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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?


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Kay’s Garden Blog -February


05.02.08 064February 2014
The Summer is fading, but I’m still holding onto the warm days, the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants… and … we’re putting away pumpkins, onions, potatoes, and will have loads of flour corn . We’re fermenting all of our own tomato paste and sauce, and our chilli sauce.  Next season we’ll need a corn crib and a pumpkin rack like we used to when we had big gardens in Kaiwaka, along with a potato clamp. I think a kind of clamp would be great for storing other root crops too so that they keep fresh and crisp and the beds can be planted in the following rotation. Beetroot keep well in clamps and daikon too as well as carrots.
We cleaned our September planted Essene flax seed today, as well as our hulless barley which was sitting under the cloche to become super dry and crunchy, and easier to thresh. I also cleaned the first harvest of our white Scotch runner beans which will become our winter soup beans. Every crop produces a little more each year as the soil improves…
17.9.09 029

Growing Soil
I have been so inspired on this soil building journey by John Jeavons  of Biointenisve fame, by all the teachers in the Biological Agriculture movement of which Beddoe in his book Nourishment Home Grown has been the most important. Albert Bates in The Biochar Solution inspired me with his stories of the terra preta soils in the Amazon… if they could do it so can we.. and that’s my goal, deep black, alive, soil in my home garden that continues to sequester carbon and grow soil because it has a life of its own. Biochar is also part of our solution together with excellent compost making techniques, and initially bringing in minerals. These three systems put together are dynamite, and totally inclusive of each other.. however it is quite a journey learning even one of these systems. If you are really interested in learning to work with the laws of nature, to regenerate your life and your environment I suggest you begin one of the above mentioned books. We are about to put a blog on the website that describes in detail our three year journey so far building soil here, with all our soil tests and recipes etc etc. I’m doing it because I think it a valuable journey to share with all of you, we all need to do it!!
We have developed a system you will hear much more of (watch our appropriate technology blogs) for using biochar makers to heat the hot water for showers at the Institute. That gives us 40 litres each week of high quality Biochar, that can go directly into the Institute compost heaps or onto the forest garden floor. We need to find a way to adapt that so it is practical to use for families, when heating water to wash clothes or  for showering or bathing. If each family produced enough biochar to put 5 litres into their compost each week it would support the growth of black, alive, soil very quickly.
My garden beds that had the most Biochar put into them two-years-ago are doing by far the best now. That is where the corn is 3-plus metres high and the sunflowers 3 ½ m high.
brad biocharBrad beside his new Biochar burner

National Tour
If building ‘Growing soil’ is the aim of the game then  we are making serious progress…. Nutrient dense vegetables, grass, animals and human health all stem from that. I’m still learning lots on this journey … but at this point it feels for me as though the science and the cellular level learning are coming together, happening at the same time, acknowledging and supporting each other, that there is a balance there. I love it and I’m excited to be travelling around the country this May /June sharing with you all some of my understandings and learnings in these critical leading edge areas….we are finding a way  back to the ancient wisdom…


My Body is Choosing Nutrient Dense More and More
Every season I find myself planting and eating vegetables that I previously chose not to because they were not as sweet or too strong or bitter… my body is definitely changing and I’m enjoying the more nutrient dense vegetables more and more. Now I find I crave more and more those that are more likely to nourish me. I’m just loving the Magenta Spreen this Summer, I”ve eaten more of it than ever. I mostly cook it in butter or lard with other veg or pop it straight into the soup pot. However, last Summer when Claire was here she made Pesto with it and that was wonderful too. Simply replace basil with Magenta Spreen or even common old Lamb’s Quarters.
This Autumn I’m Planting Fillbasket Brussels Sprouts, Purple Sprouting broccoli, Dalmation cabbage, Borecole, and Ruapehu cauliflower. The brassicas with the darkest green leaves and the most purple colour contain the highest levels of phytonutrients, and this selection means I will have something to pick all the time.
My other winter favourites are Nutty celery, a must in every garden (did you notice that shop celery is the most toxic vegetable in the shops), Cylindrical beetroot, dark, productive and tasty, and Oxheart and Yellow Austrian Llobericher carrots, amazing colour and cooked and raw… you can easily taste that they contain less sugar and more phytonutrients than our modern sugar sticks. Rosso endive, being red leafed and open hearted it is extremely high in phytonutrients, Winter lettuce, open hearted  lettuces are far more nutritious than tightly hearted lettuces, Upland cress dark green leaves, Aomaru Koshun daikon full of colour and Ohno Scarlett turnips also full of dark red colour.
My carbon crops for next springs compost materials will be oats ( they unlock the most phosphate and grow to be super high brix) and Tic beans also a legume and excellent food both seeds and greens., hulless barley  and essene flax seed. All good for eating as well as carbon.

Peaches- Christina- Marrianna R/S

Forest Garden and Poultry
Our emerging Forest Garden is getting to the stage where some parts of it look like a shaded forest, the chickens love those parts best, and I am now able to chop and drop a tagasaste every week, around fruit trees in it’s area. The cardoons are flowering and coming up again, their stems will soon also be compost on the forest floor, the Siberian Pea trees have grown a lot this year, their second, and so have the Goumi and the acacias (retinoides) . All of the fruit trees are showing they are there now too so we’ll see a lot of progress over the next year I think. Our First Hyndmans figs are ripe now, we just had our first big crop of Peaches ( 4Winds, stunning fruit), and our grandson Oliver has had a ball this Summer taking care of all our young poultry being raised as replacements for our laying hens and ducks.  Somehow it’s been a great year for raising the young poultry, they have thrived on curds and comfrey and alfalafa and occasional minced meat/fat and free range, and some soaked sprouted grain as well. This year we have enough young birds to be able to choose the very best of them to replace half of our existing flocks, the way we were taught by the old poultry breeders our children learned from years ago. We will have fertile eggs of our Brown Leghorns and our Fawn Indian Runner ducks next Spring. It’s awesome being able to feed our poultry such amazing food and know that we are actually breeding them again for those that do well in on such high quality free range tucker.

See you this winter when we visit a town near you