Monday, May 31, 2010

Secret Waters: Our Place #2

We had already learned something of permaculture principles and practice and as we developed the property we did try to incorporate some of the principles but without proper study, and without a lot of spare time, we did what we knew, as easily as we could. Although our oldest son had left home, we still had three homeschooled sons at home so our living space was our priority. In addition, as well as falling in love with the land, Mac wanted to have a go at building a house himself, from scratch. (He had done extensive renovations on our house in town: lifting it up and building a basement underneath.)
We decided to build a large garage first: a two bay garage with a large room on one end. We started working on the garage even before the sale went through, as we wanted to minimise the length of time we had to pay rent. At that time the driveway had not been completed,

so we had to take everything in through the farmers' paddocks - sometimes with a little help from friends.

The farmer, who was also a digger driver, dug out the building site and septic tank hole, and we dug the footings ready for the concrete floor.
Because of the need for speed, Mac ordered pre built framing,
and so at the beginning of 2000 we moved our selves and all our furniture into the garage.

 At that point Greg, our oldest son, came home for a few months to assist us with building the house, and was, indeed, a wonderful help. Mac's brother lent Greg his motor caravan (converted ambulance) to live in, which was great for us (less cramped in the shed) and for Greg (a bit of privacy and an inside place to smoke: the brother-in-law was a smoker too.)

Secret Waters: Our Place #1

When we left Hamilton, we rented a house at Te Uku and then Mac and I set off exploring the countryside looking for locations that appealed to us. Then we made up a flyer detailing what we were looking for in a lifestyle block, included a little about our family, and set off on Mac's motorbike, me on the back, and delivered our flyer to mailboxes in the areas that we had identified as suitable. We had quite a few replies, many from people who had not yet subdivided, and a couple from people who hadn't even thought about it until they read our flyer. We whittled it down to two properties, one which had land well developed, but with an old and not easily modified house, way too small for our family of five. The other was a piece of bush and a horse paddock.

We fell in love. The property was in the process of being subdivided from the farm and as yet had no driveway, so to look at the 'usable' land, we had to walk from the farmers' house, through the bush. By the time we reached the paddock, I was choking back tears: we couldn't afford it and we could see that he wasn't going to drop the price but as we walked through the trees, including large rimu, and by the waterfall and stream, I knew that any other property would be second best. Jeff, 9, loved it too: he disappeared accompanied by the farmers' fox terrier, and when he returned he commented (much to the farmer's horror) on the beautiful yellow flowers (gorse!)

 So when it came to choosing between the well developed place we had almost decided on before we saw this place, I expected Mac to take the practical path. But he had fallen in love too.

So, Secret Waters (named by Jeff, our then 9 year old) it was!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Permacultural Meanderings #2

February 20 - 21, 2010 PDC - Philosophy and Design

I approached the first two days of the PDC with trepidation: it sounded very academic and formal, and it is a very, very long time since I last did any formal study (like 37 years since I finished a basic social sciences degree majoring in psychology - hardly relevant!)

By the end of the two days at Waimarie Community House, Hamilton, I was utterly exhausted, as high as a kite, and couldn't get to sleep as my brain was buzzing so much! Jo Pearsall and Brian Innes were not just informative and inspiring, they also made learning seem very easy and wonderfully enjoyable.
Jo Pearsall

Brian on left (obviously!)

The ethics and principles of permaculture were introduced and discussed, with group exercises to reinforce the ideas.

We got out into the community garden (originally designed and set up by the Hamilton Permaculture Trust) for part of the design module.

and for lunch:

We even had demonstration of scything - I so want to get a scythe and learn to use it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Permacultural Meanderings #1

We've been living out on our land at Kauroa for ten years now, but I became interested in permaculture a couple of years before that. After a talk about it at the Meteor during an eco-festival, a number of us signed a piece of paper with our names and contact details, and for once, something actually came of it! A few enthusiasts organised field trips here and there to permaculture properties, adobe brick building sites, the Taitua Arboretum which, at that stage, was still owned by John and Bunny Mortimer, and many other inspiring places.

However, we moved west of Hamilton, first renting, then onto Secret Waters at Kauroa, and the Hamilton people formed the Hamilton Permaculture Trust and became involved in establishing community gardens, and then the Sustainable Backyard at the Hamilton Gardens, and our involvement gradually dropped away as we spent our weekends building our garage, our house (still incomplete today) and working our land.
I got Bill Mollison's permaculture books out of the library, but not having an academic bent, found them difficult to read - in fact I spent more time sleeping on the books than reading them. I would hear about Permaculture Design Certificate courses and wished I could attend one, but they were always 12 - 14 day intensive live-in courses and quite apart from the fact that I was homeschooling my sons, I just couldn't even begin to think of being away from home and family for that long. Nor did I think I could cope with such intensive learning. So I drifted along, reading bits and pieces, trying to take permaculture ideas into account when we worked on our land, but not having a design or real plan.

Now I have been made redundant from my work as an unschooling mother, and wanted to work more on our land. My first step was to work our vegetable garden more, to learn more about growing food. next, I did a night class on beekeeping with a woman who turned out to be a long lost friend. Marcia inspired me and gave me the confidence to actually go out and get a hive and a swarm.
Then I heard that the Hamilton Permaculture Trust was going run a PDC on a modular basis in 2010 - a couple of days a month sounded a lot less tiring and a lot more convenient, especially as a number of the modules were to held in the Raglan area. I enrolled as soon as I had ascertained that none of the modules fell on WOMAD weekend - I wouldn't miss that for anything! I'm half way through now - should have started writing about it sooner, but decided I wanted to record this journey anyway, and this seems as good a place as any!

Monday, May 10, 2010


I have a whole bunch of unfinished blogs that I don't think will ever be completed - they have shrivelled up and turned brown with the onset of autumn and the start of winter. But just as this spider has used the dead wild carrot flower, so those ideas may yet be used elsewhere: I hereby release those seeds to the universe, some to rot to nothing, some to find a tiny crack of earth in which to sprout and grow.