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Urban Garden Update December 2013

We’ve been so busy here at Koanga that I haven’t had a chance to post Kay’s updates about the Urban Garden – we are getting huge amounts of food from it and it looks amazing.  Here’s a summary of what’s been going on in the last few months.

November 2013

We began installing our 200 sq m urban garden over the past 6 months. We planted the 40 sq m Bio intensive vege beds in September, having planted the fruit trees over winter and having already installed the chickens and the rabbits.

We have been focusing on getting animal food planted in every available space including all the paths around the garden and site so we can become sufficient in rabbit and chickens greens asap. We have not yet installed the guinea pig tractor system.

We began harvesting veges from the garden in early November but did not begin collecting data until November 21st! We harvested the following in this 10 days from the garden

50 organic high quality eggs                                            $25

22 Odells lettuces worth $1.50 each                             $33

Welsh Bunching onions each day $1.95 a bunch      $19.50

2 kgs of  courgettes 1 a day @ $7 kg                             $14

That makes a total of $91.50 for the first month  $25 eggs and $66.5 veges


We are harvesting comfrey, chicory, alfalfa and clover/grass from the site for daily chicken greens and rabbit greens, but we are wild harvesting tagasaste to feed the rabbits. (Rabbits can’t live on fresh greens alone, but tagasaste is a complete food for them).

We are still buying in fertiliser to get the minerals in the beds balanced and levels high, so we get high brix food, and we are still feeding the chickens organic sprouted corn, and adding chicken minerals and seaweed to their corn ,until the worm farm and the soldier fly farm are in production and/or the compost heap is full of decomposers


 December 2013

130 organic high quality eggs value                  $65

courgettes  18kgs                                                  $126

Welsh bunching onions 30 small bunches      $58

Odell’s Lettuces  64  @$1.50 each                      $96

Daikon Tokinashi 50kgs    $5 kg                       $250

Kaiapoi bush beans    5.7kgs @  $9kg                $51

Magenta Spreen 6 bunches @$3                         $18

Chives 10 bunches @ $1.95                                  $19.5

Lemons 10 kgs @ $5                                               $50

Total $733!!!!!!! Unbelievable … and there is way more to come……. Watch this space!!!!

This month we are still wild harvesting tagasaste, we are learning that rabbits don’t eat it when it is seeding so it works well to harvest trees as you need the feed then they will all grow at slightly different times meaning new growth all the time.

Still feeding sprouted corn and minerals and seaweed to chickens.

Using our vermiliquid  to feed the fruit trees and comfrey, and harvesting chicken and rabbit greens from the site daily.

The guinea pig tractor track around the garden is now ready to be harvested by guinea pigs but until we have them will need to harvest ourselves for the chickens to compost!

We’ll improve our data collecting systems next month, to maximize info for us all, it’s looking better and better and wilder and wilder as we maximize harvesting sunlight in this 200 sq m model urban garden.


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Kay’s Garden Blog – December 2 2013

December Kay’s garden

It was wonderful to host Barry Brailsford and Cushla Denton here recently for talks in Wairoa and in our local Marumaru Hall. Amongst many other special things I was reminded that the ebb and flow of the moon is reflected in my own cycles and energy too……..not just that of the plants in the garden…. Yes, I have been reflective lately rather than bursting with energy, it’s new moon …!!!!

We’ve had a beautiful Spring here in our valley, the garden is looking great, everything is up and away, I picked my first green beans today, Fred’s dwarf….and I’m harvesting lots of Spring energy for winter ills and drinks, elderflowers are drying for chesty problems, nettle tea all year round, raspberry leaves to add to the nettle tea all year round, and I’m picking the last of the chickweed to add to tea as well. I’ve already harvested the first cut of stevia too, it seems to get earlier and earlier every year, last year it gave 3 cuts, but possibly  more this year.

The summer ‘weeds’ are coming up now, purslane, lambs quarters and red root , the wild amaranth, we eat them all, they are probably the most nutritious greens there are!!!!

We’ve always had a lot of solitary native bees in our garden here, they were always living on this free draining hot dry bank. I thought turning their dry bank into fertile moist garden beds might drive them out but last evening the ash tree was actually buzzing with the sound of native bees hovering over it, and they have gone nuts on the pollen of the flowering burdock, they also love the raspberries and generally seem to enjoy the garden. There are millions of them loaded up with pollen for the larvae in their solitary nests.

Insects seem to be a really big feature of my garden this season, there are lady bugs everywhere, honey bees all over everything, even the comfrey flowers on the comfrey I cut yesterday to mulch the tomatoes is still attracting bees…I must check the Soldier fly larvae farms we’re setting up, time to find eggs and larvae there too I think.


It’s always great when the courgettes and bean harvest begins heralding another summer and the end of winter vege for a while. Delicata squash not far behind, neither are the Henry’s Dwarf Bush Cherry Tomatoes ( promise there will be seed for you all again next season) and buttercups just flowering.

