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

Devin Lavign wrote:yep I make sure to leave enough snags of varied ages on my land

Great to hear! What sort of wildlife have you seen using them?
2 months ago

Laura Swain wrote:I commented over there! I wasn't the first but just wanted to say how much I appreciated the quick lesson. So helpful for me as we look for our future homestead.

Thanks Laura! I'm glad you found it helpful. I've really loved seeing all the native bees that are using my snags. And just today there was a bunch of gold finches and later red wing blackbirds hanging out on the snags I put in. I honestly think snags along with wood debris, rock piles, etc. makes the wildlife feel more comfortable on my land--it makes it feel more natural to me and I don't see why it wouldn't be the same for wildlife too!

Thanks again!
2 months ago

Snags support so much wildlife that they could even be considered more alive than a living tree. Well at least in terms of the amount of living biomass that they support!

If you don’t know a snag is a dead tree that is still standing and hasn’t fallen over yet. Often people cut these down but let’s look at why you might want to leave them standing.

This week’s blog post—Why Snags are Awesome and How to Get Started—dives into snags and their role on the land.

If you want to work with nature then you should consider leaving snags on your land.

What Snags Do

What happens when a tree dies is that insects like wood-boring beetles (most aren’t dangerous to living trees) and other insects move in and start making little tunnels in the dead wood.

Overtime other critters like mason bees and other native bees move into these tunnels. And woodpeckers start making larger holes.

As water gets in these holes and fungi move in the holes steadily get bigger. As this happens songbirds and other small critters move in and eventually the holes get big enough in large snags to support owls and other similar sized critters.

The result of all of this is that despite being dead snags are filled with life.

Role of Small Snags on Your Land

Keeping snags on your land means that your land will support far more wildlife than it would without them.

Make sure to check out the blog post for more information about how to keep snags safely on your land.

And if you don’t have snags on your land you can install them! I’ve done this a ton on my own land. The blog post discusses this option but at the end of the day it really is as simple as digging a hole and sticking in a log (fresh or rotten) just like you would a fence post.

Just use soil to pack it in—no gravel or cement. You want the snag to rot overtime.

So what role do these small snags have on the land?

Well for one birds love to perch on them and I often see various small wildlife using them. But there is another role that these small snags have that can help support your fruit trees and other flowering plants.

That is the role of providing nesting habitat for native bees like mason bees!

If you install old rotten logs as snags then these will already have lots of little holes and cracks for native bees to use as nesting spots.

But for fresh logs you can just drill holes into them. Just like you would if you were making a mason bee box.

The advantage is that if you do this on lots of different snags you spread out the habitat across your landscape. This setup is more resilient to diseases and predators than a small number of mason bee boxes.

I’ve sat and watched various native bees visiting my snags going in and out of these holes. It’s really great to be able to support these native pollinators in such a simple way. Plus your also supporting lots of other wildlife at the same time!

Snags really are awesome. So please make sure to check out the blog post to learn more and while over there grab a free guide I made that walks you through the steps to use a snag to create nesting habitat for native bees.

And make sure to leave a comment sharing your thoughts about snags! While you are over on the blog most make sure to 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 ca`n 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.
2 months ago
Thank you all! Sounds like I should be able to get away with a simple system. All the plants I want to try have small seeds and I could make a simple mesh cover over the table to help protect them from birds/rodents. I will give it a go and see how it works out. It would be nice to be able to start growing my own native plants. I got a lot established now so it's fairly easy to collect seeds. I just ordered some seeds of a couple new edible native plants that I want to try but I haven't been able to find for sale as individual plants. Worth trying out at least!

I will post later what my setup ends up looking like and in the spring how it turned out.

Thanks again!
2 months ago
Thanks for sharing! Now I'm curious if that plant is growing anywhere around my place... time to explore!
2 months ago
Hey all,

I need to setup a small backyard native plant nursery to grow natives from seeds I'm collecting/buying. Most if not all of these plants need to sit out over the winter and be exposed to the elements in order to germinate. So fall sowing and hopefully they will germinate in spring. My question is how formal do I need to get with this? Can I just setup a simple table out in an open area with seed trays and just sow the seeds and let it go? Basically how much care do I need to give them? The less the better and I don't need full germination since these plants are just for my own use. That being said I would like to hit 30 to 50% germination which would still give me a ton of plants to plant out in the fall of 2021.

