Daron Williams

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since Oct 08, 2016
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Hi, I’m Daron, and there’s nothing I love more than cultivating food, habitat, and beauty for my family and the wild critters that share our home.
Home, for me, is the Wild Ride Homestead—the little piece of earth where my wife, Michaela, and I are raising a family and running a business.
Michaela tends to the “home” part of the homestead—turning our harvests into wholesome, tasty meals, and taking the lead raising our little toddler. She also helps out quite a bit with Wild Homesteading, acting as my editor and helping me translate some of the abstract concepts into concise, actionable tips.
Our son Arden is also a cornerstone of our life and work, keeping us smiling and laughing even when times are tough.
Michaela and I both work outside the home to pay the bills—I work as a restoration project manager, and Michaela works at our local public library.
Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Recent posts by Daron Williams

Huxley – You’re welcome! I have not heard about using them for toothbrushes. I’m curious now… time to google!

Joseph – Yeah, not exactly a desert plant. Most of my soil not soft enough to get a stick 4 feet down but for my restoration work the crews I hire will often use rebar or other material to make a hole first and then put the willow stick in that. Sometimes we use 6 to 8 foot long live stakes and we try to get those at least halfway down. Generally, that is when we know the summer water table drops that far below the surface.

Ralph – Good to hear from you! Yeah, I kinda like their messiness—makes good habitat for wildlife but not as good near the house. This year my large willow patch is finally filled in enough that the birds are loving it. There have been flocks hanging out in them now for a while. Been fun to see!

There are some upland willows but given your landscape I doubt they would do well. One species native here is almost never found in actual wetlands with standing water. I’m growing it along a fence to create a privacy screen between my property and a road. The willows should also help clean the water coming off the busy road.
5 days ago
Inge – Thank you for sharing! I’m not familiar with that plant but there are some similar ones that grow wild here. The carrot family seems to have a lot of edible (with at least one very toxic exception) species to choose from!

Thanks again for sharing!
6 days ago

I have a soft spot for willows—as a kid I just loved finding pussy willows in spring. Those soft little willow flowers were and are just amazing to me. But beyond just enjoying them, willows have a number of practical uses on the homestead.

This week’s blog post – 7 Wonderful Uses for Willows on the Homestead – is all about willows and how to use them on your homestead.

If you follow my posts on a weekly basis you may have noticed this one was late. Between vacation over the 4th of July and my birthday on the 8th I just ran out of time to get this up sooner. Now back to the topic at hand!

The 7 uses of willows that the blog post covers are:

1. Rooting Hormone – Willow Water
2. Habitat for Wildlife
3. Garden Trellises and Structures
4. Cleaning Water Runoff
5. Medicine
6. Chop-and-Drop Material
7. Animal Fodder – Tree Hay

Each section provides an overview of the specific use for willows plus a video and/or links for more information.

Growing Willows

While the blog post covers those 7 uses for willows I wanted to dive a bit more than the post does into the easiest way to propagate willows: live staking

Willows are easy to propagate because even a twig can root but there are certain practices to have more success.

Live staking can be done by taking cuttings from 1-year old branches or from older thicker branches/trunks. Given that willows also coppice you could cut a willow down in the fall and then use all the material for live staking which would quickly expand your willow population.

The younger 1-year old branches are often referred to as willow whips. These branches tend to be fairly narrow (pencil width) but can be decently long. You can cut these into multiple sections of about 2 to 3 feet in length as long as each section has at least 4 (6 is better) buds.

You will want to have at least 2 of the buds in the ground and 2 of the buds above the ground. The more buds you have the more chances there are for the willow to root. Though willows may root from where you cut it.

I like to get my willow live stakes down into the ground at least 2 feet and ideally 3 or even 4 feet. This is tricky with willow whips since they are so skinny. But with larger branches if you make an angled cut on the bottom of the branch and a flat cut on the top you can then use a rubber or wood mallet to pound the branch into the ground.

As far as timing goes—I like to get my willow live stakes in the ground in the fall. Winter can work to if the ground is not frozen solid. It takes time for live stakes to root and get established so unless you are planting them in an area that never dries out you will want to give the willows time to send out their roots before summer.

Willows of course love wet areas but there are also a number of varieties that do fine with droughts. These upland willows can be a great option for areas that are wet in the winter but dry out in the summer.

Even though willows love to resprout you likely won’t get 100% survival from your live stakes. But live stakes are a quick and easy way to grow lots of willows.

One final thing to note is that willows grown from live stakes tend to be a bit slow during their first year especially if the ground dries out during the summer. But as long as they survive their first summer they tend to take off during following years.

How do You Use Willows?

There are many more ways to use willows than the 7 covered in this week’s blog post—how do you use willows on your homestead? Please leave a comment and help expand this list with your uses for willows.

