Becoming Integrated with Nature
Becoming Integrated with Nature
For the Better Good have set up multiple collection points set up for our better bottles in the Wellington region. In January we decided to build our own composting site to take our bottles, we had everything lined up, with the compost boxes all ready to go, when at the last minute, our site fell through.
It wasn't long after that happened, we crossed paths with WELLfed, a charity who had just taken over the long unoccupied Porirua city bowling club, with one big ol’ vacant lonely bowling green..... Guess what we thought..
On the 15th of February, For the Better Good and NZ Box worked together and set up six compost boxes in the corner of the bowling green in the Well Fed grounds, where we would compost our bottles combined with food that was discarded from supermarkets, rescued from landfill and placed back into natural harmony with the earth in the great big breaking down cycle of nature itself, like our Better Bottles are are designed to do.
WELLfed are an truly incredible charity who teach those who are on extremely difficult budgets and living under some tough living conditions how to prepare and cook meals for their families. They were welcomed warmly into the Porirua community and have been running for just over three years now.
During that time period In that time, Well Fed has now worked with over three hundred families educating them how to prepare and cook meals, which amounts to creating over two thousand meals, feeding and nourishing over twelve thousand mouths with real, nutritious and balanced meals made from the heart.
Let's mention that six tonnes, of this food they have cooked with was rescued from landfill, can you believe that, six thousand kilograms of food that would have been tossed into a landfill that has been utilized and provided to families in real need.
A lot of these vegetables, these families have no knowledge of their names, uses or ways to prepare them, so well fed makes sure to educate on local produce, vegetable awareness and builds confidence in these people to start using them in their meals regularly.
With composting our better bottles, For The Better Good have been able to rescue upwards of 10 tonnes and counting of food from landfill alongside WELLfed combined using any of their leftover organic waste they have and adding it to our ever improving biodiverse recipe of compost.
This compost had been tended to with massive amounts of time, care and energy. Once this compost built in size, condition, microbes and earth nutrition, the sound of another little alarm went off for us, the question was raised “well what’s the plan with all this incredible compost now?”
It was more of a rhetorical question really, how about joining all these pieces of the puzzle together and turn this old bowling green into a fully fledged regenerative agriculture teaching hub, an organic community garden and a thriving space for local family connection and service.
So... on Thursday morning, after extended days of heavy wet weather, the sky opened in total blueness and gave way to a fresh crisp winters sunrise, we pulled back the tops of the ready compost boxes, steam caught the rays of sunshine blaring through and rose into the air, deep scents of the earth filled the open spaces around us and we were beyond excited to start building this epic garden.
Taking a soil profile we found there was only around twenty centimeters of decent top soil to work with, then one giant sandpit below us that would have been used to level out the bowling green in the past.
After discussion it was decided to build this garden, we were going to have to create and amend our own soil, fill it with nutrients and microbes, build density and structure inside the sand for plant roots to take hold of and make it rich. Locally sourcing all the perfect ingredients for this mixture ourselves, and where better to get them from nature itself.
We had three of our six boxes full of super charged organic compost steaming away in the corner ready to be placed back into the earth to begin and guide the process of soil amendment.
We harvested some incredible fresh seaweed washed up on the local beach. The thing about seaweed is it breaks down into the soil, it encourages microorganisms whose activities help convert unavailable nutrients into forms that plants can use. It increases chlorophyll production and contains many micronutrients important for soil and plant health, as well as acting as a growth stimulant: it is rich in cytokinins, plant growth hormones that work above and below ground, improving root growth.
As we dug out our first garden bed and began the process of building our soil, the distinctive pitch of children's voices came up the street, looking over the fence we saw a whole classroom of kids happily walking into the WELLfed grounds, with the looks of curiosity upon their faces and a keen desire to get their hands on the ground.
We began by giving them some education on compost, we let them see and feel the compost themselves, they absolutely loved it. Moving back to our garden beds, they helped us put clay into the soil, collect water and carry buckets.
The teachers asked us to kindly take a step back behind the garden bed, the children gathered on the step above the bowling green and together sung the most beautiful waiata, thanking us for our work in the local community. They all left with a huge desire to come back and help in the near future.
It just so happened that a friendly group of contractors on the street right outside the bowling club were digging up clay below the road, bingo, and guess what, after a conversation with the forman, they were completely on side with us and not long after the digger bucket reached over the fence, and dropped a big pile of clay for us to use.
Adding clay and water together to form a “clay slurry” was important to make its way deep into the sand below and begin to form a solid soil structure that would retain moisture and nutrients much better than sand, as one of the characteristics of sand is that it drains very easily.
Lime was added to the garden beds to help stabilize and balance the ph levels of the soil, provide a source of calcium and magnesium for plants and assisting in improving the uptake of major plant nutrients.
Locally sourced pony manure, horse manure, hay and pea straw were added to the garden beds to work alongside and combine with the compost, creating a deep rich layer of nutrients and microbes to maximise plant growth. This is exceptionally good for seeds and starter plants to thrive.
Starter plants thrive in the warm, moist and nutritious cover and soil provided by the hay, somewhat like a nice warm blanket of earth, tucking them into bed.
On Friday evening the cool evening and new moon rose while we raced against the daylight to finish our fifth garden bed, using up and utilizing all of the ingredients that we had remaining. Richard stated “while there is light, there is hope”, our work pace stepped up in competition to battle the cool weather, the night finally settled in and we were DONE!
Five beautiful, nutritious organic garden beds filled with composted Better Bottles, food rescued from landfill, seaweed from the foreshores, hay, pea straw, lime, pony poo, horse poo and a whole lot of LOVE were made in two massive days on the old bowling green in Porirua. What an incredible accomplishment, and this is only the beginning.
“Waste” is something that is viewed upon in modern day society as unfavourable and careless but the thing is we all have some degree of knowledge of the impact this is having on our planet, it's whether we are willing to make the changes or not.
If there is one single-handed piece that made this trip so special, like modern day alchemy, we took “waste”, something that is an expanding problem in society and often it is turned a blind eye to. So we flipped a coin on it. We connected with each other, in community and service we came together, got in direct collaboration, regeneration and natural harmony with the planet. Our Better Bottles and organic matter were mixed together and recomposed into their original source, the earth, which will continue feeding more plants, educating, feeding, healing and empowering the local community and completing the regenerative cycle the way nature intended it on being right from the get go.