Mike Peters

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since Feb 28, 2014
We'll get to this in a bit.
Eugene, OR
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Recent posts by Mike Peters

As a wildland firefighter and a landscape constructor/maintainer, I feel that I am qualified to be considered a professional digger. For the better part of the year, I use a shovel multiple times a week, and the other part my shovel does not leave my hands unless I am eating, sleeping, or running a chainsaw. I've used many different shovels, seen many break, and even broken a couple myself.
 I will break this down into a few categories: steps, footwear, and handles. I will include brand recommendations in situ.
 Steps are ALWAYS  the way to go when you have the option. The only exception I can think of is while mopping up a fire, as the step may impede stump hole penetration in narrow situations. The shovel my crew uses is the Jackson PONY Forestry shovel with a narrow point and tempered blade. I've seen a Stanley with a built in step, but the wonky shape and serrated blade makes me doubt its capabilities. The best shovels I've used in landscaping have got to be Razorbacks. Well-made with great warranties, and the majority of their shovels have steps built in. A lot of their handles are fiberglass, which is a great segue into handles.

 Fiberglass or wood? I prefer wood, but I've really been warming up to fiberglass. As a person who has rehandled many axes, hammers, and hand tools, wood is beautiful, very durable, and comfortable to use. You can also customize it to your liking and make your own handles! The key with it is having appropriate woods and orientations. Hickory cannot be beaten and I would say black locust is a great second. The orientation of the grain should be in line with the force applied for the tool's designed function. For shovels, that is perpendicular to the width of the blade. This is probably the most important thing in any wooden handle, and almost always the reason a handle breaks from force. If you're wondering why the orientation is important, try stacking some thin cardboard strips together and bending them. Which way is more difficult? Folding them like paper? Or bending along the sides of the 'grain'?
 Fiberglass is interesting. It can bend pretty decently, act as an insulator (against electricity), and requires almost no maintenance. We have a few old fiberglass shovels that have been through quite a lot of digging, and the handles are holding up surprisingly well. They work for minor prying jobs (actual prying is where a rock bar comes in) but I've seen them snap too and it isn't pretty. I cannot attest to their strength compared to hickory, but I would say that it is decent. I like the idea of not being electrocuted while transplanting, though!
 Footwear is exactly like everyone is saying: wear solid soles. Fire and work boots are tough, so they aren't a bother. I work in hiking boots at home and professionally. Better traction on various terrain, lighter weight, and waterproof. They too are quite solid and I have no problems using them. They typically last about 2 seasons without oiling the leathers. Fire boots last me about 5, and can double-duty as farm boots, but I rarely break them out except to run a saw. Sneakers I don't use often as I wear Vivobarefoots, but I would see no problem in dry conditions with a step. I haven't found a solid-soled pair of rain boots, so I cannot recommend anything there.

Well, that was longer-winded than I thought!
1 month ago
Hello everyone,

 I am looking for some input and recommendations on shifting a commercial landscaping business from a "rape and pillage" structure that blatantly kills any and all "weeds" to one that works to build the soils, provide optimal conditions for life to grow, and through aesthetics, can draw people in and begin to form a bridge over the gap between humans and nature. Going into my fifth year of landscape and garden maintenance, I have come to the conclusion that the work that I have been carrying out with weeding, spraying, and bagging lawn clippings is doing nothing beneficial to these landscapes to help everything thrive. Killing and removing these plants and their organic matter feels so terribly wrong to me, like I am stealing from these plants and ecosystems. I feel increasingly like seeing bare ground is like witnessing a scar on the earth, trying to repair itself by growing new plants to fill the void, only to be reopened with every misting of spray, and every pierce of my Hori. I understand the aesthetics to a certain degree, giving plants isolation to highlight them and removing competition. However, these beds are not even mulched, and the soils look and feel bleh, like they are lacking life.

 I have approached my bosses a few times, indicating my interest in building the soils, fertilizing, and making a shift to organic and natural practices. The first time was well received, and I was informed about a folder labelled "IPM" for Integrated Pest Management, that basically contained a few ideas, mostly regarding organic vinegar, garlic, and eugenol-based sprays to mitigate weeds.  During the second attempt (which was yesterday), I expressed my feeling about weeding and scarring the land, and how I wanted to utlilise landscapes and gardening to really create healthy, beautiful environments for people to enjoy and reconnect with nature. It went fantastically, and my boss recommended to create a list of ways in which we can incorporate these practices into our daily and seasonal routines. We will sit down, and refine it a bit, and then take it to the owner of the company to make a pitch for the start of a transition to creating healthy happy, and profitable landscapes in the company!

 So what brings me here right now, is you folks. I know that a community as strong and diverse as Permies will have a wealth and breadth of knowledge to offer. I want to start a transition towards creating a business that is sustainable, conscious, and thriving. So tell me, what can you folks share with me, so that we can make a step towards a beautiful and healthy urban environment?

What resources can you recommend in organic, sustainable, and ecological landscaping?

Who here has experience with this type of landscaping or gardening?  

Has anyone pitched extreme ideas to your boss or authority? What did you learn from it?

Who has tips on organizing and presenting this information to a boss? Examples?

Thank you for your help, folks! This is a dream that I had when I first started using a commercial lawnmower, and I feel that it is the beginning of a change in how to professionally manage our yards.
2 years ago
As a landscaper, rose hips are definitely one of my favorite things to munch on! The rugosas really are quite nice, and I've personally found that the climbing style of roses with oblong hips are my favorite tasting. I plan on taking cuttings for my own garden one of these days .
2 years ago
This is something that I am very interested in. Building useful items from scratch with your bare hands, and really interacting with the wood. Would anyone happen to know anyone in Western Oregon who does this sort of thing? I am willing to make a career shift, and at 23, I have plenty of time and energy to devote to the craft .
2 years ago

Ian Mack wrote:This is all from his Philosophy of Green Farming, by the way. He might advocate something different in One-Straw Revolution or his Trees in the Desert book, as I haven't had a chance to read them yet.

I just read your post, and I stand corrected! I wasn't aware that he had lost all of those trees. I guess that part of One Straw Revolution had been written prior to!
3 years ago

Robert Jordan wrote:I hope I haven't missed anything, but hadn't Mr Fukuoka some very specific things to say about pruning fruit trees. If memory serves he had a counter intuitive approach. I can't tell you what, because I don't have trees to learn on yet, but perhaps some student can lay hands on the book and quote from the brilliant Masanobu Fukuoka. RC

Robert, although I cannot give you a quote because a friend has my copy of The One Straw Revolution, I remember reading that he was specifically against pruning. In fact, he stressed that if trees are not pruned to begin with, they will grow into a natural, healthy shape and not need to be pruned. He stil continued to prune his trees that were pruned dependent, though.
3 years ago
Sergei, I LOVE THIS!! I've only recently become a bit of a forager, but now I'm known for "randomly" eating things like wild garlic, dandelions (omg, the buds are soo delicious), and plantains, as well as lavender in small amounts. I always try to make sure that the area looks at least somewhat "natural" with there being weeds and the like in the vicinity and not near any manicured lawns. Truly fantastic stuff. Keep up the wonderful work!
4 years ago