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!! Introducing the Wild Ride Farm - lots of pictures  RSS feed

 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello all,

I have been posting on hear for a few months now and I thought it was time to share my 2.86 acre hobby farm - the Wild Ride Farm. My wife and I had been dreaming of having a small house on a couple acres for years and last September we were finally able to make that dream come true. The name for our farm comes from our own life - we have had a number of adventures as a couple and as individuals and all in all it has been a wild ride. The next chapter in our wild ride is just starting. Our first baby was born just 12 days ago but he has already been on some adventures walking the land with me - he is my little helper.

Our goals for the next 10 or so years are the following:
- Grow the majority of our fruits and vegetables
- Grow at least some staple crops and experiment with this setup
- Restore wildlife habitat across the property
- Complete all major infrastructure projects
- Start hosting workshops and tours of the property
- Set up a blog and youtube channel focusing on our place and publish at least 1 ebook

The Wild Ride Farm is located close to town (I bike to work in downtown Olympia WA - 7.5 mile ride one way mostly on bike trails) so we really want the property to a demonstration site for permaculture in the future - It would be easy for people to visit.

I'm going to be posting pictures and descriptions of my various projects on here to share. I grew up gardening and I restore degraded land for my work but this is my first chance to really use permaculture on a larger scale - I'm sure I will make mistakes as I go and one reason I want to share my projects is for others to learn from both my mistakes and successes. I believe the only way to truly make the world a better place is to engage with those around us. So please feel free to share your thoughts and offer advice. I will post updates as often as my family and my job allows. Hope you all enjoy!

The first pictures will be showing off the property and then I will get to the projects.

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Early morning looking east and a bit north across the property towards the neighbors barn
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Late evening looking north
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Double rainbow looking mostly east
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
28
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Here are some additional pics of the Wild Ride Farm showing off our view and showing our seasonal stream.

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View from our place looking east
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Looking back at the house and the rest of the property from our south eastern border
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Showing our seasonal stream during a high flow event
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
28
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The seasonal stream flows out of a large storm water retention pond from an elementary school. The retention pond is connected to my property by a culvert but seems to provide a large amount of water. I got lucky in that sense - very large pond that is already at the upper most area just outside my property. This retention pond is fed by runoff from the school and from a decent watershed that contains several ponds and seasonal streams. On my property I'm still trying to figure out how to manage this water and utilize it effectively but I'm very happy to have it as a resource.

Also, here is a picture of my little helper! So happy to have him in my life and I can't wait to include him in all of the projects on the Wild Ride Farm!

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My little helper!
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
28
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One of my projects has been working on an herb garden on the south side of the house. The previous owners took out the grass that used to be there and planted a few plants and put down a little bit of bark mulch to make it have "curb appeal" for selling - well I have removed most of the plants they picked and replanted them elsewhere since they were really poorly chosen for the location. The herb garden has very poor soils and as you get away from the house and closer to the parking area it gets really compact and gravely - towards the house it gets less gravely but has very heavy clay soils like the majority of my property. Due to this I have put in several small partially buried hugelkultur beds to help improve the soil. I also did some fully buried hugelkultur "pits" where I removed some plants. By partially burying the logs I was able to break through the compacted hardpan, and get enough soil to keep from needing to bring in any from off site or from elsewhere on the property. I also started adding a path through the herb garden so I could limit where I stepped - this is not completed as there were other more urgent projects. My next goals are to finish the paths, add more mulch and start fully planting it with perennials. This year I will be planting a bunch of annual vegetables. I'm not expecting a great harvest but it will help me improve the soil and provide organic material for me to chop and drop in the fall. Eventually, this herb garden will only have perennials and some self-seeding annuals/biennials.

