I’ve been silent on the Blogosphere for a while. Lots of big moves and changes afoot!
We returned to the US with our purpose more solidly etched in our minds, and a plan to achieve it. Since our journey home (read: “since our 40-hour itinerary of exhaustion”), we have:
Visited family in Florida, New York, West Virginia, and Virginia.
Researched, planned, and executed a move to North Carolina, where we found a beautiful rental in Cary. (A 2/1 duplex unit which feels ENORMOUS compared to the Odyssey!)
Enrolled in and completed a real estate broker prelicensing course at GoSchool. (HIGHLY recommend this school, especially if you can take the course with Amanda H.!)
Begun teaching through an online tutoring company to English language learners in China! (Post on this fantastic addition to my life coming soon, but in the meantime if you are interested in becoming a tutor, follow my referral link here to learn more! Or just leave me a comment!)
PASSED the licensing exam and applied for my license
Received my new license in the mail! (Now comes the time to decide which lucky brokerage gets to profit off of me!)
This has definitely been a radical shift from what we grew accustomed to while living the #vanlife in New Zealand, but it is not without its own perks! Despite my crazy schedule over the past several weeks, with the course, exam prep, and tutoring in between, it has been very important to us to start making this little space a home.
One thing about this unit is that is has no counter space to speak of. Literally, my chopping and prep is done on a cutting board on the stove. This meant my SPICES, while wholly welcome in my cooking, are wholly UNwelcome on my counters.
I present to you, my own take on the Marvelous Magnetic Spice Jar! This was super easy, and I love the result in so many ways!
To make my jars, I used:
4-oz mason jars (any small jar with a lid)
strong magnets (one for each jar)
Gorilla Glue (as per directions you will also need a small amount of water with a paintbrush or paper towel)
jar labels and pen
Step 1: Glue your lids to your rims
Most mason jars have a two-part lid, with the flat lid topper which fits in under the lid rim. I did not want to have to worry about juggling multiple pieces when opening a jar so I first glued the rims to the lids. I put a line of glue in 3rds around the inner rim and set the lid on it. Allow to dry a long time! I waited the prescribed 4 hours and then tested it on a jar, and the pieces came apart. Humph! I then waited a full day in between glueing stages, and didn’t have any more issues.
Step 2: Glue your magnets to your lids
It doesn’t matter if the glue shows a bit because this is the side that will magnetize to your fridge or other magnetic surface. The key is to make it strong! Again, I recommend waiting a full day in between to allow the glue to set permanently.
Step 3: Add your labels
Ok, so there are endless suppliers of mason jar accessories, and I could have purchased labels that would have perfectly fit the small flat oval surface on the front of my jars. BUT NO! I had large labels from a project a few years back, so I was determined to be frugal and repurpose them for my little jars. This was honestly the most time-consuming part of the project (if you don’t count waiting 24 hours between gluing sessions) and involved sizing my own stencil, then tracing and cutting each oval by hand with an exacto knife.
Step 4: Add your spices and design your display!
This stage was oh-so-satisfying! Empty all of your spices into their individual jars, tighten the lids and stick to your fridge! You can see my end result below, but our kitchen is still a major work in progress. The great thing about these is how easy they are to rearrange and repurpose! (Can anyone envision these as a way to organize office clutter or workbench necessities??)
A few things to note:
I chose the 4-oz jars because they fit one standard spice jar from the grocery store. I have seen something similar done with larger jars (6-8oz) but if you choose to use these just make sure that your magnet is strong enough to support the jar when it is filled with spice.
I ended up using 2 different types of magnets, because I inevitably bought too few of the first kind from WalMart, which were 1″ in diameter. They came in 4-packs and were dual-sided, with one side being MUCH stronger than the other; so strong that when I glued it to the lid, and later tested it on my fridge, the magnet escaped the Gorilla glue on the lid and stayed magnetized to the fridge! Fortunately I discovered this early after doing only 1, and the rest went on with the weaker side out to stick to the fridge. Still plenty strong! I also used about 4 magnets that I purchased from Home Depot. They were .75″ in diameter and less strong, so I used them for my “flake” spices (oregano, chili, marjoram, etc)
My jar labels came from Amazon a couple years back. The pack came with a “chalk pen” which looks great! However it is not permanent, so my lettering on the labels smudges when I grip a jar carelessly to open. If this is a concern for you I definitely recommend something permanent!
