Regenerative Livestyle Blog

Sharing my regeneration journey, enjoying living in harmony with nature

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From Lawn to Meadow

Lawn practice is changing. Public reserves are mowed less often. Many urban garden owners keep an unmowed strip of grass for biodiversity.

Lawns use up to 75% of household water use, they use and leach fertilizer and as all monocultures, lawns are not conducive to biodiversity… Not regenerative! 

Let’s revisit our views on lawns

In the news at the end of October 2022, lawns being a big contributor to climate change – there was a call to dig up some lawn to plant #trees, save on energy (to mow the lawn), on fertilizers and on water.

To regenerate more, why not plant a veggie patch (to reduce food km), mow just a footpath, grow bee friendly flowers… All adds to biodiversity, reduce carbon use and the noise for the neighbours, specially with an electric ride on lawn mower!

Grass roots act like sponge, they absorb water and retain it, reducing flooding and irrigation needs. From The Secret Life of Roots exhibition by US Botanic Garden

We grow a meadow

Here in the park of our property, once a compacted pasture grazed by horses, the grass has been growing for 15 years. It hasn’t been mowed nor cut nor eaten.

We mow footpaths with our new electric ride on lawnmower. Much more silent than the petrol one, clean and free to run, at the same price. All the mowing is done in one hour on a 2.5 hectares property.

Every winter the grass is drying and flattening. Healthy new grass grows through it in spring and summer. And it breaks down in the winter.  It is creating a thick mattress. The land is regenerating. 

  • deep brown rich soil, 
  • absorbing rain and keeping moist in summer, 
  • less work, less energy use, less noise,
  • more and more insects and skinks therefore birds

We observe that our meadow evolves over time. After 15 years, some patches remain green even in the heat of the summer when every unirrigated land is fawn. It’s beautiful and lush. It is a soft big sponge!

While it clearly absorbs carbon and water, as there is a visible improvement of the soil and biodiversity, we have no data.

The Zirkle study says unmowed uneaten grass can absorb from 25gr to 204gr of carbon per m2 per year, depending on conditions, that’s 40000m2 to 4900m2 to absorb a tonne of Carbon per year. That’s quite significant although still very vague.

I am looking for more information on how much carbon does grass capture when left to grow (not grazed, not mowed), decompose and regrow. Let me know!

We love our grass

Grass growing is a natural process creating an abundant source of matter. So we use it.

We keep a row of tall grass between the flower borders and the footpath: it holds the mulch and leaves what the birds usually scatter. Grass grows and hides the rabbit fences. 

Grass is great material to layer the compost, to mulch a small footpath or a plant. By breaking down, it enriches the soil.

Grass is not a threat nor a fight, we don’t control grass. We don’t “weed”!

To clear a grassed area to plant a tree or create a new garden, we cut out and remove the top 5cm, full of roots. Then we loosen the soil and pull more roots. And yes, that’s hard work.

Then grass regrows in competition with our plants, so we pull the roots out which aerates the soil as well. This is caring for our plants, never drudgery. I often thank the blades of couch for pointing in the direction of the roots!

It’s best to use a small tool to pull as much root as possible (specially the dandelion roots, that I clean, dry, roast and grind for my “coffee” – but that’s another post!)

We only pull the shoots we recognise, and observe what grows. Some returning annuals are pleasant surprises.

Mulching generously after cleaning an area limits the regrowth. The thickness of mulch makes it easier to pull the grass out the following time.

The first year we open a garden, we remove the grass regrowth three times, the second and third year a couple of times, then once a year. Overtime, the grass doesn’t grow back much. 

Grass is left in the background but it’s clean and mulched around the bulbs

I nearly forgot to say we do have lawn around the house! It is nice to sit or lie down. Less than 10% of the land is regularly cut and irrigated. That’s a lot of water saving and reduction in mowing time and noise (and dirty fuel usually but not in our case since our ride-on lawnmower is electric, as all our tools are).

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How climate change affects our region

Just like Wanaka is a “lifestyle reserve“, Wanaka is also likely to be far less affected by climate change than many other places in the world. Not worried by sea level rise! And a bit warmer wouldn’t hurt, would it?


In our mountains, the biggest worry will be a shortened duration of seasonal snow lying, a rise in snow-line and a decrease in snowfall events. Glaciers will continue to melt.

