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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Tour a Thriving 23-Year-Old Permaculture Food Forest - An Invitation for Wildness

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My philosophy about what to do in the world isnt, go to a pristine area and live there

and enjoy your life.

Its to find a place thats degraded and fix it up.

Twenty-three years ago we started developing the food forest system here.

A food forest is a permanent planting.

So you want to set it up just like a forest system.

The big trees and the middle-size trees, the bottom layer and the ground layer.

They work together, some plants take up some minerals and give others back and another

one does something else.

Its really lovely to put them together and create a forest system thats for birds

and insects and for us.

Weve got 480 different species of plants at last count and that doesnt include the

80 different types of apples and the 16 different types of gooseberries.

Growing out in the forest garden there, aside from the native trees, which Ive used as

a framework or a platform for building everything elseand those provide me with shelter

from the wind and also nest sites for the birds, and the birds are a really important

player in the management of the garden.

In the second layer down to that we have our fruit tree layer, which is our heritage apples

and pears and plums, and nectarines and peaches, apricots, those kinds ofproduction trees”,

I suppose youd call them, but thats not really how I think of them.

In our forest garden Ive got about 120 fruit trees, there are 80 different apple

trees alone of all different names that Ive got from the old heritage orchards.

The apple trees are a special favourite of mine because each one has a different story

and history, and some are more than 500 years old.

So as I walk around here I know each of the trees very well and thesome are eating,

some are cooking, some are sweet and crunchy, some are quite dense and firm, and, like humans,

theyre very individual and theyve all got a special way that theyre worth passing


And then below that a layer of berry fruits and currents, red currants, black currants,

white currants, and gooseberries, worcesterberries, all of those sorts of shrubby plants that

like to grow in the semi-shade.

In December you start getting berries and then the plums come on, then the pears and

apples, and so we have fruit here to harvest 10 months of the year.

Wrapping around all of that are the biennial and perennial herbs, some of which are edible,

some of which are medicinal, and then below that there are bulbs and root crops that grow,

such as parsnips and wild carrotsthose kinds of things.

And then winding their way up through these things are vines like grape vines and kiwifruit

and Manchurian gooseberries and hops and all sorts of things, which kind of bind everything

together and tie the forest together.

So what Ive tried to do here, even though its Southland and grapes struggle a little

bit to producegood grapes down here, good crops down hereis that Ive multiplied

out, propagated out dozens and dozens of grapes that Ive collected in from all over Southland

and Otago, grown them and planted them at the base of the various trees that weve

got here.

Like this one underneath this cabbage tree herethis ones been in for a few years

now and has really taken off up into the canopy.

But Im taking that idea and spreading it right throughout the whole forest gardenin

a way trying to bind together the canopy in a way that Ive never seen before in any

other forest garden.

And not only will it give a different layer or level to the garden, it may even get to

the point where we could travel along those vines, if we were adroit and nimble enough!

Were in the temperate zone at the bottom of the South Island and quite exposed to the

elements, especially the souwesters that come in off the southern ocean.

Weve got a hill behind us sheltering us from the southwest winds and we face north,

looking over the estuary and the mountains and the hills, so its a really ideal situation.

When we first came up to have a look at this place it was ramshackle, to say the least!

This area where the house is now was completely covered in junk and the remains of the old

house that had caught fire.

So, most people would have not even crossed the threshold of the property to have a look

at the property, I dont think, because it didnt look very appealing.

But to us it did.

Because I thought, well for one thing, nobody wants it so its probably going to be cheap,

and it was: cheap to buy.

And secondly I thought: I can fix this.

One of the really fortunate things about this piece of land, and we saw it the day we came

here for the first time, was that it had a creek flowing through it, although initially

it wasnt flowing at all.

It was just a muddy sink-hole, really.

The creek and spring that we discovered had been the neighbourhood rubbish place.

They threw all their things in there.

So at first we got all these aluminium cans and then coke bottles and then we got right

down to hobnail boots and Victorian pottery.

And now it is this beautiful open spring running across a rocky bed and even the spring over

here to my left.

With that in place and opened and planted out I noticed that there were fish in it,

swimming up stream.

The stream runs right down to the estuary, the Jacobs River estuary, at the bottom of

the landscape here.

And the galaxhids, the native whitebait family, of which there are 7 or 9, a whole lot of

different ones, they swim up these streams, heading up as far as they can possibly go.

We dont feed them, we dont fuss over them, but I do sneak up and look at them as

often as I possibly can.

But its a huge bonus because, because of the approach that weve taken, rather than

having it grassed down to the edge of the creek or straightened into a drain the way

so many people do when they see a water body that they cant control, by leaving it natural

with all of its stones and its fallen leaves and so on, these fish find it good, good habitat

to come up into and were kind of blessed by having them here.

I think that as a forest gardener one of things that you do come to realise is that youre

a bit-player, youre not, youre not the main driver out there!