And make sure to swing by the blog post and leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
6 days ago
I thought you all might be interested in this spreadsheet I have been working on. I'm designing a native only food forest for my day job :) Still a bit unsure if the organization will let me do it but if I get the go ahead I will finish the design this summer and start implementing it in the fall. The total area will be about 1.6 acres but that will include an area focused on coppicing and a wetland area. The site will be open to the public and will be used for hands on education. If I get the go ahead (next week) I will make a new thread all about it with more information and regular updates.

But in the mean time enjoy the list! (it is a work in progress)
2 weeks ago

Meg Mitchell wrote:For the salal have you already ruled out taking root cuttings? I have a lot of salal and it seems to send out little underground runners like Oregon Grape. It might be worth trying to take one of the healthier baby plants, cutting it off from the parent and trying to move it, like you might do to start a strawberry patch?

Salal can be fairly picky when it comes to transplanting it. Make sure you get the tip of the root it will be white I think (white or pink) and also make sure there is an abundance of root compared to the amount of growth on the top of the plant. Because of the way that salal spreads you can easily get a lot of top growth and not enough roots. Plus if you don't get at least one root tip the plant will most likely not make it.

Every salvage event I go to involves a training on how to have success with salal and low Oregon grape. Both can be a bit of a pain but I have transplanted both successfully using the above method. Just make sure to get it in the ground quickly.
2 weeks ago

Meg Mitchell wrote:I have a patch of miner's lettuce and I absolutely LOVE it. For about a month or two in early spring, it produces like crazy while it's too cold for the lettuce, and it's one of the milder wild greens I've tried.

I've tried to start blue camas from seed but with no luck so far. I would guess it's easier to propagate from a bulb but then I would have to find bulbs. I know of a place where it grows wild but it's far enough away that I'd have to plan a trip for it, and I'd want to do that while it's blooming since death camas and common camas grow in a lot of the same spots, and the colour of the flowers is the easiest way to tell them apart.

Nice! Miner's lettuce is really great! Yeah, got to be careful with death camas--but luckily its flowers are fairly different than regular camas. I really want to get a bunch of camas going at my place. I just love the flowers and it would be fun to learn how to cook with it.
2 weeks ago

eric fisher wrote:
Hi Dannon, really interesting post. I am a Brit and many of the names are unfamiliar to me but I suspect I would know a few by different names. Just wondering how
many are not growing in England and how ethical it would be to try a few here. Best E

I know there are a fair number in England - nettles of course are common. I lived in southern England in Lewis outside of Brighton and Hove for a year and volunteered with a youth ranger program in the South Downs National Park and Stanmer Park (which I think is part of the national park now). We did some wild foraging but I'm afraid all I remember is that there was a lot available to munch.

But I would say your environment has been so heavily modified that native might not be your top concern. I know there are a fair number of American tree species growing over there that people are just leaving alone because the native trees are so rare now. But if you did find some native edibles I would try growing them.

This post was meant to highlight all the great native wild vegetables out there not try to make the case that you should only grow them. I have a number of posts on perennial vegetables which when combined with the native wild vegetables you could have a very diverse mix of perennial vegetables (native and non-native).

My philosophy is to always include some native plants in my designs but I still use plenty of non-natives. Sometimes the native plants are a better fit or can do the job fine in which case I use them but sometimes the non-native is the better fit or does a better job so I use those. In general my designs are 75% non-native and 25% native. But I have some areas that are closer to 90% native. Just depends on what I'm focusing on.
2 weeks ago

Jay Angler wrote:I can't remember where I was looking, but I tripped over this link - http://kwiaht.org/documents/Camascookbook.pdf - which is a PDF of recipes for camas. The long cooking time is definitely an issue, but it can be frozen or dried after cooking so at least one could cook in bulk for multiple meals. A rocket powered pit oven sounds awesome.

I've been reading, Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer, and it is inspiring me to work harder at finding wild foods to complement the land I'm working with. I'm happy to mix and match native and domestic plants, as they frequently complement each other.

Nice! I will have to check that pdf out and the book. I have heard about that book but I have yet to read it. Speaking about wild edibles... attached is a picture of my handwritten (hopefully you can read it) list of sun loving mostly native wild vegetables. There are a couple there that are found more in Oregon or California and 1 that is in eastern WA but not western WA. I'm going to use that list to plant up my front food forest this fall/winter.
2 weeks ago

Jay Angler wrote:@Daron - I took the plunge and left a comment on your blog. I've been gradually learning to recognize wild edibles that grow on my farm, but many aren't too productive due to the thin soil and deep shade. I've used Stinging Nettle and Miner's lettuce. I had hoped to encourage Salal to propagate on a sloped area, but I've not been able to collect seed. I don't know if the plants I've found are not producing fruit, or if the birds are getting it before me. Most of the plants are quite young.

