William Lewis

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since Apr 18, 2011
Willamette Valley
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Recent posts by William Lewis

Thanks for the helpx link, looks like a good resource. For those with some skills, caretaker.org has quite a few opportunities for couples.

You bring up many issues common to WWOOFing and other "volunteer" opportunities. Often energetic persons like yourselves will give their heart and souls to a place in order to share in the idealism of the owners, but end up giving away a great deal, with the experience having cost them a great deal. Food and lodging is bare minimum for people's needs. You mentioned laundry as one essential. What if you get injured? How do you pay your car insurance (if you have a car)? Buy work clothes? Hosts often don't have suitable work clothing for workers. Transportation to and from places comes out of ones savings. Plus all the little supplies one needs. I've read a good many WWOOF host descriptions that require upwards of 30-35 hours for basic food and rustic accomodations! Though 20 hours is average it seems, which does not seem unreasonable. And many hosts offer paid hours above the minimum requisite, which is often necessary for the volunteer to make ends meet.

I think many hosts convince themselves that the "learning opportunity" is fair trade for the low compensation. I do not regard the "learning opportunity" of working on a farm to be in any way reasonable compensation. Every job is a learning experience. Everyone needs some amount of training in any new job. On a farm, typically the training is some brief instruction, minimal owner input, with 95% of the time actual labor. There are notable exceptions of course, but as many WWOOFers have experienced, many owners are only marginally capable themselves, don't have all that much to teach, and their need for technical assistance often far exceeds their own expertise. Trouble is, they often do not recognize it because they are not motivated learners themselves. Many hosts I've encountered avoid how-to books and would never attempt to research solutions by using Google. Most people greatly overestimate their own competence, and the degree to which they do is in direct proportion to their incompetence. This phenomenon has been discussed recently in psychology papers. 

Yet I realize my conception of what is a viable enterprise and everything else, is often not the same reality as the landowner. And certainly every host has had to deal with lazy people or those who won't listen well or are a danger to themselves and others. But that's part of the risk of being an employer.

We tend to assume that because someone owns property and has some sort of enterprise started, and describes grand designs in their host description, that they have acumen, are organized, and actually have the wherewithall to succeed. So the WWOOFer needs to discern the difference between the hosts' reality and their own. While hosts are by and large fine caring people who need help, and volunteers are by nature and definition generous people who want to see an alternative farmer succeed, that dynamic opens the possibility of a landowner (or other alternative-type business enterprise) to take unfair, unintentional though it may be, advantage of willing helpers. 

One aspect I've learned to assess as a good indication of a place I'd like to assist is their land stewardship. Land stewardship is actually rarely followed in any conscious way, and sadly the concept is largely unknown as to what it really means, even among some of those committed to permaculture and organic growing. If a landowner practices conscious land stewardship, their operation will be more organized and the land will not be used as a dumping ground for all kinds of junk. In fact, their land will not be "used" so much as "borrowed" from future generations. A primary focus will be made into increasing its biodiversity instead of mining its life and fertility. Yes sounds like basic permaculture and organic principles.

Maybe what "volunteers" need to do before committing to anything long-term is more up-front questioning. Perhaps do a 1-2 day pre-visit prior to a committment. It is hard to discern much via email or even phone. I also think it ought to be acceptible for experienced and/or proven laborers with good references to negotiate for their essentials besides food and shelter so that they don't have to bleed their own savings accounts while giving a part of their lives to someone else's enterprise. Right here on this discussion board, there are recent requests for "volunteers" for 25 hours a week and more in remote locations--for some fairly skilled work! And offering only room and board!
8 years ago
Your reputation preceeds you. Coincidentally, I will be arriving in Homer mid-June on invitation to meet the owners of some cabins and look into a potential property management position. I also intend to sightsee and do some camping, and had made a mental note to check out the place where they grow things in tunnels. Would you be open to a visitor? Beside simply being curious, I'm a longtime permaculture enthusiast with a broad background in many homestead skill areas, so perhaps I can help you out in some way if I don't become immediately employed up there.
8 years ago
I've moved this post from the Homesteading forum.

