Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Growing Locally - Central Otago Hui

I woke rather early on the morning of Tuesday 23rd March. Born from an idea at the Wanaka Enviroschools cluster meeting, the day had finally arrived for the first Central Otago Enviroschools Hui. Everything was looking so good aside from one thing, the weather.

Rippon and Te Kakano are our hosts for the day and most, no lets get that correct, ALL of the activities for the day were outside. Originally we planned to help Rippon and Te Kakano plant some trees, but the dry weather we've had over the last few months stopped that idea. Now on the morning of the hui it looked like all of that missing rain was about to turn up.

Cromwell, Goldfields, Queenstown, Wanaka, Remarkables & Makaroara Enviroschools all came along for the day. Three students and one or two teachers from each school spending  the day together to learn more about how we grow here in Central.

After a quick bite to eat and a well deserved drink after the journey to Rippon, we embarked upon a tour of Rippon Vineyard lead by Nick Mills. I knew that it was going to be a good tour, but I had no idea it was going to be this good.
We walked up the hill, alongside the vines, to a view point where we could see the vines, all across the lake and Wanaka. Nick described how their vineyard worked with the local climate and environment. They follow a bio dynamic growing principal which shares much of it's kaupapa with kaupapa enviroschools. As we were being told about how the weather works in this area we could all see the wall of rain approaching and receeding across the lake. We could see the effects of Ruby Island upon the wind and noticed how the vines were planted in such a way to protect them as much as possible from the stronger climatic effects.

Did you know that vines talk to rocks? They use mircoflora as an interface creating a bond which allows the vine to grow and prosper  in this dry climate, without irrigation, and still produce and amazing grape. There is nothing sysnthetic about how Rippon grow their grapes and the proof of this working so well was right here in front of us. If you look after your soil and land, nourish it with what it needs then your produce will prosper.

A very important part of getting this right is to have a good compost system on your property and what better place to put it than right in the middle. Every day you see it. It is the food for your produce. We heard about how you have to look at the shape of your land and where your wind comes from in order to place the windrows in the correct alignment. Does Me in My Environment spring to mind?

The weather really started to approach fast, moving us along back down towards Te Kakano via the vines. I'm not suite sure why but I was under the impression that grapes for wine were a little sour. Wrong again. I don't think I've ever tasted such and intense and pleasing flavour. Yum! The bunches which were passed around didn't last long at all.

Thank you so much Nick and Rippon for this amazing tour and sharing your knowledge with us.

The second half of the morning was spent at Te Kakano, a native seed nursery set up on the edge of the Rippon property and next to a kanuka reserve. Andrew Penniket described how Te Kakano had been set up and it's mission to regenerate the foreshore of Lake Wanaka with native trees. An an area we were set to explore later on.

 The list of trees growing at Te Kakano is massive and what better way to find out what is growing there then making your way around their place looking for each different tree, writing down their name and then getting a chocolate fish when you've got them all.

I'd decided to run a packaging free lunch competition. I was overjoyed as I looked around to see not one non recyclable packet or glad wrap in sight. I certainly didn't envy Jenny the task of deciding which three students had the the best waste free lunches.

For the afternoon I'd come up with the idea of having an eco / environmental - treasure / scavenger hunt using activities from the kit. I pulled out a few activities from the kit that we could use to investigate the local eco system and climate. Split into two groups and had four places to visit.

Otago Regional Council very kindly leant us one of the SHMAK kits for the day. Kim from Kahu Youth and I hot footed it down to Waterfall Creek whilst the two groups made their way along the foreshore checking out the eco-system. I think I need to work on my timing of activities, we waited, and waited, and waited some more then decided to go on a student hunt. It would seem you need way more than fifteen minutes at each station.

Never mind, we all eventually arrived at the stream at pretty much the same time and managed to spend ten or fifteen minutes investigating the clarity of  the water, hunting down invertebrates and see what is growing around this wetter part of the shore of Lake Wanaka.

With time quickly running out we needed to make our way back to Te Kakano and home. The buzz and excitement from everyone was amazing. contact details were being swapped all day amongst much talk of how students could come back to Rippon and Te Kakano and help with their planting projects when we've had a little more rain.

One of my dreams from this day is that we can forge strong links between local business and community groups with schools and students. Not only for one day but to keep these links active over many years. Teaching young people how to plant can be a time consuming task, imagine how cool it would be if we were taught once and then we taught each other in subsequent years? As you grow up you would be able to keep an eye on the trees you planted many years ago, witness how they grow and develop.....that's one of the many things that happens in the kind of town I want to live in. Will someone else create that for us or shall we make this happen ourselves?

1 comment:

Gill@Tikouka said...

Sounds like an awesome event. Great stuff.

We used a similar format for a Wairarapa regional event - few kids and a teacher from each school and you wonder whether it is enough ... but the result of a few inspired kids ... and teachers ... we are still hearing about a year down the track.