I chose to do a jar without a shaker top built in, because I like to be able to reach in with a spoon or measuring spoon to scoop out for a recipe or a sprinkle. They DO sell these sprinkle tops online if that’s something you rely on.
I will still continue to write about the things we did and saw and places we explored while vanlife-ing in New Zealand. Good motivation for everyone, myself included, to pursue their dreams and get back to that glorious wilderness!
Missed some stories? Check out a few below!
**Thanks for reading! I claim to represent no other’s opinions than my own. All experiences are my own, unless otherwise stated.**
Big things are happening in the world of the Permaculture Pioneer, with lots of moving around as well as lots of PLANNING. I am now a strong advocate for the 30-hour day in order to stay on top of things, and I have fallen into a bit of a nutritional rut, eating things that are pre-made and “easy”, neglecting my vitamins. As a result, I have noticed having less energy than usual, an upset stomach most mornings, and an overall lack of interest in food.
Spending July 4th back in America meant a continuation of our #endlesssummer and exposure to yet another display of summer veggies at the markets. This was all I needed to get back on track, and I hope this special salad can inspire you to reconnect with the delicious bounty of fresh, unadulterated vegetables. Also, it was like a jump-start for my system, which within hours of chowing down on this felt not only revitalized, but satisfied too!
**TIP – the salad is best when eaten chilled, so keep your ingredients and finished salad refrigerated as long as possible before eating. 🙂
6 campari tomatoes, cut into sixths
4 lebanese cucumbers, diced chunky
1/2 red onion, diced chunky
2 ripe avocados, diced chunky
6 large fresh basil leaves, minced or kitchen-scissored
raw baby spinach, wilted or lightly steamed
1 tbsp avocado oil
sea salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil AKA EVOO (cold-pressed is best – 2-4 tbsp)
balsamic vinegar (4-6 tbsp, to taste)
Chop tomatoes, onion, and cucumbers, and put in a large mixing bowl.
Pour vinegar and oil directly into the bowl of veggies and stir to coat. I recommend doing this a bit at a time, to gauge how much you prefer. Add the minced basil and stir that too.
Wilt or steam your spinach. This was a last minute idea, but since I had spinach in the fridge going begging, I threw half the tub in a large non-stick pan with a bit of avocado oil on low heat and covered it for 2 minutes. Then stirred and flipped, covered for 2 more minutes, and done. Portion it into your bowls and squeeze a wedge of lemon over each portion.
Dice your avocados as the very last thing and add them to your salad. I gave everything a stir in the bowl at the end, but if your avos are SUPER ripe (like mine were) they will go slightly mushy. Better idea: portion your lovely salad over the spinach and add the diced avos directly to it.
Serve with toast! I prefer Ezekiel bread, but any whole grain and seed bread will be so tasty with this salad!
Tried it? Loved it? Hated it? Let me know!
…Or so we’d been told. However, this is the aftermath of what greeted us when we first arrived in Nelson.
Ha! Kiwis sure do love a great joke! But you know what they DON’T joke about, ever? Freedom camping in non-self-contained vehicles. We learned the hard way that if you park in a lot near an empty field, with no signage prohibiting anything but litter…that you just can’t. Even if you get there really late and wake up to meditate early by the rushing creek…when you get back to your van, there will be a ticket. Humph. Angry face and $200 later we had learned a valuable lesson: Don’t rely on signs! Look up the regulations for parking and freedom camping for each specific city you are considering, and to play it safe, get a self-contained sticker for your vehicle.
Nelson also saved us in a way. When our plans in Golden Bay fell through, we had to scramble to find WiFi to figure out where to go next. We ideally wanted to stay with another family with children after having so much fun with the Wards in Waipu, but would anyone be able to take us last minute? We got lucky, and the first family we messaged responded within 15 minutes and invited us for the following morning.
We arrived at the home of Karin and Alistair and fortunately the Honda was JUST able to make it up the long and steep driveway without sputtering out. We met their young sons Conor and Kael – like the supergreen, except they changed the spelling to avoid being TOO green.
