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!!!!! Cultivating abundance in uncertain times

 
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Daron here with Wild Homesteading. I live in Washington and we just found out that the whole state is going under a stay-home order today. I know many of you are in a similar situation—or will be soon. My wife works at the local library and it has been closed now for a bit over a week, and they won’t be reopening anytime soon. The non-profit I work for has also been closed for a bit over a week, but luckily I’m able to work from home or do solo field work on nature preserves.

On top of the health crisis, lots of people are out of work right now. No one knows how long this will go on or what’s going to happen next.

These uncertain times really bring home the importance of being able to grow your own food.

I want to help people get through this time, so I’m going to make myself available to answer questions and provide advice here on Permies until this situation with the COVID-19 improves.

Strangely, this was the week Wild Homesteading was planning to launch our new membership site. We decided to move ahead with it. Because right now, resilience skills like growing your own food is more important than ever. So if you’re able, and you’d like some more help getting started, then check out our membership site over on Patreon and become a member. Membership is a way to get exclusive content, community, and direct help from me, to help you build the wild homestead of your dreams.

It’s also the only way we can keep our blog free—and ad-free—to help more people work with nature to cultivate abundance.

But we know there are a lot of people who can’t become members, who need help right now.

We want to make sure anyone who needs help during these uncertain times can get it regardless of their ability to become a member. So what do you need help with? I’m here on Permies to give you the help you need so that you can learn how to grow more of your own food by working with nature.

These are tough times, and we have to get through them—together.

Send me your questions, and Keep on Growing.
 
Daron Williams
gardener
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How to Start a Food Forest



Starting a food forest is a dream of many wild homesteaders and people familiar with permaculture in general.

But it can really seem overwhelming.

All those layers… all those plants… where do you start?

Luckily, those 7+ layers of a food forest are something to aspire to—not something you have to achieve overnight.

If you want to start a food forest here are the steps I would take.

1. Locate the area you want to start that has room for 3-5 fruit or nut trees.
2. Purchase or propagate 3-5 trees that will grow well in your area and that you want to grow.
3. Pick out some nitrogen fixing plants to add around your trees. These can be nitrogen fixing shrubs like goumi or nitrogen fixing flowers like clovers and lupines. Or beans and peas!
4. Plant your trees and nitrogen fixing plants—keep the nitrogen fixers close to the trees.
5. Mulch around your trees—if the area has a lot of grass or existing vegetation you may want to sheet mulch the area around and between your trees.
6. Add a few logs, or log/rock piles to the area and also a few flowering plants.

That’s it! While this won’t fill in all the common food forest layers it will get you started and you will be much closer to a food forest than an orchard.

By starting small you can observe how the plants you chose grow and see which do the best. Then over the next few years you can expand by adding more trees following the same basic steps.

But you can also add more plants to fill out the remaining layers. You could start with an easy perennial vegetable like Kosmic kale or add a ground cover like strawberries. Try a few plants at a time and see what works for you.

If you have questions about how to implement any of these steps let me know—without knowing details about your own wild homestead and the area you want to start a food forest it can be hard to provide more specific information about what to grow and how to prep the area for planting.

And if the whole concept of a food forest is new to you then check out my blog series all about food forests:

- What is a Food Forest? (And How to Get Started)

- Types of Food Forests – Which is Right for You?

- Food Forest Layers and Why They are Important

The first blog post in the series is similar to this post here on permies but actually starts with a slightly more complex food forest. Since writing that first post I have decided that you can reduce the number of layers you start with which makes it even less overwhelming to move forward with your own food forest.

Please share any questions you have about starting your own food forest.
 
Daron Williams
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How to Start a Fruit Tree Guild



This is very similar to the last question about starting a food forest. All you have to do is combine multiple fruit tree guilds and the result is a food forest!

But a single fruit tree guild is a great way to get started and take an initial step towards cultivating abundance on your wild homestead.

I’m assuming you already have a tree and a spot picked out. If you need help with that step please leave a question.

Step 1 – Mulch the area around your fruit tree

This will create a fungal environment which trees love. It will also help your tree by reducing how much water it needs. While guilds are often considered to be a mix of plants most trees need fungi to thrive. I think of a guild as all the life

That’s why this is my first step to starting a fruit tree guild.

