Are you EMF aware?

Wifi is 900MHz to 2.5GHz (10^9), bluetooth is 2.4 – 2.5GHz

What is it? Electromagnetic field or frequency (EMF) refers to the non-ionising fields from electricity and electronic devices (also called ElectroSmog). Examples are power lines, household wiring, cordless phones, radio, tv, mobile phones (3G, 4G, 5G, 6G), wifi, bluetooth, satellite, and any electrical appliance (esp those with a motor, transformer, or heating element).

Is a ‘smart’ world actually smart?

Limiting exposure. Our complex bodies are being exposed to EMF at varying degrees, almost constantly, unless one actively avoids it. Distance from source is key. The closer you are to the source the higher the intensity of the exposure. Fortunately, as distance away increases, intensity drops exponentially. It is key to know that EMFs pass through walls, so be aware of what is next to where you sleep or sit most often. The best way to tell is to borrow or buy an EMF meter and test these places thoroughly. You will probably find that appliances on standby can emit high levels of EMF, so turn them off at the wall when not in use. Here is one example of exposure limits, but it’d pay to compare to some others.

Protect yourself and family members:
1. Turn Off your WiFi Router at Night
2. Use LAN network cables instead of wifi (easy for laptop, computers, tvs, etc)
3. Don’t carry your phone in your pocket without a shield device
4. Use WiFi calling instead of cell network
5. Don’t buy ‘smart’ products you don’t need
6. Delay getting your child a phone
7. Switch off all mobiles at night OR put on aeroplane mode
8. Move your wifi router away from furniture
9. Use speaker phone or cable handsfree (not bluetooth)
10. Don’t use laptop on your lap – put it on the table
11. Turn off ALL appliances at plug when not in use
12. Remove smart meter – if you really cannot, then shield it so it’s not coming into the house
13. Turn off your bedside lamps at the plug
14. Move your alarm as far away from your head as possible
15. Think about your exposure while in the kitchen – a lot of high energy appliances there
16. Think about your exposure at work – minimise it!
17. Turn off bluetooth on your phone unless you are actually using it
18. Avoid using your phone in low reception areas – put on aeroplane mode
19. Maximise the distance between emission points and your body – every cm helps!
20. Spread this info to all your neighbours so they also turn off their gear (esp at night). If they do not care about themselves and others, then shield against their signals.

WHY WHY WHY? Sadly, the more one delves into this topic, the more crazy it is. The limited academic papers keep saying the same thing – more research is needed. Nothing has been proven to be safe before its implementation. It may be safe, but there isn’t actually evidence yet, and so best to be cautious and aware.

European Commission‘s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks 2015 report conclusions contain these phrases:

“difficult to derive firm conclusions”
“studies on cognitive functions in humans lack consistency”
“mechanistic explanation is still lacking”
“additional observational studies are required to assess whether longer-term exposure”
“but the evidence is limited”
“This part [IF fields] of the frequency spectrum remains poorly investigated with respect to potential health effects resulting from exposure to EMF to draw any sound conclusion”
“no support from experimental studies”
“technical limitations in the sensitivity of existing technologies”
“not possible to draw definitive conclusions”
“but no conclusive experimental support is available” Pages 225-227

The report above is after the 2011 announcement by The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) who

“radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.”

This is still current! One would have thought more research would have proven this false OR more awareness/education necessitated. The Precautionary Principle needs to be used.

Of course, there are also people who are very sensitive to EMF and they are extremely worried about the rollout of 5G and the wifi in the sky project where multinational companies want to launch 100,000 satellites and provide internet everywhere on the planet:

Other unanswered questions: What is the affect of all this man-made EMF on all biology? – not been researched much at all…
What is the effect of EMF on human and other animal gut biomes? – again, not much, if any, research on this at all…

Permaculture Design implications: Firstly, EMF generated in/by the home/shed falls into Zone 0 and probably into zone 1 as well as it emanates outwards. EMF can also be added as another energy coming into all sites to be used in the sector analysis. To do this may require a measuring device, although a phone or laptop will indicate nearby wifi activity. Be aware that this may well change over time as more towers, devices, etc are added or their settings modified. Mitigations against EMF are the 20 strategies above as well as the various methods of shielding. Wiring design in a house could be done in such a way to create EMF reduced/free zones such as in bedrooms and places of high activity. Wifi could be eliminated with the use of LAN points and cables to plug into laptops. Otherwise, having it on a timer or controlled by an app to turn off when not in use is an option or just making the point to switch it off at night.