And really, youre responsibility becomes learning more about how that works, stepping

back, being a bit more relaxed about the whole thing and just watching those processes and

even changing the way that you think about harvest and about what you eat, or what you

need from your garden.

And so your diet could changes, as ours has, and rather than looking to eat lettuces, we

might eat alexanders or a perennial French sorrel.

If you really want to live off your land and have everything that you want, you have to

diversify your food.

And so we have things like nettle soup and those kinds of things that you otherwise wouldnt

eat, but you realise these actually are really good vegetables and they are really good for


But we do really like to have kumera, but cant grow it here so we still buy kumera

and avocados and things.

So wed say probably about 70% of our food comes from here.

What I really love about living in a forest garden is the change of seasons.

So this is early spring, its early October, and its time for the apple blossoms and

at this same time the, all the herbs that pollinate insects come up, and they start


At the same time the undergrowth comes up from being just a ground cover, protecting

the ground, it comes up and becomes, like this level, and in two weekstime theyll

be this high.

And we use all this lovely herbal lay sort of stuff to feed the tress and to put around

the place.

We do have cabbage trees, which are really wonderful, as our canopy.

They dont give a lot of shade, but they do provide homes for the starlings.

In the ti kouka, the cabbage trees, that Ive got growing there, the starlings nest in almost

all of them, and those starlings as theyre feeding their younkers, their babies, are

flying out and finding any soft-bodied caterpillar or grub they can, so theres our pest management

for that kind of thing.

Hundreds of birds and insects come and live here naturally.

So its really lovely, once wed set up the trees and the insect-attracting herbs

and the insects came, the birds came, and we have a huge range of native and English


And we do introduce some: weve got some chickensyou can hear them in the background.

Three seasons of the year they roam in the forest garden, so theyre free, all the

hens and the rest weve got, but in the spring weve got little seedlings going

out we have to keep them in because they know where we plant themtheyve got instincts.

So I think theyre pretty lucky and its nice when theyve got an acre of a forest

garden to walk around.

Theyre very happy.

Theres a profound difference between a forest garden and a conventional vegetable

garden with a forest growing beside it even, even a vegetable garden surrounded by shrubs.

And I think its more to do with how you think and of course how you think affects

your actions.

But, I think its the invitation for some wildness to come into your garden, forest,

and play its part.

Because thats the most powerful factor in any growing situation like this, is whats

going to happen anyway, what the natural worlds going to bring to you.

The more intervention you make, the more mistakes youre likely to make.

So I like to think that I often stay my hand.

I see what I think is an issue or a problem and instead of rushing in there and clear-felling

it or destroying it or burning it or whatever I would have done in the past and generally

seems to happen in the wider agricultural/horticultural world, often Ill stop and think, Oh hang

on, maybe I just need to change the way I think about this.

Which saves my back of course.

I dont have to lift anything, or dig anything.

One of the biggest challenges to any gardening or food production system is the management

of weeds, or the understory.

In our forest garden here were wanting to have as great a diversity of plants as

humanly possible and when you do that you get this wild vibrancy as an understory and

so you have to manage it in a minimalist way if thats, if you can get away with that.

So what Ive done here is use as many plants as possible, such as comfrey, which weve

got here, fennel, cardoons.

But the main player is cow parsley, or wild chervil.

When we first introduced cow parsley to the garden I was using the usual tools, sickles

and scythes and so on to manage it.

But then I began to wonder about, was there an easier way.

And I discovered that there was.

And thats simply going about your business, checking on your trees, and as you do that,

walk on the plantparticularly striking its crown, so that slowsit doesnt kill


This is a biennial plant.

But it does knock it back sufficiently so that anything else youve got planted there,

such as these raspberries, or red currents, black currents and so on, can get away, get

plenty of light, as those cow parsley recover and can come back up again in order to flower.

Because we need them to flower because theyre attracting hover flies as part of our integrated

pest management programme.

So just walking around on top of these very crunchy cow parsleys, without using any tools

at all, its a bit like making a salad on a grand scale.

Its very pleasurable to do and very effective.

Its not annihilation of the plant, its just suppressing its growth for long enough

for everything else to flourish.

In a forest garden like ours, the major player is wildness, is, you know, the natural world

and all of those things that happen in there, and my job is just to kind of mould that to

suit our purposesto a certain extent.

We really enjoying living in a forest garden because you can sit on the veranda in the

morning and you look out and theres no lawns to be mowed and theres no weeding

to be done and all the birds and insects are just having their life in the paradise youve

created for them, so its very peaceful.

Your conventional annual vegetable garden growing in rows needs a huge amount of input

and control from the gardener.

There are not many people who would run a rowed vegetable garden and say, Oh I dont

really do much in there, because you have to.

I havent done anything clever at all; Ive just stopped interfering with my garden basically.

Ive stopped destroying stuff, and Ive allowed it to become wilder and do what it

wants to do, with just a little bit of management from me.