I’m taking good care of the tomatoes…… always choosing a dry windy day to delateral while they are still very small, tying them up under a leaf  with a sift cloth to the stake so that they do not rub on the stakes, and ensuring they have the right minerals in the right relationships to grow high brix growth and healthy plants.. We follow the potato feeding instructions on the Potato Trial notes on the website for our tomatoes as well. Neither potatoes nor tomatoes come from a climate like ours, they evolved in a high altitude arid climate and we either have to use loads of toxic sprays , or we have to give them lots of love in the form of nutrients and care.

In a very arid climate tomatoes don’t need delateraling but in ours you’ll lose them to blight just when you thought you knew better!!!!

It’s simply too humid in most places in NZ, so our adaption to be able to harvest good crops is to delateral and keep good air movement around the plants.

I’ve reached the point where I have enough compost being made from the compost crops I grow each season to compost every crop I’m planting. The soil is improving each season, but I’m still needing to feed on top of the compost to keep things growing strongly. This year I made a barrel of Bio Fert and another of BioSol, with our Spring interns, both of the brews turned out beautifully and I’m using them now, I’ll put both brews into containers and make more, ready for the late summer garden I think.

Shelley our Spring intern who had responsibility for the Urban Garden, including the chickens, said to me the other day that she thought her chickens were looking better than every body else’s… I had a good look and sure enough she was right. I think Shelley was doing such a good job of keeping up daily chicken minerals and seaweed and calcium/grit to them as well as loads of fresh young comfrey, that they have laid super well, still have bright red combs, and no signs of feather pecking or rough patches etc etc etc. Keeping chickens laying  well from now on after the Spring flush, is all about keeping them mineralized… mine are still laying well but not looking as good as hers so I learned my lesson, back to the minerals and seaweed. More grit and more focus on the compost materials they are turning over, so they have higher quality decomposers to eat.


I’m mulching  tomatoes with comfrey from the garden perimeter barriers this year, I’m watering them via the paths above each bed which act as swales… and next year once we have more barriers in place I might able to mulch the peppers, eggplants and more with comfrey too.

Raspberry Lake

Our berry patch looks like a wall of raspberries at this point, very exciting, our first big crop of raspberries, and we’ll have Pouto blackberries for xmas just like Logan Forrest!.. watch the February catalogue and website for the heritage  berries that will be available this winter. We’re writing that catalogue now, and it will be full of Forest Garden ideas for you.

We’re mulching trees in the forest garden right now clearing around them, checking moisture levels and watering where needed. I’m going to learn to use the video function on my camera so you can see how good it’s looking in there…….all of the fruit trees are growing well but it is the forest environment being created by the legumes and mineral accumulators at this point that is exciting.

Devils Ear in the summer shade of peas

I planted Cherokee Corn beans to grow up the flour corn today, and another planting of beetroot, carrots and a few summer greens, tampala is a favourite as is Golden Purslane. My Devils Ear lettuces look great in the shade of the peas, and the next lot will go in the  of something tall as well, although I’m planting Tree lettuce now as it will stand all summer and remain crunchy and sweet.

I have a perennial bed around my vege garden, and I’ve been experimenting with which perennial vegetable crops I think are worth growing as perennials. So far asparagus, globe artichokes, runner beans most of our green beans, shellout beans and dry beans come from these beans now) and rhubarb are the only definites, however seakale is looking very interesting and I’m going to persevere with that crop, I relegated Udo to the forest garden area where I have no animals to eat or dig it up, and if I had a very shadey moist spot in the perennial vege bed I would plant King Solomon as it is delicious.. however no such luck.. I’ll put it somewhere else. Burdock does well but I need to learn to eat it as a vegetable before deciding if it stays or goes…we should have seed of most of these plants in our July catalogue 2014. The best perennial vegetable book in my opinion is Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier, we will have this in stock in the new year.

In the meantime I’m planning for  late Summer Autumn food now, and getting organised to plant more beetroot, carrots, daikon, Brussells sprouts, leeks, autumn peas etc. Our  Koanga Garden Planners have been going out like hot cakes, it’s fun to sit down and reassess the plan now that the summer garden is in, how realistic did you make the change over from summer to Autumn, is it still what you want… it takes a few years to get it to work really well, keep reassessing it.

I’m also getting the last of my Summer flowers in to brighten up the garden for many months.. the usual favourites, zinnia chromosia, Sunset cosmos, red cosmos, sunflowers,  also gaillardia, marigold sweet hyssop, and of course marigolds…. All the complimentary colours for green… have you notices how all that colour makes you feel when you walk into it. A different feeling to walking into a cottage garden filled with flowering old fashioned flowers, ( the colours are quite different) and different again to a field of industrial green only corn!!!, or a field of roundup dead plants!!!

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The Thorny Croft Vision

by Bob Corker

Thorny Croft Blog –  Bob

This is my first blog on Thorny Croft, so a good time to give you an introduction to our vision.


