Dave Miller

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

An onion farmer in Idaho (not me) talks about farmer's stress - https://www.tiktok.com/@shayfarmkid/video/7233912345767054635

Do permaculture farms have the same stresses?  Or, what would a permaculture onion farm look like?  Does "permaculture onion(/fill_in_the_blank) farm" even make sense?
11 months ago
I'm in Camas
1 year ago
I'm in Camas, WA, about 1.5 hours from you.  I just have a 0.5 acre backyard food forest/forest garden.   It is still a work in process but most of the "anchor plants" are at least 10 years old and producing well.  My current project is a raised hugelkultur no-till keyhole-shaped veggie bed.  Otherwise everything is perennials.  I have no animals but I attract a lot of wild birds who do all of my fertilizing and most of my pest control.  And occasionally bring me new plants.

I have learned a lot and have made quite a few notes on what I've learned, which I am happy to share.  I am not a PDC designer.  My main inspiration has been Toby Hemenway.  We had a permie-aware designer do a design for us 15 years ago.  At the time we were focused on natives but as I learned about permaculture I substituted edibles for some of the natives in the design.  The combination of natives and edibles (and native edibles) seems to work well for me.

A few photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/6PqLysXWoXjp9WEeA

Let me know if you're ever up this way and we can walk through it.

1 year ago
Re: very few bats, that is probably because I don't see any suitable bat roosts.  Although I bet the bats have explored every nook and cranny of your house exterior to find a suitable roosting spot.  If you put up a bat house I think your chances of occupancy are very high.  And yes they eat mosquitoes too but will go for bigger insects first.

Re: birds, it would be great if you learned to identify them and logged them via ebird etc.  The free Merlin app does a pretty good job of identifying birds via their calls and you can post to ebird from it.  I bet there are very few data points from your area, I think your observations would be quite useful to bird science.  Speaking of bird science, here is an intriguing device I saw on kickstarter: https://www.terralistens.com/  Basically an automated ebird, but you can also use it to listen to your birds on your bluetooth speaker or phone.  A bit geeky, but if it becomes popular it will be quite useful to science.  I'm curious if you have ever seen or heard a Vaux's swift in your area?  If so I have another project for you to consider, which I am building for my yard (vaux's swift roosting cylinder made from used cedar fence boards).

Re: birds eating your crops, that will definitely happen.  Often, planting more "bird food" just means more birds will come.  I use fine mesh over the plants I'm not willing to share such as blueberries.  Otherwise when I see birds start pecking on my fruit I know it is time to pick them.  But if a whole flock shows up they will get it all.  So I have to watch very carefully to only let the birds get a little.  And they do of course come back after I harvest and get anything I missed, which is fine with me.  You can of course do things to discourage birds such as raptor perches, predator bird houses, etc.  But you'll need to observe and think through the long term impact of those things.

I'll send a link to my lessons learned via PM.
2 years ago
Sounds like an awesome adventure!  I am also just outside of Portland, on 0.7 acre with 0.5 of it in permaculture food forest/forest garden that is about 12 years old and doing great overall.

Of course your new place is in a very different environment, but I'd be happy to share what I've learned.  I started writing down my "lessons learned" a few months ago and it's up to 12 pages which I'd be happy to share.

I bet your pond & wetland attract a lot of wildlife.  My first thought when I saw the pond photo was "bat house".   I've built about 15, and lead bat walks at a nearby wildlife refuge.  Bats will help cut down on insects in your area, mostly moths and flies.

If I was in your shoes the first thing I would do is find a "wild"/"undeveloped" area near you that has similar conditions as your property and observe it carefully.  Learn every plant that is growing there and its function in that ecosystem.  Then find plants in the same family or that perform the same functions which are useful to you and which grow in your USDA zone - edibles, materials, etc.  Those are the plants that are likely happy to grow there and which will hopefully make you happy.

Keep us posted!

Camas, WA
2 years ago
If you can keep 1" of water on top of the sand, that will keep the plants alive.  Although with my filter the important variable is the amount of oxygenated water that I can flow through plant roots.  So ideally the water level on top of the sand should be about the same as the depth of the pots.  Or maybe you could embed the pots down into the sand?

When you gather your plants, pick ones that are growing at the same depth as you'll have them in the filter.

