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Permaculture and managing holistically

timTim is a qualified diesel fitter who has been learning and experimenting with permaculture  and holistic management for over 30 years. He tutors at both the Koanga Institute in New Zealand and the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia. Over the years he has run a farm, environmental adventure tourism businesses, and contracted for the Environmental Protection Agency on large projects, all the while continuing to create his own projects from a hovercraft to a home aquaponics system. His current big project is designing and building a rammed earth home for his family in Morten Bay.

I’ve been wanting to write this article for some time, but, have been hiding behind the excuse of “I just don’t have the time”. I suspect though, it has been because what I want to talk about is probably a contentious issue for some and I’m generally a placid soul who doesn’t like to ruffle feathers.

Why then write now, some will ask? Well, I love teaching and more particularly, I love teaching Permaculture Design Courses (PDC). When someone turns up at a PDC they are there because they realize that there is a bigger picture at play in the world and they want to be part of it. They are ripe for change and if you do your job right, you can literally alter their lives. What school teacher could hope to have such an incredible dynamic going on in the classroom where everyone is buzzing with excitement for their new-found knowledge? It’s heady stuff but it also means there is a huge responsibility to do the best possible job you can.

Anyway, I’m always looking for ways to improve or better integrate the information in a PDC so that students can get some leverage on the Permaculture design process and really make it work for them. I, like most other PDC teachers, I’m sure, am always considering different exercises to better illustrate points, or on the hunt for the latest information to bring into the teaching room.

Over the last year or so, there has been much discussion between the practitioners of Permaculture and those that manage holistically, with both sides talking past each other and failing to even recognize they are making fundamental errors in defining what the other actually is. A comprehensive look at what Permaculture and Holistic Management are and are not, is a subject for another time — what I want to discuss now is that each side, in pointing out their differences, has failed to consider the similarities, synergies and complementary nature of Permaculture and Holistic Management.

Leaving aside all other considerations, at its core Permaculture is a design process which uses ethics, principles, patterns, strategies and techniques to achieve certain design goals.

Holistic Management is also a process, but in this case, it is a decision making process whereby we use a very similar set of ethics, principles, patterns, strategies and techniques to help us make complex management decisions while addressing environmental, social and economic outcomes.

It’s about now, someone usually insists Permaculture is about growing food and someone else insists Holistic Management is about grazing cattle. While it’s true these are common techniques of the respective processes, they do not define those processes and we do ourselves a disservice if we insist on limiting our view simply to strategies and techniques.

Regardless, we need to step back for a moment and consider that here we have a process for design and a process for management that are in no way contradictory. In fact PC and HM offer very valuable insights and perspectives into each other.

…Just as it’s a permaculture principle to value edge as often the most fertile and productive areas between two ecotones, so we should value the fertile edge between these two processes and embrace that which comes from it.

There has always been somewhat of an unspoken assumption in some circles that Permaculture doesn’t work. Now whether or not this criticism is valid and I fully believe it isn’t, it can be argued that for every functioning project there seems to be at least as many dysfunctional ones.

I’m sure this will bring howls of outrage from some, but bear with me — I am not criticising the Permaculture process, I am merely pointing out that there are quite a few examples where for one reason or another, the act of turning the process into reality fails or is poorly carried out.

The reasons for this are many and varied and directly correlate with the many and varied people practicing permaculture. More than a few will assert this is mainly through lack of practical experience or knowledge and I won’t disagree. However, I also believe that lack of experience and specific knowledge aren’t necessarily impediments to good design. Experience and knowledge can be gained — we all start from zero at some point. The important thing is to recognise this.

I believe the problem lies with the fact we all have different strengths and weaknesses and various biases and blind spots and it is these factors that ultimately influence how we make decisions. It’s these biases and blind spots that give us definition and make us who we are, so I’m not arguing against these things, simply stressing that we need to be well aware of them when we make decisions that have potentially large consequences. It’s also why I think that those people who have designed and managed highly functional permaculture systems would very likely do well regardless, as they tend to be good observers and as we should all recognize:

-a good observer tries to neutralize all cognitive biases and prejudgment so they have the greatest pallet of possibilities to work with.

David Holmgren always emphasises the trap of starting to design before we have simply observed, free of any value judgments. Another trait of a good designer is the joy and fascination in the learning opportunity of a good mistake.

While most of us downplay our mistakes, a good PC designer relishes them as true learning.