Thorny Croft is approx 6ha  on the western end of the Kotare Village Home block.

Mostly flat with some south facing slopes.  The idea is that we develop a multi tiered polyculture of trees, shrubs  and pasture, that supports cows, pigs, poultry for the village.  Our bacon and egg breakfast farm.  The cows milk will support both the poultry and the pigs in the early stages, until the tree crops take over this role.  We are inspired by the permaculture vision of optimising the use of the  incoming solar energy, and maximising the root depth from which we can recycle nutrients, all the while sequestering more carbon and regenerating the soil biological matrix.  Once this progression is understood, the main challenge becomes choosing the species and cultivars, while timing the successions.  Top of the canopy will be oaks (they seem to thrive here), then walnuits, hazels, pears , apples, nitrogen fixers etc. What can’t be used directly for human food will go to the pigs. Then its about exploring variations of shade tolerant berries, herbs etc.  All creating habitat for insects and duck or chook forage.  To get inspired read Russel Smith : A permanent Agriculture (one of Bill Mollison’s inspirations) and Mark Shephard’s Regenerative Agriculture, where he demolishes the arguments that Permaculture can’t compete with modern industrial agriculture.  Increasingly what it comes down is that what is important is not production per hectare, but human nutrition  per hectare, and surprisingly he shows that well tuned permaculture systems come out on top, easily.  So no time to lose, get out and plant like your grandchildren will depend on it.  But note the phrase ‘well tuned’  –  learning new systems and creating synergy will be our greatest challenge.

“It is not enough to be well intentioned, we need to become well informed”  –  Bill Mollison

Meanwhile we need to start planning for the introduction of trees.  We’ve been particularly impressed with the tagasaste we’ve planted in the drier areas, and the research we’ve done suggests that it will handle a 60 day grazing rotation well and be very productive.  Now we need a wet tolerant substitute, maybe forage willows.

This winter we did an experimental planting of one of the southern slopes, which included:

  • oaks, acorns for ducks and pigs
  • walnuts
  • mulberry’s,  hand picked, and forage for chooks, ducks and pigs
  • Croton megalocarpus, a tall high protein chook forage
  • Alnus cordata and glutinosa, coppicing nitrogen fixers/firewood
  • Maackia amurensis, nitrogen fixing coppicing of ground durable post wood
  • various apples, pears, and figs, first grade to us, the rest for pigs and chooks.
  • Tagasaste, forage for cows, and wood pigeons *(we’ll know we’ve succeeded in perrmaculture when they’re legitimately on the menu again)

Next blog I’ll discuss the grazing management and the stock, as this will be the ‘engine’ that drives the first stage of carbon sequestering, building fertility and transition into the additional tiers.

Till then happy growing  Bob

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November 11 2013 Kay’s Garden Blog

As of this morning my summer garden is basically in,  all except for the peppers and eggplants which will have to wait another week until we get back from Taste of Auckland. Incredibly different spring to last season when we  had a frost on December 1st!

This garden is now beginning the third year of it’s life!  The soil has improved out of sight….. I’m still fine tuning the crops I choose to grow to nourish us, as I’m sure I always will, the rotation system I worked out as in the new Koanga Garden Planner is working really well, very excited about that still.

I’m now growing enough compost material to be able to apply compost on all beds every time they are planted, and I have enough compost and vermicast to make my own seed raising mix now. On top of that I have enough liquid fertiliser made for the entire summer for the garden and feel confident about making more  if needed…  I’ve made both BioSol and BioFert. I’m still applying Nature’s garden to my compost heaps and my garden when planting with side applications on heavy feeders as needed. It takes time to rebuild high quality soil… it seems there is no instant solution.

Our new berry patch looks like a wall or several walls of berries at this moment, albeit unripe as yet, and the argutas planted around the fence between the vege garden and forest garden are beginning to climb along the fence, look impressive  and are also flowering for the first time.

The forest garden is now 1 year on from beginning the plantings of support trees, and certainly looking interesting.  The tagasaste has grown the fastest of course but we discovered that you can feed rabbits on it and throw the commercial pellets away and they will do better than they did on pellets, so it’s being cut for the rabbits whilst we get more planted for them.

The blueberry patch is humming, and the comfrey patch has diversified itself into a comfrey, alfalfa, mallow, red clover and plantain patch which I’m very happy about.

indian runner

Within the forest garden there is a patch where we shut the Indian Runner ducks in each evening after the day foraging on the farm behind the cows, and they are laying very well . Duck eggs have far more nutritional value than chicken eggs so we’re working with ducks as well as chickens and my negative memories of strong tasting duck eggs in earlier years is almost erased. Perhaps the breed of duck is important, we have runners which seem to produce beautiful eggs large, nutritious but not strong! Before the days of refrigeration our commercial eggs came from Indian Runners rather than chickens.

