I was challenged by one of the tutors for our October Permaculture Design Certificate course – Guenther Andraschko – to write a piece about why River Valley Lodge is an excellent venue for such a course. This challenge followed Guenther visiting us in late autumn.

First some background

River Valley Lodge is situated in the small community of Pukeokahu, 32kms east of Taihape. Sitting at over 400m above sea level, we get four distinct seasons—beautiful springs and autumns, hot and often dry summers, and cold winters.

River Valley Lodge has traditionally been more associated with adventure tourism than permaculture. However, looks can be deceiving. There is a historical thread running through the business and our lives that has a care and relationship ethos with the natural environment and our local community.

We presently have four generations on-site, two of whom are co-owners and are involved in day-to-day operations. The youngest children are the fifth generation of the family on this land.

The Lodge

River Valley Lodge is positioned in a beautiful setting right beside the Rangitikei River. It has a range of facilities and accommodation options. The facilities include social areas, kitchens, conference rooms and a sauna spa area. Accommodation options range from bunkrooms to ensuited double rooms. There is also a camping area.

Bunkroom accommodation is included in the course fee, though participants may prefer to camp or upgrade to private ensuited rooms.

You will visit many of the facets of our operation, as detailed below, during the course.

Lodge vegetable gardens

Like many others, we have become concerned about the pesticides and herbicides, in other words, poisons, sprayed on our food. We decided to do something about this. Over the last few years, we have developed a large vegetable garden that supplies most of the Lodge kitchen’s vegetable needs, other than staples such as grains, potatoes, and kumara.

Food served at the Lodge is fresh, tasty, often grown on-site, and, where possible, organic. All meals are included in the course fee, catering to vegetarian and omnivore.

Organic Vegetable Garden at River Valley Lodge

Tree Planting

The property has many plantings of trees, both native and exotic. The latter include both fruit trees and amenity trees. Many of these will be in bloom at the time of the course.

Silvopasture

Brian has always been interested in trees, and on the home block, 3km up the road from the Lodge, he has planted experimental blocks of widely spaced trees over pasture. The trees being grown are anticipated to have multiple uses, including food for domestic animals, food for humans, plus the benefits of shade, and in the case of some, their ability to fix nitrogen. Trees planted at wide spacings include Chestnuts, Honey Locust, White Mulberry, Pecan, Walnuts and Oaks.

Hazels, Black Mulberries and various other fruit trees interspersed with Tagasaste have been planted alongside tracks.

Compost and BioChar

To feed the extensive gardens and fruiting trees takes compost and lots of it. We make our own compost on-site using pine peelings, garden waste, animal manure and pretty much anything else we can get our hands on! This compost is augmented with biochar, which we also make on-site in our kiln. The base material for this biochar is branches that drop off any of the large trees on the property.

Hazels, Black Mulberries and various other fruit trees interspersed with Tagasaste have been planted alongside tracks.

Horse Care

Horse trekking stables are a part of our operations at River Valley. While we started off offering the standard horse trek, nose to tail dulled down horses, we have since radically transitioned away from this.

Nicola, who runs the Stables, is passionate about horse wellbeing and early on adopted a practice known as “Natural Horsemanship”.

Natural Horsemanship involves the fostering of a relationship between horse and rider that makes sense to them both. We take it a step further and ride with no steel bits in the horse’s mouths and no steel shoes on their feet.

The horses in work have all-day access to a tracking system that encourages movement – vital for horse well being – and a break of fresh grass every 24 hours. This grazing system is based around holistic planned grazing principles.

holistic grazing at river valley stables

Trapping Program

Part of our environmental commitment is operating a trapping program. This trapping program targets stoats and rats to not only protect but also encourage birdlife to flourish. Presently our program overs 20 kms of river plus several hundred acres of surrounding farmland.

stoat trap on the rangitikei river

A Warm Welcome

Last but not least is the warmth that many people who visit River Valley feel and often comment on. We hope you can attend the course and feel it yourself.

See you in October.

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