Step 2 – Add nitrogen fixing plants

Nitrogen fixing plants will provide a steady supply of nitrogen for your fruit tree and will help the rest of the guild too.

Some nitrogen fixing plants are edible and others like lupines can be a great source of chop-and-drop mulch.

Step 3 – Control pests

Finally, you will want to help your tree deal with any pests. This can be done by adding habitat for predators through the placement of log/rock piles. Predators like centipedes, ground beetles, snakes, frogs, lizards, etc. will all hide in and under these.

But you will also want to add some flowers to attract beneficial insects. These can be nitrogen fixers, or edible plants, or just nice flowers that you like. I’m a big fan of white alyssum!

Check out my blog post— 3 Steps to Start a Fruit Tree Guild – for more details but also don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you have!
 
Daron Williams
gardener
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How to Get Started with Organic Pest Control



Another common question that I get asked is about garden pests without any toxic chemicals or a ton of labor.

A lot of people struggle with this issue when they’re first getting started with organic gardening and feel like it just doesn’t work. But often that is because they’re missing some key elements to solve these issues.

I should note that my advice is meant for someone growing food for themselves and their family—not a farm or market garden that is growing food to sell. While I believe the methods I’m going to outline can work at this scale I don’t have experience growing food for market so I can’t help you there.

The biggest step to take is to recognize that pests should really be thought of as prey. Each pest has something (and likely many) that want to eat it—the predator.

Your task is to create the habitat and space for those predators.

There are several ways to do this but this is what I do on my wild homestead.

- Mulch everything.
- Add habitat features like rock/log piles and snags.
- Plant in polycultures.
- Add perennials to all planting areas including your garden.
- Add native plants to all planting areas.
- Add flowers to all planting areas.
- Leave some dead plant stalks over winter.

And the big one—avoid all toxic chemicals and even organic solutions that don’t discriminate between prey and predators.

Each of those methods will provide habitat for predators. The result will be a wild homestead that has a balance between prey (pests) and predators.

You will still get some insect damage on your plants but it will be low enough that your harvests won’t suffer. Each of these will create habitat for all sorts of critters to hide which includes both predators and prey. But you can’t have 1 without the other.

When you try to eliminate all pests you never let your predator populations build. The result is that you must always do the predator’s job. Personally, I would rather work with nature and invite the predators in so they can do their job and I don’t.

If you have issues with rodents and other small mammals then consider putting up barn owl boxes if they live in your area. Tall trees can also create spots for hawks and other birds of prey to hangout and hunt from.

Water features are also a great option to attract more predators like frogs. Even small ponds can help.

But you don’t have to do all of these things—pick a couple to get started with and then expand each year. I’m just now adding a lot of flowers around my garden. Until this year I had other projects/tasks to focus on—but now I’m adding tons of flowers which I know will result in an explosion of beneficial insects which will greatly reduce my pest issues.

Here are some more posts to help you get started:

- Control Garden Pests without Toxic Chemicals

- How to Create Habitat Features for Pest Control
 
Daron Williams
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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I’m off for tonight but please don’t hesitate to post questions about how to get started on your own wild homestead or how to move forward with a project.

I will be back on here each evening to answer your questions and to add more tips on how to get started based on the most common questions I get asked.

Thank you and good night!
 
Daron Williams
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Get Started with Perennial Vegetables



I really love perennial vegetables--I just love that I plant them once and then get harvests each year. But it can be a challenge to get started with perennial vegetables. Here are some basic tips to get started!

- Pick sections of your existing garden beds to plant perennial vegetables in. My kitchen garden has 3 large L shaped beds and in each of the beds I have certain spots picked out for perennial vegetables.

- Mix in perennial vegetables around your existing shrubs and trees.

- Create a bed just for perennial vegetables.