Along with all of that I’ve been developing a perennial vege garden. The perennial vegetable books are full of hundreds of plants that can be grown in perennial systems, but I am being very very fussy. There is a difference between what it’s possible to grow in a perennial vege system, and what it’s possible to grow well enough without lots of extra work and inputs, that’s productive and high enough brix – that I want to eat! I’m not interested in lots of low quality unappetising vegetables  that require a lot of room and give back little, unless I also put a lot energy in in terms of watering and feeding.

If I have to do that I’m better off putting them in the Biointensive vege garden.

Of course this list will differ for all of us because of differing soils and climate. We have hard frosts, cold winters, dry summers and very light soils.

So far the list of crops I choose to plant in my perennial patch is quite short, asparagus, globe artichoke, rhubarb, seakale, King Solomon’s Seal, and a few day lilies for their incredible edible flowers and colour!

My favourite books this year have been:  

The old books that we keep going back to have been Weston A Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a must for every body,  A E Beddoe’s book Nourishment Home Grown, Harvey Ussery’s Home Scale Poultry, a must have if you are a chicken person!  We are aiming to have these in stock early next year so that you can buy them through the Koanga website.

I still think that the best perennial vege book is Dave Jacke’s Edible Forest Gardens, and the best Forest Garden book for most of us is Martin Crawford’s Creating A Forest Garden.

Our new publications this year have been significant and exciting,

The Koanga Garden Planner, for old and new gardeners alike, is a step by step system that can be used to get your planning sussed in any garden large or small, not just for the summer but also for the year and onwards from there. It’s easy to plan a summer garden, but to plan it so that it then rotates and transforms into a winter garden with crops coming out and going in in a way that actually works, together with growing enough carbon crops to have enough high quality compost that you will actually be growing soil whilst growing your food is quite a mind bender. This planner will make this possible for you.

The new Koanga Beginner Gardener Booklet was one of my biggest challenges to write…….it is written to be a simple to follow process that not only gets a beginner’s garden in but in in such a way that you will be growing healthy soil and food. It shows how you can grow $2500 worth of food over a year in 40 sq m, for a cost of $176 for the seed. If you buy the NEW 40sqm Salads Stir Fries Soups and Stews Seed Collection between now and Christmas we will throw in a free copy of this booklet which gives you all the information you need to do a good job of it.

If you are beginning to realize that food security for your family will never come from the supermarket and you are unsure how to begin at home this is the deal for you. We all need to learn to be able to grow high quality food and regenerate our soil…. This is called food security or creating resilient future… This system and seed collection will have you well down that track.


Hot off the press is our Koanga 200 sqm Urban Garden Design Booklet. This garden, which we have installed here at Koanga is attracting so much attention because it looks so amazing (thanks in part to our intern Shelley who is doing an outstanding job of implementing the design and managing the area). Small spaces are exciting to work with and we can already see that a large part of the nutritional needs of a family of 4 can be met from only 200 sqm. This booklet will show you how and give you other ideas to make it even better.

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Throwing the BTU’s out with the bath water

Okay so on my wood fire hot water heater post I said  that we  could get up to a 30% energy saving on heating water and the hint was, what do we do after we’ve just spent so much time and energy getting it up to temperature? The answer as everybody knows is we let it run down the plughole in an attempt to heat the sewer or septic tank or whereever it is your waste water goes. Lets face it, rats and microbes should be entitled to a hot bath too! Seriously though its crazy, we just let it go, the waste!  I’ve long thought we could do better but the pattern in general has been to concentrate on generating the heat directly not on waste heat recovery, its just not as sexy as the burning wood bit. I’m always on guard against falling into the pattern of …well… falling into a pattern!  You know the old saw about when you have a hammer the whole world looks like a nail. Saw ? Hammer? What? What I’m trying to say is don’t always try to solve all your problems with those solutions you most like or are identified with. Case in point I always ask students what is the most efficient rocket stove? I get many and varied replies but the correct answer is “the one you don’t have to light” People like burning stuff so we tend to gravitate towards solutions that favor this but honestly if I can get the same result with less wood burnt then I’m very happy.  So I think the goal of using up to a third less wood for the same end result is a great one to pursue.

Of course not burning any wood to heat our water is even better and we will get to that in a future post.

Now first the concept of the heat exchanger,  the radiator in your car is a heat exchanger. Water heated by the engine is piped through the radiator, air is drawn through the radiator by the fan and the air picks up the heat from the water in the radiator and carries it away. The copper coil inside the hot water tank in my last post  on wood fired hot water systems  is also a heat exchanger, the heat in the water outside the coil passes through the wall of the copper pipe and into the water in the pipe. So a heat exchanger is a device that removes heat from one fluid and conducts it into another.

A few factors affect how well this can happen:

How good a conductor the material that the heat exchanger is made of is. Copper or aluminium would be good, whereas plastic or wood would be bad as they seriously slow the passage of heat.

The temperature difference between the hot and cold.   If we have water at 70 deg c on the hot side and 50 deg c on the cold side were not going to get as much heat transfer as if  we had 70 deg c water on the hot side and  10 deg c water on the cold side. Think of it like this, the greater the temperature difference the greater the ( to use a word incorrectly but descriptively) “pressure”.

