Samuel MacHay

+ Follow
since Sep 09, 2015
Samuel likes ...
duck trees chicken woodworking
Zone 7b; West of the Great Dismal. On top of the Scarp
Apples and Likes
Total received
In last 30 days
Total given
Total received
Received in last 30 days
Total given
Given in last 30 days
Forums and Threads
Scavenger Hunt
expand First Scavenger Hunt

Recent posts by Samuel MacHay

Wendy Wagner - Hey, what a neat surprise success!

  Wendy I agree, Thank you!  

Alexandra Clark - Mounding saw dust, no matter how deep is a soft and easy thing for tough crab grass rhizomes to sprout through.  My suggestion which I have used successfully to address invasive plants in the garden is to lay down dry cardboard on those paths, then wet the top a little and add leaf litter and then wood mulch or saw dust. Water down well. Whenever you see a patch breaking down, simply add another layer of cardboard (sun/heat/moisture barrier) and you should be good to go.  You may have some side growth of the plants but that can be easily taken care of by running a flat spade into the earth, cutting the rhizomes and flicking the shoots upside down.  
You could also do a two step process where you lay black plastic over your paths with rocks to weight it down and leave it like that for 6 weeks. It will solarize the ground underneath and you can then build your cardboard paths.
I have about 28 large brown cardboard pizza boxes stacked in my garage waiting to go into paths in the back yard. I am dealing with a big patch of poison ivy first..yeck!

Alexandra, Thank you, I agree and actually currently use your advice.  I do the cardboard under-matting and the black plastic overlay in areas, I'll probably start another thread about the black plastic project, it involves tillage radishes. For this pathway, I was simply out of cardboard and had a surplus of sawdust for this round, and was trying to stop the spread of the crabgrass as quickly as possible. Once the spring rains hit and the temperature climbs above 65 degrees F, crabgrass seems to grow like a horizontal bamboo around here  Our property is slowly evolving. When I bought it 2 years ago, there were no gardens or flower beds or animals, the cleared area was just crabgrass over poorly drained, compacted, clayey loam. We've been working hard to improve that.  My plan now is observe this path compared to the others that do have cardboard below.  I was surprised to see how quickly the sawdust had started to compost in this path after it had been chopped up with the soil and the crabgrass. I'm not sure this is a process I'll repeat, because the chopping/hoeing WAS A LOT OF WORK, but it appears to have kicked off a soil rendering bio-machine beneath my feet.  If it continues to compost and grow worms this well,  I'll probably pull off the sawdust covering and spread the newly formed composted soil over the garden beds late in the fall.  I was just so giddy about all the baby worms, I had to stop and grab my camera!  My "laziness"  in allowing the soil disturbance I had created to "steep" for a couple of weeks allowed those worms to flourish and reproduce like crazy, I haven't observed life erupt like that EVER on my property!

William Bronson - I like the way you are looking at things! Maybe you could introduce clover to crowd out the grass? Sawdust and wood chips mixed with soil are said to lead to nitrogen deficiencies. I had a thought a while ago to do this on purpose to advantage nitrogen fixers like clover, seeing as every clover patch I start us overwhelmed by "weeds"

William - Thanks!   I'm not too worried about nitrogen deficiency, as these are the pathways, maybe that will help kill/weaken the crabgrass? Who knows?, time will tell!  I've been playing with seeding clover patches and various cover crops in areas that are planned for future garden beds/orchard yards. I had thought about clover in the garden paths as well, it would certainly make my bees happy, but since I don't have to mow/chop the sawdust at all and it still composts and improves the soil... Then the sawdust path fits my groove better     LOL!