Now, if you are struggling somewhat with the concept of your making poor decisions, then it is highly likely you’re right in the middle of a cognitive bias. We tend to be blind to our own faults but find it much easier to see those faults in others. Those that find this hard to agree with, I simply direct to any search of Cognitive Bias on the internet which will bring up a huge number of biases that have been consistently and replicably shown to exist in humans. There are probably a large number of readers now vehemently denying this, but I would like to throw the challenge out there, that true intellectual honesty comes not from just questioning others, but yourself also.


Holistic context

This is where Holistic Management can be of great benefit. As stated earlier, to a large degree HM is a decision making process. However, before we start making decisions, we have to work out what we are making decisions about and what those decisions are for. Without this, we are like a ship without a compass. Very, very briefly, a HM practitioner first creates a holistic context, (previously, this was referred to as a holistic goal but context is a much more apt description). As my trainer, Brian Wehlburg of Inside Outside Management, puts it “Think of context as the umbrella under which want to operate”. Ultimately creating a holistic context is a clarifying and empowering process that helps us articulate our heart’s true desires and this is the engine that drives the whole process.

Define the whole

The first step in creating our context is to define the ‘whole’ under management. This is simply a recognition that nothing works in isolation and everything is connected. No one element can be truly understood as individual components, but rather only in how it operates within a functioning system. Interestingly, the systems thinking which undergirds Permaculture was itself derived from holism.

So in defining our ‘whole’ under management we look at the system we want to manage. It might be a business, a farm, a government department, a town or your life and your family’s life.

The decision-makers

We then list our decision-makers. These are simply all the people who from day-to-day make decisions in the ‘whole’ as defined, from the most mundane to the most far-reaching. So for a business, it’s everyone from the CEO to the person serving in the cafeteria. For your family it will be you, your partner and the kids. In this category, we also include anyone who has the power of veto or can alter your decisions.

The resource base

Next, we list all the physical resources available to us to help us achieve our context. Though we don’t yet have the context formed, we should have a good idea of our resources. So it may be a car, machinery, land, a house or in fact any physical thing we have access to or use of. We don’t even have to own whatever it is, merely have the use of it, so it can also include things like other people, the internet, libraries etc. Be creative here because the more you list the more potential resources you have to help you achieve your context.


You may be tempted to list money in your resource base, but we tend to list it separately. Again don’t limit yourself to what you actually have, but also potential sources of money. Here is where you put down savings, precious metals, stocks, bonds, etc., but also money that can be obtained from bank loans, grant money, social security and even money that can be generated by things in your resource base.

Statement of purpose

Depending on the ‘whole’ you are managing, you can have a statement of purpose. This is a preface to setting your holistic context and serves to focus you on what you are actually trying to achieve. It should be only a sentence or two. You could almost call it your mission statement.

Quality of life statement

Here we are attempting to express what we really want out of life — what excites us and motivates us. This statement has to reflect the desires and aspirations of all the decision-makers as listed earlier. If your holistic context is the engine which drives the process then your QoL is the fuel. It’s what gets you up in the morning, eager to move yourself closer to your context. Here it’s important to drill down to the root of what motivates us, so instead of saying things like “I want lots of money”, we would ask why do we want lots of money? We very often find that words like security, prosperity or stability pop up, so it’s really important to get right down to it. We also find what most people really want, tends to be universal, regardless of race, gender or creed.

Areas to consider are:

Economic well-being
Challenge and growth
Purpose and contribution

We all want freedom from financial woes, we all want to love and be loved. We also know with challenge comes growth and we all seek purpose and the possibility to contribute and have meaning in our lives. So approaching writing your QoL statement by using the above categories can be very helpful.

You want to be using short simple phrases — it doesn’t have to be long and beautifully written  – indeed this can block the process somewhat. Try to express these things using emotions and try to express them as you want them to be, not how they are now. An example might be “I have loving relationships with my family”, “I feel secure and prosperous”, “I am well respected” “I enjoy challenge and the growth that comes from it”, “I am happy and healthy”. Don’t get too specific, it should be about how you want to feel, not how you are going to achieve it. That part comes next.

Forms of production

This is where we look at the various parts of our Quality of Life statement and match it with a means of producing the listed desirable outcomes. Again, we don’t want to be too specific but we want to address those things that will either block or assist us in achieving our quality of life. Remember we are talking holism here, so there is always going to be some overlap, with with some forms of production addressing multiple areas of our quality of life statements. For instance, the form of production for “loving relationships” might be more open communication or better time management or work/life balance, which might also be forms of production for “being respected by and involved in my community”. -If I had put down “More time” instead of “Better time management” I wouldn’t have been addressing the real issue, as we all have the same amount of time — some just manage it better than others.
The forms of production for “feel secure and prosperous” might be “sound financial planning” or “Community involvement”, remembering that to prosper doesn’t necessarily mean to profit.

