Long Emergency Down Under
David Allen, a long time Peak Prosperity member, is doing a Long Emergency type of preparations in New Zealand. His efforts are much like Chris, Adam, Robie, Phil Williams and others and is very inspirational to me. He is preparing to live in a much lower-tech, lower energy world.
I asked him to send me pictures and describe what he is doing. I’ll copy some of his comments, post the gorgeous pictures and hope that David can answer our questions.
We are located in the north of New Zealand just inland from the city of Whangariei and so are moving into spring right now.
Northland New Zealand, Whangarei
The reluctant spouse
I see your wife is not onboard with your preparations. I can fully understand your position. My wife, Karen was and still is reluctant too. She thinks I am basically right in my conclusions but doesn’t want to think about the implications. Luckily we were able to reach a compromise whereby we moved to a rural area about 20 minutes drive from the city she works. So she is still working full time and enjoys the country life style during time off. Plus she has been able to acquire a couple of horses which she had always wanted. I drive the orchard and garden side of the property plus I work off property part time.
I used to be a business professional but no longer believe in it. Now I work locally with my own small business doing small landscaping projects, gardening, pruning and permaculture consultancy.
How much space?
To orient you to our property, we’ve got 7 acres here. About 1.5 acres is in orchard, 4 acres pasture and 1.5 acres for house and surrounds, veggie garden and a patch of native bush.
We have only 7 acres. Which raises another important point – You don’t actually have to own all the land. In our case we have neighbors that allow us to graze an area of several acres in return for garden and orchard produce. Furthermore in the event of a significant collapse conventional farming may crumble away. I believe there will be land to lease or occupy for those with the desire and skills. If we are indeed in for a human population die-off there will be plenty of land.
Description of Farm
The veggie garden seems like a good place to start. I use permanent beds that are about 1.2 m (4 feet) wide with a walking strip in between. Every year I prepare the beds by forking in compost and a broad spectrum fertilizer (not just an NPK booster). Basically I’m trying to build and improve the soil every year so it is super fertile when I can no longer obtain fertilizer. Over winter I cover the beds that are not in use with black plastic in order to stifle weeds.
Winter garden with compost heap
In spring I’ll start to prepare the beds for the new season then cover with straw – this helps to stifle weeds and slow down evaporation from the soil over summer. Eventually the straw mulch breaks down and becomes incorporated into the soil.
Straw covered Garden Beds
I grow almost all veggies from seed which are germinated in the glass house. It is also useful for growing small numbers of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, etc. out of season. The glass house has been painted white to help stop it overheating.
Summer garden — rhubarb bed with lemon tree
Winter Garden in Bloom
The chook house is a children’s play house with a new lease on life
Mr Big, the rooster, and harem free ranging.
I started with Gold Laced Wyandottes and have changed to Australorps. You can see both in the pictures. I wanted to have hens that would go broody, which allows me to have the hens hatch and raise their chicks. Many modern varieties have had the broody characteristic bred out of them – which is fine when you can go out and buy some layers. But if this is not possible you may need to perpetuate your own flock. Anyway, this is what I do, the young pullets are kept or sold and the young cockerels are raised to a good eating size then culled.
One final point about chickens. There’s no point having them if you can’t feed them. Free ranging gets them some nutrition but, to lay well, they need more. I cook up surplus pumpkins and 2nd grade potatoes and they get food scraps. I’ll grow extra greens in the garden – spinach, lettuce specifically for the chickens. I’ve also planted all sorts of seasonal food for them (and us) in the orchard including berries, guava bushes, grapes etc – they love elderberries and windfall peaches . At present I provide them with a significant amount of grains but this may not be possible in future. It is going to be a learning curve and I’ll probably need to cut the flock size.
Our climate is sub tropical – we are unusual in that we can grow stone and pip fruit that require a certain amount of winter chilling as well as subtropicals like bananas, tamarillos, avocados. Having said that we do get frosts in winter so the subtropicals are confined to a sheltered microclimate between the house and the bush.
In terms of orchard planting I have generally put in several different varieties. For example there are about 9 peach trees – they fruit over a period of several months and the diversity in varieties helps with pollenation. Similarly with plums – there are a dozen trees which provide a stream of fruit over several months. Some types are great fresh, prune plums can be dried and stored, some are good for preserving or freezing or jam.
I have planted just a few almond trees and hazels plus a couple of walnuts. The jury is out whether these will produce much but the hazels will provide garden stakes if nothing else. Our main nut crop is macadamias with 80 trees planted. The idea is for these to provide a nutrient dense concentrated food with surplus for trading.
Key learning : Grow what grows well in your climate and soil – otherwise it’s an uphill battle. Same principle with veges.
Also give your trees plenty of space – they’re small when you plant them but they will grow
You will notice in a couple of the photos that the orchard looks like a jungle. We don’t mow it. In future we may not be able to, and also it is a food source for free ranging chickens.
Orchard, not mown
I’ve also included a picture of our wood burning stove – we cook on this during the cooler 6 months of the year – too hot in summer.
I have a house cow named Peanut. She is a pure bred Jersey which means the milk is creamy and ideal for making cheese. In the past we have made cheese, butter, ice cream, and yoghurt. When I’m milking we share the milk with the calf. I take 4 or 5 litres per day and the calf gets the rest. This year I’m not milking Peanut as I’m too busy with off property work commitments. Each year Peanut has a calf and the 2 other animals in the photo are her calf from last year and this year. The calf from the previous year is in our freezer.
Peanut and kids
I must ask the first question of David Allen: What is a "house cow." I have a "house cat" but I expect this is a bit different.
Great descriptions ! Thanks for showing us what you are up to.
Chickens will eat milk too, and whey left over from cheese making. But, yes, the chickens at my place too would be very hard to justify feeding if I couldnt buy in feed. I would also cull my flock to 3 or 4 hens and the rooster and try. I second the choices made here on chicken types. I also hatch out our own chicks every year, mixed breeds at this point, a fair amount of golden laced wyandotte and blue laced red wyandotte, as those were the roosters I had, present rooster is a cross, alot of grey with a larger comb.
My place has milk goats as I live by forests and there is no grazing land.
My question is, what brand wood stove is that ? And, does it also prvide your space heating, and if so, how well does it provide space heating and how large of a space ?
That's right SP, the cow does not actually live in the house with us! The term is used for a cow that's milked for own home supply rather than commercially.
I've allowed SP to post this summary of our correspondence here primarily to encourage others to take action. The further we've moved down the preparation path, the easier it is to stay positive. For example I've just read Chris's excellent article Betrayal and my blood started to boil. But now I've got to go out and feed chickens, move cattle and dig a garden bed. So straight away I'm focusing on practical progress rather than 'stewing and fuming'.
So what can you (everyone) do to increase your own resilience one more notch?
It's good to hear a little about your place too.
The stove is a Homewood, which is made here in NZ. It heats our 200m2 (~2,000ft2) house very well through winter. It also has a wetback which means it heats water and passively cycles it into the hot water cylinder. So we can turn off the power to the hot water cylinder over winter.
You're right that chickens love milk products. When I am in a regular milking phase I'll set aside milk to clabber ie. form a natural curdle to give a yoghurt like consistency which I'll mix in with some grains.
Love the website, I am sure it would be very pricey to get a cast iron stove to the USA, but they sure look nice. I have a woodstove that is for space heating. And, I can put pots on top to slow cook, but since it isnt made for cooking, it is not as hot as quickly. Heats the house very well.