Like many people in New Zealand, I have a “gorse problem”. Gorse grows on my property because the land is bare and the soil contains little mycorrhizal fungi. Gorse, like other weeds, is quite happy taking it’s nitrogen from Nitrates in the soil. The plants that I would prefer require their nitrogen in the form of ammonia. The mycorrhizal fungi transforms Nitrates into ammonia.

Since I can’t fix my soil over night I have decided to try and control the gorse manually until I can get my soil biology to the desired state.

Over the winter I have been using a mattock to grub out the rootball and the larger roots of gorse bushes. It is important to remove the rootball as the plant will regrow otherwise.

It is now spring and all of the remaining bushes are in bloom. Although I have well over half of my 9 Ha cleared I am unlikely to be able to get to the rest before they go to seed.

Since a plant expends a great deal of energy producing flowers, the plant is weaker at this stage. My strategy for the remaining plants is to mow them down and hope that in their weekend state they will die.

After mowing, the spreader is coming in to add 500Kg per hectare of lime to help breakdown the clay soil. I am also adding 20Kg per hectare of zeolite to help with moisture and nutrient retention. The goal of this is to encourage Soil biology activity by improving the moisture and nutrient quality of the soil. Further down the track I will be taking steps to increase the levels of mycorrhizal fungi which will make conditions less conducive to the growth of gorse.


Swales are on contour ditches. The are meant to stop the water and give it time to sink into the ground. When it rains we want the water, instead of running off onto the neighbours place, to stick around and sink deep into our soil to encourage our tree’s roots to grow deeper.

We are got a fair amount of our swales dug over the winter. Following is how we did it.

First I rented a laser level and marked our the contour lines by hammering eucalyptus 1x1 stakes into the ground. It took me most of the weekend to mark out 2km.

A few weeks later I borrowed the neighbours tractor with a tractor blade on the back. After a day I had around 300m or very rough swales. The berms were not almost non-existant and the swale was pretty much flat so would not hold much water.

Around this time we bought a broad fork so we gave that a go. It was great for deepening the tractor blade dug swales. It was also surprisingly quick to hand dig a swale with a broadfork too. We shaped and dug around 250m of swales before we realized that we had more trees to plant than we had time to dig the swales.

We made the decision to get the neighbour over with his 2.5 ton digger. He really did a great job. The berms looked pretty good and the swales could hold a reasonable amount of water. If you have time or not many swales to dig you can do it with a broadfork. The broadfork is much kinder on your soil. Given that we wanted to make the most of the winter and spring for planting trees it was well work getting the digger in. The track marks across the property are a down side that we can live with.

The next step is to seed the swales with some ground cover. I am testing a clover/rye mix on most of the swales. I’m also trying a mix of Timothy grass with plantain and chicory. I have also ordered a pea/oat mix, and italian mulching mix and a bushburn mix which is a cheaper substitute to a rye clover mix.

After spreading our seeds by just throwing them at the swales it is time to mulch them. To do this I am just mowing the grass and raking the hay onto the berms. I am not mulching the swales hoping that the seed will take well enough to provide ground cover there.

Final Advice to Make the Switch

  1. Setup your Stackoverflow Careers profile and start looking there for remote jobs.
  2. Watch We Work Remotely for new jobs.


Permaculture is an agricultural design system that fulfils the needs of humans whilst increasing ecological health.

I am a computer programmer and my partner is a graphic designer. We have decided that we would like to develop a small permaculture homestead and grow our own food.

A number of factors have lead to our interest in permaculture.

  • An interested in animals and gardening.
  • We are both interested in eating great food, and we’re keen to know where our food comes from and how it is produced.
  • In the process of learning about how food is made we had discovered that it is very easy to make food items that are far superior to what we are offered in the supermarket. Anyone who has baked their own bread, brewed beer or made their own jam will know exactly what I am talking about.
  • We were shocked to learn of unexpected ingredients contained within some industrial food items as simple as bread and wine.
  • Being ecologically minded, we are keen to reduce our impact on the environment and perhaps encourage others to do the same.
  • As professionals working in the digital world, we are keen to offset this time by learning skills that directly benefit ourselves and others. For example, growing food, building a house, maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The key concept that we like about permaculture is that instead of subtracting, as modern agriculture does, it continually adds and increases diversity. An example is that instead of poisoning pests, the idea is to add habitats that support species that prey on these pests. Instead of covering an orchard in plastic to keep the birds out, the birds are offered something they would rather eat. For example, birds prefer to eat rowan berries to cherries. If we grow enough rowan berries, the birds will leave the cherries for us. The birds also keep certain insect populations under control.