The surface area, the larger the area of contact between the hot and cold the greater the heat transfer.

The time. The longer the hot and cold sides are in contact the greater the heat transfer.

So within reason we want heat exchangers that have a large temperature difference between the hot and cold sides , we want the exchanger to be made of the most conductive materials possible , we want the largest surface area we can and we want the fluids we are exchanging the heat between to be in contact for as long as possible.

Back to our shower.  Water flows into our hot water system at ambient temperature which will depend on where you live and time of year, for arguments sake let’s say 15 deg c. The water is then heated to a maximum of 80 deg c . The water passes through a tempering valve and comes to the shower head at a maximum temp of 55-60 deg c. By the time it hits our body and then the floor of the shower its at about 40 deg c. It then runs down the drain and is lost.  The trick is to use this 40 deg water to heat up the water flowing into the hot water tank at ambient which as mentioned is 15 deg. As a side note, in winter because the ambient temp of the water is even lower it will give us better heat recovery due to the higher temperature difference. Now that doesn’t mean it will use less energy to heat the water in winter, just that we will recover more waste heat due to the greater temperature difference. One important thing that hasn’t been mentioned and is very close to criminal is not insulating the pipe from your hot water system to where you are going to use it ,this is a huge waste of precious heat so if you haven’t done so, do so, pronto!

Now if we are using off the shelf equipment to build our heat exchanger then the humble copper water pipe is hard to beat. For a start its designed for potable (drinking ) water, its readily available and copper is a great conductor. Now the easiest system is simply to have the copper pipe feeding your hot water system take a detour along a section of your drain pipe. Typical drain pipe is around 40-45mm so the 13mm copper pipe will sit nicely along the bottom of the bigger pipe .From experience a 5 or 7 mtr length will give approx 50% heat recovery. Now don’t go getting all excited and think you can just double the length and get all the heat out.  The universe has specifically been designed so that you can’t.  As Robert Heinlein once wrote T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L (there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch).The energy recovery is exponential which means that the next 5 mtrs will get you an extra 25% the next 5 , 12.5% and so on.

If we harken back to one of our factors affecting heat transfer, the greater the temperature difference the greater the heat transfer. Now imagine our drain pipe with its 40 deg c water and the water in the heat exchanger pipe flowing in the same direction, the drain water loses a little heat, the water in the exchanger gains a little heat, they flow on a bit more one steadily losing temperature the other slowly gaining. What is happening to our temperature difference? All the time it’s steadily decreasing till at some point the temps are the same. Now imagine the identical situation except that the water flowing in the heat exchanger pipe is flowing the opposite or counter to the flow of the drain water. You now have a counter flow heat exchanger. This time as the drain water loses heat it encounters cooler water in the copper pipe the further it flows, conversely as the water in the copper pipe follows the drain it encounters progressively hotter water. This means we are maintaining as large a temperature difference as we can and so we are transferring more heat.


Now a few real world caveats, the first being that shower drains generally get lots of hair and stuff down them, so while having a spiral of copper pipe or some other high surface area arrangement will recover more heat it will also block more readily so be happy with the straight copper or if your a bit handy I’ve always thought it would be great to make a shower base out of an old copper hot water tank or sheet of copper with a large coil of copper pipe soldered to the back and then down the drain. Commercial units are available that have a spiral of pipe around a section of large diameter copper pipe through which the drain flows and this is ideal and can fairly easily constructed by those with access to welding equipment.

water flows

The second caveat is also about blocking but this is concerned with where and how your copper pipe enters and exits your drain pipe. If you drill the holes in the drain pipe in the top of said pipe then again it will almost certainly block due to the copper pipe hanging down into the drain so while its harder to seal its far better to have the pipe enter and exit from the bottom.

Now if your talents lie in other areas, as stated earlier commercially constructed units are available and are generally well engineered, but will cost you. If you’re like me though you wont be able to resist the temptation to tinker.

Happy Thermodynamics !


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Recipe from Change of Heart by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker

sauerkraut with outside leaves of cabbage

You can make any amount of sauerkraut at one time, however, you need to think about where you will store it.  In the Summer it will continue to ferment, being inedible after a few weeks if you don’t have a cool place to store it.  I prefer to make a large amount at a time in late Autumn, when I know it will keep for the whole Winter without getting too strong.  For making my sauerkraut, I use a pounder that Bob made for me out of a piece of Ti tree.  The bottom needs to be as wide and flat as possible, and you need to smooth the top so that you can hold it comfortably in your hand whilst pounding.