Further reading:


Securing ethical dairy is always a challenge. Even organic may not mean calves removed from cows at a very early age (it’s 12-24 hours for conventional!? How horrific.). While at Ribbon Woods we were fortunate enough to meet Heather at Revival Clothing at a local church (donated clothing is sold by volunteers to finance a food bank for locals in need) who has milking goats. We were able to get milk and cheese from her and meet her lovely Toggenburg goats (highly productive Swiss breed). On the third visit to pick up milk Heather invited us to come and stay and do a combo work exchange and house sit while they were away for a week. We arranged for a two week total time at Heather and Paul’s place named Gilgal.

Dylan had one morning to see Heather milk two of the girls and feed the others before they were off with the caravan to do some coastal exploring down south.

hi goats!

Evita and I started on the garden, weeding, repairing some parts of the wood structure of the raised beds, planting, tying up tomatoes, and so on to help Heather get back on top of her food production systems (she usually has international helpers coming regularly, but has had almost none for 1.5 years). We cut down another area of tall weeds, used them to thickly mulch under some carpet which we cut holes into to plant watermelons and pumpkins. The weedy biomass will breakdown quickly, feeding the soil biology and the hungry cucurbits. The carpet will prevent weeds returning in force. (We are not a fan of using carpet because of the embedded plastic that will need to be removed as the wool breaks down, but it is what our host had on hand and wanted to use to reduce future workload.) It will need replacing with newspaper/cardboard and thick sawdust at some point soonish.

Three rainy days allowed us a break from the gardening and time to address Evita’s residency visa application requests for more information to prove our relationship is real and ongoing. This rain (75mm+) was a bit unusual at this time of the year and will be a definite boost to the fruit trees and vegetables.

More garden work included building a strong trellis for beans to grow up, weeding around some natives and then mulching, pruning fruit trees, and creating a keyhole garden for 4 sisters (pumpkin, beans, corn, sunflowers) planting as soon as the temperature decreases a bit.

pathway and gardens each side weeded and mulched
area next to the driveway weeded and mulched

Thank you Paul and Heather for trusting us to look after your goats, cat, and house while you were away as well as all the great work you do in the local community. It is refreshing to know there are generous souls like you to help others. We enjoyed our chats and hanging out with the animals.

33 days at Ribbon Woods

Our work exchange completed today as we move to another property to do a combo work exchange and house sit.

Looking back, we appreciate the opportunities to learn new skills, such as Evita learning to weave, and to more of the tasks assigned by Luke: Dismantling an old set of kennels and charring the wood so that biochar could be made later and used for tree planting and in the compost, renovation of the front of the accommodation (old milking shed) which had not been painted and was warped and leaking, replacement of two louvre windows, reassembly of a chicken house, help with the market garden, feeding of poultry occasionally, fixing and cleaning of various things.

We enjoyed seeing more of the local area on days off. Visiting Akaroa to see a few films in the little cinema, visiting Hinewai Reserve twice, and exploring some of the charming peninsular bays.

Thank you to Luke for sharing his knowledge about native trees and plants, conservation, and poultry. Also, for opening his house, life, and property for this work exchange opportunity. Thank you also to Jamie for making us feel so welcome with his generosity and for his infectious laugh and good humour.

a lovely thank you letter from Luke and a useful gift from Jamie – THANK YOU!

Māori flax weaving (Harakeke)

Jamie at Ribbon Woods used a beautiful mat for his stretching routine each day. It turns out to be woven by his ex-girlfriend and his sister is also a passionate weaver.