Another huge benefit to permaculture is that it can provide a tangible improvement to the environment. By improving the quality of top soil carbon is taken out of the air and stored in the earth. Basically, plants use nitrogen (from the air or urine) to produce chlorophyll, a compound that plants use to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar. This sugar is what fuels plant growth. When an animal eats the plant and turns it into manure, it soon becomes soil. It gets much more complex than this but basically this is how carbon dioxide can be stored back into the earth.

We are both very conscious of what it happening to our environment but we are not really the activist types. Having felt somewhat powerless, we appreciate being able to play our part in improving our environment by improving our own little piece of the earth. As people come to visit us, we can showcase the benefits of this respect for nature. Instead of just preaching what others should be doing, we can set an example and share the tangible benefits of what we are doing with our friends. Since food is such an essential part of our lives, it is a great means by which to communicate the advantages of animal welfare, environmental protection and even positive race relations.

By using permaculture principles in the stewardship of our land, we hope to eventually produce superior food, living in a beautiful location, learning practical skills and sharing it all with the people around us.

How to Find a Remote Programming Job

Want to work where you can surf? Want to live where the climate is great or living costs are low? Want to define your own work environment or schedule? Read on!

Recently some changes occurred at a client who provided me with work for most of my working week. I had been working for them more or less remotely for two and half years. It became apparent that the future of the company was not certain and I decided to look for a new job.

I wanted to find an employer that didn’t just tolerated remote work but embraced as part of its culture. I found two sites particularly useful for searching for remote jobs.

  1. Stackoverflow Careers which is also great for maintaining an online career profile. You can specify an “allows remote” filter through the location search field.
  2. We Work Remotely As the name suggest, they display only remote job offerings.

Initially, after sending out a few applications, I was a bit demoralised as I was used to companies contacting me as soon as I sent them a CV. This is because, until now, I had always contacted companies in the areas I could travel to within a few hours. These companies all required some face to face contact and so the talent pool they could consider was small. Now I was competing against every remote programmer in the whole world. In retrospect my response rate of around 25% was still pretty good. About half were negative responses from companies that were, at least initially, looking for US based people. Some companies did not respond, even when I though I was a particularly good fit for the advertised position.

When I was in the midst of interviews, an interesting company responded by apologising for the delay in getting back and that they would be in touch again soon. I informed them that I was likely to start receiving offers soon. Unfortunately they were unable to schedule an interview until a month later, since they were interviewing candidates in the order in which their applications came in. For the position I soon accepted the whole process was over in a week. This could also account for some companies that did not respond, perhaps having already filled the position. These examples show a very different process but both go to show that it pays to be fast with your application.

Every couple of days new remote jobs would be posted on Stackoverflow Careers or We Work Remotely. I would spend around two hours researching a company, writing a cover letter and applying for each job that sounded interesting. Not every posted job will be both interesting and aligned with you skill set, so for a full time job seeker this would leave a lot of time left in the day.

There are quite a few companies at which remote working is part of the culture.

Most firms have a list of positions they are trying to fill now. If not or you are not in a hurry, you could start working your way into a company by gaining experience with their products. Automattic, for example, hires mostly Bloggers so if you are keen on them you should consider starting up a Wordpress blog. You could also start help out with a companies open source development.

There are some interesting books you can read to inform yourself about remote working from the employee side.

A number of companies are starting to realise that they are restricting themselves by hiring solely from the local talent pool. A company I spoke to in a city of 1.4 million people said they actually know the developers that they want to hire: they haven’t been able to though, since these people are happy where they are.

There are challenges to working with remote teams, but if overcome, the team can access talent from all over the world, which provides at least equal rewards. For some tips on persuading companies to make the change to remote teams you can read the excellent book by the creators of Basecamp, Remote: Office Not Required.

Final Advice to Make the Switch

  1. Setup your Stackoverflow Careers profile and start looking there for remote jobs.
  2. Watch We Work Remotely for new jobs.
  3. If you don’t have design skills, get help from someone who does. Your website and you CV provide your first impressions. Make sure they are good ones.
  4. If you see an interesting job post, apply quickly.
  5. Decide which companies you would like to work for, research them and consider getting on their good side by helping out first.