The property is spectacular, with rolling hills, a native bush walk, barn and fields, gardens, and the house itself was custom designed for the previous owners by an esteemed New Zealand architect. It is a very open layout with high ceilings, walls of glass, and an office in the loft. The WWOOFer accommodation is a completely separate building with 2 bedrooms, full kitchen, sitting area, access to the pool deck, and a home gym/ping pong room.
The highlight of the property has to be the custom built mountain bike training track that Alistair had carved into one of their hillsides. Alistair is the owner of Gravity Nelson, a mountain bike rental, guide, tourism and training company. He started the company in Bolivia, where the family had lived until moving back to Alistair’s home country a couple years back. They live and breathe biking!
When they’re not living and breathing mud, spokes and adrenaline, the family is usually involved in some sort of musical pursuit. Karin is Karin Gembus, one of the original members of the girl punk rock band Spitboy which was founded in the early 90s in the San Francisco bay area. Conor takes weekly private guitar lessons (from a fellow van-dweller, respect.) and Kael is already adept at the drums.
The work we did varied depending on the needs of the family over our 3 weeks there. All those glass windows and walls certainly don’t clean themselves, and the bush walk was teeming with invasive plant annoyances. For several days straight we spent 5 hours scouring the woods to clear gorse, blackberry brambles, and nettles.
But then, there was the building. And I discovered what the big deal is about power tools: they ROCK! Through connections Alistair has in Nelson, there was a seemingly endless supply of heat-treated wooden pallets, and we were given assignments.
My favorite by far was the bookshelf. And yep, I built the Golden Spiral right in. We are proud nerds.
For a couple days, our work extended to different activities with Conor and Kael as they finished up their summer holidays. They had workout sessions with Jeff and Max, a fellow Workawayer from France, and with me they painted. My darling mum had sent all of my painting supplies in a care package for Christmas, because it turns out being a traveling shoe-artist is legit! I showed the boys my method for doing any new design and they took it and ran. Look how creative they both were and how fantastic their shoes turned out!
The food really deserves a special mention here, and I must give a shout-out to Conor and Kael. Two years ago, the boys decided on their own to become vegan, despite their parents eating animal products at almost every meal. They are both animal lovers, but Conor decided first, did his own research, and made the switch. His brother followed shortly after. They are not arrogant or preachy, they just know their reasons. Dinners most evenings were elaborate flavorful vegan treats (meat off the grill for others) complimented by various hot sauces and veggies from the garden.
I even got to do some real cooking myself! During out last week, Karin went away to a farm to do some horse-sitting, leaving the kitchen vacant. Here are some things I served to weary hosts and Workawayers!
On days off, we had lots of different things to do. We went into Nelson on Super Bowl Monday and Max watched his first ever American Football game.
Being stable in one place for several weeks also gave us the opportunity to get some things done without the pressure to move every few days. I was able to complete 2 new shoe designs and ship an order back to the states!
Alistair also organized a day for us all to borrow bikes from Gravity and try out one of Nelson’s many renowned mountain biking trails.
There were also newly-hatched peeps, ping pong, and the pool to keep us occupied, so can’t say we ever got bored!
And one evening, we were invited to accompany the family on a dinner cruise hosted by their friends on their sailboat. This really deserves its own story, but here are a few teaser photos!
Nelson certainly makes the list of top 5 places I would choose to live in New Zealand. If I can hope to be so lucky.
Check out the full gallery here!
Want to Workaway with Karin, Alistair and the boys? Check out their Workaway profile here!
If you’re interested in doing some mountain biking, definitely follow Gravity Nelson on Facebook and reach out with questions!
**Thanks for reading! I claim to represent no other’s opinions than my own. All experiences are my own, unless otherwise stated.**
I love sharing travel stories. Adventures, stunning sights, that quirky guy at the local pub who can’t get enough YouTube videos of professional sheep-shearing…(real story, will come back to that in a later post.) All of the amazing experiences and learning that go along with exploring a new place make it SO easy to create an idyllic social media presence. The weather is always flawless and everything goes according to plan!
