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Michael Jameson

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since Mar 12, 2018
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Recent posts by Michael Jameson

Daron Williams wrote:I don't mind weeds and I tend to let them be (with a few very specific exceptions). But my view is that weeds are not the "perfect" plant. Nature works with what it has available but nature does not always have a complete toolbox to work with. I'm going to have fun with this analogy

There are many native plants who's populations have been eliminated from an area due to past human activities to the point that even the seeds are not present. These could be seen as lost tools.

There are also non-native plants that are not available. These could be seen as new tools that nature could try new things with.

The weeds are often the common plants that were introduced by humans. Though there are also plenty of native plants that people consider to be weeds. Weeds are the most available "tool" for nature to use to increase the abundance of a site.

But if I bring in other plants that I have identified through study and observation (perhaps observing other sites with similar conditions but different plant communities) then I can provide nature with new tools for the toolbox that might result in more abundance.

If these new tools are a better fit for the job then they will thrive at the site and spread.

To me nature is like an master builder who has lost most of the tools in the toolbox. As a master builder nature can do amazing things with what is left. But by bringing in new plants I can provide nature with a much better toolbox resulting in even more amazing things being built.

So I don't mind the weeds but I also don't think they are perfect. I think they represent nature doing the best work possible with that is available.

I see my roll in all of this as an assistant (or funder?) who can bring in new tools for nature to use. Sometimes these tools get thrown out but often they get used and result in more abundance than would have otherwise been there. Though often that abundance is created in a way that is different than what I expected. I provide the tools but nature wields them.

When I do remove "weeds" it is because sometimes the site just needs a bit of disturbance to provide space for true abundance to take shape. Disturbance in nature is not a negative if it does not repeat too often and is not too intense.

I also chop-and-drop and even remove plants that I planted once they filled their role in creating abundance. An example is shifting a site from being dominated by support species to being dominated by food producing species as a site matures.

Going back to the toolbox analogy sometimes while nature has done its best to create a masterpiece the available tools may have just been lacking. By creating some disturbance (removing some of the "weeds") and also providing nature with a larger toolbox I can help nature rebuild and create something even more amazing than before.

For me it comes down to avoiding treating this issue as black and white. I don't like it when people want to remove all weeds for no real reason other than the plant is a "weed". But I also think you can go too far the other way and never remove/replace a weed even when doing so could result in more abundance.

I like looking at each situation and figuring out what path will lead to the most abundance and act accordingly.

Exactly my thoughts, very well said and I think this analogy is a useful framework for organizing ones thoughts.  Thanks!
1 month ago

Anne Miller wrote:Most plants have some things to offer the world.  What I consider the weed I dislike most has edible seed pods and is a great ground cover.

Many people are rethinking the usefulness of what many call weeds.  Look at the lowly dandelion, for example.  

For certain.  Im not arguing not useful, Im arguing they need to be judged in their entire context of usefulness, against all other natives.  Unless you are incredibly lucky, you may well find many of your resident weeds come up lacking.  And that is ok.  That is entirely, 1000%, ok.  Expected even.  
1 month ago
That poem is a good example.  Its a faulty understanding that one must either fussed over and fragile, or alternatively hardy and ugly yet free.

You can have hardy and free and useful and beautiful.  Thats seems like a better goal, to me, and one more likely to gain traction.
1 month ago
I have heard a lot of responses to folks who ask about weeds, with what I would call "weed shaming".  By this I mean effectively challenging folks that its only by their own faulty understanding that any plant should be called a weed, and that clearly since the plant is growing there, it is the perfect plant and exactly what is needed to grow there.

My main observation, is that many plants will grow like "weeds" in a given area, the idea that all possible seeds, or even the best possible seeds for a given area are already in the seed bank is faulty.

In my area, I have any number of plants growing that are not at all nice to look at.  They dont make me happy.  What does make me happy are any number of wildflowers and herbs, be they poppies, lupines, borage, chives, artichokes, cardoons, and many others that after broadcasting once have naturalized and come back every year.