I have also planted a bunch of bulbs along the sidewalks to make it more attractive in the spring and there is a bunch of garlic growing near the house. I did plant three red stem ceanothus to help with nitrogen fixing and I will be using clover as a ground cover over a lot of the herb garden with the herbs slowly replacing it. I will likely add some other nitrogen fixing shrubs later on that I can chop and drop to keep building the soil.
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Before I got started making the herb garden
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Building one of the hugelkultur beds
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The herb garden as it stands today - the straw covered areas are all hugelkultur beds
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
28
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One downside to my property is that its longest side (west side) borders a fairly busy road - the advantage is that it is easy to get to town and schools are within walking distance. But I don't want to see the traffic so one of my first projects has been planting a buffer along the road. This buffer is made up of native plants for my area that were chosen to create a solid hedgerow and also provide wildlife habitat and food. I especially wanted to attract humming birds and other pollinators.

My first step was to prepare the buffer strip by double digging out a bed in the lawn (I cut the grass out, dug a long trench by hand, placed the grass in the bottom, added the soil back and then mulched the whole thing) and also removed a large and well established blackberry patch that was collapsing the existing fence and spreading where I did not want it. So far I have planted 50 shore pine, 50 cascara, 50 Indian plum, ~50 red flowering currants, ~30 black twinberry and ~50 red stem ceanothus. Other plants have been added to the buffer or near it including some existing plants that I removed from the herb garden area and a black hawthorn and strawberry tree that I recently purchased.

The majority of the plants were purchased as bareroots and came in set bundles which is why the numbers are all around 50. These plants were purchased from the Washington State Conservation District Association at wholesale rate which made it very cheap. They will sell to anyone at whole sale rate as long as you reach their minimum $200 amount.

I still have a lot of work to do on this buffer and some additional plants to add. As the plants grow I will be adding other plants that do better in shade such as salal to fill in at the base.
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Before I did much work - just started working on the blackberries
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Blackberries are gone and mostly dug out - lots of work but worth it. Recently, a bunch of snowdrops have come up in this area!
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Buffer strip in the lawn is complete!
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
28
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Outside of the lawn area I still did as much site prep as I could and experimented with using a mix of cardboard, woody debris and straw. It was a bit of a pain to plant into but I hope it will create good soil for the plants.
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Working on mulching the strip outside of the lawn area
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Prep work is completed! Ran out of mulch material but it worked out
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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With the prep work completed it was time to plant! It was amazing to get ~300 plants delivered in one large bag but it was very affordable and allowed me to spend on average only $1.17 per plant. With the help of family we got all the plants planted over a couple days and so far they are doing great. Buds are starting to open on most of them and I think I will end up with high survival in the end.
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Plants come in a bag!
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All planted up! Looking south
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All planted up! Looking north
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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The last project I'm going to post tonight is my work to establish a scrub shrub wetland on the far east side of my property where the seasonal stream flows out. The stream already spreads out in this area and a large area is wet throughout fall, winter and spring. There is a large wetland and pond just off my property which means this area is within a wetland buffer as defined by the county where I live. This limits what I can do in the area but luckily establishing wetland plants is allowed.

This area is zone 4 and will focus mostly on wildlife habitat - it should be a great nesting area for birds and I hope that it will attract birds that will help keep pests out of my garden. I will also be harvesting willows, dogwood and pacific nine-bark cuttings for various uses. I'm also establishing salmon berry around which I will harvest to a small extent leaving most for the wildlife.
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Red oiser dogwood cuttings
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Various willow cuttings
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Planting some of the live stakes!
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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I'm planting the willows and other plants as live stakes. Essentially, all I do is take cuttings and then stick them in the ground. Willows do really well with this treatment and so do salmon berries and Pacific nine-bark. Red osier dogwood is a bit slow to take and has a lower success rate but it does work. I will be adding additional live stakes each fall/winter for several years until this area is fully transformed to a scrub shrub wetland environment. I have also planted black twinberry, and some other shrubs on higher ground around this area to serve as a transition from what will be a meadow to the scrub shrub wetland. I will also be planting Pacific crab apple and a couple other native trees that do well near wetlands along this border. These trees will serve as perches for birds and provide food for wildlife and should work well along the future meadow.