And it is really hard for me to admit this. I alluded to my incessant need to plan and organize everything in my post about road-tripping, NZ style, but it is deeper than that. I put my heart and soul into obsessive organizing and then take it as an emotional, devastating personal loss if something goes wrong. This journey however has been an abrupt education in the proverbial, “Feces happens.”
So we had just left Waipu, and Workaway linked us up with an intentional community called Spirit of Nature in Golden Bay, at the North West of the South Island. The lure of multiple ongoing permaculture projects in a developing community with accommodation in tricked out vans was too good to pass up! But we were apprehensive, not quite sure we were ready to leave the North Island, and the journey from where we were was not cheap, or quick. [Drive south to Wellington (9.5 hours, 760km), take a ferry* across the Cook Straight to Picton (3.5 hours), drive from Picton to Golden Bay (4 hours, 265km). That’s about 2.5 tanks of gas, $110 each, and the ferry which was $230, because we brought our van. EEESH! But somehow we managed to squeeze in some shell-hunting…]
After a leisurely 2-day trip, we were still having doubts as we arrived in Wellington. I started researching intentional communities, thinking that might be an option for us to immigrate and begin the life we want immediately. I found a fantastic website called Fellowship for Intentional Community and spent time browsing the ecovillages in New Zealand, and several are located on the North Island, which we were about to leave. I was also contacting the communities for advice, explaining our situation and aspirations of immigration, hoping someone might be able to help.
We spent a couple days in Wellington weighing our options, thoroughly enjoying the gorgeous weather on the Esplanade, and treating ourselves (okay, myself) to shisha and yummy food at Cafe Istanbul on Cuba Street.
Then a response! It was signed with the same name as the Workaway host who had just invited us to come and work on various permaculture projects in his developing community. Ursus is himself an expat, from Germany, and he said he could advise us when we arrived. So we booked our ferry and set off on a chilly, rainy afternoon.
The rain was torrential by the time we landed at Picton, and at 9pm we didn’t fancy driving 4 hours in the rain. So we made it to “Sunny Nelson”, had a humid night in the van, and set off for the community the next morning, stopping during a sunny spell for a wandering shell-hunt in nearby Collingwood.
When we arrived at the community, my sunny optimism faded. The community is situated on a rather steep hill, and we were advised to park down below, right off the road, because the rain had washed out the makeshift path up to the structures, and our poor Odyssey couldn’t cut it. That’s ok, we can carry up what we need to the accommodation. Except unfortunately, as Ursus informed us, not enough volunteers had moved on, so we would need to sleep in our van. Also, as we sat in the main gathering room, we were requested to pay $5 each per day for food for the month. When we asked what he might be able to offer in terms of advice for immigration, he shrugged, saying it has become more difficult since he came in the 70s, and he didn’t know what to tell us.
And…there was no WiFi.
Ursus sent us back to the van to bring up what we needed, and when we reached the bottom of the hill, we faced a difficult decision. I had a strong sense of obligation, having previously told Ursus we are willing to commit to a month minimum for the sake of the projects. On the other hand, this would delay our mission to find a way to immigrate for at least a month, with no advice from our hosts and no WiFi or even cell service to use for research and communication.
Basically, you gotta know when to fold ’em. It was hard for me to make this decision, especially because I saw my careful plans in smoldering ruins, a failure. But with the help and support of my amazing partner on this journey, I made peace with it, and we headed back towards Nelson. Ursus was very gracious when we explained our decision.
I am so grateful to have encountered an experience first-hand which taught me, surprisingly, sometimes things don’t work out! It was something I have “known” my whole life, given as advice countless times, but I really never faced the lesson until that rainy day in Golden Bay. But it is truly how you respond to those challenges that determines your progress. We are on our own journey, and despite admiring another’s path, we made the right decision for us.
*There are currently 2 commercial companies which run ferry service from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island. We chose Interislander, due to schedule and last-minute ticket prices, but we heard the WiFi works much better on the Bluebridge boats. We will probably check them out next time. 😉
Click here to view the full gallery!
Where have we been that HAS worked out? Check out our experiences in Kaitaia, Auckland, and Coromandel!
