Dave Miller

pollinator
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since Jun 08, 2009
Zone 8b: SW Washington
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Recent posts by Dave Miller

Here's a writeup that I sent to some folks in Vancouver BC a while back.  This is a sort of tidal power network which includes energy storage, to provide power for coastal communities.  I realize that this would not be the most efficient system (vs. a tidal hydro system with batteries), but I also don't think it would kill any sea life and I'm pretty sure that due to edge effects, they would actually increase the amount of life in an estuary.  And I don't think they would be very expensive to build.  The control software might be a bit tricky, but I am a software developer so I'm not too worried about that.  Also since the planters are filled with live shrubs/trees, they would just look like a series of floating islands.

I don't envision these in the open ocean, although they might work in a calm area.  Rather they would be used in estuaries that are currently used to store floating logs, or have abandoned docks, or that have large mudflats during low tide.

I will try to make some sketches soon.

One idea that I settled on was to drive a steel piling into the bay, and attach a series of octopus-like arms out from the piling.  At the end of each arm would be a concrete floating planter, similar to the concrete docks where I worked.  Each planter would be designated as either a 'marine', or 'terrestrial' planter.  The marine planters would be empty, but the terrestrial planters would be filled with soil and planted with a guild of native shrubs and trees.  From a distance, the shrubs and trees would make the whole thing look like a natural island.

Each arm would have the ability to produce electricity, via gear reduction, air pressure, hydraulic pressure, magnetic pressure (linear motor), or something like that.  The arms could be locked in place at any position (probably balanced to keep the center of gravity under control), under the control of some smart software running in a controller either on the piling or at some remote control center.

When none of the arms are locked, the planters rise and fall with the tide, producing power when the tide is rising or falling.  Somewhat useful, but kind of boring, and probably not in sync with demand.  What is more interesting is when the whole thing operates like a battery, storing energy.  e.g. at high tide, an arm could be locked, and then be allowed to produce power (i.e. drop) whenever there is demand, until the next high tide.  The weight of the planter (+arm) generates the power.  Likewise, at low tide, the marine planters could be locked in place.  When there is demand for power before the next low tide, the marine planter would be allowed to float (rise), producing power.

If the marine planter had a valve to control whether the planter held water or not, it could be allowed to fill with water after a low tide, float up to the high tide level, then be locked in place.  So it would have the weight of the planter plus the weight of the water.

It might even be possible for the marine planter to be made airtight, providing stronger upward force after a low tide.  However since the marine planter is essentially a tide pool, locking tidepool animals into an airtight environment seems like a bad idea.  Also leaving them without water for too long would kill them.  But the smart control software could account for this.

Of course one piling wouldn't produce much power, but a whole network of them would.  Also if you had a whole network, each piling could be simplified to have just one circular planter.

I don't envision filling an entire estuary with these, but I when I was in Vancouver I saw some pretty large estuary areas filled with log rafts, so you already are using a lot of estuary space for human purposes.

I imagine that many animals (especially birds) would choose to roost and perhaps even nest in the terrestrial planters.  Likewise, marine organisms would live on/in the marine planters.  It might be wise to provide a little space between planters which may not rise and fall together, to avoid pinning some creature between them.  Likewise they would need to be clearly marked "don't tie your boat here" otherwise the boater would find themselves being lifted into the air or pulled underwater.

I realize this is an unproven, fairly wacky idea, but if the controls were smart enough, I think it could really work well as a tidal power source with built-in energy storage.

4 weeks ago
Just wanted to give an update on my dream of finding a restaurant owner or foodie to share my surplus with.

There is a relatively new foodie-oriented restaurant here in town.  I saw an interview with the chef who talked about how they were trying to get their ingredients locally, and toward the end of the interview they walked from the restaurant to the weekly farmer's market to get supplies for dinner that night.

So I reached out the restaurant, explained my food forest and my desire to share my surplus.  The owner responded right away and came over a few days later.  He was very interested in some of the things I have (though had never heard of them), and took some home.  I have since mentioned to him when other things are ripening, but he has been too busy to come pick so I just pick some extra for him, and put it out on my porch for him to pick up.  That has actually been working out pretty well.  Not quite what I envisioned, but definitely moving in that direction.  The reality is that I don't have time to pick everything, and neither does he. 