Well that is it for me tonight! I have several other projects to post over the next couple days including my largest hugelkultur bed - 136 feet long and took a mini-excavator to complete the work! Still finishing it up and I hope to have it completed by the end of this coming weekend. Other projects include cleaning up and improving an existing flower bed, dealing with old weed fabric, and breaking up concrete for a new patio.
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Salmon berry and Pacific nine-bark cuttings
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More willow cuttings! Still need a lot of cuttings to add to the area
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The start of my stepping stone bridge and path to make it easier to get through the area
 
wayne fajkus
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My property had a step stone path when I bought it. It evolved into a dam. From what I could tell, the dirt eroded on the upstream side until a shollow trench was formed. Then twigs caught on to the stones. Then leaves and dirt got caught into the twigs.

It was pretty neat.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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wayne fajkus wrote:My property had a step stone path when I bought it. It evolved into a dam. From what I could tell, the dirt eroded on the upstream side until a shollow trench was formed. Then twigs caught on to the stones. Then leaves and dirt got caught into the twigs.

It was pretty neat.


Nice! Ya, I'm hoping overtime the willows and other wetland plants I planted will fill in around the stone bridge / path. Eventually I would love it to develop into a little tunnel - it would be fun to see the willows and other plants up close and be able to walk through them.

I just picked up a bunch of bareroot plants from the local conservation district today. Got some additional red flower currants, some blue elderberry, coastal strawberries, and serviceberries. Going to be planting these all in my new hugelkultur rows. Still need to finish my work on the hugelkultur beds tomorrow but I should be able to plant them all on Saturday. Later this month I will be adding some seaberry plants and some clumping bamboo to parts of it.

The hugelkultur row will eventually connect with an existing planting bed that the previous owners let get overrun by grasses. I went through and cleaned it up a fair bit but while cleaning up the grass I found the previous owners had used weed control fabric. The fabric made it a pain to get the grass out since the roots just grew right through it! Really don't like that stuff and wish people would not use it. But I got the fabric out and the grass out and then used cardboard and straw with some woody materials to mulch the bed. I also planted some additional shrubs to add to the existing wild roses - mostly native shrubs but I also added a beach plum that I got from a friend. Eventually the planting area should form a nice half-circle shaped hedgerow and connect with the new hugelkultur bed to form a nice privacy barrier and also provide shelter to a shed that I want to build next year or the year after.
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Had to remove a lot of weed fabric - annoying stuff!
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Cardboard down after cleaning up the bed - some straw already in place where there were few weeds. Added some woody debris and wood chips to provide some extra material for fungi
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The completed bed! Still need to broadcast some clover seeds into it to help fix nitrogen
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Over the last few days I have been working on finishing my largest project to date on my property. There is a dirt road that marks the southern boundary of my property and along it my neighbors have built a lot of structures that I really don't like seeing - makes the view look a bit too built up for my taste. In addition, the dirt road is a potential source of runoff that I can harness for my future plantings along the southern border. So I have been wanting to construct a hedge row with some runoff gathering points along this border to harness the runoff and soften the view. In addition the hedgerow should block a portion of the prevailing winds and help with a variety of issues.

The major problem has been that the previous owners had used the area along the dirt road as a parking lot. The ground here is mostly hard compacted mix of gravel and clay - way to compacted for me to plant into or dig into. So I decided to build a hugelkultur bed along this border but since the ground is so compacted I wanted to break through that hard pan first to give a place for collected water to sink in and for the plant roots to be able to spread. Since the ground is so compacted I decided to rent an excavator and given the size of the bed I also rented a small stand behind dozer to transport soil and wood chips.

This was my first time ever using an excavator or a dozer but the project went really well and I now have a completed 136ft long by 5ft wide and a 5-6ft high (2-3ft buried, and 2-3ft above ground) hugelkulter bed! I just planted serviceberries, red flowering currants, blue elderberry and some wild strawberries in the bed and I also seeded some clover on the northside of the mound. I will be adding some clumping bamboo on the north side and planting seaberries on the south side over the next month or two. Later I will be adding additional plants and I figure I will be adding plants for another couple years before it is completely planted up.