But of course knowing which perennial vegetables to start with can be a challenge even if you have space picked out for them. Here are some of my favorites:

- Kosmic Kale (shown in the picture above)

- Miners Lettuce

- Pacific Waterleaf

- Checkermallow

- French Sorrel

- Wild Sorrel

There are many other types and I try to add more perennial vegetables to my wild homestead each year. This year the big new addition is mountain spinach which is a cold hardy, shade tolerant climbing vine that is supposed to be a great source of spring shoots, and raw and cooked greens. I'm also trying to get good king Henry going from seed but so far no luck. I also planted some more sorrel, miners lettuce, waterleaf, and checkermallows.

I really wanted to add more Kosmic kale to my gardens but with everything being shutdown in my state I don't know if I will be able to get any this year.

My basic strategy is to add at least 1 new type of perennial vegetable each year but also add more of the ones that are already doing well on my land. Overtime the result will be a ton of perennial vegetables that will eventually replace a big chunk of my annual vegetables. This will let me focus on a smaller number of annual vegetables--like tomatoes!

If you want to learn more about perennial vegetables make sure to check out my blog series all about these amazing plants.

- Plant Once With Perennial Vegetables

- 11 Perennial Root Vegetables for Your Garden

- 11 Perennial Greens You Will Love to Grow

- Perennial Brassicas – An Easy First Perennial Vegetable
 
pollinator
Posts: 226
Location: Monticello Florida
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Hi Darin, thank you for all the great info you've put out to help people. What are your thoughts about observing a piece of land for a year? In this case,  undeveloped wilderness about ten acres with plans for major earth and water features, with a heavy emphasis on wild foods.       Thanks, Huxley
 
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What I did was work on my zone 1 my first year. I did the intensive garden beds and a few fruit trees where I was sure I'd want them. Garden beds can always be taken apart and moved.  I also worked in the disturbed areas created by cutting down dangerous trees, etc. The areas were already disturbed, so I couldn't mess them up even more.

Your zone one area is going to be more intensive, anyway, so it makes sense to work there first, learning by trial and error, while observing the rest of the land.
 
Daron Williams
gardener
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Hey Huxley,

In my view observation is always a good idea. Especially, observation over each season so you can see how things change.

I would start looking for areas that are naturally wet and/or low areas or other natural spots for water features. Figuring out how the water moves through your land will help you plan your earthworks to create water features.

Sometimes that is super obvious but sometimes it can be a bit hidden.

You might want to think about putting in some basic groundwater test wells. I use these for my restoration sites. What you do is get a simple hand powered auger (post hole digger or powered auger could work too) and a pipe (3-4 feet long) that is just a hair bigger than the hole you will be making. Drill some penny size holes in the bottom 6 inches to a foot of the pipe.

You can then make your hole (as your making it if your using a post hole digger or hand auger you can lay the removed soil on a tarp and see how your soil changes with depth—great time to get a good soil profile) and once you get deep enough that only 6 inches of your pipe will be above ground you can then stick the pipe down in the hole.

If you can get some clay from the site use that to seal the area around the pipe on the surface and put an end piece on top of the pipe to close it up. You can now track changes in groundwater level by removing the end piece and measuring down to the surface of the groundwater. Just remember to subtract the distance from the ground to the top of the pipe.

This is a cheap and easy way to track changes in groundwater levels in an area over the course of a year or more.

Say you have an area that on the surface is wet in the winter but dry in the summer. You can use this well to see how much the groundwater level drops over the summer. If it only drops a couple feet then that would be an easy place to install a year-round water feature.

I used this technique to plan a restoration project that should start this summer. The site is dry in the summer but groundwater is only 2 to 3 feet below the surface. We are going to install 24 ponds to create perennial aquatic habitat for endangered Oregon spotted frogs. Since I know the groundwater is only 3 feet below the surface in the summer I know the ponds should retain water all summer if I dig them down to 4 feet.

Just one example of how observation can guide your future work.

But in your case I would also look for existing wild foods and start making a list. Look to see where each type grows, what sort of habitat you find them in, etc. This list would give you a great starting point for moving forward with adding more wild foods.

I would also look at the trees that are growing there and see if any need thinning—often forests that have regrown after human disturbance can be thinned without negatively impacting the area. You might look for ones that can be coppiced or pollarded and focus your thinning on those so you can maintain the existing forest but still get wood for various projects.