The Ministry for the EnvironmentCopyright Ministry for the Environment Climate change projections for the Otago region page is worth reading. They predict:

  • around 0.9˚C warmer by 2040,
  • it will be wetter in winter and spring (more 29 % in Queenstown by 2090), drier in summer and autumn.
  • very heavy rainfall events are likely to become more frequent in Otago, increasing the risks of floods.
  • more often and stronger storms in winter (less in summer), with winds increasing between 2 and 5 per cent in winter, increasingly westerlies.
  • About the snow, “at heights between 1000 and 2000m:
    • the maximum seasonal snow depth is likely to decrease by approximately 20 per cent by 2040 and approximately 40 per cent by 2090
    • a low snow year is expected to be five times more likely by the 2090s.”

Unfortunately Treble Cone summit lies at 2088m and Cardrona at 1860m…

In the NIWA Natural hazard 2008 report, landslides, hailstorm, snow storms and electrical storms are all described for Otago. The fruit industry in Otago will be affected by summer droughts. The winter frosts will decline therefore bugs are likely to thrive.

And climate change is going to affect our native species, and their habitats in many diverse ways, states the Forest and Bird website. Birds and natives may have to move up to survive in their usual temperature but it is not always possible so it may mean they are out. Also some species, like tuataras -we don’t have any in our area to my knowledge- need a specific temperature for incubation therefore climate change is adding a threat to their survival.

Conversely, pests and insects are opportunist creatures and will make strides in changing conditions.

There is a last aspect I think is significant for our area: the impact of climate refugees, coming to live in our town because theirs is doomed. It may well have already started.

We are definitely all in there together!

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Doing it again… in Tarras

Tarras irrigation (c) HolgerTake a dry area, beautiful and lean and decide to make dairy farms here! It will be costly… But it’s all right, the ratepayers will pay for it… Sounds unbelievable? or only too familiar?

I have published below the full story and call for help by some Tarras residents, together with the links to the submission documents, to fill in and send by the 3rd of May to the ORC if you care… Click here to see my submission, feel free to copy/paste it and just change the name and address. Cheers.


Subject: Submission to Otago Regional draft annual plan – Tarras water scheme

Dear friend,

As part of the Otago Regional Council (ORC) draft annual plan, the ORC proposes a $ 3.6 million dollar investment in a privately owned irrigation scheme in the Tarras area (230 residents). The Council’s investment will be even higher as there are ongoing costs during the proposed 5 year investment, bringing the spending of public money up to $ 6-7 million. It is proposed to fund this investment through rates increases.
Any Otago rate payer and resident can make a submission to the Council on this investment proposal. This is your opportunity to have your opinion heard by the 11 councillors who are divided on the subject. Public submissions on the plan close this coming Friday, 3 May 2013, and the councillors will have to make a decision on the proposed investment at their meeting on 24 June 2013.
You might have read some reports over the last few months in the Otago Daily Times on the Tarras water scheme. Here is a brief summary:
Tarras Water Ltd. (TWL), a privately owned company, proposes to pump water from the Clutha river to 6000 hectares of hitherto unirrigated land in the Tarras district. Currently, there are 40 shareholders, mostly farmers, with 8 farmers controlling 90% of the company, four of which are also directors of TWL. The proposed cost for this project ($ 37 million) requires a large bank loan ($ 26 million, 20% of which would be guaranteed by the Central Otago District Council) and the ORC investment in order to proceed. TWL shareholders would fund $ 7-8 million themselves upfront.
Even though the water scheme was initially promoted and presented as a “community” water scheme and public grants sought and used for preliminary studies, the cost of the scheme for the vast majority of the Tarras community is too high to be part of.
However, TWL continues to rely on public money for this private enterprise. TWL proposes the ORC to become a “dry” shareholder, i.e. hold 30% of the shares in the scheme without using the water. The ORC would only recoup its investment if it were able to sell the 30% of the shareholding over a five year period. However, over the last 6 months some landowners in Tarras have already invested in their own irrigation schemes, with others not interested in the TWL scheme for reasons of cost. The high cost will inevitably lead to intensified farming in the area, with the most likely outcome being dairy support and dairy farming in general over the proposed 6000 hectares.
While the ORC is being asked to become an investor in a private irrigation scheme, by law it also has to handle resource consents for water permits, as well as enforcing legislation relating to water quality and use in the Otago area, in other words it would put itself in a position of conflict of interest (private investor and regulator at the same time).
Such an investment would also set a precedent for other irrigation schemes in the wider Otago region, the latest one proposed for the Maniototo area. In fact, it would set a precedent for any private business to ask the ORC for public money to partially fund their enterprise, whatever it might be!
Despite being asked by the ORC for information on alternative funding, TWL has not sought private business investment in its scheme, suggesting that it doesn’t stack up as a good deal. TWL solely relies on public money input and very strongly lobbies the 11 ORC councillors to vote in favour of the investment.
Again, TWL is a private company which asks the ORC for millions of dollars of public money, funded through rates increases affecting every Otago rate payer, with a high risk to the Council to be able to recoup the investment. And TWL is effectively owned by a small number of wealthy farmers.
Should you be concerned about the use of public money in this fashion, please use the attached form to make a submission to the Otago Regional Council by Friday, 3rd May 2013. 
The draft annual plan with the TWL investment proposal is available on the ORC home page,
Please, also forward this email to anyone you think might like to make a submission.
Best regards,
Holger Reinecke