1 bucket (polypail, 20 litre)

1 pounder

about 10 cabbages

1 large sharp knife or a sauerkraut cabbage cutter

1 sterilized heavy stone

1 dsp sea salt for every large cabbage

1/2 cup whey

1 tsp caraway seeds for every large cabbage

  • Cut the cabbages in half, remove the hard stem (put into your broth pot) and slice the leaves as finely as you possibly can.
  • Once you have sliced the leaves of one whole cabbage, put it into the bucket and pound until the cells begin to break and let out their juice.  Continue slicing the cabbage and adding to the bucket with a little salt and caraway seeds between each cabbage, pounding until you feel the juice coming out of the cabbage.
  • Once  you have the bucket as full as you’re going to make it, tip in your whey and give the barrel a good mix.  Then place a plate upside down inside the bucket, on top of the cabbage, with as little room as possible between the bucket and the plate.  On top of that, put as heavy a stone as you can find, and then put the lid on (it will work with a cloth on top as well, as long as the juice comes over the plate within 48 hours).
  • Once you can see the juice is covering the plate and the cabbage fermenting, you can find a cool place and leave it there for around 3 weeks.
  • When the strong fermentation process has finished and the sauerkraut tastes good, you can pack it into glass jars and put in the fridge.  I usually leave it in the bucket in our coolsafe.


Recommended_Seeds_Chinese_Cabbage_HH Recommended_Seeds_Cabbage_Savoy_ChieftainRecommended_Books_Change_Of_Heart

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Preparing and Cooking Nutrient Dense Food at Koanga Institute


by William Hill

One of the exciting aspects of being an intern at Koanga Institute is the preparation and eating of our meals.  Each mealtime is eagerly anticipated as the food is delectable and highly nutritious, and its preparation is an education.

Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist and researcher, conducted extensive studies of indigenous peoples throughout the world in the 1920s and 30s.  He is noted for his observations that nutrition was directly linked to superior dental and physical health of peoples from traditional, indigenous cultures. He tested the vitamin and mineral content of the American diet at the time and found it contained very low amounts of fat soluble vitamins and minerals in comparison with those in traditional diets.

Today the Weston A. Price Foundation promotes traditional foods and their preparation.  It is these principles that the Koanga Institute follows in its food preparation to nourish inquisitive, hungry interns.

Principles of traditional diets
found in every indigenous culture observed by Dr. Weston Price:

1. No refined or denatured foods e.g. refined sugar and flour, corn syrup, canned foods, pasteurised and homogenised foods, hydrogenated oils etc.

2. Animal protein and fat from fish, land animals, eggs, milk etc.

3. Four times the calcium and other minerals and ten times the fat soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, K2) of the average American diet in the 1920s.

4. High enzyme content foods such as those from raw dairy, raw meat and fish, raw honey, tropical fruits, cold pressed oils and naturally preserved lacto-fermented vegetables.

5. Seeds, grains and nuts: soak fermented of naturally leavened  in order to neuteralise naturally occuring anti-nutrients in these foods such as phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, tannins and complex carbohydrates.

6. Total fat content of traditional diets varied from 30%-80% with the predominant source of fats in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids and very little polyunsaturated fats.

7. Omegas 3 & 6 – traditional diets contained nearly equal amounts of these essential fatty acids.

8. Salt – always a part of traditional diets.

9. Consumption of animal bones – usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.

10. Provision for the health of future generations by providing nutrient-rich foods for parents to be, pregnant women and growing children; proper spacing of children and by teaching principles of diet to the young.

The best part about learning these principles: taking them into the kitchen!  Kay, an accomplished cook and cookery writer, introduced us to preparing and cooking foods with traditional methods and recipes, those that maintain and even increase the nutrition content of food.  And it is this example that we follow, referencing her cook books and traditional cooking methods.

One of the first foods we prepared was yoghurt which is made by adding a starter culture to milk to enable it to ferment.  In traditional cultures, without refrigeration, milk was changed into other foods, usually by fermentation.  This practise not only ensured that milk could be stored but it also increased the nutritional value of the food.

Each meal served at Koanga provides us with an educative experience.  Preparation is varied but always utilises whole foods that are highly nutritious or what is termed “nutrient-dense” foods – those that are grown organically and contain a high vitamin and mineral content.  Using quality ingredients and cooking them in ways that enliven them, such as slowly and without non-nutritious additives are key ways of preparing traditional food.

Ingredients used are sourced from the garden and local farms while other ingredients are selected from localised sources.  This serves to connect us to the region and ensure we are eating foods in season that have not travelled great distances to out table.

Any seeds, grains or nuts are soaked prior to use to enable the full nutritional benefit of each are made available.

Each week, two interns are charged with cooking the meals for their fellow interns and also Kay and family and Institute staff.  With Kay’s guidance, meals are planned for the week ahead and prepared by the interns beginning with ingredient preparation through to cooking and presentation of meals to the group.

Meal times are signalled by ringing of a bell and we pause to give thanks for the food, those who have prepared it, those who are to eat it and for the abundant blessings of the day.

Each meal is served with a vegetable such as carrot that has been fermented (a nutritious way of preserving and increasing the nutrition of vegetables), sea salt and butter, a source of good fat and vitamin A.