I would use the thinned wood for hugelkultur beds, log piles, brush piles, and other similar uses. Most of our forests are starved for woody debris and for snags.

You might also try to find areas that can be thinned more fully to open up sunny areas (whether your site is mostly shrubs or trees this can be a good approach) where you can grow more food crops.

So yeah—taking a year to make observations can really help you move forward. But also make sure to keep observing after that year and don’t try to implement everything at once. You will likely learn a lot if you keep observing as you make changes.

I hope that helps and thanks for the post! I’m going to be here at the end of each day so please let me know if you have any questions—happy to do my part to help!
 
Daron Williams
gardener
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Nicole Alderman wrote:What I did was work on my zone 1 my first year. I did the intensive garden beds and a few fruit trees where I was sure I'd want them. Garden beds can always be taken apart and moved.  I also worked in the disturbed areas created by cutting down dangerous trees, etc. The areas were already disturbed, so I couldn't mess them up even more.

Your zone one area is going to be more intensive, anyway, so it makes sense to work there first, learning by trial and error, while observing the rest of the land.



Good suggestions Nicole! If you have a full year to observe the land without starting to do any implementation work then I would watch the hole property and take a ton of notes and start planning things on a large scale. But as you move into the implementation phase of your work as Nicole suggests you might want to focus on Zone 1.

But if you're not living on the land yet and don't plan to soon you might want to start with earthworks and water features and get those fully implemented first. Though I would still focus on small areas at a time and then take time to make observations before moving onto the next area.
 
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A couple of things, simple stuff first. I have set up my small green house in large south facing windows and planted lettuce, arugula, and spinach in shallow pans, not for transplant but because I'm hoping for a few edible greens. I would also like radishes. Will they grow in deeper small pots?

Later I will try to start tomatoes, Mortgage Lifter, Stupice, and some other interesting cold weather varieties. I will put them in large pots and add dirt as they get bigger hoping to keep them from getting too leggy before I can transplant them. We can have a hard frost in June. Or is it better to just keep transplanting them into larger pots as they grow?

Secondly, I have been planting a few fruit trees, apple, plum, and cherry, and a couple of Carpathian walnuts. Because it is predicted that our climate will become drier I have also planted Bur Oak. All are still small, apple are the biggest, and all have made it through the winter here in northwestern Montana. You suggest planting perennial vegetables around them. All are protected from the deer by fencing but there are hoards of ground squirrels that eat anything that they can reach. (Hence all of my gardens, except potatoes, are raised.) I will peruse your articles about perennial vegetables but I wonder if there are any that you think are unappetizing to deer and rodents? I have piles of rock in my garden to encourage snakes and have rock to spare everywhere but have not seen any reptiles in permanent residency. My property boarders Forest Service land and there are many tall trees, Larch and pine. Birds of prey ride the wind currents up our creek's draw but they don't seem to be interested in the ground squirrels.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Bobbi McC

 
pollinator
Posts: 193
Location: British Columbia
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I would also interested in any advice you could give on mitigation of ground squirrels!
 
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Location: Wayne County, PA
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Thank you!
I'm so grateful to have help here.
We just moved to 17 acres of mostly 40+ yr old deciduous forest in zone 5b in PA. lots of small streams, moss, sitting water etc.

a. I'm wondering about living fences for privacy from the road and to protect from deer. I've heard giant miscanthus. Any others?
And where do you purchase these seeds from?

b. I'm also hoping to start Hugel beds in the next few weeks. I have a bunch of fallen tree parts in the forest to drag up. I've heard there is a "right way" to get productivity in year one. Any tips?
I've seen discussion of how to orient the beds. I've got an overgrown grass field (probably a quarter acre or so. the only clear section of the property. If i take out a shovel of dirt it fills with water in about 2 minutes. There's also tons of medium size rocks throughout.) I'm planning to convert it and I want to know how to go about it. I've got loads of cardboard (I know Paul's not a fan. I'd like to be a zealot as well but don't know what else to do this year with limited money/ resources). How can I kill off the grass w/o killing the "good stuff" underneath? (I don't have silage tarp and have only seen pricy options)

c. Is there a way to build these beds without bringing in other topsoil? I want to plant these beds this season and I'm not sure of the methods to cover the mound with enough soil? I have one compost pile that's barely one cubic yard converting to nutrient dense soil (trying Berkeley method but haven't hit the top temps I think).

d. Can I grow anything in hugel beds? carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes, and other roots/tubers? Or do I need separate ideas for some of those?

e. I have a shovel and a manure fork. I'm wondering what other hand tools would be useful to get this job done.

e. Any other tips or resources to keep planning on building a permacultural oasis with limited budget?
 