3 years ago
Firstly, please excuse the large multi-syllabic phrase, punctuated equilibrium, however,  it is the best term I could use to describe what I observed.
So, let's define it:  From

noun 1. theory of, Biology. a hypothesis holding that the evolution of species proceeds in a characteristic pattern of relative stability for long periods of time interspersed with much shorter periods during which many species become extinct and new species emerge. Also called punctuationalism.

 webpage  Now, while most people limit the concept to evolutionary biology, I see the process occurring everywhere all the time.  (Silly geologist, always got my head in the ground.)  If we remove the  new species evolutionary aspect and replace it with any other natural process, well this is exactly how Nature works.  Nature wants a balance, an equilbrium, until there is a disturbance, which induces a little chaos until a new balance is found.
SO, how does this relate to building soil and laziness?  I've been converting my garden paths to sawdust paths, to help deal with the crabgrass that ALWAYS invades the garden beds.  I've been piling on sawdust 6-8 inches thick in the paths, yet eventually the crabgrass grows through. So I got fed up, broke out the hoe and commenced to chopping out the paths and pulling up the crabgrass and as many roots as I could find.  Then the rains came. I didn't get back to weeding the paths for two weeks. The crabgrass had started to re-root by the time I got back to this chore and I was kicking myself.  Now granted, chopping and hoeing a path certainly is not lazy work, but I was upset that so much time had passed that I had let my efforts go to waste. The roots were starting to hold fast to the dirt again and I kept degrading myself for being "lazy" and not finishing this task and now having to start from scratch.
But I noticed I was re-chopping these areas, the soil texture was amazing, and the worm population had exploded!  
Now, I was trying to overcome an old equilibrium.  The crabgrass has been growing there for years, and proved it was going to keep growing there, it grew through 6 inches of sawdust! When I broke out  the hoe and chopped out the roots and subsoil, essentially mixing it all up, that was a major disturbance, yet because those weeds were allowed to stay there and start composting, I think the worms came and feasted, made babies, and tipped the balance  to a new equilibrium, one that hopefully doesn't have as much crabgrass!
3 years ago
Wow. After watching Paul's lecture from PV1 You tube-PV1 Maybe Paul should look into hiring this guy?  They have the same passion and zeal for the subject.  Get outside and get dirty, build a hugel, dig a swale, plant a garden. The implementation of permaculture techniques, or gardening in general for that matter, is all very, VERY hard physical work.  I'm not sure that Rocky is being negative on Permaculture, per say, but perhaps he isn't a very "Purple Permaculturist".  
(I can't seem to find the thread about the "different colors of permaculture" to link too, if anyone can find and add that, so all will know what I'm talking about. Thanks.)

I tend to agree with Rocky, there are a lot of self-proclaimed experts, and therefore, like everything else in this world...Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware.  It is up to each of us as individuals to view and consume information with a "Collect, Inspect, then Accept or Reject" mentality.  I've given up arguing the minutia with people, it's a waste of my time.   From what I've learned in my short time of study, Permaculture is NOT a recipe book.  What works for Rocky in his climate, local topography and geology, may not work for me, it may not work Paul, but if it works for Rocky, then GREAT, go for it man!  The permaculture techniques we use to develop our farms and gardens are only tools. It's up to us to pick the right tool for our particular job at hand. A permaculture technique or system isn't wrong, if it works for you, however, it may not be the right technique or system for everyone or every situation.  This is what I believe Rocky is alluding to, there are many people, who believe that the permaculture they are doing IS "Permaculture", that their techniques on their site are THE WAY, and if you deviate from their WAY, then it's wrong.  This philosophy is dangerous and could not be more wrong.  Permaculture demands and depends on diversity.  Diversity of  plants, animals, microbes and fungal species in our gardens, farms and forests, diversity in our ideas and techniques.  Permaculture is the path of many ways, but these different paths lead to the same goals, the three ethics of Permaculture - Care for the Earth, Care for the People, Return of the Surplus.

From his quote near the end of his post, I think Rocky has a lot of respect for Permaculture and what it can provide as a design system.

Let it never be said that ol’ Rocky doesn’t give em’ a chance to speak up for themselves. The forums at are a great place to learn and ask about permaculture from someone who isnt such a disenchanted, pessimistic asshole as myself.