Jamie’s mat which is the same size as a typical yoga mat

Evita was lent a flax basket by Jamie’s sister and loved the naturalness and strength of it. Her enthusiasm led to an invitation to learn how to make her own. Samara leant from Jamie’s ex and she learnt from Māori weavers. Samara has permission to harvest flax leaves from a local lady’s paddock. There is plenty of info about flax online so I am not going to write about it here. The key attributes are that the leaves are extremely strong and durable (they don’t rot for so long) – it was used for rope in the past. After harvesting, the leaves need some preparation which involves stripping off the weaker edges and cutting off the hard end. Here is Evita’s first basket after about an hour:

After this point, another hour and a half was needed to finished it off by plaiting around the top and then plaiting some rope for the handles that go around and underneath the basket to give it strength for carrying loads. Here is the process in more photos, with her second basket for laundry at the end! This one uses a different pattern for the weave and will need to be picked up with two hands when loaded.

  • Harakeke: flax on the Royal Society of New Zealand website, a booklet by Judith Jones describes the many uses of flax, and the development of the New Zealand flax fibre industry.
  • The New Zealand flaxmilling industry on the Techhistory website, an article by Ian Matheson on the history of flax milling.

Hinewai Reserve

We saw a Happen Films documentary called Fools and Dreamers soon after it came out in 2017 and knew we wanted to visit.

29 min inspiring, beautifully crafted video

This impulse was one of the reasons we decided to start our new journey from Christchurch. So far, we have visited twice. The first time we ended up walking for 6 hours in a large loop – this gave us an appreciation of the largeness of the Reserve and the variety of niches it nourishes.

we misjudged the map and 6 hours was more than we expected or wanted

The second visit was a shorter one, discovering the jewels right near the visitor’s centre and the informative resources therein. The jewels included Fuchsia waterfall, the Big Tōtara, the Big Beech, the Big Kānuka, and Fern Gully.

felt very cool and smelled so fresh
we enjoyed the quirkiness of the signs
respect of the plants encouraged by another sign

Hinewai Reserve is one of the best examples of how nature can regenerate when given the chance. In this case, the removal of livestock (and feral goats) and cessation of gorse removal, allowed the gorse to act as a nurse plant for native seedlings to grow through. The gorse is exotic to New Zealand, but is a nitrogen fixing leguminous prickly plant that deters any remaining pests such as possums and adds fertility to the soil for the emergent seedlings. Once the natives grow large enough to start to shade the gorse, it dies out.

a valley view down to the ocean, gorse on the right

Wildlife and plant diversity is quite incredible – this is summarised on the information pamphlet available at the INFO points and also on the Reserve’s website. It is encouraging to hear that there is a Pest Free Banks Peninsular movement that aims to encourage all stakeholders to work together to eradicate pests in order to allow all natives to recover, thrive, and re-supply surrounding areas. Furthermore, it is heartening to read that Predator Free NZ are leading the movement at the national level. See their website:

Snippets of learning at Ribbon Woods

We have been at Ribbon Woods, a small lifestyle farm in Little River (on the Banks Peninsular) for just over two weeks. Our main project here is to help improve and renovate an accommodation space.

In between however, we learn from the multitude of community associated with this place. Housemates, partners, and friends. Here are some snippets of learning…

Eels (tuna in Maori) are friendly and have an incredible sense of smell. Bertha hangs out in the stream just down from the house and is able to remain stationary in the fast flow by positioning her body in a certain manner amongst the rocks. When there is a dead baby bird or broken egg, placing this in the stream attracts many more eels who quickly appear from downstream or upstream.

Eels are native in NZ and can live for as long as humans

Speed flying an extreme form of paragliding – one housemate, Jamie’s passion… hiking up to a high point and winging down as fast as possible.

