After almost two years of making do without help from enormous, fossil fuel-guzzling pieces of equipment, we recently bowed to the inevitable and acquired a tractor.
It goes against my permaculture sensibilities, I admit, but the bottom line is that Muntanui is a 25-hectare (61 acre) property -- smaller than your average farm but a lot bigger than your average lifestyle block. If we're ever going to tackle big projects like regenerating our pasture, we'll need a lot of help. Neither of us has experience with draft horses and/or bullock teams and we don't have time to learn.
Enter THE MUNTANISER.
A beast of a thing, isn't it? It arrived on the same day I flew down to Christchurch, ostensibly to spend time with my sister-in-law and niece but in reality to infect everyone inside a 10-kilometre radius with the worst sore throat in the entire history of throats. Farmer Wan would dutifully ring me at least once a day and I'd do my best to communicate with clicks and whistles and the occasional shriek. I needn't have bothered, really, because the conversation generally went like this:
FARMER WAN: How are you?
FARMER NIK: (struggling to make a sound)
FARMER WAN: I started it up today and sat in the cab while it was running.
FARMER NIK: (fizzing noise)
Or this, from Day Seven:
FARMER WAN: How are you?
FARMER NIK: (croaks)
FARMER WAN: Today I drove it down the driveway and then I turned it around and drove it back.
FARMER NIK: (gulping sounds)
It's almost embarrassing, the depth of his infatuation with this monstrosity, but I can live with it because I know it will make his work a heck of a lot easier, Muntanui will benefit and we'll both be happy as a result. That means more to me than anything the Permaculture Police might have to say on the subject. So, roll on spring! Release THE MUNTANISER! New, improved pasture, here we come!
Posted by Farmer Nik
Permaculture, of course. It's also for Plastic, Petrol and Power Tools. These aren't generally emphasised in permaculture philosophy but remember those compromises mentioned a couple of posts back? They mostly involve "P" words.
After a five-month absence from Muntanui, we arrived back in March 2010, all ready to get jiggy with my Quest For Fertility plan. But everything had grown so much over Summer that the place was almost unrecognisable. The vegie garden was a jungle, rampant with chin-high weeds.
We had two and a half weeks to tame our unruly property. This kind of ruled out the low-tech option, which involved flailing about with machetes and looking demented.
Enter the Power tool/Petrol combo. Oh scrub cutter, how we did adore thee! You made short work of the vegie garden. You brought order to our driveway. You ensured I wouldn't get lost between the berry patch and the house. You readied us for Plastic.
After the scrub-cutter carnage was over, we had a vegie garden with beds that were actually visible and a whole lot of chopped-up weeds that were already thinking about re-sprouting. We needed to kill them off and somehow improve the fertility of the soil in the beds, all while not living on site. That's when I turned to Jackie.
Aussie organic gardening guru, Jackie French, is one of my heroes. In her book, The Wilderness Garden, she mentions covering weeds with clear plastic ("solarisation") as an effective killing technique. When my mate Jackie suggests trying solarisation, solarisation's what I try. So we piled all the weed debris on top of the beds, nailed clear plastic over them and flew back to Oz.
When we removed the plastic eight months later, the weeds had indeed died but I'd been hoping they'd have broken down and made us some nice soil as well. They hadn't. They didn't. Bummer.
A couple of friends who were staying with us at the time, Donald and Margaret from Abriachan Garden Nurseries, pointed out it didn't get hot enough here at Muntanui for the solarisation thing to crank up the composting process. We needed more heat... and for that, we needed more Plastic in the form of black weedmat. So on it went and on it stayed for another eight months until we arrived back at the end of August.
The weeds hadn't rotted down completely but they'd made a lot of progress and we now had some organic matter to break up our clay. Phase 2 of the Quest For Fertility was complete. It was on to Phase 3... and one of the most hilarious P words of them all.
Posted by Farmer Nik
About Ewan and Niki
Scottish mechanical engineer with a deep and abiding passion for good food. Outstanding cook. Builder of lots of stuff. Cattle whisperer. Connoisseur of beer. A lover rather than a fighter.
Kiwi writer and broadcaster who hates cabbage, even though she knows it's good for her. Chook wrangler. Grower of food and flowers. Maker of fine preserves. Lover of dancing and wine. Definitely a fighter.