The main runoff harnessing feature is working great and captures a lot of water as it runs down the road. The main feature guides the water into a mulch basin and then out a spillway towards the rest of my property. Eventually, I will add a swale after the spillway to spread the water out. I also need to add some additional water harnessing features based on some observations I made during the last major rainfall. But overall I'm very happy with how the runoff harnessing features are working and they should really help the southern portion of my property.
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Here is the excavator I rented for the work - the fence is marking the area where I wanted to build the hugelkultur bed
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After I dug out the beds I added a bunch of large logs and branches to form the base - mix of wood sources - some rotted and some fresh
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After I added the logs I used the excavator to add the soil I dug out back to the beds to bury the logs
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Here are some additional pictures showing how the bed progressed.
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After the soil was added I added a bunch of smaller branches to build the next layer of the hugelkultur beds
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Given how poor the soil was I had 13 cubic yards of rich topsoil brought in that I then added on top of the smaller branches
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The final step for building the hugelkultur bed was to add a thick woodchip layer to the top
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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One of my concerns with this hugelkultur bed was that it would be fairly isolated from any soil life given that it was being built along a dirt road and in a very compacted parking lot. The eastern portion is next to a field and I was less worried about that part but I found absolutely no earthworms or any other signs of soil life on the western portion that was in the parking lot. Because of this while I was planting the bed I also went through and inoculated it with beneficial bacteria and fungi using a packet I purchased from a local co-op. Hopefully, the inoculate along with the organic material I added and the new soil will help the bed thrive. I also made sure the bed was built so there were essentially little bridges of soil connecting the bed to other less compacted areas to hopefully allow a path for soil life to move from the less compacted areas to the new hugelkultur bed.
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The plants are in! I will be adding a lot more overtime but I have enough now to start building the hedgerow
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Here is the "ramp" that guides the water to the mulch basin and then out a spillway to the rest of the property. I need to do some work to improve the spillway but it is functional and is capturing a lot of water
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Looking towards the hugelkultur bed - this is the view showing all the buildings I want the plants to partially block - There is also a great mountain view so I'm balancing blocking the buildings but not the mountain
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Late spring or early summer once the land drys out a bit I will be installing a patio around my small back deck. This is phase 1 of a larger project to build an outdoor kitchen and living area so that in the summer months we can spend most of our time outside of the house and do all our cooking and dish washing outdoors. This will greatly reduce the amount of heat being generated inside our house and should help keep it cooler and of course being outside so much will be great for our health!

I like the look of flagstone patios but I don't have the funds to purchase the amount that I would want so I decided to look into alternatives. Luckily, a decision by my neighbor provided me with an alternative that took some hard work but greatly reduced the cost by providing a free alternative to the flagstone - broken concrete! My neighbor decided to take down an old garage and replace it with a new one - part of this work involved breaking up the old concrete foundation since it was the wrong size for the new garage. This resulted in a lot of very large chunks of concrete - these were far too large for me to use for the patio but with my trusty sledge hammer I was able to break the large sections into smaller pieces that would work for the patio. Luckily, I only needed to transport the pieces across a dirt road to my utility area where I store things like wood chips, logs, etc. It took a lot of physical work to break up the concrete, transport it via wheelbarrow and then stack it but in the end I only had so spend about $25 for the sledge hammer. I will still need to purchase some sand or gravel to form the base of the patio but using the concrete will save me a lot of money and it was great to keep so much concrete out of the dump!

My goal for phase 1 of this project is to complete the patio with a fire pit that is placed so we can sit around it and look out towards Mt. Rainier - we have a great view of the mountain. Next phase will be installing a patio cover that will be part solid and part open - I will be growing grapes or some other vine on the open part so it will have summer shade but be open in the winter. The solid part will cover the kitchen area and a small seating area. I expect that it will take me several years to finish all the phases of this project but even just completing the patio and fire pit for phase 1 will add a lot to our place and make it easier to host people.