Checking germination rate of old seeds – the owner, Luke, has a passion for seed saving and is involved with the Southern Seed Exchange New Zealand based in Christchurch. He has taken responsibility for growing out some of the older seeds in order to keep their preservation on track. The older some seeds get, the less viable they are, up to a point when none will grow. His method is to place the seeds between some kitchen towel paper, place inside a sealable plastic bag, and then add a little water with the goal of just wetting the paper. Excess water must be tipped out. Label the seeds straight away and leave in a well lit, but not sunny area. It’s easy to check for germination by looking carefully through the clear plastic. This method can be used to calculate the germination rate by counting how many total germinations there are and/or to plant out the sprouts by using tweezers and putting into soil. This method is also a good guide as to how dense to direct sow remaining seeds.

multiple seeds can be put into each plastic bag
we helped prepare the beds for planting out the precious seeds

Luke is also somewhat fanatical about breeding poultry. He has been keeping and breeding pigeons since the age of 8. He now breeds ducks and chickens too. We have seen how many different traits can be bred for in pigeons and and the process of how chickens and ducks are selected according to traits that are desirable towards an end goal of a rare breed standard.

Native medicinal tree – Kawakawa also known as a Pepper Tree (Macropiper excelsum) – Evita had a swollen gum/sore tooth and Luke went into the forest and came back with some leaves. “Chew on these and keep them on the sore area. They’ll make your gum go numb.” This they did and after 3 or 4 separate applications like this, the gum and tooth were back to normal. Kawakawa has many healing functions and features many times in the Maori Healing Remedies book by Murdoch Riley.

chewing one or two leaves at a time works!

Whitebait fritters – Jamie demonstrated how to cook whitebait and fed us an incredible meal. Add whitebait and several eggs to a bowl, whisk together and fry in butter until golden – oh wow! Delicious and a generous treat.

slightly fishy in taste, but certainly a unique flavour

Little farm by the sea

Our generous first host Carrie-Jo has always dreamed of having a farm by the sea! And we were fortunate to accept her invitation to come and do a work exchange for her. We stayed for 9 days and with bursts of hard work made an impact that will allow Carrie to have an abundant food garden!

Our first small garden was against a shed ideal for vine plants. The hops was thinned, creating rooted propagates for sharing, and giving the remaining sprouts more vigour to ascend with. Then we sieved compost and forked this in while watering. The bed was covered with pea straw mulch to protect from the sun, hold moisture, and protect from rain erosion.

planting tomatoes to the right of the hops

Our second task was to give the orchard trees some tlc with staking and alignment, mulch donuts, and a little pruning. A mulch donut is done by pulling out all grass and weeds around the base, lying these back down, adding compost, covering with cardboard or newspaper (at least 5 layers), and covering with a thick layer of wood chips. Ensure that the mulch is not touching the trunk so as to prevent collar rot. This mulch donut rids the tree of grass competition, gives it a feed as the green matter breaks down (aided by the biology in the compost) as does the paper and mulch which favour fungi. Trees prefer a fungal dominated soil rather than bacteria dominated, so if possible add fungal compost (compost that has higher carbon content with sawdust or wood chips used in it). Minerals could also be added under the paper if needed. These could be soluble form in something like seaweed tea or as a powder like rockdust. We tied the stakes to the tree with natural string and some rubber from an old bicycle tube to protect the tree trunk and pulled them straighter. The pruning was to remove dead branches, ones pointing downwards and shortening some that were too long and would likely break with fruit weight soon.

a straighter, more balanced tree after some tlc

A third project to get us firmly back into working the soil was getting the major plot going and ready for planting. This involved piling up old weeds for composting, rotovating the area, sieving many more wheelbarrows of compost (and tidying up the compost area as we went), digging out pathways, and mulching. The pathways were lined with newspaper and backfilled about 50% with wood chips and then with sawdust on top. This will be a sponge for water, gives more topsoil for the beds, and makes a nice path to walk on barefoot. Hopefully weeds will not return for many years and any on the sides will be easy to pull out and over time the wood chips and sawdust will become beautiful soil that can be dug back on to the beds – so a system of reserving water and building soil. Some areas were not made into beds so they could be rotationally used for corn, squash, potatoes, and cover crops.

on its way to grow plenty of food

Carrie was very keen when we suggested holding a biochar workshop and she was able in a short time to get 11 people to come along for Dylan’s first ever workshop on making char! We went through how to make biochar on a small scale at home and what the benefits of it are for the soil.

we lit the barrel preloaded with waste wood as soon as we began to demo the whole process

Gallery of more photos from our time at Carrie’s:

We very much enjoyed the farm and surrounding area and are thankful for meeting some of Carrie’s friends. We look forward to spending more time soon in the area.

