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Podcast 068 - Interview with Michael Pilarski (Skeeter)

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Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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Paul Wheaton shares about his PDC experience, and how he learned so much more than he had expected. He then interviews Michael Pilarski (Skeeter), a renouned wildcrafter, who was his PDC teacher in 2005. He shares about his new video with Skeeter. It talks about chop and drop, beneficial weeds in a young food forest, and polyculture. Paul mentions that he watched the movie, Back to the Garden which has Skeeter interviewed in it. Paul and Skeeter mention the Inland NW Permaculture Conference, Nov 4-6 in Spokane. Skeeter clarifies that a "conference" (as opposed to a convergence) is for anyone, not just those who have taken PDCs.

Paul and Skeeter talk about the importance of Integrating knowledge and components of systems together, rather than seeking individualized pieces of information. PDCs allow for this integration. Skeeter told about the NW herbal fair in eastern Washington. The theme for the gathering (900 people) was: How do herbs and herbalism fit into the new healthcare paradigm that is emerging?

They then talk about Barter Fair, now called the Okanagan Family Faire. 10, 000 people and 1000 stores show up for this alternative economic event. People bring what they have or offer services to barter. Items range from squash and shovels to big things like chunks of land. It used to be the place to come and barter surpluses to get ready for winter. Skeeter says that it is a shopping experience that is more meaningful, with lots of social exchange. It is a local entertainment experience as well. He shares that in 2000, the Argentinean currency collapsed. Within that next year, 3000 barter fairs started. He also mentions the Convergence in Portland the 2nd weekend in October.

Next come the listener questions. How often does Skeeter irrigate in his climate or does he grow everything by natural rainfall? He irrigates once every 7-10 days in his 10 inch rainfall zone. He shares about him and his friend carrying through with no irrigation one year in an area that recieves 12 inches of rain. They left the area fallow for a summer drought. They left the soil loose on the top, and loosened it after the occasional rain. This let the moisture and nutrients in for the next year's crops. He recommends Steve Salomon's Gardening in Hard Times. Paul mentions hugelkultur, which Skeeter explains.

Is there anything Skeeter has planted before that he wouldn't deal with again? He answers: an ambrosia, relative of ragweed. It itched and burned, and he doesn't normally have allergies. He also warns of the herbs that are very good at self-seeding: motherwort, vervaine, feverfew, mugwort, wormwood (they become weed seed banks in the soil). Does he have any advice for using some plants to reign in the spreading nature of other plants? He mentions keeping grass and garden separate with tough perennial herbs like comfrey, bee balm, rhubarb. They should have dense roots that are hard to penetrate.

What are Skeeter's top 10 most useful plants? Some good ones: potatoes, multipurpose plants like oregon grape, native roses, ginkgo for health, linden trees for stress, sunchokes for several reasons, including being a source of alcohol (fuel). They offer more tonnage of food per acre than anything else, and earthworms love them. He also mentions comfrey, tomatoes, peppermint, fruit trees, raspberries, and strawberries. Trust your taste buds! Richard Haard has put up some video of 1, 4, 7, 15, and 15 year old sites of Skeeter's. Just youtube "agroforestry Michael Pilarski". Skeeter talks about how he still shops at the grocery store, but half of his food comes from his land. He shares about his new safflower seed experiment. In Russia, apparently, people grow 85% of their fruits and berries, 75% of their vegetables, 55% meat, 45% milk at the home level. Paul shares about what communities do in Armenia. Skeeter talks about the goal in permaculture of cogeneration--how we get another yield out of something that's already happening.

Why doesn't Skeeter save himself the work, and let the annual weeds drop without the chop? Skeeter talks about the importance of helping your plants during their first year of establishment. Later, he'll use chop n drop, and after a few years, weeds are not much of a problem to him (actually, they are helpful). He just needs to clear access ways in his garden. Paul and Skeeter talk about dandelions, and how they are one of the most nutritious foods people can eat. Paul talks about the nobleness of being vegan, but how awareness matters. Skeeter's food would be great for vegans and vegetarians morally. Skeeter talks about the importance of coming back to local food, even if that means eating some animal products. Skeeter likes to sell his food at a really reasonable price. Paul mentions how this reminds him of Fukuoka, who was sure to sell his grain at the same price as all other grain. Paul prefers to make money. He thinks Skeeter's polyculture food is healthier to eat. Skeeter says this kind of food is also mentally nourishing, and would greatly help kids with ADD, and those having trouble living in society.

Relevant Threads

Hugelkultur Video from Skeeter
Wildcrafting with Skeeter
Skeeter's Water talk
Skeeter's Gardening talk

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