From the early days when we were setting up the forest garden I chose to use native plants.

That was the thing I was interested in most at the time, so I knew how to propagate them.

I had a lot of them alreadyI didnt have to buy them from a nursery.

I had seed resources and I knew how to propagate from cuttings.

So that seemed to me the logical choice.

I felt also that they were long-lasting and somehow more appropriate for the land because

they used to grow here and I kind of had a very strong interest in indigenous everythings.

From that time to now Ive undergone something of a change about whats appropriate and

whats not.

More so that I think everythings appropriate and Im more interested in biological diversity

and multiplicity and complexity.

So what Im doing is bringing in a lot of the exotic plants that produce some product,

such as food or medicine or, or even fuel, and easing them into this native plant area,

which were standing in now surrounding the creek and the spring.

Even though weve set up what were calling a forest garden, its constantly developing,

as we the people who live in it, think about what it really means.

Its so peaceful when you walk about, and its just the, all the different flowers

and the energy and the action and all the insects.

And the birds have their own little life.

And so the birds are doing all their thing up in the trees and coming out and feeding

and the insects are flying around and having babies and flying off on missions.

Its like being in a, in another universe, its just amazing.

And its, to me its how life should be with that livingness and that interconnectedness

of all the plants and the bees and the herbs.

Its nice that the bees and the birds can live here and we can also come and get everything

we need.

Like, weve got herbs for medicine, weve got herbs for food, weve got things that

you can eat.

And so its like living in a, within a greengrocer setting: you just go and pick everything you


Weve got probably 30 different plants in the carrot family and this is my particular


Its called Sweet Sicily.

The leaves are like stevia: theyre a natural sweetener.

So if you boil them like a herb tea and put them in a pot with your rhubarb you dont

need so much sugar.

So its really nice.

It smells like aniseed.

The seeds, at this stage in spring and summer, the seeds are like little aniseed lollies.

When we have school groups visiting the children love eating them and theyre really gorgeous.

And when they get older the seeds go dark and you can use them to polish fine furniture,

theyve got an oil in them.

Its a really useful plant.

Ive got probably about 90 different herbs here, so I dont have to buy herb teas,

I can just go out to the garden all year round and get some lemon balm or lemon verbena or

apple mint of raspberries.

So its really wonderful to have this garden here as your supermarket.

And your chemist.

All the time that Ive spent here, learning about and developing the forest garden, I

like to think has actually had quite a, quite a significant effect outside of the boundaries

of this garden.

Not only because I sneak out at night and plant things along the roadside!

The Environment Centre that Robyn and I conceived of and started many years ago has been a powerful

player in all of these things that Im talking about, because its offsite; its not


Some people might not like the idea of this kind of gardening, but they will go in and

buy a beautiful scented natural organic soap from the Environment Centre.

So that allows a whole new layer of society to be involved at the periphery, at the start,

in some of the ideas that were doing here.

You know we have workshops in there, we have visiting speakers, it attracts a huge number

of volunteers, so theres that whole generosity thing coming from the wider community into

the Environment Centre and then of course it goes out in terms of things we offer people.

So yeah, its a beautiful little focus in a town, which is quite different fromor

a villagedifferent from being in a garden like this.

In terms of making a positive change in the world, creating a forest garden has to be

one of the most effective things a person, a community or a city council can do, especially

if its done in a way that respects the natural rhythms of the world and doesnt

fight natural processes.

Through building a forest garden an incredible amount of life is generated and sustained.

The microorganisms in the soil, the birds, the insects, the fish, the plants, and the

people, who are just as integral to that web of life.

Its really important at this stage in human development and where were at in terms

of what weve done, you know? weve been so powerful, and weve impacted so much

on the wild world around us, that if we dont do something fairly soon the wild world is

going to consume us, and so, lets make a deal with the wild world, or at least get

an understanding of the wild world, and that understanding is around lack of separation.

We are not separate from the wild world.

We are as wild as it is.

Weve worked towards a form that is not fitting in with the wild world at all well,

and its going toits going to realign us, fairly soon, in my view, unless we can

recognise that we need to be fully integrated into, into that world, you know?

Theres lots of things that could depress you out in the world.

But if you take each negative act as an opportunity or a provocation to do your thing, which is

the opposite of that, you know give more life, then its fun, then its a winnable game.

Thats how I see it.

Thanks for watching the third film of the Living the Change series.

This is the first film that weve shot and edited while being on the road.

Were in Christchurch at the moment and weve been experiencing a few earthquakes,

but were heading north now for the last leg of the journey.

If you want to learn more about the Living the Change project you can check out

I wanted to say a special thank you to Pierre Blom, Bronwyn Plarre, Joshua Richmond and

Greg OKeefe for their generous donations to the project.

Thanks again for watching, guys, and Ill see you all in the next film.

The Description of Tour a Thriving 23-Year-Old Permaculture Food Forest - An Invitation for Wildness