Ethical procurement

Where to buy our food and clothing? How fortunate are we to be passed this amazing list from Antoinette (of Happen films) who lies in Christchurch:

The organic/bulk grocery options we use (nothing really low cost in ChCh really, sadly):
Liberty Market (CBD)
Piko Wholefoods (CBD)
Good For (organic bulk bins, CBD)
Organic Market and Wholefoods (Riccarton)
Bin Inn (some organic options, can be less expensive, try Lincoln Rd or Stanmore Rd)
New World supermarkets tend to have the best range of organic, bulk and refilling options – particularly St Martins and Moorhouse Ave.

eating fresh organic food is important

A few good cafe options
Bohemian Bakery (organic – three locations, CBD is largest) 
The Birdwood Cafe
The Lotus-Heart (vegetarian)
Portershed (vegan)
Addington Co-op
Barefoot (vegan)
Under the Red Verandah

Some spots to visit that might be of interest:
Roimata Food Commons (one of our next film subjects 🙂 )
Richmond Community Garden (this link is to a page listing all the local community gardens)
New Brighton Community Garden (think it’s the largest and oldest)
Biological Husbandry Unit (en route to Little River – you can do a self guided tour)

We have discovered these for ourselves for clothing and other second hand goods:
Toffs/Recycled Clothing Warehouse – $2 for most clothing! Some bedding and curtains, located in Ferrymead
EcoShop – clothing and all other goods, located in Middleton
SaveMart – clothing, locations in Papanui, Sydenham, and Hornby.

Beckham Organic Butchery – prices seem reasonable compared Australian prices we were used to. Slightly higher prices force lower consumption which is more healthy and ethical anyhow!

EcoShop kitchenware aisles


Well, this is a tricky consideration in a permaculture life. It could be ideal to have no vehicle and instead rely on public transport and the generosity of hitchhiking. We do have all our belongings with us though – 3x 25kg + 2x 8kg suitcases. Having to go to miq and then straight to Christchurch made leaving any stuff with someone rather difficult. While in miq we long debated whether to buy a small bus, like Toyota Coaster size, or another smaller van-like vehicle kitted out for freedom camping, or just a sedan to camp out of. Dylan spent days trolling through for sale ads on trademe and marketplace. The largest resistance though came from the reluctance to burn fossil fuels every time we moved from A to B. This lead us to consider an electric car. After much more research we narrowed it down to a Nissan Leaf with a 30kWh battery. This is the most common electric car in NZ. We did consider a Nissan electric van, but there were very few for sale and the one with the larger 40kWh battery, appropriate for longer distance travel, was quite expensive for us at more than $50k.
More ad searching and we got our 2016 Leaf for $13k. It had 68k km and is a Japanese import in 2018:

slow charging overnight on 240V

This is what we have learnt so far.

There are 4 charging options:
1. 240V from any normal plug which takes around 12 hours to fully charge (about 10km per hour).
2. 240V from a caravaning 15A plug.
3. Medium charge from charging points in towns/cities which gives around 30km of range per hour of charge.
4. DC fast charge from charging points in towns/cities which gives 20-80% charge in about 30mins (from what I have read).