Daron Williams
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Hey Roberta,

In general the bigger the pots you can use the happier your plants will be. But that being said the biggest downside to small pots is you will need to water them more often. You might also want to make some sort of basic compost tea or just compost to give them a little boost from time to time.

Here is a basic how to guide for making a very simple compost tea (you can get much fancier if you want but this should work): https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/07/compost-tea-recipe.html

Small pots are limited in nutrients, water and space but sometimes that is all you have to work with. So just go with the biggest you can and just recognize that the smaller the pots are the more time you will have to take to keep them watered and potentially fertilized.

I would transplant the tomatoes into bigger pots as they grow. But one really awesome thing about tomatoes is that when you transplant them you can actually bury them deeper each time and they will send out new roots from the buried stem.

I always do this with my tomatoes and they never seem to mind. This is a great way to get your tomato’s roots down much deeper right from the start when you do plant them in your garden.

You know I don’t have experience directly with ground squirrels – rabbits and voles are the closest I have in my area. What I have learned from both is that if I can grow a lot of alternative foods for them—especially evergreen plants for winter food—that they don’t really go for my food crops. They still eat some of them but with a good number of alternatives they spend most of their time eating those.

You could try growing clovers and other flowering plants around your trees and then mix in some perennial vegetables. The ground squirrels will likely eat from all the plants and at least won’t be focused on your perennial vegetables.

I’m not sure how well that will work but I would try that option. I’m trying to get a lot more flowers and other non-woody plants growing around my trees and shrubs in part to give the rabbits an alternative food source. They really went after my hazelnuts this winter—they liked the young shoots.

Plus if you have more flowers you will attract more beneficial insects which could help deal with insect pests too.

I would also look at perennial vegetables that are a bit sour or have other factors that would make them not taste good. The rabbits and voles have left my sorrels alone. Perennial vegetables that are related to onions might also be a good bet—though the voles liked my onions…

But really you will just need to try different types and see which are left alone and which aren’t.

Has anyone on here had more experience with ground squirrels and perennial vegetables? If so please share what worked for you.

I hope that helps and good luck! Feel free to ask any follow up questions!

PS: Hey Ashley, I hope that above helps in your situation but another thing to try is attracting more predators. If you have barn owls in your area then you could try installing barn owl boxes. Otherwise, making sure you have some tall trees for birds of prey to perch on is a good option but of course that takes time to grow.

For both of you… another option is to let coyotes in. I put up a deer fence around my property (3 acres) but I made sure to leave tunnels of sort (piled up logs) that let coyotes come and go as they want. I often see them using these tunnels to enter my wild homestead to hunt voles.

Anything you can do to encourage predators will help with pest issues.
 
Daron Williams
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Hey Adam,

I’m not familiar with miscanthus but the basic idea of a living fence is sound. Historically hawthorns were often used for this purpose. These sorts of living fences are often called hedgerows.

I have planted hedgerows around a big chunk of my wild homestead with the goal of providing privacy and keeping deer out.

The mistake I made is that while the hedgerows are getting established deer can eat everything down or just push through them. The result is the hedgerows fail at one of their core “jobs”. My solution was to put up cheap temporary deer fences. Not ideal but my hedgerows have taken off since they’re no longer getting eaten.

Eventually I will take the fences down but I’m waiting for the plants to fill out a lot more.

I have also found wild roses and a shrub called snowberry (native types to my area) to be fantastic for hedgerows. Both spread by rhizomes so they pop up and fill in the gaps left between my bigger shrubs and trees that are also planted in my hedgerows.