Clearly what was missing for them to spread and live wildly and happily was their seed in the seed bank.  Now that they are present, they are apparently just as perfect for the area, with what I consider to be more benefit.

So yes, lets not be so anti weed, but lets leave some room for understanding their presence doesnt make them perfect.   They are mostly just present.
1 month ago
Due to the availability of large amounts of wood chips becoming available for free as well as the use of a neighbors loader to spread them, decided to focus on a thick mulch layer between swales, rather than attempting to irrigate to keep a cover alive.

In the middle of each row I am putting perennial beds for raspberry, asparagus, and strawberry.  These beds will be a few feet wide, mounded with horse manure also available from a neighbor.  Goal is to put deep mulch and beds in place now to weather through the winter, and plant next spring.

This will give a narrow strip of active root activity between the tree rows, with drip irrigation on the tree and perenial crop rows, for minimal but sustained water usage. I like placing the perrenial crops between the rows as it consolidates the water and soil activity and ups the density.  My understanding of these 3 crops in particular is that some evential partial shade (fruit trees were just planted this spring) will not greatly diminish their output. Tree rows are 20-25 feet apart, leaving quite a bit of room.

Keeping the strawberry and raspberry in more ttraditional rows ( rather than betwixt the trees) will hopefully allow for easier management, i.e. protecting the strawberry from rabbits via row covers, and mowing or string trimming to keep the raspberries from taking over with minimal effort, as well as ability to add row trellising.

Context is everything, trying to drive decisions by what is doable and available.  The loader and apparently bottomless free chips becoming available has changed the equation.

I dont want continous carbon importation, but the material exists as a waste product and has to be put somewhere, it might as well go into the soil Im tending to.

Anyway, thats my proposed design and thought process.
9 months ago

steve bossie wrote:we have alot of junk fish species in our waters here. i catch 100 of them . put in a sealable barrel w some molasses and let them ferment for 3 months. leave the lid a little lose for gas to escape. even the bones disappear. makes the best fish emulsion!

do you chop them up / chum them, or just throw them in whole?  How big are they?  just trying to get a sense of how much processing is involved.
11 months ago
Well, my luck is changing.  My craigslist ad finally got a bite.  30 yards of ramial chips coming up from SF for free.
11 months ago
We mow.....

so we can see rattlesnakes
to reduce fire danger
to maybe reduce ticks
to reduce rat habitat around house
to reduce the amount of crap the dogs fur collects
just in general, so we can walk around without fighting tall grass weeds and bramble

Cant come up with any others right now...but for a country home, it makes sense to me.
11 months ago

Ryan Sanders wrote:I am also on the long patient journey to more shade and wind protection in a dry climate. I would definitely second the nursery idea. It has been really easy and allows me to cheaply grow more locally adapted perennials.  I just make a point of collecting seeds in the fall.
I have adopted a couple strategies:
   -Plant the riparian zones: shade begets shade, so move the edge out slowly.  I can mostly neglect these plantings.
   -Drip irrigation for perennial establishment in full sun.  I run one poly pipe with drippers that can be connected to a garden hose a few times a year when the trees are stressed.  Even plant spacing means you can reuse for a new row once established.
   -Individual larger plants: These get babied often watered by hand with 6"+ of mulch. I only plant a couple per year, so they can get the necessary attention.

From a pioneer species perspective, locusts and siberian pea shrub have been the top performers outside the riparian zone.

All your points speak to your experience, all completely applicable to me.  Can't try to do too much at once, when things need a lot of help getting going.  Expand the edges.  Great stuff.  
11 months ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:
Even annuals are slow-growing in your locale?  I planted native wildflower seed in one bald spot on my place and they made complete cover in a couple seasons with no irrigation.  Some were annuals, some perennials.  Shrubs and trees are much slower.

Ive established wildflowers in one strip where I irrigate them lightly. I broadcast them widely (with high hopes) in areas with no water and have a few stragglers here and there.  One naturally does not see very full stands of wildflowers around here outside of spring.   I do not think they dominate or thrive during the long summers.  If they are watered, sure.

11 months ago