Dayna Williams

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since Feb 01, 2013
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Zone 8, Western Oregon
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Recent posts by Dayna Williams

I'm going to amend the original post - I'd also love to spend as little as possible on big-box purchased soil amendments... My goal here is to raise some great veg for my family, not to keep Home Depot in business.  So if anybody has good ideas for filling raised beds WITHOUT resorting to bringing home a butt load of things in plastic bags from a super store, I'd love to hear those too.
3 years ago
Hello, Permies,

I've got a very specific question that I'm hoping some of my fellow soil-lovers or PNWers can help me with.

In my suburban side-yard (the only place on the lot any sort of sunshine), I've built a couple of 18" tall raised beds out of some left over cedar fence boards.  I'm planning to use hardware cloth to create a little compost-chute in the center to mimic a keyhole garden.  

In the past, on the Front Range in Colorado, I've had great results with square-foot gardening and the "classic" mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 various compost.  This was a semi-arid climate with fairly consistent brief rain every afternoon during the summer.

However, with in my current Pacific Northwest climate, I'd really like to optimize water retention during our hot, dry summers (it sometimes goes 3 months with no rain).  So I'm wondering if it would be wise to incorporate some of the native topsoil from my yard into my raised-bed mix?  I basically live in a river valley, and the topsoil is pretty clay-heavy, but easy to work.  I've read that clay retains moisture, and clearly, the soil here is suited to our climate, so maybe I should take a big hint from Mother Nature and add a bit of clay into my garden?  I kind of feel like if I use the "traditional" Square Foot Garden mix, it will drain super fast in the hot sun, and then come winter, the constant rain will leach all the nutrient out of the soil and I'll be left with very little for next year?

Any thoughts or advice from other Western Oregon/Western Washington gardeners, or just from folks that know stuff about soil?  What do other people have the best success with in their raised beds here?
3 years ago
We live on a tiny suburban lot as well, and our front lawn is sacred ground.  Our kids are 10, 9, and 7, and right now, them having a place to play is vastly more important than growing veggies on every inch.  Our 20'x20' front lawn gets used by about 10 neighborhood kids every day as a sprinkler park, soccer field, badminton court, popsicle-eating venue, or safe-place-to-recover-when-they-skin-their-knees-riding-scooters.  

I follow Paul's guidelines for lawn care , which means no weedkillers or artificial fertilizers, just mowing with my reel mower, adding random organic stuff on it when available to improve the soil (like leaves or leftover potting soil) and a little water during the dry summer.  It's probably 50% grass, 45% clover, 5% dandelions and other random stuff.

The other half of our front yard is a garden that's gradually being turned into a mini food-forest understory (too small and shaded by a big maple for any more trees to do well), and I've tried to make it as kid-friendly as possible, with lots of stepping stones, places for kids to plant and dig for worms and rollie-pollies, rocks and stumps and things.  My kids do really well with it, but I have had quite a few experiences with neighborhood kids kind of running through pell-mell and stomping on baby plants, just because they don't know what's what.  This is one of the main reasons I have not chosen to make the rest of the lawn more edible at this point - I want neighborhood kids to feel welcome here, not have me always asking them to stop trampling the strawberries.  I would be insanely stressed out if I had a bunch of plants I really adore and have invested in getting accidentally mauled by my kids' friends.  

Maybe you could put some sturdy, edible shrubs on the edges of the lawn area?  

As far as ticks go, from what I've read, they mostly like to hang out in tall grasses and bushes, and they have to have a host to drop from in order to be in an area.  We've gotten ticks from walking in open, unmowed fields with lots of deer, but we've never had any from a mowed lawn.  Your area might be different though.  
5 years ago
Heather A. Downs, that research you compiled is remarkable and extremely helpful.  Thank you!  
6 years ago
INTJ here as well.  I don't think these are necessarily the types attracted to Permaculture, they are just the types attracted to spending inordinate amounts of time on online Permaculture forums...  
7 years ago
I stumbled upon your post as I was thinking about this same topic. I have donated to Heifer International in the past, because I thought their programs seemed more sustainable than others that seem to depend on passing out beans, rice, and peanut powder (though I am all for emergency short-term aid, obviously, as long as it's not mistaken for a long-term economic solution). I do wonder if livestock pressure from animals that aren't carefully managed (because I wonder if you're worried about where tomorrow's breakfast is going to come from, are you going to have time to be like, "Oh, I need to think about sustainable livestock management") could be detrimental in the long term, but I hope many communities have the wisdom to avoid those kinds of problems.

So, what's your take on this: recently, some ladies in my social circles have been really into purchasing jewelry, clothing, and little household items from small charities set up for women who are especially vulnerable (many who have come out of sex trafficking and similar industries) and don't have any family support. I really like the idea of supporting a good cause, but I don't know how I feel about buying a beaded necklace I don't need instead of just donating money. I am very much in support of direct micro-loans to entrepreneurs worldwide, but I'm wondering if this type of Fair Trade knick knack selling is sustainable? Or is it worth it for the individuals whose lives are turned around, no matter what the long-term effects are? That sounds very callous, I just don't want to give only with my heart, and not with my head as well.

So, just wondering, Cris, if you've thought any more about this, or if you've discovered any other sustainable charities with long-term solutions?
8 years ago
Thank you for the tip, John. I will certainly try the Territorial seeds. We are farther south and have hotter summers than Portland and Seattle, so I think there's potential for good canning tomatoes. Maybe Territorial also has some more drought-tolerant varieties, since that's our biggest issue during the summer.

8 years ago
Thanks, Erica! That is good food for thought. Starting out (especially as a home gardener, where I don't have a specific cash crop in mind), it feels like everyone is telling you to grow something different. This year, I really wanted to can my own tomatoes, so I focused on that. But, really, mine taste about the same as the ones I buy at the store, and we always prepare them with strong-flavored seasonings anyway, so it might not be worth the caging hassle and long growing season next year. But it was worth a try! Next year I think I'll focus more on fun things for the kids to eat straight out of the garden, and on trying to get a fall garden going.
8 years ago
Eeek, I'm so excited to see that your book is out, Erica...I'm a big fan of your blog. So, this question is coming from a relative newbie who grew up eating absolutely everything from Safeway grocery stores.

If you were just starting out (or if you could go back and redo), what would you focus on growing or producing first? I feel like a lot of people in the like...30 and under crowd grew up cooking Hot Pockets in the microwave and find the thought self-sufficiency to be completely overwhelming. So, if you were going to break it down into baby steps, what would you recommend starting with for people who want to change their lifestyle to be more sustainable?
8 years ago
Joseph, I see what you mean, especially if you take "hunter gatherer diets" literally. I kind of took it to mean "Paleo/Primal diets" as we currently understand them. I know they're not really the same as hunter/gatherer diets, but they style themselves after them, with all of their "Grok on" terminology. So if that's what Andrew Scott was after in his Original Post, then the dots seem much easier to connect. I am continually surprised that there is less cross over between the two camps (Paleo and Permaculture), since they potentially have so much in common.
8 years ago