Well, I’ll admit that a goal of writing one blog post per week was a bit ambitious for me. I do have some good excuses though – just you wait!
I’ll rewind two and a half weeks or so…
Andy and I set off from the Pedley residence, feeling very well rested, and headed north towards Lake Taupo – a beautiful lake set in a hotbed of geothermal action. At the southern end of the lake is the town of Turangi, our destination and the host of the Australasian Permaculture Convergence (APC).
For the next few days we based ourselves at a friendly little hostel where we pitched our tent in the yard. We had a very friendly neighbour in Lynn – a long-time friend of my Mom’s from Deep River. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – those Deep River folks do get around!
This was the first time that the APC had been held in New Zealand, so it was buzzing with quite a bit of excitement. The event brought upwards of 500 people – all involved in permaculture in one way or another. It made for an absolutely fascinating and inspiring group of people – academics and business people, farmers and gardeners, builders and community development workers, and lots of hippies! During the APC, the workshops and presentations were hosted at the local Maori school and marae (a Maori cultural meeting centre). There was fantastic food served throughout the event, with the vast majority being sourced from the local Awhi Farm and home-killed meat. Delicious and nutritious!
The sessions included topics ranging from farm succession planning to ecovillage management, transportation planning to post-earthquake permaculture in Japan, and CSA models to community food resilience. Then there was the seed saving, nutrient dense food growing, innovative building, local currencies, sustainable business management…quite a list eh?! A lot of very interesting food for thought (pun totally intended). It was quite a lot to absorb, so one morning (finding ourselves in need of a bit of a mental break) we headed up to Taupo to visit the beautiful Huka Falls and to bathe in the natural thermal streams. What a treat!
After the convergence, it was back down to Feilding to take over operations at the Pedley farm for a few days while Nick and Trish headed out on their own little (and very well-deserved) holiday. Looking after the farm was a treat in itself for us. In between farm jobs, we spent our days curled up reading books from the Pedleys’ amazing collection, watching DVDs from the local library, and thoroughly enjoying the luxuries of sleeping in a bed and having hot showers! We also enjoyed a visit from former Orchard Hill apprentice Anna – a lovely woman from Wellington, Ontario who is at the moment living in Wellington, New Zealand. With Anna, we ventured to the Sledge Track – a beautiful walk near Palmerston North through a native forest. All in all, our holiday on the North Island offered a wonderful opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate before returning to Toi Toi Manawa for Stage 2 of the program.
Upon returning from our holidays, we found a beehive of activity at Manawa. Painters painting, concrete being poured, a fireplace on the way in – such excitement! All of this work is being done in an effort to finish off our common building – this is the former shearing shed that is becoming our kitchen, dining area, classroom and meeting area, showers, etc. The place will be absolutely gorgeous when it’s done. In the meantime, we haven’t had access to it this week, so that’s meant cooking over the campfire, dining al fresco, and sitting outside of phone booths to take advantage of free internet. Needless to say, we are very much looking forward to settling into our more permanent space!
On Monday, the Toi Toi crew spent the day with David Garb – a very compassionate counselor and inspiring group facilitator. He worked through a range of activities with us to encourage group cohesion and increase our awareness and appreciation of one another. It was a really stellar way to begin this next stage of the program and to make us a tighter group.
For Andy and I, the rest of this week has been revolved around a mission that’s very new for both of us: purchasing a car. We’ve been reading reviews, test driving, comparing, seeking advice, making pro and con lists, the whole shebang! This has meant spending a good part of the week in the city, and inserting nice little adventures like ice cream in the botanic gardens and even a trip to the cinema.
On Friday we spent a perfect autumn afternoon in Orton Bradley Park – a gorgeous 2000-acre property gifted to the people of New Zealand through the estate of Orton Bradley. We were invited there to meet with some of the crew from Project Lyttelton, who are hoping to take up the lease of the farm at Orton Bradley next year. The dream is to develop Orton Bradley as an education centre and working farm to showcase all things resilient – have draught horses working in the fields, milk dairy cows and have a cheesemaker on site, operate a mill and a blacksmiths shop, grow all sorts of food, have model homes to showcase various elements of sustainable building and living, hold workshops and demonstrations, etc. etc. A big dream and very exciting! The design will draw, in part, on the examples set by places like CERES in Australia and CAT in Wales.
For the moment, it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, we’ve just enjoyed a community potluck, and are looking forward to another campfire dinner under the stars. And life really is good.