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Atamai Open Day 2014

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Howdy folks, welcome back.
It's hard to believe that another year has passed since the last open day here at Atamail Village.
This blog entry covers the Atamai Open Day 2014. It's our way of celebrating our achievements to date, and reaching to our local community to come and see what we are about. We were once again greeted with a great response, this time we counted 90 car loads of visitors, most of them full - probably doubling the head count from last year. We only experienced the odd drizzle, and it was generally warm and pleasant. Thanks to all our guests who came despite the threat of rain - it was great to see you all. 
We located the central meeting point at the Atamai site office this year, right next to the central pond area. Some of the cherry blossoms were still out in force, making it a beautiful setting. This year, the nice people at the Nelson Building Society lent us their big and bright yellow marquee for our use. This gave us about a 8x5 meter covered space…

Charry Charry Night

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So, you might be curious about the topic of this blog post. Here I will talk about a fascinating topic called Biochar.

Biochar
Bio-what? ... yes, of late I have been fascinated with this whole biochar thing. This is the concept of taking charcoal and putting it in the ground. Very simply, doing this improves the soil's ability to retain moisture and minerals as well as allowing microorganisms to attach to the soil and thrive. You can think of it as turning a desert into an urban megalopolis for microbes, with attached supermarkets! Some tree and vegetation roots have a symbiotic relationship with the microbes, where the roots and microbes mutually benefit from each other. The carbon itself is an inert material (the housing apartment blocks of the microbes), but one that lasts for hundreds or thousands of years.
The natives in the Americas used this very technique many moons ago to great effect, with the added benefit of treating their waste streams to be recycled back into their…

Cooking with wood!

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Howdy folks ... it was the middle of Feb 2014 when I last wrote to you. Times and seasons have changed and many a blogging event has come and gone - but alas absent was any corresponding blog post. Woe abounds ... however, I've decided to break this stretch of silence and hopefully get invigorated back into the swing of blogging our experiences at Atamai Village.
Rayburn Wood Cooker
As with many folks building a new house we ran out of money shortly after we moved in, so a few things are now on slower time scale. We hadn't been too cold this winter as the house is equipped with great thermal insulation, and the sunny Motueka weather gives us excellent solar gain which the house captures well. We have also managed by layering on more clothing when needed and occasionally using the electric heater. However there is no doubt that things are more comfortable with a bit more heat - particularly on those cold cloudy winter days. A strong impetus to complete this project …

We are in!

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Oh gosh, where did 2013 go?

So much has happened this year it is hard to fathom the amount we have managed to achieve, and yet more what we still need to achieve. We broke ground at about April 2013 to build our house. The build progressed for better and for worse with many testing and memorable moments. Just a week before Christmas 2013 we moved in. The house isn't quite finished, but it is liveable, comfortable and a "tad" more spacious than our 25m2 apartment which we have lived in for the past year.


I know what you're thinking, 25m2 sounds like pure torture, especially with two young children. But instead we have come through with a great sense of achievement. The small space taught us a lot about space optimization and efficiency. We used loft beds to increase the space in the room and plywood sheets to partition the room into a kitchen, dining, bedroom and lounge, with the wardrobe under the main queen loft bed. We had a hose coming into the unit a…