The car came with the cable to do number 1 and we soon after bought the cable for the medium charger ($219). The fast charger has the cable attached and plugs into the leaf at the front. In the Canterbury area there seem to be quite a few of the medium chargers that are free. We have used them at the Botanical Gardens, at Little River, and at Akaroa. Makes travelling around very cheap. Otherwise, we have bought a 240V plug in timer so that we can program the charging to happen at off peak times during the night.

type 2 to type 1 cable (# 3 above)

Driving experience. So far we have travelled a few hundred kilometres and it handles very well because it has a low centre of gravity with the batteries mounted underneath. It can accelerate very quickly if the pedal is floored. The same if cruising behind a slow truck and the road ahead clears, foot flat and passed in a few seconds! Quite incredible! The other lovely difference is that removing one’s foot off the accelerator engages the regenerative braking. This slows the car and puts energy into the battery. If one brakes hard, then the regeneration maxes and the disc brakes also slow the car.

Ethics. The Leaf is branded as emission free which I dislike because it is simply untrue. Charging uses electricity and this usually means fossil fuels. Fortunately, about 80% of NZ’s power comes from renewable – hydro, geothermal, wind, solar. These have their embedded carbon footprint too though. So, not exactly emission free, but better than burning fossil fuels directly and more of it. What about mining and its destructive effect on natural ecosystems? Yes, the batteries have lithium and the motors and cables use a lot of copper and so on. These can be reused or recycled at end of use. The thing that is frustrating is that the batteries do not last longer. It’s reported that these types of lithium batteries lose about 4% of their capacity per year. This is not great. Our Leaf is 5 years old, so it means 30kWh is now only the same as a 24kWh battery as it has degraded by 20%. It means that the Leaf is going to end up only capable of driving around town for errands at some point. Disappointingly Nissan does not sell new batteries. Encouragingly there are reports of companies aiming to refurbish batteries in the near future. Also, DIY youtubers are getting the old batteries and using them for solar systems. Manufacturers need to do much more though!

leaf battery modules reconfigured to 48V

Practicalities of touring. So far, it seems the Leaf is best suited to city driving. Every stop at traffic lights consumes almost zero energy. Frequent braking regenerates and lower speeds overall use less energy. After we left the city for the countryside and drove at open road speeds, we seem to have a comfortable range of 80km. This could be extended if consistently driven carefully (gentle acceleration and deceleration and not more than 90km/h). In terms of size, we were pleasantly surprised to fit two of our large suitcases in the back easily, one on top of the other, with room in front of them. The back has seatbelts for 3 and seems roomy enough. When we do want to get gear for camping and living out of it, we think it will be big enough. The payload without us at the moment is about 100kg. With camping gear and food, another 80kg should be fine (considering 5 people’s weight could be 400kg) and to not significantly use more battery power. So far, we haven’t driven much with the heater or aircon on, so that is another consideration for future touring to observe how much more power this uses. Not using aircon, and just opening the windows or using the fans is an easy compromise. Wearing warmer clothes in Winter is also an easy workaround to relying on heating.

More info. These are some of the websites I used in learning about the Leaf and EV’s in NZ:
ChargeNet – map of charging stations
Quality Used Vehicles | EV City | Christchurch
Nissan Leaf Guide NZ
Do Electric Cars Emit EMF and Is It Dangerous? –
Drive Electric | smarter, cheaper, cleaner
Smart EV Chargers New Zealand
Journey planner – NZTA
Chargers map | Drive Electric

Why this journey

This was our post on the Permaculture in New Zealand facebook group on 20 October 2021, about 4 days before getting out of isolation in Auckland:
“We are about to explore Permaculture in the South Island. We’re heading north out of Christchurch around the end of this month. We will be camping out of a small car. We would love to stay with permies as much as possible.
We had Sugarloaf Permaculture for 8 years in SE Qld (easy to find our website) and have many skills and knowledge to share as well as keen to learn much more. We are willing to help in any way we can to ‘pay’ our way.
We can also do house or property sitting if you are going to be away or would like to go away!
If your local group would like us to do a workshop on any of the following, we’d be happy to! fermenting veges, goat cheese making, sourdough, activated food, biochar, soil improvement, grafting, DIY solar, intro to permaculture, and most PDC topics…”