I'm going to do a bit more research on the Stonecrop you mentioned.  How does it taste?

Thanks Jay! Pie for you! I left a reply for you on the site too. I'm really curious about how the camas seeds work out for you. If you remember please share how they germinate. I want to get camas going on my property and seeds would be much lower cost (free!) then buying plants. At the moment I don't have access to any place I could salvage camas but I could get seeds easily enough. Just as an aside... I have been slowly working on a design for a rocket (j-tube) powered pit oven to help with cooking camas and sun chokes. lol, perhaps I can convince Paul to make it part of the ATC in the future so I can test it out!

Anyways... about stonecrop. My plants are young so I have only nibbled on them a bit. They are crunchy and kinda of fun to add to a salad but the bit I tried was astringent. I don't think I would want it to be the core part of a salad or use it on its own. But I think if it was mixed with miners lettuce, Pacific waterleaf, plus some others it would be good. The big advantage of stonecrop is that it likes harsh conditions like those found on rocky slopes. So it will grow where a lot of other plants won't. It is supposed to spread fairly well though once it is established--mine are just starting to bloom but have not grown at all. But they have only been in the ground for about 3 months.

You can also cook with stonecrop but I have not tried it that way. The links on the blog post have some more information about stonecrop.

Thanks again!
2 weeks ago

Have you ever gone out and foraged for wild foods? Perhaps you found a huckleberry bush covered with sweet juicy berries. What about wild onions? Miners lettuce? Waterleaf? Stinging Nettle?

These are all examples of native wild vegetables but there are many more than these. This week’s blog post – How to Get Started with Native Wild Vegetables – dives into these amazing wild foods and how to use them in your garden and on your homestead.

Plus, the post covers 9 native wild vegetables found in western Washington.
1. Miner’s Lettuce
2. Redwood Sorrel
3. Pacific Waterleaf
4. Early Blue Violet
5. Henderson’s Checkermallow
6. Pacific Silverweed
7. Oregon Stonecrop
8. Springbank Clover
9. Nodding Onion

Use these 9 wild vegetables to help you picture growing these great wild foods on your own homestead. But there are far more out there that would make a great addition to your homestead.

What are Native Wild Vegetables? And Why Should I Grow These?

As a homesteader you want your garden and your food systems in general to be resilient to shocks. But unfortunately, our food systems are often not very resilient. As a whole those of us in the western world eat a very small number of plants compared to our ancestors.

There are really just a few types of vegetables that work well with industrial farming. These are the ones you find in the grocery store. And regardless of if you live in Washington State, Kansas, Main or London you likely have the same general selection. Regional variations have been lost.

But wild native vegetables are a great way to bring back a diversity of food. I have a list of 18 native wild vegetables that I’m thinking about growing in my front food forest. Those 18 are not even counting the wild vegetables that prefer growing in the shade like Pacific waterleaf and redwood sorrel.

Imagine walking around your homestead and harvesting greens for cooking or for a salad and easily coming back with over 12 different types of greens. I can already do that and I have yet to plant the 18 native wild vegetables on my list.

And greens are not the only thing these wild foods provide.

Wapato, camas, springbank clover, Pacific silverweed, fernleaf biscuitroot, harvest brodiaea, beaked sedge, and Indian ricegrass are all examples of staple crops native to Washington State.

All the native wild vegetables I have listed in this post are also perennials in western Washington. Which means that once they are established you will have a lasting food source that needs very little maintenance and also supports local wildlife.

Just imagine what could be done with all these native wild vegetables if they were selectively bred overtime for improved harvests. How many different types of new crops could we have if this was done across the world?

Growing Native Wild Vegetables in the Garden and on the Homestead

*The start of my wild garden patch. I will finish planting it this fall.

One challenge with native wild vegetables is figuring out how to integrate them with your existing plants. In my kitchen garden I have an area in each garden bed that is set aside for native wild vegetables.

Logs and rocks are used to mark the boundaries and this fall I will be planting these areas with a number of native wild vegetables. These “wild” patches will also help attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

But I’m also mixing these wild foods in all around my trees and shrubs. Instead of buying ornamentals I can plant beautiful plants like Henderson’s checkermallow. Many of these wild native vegetables could be planted in your front yard as flowers and your neighbors would never know you were growing food!

Make sure to check out the blog post before you go. The post dives into more information about these great wild vegetables and has some tips on how to learn about the ones that are native to your area.

It will take some time to learn about the amazing native wild vegetables in your area but I guarantee if you take the time to learn you will fall in love with these fantastic wild foods!

And make sure to swing by the blog post and leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
2 weeks ago