Future resource base

The final step in setting your Context is to describe your future resource base. Here, you describe how your resource base has to be to support the forms of production that in turn will give you the quality of life you desire. Again, use the present tense as though you have already achieved what you are describing. Describe the people around you, your land, the infrastructure, the ecosystem health, your community. Terms like “supportive community”, “rich black soil”, “high biodiversity” are what you’re looking for. Describing and imagining things thus is incredibly motivating.

So, that in a nutshell, is the Holistic Context forming process. As I’m sure you can appreciate, this is just barely skimming what is at times a challenging but ultimately incredibly empowering process. To imagine and then describe those things we most desire and in terms that imply that we have them, is truly uplifting.

Testing decisions

To run through the whole HM process is simply beyond the scope of this article, but I would like to quickly highlight that once we have our context, which greatly clarifies what we truely want in life, we can start to test decisions to see whether they align or are in conflict with our context. As discussed earlier, we all have numerous cognitive biases and that’s okay as it makes us who we are. However, having poured our hearts into describing what we want out of life, we don’t want to sabotage ourselves by making decisions that seem right but are distorted by those various biases. To do this testing, we have a series of questions which we run our potential decision through. Using this process we can make complex decisions while always taking into account and balancing social, economic and environmental imperatives. In case there are those inclined to see this as being all Spock-like and hyper-logical, relax, there is even a question that basically asks us “how do you feel about this decision?” Ultimately it’s to achieve our heart’s desire, so surely a little structured thought isn’t a bad thing. What this process does, is allow us to see past the clutter of complexity and personal biases and make long term decisions that continually move us towards our context.

Finally having made a decision: we implement it and assume it’s wrong. That’s right — assume it’s wrong! When dealing with complex systems, especially natural ones, we have to assume we got it wrong. This stops us falling into the trap (bias) of looking for evidence supporting our decision when often the quickest way to the truth of something is to look for evidence of being off track. It is far better to make small, early, corrections to our course than to assume we are heading in the right direction, only to find much later we are far from our goal and have to cover a lot of extra ground to get there.

Now, the best way to do this is to work out what would be some early indicators of problems and monitor for them consistently and regularly. If we are starting to drift we then implement controls and continue to monitor. Then if we find we are still not getting the results we want, we can re-plan and continue to monitor. The take-home from this is the minute you have a plan it’s useless unless you are constantly monitoring, controlling and replanning. In managing holistically, ‘plan’ is a 24 letter word. Plan, Monitor, Control, Re-plan.

Now as I’ve stressed already, this is skimming over a lot of ground quickly, and just like a few thousand words does not a PDC course make, neither does a short article highlighting a small part of the HM process make one a Holistic Manager. There is much more to the process than meets the eye and I certainly encourage interested people, particularly permaculturists to get themselves on a HM training course or a PDC that incorporates it.

So far I have written quite heavily from the perspective of what HM can do for permaculture because most of the audience reading this will be reasonably well acquainted with permaculture. Having said that, there is a lot that permaculture can offer HM, particularly in the area of understanding and using ecological principles to design supportive ecosystems.

While HM does, in fact, talk about various ecological principles and has some great tools for insight, like the Four Ecosystem Processes Model (a topic for another time) it is not as wide-ranging or as comprehensive in this area, instead directing us to look for those answers using our ingenuity. I have written about this before, but one of Permaculture’s great strengths and often one of its great weaknesses (especially when trying to describe it to someone in a nice concise sound bite) is that it’s not so much about specific information as it is about how to arrange and use that information. So if new information comes to light or old information is found to be incorrect, we can delete the old and plug in the new, but the organizing framework remains. So for a permaculturist, HM is just new information to plug into and for a holistic manager Permaculture is human ingenuity distilled.

I often feel when discussing HM with Permaculturists and Permaculture with HM practitioners that there is altogether too much interest in the idea that one system is subordinate to the other in terms of relevance and it is somehow important that one is the bigger idea. While certainly a large part of this has to do with prior personal investment in either idea, I believe it is very much a human tendency to try and categorise or rank things. Me, I’m just grateful I have more information to work with, fresh perspectives and a strengthening through integration of two vitally important bodies of knowledge.