His staff has done a great job utilizing my surplus (how often have you had cornelian cherry + sea buckthorn vinaigrette). His customers seem to enjoy his staff's skill to come up with some really amazing things from the unusual things I am growing.  I have also shared surplus from my foraging ventures, e.g. plums and nuts from my neighbors/neighborhood.

My wife and I went there for dinner last week.  They didn't charge for our drinks, which is the sort of "barter" I was hoping to have.

I realize that most restaurant owners probably don't have time or interest to deal with a backyard food forester like me, but I think it works because the restaurant is pretty small, and they like to constantly change up their menu and experiment.
4 weeks ago
Interesting thread, I'll read through it all tonight.

When I was young I worked at a fuel dock for boats, in a tidal estuary. Occasionally a huge log would get caught in the slip next to the fuel dock. Sometimes we would tie a heavy rope around the log and a piling at high tide, and watch as the tide "lifted" the log onto the dock.  We're talking about logs 4 feet in diameter.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how tidal energy could be captured.  I keep coming back to one idea using floating concrete planters and pilings.  I have a writeup and sketches somewhere, which I will dig up and post here.
1 month ago
Do you, or anyone in this thread, think that there is a role for the backyard food forest to contribute to our local food system?  

I have been developing my 1/2 acre backyard food forest/forest garden over the last 8 years or so. We have lived here 28 years, so I also have a few mature fruit and nut trees.

I have around 200 varieties of edible plants, including 40 apple varieties grafted onto about 6 trees. Lots of berries, nuts, grapes, plums, figs, hardy kiwis, a few mushrooms, and many other things. Lots of native plants, which i see as the foundation of the whole system.  No animals though, besides a cat, dog, and thousands of mason and bumble bees (I don’t have time to care for more animals). I do encourage wild birds, wasps, and snakes, for insect and slug control.

I am finally putting in a raised bed no-till vegetable/herb garden.

Overall the food forest is doing great, I don’t do any fertilizing or spraying, just a little pruning, weeding, pest harassment, and lots of harvesting.

My main goal is to be able to walk into my yard any day of the year and pick something to eat.  I am very close to achieving that goal.

However it is just a hobby, I still have a regular job 25 minutes away.

Of course I cannot possibly eat everything I grow.  I have been trying to harvest and give away my surplus, but I can no longer keep up. I didn't think about how much time it takes just for harvesting.  So the birds and other creatures in my neighborhood are well fed

I have invited friends over to u-pick, however there is something new ripening every few days, which doesn't work with most people's schedules.

What I think would be ideal is if some knowledgeable foodie person came by every couple of days and took whatever they want, leaving me enough for my needs and reporting any problems they spot, making suggestions on changing the plant mix, etc. In return maybe I could get a good deal at their restaurant every once in a while. This person wouldn't need to be a chef at the restaurant, maybe they are just a food gatherer?

Any thoughts?
4 months ago
A couple of mason bee videos from this morning.  Mostly horn-faced, but also Osmia lignaria.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/qlo0JMorzyh4aqa82

https://photos.app.goo.gl/ny4fSt22xlNLun773
6 months ago
John, thanks for reviving this thread.  Let me see if I can answer your questions.

John Duda wrote:Dave you got one out of three apple trees to fruit in 6 years. That's considerably better than the war stories about growing from seed proclaim. That's what I'm interested in. Are the results of your efforts better than what the common knowledge tells us? Do your fruits taste better than you expected? Do you get quicker results, smaller trees than the giants they tell us results? Have you grafted to any of your seed grown trees



Actually I still have 2 of the 3 trees I grew from seed.  The first one "Miss Jessamine" is still being well received.  I have given out hundreds of scions.  I'll be taking a bunch to the Home Orchard Society propogation fair on Sunday.

I'd say that the old adage that you cannot grow a good apple from seed is not true.  As the saying goes, if I would have known it was impossible to grow a good apple from seed, I wouldn't have done it.