**Thanks for reading! I claim to represent no other’s opinions than my own. All experiences are my own, unless otherwise stated.**
This sauce is something special. You may remember Tina from Kaitaia? This is her glorious creation which she served up to us with our very first lunch while staying with them…and when we went BACK she had an extra large batch already prepared, knowing that I will put it on everything. It has replaced any desire for mayonnaise, yogurt sauce…even Ranch Dressing!
But wait, it’s vegan? I’m not preaching here, but get this recipe right and it will replace any need for a heavy, fatty, creamy dressing. The base of the sauce is actually raw peanuts, and coconut cream helps to smooth it out. A few things to note when making this recipe:
**I was told to soak the raw peanuts for 2-4 hours, to achieve that blending consistency, but I find I get a much smoother texture when I soak for 1-2 days. Yup, takes some foresight, but literally just to the extent of putting raw peanuts in a bowl and covering them with water.
**Also, I have had a hard time finding raw peanuts without the skin (and peeling the skins off a full cup of peanuts is an adventure I don’t wish to repeat) but blanched peanuts work great!
**Not all cans of coconut cream/milk are created equal. Sometimes you open a can and while it is technically a liquid, it is curdled through and through. DON’T USE THIS! (Sorry, GOYA) If it is separated into a block of solid and then liquid below, this is fine, and you can just combine by whisking it slowly in a pan over low-med heat. Or maybe you have your preferred brand than never lets you down. Just avoid the curdles.
**When you make this, most if not all ingredients will be at room temperature, but you will probably be eating it cold for the most part. It may be tempting to add salt when you are taste-testing along the way, but beware: the salt flavor is much more noticeable at colder temperatures. (Science!) Save your batch by going easy on the salt.
Hope you enjoy! I have added a few variations at the bottom to try as well. 🙂
1 cup unsalted, raw peanuts/pinenuts (soaked for MINIMUM 4 hours…I opt for 48 hours)
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves (crushed)
chili flakes (to taste – I use 1 tbsp for a kick!)
1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt
0.5 cup water
5 tbsp olive oil (cold-pressed is best)
1-2 tsp wholegrain organic mustard
coconut cream, unsweetened, to make to liquid texture (~0.5 can)
Blend all ingredients together EXCEPT coconut cream.
Add coconut cream slowly. Don’t worry if it seems a bit thin, as it will set in the fridge to a mayo-like consistency.
Blending happens in stages for me. I like to blend for 5 minutes at a time and then let the sauce rest in the blender for 15-30 minutes while I do something else. It tends to result in smoother results.
Chill in fridge.
Eat on/with everything. Seriously.
Makes ~3 cups
Garlic Lovers: Use 7-8 instead of 3 cloves
Chipotle: Add 1 tsp smoked paprika and 3 dashes of Chipotle Tabasco
Mediterranean: when serving, stir in diced cucumber
Way down at the bottom of the South Island, right about where NZ Highway 1 ends, there is an interesting project going on just outside Bluff. Adjacent to an ever-humming transforming station and overlooking the harbor, the property includes a house and several outbuildings, one of which is currently getting a makeover. While doing a Workaway a bit north in Lumsden, we were fortunate enough to be invited to come investigate!
Suzanne arrived at the property in October. She left her job with the Amsterdam Council to spend the New Zealand summer experimenting with recycled building; namely, a bottle house. This idea fits well in the permaculture playbook for serving two main purposes: 1) providing a unique way to recycle and repurpose hundreds of glass bottles, and 2) creating aesthetic beauty, allowing natural light to penetrate the walls through different colored glass.
We contacted Suzanne through Workaway, which she has been using to host volunteers from all over the world. Everyone shares space in the house and vegetarian food is part of the bargain for your 4-5 hours of work per day. The house actually belongs to a Kiwi artist, who did a house-swap with Suzanne and is currently enjoying the benefits of living in Amsterdam. (Fun fact: when Suzanne arrived, the house was utterly overrun by over 200 chickens. All but a dozen have since been relocated to the bush where they epitomize “free range.”)
The property offers many benefits to the experiment. The outbuildings provide shelter for the workshop, which is a huge advantage in Bluff, one of the windiest places in New Zealand. The construction process involves mixing cement, cutting the bases off bottles and smoothing with an angle grinder before taping 2 together, and making bricks with multiple bottles inside. The cement is also mixed with flax fiber and sand to improve durability, as well as fragments of crushed glass from all those bottle tops who lost their bottoms.