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Saving and sowing seeds

Holy Beans
It’s our busiest time of year for seed saving and we are harvesting and processing all of our new seeds. It’s exciting to see the love and attention we have put into growing the soil over the last two years really starting to pay off.

Mel, with the help of our tireless gardening apprentices, has been processing 19 varieties of organic heritage tomato seeds almost constantly for two-months now and we have had some beautiful crops.

To make sure we are not reproducing weak plants, we first pull out any unhealthy or stunted tomato plants, and choose only good looking and tasting tomatoes to save the seeds from.

Processing tomatoes starts with cutting the tops off and squishing the seeds into a jar.

This gets left for a couple of days to ferment, helping to separate the tomato pulp and weaker seeds, which float to the top while the strong heavy seeds sink.


We have taken up the challenge of Jon C Frank in his Seedling Vigor and Superior Seed Quality articles and are determined to improve our seedlines.

Selecting our seeds for size and weight means only the most vigorous plants are re-grown for seed from our ‘mother seed’ so the plants get stronger and healthier with each generation.

After tipping the lighter seeds and other debris off the top, the best seeds get strained onto mesh and go into the dryer for a few days till their moisture content is only 10%.

We currently use an electric drier, (with a solar powered one on the ‘to do’ list), but if you’re not drying in commercial quantities you could just dry them in the sun at home.

The seeds also go into the freezer for a few days to kill off any bugs and then they are ready for storing in our consistently cool seed room. On Thursday nights we have a seed packing party and from here they start winging their way towards you.

We have also had a massive harvest of perpetual spinach  this year which is ready for planting now. This hardy plant was grown by most of our ancestors and is a great low maintenance year round crop. For Kay’s Tomato, spinach and panir casserole recipe click here.

It’s starting to get late to plant things in the garden, so now is the time to make the most of the last of the warmer weather.


We have just harvested and processed the purple sprouting broccoli, which was originally grown by the Romans. It is still ok to plant now, and in colder climates it will continue sprouting for months rather than just producing one head.
The Borecole and Red russian kale are also both fine to plant now.
This is the first seed harvest of Borecole from our Wairoa seed garden. We’ve been growing it in our isolation garden, (to prevent cross pollination with other varieties) for over a year and are quite excited to finally be harvesting such a healthy and nutrient dense crop.

Bucking the “plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest” rule, now is a also good time to order our early garlic, Rocombole.  Unlike most garlic which goes in in June, Rocombole can be planted in April and May to be ready for mid-November onwards.

If you’re like us and want flowers for winter, we have some prolific self-seeders: Heartsease  and Calendula, available now, which are good companion plants. As a type of pansy, Heartsease represents loving thoughts, while Calendula can mean “my thoughts are with you” or “winning grace” in Victorian flower language.
And though it may seem a long way off, if you put sweet peas (meaning shyness)  in now, they will be flowering by early Spring, just like this years, crop of seed-saving interns and apprentices.

yellow calenduala

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Tomato, spinach, panir casserole

Recipe from Change of Heart by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker

Tomato Ponsonby RedYou can substitute any of the summer greens for spinach in this quick and easy dish.

8 heritage tomatoes – quartered and cored

2 cups cooked spinach

1 cup panir 1cm cubed* see recipe below

1 Tbsp lard, coconut or olive oil

sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

1 cup posole (ground) or breadcrumbs* see below

1/2 cup grated butter

Place tomatoes, spinach, panir, seasoning and oil into a bowl and mix well.Place into a baking dish and cover either with breadcrumbs or ground posole, mix well with the grated butter. Bake at 180degC for about 30 minutes or until brown on top.

*Posole – which you can buy in some supermarkets as Masa flour

Pasole is a traditional way of eating corn where the dried corn is processed with either wood or shell as to increase its nutritional value (up to 60 times more available calcium hydroxide. It’s best made in large batches as it is quite a process. If you have experience of making posole, please get in touch [email protected]
To begin soak six cups of dried corn overnight in water. Pour off the water and put in a pot with 2 cups of bone/shell ash-water, and cover with extra water. Make sure the corn remains covered throughout the cooking process. Simmer for one hour or longer, until the skin can be rubbed off the kernels.
Remove from heat and drain. Place in a colander and rub under running water until you have removed as many of the skins as possible. Then put everything into a bowl or bucket and float off the skins.
Return to the pot and cover with water. Continue cooking for another hour and repeat the whole de-skinning process until the corn kernels are white, fluffy and skinless. They are now ready to be ground for tortillas, added to soup, or dried.