I will also be adding a garden bed around the edge of the patio. This bed will feature a small (2ft high max) stone wall that will divide the bed in half. The goal with the wall is one to provide a simple barrier around the patio but also to function as a thermal mass for the garden bed - the patio should also help with this. I'm hoping that I will be able to create a much warming micro climate in the garden bed between the stone wall and the patio. I hope this will be good for growing peppers and some other warm weather crops that I would normally struggle to grow in my climate. I'm hoping this bed will be equivalent to zone 9 or 10 which would open up a lot of options. I may also design some cold frames that can placed over the bed and would rest against the wall to further warm this bed. The part of the garden bed on the cool side of the wall would have perennial shrubs such as roses, some nitrogen fixers, and some berries. These shrubs would be higher than the wall but would not shade the bed and might also serve as small windbreaks to help warm the other side of the garden bed. This would allow me to get the most out of the patio and really create an interesting space - I might also install a simple pond but I have not decided.
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The concrete pile from my neighbors old garage
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One large section broken up!
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The concrete pile! I added to it after this picture was taken!
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Wow Daron I am really enjoying your project thread, great stuff !

I remember being young and working that hard at something I loved.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Wow Daron I am really enjoying your project thread, great stuff !

I remember being young and working that hard at something I loved.


Thank you! I'm happy that you are enjoying this thread! My wife and I have been dreaming about having some land since we got married in 2009 and we are so happy to have this opportunity!
 
Daron Williams
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The other day one of my friends who works for a local non-profit offered me 250 free hookers willow live stakes! They were unable to use them but still wanted to see them planted so I got them and planted 200 of them in my scrub shrub wetland area. I'm planting the other 50 at a restoration site that I'm managing as part of my job. The 200 I planted on my land is in addition to about 100 willows and a couple other types of plants that I have already installed as live stakes in the same area. While I don't expect 100% survival I planted really dense to help ensure that the area will be completely restored to a scrub shrub wetland. This should be much better habitat than the existing degraded land. This is also the area where water leaves my property so I'm hoping the scrub shrub wetland will help retain just a little bit more water right at the edge of my property. I may have to thin a bit if I get a high survival rate but that is fine with me and it would give me some woody debris to use or additional live stakes to expand the planting area.
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Hard to see in this picture - I will be posting more pics from this same viewing spot as the live stakes grow
 
Nicole Alderman
gardener
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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Amazing property and some really nice work. I love seeing all you've done, and that you're restoring the wetland. I have a few on my property and am working on restoring one that the previous owner dug a drainage ditch through. My neighbors hate their wetlands and keep breaking up beaver dams and talking about lowering culverts to drain the wetlands further. One dumps his horse manure right into his wetlands  . I try to gently dissuade them without looking like too much of a weirdo that they tune me out entirely .
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Amazing property and some really nice work. I love seeing all you've done, and that you're restoring the wetland. I have a few on my property and am working on restoring one that the previous owner dug a drainage ditch through. My neighbors hate their wetlands and keep breaking up beaver dams and talking about lowering culverts to drain the wetlands further. One dumps his horse manure right into his wetlands  . I try to gently dissuade them without looking like too much of a weirdo that they tune me out entirely .


Thank you so much for the kind words! My neighbors are not fans of the wetlands either. One told me he thought about buying my place when it was on the market and just bulldoze it flat! Got this great seasonal stream and so much potential... Even have a water catchment system already made just above the property that should help a lot but nope... just bulldoze it flat... I'm happy my wife and I have the place. We plan on living here our whole lives and really making it a little piece of paradise!

I come from a restoration background so I tend to focus on that side of things - zone 4 and 5 first and then the other zones later. Part of this is a theory that I have that if wildlife is given an abundance of food choices before I put in a garden when I do start growing my main food plants they won't stand out so much to the local wildlife. I figure that if you take an environment with very little food plants and then throw in a lush garden then of course the wildlife is going to be attracted to it! I'm also slowly planting plants to block deer trails and slowly direct them to certain areas of my property that are away from my future garden areas. I don't know if this will work but I'm hoping that by doing things in this order that I can reach a balance with the local wildlife. It will be an experiment - I will add a deer fence if needed but I hope to avoid it if I can.