I'm building a simple greenhouse in my field fairly close to my house for veggie starts and I'm thinking about making a hardening off area next to it that would have shade cloth over it to provide a sheltered area. I thought about using this area minus the shade cloth for sowing native plant seeds and perhaps perennial veggies in general too.

What do you think? Any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
2 months ago

s. lowe wrote:Super interesting, I have a native that grows in our yard that we eat that I was told was called "checker bloom" and that appears to be a mallow. But its not that plant, and a quick google search for "checker bloom" or " California checker bloom" doesn't turn up anything that looks like my plant. My interest is sparked, but based on your description, Darren, it sounds like the same plant family as it has the same general growth habits and uses, just different shaped leaves (not heavily lobed) and much less flashy flowers.

Interesting, yeah there are a lot of plants that seem similar in that family. Apparently the family that checkermallows are in include a wide range of important crops including okra and cotton! And linden trees are also in the same family and also have edible leaves. Some day I want to explore this family (Malvaceae) of plants more to see what other good edible plants might be mixed in it. Lots already discovered but some like checkermallows don't seem very well known.
2 months ago

John Suavecito wrote:These are great plants. I'm not sure which one I'm growing, but it is tasty, abundant and attracts pollinators. Beautiful too. I love them.  A regular part of my diet.

I had never heard of these for the first 12 years of my gardening passion.  I'm glad someone showed me.

John S

Yeah, I only learned about them when I found a native plant nursery that focuses on edibles. Despite gardening my whole life I had never heard of them. lol, ever since then I feel like I'm going down the rabbit hole exploring all the great native vegetables that are out there. Plants for a Future has quickly become one of my favorite sites--I'm always amazed how many times I look up a plant on there and find out that it's edible. Fun to explore all the options out there.

Thanks for sharing! I just ordered some seeds for meadow checkermalllow (Sidalcea campestris). It looks very similar to Henderson's but it's flowers are very light pink or even white. It might grow a bit taller though I'm not sure--sounds like it can get up to 6 feet tall which would be fun! It's also very rare in the wild and apparently historically had a small range. I'm excited to give it a go as my third checkermallow! Sounds like it's easy to grow as long as it gets full sun.
2 months ago

Have you ever grown Henderson’s checkermallow (Sidalcea hendersonii)? Or rose checkermallow (Sidalcea malviflora )? These are 2 really great native vegetables for the Pacific Northwest!

This week’s blog post—Checkermallows – An Easy-to-Grow, Perennial PNW Native Vegetable—dives into these 2 great native vegetables.

And if you don’t live in the PNW of the United States don’t worry—both of these can be used as perennial veggies in other areas.

Plus there are over 20 different species of checkermallows found up and down western North America. And while I don’t know for sure based on my research I suspect that all of them are edible. But of course double check before you decide to harvest any new plant!

Let’s dive into why these are great native vegetables!

All About Checkermallows

I just love these flowers—they’re so beautiful! Especially when planted in a large clump. Plus, the pollinators just love them. They’re always being visited by bumblebees, butterflies and honeybees.

Here in their native range there is even a specialist native bee that only pollinates checkermallows and there are a couple endangered butterflies that also use them.

They really are fantastic plants for wildlife!

But beyond that the 2 I highlight in the blog post—Henderson’s and rose checkermallows—are also very tasty!

The laves can be harvested big or small from spring until they start going dormant in the fall.

The leaves have a very mild flavor and are a little fuzzy but despite the fuzziness they’re great raw in salads, on sandwiches, wraps, etc. But they can also be used for cooking in any recipe that would call for mild greens like chard or spinach.

Just be aware that the leaves will thicken soups a bit.

You can also use the flowers as a garnish in salads or for other dishes.

Henderson’s checkermallow and rose checkermallow both grow in sunny spots but rose is much more drought tolerant while Henderson’s likes the soil to stay a bit more moist. But here in western WA with a good mulch layer they both thrive!

Henderson’s grows from northwestern Oregon all the way up to southern Alaska while rose tends to grow from southwest Washington down to southern California.

Getting Started with Checkermallows

I’ve planted most of my checkermallows in my food forests. They provide a great easy to harvest supply of mild leafy greens all spring, summer and into the fall.

But I’ve planted a few in my kitchen garden and I plan to add more later. Rose checkermallow is better for this since it’s a bit smaller than Henderson’s checkermallow.

But really you can plant these anywhere you would plant flowers. Just give the checkermallows about 2 feet of space to grow into.

And then just harvest and enjoy a very easy perennial green that is also supporting pollinators and other local wildlife!