Another perk of the property lies in the physical location of the bottle house construction. The site once had a milking shed, and the foundation and lower walls still remain, which means the project is technically classified as a “rebuild” and doesn’t need any fancy permits. It could be very different if they wanted to add a brand new structure to the land.
When we visited, the walls were just about complete, and in fact, work on the roof was set to begin the following day. Suzanne told us that they hope to put a pizza oven in the center of the structure, and the middle wall is just the perfect height for a bar. Looking out the door, we see the location of a future greenhouse. Things don’t grow quite as well in these parts, but it is not so much due to temperature. The high winds are to blame for struggling gardens.
We sat together on the front porch and gazed across the harbor at an enormous smokestack in the distance. It belongs to the largest aluminum (ahem – aluminium) plant in New Zealand. Back in the day, Bluff had very low-priced energy due to the ability to harvest water power and its administration by the government, and this was very attractive to the aluminum industry. In fact, all of Australia’s aluminum was shipped to Bluff to be processed. Today however the water power has been privatized, vastly increasing the cost of this extremely pollutive production process.
Suzanne returns to Amsterdam in the middle of April. What’s next on her agenda? We will keep in touch, and I’ll keep you updated! She is an awesome person to Workaway with!
After saying goodbye to Suzanne and her crew, we wandered around the town of Bluff, the southernmost town on the South Island. Here are a few snaps, but check out the full gallery here!
After a beautifully quiet New Year’s, we bade farewell once again to Az and Tina and started 2018 by drifting a bit south toward Waipu. We were very excited to do our first Workaway with a young family.
Waipu is one of those small towns where if you blink, you miss it. I highly recommend keeping your eyes peeled straight through the main drag. Waipu boasts a strong and proud Scottish heritage, even celebrating its own Highland Games as well as a Tartan Week. However, the family we were invited to stay with were as Kiwi as they get!
Hayles and Jim, their three children, and Sandy the golden lab live on a stunning block of land, complete with native bush and a stream. Their chickens are as free-range as their children and enjoy scratching around the property and begging for lunch scraps. They have a caravan, two sleepouts, a covered deck, over 20 fruit trees, 2 storage containers, and a house that only arrived a few months ago.
And here’s the kicker – they are entirely energy and water self-sufficient.
They had the advantage of starting their homestead from scratch. When the family first arrived on the land, it was virtually untouched, save for some cattle fencing. They have built everything that currently exists on the property, from the driveway to the bench in the hill that now holds all of their structures. Jim is an electrical engineer by trade, and is personally renovating their used house, which arrived on a truck after venturing down dirt roads and over neighboring hills. During the week we stayed with them, we helped with insulating the roof, scrubbing down the bathrooms, and digging the post holes for a rear deck.
We also helped with weeding a patch of garden which had become a bit overgrown by ravenous kikuyu grass, and repairing fencing around their two raised garden beds (to keep out the cheeky chooks.) The beds, which Jim built himself, are his own adaptation of Hugelkultur, and are an amazing example of permaculture in action. Underneath each bed is a pit, lined with polyethylene, filled with stones, then covered with a sheet of permeable plastic. On top of that he built the perimeter of the bed and filled it with soil. The purpose and effect is that of water conservation. Excess water from a rainfall drains through the plastic and stores amongst the stones, and in a period of drought roots will draw up stored water without need of human intervention. Additionally, one bed is slightly lower than the other, so if need be, excess water can be siphoned from the higher to the lower simply by attaching a hose to both faucets build right into the ends!
As I mentioned, all water is collected during rainfalls and is stored in two giant 40K-liter tanks. Jim installed a filtration system himself to take it through several stages to ensure it is safe to drink and free from debris. They also recycle their wastewater, both greywater and blackwater, and have incorporated worms which reside in underground tanks and biologically clean and repurpose the water. To protect their happy worms, just be sure not to flush anything inorganic down any drain!
They are also powered 100% by solar energy, and Jim has created an elaborate acquisition and storage system. He has aspirations of improving the efficiency of his battery storage, but for now they have the power they need, and use most energy during the day anyways when the solar panels collect the most rays.
