An organic Te Popo property featuring a food forest and a passive solar home is part of this year's Sustainable Backyard Trail (SBT).

The public will be welcomed onto Sue and Greg Rine's 56ha property Maranui during the annual event, which celebrates local backyard efforts in sustainability and inspires the public to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Running alongside the annual Fringe and Powerco Garden Spectacular festivals, the trail involves individuals, families and community organisations which open their backyards to the public.

Part of Sue and Greg Rine's Te Popo property.
Part of Sue and Greg Rine's Te Popo property.

The trail is coordinated by the Taranaki Environmental Education Trust and offers a wide range of examples of what everyday people can to do to live a more sustainable life and reduce their impact on the environment - from solar panels to bio-intensive vege gardens.

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Sue and Greg built their home seven years ago. It will be open for tours at 11am during the trail. The off-grid house is powered by wind and solar power and includes a composting toilet and grey-water system. The couple designed the house, which has been built from macrocarpa and redwood which they milled off a friend's property.

It has wool insulation and is double glazed with glass panels facing north and concrete floors which slowly release heat. They cook on a cast-iron wood stove and for part of the year share their home with Wwoofers, people (mostly travellers) who work on organic farms in exchange for food and accommodation.

Near the house the couple have vege gardens, a developing food forest, tunnel houses, a berry house, shade house, chooks, ducks, rabbits, geese, turkeys and donkeys.

The gardens use permaculture principals, and in the food forest a range of food is growing including plums, peaches, elderberries, apples, figs, berries and globe artichokes as well as support trees like tree lucerne and legume trees.

Guinea pigs graze the forest area and there is a high fence topped with electric wires to keep out possums.

Half of the property is planted in production forestry and the other is grazed by sheep and cattle. Sue says she preserves, pickles, bottles, dries and freezes a lot of the fruit and veges but also provides a few families with supplies when they have extra. She grinds her own flour, and although she buys wheat, she grows her own buckwheat, corn, quinoa, amaranth and chestnuts to grind. She will teach the public some of these skills during several workshops she is hosting at the property during the trail.

Sue also gardens at Avon School, conducting workshops through Hollard Gardens and also helping other schools like Toko School out with projects. Greg is also kept busy in his role as the regional gardens manager, looking after Taranaki's public gardens, Pukeiti, Hollard Gardens and Tupare.

General Manager of the Taranaki Environmental Education Trust Kati Freeman says that what sets the trail apart from other garden festivals is its focus on education.

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"The trail is really an educational programme, designed to inspire people to make lifestyle changes that begin, quite literally, in their own backyard."

Garden hosts are available to tour people around the property, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for what they have created.

The Trail also includes talks and demonstrations on topics such as composting, water capture, growing food without pesticides, vegetable propagation and grey water recycling.

Sue Rine will host several demonstrations at the property during the trail, including one on fermented food like kefir, sourdough and kombucha on October 30 and November 2 at 2pm. Another demonstration on grain processing - how to pop amaranth and clean the saponins off quinoa - will be held on October 31 and November 3 at 2pm. For more information visit www.sustainablebackyards.org.nz