So I would recommend looking for similar plants for your area—plants that grow quickly and spread by rhizomes. But also include big shrubs (10+ feet tall) and trees. Put the fast growing and spreading plants on the side the deer will be coming from and use them to shelter the taller shrubs and trees.

I have found the key for hugelkultur beds if you want quick productivity is to be very careful to fill in all the gaps between the logs and branches with soil. A lot of people just kind of throw the soil on top of the woody bits which leave a lot of gaps.

This is fine in the long run since everything will settle out but it will likely result in less production and potentially even dry out without irrigation during the first year or 2.

I wrote a blog post on 5 different types of hugelkultur beds that should help you out with this: https://www.wildhomesteading.com/hugelkultur-variations/

As far as using cardboard… yeah Paul doesn’t like it and I can understand why. But both Geoff Lawton and Sepp Holzer use it at times. But the concern over toxins in the glues and/or dyes is understandable.

That being said I use a ton of it on my wild homestead to convert lawn to growing space. I want to shift to using chickens and deep mulching in the future but I’m not there yet.

I would make sure to remove all the tape from the cardboard and also don’t use cardboard with laminated covers or with a lot of colorful prints. I like nice plain cardboard boxes.

Since I’m only using the cardboard over an area once my personal view is that the amount of toxins is minimal and that the fungi and other soil life can take care of them for me.

But some people will disagree with that and I completely understand their view too.

If you build your hugelkultur beds down instead of building them up (see the blog post for more on this) then you won’t need to bring in soil. I built my kitchen garden using this technique. The beds are only 6 inches to a foot above the surrounding mulch but each bed goes down a good 3+ feet underground with a ton of buried wood down there.

If you want to build the beds up high Paul has a suggestion on that—check out this post about that option here: https://permies.com/wiki/98574/PEP-BB-gardening-sand-hugelkultur

There is a picture on the first post that shows how you can do this. But if you have really wet conditions you will likely get a nice big pond next to your hugelkultur bed if you go this route.

But it’s an option that can work great depending on your specific situation.

You can grow anything in a hugelkultur bed assuming you have enough soil over the top of the buried wood. If the soil is too shallow then root crops like carrots may hit the wood and not grow well.

A shovel and manure fork should work good—just make sure you have a good wheelbarrow too. I really like having a no-air tire on mine so I don’t have to worry or deal with flats.

I have done most of my projects without spending much. The key has been to look for free stuff that people are throwing away or willing to let me pickup and haul out. I get cardboard, a ton of wood chips, logs, and fall leaves all for free. I also get a lot of free plants by salvaging native plants from sites that are going to be developed.

I also order my plants from wholesale nurseries when possible. You have to order a larger amount at once but the price per plant is much cheaper.

Also live staking can be a great option for some species of plants: https://www.wildhomesteading.com/intro-live-staking/

Finally, explore the threads on permies and for a selfish plug make sure to check out the blog posts on my site—Wild Homesteading. Lots of good resources on both!

And don’t hesitate to ask any follow up questions.

Thank you and good luck!
 
Daron Williams
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hey all!

Great questions all and I'm happy to keep answering them so don't hesitate to post any you have! I'm answered them early today because tonight I have plans. But I will be back tomorrow to answer more questions.

I hope to see more questions tomorrow!

Take care all!

Daron
 
Adam Diccicco
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Location: Wayne County, PA
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Daron Williams wrote:Hey Adam,

I’m not familiar with miscanthus but the basic idea of a living fence is sound. Historically hawthorns were often used for this purpose. These sorts of living fences are often called hedgerows.

I have planted hedgerows around a big chunk of my wild homestead with the goal of providing privacy and keeping deer out.

The mistake I made is that while the hedgerows are getting established deer can eat everything down or just push through them. The result is the hedgerows fail at one of their core “jobs”. My solution was to put up cheap temporary deer fences. Not ideal but my hedgerows have taken off since they’re no longer getting eaten.

Eventually I will take the fences down but I’m waiting for the plants to fill out a lot more.

I have also found wild roses and a shrub called snowberry (native types to my area) to be fantastic for hedgerows. Both spread by rhizomes so they pop up and fill in the gaps left between my bigger shrubs and trees that are also planted in my hedgerows.

