Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Grans and Gramps against Greenhouse Gases

Posted by Picasa

Dear Family and Friends,
Warmest greetings to all.
If the image placed here gets through to you, it's of our new group - Grans and Gramps against Greenhouse Gases. We were singing in Nelson on a Climate Action Day early December. The Climate Change Minister invited us to sing to a gathering he held the night before he left for Copenhagen next day. So we made it pretty pointed.

News of us.
We've continued to spend rather more time than we wish on designing this new house. Our plans have been sent to the Council for approval. Meanwhile, large machines reshape the land at the housesite. A few days ago our much-appreciated engineer, Gil, rescued ten tree-ferns from being crushed and replanted them near the house-to-be - our first garden plantings. We must now organise the brickmaking.
Jack continues to complete the huge hillside mulching project on the windbreak; he was shovelling bark today.
Jack also continues to spend a lot of time on the management of the project.
We've enjoyed guests in the last few weeks, including Jeff and his partner, Katy. Jeff made a film of the Grans group. You can see it on Youtube on
Jeff is now in Brisbane, Australia, and then will fly to Canada to make a film with his buddies.
Jack and I continue to find things we want to write about. Jack just had an article published in the new US journal, 'Solutions', edited by Bob Costanza. I worked with Peace through Health colleagues in Denmark, Norway and Canada on a paper on the role of health workers in relation to violent conflict. I've contributed in a minor way to articles written by a new group of physicians, Ora Taiao or Climate and Health. This is a tremendously dedicated and active group, working over e-mail on climate change issues.
I've learned new things in this period. I attended a workshop on scything, bought a scythe and its appurtenances and now use it. One friend who took the workshop with me says it's as fast as a weed-eater doing the same job. It's an aerobic workout, and very pleasant exercise. It's best done in the early morning when you can hear the birds singing along with the swish-swish of the scythe.
The fragrance of the air at this time of year is wonderful. This morning's meditation was scented by clover, lavender and mint.
Recently I attended part of a workshop on the 'invisible structures' in communities - the people side. We discussed types of communities on a spectrum of communal to individualised, legal aspects, consensus decision-making and conflict management. I need to go much further in this area of knowledge.

Village issues Jack and I have done some work on the covenants of Atamai Village - those provisions that will be mandatory on residents.
The village is slowly growing. Jurgen and his wife and toddler have moved on to the land in two little buildings as a temporary home. One of them was previously Jeff's little home when he was with us. The earthworks for the home of Tracey and Craig Ambrose and their baby has now been completed, and we held a potluck there to celebrate.
We have potlucks about every two weeks. Everyone seems to enjoy them a lot.
One of the very big houses on the top of the ridge changed hands recently. The new folk want to be part of the village. I understand they can buy into the Commons. They have five kids and are expecting the 6th. All home-schooled.

Here is Jurgen Heissner's New Year summary of Atamai progress:
Here is a little stock taking from the Atamai project:

The land

The last months have seen tremendous progress on the land. Kerry started working for us two months ago with a focus on the Atamai landscaping and maintenance and Adrienne has been busy with huge compost piles for the community garden. The orchard is looking very tidy now and the trees are thriving.

The goat herd has settled in nicely at TeMara and Cheryl is producing some great cheese from the milk. Growing has indeed been a challenge this year with the weather but production is picking up now. The irrigation system in the Mediterranean garden is now nearly complete which will help a lot with the watering later on in the year.

Food security is very high on our list of priorities and is receiving the bulk of current investment in terms of commons and effort on the land. Not that it will impact New Zealand a lot but the world-wide food supply situation is deteriorating rapidly and we are very conscious of our responsibilities there for the village and beyond. An excellent summary of the situation can be found here but be warned, it’s not a pretty picture nor a good outlook.

Building projects & Sections

The first temporary accommodation is now on the land and the areas around them are being enthusiastically landscaped. One of the cottages is themed along a ‘French Country Style’ and the proud owners of the 10 square meter abode are tossing about the names ‘Versailles Cottage’ or ‘Dragonfly Cottage’ (lot’s of ponds nearby). No votes are taken J, humour or romance will decide.

Village community

Seven of the twelve sections available at this stage have now sold and two more sales are likely to close within the next few weeks from the pool of four parties keenly interested. We are now looking at mid 2010 or spring for the next batch of 12 to 18 to become available. We welcome Graeme and Kath from Auckland to the village!

Business Opportunities

The brick making operation will be set up next. Initially the bricks required for Jack & Joanna’s and Kyoko and Jurgen’s house and subsequent projects and then as an independent business. Our next priority is to the get a more commercial setup for the nursery operation going. We are already purchasing a lot of plants now and this will steadily increase as sections will get landscaped and gardening ramped up.

Shifting and Contacting us

Our offices are now housed in the engineering workshop at TeMara. To contact us there use the usual email address or the temporary phone number 03 526 7002.

Atamai has now got an official RD address and mailbox:

Atamai Village Council
Mytton Heights
RD 1 Motuka 7196

Those of you how are looking at shifting onto the site soon and haven’t had their property numbers issued by council you can use this address as a c/o address in the meantime.


The earthworks for the first section (Lot 4) have now been completed and title issue is in the final stages. Our engineer is very proud to have received a ‘no issues whatsoever’ verdict from the Tasman District Council engineer. High quality indeed. Earthworks on Jack’s section are in progress and should be complete by mid January by which time the next six lots will be started.

Transition Town Motueka. Momentum has slowed a bit. Partly this is because I'm devoting a lot of time to Climate Change issues, and no one else does the coordinating role. I continue with the radio show, and have recently interviewed people about Ora Taiao, eco-architecture, and new developments in the Transition Town idea. The Scything workshop was a considerable success. Three sessions were filled. We used the meadows at Te Mara, our food-producing property, for this. The teacher was Austrian, a former airline pilot, who greatly prefers to farm and teach scything.

Global work. Copenhagen has come and gone, leaving a trail of disappontment in its wake. Now we must consider what to do.
I would like to put time into shaping ideas about organic farming as a significant nay of reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. I understand that, at a certain scale, this could make a large difference. Switzerland's government subsidises organic conversion and they now have a considerable proportion of organic farms. There needs to be a research side of this too.
Even further, the ideas being put forward by WEs Jackson of the Land Institute and Wendell Berry (one of my lifetime favourite writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry) on perennial polyculture, closely related to Permaculture ideas, seem very important. The focus is soil preservation for long-term sustainability of agriculture, as well as carbon sequestration.
Next weekend we hope to get some of the most energetic of the local activists together for a strategy meeting. Some of the options to be reviewed are:
* calling the politicians to account
* public education linking climate change, economic growth, the money system, modes of agriculture
* focus on creating low-carbon alternative living, as in our sustainable village and Transition Towns
* focus on the money system and steady state economy
* focus on organic conversion plus no-till plus perennial crops in Permaculture design plus (perhaps) biochar use as carbon sequestration and soil (and civilisation) preserving strategies.
*focus on making personal carbon quotas workable and widespread

Warmest wishes to all the widespread readers of this blog.