beds.
The vegetable beds were prepared by double-digging and adding amendments such as inoculated biochar, vermicast, Nature’s Garden and compost.
The vegetable growing area will be divided into two parts: a perennial vegetable polyculture, which will be self-sustaining once established; and annual vegetable beds which will be managed using biointensive methods.
Three interactive workshops were run to give everyone some fun, hands-on learning opportunities. Leo did a compost making workshop which resulted in a magnificent compost heap; Brad demonstrated double-digging and had his group powering through the vegetable beds; and Christine led a willow weaving workshop which resulted in a cute and rustic raised bed border (to be finished by host Sharon later).
The lunch of chickpea and pumpkin tagine, arabesque lentils, salads, roasted chicken, lemon and coconut balls, chocolate chip slice and fruit cake was lovingly assembled by our generous hosts.
As we were munching dessert, Gisella gave us a fabulous introduction to biodynamic gardening. We learned that biodynamic gardening always starts with applying a preparation called 500. It’s an involved process to make it, using cow horns packed with cow manure and buried in the ground. However you can purchase it through the NZ Biodynamic Association at a very low cost per acre. A few of the group decided to try it, so we put in our order with Gisella and will meet up in a couple of weeks when the moon is in the right phase to have a strong arm stirring party (500 needs to be stirred for an hour to activate it).
Facilitators Trish and Leo kept things running smoothly and it was a fun and productive day with amazing results!