I would say that the fruit is about what I expected.  I doubt it will win any taste contests (though the flavor is well above average), but it has other desirable (to me, at least) qualities:
- seems to be quite disease-resistant in my area, which is fairly uncommon.
- has a bit thicker skin, which at first was a negative but the huge plus for me is that makes it somewhat resistant to insect damage.

I did not get quicker results with this particular tree because I didn't know any better.  I recently grew some more trees from seed I planted 2 years ago, and I will be grafting them next week.  So I am learning :-)

The tree does indeed want to grow big, but I just keep it pruned like my other trees.  I have also grafted it onto semi-dwarf rootstock, so I actually have two Miss Jessamine trees now.

Yes I have grafted many varieties onto the original Miss Jessamine tree, they are doing well.

I have not yet named the second seedling tree.  The jury is still out as to whether it is worth keeping.   The fruit thus far has been fairly small, and I haven't yet won the battle with some creature to leave them on the tree until they are fully ripe. 

The tree seems to have a semi-dwarf habit, which saves a lot of pruning :-)

I think it would be great if more people grew apples from seed.  It is super easy, and if you end up with only 'spitters', just keep trying.
8 months ago
I just leave them standing until the fall rains start, then cut the heads and keep them in the garage.  The birds know how to extract the seeds, no need to do that for them, unless you are wanting seed to fill your feeder.

Natalie Manor wrote:I have the same dream about the sunflowers.  The land I am looking at is mostly flat so I was going to do berms with sun flowers the first year.  The finch's go crazy for the seeds still on the flower.  Fun to watch.  Do you just let the flowers filled with seed fall to the ground or do you break them up and spread?  When you grow for your birds, do you deseed the flower or just cut the flower head for the birds?  Thanks. 

1 year ago
Personally, I never dig the crowns unless I am in a big hurry.   Instead I cut the new growth once or twice a year.   After a few years of cutting, the roots run out of energy and die.

I normally use a scythe to cut them, but I have also dragged a lawn mower over them.
1 year ago
Here is a local couple that has 10 acres of chestnuts: http://www.chestnutsonline.com

They have a few videos in the "About the farm" section.  They also have a forum, perhaps you might find something interesting there.

I always thought these folks had a pretty good model & website for selling directly from their farm.  I don't know how successful they are, but they have been doing it for many years so it must be worthwhile.

I see that they are now selling the farm: http://www.chestnutsonline.com/farmforsale.html
1 year ago
In my yard, things do seem to produce more when they are growing together with their "natural" companion plants & animals.  So I think that mixing certain types of trees & shrubs is an excellent idea.  I like to visit local natural areas and abandoned orchards, where I make observations about the plant+animal communities which seem to be thriving, then mimic that in my own yard.  I include a lot of native plants, which seem to form the "base" of all the life in my backyard food forest.

Of course directly under the trees, the vegetation needs to be mowed if you want to use any sort of machinery to pick up the nuts.  But there are plenty of low-growing beneficial plants which can handle mowing/grazing/burning.

Around here, there is a lot of interest in native bees for pollination.  I have been experimenting with "raising" mason bees and have had a fair amount of success.  They require very little work - 4 hours per year.  I sell my extras for about $250/year which isn't bad for a 1/2 acre backyard.  I don't know anything about native bees in Portugal, but I imagine there may be similar interest.

I would also recommend growing a variety of nuts.  That way you can see which ones are more popular in your area.  And tastes change over time.  e.g. in my yard I have walnut, hazelnut (filbert), almond, and chestnut.  I also forage walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts in the neighborhood where I work.  A quick side note - the most productive nut trees I have found are in a dog park.  This makes a lot of sense because in most places, squirrels eat a lot of the nuts.  But there are very few squirrels in a dog park.   So if you have a dog, you might encourage it to chase squirrels out of your nut orchard.

I don't have nor want chickens, so instead I attract wild birds by throwing black oil sunflower seeds under my trees.  This seems to provide all the fertilizing my trees need (from bird droppings).  I suspect that the birds also uncover grubs (of pests such as apple maggot) while scratching for the seeds.  I am hopeful that this will reduce insect damage, but so far I cannot say for sure.



1 year ago