3 litres milk

1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar

1 colander

1 cloth (30x30cm)

Bring your milk to the boil. Slowly add just enough apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk. (I prefer the taste of lemon juice in panir, but either is good).
Next turn heat off and gently stir as little as possible with a wooden spoon until you have a clear yellow why and a mass of panir. If you do not have clear yellow why, add a little more vinegar or lemon juice. Leave the curds in a solid mass, do not break up by stirring.
When you are happy your curds and whey have separated as much as possible, put a cloth inside a colander in the kitchen sink and ladle in the curds. Hang your curd-filled cloth up on the kitchen hook and leave to drain. this will happen very fast and not a lot of whey will come out.
Leave the curds to cool, than remove from cloth and use or freeze for later.
I usually cube the panir and to add to soups or fry and add to veggie dishes.
Because the whey has been boiled and will not contain the life raw whey contains, (although it still has many nutrients), I prefer to feed it to the animals rather than use it in the kitchen, but it can add excellent flavour to soups and stews in place of stock.



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Bee-babies and moon-suits


I wonder if this is what it is like to be a first-time parent with a newborn baby??

Suddenly, you are in charge of LIFE, of another being that sort-of plonks, mysterious, into your world, and nine different aunties tell you ten different tales about how to care for this cryptic creature; how to satisfy it’s natural instincts, how to protect it from this mighty mean world, how to know what it wants – and you think, blimey, why did I get knocked-up by curiosity in the first place?
And newborn babies don’t come with five thousand venomous bottoms.
I have been on the bee-team (which, as it happens, is way cooler than the A-team) for six months, apprenticing myself under the wonderful Christy & Cody Kerr – our favourite Kentucky-fried couple with a bit more than a passion for our fuzzy buzzy friends. My intro to beekeeping was hardly your happy hands-free powerpoint situation – we had everything from laying workers to relentless robbing to varroa infestations – indeed, I look forward to the day when my beekeeping style resembles more that of Pooh-bear off to a picnic than Mad Max in a moon-suit with a semi-smoking canister of twigs and a question-mark floating over my head.
I jest, I jest – it is less often lack of confidence with bees that gives me my sometimes underwater feeling than it is my mountain of awe at their nature. They know what’s what – it’s not hard to feel like a fumbling hooligan in the midst of such exquisite architecture and super-social genius. I begin to realise just how important it is to hit the balance between mothering them through all the abuses they are subject to, from pests or humans, and letting them work it out themselves. The bottom line is to build colonies of honeybees that do not rely on drugs or sugar for their survival, like some poor patient on life-support, but are naturally strong and resilient to all the ever-changing environmental pressures in their (that is, our) world.
Allow me a quick plug? On the weekend of April 19-20 we are holding a top-bar beekeeping workshop in our wee apiary at Koanga. Great chance to get your head around the buzz, and your hands too. It’ll be theory and discussion (and happy powerpoints!) on the basics – colony structure, seasonal hive management, pros and cons of different hive designs, problem-solving etc, along with plenty of time getting into the hives themselves and having a serious nosy around. We’ll build a top-bar hive from scratch, monitor some varroa, play with some beeswax, watch a doco or two in the evening, and generally have a rollicking good time, I reckon.
Til then,
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Forest garden – an almond tree writes


My name is Shaked, and this is the opening post for our forest garden/ nursery Koanga blog.

Now, if you ask yourself Sha…. what? -as many kiwis do, Sha-ked is how its pronounced, and since I’m originally from Israel, Shaked in Hebrew means Almond tree.
I was born on a special day in Israel, which, in direct translation means the holiday for the trees. The almond is the first tree to blossom in Israel at this time of the year, and so…. I was born a tree.

I arrived at Koanga a year-and-a-half-ago, have done my Permaculture Design Coure  here, a bio-intensive gardening internship, and have started to work for the institute. Now I manage our organic heritage fruit tree nursery and our developing forest garden.

And so, I am so excited to be doing this work and research, to learn and to teach, and now, I am more than happy to share this also on our forest garden blog.

