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Growing Organically in the Waiare

This article is from Northern Farming Lifestyles.

Trish and Gijs Veling moved to Northland in 2007 after discovering their two-hectare block in the Waiare, south west of Kaeo, while on holiday

The sheltered, north facing block was originally part of a large farm. It is backed by never milled bush and a stream flows around it.

The Velings established their block in keeping with the site's particular situation while continuing with outside work commitments and gained organic certification in 2010.

An early priority was a workshop. The new shed also houses a tool shed and a shade house full of last year's stored seeds and garlic.

Trish and Gijs lived in the cottages on the land during a year's build before moving into their new house in 2009.

Designed by eco-architect Graeme North, the weathered Lawson Cypress house has verandahs on most sides, six big solar panels, double glazing, wool insulation, and a cooker fire with wetback. The effluent disposal works efficiently with an auto flow vermicomposting system.

Gijs and Trish produce most of their food from their large organic vegetable garden.

It was started by digging over, forking, piling on newspaper and cardboard and then adding compost on top. Fertility is maintained by mulching using compost, lupin and grass clippings and the worms working in it undisturbed.

The land is dark river valley soil and clay hillside and the Velings use Rok Solid, a ground-up volcanic rock, as a soil conditioner, and lime, green crops such as cut lupin and worm liquid and castings to keep up the high productivity.

Paper, cardboard and vegetable scraps are recycled through two worm farms with the liquid diluted into a nutritive spray. Green waste goes through the shredder to be recycled into compost. Comfrey liquid plant tonic is used also.

Gijs has an interest in growing the more unusual food plants. He points out the Zucchini Rampicante, the climbing Italian 'trombone' squash, the clumpy Galangal (blue ginger) that puts Thai flavours into Asian cooking, as well as the vine of the delicious summer spinach, which can be eaten raw.

Bees flock to the blue flowering Chia originally from Aztec Central America, which produces super food seeds.

The orchard and nut trees are on the sunny east west slope. Trish has added apple, pear, persimmon, fig, cherimoya and citrus varieties. Nearby are 24 olive trees which were already planted before the Velings came and are now producing. "Next season we'll experiment with some pickling," says Gijs.

The importance of pollination is recognised and there are two hives. Gijs always leaves enough honey for the bees. He has also built a Top Bar hive from untreated timber and is looking forward to spring and starting off the hive.

He and Trish make up pest and disease sprays while ducks and hens dispatch the slugs and snails. Along with organic pellets, the lucky poultry is given wheatgrass, sprouted organic maize and wheat. Cider vinegar and molasses keep diseases at bay.

Timms traps, and a DOC 200 trap are used against possums and pests. Trish has planted additional natives along their bush walkway. "We have abundant bird life. At night we can hear kiwi and at the bottom of the property the glow worms light up the stream," she says.

The couple gains much from sharing ideas with other members of the Far North Organic Growers and they have also attended Seed Savers Club meetings and Transition Town field days.

The Velings' inspiring property reflects their commitment over the time they have been in the Waiare. "Everything here we chose with a purpose in mind," says Gijs.

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