Future Fiction

It is not Sci-Fi, yet it is fiction with a future focus. It is fiction that expresses what could happen with the global change our world is experiencing, in various ways and perspectives. The genre “eco-thriller” is on the rise and it is as exciting as crime, adventure or detective stories. Plus, it could turn out true!

Teenage reads

Carbon Diaries, Sacy Lloyd

2015. Britain governement implements a carbon card to ration it. You take a car? You use up some of your monthly allowance. You light up your fan? You use up more carbon points, and they disappear far quicker than you would expect. Laura is a normal urban teenager who loves music and tries to live a normal life. Everybody will adapt differently to this new situation. Then disaster strikes… Laura tells about it all in her diary, in a realistic and witty style. Award-winning series.

Empty, by Susan Weyn

In a town in the US, the coming prom is all that matters to these high school students. Being rich and popular or different… But when electricity runs out, and petrol stations close one after the other, nothing is easy anymore. And the coming cyclone transforms all life in survival mode… But solutions exists, if you can shift your mind to them…

On thin ice, by Jamie Bastedo

Set in a small Artic town nowadays and following the talented Ashley, this book opens to a rarely described culture, where reality and myths merge. Impacts of climate change are central to the plot although never sermonic. A rich, suspenseful, true-like novel. Multi-award winner.

More Adult reads

Solar, by Ian McEwan

Beard surfs the wave of fame he won with his physics Nobel price . When he “inherits” the plans for creating artificial photosynthesis power stations, he tries to save the world from climate change and save himself too… A thriller with some scientific data, a lot of travels and adventure, deep human understanding and some hilarious moments.One of my 5 favourite books ever!

Island of shattered dreams, by Chantal Spitz

Meet several generations of a family living on a remote atoll, their loves, their connection to their land, and their struggles when French engineers come to install a nuclear test plant on their island… This book opens to the Pacific Islanders ways of viewing the world, which is quite wide and profound, like the ocean that surrounds them. Beautiful, moving, unforgettable.

Forty Signs of Rain, by Kim Stanley Robinson

He is adviser to a member of Senate in Washington and looks after the kids while she works in the National Science Foundation. There she meets a monk, a high achiever climber surfer, etc… I enjoyed meeting these normal people in their daily life and how they manage, cope or struggle with what they know and what they want to achieve… before cataclysm hits… The sequel, Fifty degrees below is definitely on my To-Read list.

9780571290802Flight behaviour, by Barbara Kingsolver

It starts like a bored housewife book but as soon as she discovers these butterflies in the hill, it will be a roller coaster of questioning, emotions, meeting new people and science discovery. Barbara Kingsolver is an excellent writer conveying people thoughts and reactions in amazingly subtle ways giving this book as deep a meaning as you want it to.

Children reads

The Lorax, by Dr Seuss, “who speaks for the trees”… and more popular than ever before…
The Paperbag prince, by Colin Thompson, about this old man who lives happily in a bus on a dump;
George saves the world by lunchtime, by Jo Readman and Ley Roberts, to discover how everyday actions can affect the world around.

And many others

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, deep connection with nature in the Middle-earth underlying his books.
  • Carl Hiassen with lots of humour (Flush, Paradise Screwed…);
  • Ursula Le Guin creating a world of literate people in a subsistence age (the Earthsea series);
  • Margaret Mahy, denouncing coastal subdivisions in Kaitangata Twitch…

Do you know of any good one that I would add to my reading list?