So I would recommend looking for similar plants for your area—plants that grow quickly and spread by rhizomes. But also include big shrubs (10+ feet tall) and trees. Put the fast growing and spreading plants on the side the deer will be coming from and use them to shelter the taller shrubs and trees.

I have found the key for hugelkultur beds if you want quick productivity is to be very careful to fill in all the gaps between the logs and branches with soil. A lot of people just kind of throw the soil on top of the woody bits which leave a lot of gaps.

This is fine in the long run since everything will settle out but it will likely result in less production and potentially even dry out without irrigation during the first year or 2.

I wrote a blog post on 5 different types of hugelkultur beds that should help you out with this: https://www.wildhomesteading.com/hugelkultur-variations/

As far as using cardboard… yeah Paul doesn’t like it and I can understand why. But both Geoff Lawton and Sepp Holzer use it at times. But the concern over toxins in the glues and/or dyes is understandable.

That being said I use a ton of it on my wild homestead to convert lawn to growing space. I want to shift to using chickens and deep mulching in the future but I’m not there yet.

I would make sure to remove all the tape from the cardboard and also don’t use cardboard with laminated covers or with a lot of colorful prints. I like nice plain cardboard boxes.

Since I’m only using the cardboard over an area once my personal view is that the amount of toxins is minimal and that the fungi and other soil life can take care of them for me.

But some people will disagree with that and I completely understand their view too.

If you build your hugelkultur beds down instead of building them up (see the blog post for more on this) then you won’t need to bring in soil. I built my kitchen garden using this technique. The beds are only 6 inches to a foot above the surrounding mulch but each bed goes down a good 3+ feet underground with a ton of buried wood down there.

If you want to build the beds up high Paul has a suggestion on that—check out this post about that option here: https://permies.com/wiki/98574/PEP-BB-gardening-sand-hugelkultur

There is a picture on the first post that shows how you can do this. But if you have really wet conditions you will likely get a nice big pond next to your hugelkultur bed if you go this route.

But it’s an option that can work great depending on your specific situation.

You can grow anything in a hugelkultur bed assuming you have enough soil over the top of the buried wood. If the soil is too shallow then root crops like carrots may hit the wood and not grow well.

A shovel and manure fork should work good—just make sure you have a good wheelbarrow too. I really like having a no-air tire on mine so I don’t have to worry or deal with flats.

I have done most of my projects without spending much. The key has been to look for free stuff that people are throwing away or willing to let me pickup and haul out. I get cardboard, a ton of wood chips, logs, and fall leaves all for free. I also get a lot of free plants by salvaging native plants from sites that are going to be developed.

I also order my plants from wholesale nurseries when possible. You have to order a larger amount at once but the price per plant is much cheaper.

Also live staking can be a great option for some species of plants: https://www.wildhomesteading.com/intro-live-staking/

Finally, explore the threads on permies and for a selfish plug make sure to check out the blog posts on my site—Wild Homesteading. Lots of good resources on both!

And don’t hesitate to ask any follow up questions.

Thank you and good luck!



Wow! THANK YOU! I'm going to take a few hours the coming days to read and research more on these links and I'll follow up with any other q's after that.
 
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Daron Williams wrote:
Your task is to create the habitat and space for those predators.

There are several ways to do this but this is what I do on my wild homestead.

- Mulch everything.
- Add habitat features like rock/log piles and snags.
- Plant in polycultures.
- Add perennials to all planting areas including your garden.
- Add native plants to all planting areas.
- Add flowers to all planting areas.
- Leave some dead plant stalks over winter.

And the big one—avoid all toxic chemicals and even organic solutions that don’t discriminate between prey and predators.

...

Water features are also a great option to attract more predators like frogs. Even small ponds can help.



I want to supplement this really excellent list by talking more about water features, which in my dry/hot summers have proven invaluable.  IMO you cannot have too many.

These can be at any scale from acre-sized ponds (I wish!) down to little four-ounce containers with pebbles or glass beads in them, buried in your garden beds/containers and topped up when you water.  