Don’t forget to check out the blog post which dives further into both of these great perennial greens. And let me know what you think about checkermallows!

While you are over on the blog most make sure to 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.
2 months ago
Chris – Thank you so much! 😊 Very glad to hear you’re enjoying the posts. Straw is another great way to do this. I always have tons of fall leaves so I just use those. But both work and I think woodchips would work too. I did some small no-dig beds in the past with woodchips and they worked fine even though the starting conditions were more poor and shady.

John – You very well could have! 😊

Michelle – Great to hear! I think the topsoil I put down was rich enough to avoid that issue. Next year I’m going to use some of my homemade compost from my new compost system. I’m very excited to have this system up and running.

Brandon – You can use normal potato spacing for this method. I didn’t cut my potatoes but you should be able to. The rows were approximately 20 feet long and there were 2 of them. I don’t remember the spacing between the potatoes but I used what was recommended in one of my gardening books. Really the only thing that changes is the use of mulch to hill up the potatoes instead of soil.

Mike – The mulch feeds a lot of organic material back into the soil. And in this case I was sheet-mulching the area so all the grass that was there also broke down into soil. I also chopped and dropped the tops of the potatoes on top of the mulch after the harvest. The whole bed is sitting right now continuing to breakdown so I can plant garlic in it later.

Otherwise just treat it like you would a regular potato bed and add anything back to it that you think is necessary. The only thing that really changes is using mulch to hill up the potatoes instead of soil.

I might grow bush beans in this same bed next year to continue to improve it.

Eventually I plan to make a series of no-dig potato beds that I will run on a rotation system to ensure good soil fertility.

Faye – Thank you! I appreciate the tips—I’m not too worried about the voles since that area will be transformed in the future when I start running chickens in there. And even more later when I get it all planted up with perennials and new garden beds. Plus I’m installing barn owl boxes which should also help. This year should be the worst for voles and their population should decline overtime as I keep improving the area.

I love all the tips on supporting the microbes in the soil. One of the new things I’m doing this year is making my own compost in a 4 bin compost system. I will be using the compost on my garden beds but I will also be making a compost extract tea to help add microbes to my perennial growing areas. I’m hoping this will really give my land a boost and make it more productive and more resilient.

Thanks again!

Ken – Thanks for sharing! That’s a great potato bed! I’m planning on adding garlic to my potato bed and maybe bush beans next spring. I might also add squash to it to help cover the bed as the garlic and beans finish for the season. I’m still working out my rotation and I would love to hear from others what they do! 😊

Leila – I’m glad that works for you! Got any pictures of your setup?

Cécile – Yeah, organic matter would be great for sandy soils. It’s great for my heavy silty/clay soils too! I hope this method works well for you! Let us know how it turns out. It really is a lot easier physically. I loved just using my hands to move mulch around 😊

Dale – Thanks for sharing! Great to hear that this approach worked so well for you. Sweet potatoes are on my list to try out soon so great to hear this works for them too!

Al – Thank you so much for sharing! 😊 Because of the voles I ended up not replanting—I want the voles to move on and not keep hanging around eating the potatoes. But my eventual goal is to be able to just harvest and replant right away. But I might still do a rotation and just replant in a nearby bed that would be the next on the rotation.

Douglas – Thank you! This area is wet but not as wet as people tend to think. We get most of our rains from October through April and sometimes into May and occasionally in June. Though May and June rains tend to be no more than an inch each month and often much less. The rest of the summer we are just dry and that often doesn’t really end until late September and sometimes not even until mid-October. I know there are much drier areas but we do still have to deal with the summer dry spell. For us the biggest challenge is holding onto the fall, winter and spring rains since we really don’t get any summer rains.

I never watered these potatoes and from June until harvest time they only got about an inch of rain. But the soil stayed moist regardless—all that mulch can really make a big difference despite the outer layer being very dry.

In drier climates or at least hotter climates you might need to water the beds but the mulch would still help.

Annie – Me too! Always great to learn from others on here! 😊

Al – Yeah, I think woodchips would work well too. I use them a lot on my property with good results. But fall leaves are also really great and in a lot of ways I’ve found them to be about equal to woodchips but they breakdown faster which is both good and bad depending on the situation.

Cindy – Thanks! 😊

Esbjorn – I watched his video 😊 And yeah, compost does tend to give great harvests. I just started a compost system and I’m excited to be having a steady supply of compost for next year.

Mike – Thank you and sorry to hear about yours struggling this year. What varieties did you use?