Plum- Marabella

So, in order to share what’s going on here, I would like to start with what we are actually trying to achieve.
The Koanga Institute, and mostly Kay Baxter, has collected around 200 different heritage varieties of apples, pears, stone fruit, olives, berries, figs, grapes, and more over the last 30-years. Most of these have been planted here, at the developing Kotare village, outside of Wairoa, in Northern Hawke’s Bay, which is where Koanga Institute moved to three-years-ago.
As the collection needed to be planted in order to be kept alive, this is the first stage at which our forest garden started with. Yet there are more trees from the collection to be planted here, and obviously more to be collected, (we are just starting to get familiarized with our new bio-region, and develop a collection based on the Hawke’s Bay climate, soil and history)


So, what are we actually aiming for?
Well, if I needed to put it in one sentence it would be:

“A local, regenerative, resilient system, that provides us with highly nutritious food and other basic human needs, while being efficient and easily manageable.”

…while of course, taking care of our collection, making it more resilient and less demanding, and making the trees available to everyone.

blueberry atlantic

Where are we now?
Well, most of our heavy feeders are already planted, some are fruiting, and more will fruit in the next few seasons.
And now, we are slowly building the rest of the forest layers.
In some of the blocks we have already started establishing the lower trees. As quite a bit of our land has good drainage down to a silt pan 0.5-1.5 m under the top soil and pumice, we needed to find many varieties that could handle wet feet.
We have planted some tagasaste, siberian pea tree, tree medic, acacia, casuarina, maakia, alder, and more varieties of mainly nitrogen-fixing, poultry-feed trees, that will do well in our climate and drainage/ soil type.
In a couple of weeks we are conducting a forest garden design workshop.  This will take everything we’ve learned throughout our experience here as well as Kay’s 30+ years of experience. The workshop is aimed to share these experiences so more people understand and start to implement their own forest gardens.


My other main focus these days is our nursery.
There we grow from seed or cuttings our support trees for the forest garden, mainly propagating from the organic heritage fruit tree collection, making those available for anyone who wishes to be fed with these amazing heritage cultivars of fruit.
Last month we invited Murray Jones, an experienced nursery man, to share with me a budding lesson. This was great, watching and experiencing a new (for me) technique for propagation.
We walked through the forest garden, collected scionwood from the trees to be propagated for the next season, and budded them on rootstocks we propagated last season.
This allows us to do most of the propagation now, it’s faster and easier, giving us another opportunity to graft later on whatever didnt take.
These budded trees will be on the 2015 Koanga tree catalogue, while the 2014 catalogue has just been published a month ago. It is filled with flavours, ideas and stories.


It’s a bit awkward, as most of these trees I am propagating I have never tasted yet, and Kay is my guide for all the “which and how”. Although, the last season was a great start for my heritage fruit tasting. I was waiting for it, and it hasn’t disappointed -even though the peaches were the only ones mature enough to produce fruit yet.
It started with Mary’s christmas, Mammie ross, Christina, Four winds, Batley, Green’s special, Mrs. Robinsons, Massie eliot, and Waiatea. Wow!! What an awesome variety of timing and flavours, from white flesh to yellow and dark orange, sweet and buttery. Definitely the best peaches I’ve ever tasted.
I really love my duty here!
If your trees are producing more than you can eat in one go, try Kay’s peach crumble recipe.


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Peach crumble

Taken from Change of Heart – The Ecology of Nourishing Food by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker


Serves four

Slice eight ripe peaches and arrange carefully into the bottom of a 20cm pie dish. Sprinkle with 1/4 a cup of rapadura sugar or honey, followed by the crumble mix.

To make the crumble you need:

1/2 a cup of butter (grated)

1/2 a cup of rapadura* or honey

1 cup posole* or sprouted, dried grain wheat*, or wheat flour

If using posole or sprouted wheat, grind it in a corn grinder first, then place in a bowl with grated butter and rapadura/honey. Mix thoroughly with fingers and sprinkle over peaches. Place in a moderate oven and bake until golden brown on top. Serve with kefir cream or ordinary cream.

*Rapadura sugar is made from the juice extracted from the sugar cane which is then evaporated over a low heat and ground to produce a grainy dark rich sugar. It is free of chemicals.

*Sprouted dried wheat grain: Place wheat in a glass sprouting jar. Soak for 12 hours, then drain, rinse and leave covered to sprout for 12 hours.
Rinse, drain and cover again. Repeat that process until the small white rootlets first appear. Dry these sprouts in a solar dryer, dehydrator, or very low temperature oven.
The grain is then ready to grind as per normal. It has a sweet and nutty taste. We have organic heritage seeds for wheat and nine other grains available.