Last year I had plants in my container garden that had resident frogs/toads and other plants that had resident spiders.  Skinks everywhere.  Dragonflies flying top cover.  Lots of birds around.  It was awesome.  I never saw a blister beetle and I only saw one tomato hornworm.  

The two practical containers I use a lot are the five-gallon bucket and the fifty-five gallon drum.  I put soil in the buckets and plant water chestnuts or canna lilies or Equisetum (horsetail) reeds.  Dragonflies breed on the stems and eat mosquitoes and wasps.  If I don't have my dragonfly airforce, I can't sit comfortably in my swimming pool because of the wasps coming to drink.  Usually every bucket has a frog in it, which means no mosquito larvae.  

The bigger drums I fill with water and keep a couple 19-cent feeder goldfish in to eat mosquito larvae.   Usually I also have floating vegetation in them for insects to land on.  Birds bathe on the rim.  I water my plants with the slightly goldfish-pooped water, then refill with clean.  

Be creative.  There's literally no size that doesn't work as a water feature.  Have lots of them.  More is better.   I also keep lots of little garage sale "decorative" pots and buckets sitting around everywhere, so if I see a plant that looks a little thirsty, I can scoop a quart of warm "live" water out of some nearby feature to spot water that plant.  Then I just habitually refill everything with the hose when I'm doing a more general watering.  
 
Daron Williams
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hey Dan,

Thanks for adding to the post! That is a really great idea to use small containers to make small ponds. I might have to look into that and give it a try…

Any chance you could share a picture of yours?

Thanks for sharing!

To continue the discussion on water features and making the most of small container ponds…

There is a native plant here (looks like it’s native all over the United States) called Wapato or broadleaf arrowhead – Sagittaria latifolia – that produce tubers that are supposed to taste similar to potatoes and chestnuts. The tubers can be prepared in a variety of ways but unlike some wild foods like camas these only need to be cooked for 15 to 20 minutes and apparently can even be eaten raw.

That plant could be a great option to grow in some small container ponds. I might have to give it a try next year. My large pond doesn’t hold water long enough yet to grow this plant.

Here are some links for it:

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagittaria_latifolia
- https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_sala2.pdf
- https://nativefoodsnursery.com/indian-potato/

Apparently, a single plant can yield 40 tubers so it could provide a nice harvest from a relatively small container pond. Something to try!

But water features in general are a great addition to any wild homestead. On Thursday I started digging out a new pond as part of my ongoing project to create a new highly productive wetland area for a variety of plants.

Attached are a picture showing the pond area before I started digging and after about 3.5 hours of digging. This is the third pond I have built this way along my seasonal stream.

All the ponds need more work—especially this new one (I’m waiting for rains to fill it up so I can test the 2 spillways and make sure they’re both at the same level)—but despite that they’re already providing a lot of benefits to my wild homestead.

I’m sharing because I want you all to know what can be done with just a shovel in a few hours. Attached is also a picture of my first pond that is much further along.

Building water features can seem daunting at times but depending on your site conditions you can just use a shovel and simple techniques to build great ponds. My oldest one survived recorded breaking rainfall this year—I just had to widen my spillways but the dam held up with no problems despite the record rainfall.

Whether you build a big pond or make small container ponds like Dan shared these sort of features can really add a lot to your wild homestead and are a great thing to consider building.

Let me know what questions you have! I’m on here each evening so please leave your questions and I will make sure to answer them!

Thanks all and stay healthy!
new-pond-after.jpg
Once some rains come and this pond fills up it will be 2 to 2.5 feet deep at the deepest part. Main goal is to split the seasonal stream into 2 channels to start the process of creating an island.
Once some rains come and this pond fills up it will be 2 to 2.5 feet deep at the deepest part. Main goal is to split the seasonal stream into 2 channels to start the process of creating an island.
new-pond-before.jpg
Just a tinny seasonal stream before I started digging.
Just a tinny seasonal stream before I started digging.
older-pond.jpg
This pond is just over a year old. I have added some smaller ponds downstream and the pond splits the existing stream into 2 channels that both flow through some mini ponds.
This pond is just over a year old. I have added some smaller ponds downstream and the pond splits the existing stream into 2 channels that both flow through some mini ponds.
 
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