Recently read this interesting aside in a pre-1900 book on home-made Nebraska windmills:

"This mill is used to pump water for the town herd. The larger as well as the smaller towns have their own herds. The cow herders, usually boys with ponies, go from house to house and drive together the cows of their herd, consisting of seventy-five to one hundred head each. These were driven to neighboring farms or to the open prairie pasture lands where they are fed, watered, and cared for during the day, and returned at night to their respective stalls. Thus a large number of people in towns and villages are able to have their own milk at small expense."

Do any Permaculture texts or teachers suggest this sort of intra-community cooperation? Permaculture it seems is typically presented on a private homestead-scale model with the focus on economics of human-to-the-rest-of nature interaction, but not much on economic co-operatives. The example above is a less-formal version of the farm co-operative, which arose in response to the stranglehold that bankers and railroads--the moneyed elites--had on farmers a century ago.

Permaculture seems to be practiced primarily by discrete entities, i.e., The Homestead, or, The Intentional Community. Although it strives for something better than the mainstream conventional modern nuclear family with house and yard, it is arguable that townfolk of turn-of-the-century rural America were way WAY ahead of where we need to be (or get back to) in terms of living qualitatively better lives while using a mere fraction of the resources and energy the typical permaculture homestead uses today. And it was done in large part due to a more economically and socially open, integrated community with less adherence to the kinds of money-related rules we have become accustomed, forcibly, to accept.

Does anyone have examples of how their permaculture homestead, backyard operation, or IT has participated in a kind of cooperative venture beyond their borders as the example above? That kind of cooperation was common in those days. Most of us have heard about the cooperatively owned threshers and how everyone would go farm-to-farm to bring each others' crop, cooperatively owned mills, etc. . .
8 years ago
Squash loves heavy manure environments, produces very well.
8 years ago
Lane County (Eugene, OR) recently did a study on composting of coffee grounds, and the OSU Extension site has some info on using coffee grounds in the garden. I read the study a couple years ago and it was extremely interesting, but finding it on the internet has proven to be frustrating (finding the primary souce of anything on the internet is often impossible). Plenty of articles refer to it, and are self-referential.

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/sites/default/files/CoffeeGrdTrial.pdf
8 years ago
On the question of lawn-mowing to only 4 inches and tick control, let's apply some reason here. Look, do you want to adhere to a principle like keeping your lawn longer, or take an effective measure to ensure you do not contract a serious illness that can leave you debilitated for life? Concerned about the flowers? Plant a few no-maintenance flowering shrubs or a perennials in the wilder places on your property. Keeping a perimeter of short grass is a no-brainer decision for your health. Just don't go feeding and weeding, and your lawn will naturalize into greater plant diversity on its own even if you mow shorter. The risk posed by deer ticks is nothing to downplay. Relying on luck is not using your powers of reason, either. I got it twice, and then moved to a part of the country without it. I was fortunate to catch it early, but being very sick and weak for 6 months was no fun.
8 years ago
No gadgets needed for everyday touch-up, just a good file. Tried numerous types, I'm impressed with the "Save Edge" brand.

For even-ing up the wear on the teeth when you need to take more material off than is practical with a file, I like a dremel tool with a chain saw sharpening bit.

When using any kind of a power grinder, the air in your work area will be filled with particles from the grinder and saw blade. In the right light they can be seen. So be sure to wear safety goggles, the kind that are closed all around the sides, and use a respirator, or hundreds if not thousands of iron and other material particles WILL get into your eyes and lungs.

8 years ago
Great suggestions on tooth-brushing compounds! I'm going to see what I have around here and make up something.

The peroxide and lysterine mentioned would be good for soaking your toothbrush, which otherwise quickly becomes a vector for re-introducing bacteria into your mouth every day. I use a half-tab of denture cleaner, which I also use daily to clean my night guard. Bleeding can also be caused by gums irritated by plaque build-up. Plus of course the use of aspirin or related such as naproxin.
8 years ago
Hey Willamette Valley permies, anyone have any narrow-leaf (U. gracilis) nettle? I prefer it over the wide-leaf kind I've been finding. If you are not far from Corvallis/Salem area please let me know where some is if you've seen any. Thanks!
8 years ago