A lot of the land here is fairly devoid of food options for wildlife due to a lack of diversity. Even the forested areas are mostly regrowth from old logging areas and are poor in diversity in terms of structure and plant community. So when we start adding a bunch of great new plants (many of which are food plants!) it must seem like a great feast to the wildlife compared to what they are used to. So I'm hoping that by greatly increasing the abundance of my zone 4 and 5 areas that I can essentially hide the food plants in my other zones - same basic idea that is promoted for polyculture garden beds. The idea that the pests may get a plant or two but won't do more than that. Have to see how it all plays out overtime and I will of course change my management plan if needed
 
Nicole Alderman
gardener
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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I've found the bone salve really helps in protecting the closer zones from deer. We have a LOT of salmonberry on our property, with paths through our wetlands that are pretty much completely hedged by salmonberries (came that way). The deer love walking down those paths and pruning the salmonberry for us. They do like eating our raspberries and thimbleberries and fruit trees, too, but if I apply my bone salve 1-2 times/year, they leave them mostly alone. The salmonberry in nice safe trails are much more desirable. They also don't munch on my garden, even through it's not deer-proofed at all. I also notice that they do like to follow paths and stay on one side of the salmonberry hedges. We have at least one family of deer that are frequent visitors. We saw them outside today walking our trails. So, hopefully your hedges and corridors will be sufficient to protect your garden from deer, especially with some bonesalve on any fruit trees. I agree with setting the hedges and up before planting the garden. What they don't know exists, they can't eat; and they're not going to go exploring if they've got enough food elsewhere.

I actually have a harder time with bunnies than I do with the deer. When we first moved in, we had a fantastic mouser who kept the mice and bunny populations in check. Then he was eaten by some predator, and our property was flooded with bunnies and mice. Coffee grounds and onion peels seem to help a bit, but I watched a bunny munching on my chives last year, so I kind of doubt that alliums are really that repulsive to bunnies. In the case of the bunnies, last year we did resort to trapping and shooting (and eating) and fencing. Then a bobcat came in and took care of our bunny problem...and a few of our ducks. We'll see how this spring goes. We'd really like to get another barn cat to help control the bunnies and mice, though I know it will do a lot of damage to the bird population .
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
28
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I've found the bone salve really helps in protecting the closer zones from deer. We have a LOT of salmonberry on our property, with paths through our wetlands that are pretty much completely hedged by salmonberries (came that way). The deer love walking down those paths and pruning the salmonberry for us. They do like eating our raspberries and thimbleberries and fruit trees, too, but if I apply my bone salve 1-2 times/year, they leave them mostly alone. The salmonberry in nice safe trails are much more desirable. They also don't munch on my garden, even through it's not deer-proofed at all. I also notice that they do like to follow paths and stay on one side of the salmonberry hedges. We have at least one family of deer that are frequent visitors. We saw them outside today walking our trails. So, hopefully your hedges and corridors will be sufficient to protect your garden from deer, especially with some bonesalve on any fruit trees. I agree with setting the hedges and up before planting the garden. What they don't know exists, they can't eat; and they're not going to go exploring if they've got enough food elsewhere.

I actually have a harder time with bunnies than I do with the deer. When we first moved in, we had a fantastic mouser who kept the mice and bunny populations in check. Then he was eaten by some predator, and our property was flooded with bunnies and mice. Coffee grounds and onion peels seem to help a bit, but I watched a bunny munching on my chives last year, so I kind of doubt that alliums are really that repulsive to bunnies. In the case of the bunnies, last year we did resort to trapping and shooting (and eating) and fencing. Then a bobcat came in and took care of our bunny problem...and a few of our ducks. We'll see how this spring goes. We'd really like to get another barn cat to help control the bunnies and mice, though I know it will do a lot of damage to the bird population .


Thanks for the info on the bone salve - I will have to look into that! It is great to hear that your setup is working in regards to the deer. At my place we have a lot of coyotes, hawks and at least one owl family. I'm hoping they will help keep things in check. There is one path that I call the coyote highway because they use it all the time. They even managed to takedown a deer on my property in December! I want to keep my place predator safe so they stick around through the changes. The owl family that lives across the street from my house hunts on my land a lot - I hear them a fair bit hooting away and I have had them fly over me when I was out for evening walks. I will have to wait a few see how things play out as I add more plants. I'm planning on putting in features specifically designed to serve as habitat for wildlife. I really want to increase the snake population to help me with slugs and voles.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Been a bit busy for the last few weeks and most of my work has been focused on planting some seeds and getting supplies for future projects. One project that I did recently complete was my simple tree nursery. One of my large projects will need a large number of native trees in the fall. To help with this I decided to pot up a bunch of big leaf maple volunteers and also plant some red alder seeds in pots. I also have a small (5 pots) experiment trying to grow native bitter cherry from cuttings. If everything survives I will have 64 new trees - 40 big leaf maples, 19 red alder and 5 bitter cherry. All the materials to make the nursery except for the soil in te pots was free and recycled.
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The small nursery - keeps the pots off the ground to aid in pest management
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Lots of big leaf maples!
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello all,