Desert?  Well, not every day, more likely to be seen on special occasions such as a birthday. And yes, these can be made nutritiously by utilising honey as a sweetener and flour made from ground nuts.

Learning the principles of a traditional diet at Koanga is proving to be highly enjoyable.  Through this experience we are being shown how to put traditional nutrition wisdom into practise in our lives today and we will leave with new and vital perspectives of food and cooking that will inspire our families and friends to enrich their lives in the same way.

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Top Bar Hive, you wonder?


Spring is a busy season here at Koanga!  As the ground warms up, trees begin to blossom and the birds begin to sing, every indication is that it’s time to get out there and keep up with the pace of the season!  If you’re having a bit of trouble finding the motivation to get your act together, perhaps a lesson from the bees will help.  That’s right, bees!

Here at Koanga, we’ve all been inspired by watching the bees flit and fly about, busying themselves with nectar and pollen collection to bring home.  They’re out setting the example for us that it’s time to get out and garden!  Just recently even, we happened upon the fortune of a local beekeeper who was kind enough to sell us a swarm from his apiary that we could install into a newly built top bar hive.

Top bar hive, you wonder?  Well, it’s quite simple really.  Some may be imagining the square bee boxes that stack vertically into the air, often seen from a roadside drive past a local bee yard.  A top bar hive is a different style of hive with it’s own benefits and advantages.  It’s a system that provides easy management for the bees and beekeeper.  Some of these benefits we’ve already reviewed in our most recent introduction to beekeeping (the top bar way) workshop.


 For those already into conventional beekeeping and wondering how to add a top bar hive or even make the transition to only top bar hives, there are many ways to do so.  In fact, the swarm we just installed came from a square style box with frames and we placed them into a “V” shaped top bar hive with ease.  They’re now living happily in the Urban Garden here at Koanga and we’ll be using the hive for honey and wax production as well as pollen collection.  Yep, you can even place a pollen trap on a top bar hive!

The goals for the bees this season here at Koanga are several, among which include:

  1. Building strong colonies to winter over on their own
  2. Not overharvesting honey
  3. Genetic Selection for hygienic and pest resistant bees

If you’re interested in learning more about top bar hives, we’ll be doing some more lessons regarding hive management, colony installation and even some hive building.  Even if you’re not sure about top bar hives, you could still join us for the lessons because most of the information we’ll be learning is applicable to any style of beekeeping.  So take a lesson from the bees.  Get out here, get busy with things and join us!

by Cody Kerr

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Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Taken from Change of Heart – The Ecology of Nourishing Food by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Tagines are the Moroccan way of slow cooking seasonal mixes of meat (often the cheaper fatty cuts which are the ones we enjoy the best!), vegetables, fruit and spices in their traditional earthenware baking dishes that keep moisture in.  If you have an earth pizza oven, you can make these wonderful, rich, full of flavour dishes in the authentic way.  In Winter and Spring you might have to add dried fruit instead of fresh fruit, however in Summer and Autumn there will be loads of fresh fruit.  Some of those commonly use are apricots, apples, quinces, pears and even peaches.  The dried fruit could be prunes, raisins, sultanas, apricots and dates.  They always include lemons and olives.  These dishes are great the next day as well, so make more than you need and cook two meals in one!  You can use pork or chicken as well (p.185)


9 Tbsp Moroccan spice mix (p. 263)

piece of organic lamb for 6 people

2 large heritage Pukekohe Long Keeper onions, chopped fine

4 Tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic

2 cups tomato puree or juice (p. 236)

1 litre bottled roasted tomato puree (p. 237)

1 cup dried apricots, cut in half (or other dried or fresh fruit like apples, quinces, pears)

1 litre lamb, beef or chicken stock

1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp cilantro

2 Tbsp Dalmatian Parsley, roughly chopped

  • Place lamb in a bowl with half the spice mix, cover and leave overnight in cool place or fridge.
  • Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celcius.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large casserole dish, add the onion and remaining spice mix, and cook over gentle heat for 10 minutes, so onions are soft but not brown.  Add crushed garlic for final 3 minutes.
  • In separate frying pan, heat remaining oil and brown sides of lamb, then add browned meat to casserole dish.  Pour 1/2 cup tomato juice to the frying pan and warm whilst mixing the juice with their juices and flavours in the pan.  Add to the casserole dish.
  • Add remaining ingredients to casserole dish and bring to the boil.  Cover with a fitted lid and place in the oven to cook for 2-2 1/2 hours or until very tender  Sprinkle with chopped herbs when serving.
  • If you have room in your dish, you can cook potatoes with the meat, or kumara or pumpkin (just add for the final hour)
  • Separately baked Maori potatoes are great with this dish, as are mashed potatoes (p.115), mashed kumara (p.115), quinoa, rice etc.


Recommended_Perennials_Onion_Pukekohe_Long_Keeper Recommended_Perennials_Potato_Maori Recommended_Seeds_Parsley_Dalmatian

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Kay’s Garden October 2013

It’s all on here now, straight from winter to summer, in terms of temperature!