Posole – which you can buy in some supermarkets as Masa flour


Posole is a traditional way of eating corn where the dried corn is processed with either wood or shell as to increase its nutritional value (up to 60 times more available calcium hydroxide. It’s best made in large batches as it is quite a process. If you have experience of making posole, please get in touch [email protected]
To begin soak six cups of dried corn overnight in water. Pour off the water and put in a pot with 2 cups of bone/shell ash-water, and cover with extra water. Make sure the corn remains covered throughout the cooking process. Simmer for one hour or longer, until the skin can be rubbed off the kernels.
Remove from heat and drain. Place in a colander and rub under running water until you have removed as many of the skins as possible. Then put everything into a bowl or bucket and float off the skins.
Return to the pot and cover with water. Continue cooking for another hour and repeat the whole de-skinning process until the corn kernels are white, fluffy and skinless. They are now ready to be ground for tortillas, added to soup, or dried. To grow your own corn check out our 17 different organic heritage seed varieties.



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Thorny Croft – March update

bob_corker_portraitBob Corker is an experienced permaculture designer, who has specialised in large scale landscaping projects as well developing intentional communities, using appropriate technologies. He manages Thorny Croft farm with his son Taiamai. Both will be tutoring on our upcoming four week animal internship.

Grazing Management and Transitioning into Multi-tiered Production – continuing on from Bob’sfirst blog, The Thorny Croft Vision

The inspiring vision of the multi-tiered perennial solar production system is somewhat tempered by the reality of a flat grassed paddock and a few weeds (thistles).  Our challenge is the transition, which in terms of reaching ‘full production’ will take maybe up to twenty years before the canopy trees are dropping nuts to their full potential.

First Stage  – Grazing rotations and pasture renovation
Our main aims are to:
·    Never graze for periods of more 1 or 2 days on the same pasture (preferably one day or less if we’ve got the time to manage it)
·    Establish a rotation between 40- 60 days according to season and conditions
·    Have a high stocking density so that a considerable amount of the pasture gets trodden on and generally trashed to form part of the carbon recycling
·    Trying to just graze the young tops (where most of the nutrition is)
·    Leaving enough length in the grass to foster quick regrowth
·    ‘Bank’ grass during good growing periods, and draw down on that bank during slower growth periods
·    Soil test and add appropriate fertilisers (in this case calcium bound in an organic form)
So far the most dramatic response to this has been the change of pasture species and the increased production.  When we first started, after the farm had been mostly set stocked for many years, there were almost no clovers and a predominance of yorkshire fog (which is more tolerant of set stocking), now we are seeing lots of clover, and more rye grass and others.  We are also seeing much more root depth.

IMG_0592Typical pasture under a set stocking regime. Note the lack of clover. Brix values typically 3-4

We are building fertility which will lead us into the second stage

IMG_0588Two years of rotational grazing. Lots of clover and less ‘fog’. Brix value 12 or over.

Second Stage –  Progressive perennial establishment
We are aiming to progressively establish our perennial base.    The exact proportion each year will depend on our development budget
Essentially we’ll fence off broad strips aligned with our grazing patterns, and plant these up with four categories.
·    Fast growing pioneer perennials that will handle a  40 – 60 day rotation, including, rye grass, comfrey, lucerne, red clover, chicory, plantain, and others
·    Fast growing pioneer perennial trees that will handle a  40 – 60 day rotation, including tagasaste, forage willow, and assorted acacias
·    Medium fast perennials that will produce poultry and/or pig forage and/or human food, including mulberry, apples, hazels, others
·    Slower, canopy trees (main producers), chestnuts, forage oaks, walnuts,

For the first year there will be little if any grazing, and probably only with young stock. However, we are also experimenting with an organic grazing repellant which will enable grazing earlier.  (more on that to come)

Stage Three  –   Progressive maturing
Once the whole area is planted in perennials, there will be a progressive maturing of the system, early production will come mostly still from pasture and fast growing perennial crops, as time proceeds the production of the mid height  and canopy trees will dominate.

Happy growing!
See Taiamai’s blog on the Thorny Croft sheep.

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Urban Garden February 2014

Steady progress on the animal front, and a few hard lessons as well…
gadn Our baby rabbits are now weaned at six-weeks-old, having fun in their own cage next to mummy. They are doing super well on tagasaste and cut herbs and grass.
The average weight of the rabbits at weaning was ½ a kg
We are not going to buy another buck because all rabbits we buy in have been fed industrial pellets and hay, and do not seem to be as strong and healthy as our rabbits are now. We are on generation two of “no industrial feed, only daily harvested organic tagasaste and herbs”, so we’re keen to use our own buck. This will bring us back full circle to line breeding with our rabbits, which is how most of the old time animal breeders operated. Mother – son, and father – daughter, but never brother over sister.

