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Paul Murray
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Karamea, West Coast, New Zealand
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PermaBlitz by Elsie Burkevics: Ten Days from Jungle to Garden

Posted by Paul Murray over 6 years ago

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

As a schoolgirl, Elise Burkevics was “way too cool for farming” despite attending Urrbrae Agricultural High School in Adelaide, South Australia, which specialises in training young people with agricultural aspirations.

More interested in art and design during her school years, it wasn’t until Burkevics graduated and entered the wide world that she discovered a passion for getting her hands dirty and the completion of a permaculture design course with Fair Harvest in Margaret River, Western Australia, really galvanized her passion for growing food and sparked her interest in the environment and sustainable living.

Burkevics moved to New Zealand in 2014 to pursue another passion–snowboarding– and applied to do a permaculture internship in the autumn of 2015 at the LivinginPeace Project in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island to put her theoretical understanding of permaculture into practice and gain valuable hands-on experience while waiting for the snowfields to open.

The LivingInPeace Project began in 2004 and is located in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It combines the elements of Art, Travel, Permaculture and Education into a sustainable business.

LivingInPeace Project founder Paul Murray offered Burkevics a chance to test her mettle and gave her an opportunity to shine. She enthusiastically accepted the challenge of transforming a neglected patch of garden that had become and jungle into a functional, artistically designed and fertile vegetable patch that would feed the Murray Family with fresh organic produce year-round.

Elise 1

Elise Burkevics Prepares to Tackle the Jungle

After a discussion to establish the project objectives, Burkevics was given complete management authority to create the garden and she set to work with pick, shovel, fork and spade.

Elise 2
The garden had been continuously cropped for about 10 years, but left fallow for a year while the property owners were absent and had gone wild with weeds and overgrowth. This presented a significant challenge and one Burkevics accepted with glee.

She first sat down and drew up a plan in line with her permaculture design training and decided to first remove the weeds and discover what existing plants, if any, could be incorporated into the garden design. The focus was on food production, so ornamental plants, flowers and non-edible vegetation was removed to make way for vegetables, herbs and fruit. So out came the hydrangeas and other ornamental plants, which were relocated to a garden at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, one of the accommodation facilities at the LivingInPeace Project to enhance the landscaping around the hostel.


Day 2: Work Begins


The garden was once fertile and productive with a diverse range of edible plants. Burkevics embarked on an archeological dig to unearth the lost garden and determine if any of the plants could be rescued from the jungle and incorporated into the new design.


Day 4: Taming the Jungle

On Day 5, Murray decided Burkevics deserved some assistance and Wwoofer Kyla McLachlan offered to help. Together, they removed all the wild vegetation, tamed the jungle and started work on rebuilding the garden.


Kyla McLachlan and Elise Burkevics hard at work


Burkevics was happy to have some help and much progress was made when Kyla McLachlan arrived to assist.

On Day 6, there was an opportunity to take a break from the project and do some other work on the LivingInPeace Project Permaculture Farm, so Burkevics and McLachlan joined the other members of the Wwoofing crew to make some compost and trim the sheep’s feet…and drink some beer.


Left to Right: Elise Burkevics, Kyla Mclachlan, Ruth Schrapper, Peter Dickinson and Jamie Tillett The LivingInPeace Project Wwoofing Crew.


Elise Burkevics and Friend


Elise Burkevics (left) and Kyla McLachlan


WED_5254After a break, work on there garden resumed with gusto and Burkevics and McLachlan worked well together…progress was rapid. The garden design began to take shape, the pathways formed and the vegetable beds created. They lay cardboard along the pathways as a means of preventing the return of weeds and to provide a base for the river sand that was carted in to line the paths.


Day 6: The garden begins to take shape, pathways are created and lined with cardboard ready to be covered in river sand.

Burkevics applied her love of design to the project and came up with a garden layout that was not only functional and practical, but also aesthetically attractive.

Once the sand was laid on the pathways, the garden beds were clearly defined and the white sand formed an attractive contrast with the rich, dark alluvial Karamea soil.


“Moo” inspects progress as the gardens begin to take shape.

Driftwood and granite river rocks were collected to edge the gardens and further enhance their aesthetic appeal and then the planting began. Silverbeet, brassica, lettuce and other seedlings were planted into the well-composted garden beds to provide a banquet of winter vegetables for the Murray Family to enjoy.


The weeds, grass, sticks and other organic material was piled up and covered to slowly break down and provide compost for the garden beds for the following season.


Diva Murray came to celebrate the completion of the garden reclamation project and climbed to the top of Mt Compost.


Many people stopped by to see the amazing transformation from jungle to garden on one week.


Kyla McLachlan, Elise Burkovics and Diva Murray stand in the completed gardens inspecting the newly planted seedlings.

Ten days later, the garden was complete. The mess of overgrown vegetation gone and in its place, tidy, aesthetically pleasing and productive garden beds with the promise of an abundance of winter vegetables.


Very Happy: Client Paul Murray (right) was rather pleased with the results of the transformation of his overgrown former garden into neat artistic, functional and productive food patch by Elise Burkevics and Kyla McLachlan.

Rongolians Anachronism Party

“Anachronism” Party at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery: May 27, 2015. Elise Burkovics (with Hula Hoop) and Kyla McLachlan (as a geisha). (Photo by Tristan Lockerbie)

To celebrate the completion of the project, Burkevics and McLachlan joined the rest of the LivingInPeace Wwoofing Crew for an “Anachronism” dress-up dinner party and climbed Mt Stormy the following day. Thank you Ladies, Great Job!

Mt Stormy Mitsuyo

Elise Burkovics (left) and Kyla McLachlan (right) atop Mt Stormy. (Photo by Mitsuyo Numata)

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My Permaculture Qualifications
PRI Unverified
Permaculture Design Course
Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course
Verifying teacher: Bill Mollison
Other Teachers: Geoff Lawton
Location: Melbourne University
Date: Sep 2009

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