However I think he has some issues with people who are offering a "bill of goods" with a pretty permaculture wrapper.  Similarly, this is something I've been struggling to understand - Action vs Dogmatic regurgitation  - It is not only prevalent in the Permaculture world, but the world in general and has become exponetially exaserbated by the annoymous culture of internet trolls. I know Paul has struggled with people who automatically denounce what he states, just to be contrary, like a crazy Monty Python skit. Argument Clinic

I think it would be good for everyone to go outside and  get their hands dirty. Observe and learn what works on your site.  It's a humbling task to turn a proper compost pile.  But don't berate me, because I don't turn my compost exactly like you do!
4 years ago

R Ranson wrote:I'm smoking peppers today!  Thanks for the inspiration.

Oh Man!  That's a great picture! Literally made my mouth water!  I'm jealous!  >  But, since I've got a bunch of pimentos and cow horns coming in, I'll be trying this out over the weekend!  
4 years ago
Wow, look what a feature on the dailyish can get you!!! No replies were posted when I started to write mine!  LOL Great info, as always!
4 years ago
I tried to envision what this means -

a design for a permies playground

 and now several minutes later...Wow! I just opened my own mental "Can O' Worms" - (And how ironic is that phrase, now seen through a Permaculture lens)  
At first thought, "playground" brought forth visions of big plastic bouncy houses and big pressure treated wood forts and maybe some recycled rubber tire mulch to get some kind of "Green" rating or LEEDs (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits, and that brought a chuckle, as I tried  to imagine fitting those kinds of components into what my mind envisions as "Permaculture" or a "Permaculture Design".
Now granted those are Todays "playgrounds", not that I'm old, but growing up "our playground" really wasn't much better - a bunch of galvanized pipe swing sets and monkey bars, and gigantic cement culverts set up like tunnels and turrets, but at least it was sand and pine straw that we landed on when we jumped out of the swing. (Is that even allowed anymore? ) One must jump right at the apex of the swing,  at that moment you feel almost weightless!  
(Grown man chuckles again - wondering if my knees could handle such frivolity anymore.   )  But I digress....

- Problems into Solutions

The "Can O' Worms" opened when I realized - My DEFINITION of a "playground" is wrong! My mental picture of a "playground" is wrong!
And when I really sat and thought about it, as a kid, very seldom did I actually go to a playground.  We played on them at school recess (Is that even allowed  anymore? ), and occasionally we rode bikes to the city park and played.  But when I honestly thought about it, my favorite "playground" was an old gnarly multi-branched Pink Crepe Myrtle tree in my front yard.  My friends and I climbed up and down and all over that tree.  It was a look out tower against marauding orcs or monsters invading our city block. It was the creepy hangman's gallows on Halloween night. It was a "quiet" place, where I could splay out among the branches and just relax and watch the world.

This may not be what you were intending or hoping for, but we "Practitioners of Permaculture" plant a lot of trees.  Willow branches can be woven into some fantastic living structures. Close plantings of black locust in an orchard type setting could be coppiced and/or pollarded, providing wood for fuel and living structures for tree houses, or arched over into monkey bars, or sawn up into kid sized Lincoln Logs! How cool would that be,  
These are just my quick random thoughts! But I hope this helps. I've found I'm choosing/needing to re-define a lot of things in my life, as a new/different set of values is slowly usurping my old ones.
4 years ago
Welcome to Permies!  You are in the position I was in a couple of years ago. A lifestyle change is not easy, there is no magic wand - EXCEPT - the decision to make a change and then get started!  Congratulations for making this big and most important first step towards food security and health for you and your family.
My suggestions to you based on what I've experienced:

A) Include your family in your plans, watch fun videos to get the wife and kids on board and excited about this change (IF they aren't already).
B) Make a plan to pay off your debt, BUDGET and SAVE, if you have loans or credit card debt, always try to pay more than the minimum each month.  The financials will start to come around and will be able to make progress, IF you stick to the budget.
C) If you have access to some land now, why not garden NOW?   Lots of edibles can be grown in pots on the patio, or a small plot in the backyard.  Practice, Practice, Practice.  Every garden you build and grow, every plant you nurture, will nurture you back; whether that comes in the form of actual nutrition and sustenance from eating the plant or in the form of experience gained and knowledge acquired from working your soil, and tending to the plants needs.