Did I mention the chickens? Oh, twice already? Well, let’s just say we were both a bit obsessed with these funny, happy creatures, and their mini-me’s strutting around everywhere. Here’s a peek, but check out the full album for devastating cuteness!
Quite apart from their fantastic technical vision, Hayles and Jim shared a warm and beautiful personal lifestyle with us. Hayles is one of those people who has kind things to say about everyone, and her sunny outlook was infectious even on rainy days. Jim also took unlimited time out of his very busy days to meticulously explain everything we happened to be interested in. They genuinely cared about us and our learning goals, and we never once felt like merely a set of hands for gruntwork. They sat up with us a few evenings just to talk, share their spiritual ideas, and that’s just one of the ways they extended their love to us. Another was through amazing and thoughtful vegan meals!
On a few scorching summer days, they took us into town to a watering hole to do as the locals do…which turned out to be jumping off a bridge on the road into Waipu! We also went kayaking one morning on the Waipu river, a bit downstream, and gazed at the posh river houses.
Mornings were perhaps my favorite, when I popped up early to go just over the ridge in their front yard and faced the valley for meditation. The view was incredible, and the company filled my heart.
A week was far too short a time to spend in such a fantastic place. On the day we left, they led us to an idyllic waterfall deep in the woods outside of Waipu, which we would have never found otherwise. Amazing connections ensure lifelong friendships, and we know, rather than hope, that we will see them again.
Are you considering a Workaway in New Zealand? As you can probably tell, I HIGHLY recommend these lovely people! Click here to view their Workaway profile!
New to Workaway? Check out my post on 5 Tips for a Successful Workaway
You can also read about our other experiences with Workaway hosts:
I have been just itching to write my first post on a practical permaculture how-to, but I hedged, waiting for the perfect project that is both inspiring as well as good for beginners. Patience has paid off, and I have an amazingly simple and beautiful project to share! (This was by far my favorite Workaway project to date.)
I won’t bother to go into all of Lady Lavender’s lovelies here, because if you’re checking out methods of propagation, you probably already have multiple reasons to desire heaps of these fragrant plants. But there ARE several reasons you might consider propagation from cuttings as opposed to traditional seed-sowing.
Plants from seeds tend to take longer to mature to a full-sized plant
Propagation from cuttings means you will basically have a clone of the plant you cut from. Same root system, same hardiness, same structure etc.
Cuttings are free! If you already have a plant you love and would like to duplicate, all you will ever need is already there.
If you don’t have your own plants yet, it is a great way to encourage community growing and sharing! Trade some of your rose or rosemary cuttings for someone else’s lavender. (Just as examples, the same method can be used with both of these plants as well!)
Are you convinced? Cool, let’s give it a try! To do this project you will need:
small pots, 3-4 inches deep (ceramic or terracotta preferred due to breathability, but we did with plastic) filled with…
compost/potting mix of ~50% soil and the rest of sand and compost
a sharp knife or blade
willow water or other rooting hormone
Lavender prefers soil that is slightly alkaline, so if you are using your own compost, do yourself a favor and check it. Also, some bits of bark or sticks would benefit by aiding drainage.
Step 1: Gather your cuttings
Choose cuttings from an established lavender plant which do NOT have a flower or bud on them. This will detract energy from establishing roots by trying to feed the flower. You want cuttings that are at least 3-4 inches tall. Choose a cutting that is a side joiner to another stalk and gently bend it back and pull away so that a small tail of bark comes with it. The other part of the break is called the “heel” and this is where the roots sprout from. You also want to have at least one bunch of healthy leaves at the top which will be the key for photosynthesis. Collect as many as you need, bearing in mind that you typically can root 6 cuttings in a small 2″x2″ pot.
Step 2: Trim your cuttings
Remove the leaves from the bottom 2 inches of the cutting, making sure to leave at least one healthy bunch at the top. Then using a very sharp knife, remove the bark around the base of the cutting about 1/2 inch from the bottom.