Been a while since I posted on here so I thought I would share some updates. Going to do several posts over the next few days but the first project I want to share is my herb garden. The herb garden has been doing great and is really growing and filling in. I did a little experiment where I broadcast a big mix of seeds on the ground before I mulched with wood chips to see what would come up through the mulch. What I found overall was that plants with large seeds seemed to do better than those with smaller seeds. This makes sense and I'm going to keep experimenting with this to see if it holds true with other plants.

The pictures at the bottom of this post are showing before and after pictures of the herb garden. The before pictures were taken after I moved in but before I started doing anything with the garden area other than planting a couple strawberry plants. You may notice that several shrubs have been removed - these were transplanted to another area of my property and I'm happy to say they are all doing great in their new area. The previous owner planted the shrubs for curb appeal during the home sale process but they were not the best for the location.

Another experiment with the herb garden has involved watering or not watering. Despite the really bad soil conditions - all clay and small rocks - the soil has remained moist under the mulch. The mulch is about 2 to 3 inches thick and I also put in a number of small hugel beds (the mounds) and some hugel pits (buried wood but not really mounded up - used to fill in holes from the removed shrubs). I did water a couple plants that were planted late (June) but otherwise the plants have received no water. The herb garden is south facing and we have gone over 50 days now with no rain other than one day of light mist. Temperatures have averaged in the upper 80s to low 90s with some days hitting a 100 which is well above our normal summer average.

Next year I'm going to be adding a number of additional shrubs and smaller perennials to keep filling in the herb garden. I'm also going to start adding self seeding edible annuals. I will also add some lupin seeds this fall and I hope to have lupins growing throughout the bed.

Thanks for taking a look and keep watching for new update posts over the next couple days.
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Herb garden looking west
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Herb garden looking north
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Herb garden looking northeast
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 218
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello!

One of the big challenges for me has been dealing with non-native blackberries. When my wife and I bought our place approximately a third of acre was completely covered by blackberries. This was about 11% of our property and the berries were going to keep spreading if we did nothing to tackle them. So the first step was to use a weed whacker on some of the smaller patches but for the largest patch on the north end of the property I rented a flail mower. This let me get all the patches mowed down to the ground so they were actually manageable. Since then I have been using a scythe and clippers to keep the patches cut down. So far I have cut the berries down 3 times this year and I plan to do at least one more and maybe two more cuts before winter depending on how much regrowth I get. Next year I will have to keep at it but I'm seeing a decrease in the amount of regrowth so hopefully there will be a significant decrease next spring.

While I wanted to remove the blackberries to make room for other crops and native plants I do enjoy eating them and I also needed to keep a fence along the northwest side of my property. So following the permaculture idea that the problem is a the solution I have left the blackberries along the northwest part of my property and I have gotten some great harvests from them and they are forming a great fence along this area! The blackberries I cut are also providing a great source of mulch and while they keep regrowing I will keep chopping and dropping which will help the new plants get established.

I'm planning on planting trees and shrubs along the south and east side of the old blackberry patches to create shade. This should slow the berries down and overtime I will be able to fully replace all the berries with native plants including our native trailing blackberry which loves shade. The large blackberry patch area will be converted to a native zone 4 forest with native edibles mixed in and a pond along with native trees. Should be a great area in the long run and in the meantime I will enjoy harvesting the berries that I'm keeping as a fence!

Check out the before and after pictures below!
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At the edge of the old patch looking west
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Looking at the far southern extent of the old patch
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Looking east towards the middle of the old patch
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Looking north along the blackberry fence and a sample of the ongoing harvest
 
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