It’s hard to believe that we may still get frosts, it is a balancing act now to get seedlings in the ground as soon as possible but not so early that they’ll be frosted. Ken Ring is predicting a very cold period in October and the possibility of snow here we are so I have frost cloth at hand this year for potatoes, early pumpkins.

My potatoes are up and have been hilled up already, keeping those tips away from the psyllid and frosts. I’ll be taking care of them like precious babies again this season. I’m following the same program as per our potato research trials, with regular foliar feeding and compost tea applications, and monitoring them for psyllids, and using our Biopesticide well before they appear hopefully, which probably means we should begin applying that about now, or at least before the end of October Our tomatoes will receive the same super nutrition program as the tomatoes.
If you come to a Koanga Guided Tour here over summer you’ll be able to check out our potato trials and our huge tomato growout this season.
Yams did very well here last year, mine are in now…. And I have my Southland Sno peas in too. The perennial runner beans are beginning to come through the mulch.. this year I’ve decided to grow only perennial runners for my green and dried beans, far less work.

Pumpkin Planting Time

It’s time to plant pumpkins… I’m always restricted by whatever pumpkins the Koanga Institute needs to be growing for seed. They cross over such long distances. This year we’ve done some bargaining and I’m growing Delicata and Buttercup, two of my early favourites, and Tes is growing Chucks Winter and Crown, two of the long keepers. I’ve persauded Franzi , who is in a house down the road to grow Blue Hubbard and other long keeper so there’ll be a good choice. We all also have Austrian Hulless, which together with linseed (Essene flaxseed) makes excellent crackers to put our herb cheese recipe below on! The Institute is growing Cocozelle for seed this year so we all have to eat Cocozelle courgettes, I prefer Crookneck by far although Cocozelle is very reliable and prolific.
It’s also not to late to plant tomato and pepper seed, so be in if you haven’t already done so. I’ve planted two cultivars that can be saved for seed for the Institute, that I also love to eat and ferment to make our tomato preserves. Island Bay and Riverside Market. I can only grow 1 pepper at home because I also save them for seed and my choice is Yugoslav paprika which I use for everything including fermented pepper sauce.
We grow hot peppers in one of the Institute isolation gardens, to prevent crossing and we’ll all use the peppers left after saving seed to make our hot sauce, once again fermented.

Forest Garden

It’s 18 months since most of our home fruit trees went in, and 12 months since we began planting the 7 layers of support trees, bushes etc to go with the fruit trees. We have a long way to go but it’s beginning to look and feel very exciting.  The Siberian Pea trees ( legumes that enjoy wet spots and are great chicken forage trees) are shooting again after the winter with their delicate foliage, the Maakia amurensis (legumes that enjoy very wet places)) are shooting up too, the Acacia retinoides are flowering as are the tagasate, which we have been chopping and dropping already several time in the first year. The cardoons, mineral accumulators are coming back after the winter, the goumi ( Eleaganus multiflora), also legumes, are flowering strongly, and the muscovies are keeping the grass down while it all gets going. I’ll be adding many more species next autumn winter. My Design Your Own Forest Garden Booklet will be available before Xmas this year. It’s next on the list after the Urban Garden Design Booklet which is about to be printed.

My first ever serious berry patch is beginning to look as though we’ll get serious production out of it. This year the raspberries will be a wall of fruit ( 8m long), and all of the gooseberries, and currants have their first fruit on them, as well as my Worcester berry. Our Pouto Blackberries will be ready for Xmas Day blackberry pie so we’ll be thinking of Logan Forest on that day. The fence between my vege garden and the forest garden has argutas being trained along it and this year they will grow to make a rail all along the top of that fence, so my new garden is beginning to take shape. The blueberry patch Bob and I Planted last winter is now just beginning to show new growth. This is the NZ heritage blueberry collection, donated to our collection by Cristina and Christopher Frey of Taranaki, so many exciting things to grow and try.

This the egg season and the milk season! We have loads of both.  As we turn to warmer weather salads are welcome and this egg salad is loved by all.

Kay’s Egg Salad
Hard boil 8 eggs, cool and shell. Mash the eggs and add 1 large Tbspn of butter, 1 desertspoon of mustard ( whatever your favourite is see Change of Heart for a fermented version) , add salt to taste and cracked pepper plus as many finely chopped spring herbs as you will enjoy in the egg. I always use Multiplying Spring onions or Welsh Bunching onions finely chopped plus whatever else there, often sorrel, parsley, coriander etc etc. Mix well.

Shaked’s Israeli version of a cheese salad has been loved by all here too. We make kefir cheese but it can be yoghurt cheese as well. Take 1 cup of cheese, Add 1 Tbspn good quality olive oil, NZ cold pressed is in the supermarkets now for a good price, add salt to taste and finely chopped herbs, paprika and maybe a little fermented hot chilli sauce mix well and serve on sourdough bread etc etc.