The chickens have also done super well, we have six hens and all of them are still laying in mid March every day, almost!
The guinea pigs have been a learning curve. The holes in our netting were to big and first guinea pig escaped out the bottom and now the cat is putting his paws through quite small grids as well. We have come to the conclusion that the wire netting needs to be 20cm hexagonal or square netting (hexagonal is way cheaper and we made two cages out of 1 5m roll) to keep guinea pigs in when young and also to keep cat paws out! We have also found that the guinea pigs can get the grass up just as easily through tiny holes as big ones, so it doesn’t seem to matter.
We’re still looking for more females so if you know of any body with spare short haired females please let us know.
The guinea tractor system seems to be working very well, they are certainly the easiest animals to take care of and feed, and if there is no off site food such as tagasaste available in your urban area then guinea pigs will be the best option for you.
Our bees in good form. They began the season as a weak swarm that we a lot of trouble with but is now almost a large enough hive to over winter well and get off to a good start next spring.

All of the fruit trees are growing steadily, getting lots of vermiliquid and mulch and compost and vermicast from within the system, and we will be putting up espaliering wires around the entire fence area shortly for training. Lots of forest garden support trees and plants to go in next. The guild including the orchard herbal lay we planted under our single lemon tree last month is now away, the beans are climbing, the artichokes visible, the alfalfa is up and the tree lupins away along with the comfrey, sorrel, chicory, milk vetch etc.
Our biggest issue this month was that we did not get our succession of seedlings in in time to have them ready when our summer crops came out and we now have nothing to harvest in the veggie garden!!This is a major problem if that is our food, and a big learning curve for new gardeners. Getting the replanting of seeds and successions right is a bit of an art, and comes with experience!

Our outputs in February were as follows and I think we can easily double that next time around…

EE1iUIWe’re having a ball in this garden, we will learn a lot here that will inspire and support a lot of others. … keep an eye out for next months blog


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The solar dryer

marcoMarco has come to Koanga from Tauranga with his wife and six-month-old baby, to do a three-month appropriate technology apprenticeship. The solar drier is just one of many projects he has thrown himself into….

As part of our Appropriate Technology course we made a solar drier to harness the sun’s energy for   drying and preserving some of our excess fruit and vegetables so we can eat them throughout the year.
The basic design is a radiant heat solar drier. It is a really easy design, but works really effectively.
Basically there is a layer of glass that is propped up on a timber frame, and two layers of corrugate iron.  The sun shines through the clear glass at the top of the drier which then hits the black painted corrugate iron that heats up the metal.
drid tomsThe heat from the underside of the metal then heats the food below in a stainless mesh tray, causing  it to lose moisture and dry.  The moisture leaving the food flows out under the screen and up the sloped air channels. The cool air comes through the corrugate troughs and draws the hot air and moisture out leaving behind tasty dried food.
You can dry all sorts of fruit and vegetables. Depending on the size of the fruit and amount of sun, the drying process can happen in a day or two.  It would be advised to put the produce in on a sunny day and to cut it quite thinly.  As you can see in the photo above, we have wild blackberries, alma tomatoes (which are specific for drying), elderberries and peaches.
solar groupWe have made a large solar drier to suit the community, but you could build a much smaller one for home use out of pallets, for example.

Here is our design draft:
Solar drier sketch

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Millie’s garden apprenticeship

mllAged only 19, Millie originally came to the institute all the way from Geraldine for a two month seed internship. She likes it so much she’s decided to stay for three years as a garden apprentice. Here are her words…

…It’s been three months since I fell into Koanga, and landed on both feet. It’s a place where the seasons carry us and an almost forgotten rhythm of of life can be lived.
I’ve learned that plants do not come from little plastic trays on a store shelf, but have a much greater life-cycle.

….And more importantly, I’ve learned that the life-cycle of each plant is so intricately woven into ours, that it becomes a question of: are we growing the garden or is the garden growing us?

Everyday Mother Nature asks us to step back and keep things in perspective…. “Sure, you can do the finickity weeding of every plant out of place,” Mother Nature says. “But tomorrow, I will rain like hell and the next day, little weedy will grow again!”
My eyes are wide open now, I’ve learned a huge amount. But the garden continues… the marrows are the size of table legs, the birds are in the millet and the river is cool and potable.

Where else would I want to be?