Step 3: Dip into willow water
Dip your cutting into your willow water or other rooting hormone. This can help by protecting the base from potential dehydration, and also, as it suggests, assist in quickly sprouting strong roots. There are a surprising number of products on the market, from pre-mixed solutions to basic powders which claim to be rooting hormones. Maybe they are? I have no idea because I was lucky to learn from a brilliant woman who makes her own willow water. So easy, just clip a few branches and cut into 2-3 inch pieces, then soak in water for a few days. The water will go off-color, and you know that the compounds indolebutyric acid (IBA) and salicylic acid (SA) have been released. IBA is the natural plant hormone that stimulates root growth, and SA acts as a trigger for a plant’s defenses. Can you blame me for being skeptical that a powder from Amazon can do that? 🙂
Step 4: Plant your cuttings
Poke holes around the edge of your pot(s) at least 2 inches deep. (I used the end of a Sharpie). Insert cuttings into the prepared holes up to 6 per pot, evenly spaced. Press soil firmly around cuttings so they stand up straight. Water immediately, but very gently.
I have read that it is a good idea to put a plastic bag over the top of the pot to create a warm and damp environment, similar to a greenhouse. We didn’t do that, but it is a good idea, particularly if you are doing your propagation at a time outside the summer months. Your cuttings should root within 4-6 weeks! At around 8 weeks, it will be time to move them to their own individual pots. For more on sowing seeds or caring for your lavender plants, check out Tanya’s Lovely Greens blog! Her method is slightly different from what I learned here in Kakanui, but the principles remain the same. 🙂
Such a great thing! I can’t wait to make my own plants from cuttings once we are settled in one place. Fantastic permaculture project, due to minimal expense and effort for great potential output!
Are you new to permaculture too? Check out my post, Permaculture…What’s That?
You can also read about our other experiences with Workaway hosts:
By mid-December we had already ticked many boxes. We had done a major hike at Tongariro National Park, learned to surf in Coromandel, tried living in a community in Auckland, and we were even starting to wrap our heads around the notion that despite the NZ tradition of beaching it for Christmas, Santa Clause was still expected to arrive on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
We were fortunate to be invited back to Northland to stay with Az and Tina on their micro farm. (You remember, our first Workaway EVER? 🙂 On this visit, we spent much less time digging, and much more time building and weeding! The garlic beds needed care, and weeding is quite monotonous work. BUT if you have a good stockpile of podcasts downloaded, the time becomes extremely productive. Oh, and the plums. THE PLUMS! I was never a plum person, but the heavy branches in the orchard were just simply begging to be sampled, and were FANTASTIC! Oh my lord, the plums!
All those trenches we had dug in October were now a THRIVING garden of bitter melons, beans, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and tomatoes. Tomatoes were companion planted with the bitter melons and at times we were untangling the curly curious fingers of the melons from the fuzzy tomato plants. And despite the less than average rainfall, the melons were quickly climbing higher than their fence, so it was time to experiment with different forms of canopies.
Early summer meant everything was just starting to grow, and this awakened a latent obsession in me: tiny things. I began collecting photos of all things tiny. (Check out the gallery for the full collection of tiny things from Kaitaia.) Most were new fruits and veggies, but somehow we perfectly timed our visit to coincide with a massive hatching of praying mantis’. (Mantises?)
Az and Tina marked Christmas in an extra special way for us by waking up and taking us fishing at the crack of dawn. In their glorious generosity, they packed coolers of bait and snacks and drove us to the rocks at Ahipara where we spent a few hours casting out and watching acrobatic birds, who were much more successful in catching fish than we were. Jeff was the big winner of us all, and somehow caught a crab. I discovered that my patience does not lie in fishing, and amused myself by exploring tidepools.
Tina outdid herself again and again with the treats she provided at mealtimes. We had “nutmeat” for the first time, absolutely delicious, and amazing concoctions with lentils, chickpeas, and fresh garden produce. Az also treated us to delicious vegan pancakes with special turmeric syrup for our New Years brekkie. They normally like to make one meal from the national cuisine of their WWOOFers’ home country, and the pancakes had come after weeks of discussion with us as to what they could possibly make that would be appropriately American.
We feel so lucky to have made such true and beautiful friends in our time here. Can’t wait to have a place of our own to invite them to!
Thinking of visiting Kaitaia? Check out Az & Tina’s Workaway profile!
Before you Workaway, take a look at 5 Tips for a Successful Workaway!