Also note that birds will be attracted to the shallow water in and around the pots for drinking and bathing.  This is great for having more birds around, which do most of my pest control and fertilizing, and bring new plants to my yard.  But they also poop wherever they go, probably including in the water.  If birds have access to your filter currently, they are probably already bathing and pooping in it.  With plants you may have more birds in your water.  But I imagine the plants & root microbes are taking up most of the bird poop.  So like everything else, there is a balance there.

I have never drank any water from my pond.  On a hot day it looks very tempting because it is so clear.  But I'm sure under a microscope I would find a lot of life which I wouldn't want to ingest.  However my dog drinks from the pond every day and she has no issues.

Michael Helmersson wrote:Our drinking water filter (biosand filter) is designed to maintain a 1" layer of water above the sand. This is the "bio" layer and it is recommended that, in order to keep the biology in there fed, you add a batch of water every day. I assume that it would be possible to plumb your filter to have the same 1" layer of water on top and that it wouldn't evaporate away in 24 hours.

2 years ago
The plants can probably survive a few days without water.  I'm not sure how long the microbes could survive without water.  Some are probably adapted to living in "vernal pools" i.e. can survive a dry season.  But others may die.  And of course without water flowing, the suspended algae will grow.

I would just give it a try and see what happens.  I'm guessing you don't have power nearby which is why you want a hand pump?  Personally I would set up a solar pump.  I wouldn't want the pressure of knowing that if I don't get out there and pump some water, things are going to die.  I like to spend time doing other things, like going on a vacation :-)

I would also use native plants from a nearby pond or lake.  I used a tall pond grass.

Michael Helmersson wrote:Would it be possible to use a biofilter like this with a manual cistern pump instead of an electric pump? I'd place the pump somewhere that would encourage frequent short bursts of pumping which could feed a surge tank that regulates the flow and smooths out the ups and downs. Conceivably, there'd be long periods with little or no water transfer, so I wonder if the biological layer would suffer. We use a biosand filter for our drinking water and it seems like the same concept. I like your idea, but I feel the urge to complicate it.

2 years ago
I'm in Camas, on a 0.7 acre suburban lot, with a 10 year old food forest (ongoing) in my 0.5 acre backyard.  I'm not looking for a homestead, but when you get to that point, I'd be interested in sharing plant material, local knowledge, and/or trading surplus.  I have about 200 varieties of edible perennial plants (e.g. 54 varieties of apples), and most of them are mature enough to produce.

My main goal was to be able to harvest something from my food forest any day of the year, and I am close to that goal.  What I didn't think about was whether I would have time to harvest all of it, and the answer is no (I also have a full time job).  I think in order for permaculture to thrive in a suburban environment, there needs to be some kind of system to facilitate trading of unharvested surplus.  I haven't figured that out yet though.
3 years ago
I have been canoeing and kayaking in your "crik" many times, that is a beautiful area.  I grew up in Newport 1968-1985.  I recall a George Galstaun in high school, perhaps a relative.

I'm curious if you have any permaculture projects going?  I didn't know about permaculture when I lived in Newport but my mom was a hardcore gardener.  The coastal weather was always a challenge.  Looking back I wish I would have built my mom some raised beds, I think her plants would have been a lot happier.  Just curious what you may have found that worked well at the coast.

I hope that you find a buyer that will carry on your land ethic!
3 years ago
Daron pretty much covered it all.  I would only add a couple of thoughts.  I am not an expert on wetlands nor Washington state/Thurston County laws, but I have been involved with a lot of habitat restoration work on nearby USFWS refuges since 2006.
- The site strikes me as having huge wildlife + permaculture potential.  Please keep track of your "lessons learned" and share them.
- Maybe reach out to the local Conservation District.  I'm guessing that they answer questions like yours all the time.  Most of them also have native plant sales with extremely reasonable prices.
- Like Daron said, removing invasives and planting natives will probably make everyone happy, especially the wildlife.  I highly recommend that you include a lot of native edibles in your plans.  My favorite is Evergreen huckleberry.  The great thing about the natives is that they require no care once established.  With a large acreage that is an important factor.
- I would be sure to factor flooding into your plans.  The current project at the refuge where I volunteer is designing around the 500 (vs. 100) year flood level.  I suspect this is due to concerns about climate change.
- I have done a lot of projects at the refuge and in my yard to help out native wildlife including bats, swifts, martins, turtles, native bees, salamanders, frogs, as well as many native plants.  Let me know if you're interested in what I've learned from those projects and/or would like to try them on your property.
3 years ago