Sunday, November 9, 2008

Artichokes andAfghan Puppets

Dear Family and Friends,

A word about the images. The first is of an artichoke plant - the first time I'd seen these exotic things growing.

The second is of some of the hundreds of seedling plants you'll read about below.

The third is Jacques and Joni working to complete the vegetable garden they created in front of our house.

The last is of a performance of our Afghan puppet story at the 2008 Parihaka event (story below).

Spring is turning to summer here and gardens are burgeoning. The air is scented with jasmine and every dawn the birds enthusiastically let all others know about their territory or need for a mate.

1. First of all, news about the village.
The most impressive aspect of progress on Atamai Village is what is happening in the gardens. I want to include here the report just in from Jacques on accomplishments of the last two months. I can hardly believe that all this is the work of two highly skilled, hard-working men.

September, October report
The big emphasis for the last two months has been on seeding and planting.
In the green house: we have onions and leeks, tomatoes, peppers, squashes, cucumbers and pumpkins all to be transplanted soon in the gardens. We will have Melons, eggplants and gourds too.
In the shade house: we have artichokes, asparagus and rhubarb ready to go into larger pots, expecting 400 plants to transplant in the garden by the fall
Trees in pots (seeded earlier in the winter) they are almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, Northern spy apples, prunes and loquats as well as grapes, figs and some kiwis and pine nuts. We expect to produce 500 potted trees in the shade house.
In the parking lot: Many culinary herbs have been seeded to be transplanted into pots or into garden borders. Our target is to produce 2000 plants. We located the operation there to avoid carrying flats and potting soil around too much.
In the nursery beds We have seeded a lot of trees, walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, ginkgo, honey locusts, locusts, carobs and tree lucernes. I expect to produce 1000 trees in the beds. We also have 100 cuttings of black mulberries, some basket willows and some black currants. Raspberry plants are starting to flower, the strawberries are ripening. Some rhubarb is ready to pick. We just planted thirty thornless blackberries all in one bed.

We made two kitchen gardens by the house. They are fully planted in spring greens. We have started cutting the pine trees that were shading the garden sites.
In the upper med* garden we have broad beans, some wheat and some decent garlic.
In the lower med garden: we have planted potatoes, peas, beans, some tomatoes and beans so far.

The nursery beds have been fully mulched with bark compost (about 30 tons) and some of them have received grass mulch on top of that. The surrounding meadow is completely mowed.
The nursery fence is almost complete (need a gate system)
The nursery irrigation system is fairly complete
The nursery orchard (Asian pears, pears, apples, figs, sour cherries, almonds, Chinese hawthorns) has been mowed and all the fruit trees are stacked, tied, fertilized and heavily mulched and the irrigation lines are installed and ready to go when needed
The south wind break along the driveway has been mowed and mulched
The trees on the slope under the house, (chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, figs, ginkgoes, linden, Chinese hawthorns, mulberries and many more) are growing well and are been mowed, fertilized and mulched this week and next week.
We are installing irrigation for the med gardens and I am looking for an efficient portable pump to bring water up from the ponds to temporary tanks by the house.

Next month will be pretty much all planting and mowing.
We will seed or transplant most of our summer vegetables.

We will mow and mulch trees in the Atamai orchard.
We will cut down the perimeter gorse along the road way.
We will bring in much more bark compost into the lower med garden (this has already been started)
We will fence the lower med garden
We will replant the top of the dam on one of the pond
And so on

*I think this stands for Mediterranean (JSB).

While the plants are flourishing, we have met opposition from some of the ridgetop neighbours to the building plans. Many of you will know this from the recent article in the Hamilton Spectator ( that there is some local opposition to the village project. Jack has written a letter to the editor in response (which may or may not get published, so here it is ( click here for a link). An irony of the situation is that one of the accusations against the project is that it has been secretive. In fact, most if not all the neighbours were told about what was envisioned for the village, and this vision has been on the website for some time. When the formal application was made to council for the project the application was publicly available. We have not been able to discuss specific plans with neighbours because the local council does not like this to happen before the council itself has approved the plans – so we have been in a bit of a bind there. But the application is approaching a point where all interested parties will be able to discuss what is proposed. While we know there will be some opposition, it will be a relief to be able to discuss it openly.
We can understand that people are averse to change. We hope that once they have a better understanding of what is envisioned, and the benefits to the area, that they will feel differently.

There is no doubt that experiments such as ours are important. A few days ago, a UN report on organic farming in Africa came out. It showed that productivity was greater than either traditional methods alone (although traditional methods were incorporated into the organic methods) or industrial farming. The organic operations require small-holder farming, and are more labour intensive than industrial farming. Here’s the link to the report

Another report that came out in the last few days was leaked early from the International Energy Agency. It stated that the 400 largest oilfields in the world are running down at the rate of 9% per year. You will be aware that new discoveries are not nearly keeping pace with this. This rate seems huge to me, and suggests to me that we’re at or over the peak of oil production. Of course this also relates to the reason for what we’re doing in learning to live on much less and eventually no fossil fuel.

2. News about Transition Town MotuekaYesterday, working with Duncan Eddy, the Motueka producer for Fresh FM, we launched the Transition Town Show. This will be fortnightly radio sessions on the myriad aspects of Transition Towns. Last night was an introduction. The next will be on biological capacity of the region to support human population, biodiversity, ecological footprint and ecological deficit. These sessions will go into an i-pod series and eventually provide an audio-course on Transition Towns.
The various working groups are shaping their visions of what Motueka will be like in 2020 in their respective areas eg food, energy, education.

3. News about us.We’ve been working on our own gardens – herb and vegetable. The vegetable garden has a rabbit and pig-proof fence. I laughed when I was reading about a similar project in India run by a group of Gandhians. They had tall electric fences around their vegetable gardens, to protect against marauds by….wild elephants. None of those here, but we’ve had a wicked pukeko (blue-black water-bird with red beak and legs) who goes around uprooting newly planted potatoes, even pulling out the labels, boldly defying humans who try to shoo it away.

I had a wonderful day in Takaka last Saturday. It’s a town over the ‘marble mountain’ , as they say, from Motueka. The choir there had secured the services of a brilliant music director from Wellington . He specializes in world music and had us singing the most exotic harmonies from Africa, Serbia, Georgia, the Appalachians.

Today we were visited for lunch by Kate Dewes and Rob Green. My peace movement friends will recognize these names. Kate was central to the World Court project, and Rob has written important material on nuclear deterrence among other things. Kate is now a member of the UN Sec-Gen’s Consultative C’tee on Disarmament and has something to do with the Sec-Gen’s recent endorsement of the model Nuclear Weapons Convention.

A few weeks ago I travelled to Wellington to attend a meeting of the NZ affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, followed the next day by a meeting of the National Consultative C’tee on Disarmament. I was delighted to meet old friends from NZ and Australia, to make lovely new ones, and by the level of knowledge and experience in the meeting.

I took a day off in Wellington and spent it with the family of my wonderful hosts on Matiu-Somes Island in Wellington Harbour, building nesting boxes for the colony of Little Blue Penguins that resides on the island. The children did the building.
A few days ago, Jack and I performed a puppet story from the Afghan Children’s Peace Programme in an unusual context. The stalwart contingent of readers of this blog from its beginning may recall a description of the commemoration of Parihaka, an amazing manifestation of Maori nonviolent resistance to land invasion. At this year’s Parihaka event they asked us to enact one of the Afghan stories. This was alongside Maori songs and drama.

Warmest wishes to all,

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Artichokes and Afghan Puppets

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