All the details are up to you!    Your farm, Your dreams!!!
Best of luck!
4 years ago
This is my S.W.A.M.P. thread or (Sam's Wishlist And Major Projects)

I made a general introduction here, Intro
As I said in the Intro, I've managed to buy a little over 18 acres in Southeast, VA in August of 2015.

When purchased, approximately 3 acres of the property was wide open with lots and lots of lawn, an older single wide trailer with some odd DIY additions, a large garage, and a couple of sheds. The property has in place - electrical service, an older septic, and a very deep well for our area (>650'). The balance of the property (approximately 15 acres) was clear cut about 21 years ago and the timber sold off, (I believe 1995 was the date I saw on the property deed records), the previous owners did not reseed or replant any trees, and whatever was there reseeded on it's own. Several people initially saw this as a minus; until I started to describe that I have a young, diverse, native naturalized forest, not a plethora of future telephone poles, AKA - loblolly pine trees, they call those pine barrens for a reason!
I feel lucky. I've got some tree diversity - red maple, pine, black oak, and some red and white oak seem to be the major components of the over story with an occasional tulip poplar here and there. Good wildlife habitat - the game camera has captured lots of deer, turkey, a family of black bears and a bobcat! We have been fortunate that our dogs have seemed to stave off any predator pressure so far, but it's just a matter of time before the predators discover my now poultry ridden property!

The transition to living on the property full time took a few months. The trailer needed some immediate work and a LOT of paint (former owner was a chain smoker, ceilings were yellow-brown from the years of cigarette smoke)

My goal was to detail all our projects as we go, unfortunately I'll have to play catch up! Brenda and I have been crazy busy, lots of work on the farm, very little documentation!
I tried to illustrate and label the different locations of the projects in the images below.

As we move forward in this adventure I'll try to document as we go, in the meantime, I'll be discussing the projects to date starting from the beginning.
First up - the Chicken/Kitchen Garden
This was completely a soil building exercise! We already had a chain link dog kennel, slapped it up where we wanted the kitchen garden, built a modest coop out of scrap wood the previous owners left all over the property, and let the chickens start to work that soil! I began collecting leaves and over the course of the fall/winter had collected enough to fill a 25' x 50' area (the two chicken yards detailed in the image below) this became the deep bedding for the chicken yards when we moved the fence and coop from the kitchen garden area to the current chicken yard areas.
Our soils are fairly compacted, acidic and poorly draining, so I did roto-till the kitchen garden this spring when I was establishing my wide rows. I'm hoping tilling will be a one time job for me, and the worms will take over now that we are adding all that organic matter to the soil! I piled up, turned and piled up, turned and piled up, turned and piled up lots and lots and lots of compost, applied all we had made, tilled it in, AND it still wasn't as much as I hoped for! So, I slowly keep adding the compost my chickens are making as a top dressing to those wide rows and have been getting a good response from the plants now.

More to come later...
Hopefully the pictures post ok...any advice on including the photos in the body of the post rather than as attachments?
4 years ago
Hello fellow Permies!
I joined a while ago and after much, much reading, I feel I should at least say Hi! I've read so many different posts and forum threads that, although I've not met or talked to anybody here, yet, many of you feel like old friends. I want to thank ALL of you for that. It's feels good to be part of a community, hopefully I can try to help out here or pay forward to others the valuable information that has helped me get started!
My interest in Permaculture started with wanting a more simple life. Divorce and the subsequent material downsizing refocused my desire to "live off the land" and all my childhood memories of watching Grizzly Adams and Little House on the Prairie came back into play. I hadn't heard of Permaculture or Sustainability (as a movement) until I found this site, and I quickly became hooked on the Permaculture buzz. That was almost two years ago - Fast Forward - I found and purchased 18 acres in southeast Virginia, and with a lot of help from these forums, have managed to start growing my little sustainable empire. More details in another post later, outlining and detailing all the different projects. Until then - THANKS AGAIN!

4 years ago