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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

The American Farmland Trust is a national organization that is trying to work with farmers and protect farmland. Might be worth looking at what they do and see what options there are. There are also more local farmland trusts that can be good resources. In general these organizations try to keep farmland from being sold off to developers by working with willing landowners to buy and then retire development rights and in some cases find farmers to keep the land actively being farmed.

I have connected with them a few times at conferences and through my work with a conservation focused land trust but I don't know a lot about the details of their work. But it could be worth looking into for people wanting to protect farmland or connect with farmers. Last time I connected with them at a conference they were talking a lot about the issue of getting new farmers on farmland.
1 week ago
I was wondering if anyone had experience harvesting for food or medicine the berries (or other parts of the plant) from either of the 2 elderberries that are native to Western Washington. The 2 types of elderberries are a red elderberry and a blue elderberry.

Blue Elderberry Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea: http://nativeplantspnw.com/blue-elderberry-sambucus-nigra-ssp-cerulea/

Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa: http://nativeplantspnw.com/red-elderberry-sambucus-racemosa/

I have both of them growing on my property but I haven't tried to harvest them yet. They grow in very different habitats from each other. The blue grows in fairly dry areas and likes more sun than the red which tends to grow as an understory plant but also along forest edges. The red seems to like more moist conditions.

I planted the blue along some hugelkultur hedgerows that were built along a dirt road on an old gravel parking area. They're doing great there and have grown a ton. I got the reds from my parents forest and so far those I have planted in shadier areas and they're doing okay. But I also have a couple reds that were already growing on my property when I bought it. One is right in a wetland area where the soil stays saturated for most of the fall, winter and spring. The other is growing on a fence line where it gets some shelter from other plants.

Anyways, I was just curious if anyone had experience getting harvests from either of these 2 species of elderberries.

Thanks!
1 week ago

s. lowe wrote:I can definitely attest to this being the best source of slug control on the PNW. It was only the debris piles.that we made that kept us from going broke on sluggo at our old place. Yours are much.more artfully done than ours were



Thanks for sharing! I have been having fun with mine but not all of them look as nice. Yeah, I think these sort of features are a very important part of a whole system based approach to pest control. These features won't do it all by themselves but when combined with other approaches that work with nature I think they can really help. One thing I really like about these features is that I can put them right next to an area that I need pest control (a vegetable garden)--it's a great way to attract predators right to where the pests are an issue.

Thanks again!
1 week ago


Creating habitat features is a simple way you can work with nature to reduce the impact of garden pests.

In my blog post – How to Create Habitat Features for Pest Control – I dive into a specific type of habitat features created from rock and log piles.

While there are a lot of different types of habitat features (plants could be called habitat features) I really like using rocks and logs since I have found these bring a lot of benefits to my wild homestead.

Benefits of Rock and Log Piles



Whenever I make a new garden or growing area I always add rock and log piles. The picture above is a new garden area that has a vegetable growing area and an area for wild flowers. Between these 2 areas is a large pile of rocks and logs with a snag in the middle.

These sort of piles are exactly where the local garter snakes like to hangout. But ground beetles, centipedes, and amphibians also like these sort of areas.

All of these are predators that will eat many of the garden pests common in my area. Pests such as slugs and pill bugs.

So by making sure I add rock and log piles around my garden areas and general growing areas I can make sure these predators hangout right where I need them.

Does This Work?



In my experience creating these sort of habitat features has made a big difference. I see far less slugs than I used to and it seems to get better each year.

Last year I had to take apart one of my rock piles because grass was coming up through it and I didn’t want grass there.

As I was taking it apart I found a garter snake tucked in tight in the rock pile. A few years ago my Dad was taking apart a large rock pile to move it and found dozens of salamanders hiding away in it.

These sort of habitat features not only provide shelter during the summer months but they’re also the places where amphibians and reptiles like to overwinter.

But it can take time for the predators to find these habitat features and move in. This is not an instant form of pest control but if you do this every time you create a new growing area overtime you will have more and more predators and less and less pests.

Make sure you check out the blog post for some tips on how to most effectively build one of these habitat features. While relatively simple I have learned some tricks to make them work the best for the predators I want to attract.

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.

Thank you!
3 weeks ago
Chris – Thank you! Really appreciate it!

Cécile – I think logs are a great option. They shouldn’t cause any problems—the things that eat/decompose dead wood tend to be different than the pests/disease that bother living wood. Potentially, rodents could be an issue but I find creating habitat features like log piles also encourages the predators that eat the rodents. Thanks for the comment and good luck!

Jessie – Desert environment… I’m afraid I’m not a good source of info for your environment. I have never lived in that sort of climate. Hopefully others can help!

You should check out the permies forum for people living in Oklahoma and Texas: https://permies.com/f/215/oklahoma-texas

You might be able to get some more specific help there and there might be some good existing threads with the information you’re looking for.

Guida – Thanks for sharing! Brad Lancaster does have a lot of great ideas and information. I highly recommend people living in a dry area look up his books and online information.
3 weeks ago


Coming up with a guild for your fruit trees is a core part of permaculture and can really help your fruit trees thrive. Really, a food forest is just a collection of fruit tree guilds that together mimic the connections that happen naturally in a forest.

But coming up with a complete guild for your fruit trees can be challenging. Especially, if you’re fairly new to planting in this way. Plus, if you don’t have your own propagation setup it can also be a bit expensive—even if you’re growing most of the plants by direct seeding.

Luckily, you don’t have to start with a complete guild—you can’t start with a few simple steps that you can then build on as you make more observations and learn about more plants.

This week’s blog post — 3 Steps to Start a Fruit Tree Guild – covers 3 steps that will get your fruit trees off to a great start.

The 3 steps recommend (and covered in detail) in the blog post are:

1. Mulch the ground around your fruit tree.
2. Plant nitrogen fixing plants.
3. Control pests by planting flowering plants and adding rock/log piles.

You might notice that starting a fruit tree guild does not just mean planting more plants. Let’s dive into why I think you shouldn’t focus only on plants when coming up with a fruit tree guild.

Moving the Fruit Tree Guild Beyond Just Plants



In Toby Hemenway’s book Gaia’s Garden, he states that plant guilds:

form healthy, interacting networks that reduce the gardener’s labor, yield abundant gifts for people and wildlife, and help the environment by restoring nature’s cycles.



But this doesn’t need to be limited to only plants. Most trees and shrubs form connections with fungi in the soil—these fungi can help your fruit tree get access to nutrients and water.

This is why mulching the entire area around your fruit tree is the first thing I recommend for starting a fruit tree guild. The result is that right from the beginning your fruit tree guild will include all sorts of beneficial fungi.

I also recommend adding rock and log piles in addition to flowers around your fruit trees. The reason is that these habitat features provide places for predators that will eat the pests that try to go after your fruit trees.

By adding these habitat features plus the flowers you’re essentially adding a wide range of predators to your guild—critters such as ground beetles, frogs, salamanders, and centipedes.

Of course you can also help your fruit tree grow quicker by planting nitrogen fixing plants around it. Combined with the other 2 steps that wraps up the 3 simple steps you can take to start a fruit tree guild.

Creating a Foundation to Build on



When you start with mulch, nitrogen fixing plants, flowers, and rock/log piles you create a foundation that you can easily build on.

It’s easy to add to this starting fruit tree guild by planting some edible shrubs—gooseberries are a great option but I’m also a fan of hazelnuts—perhaps some ground covers like strawberries, and some perennial vegetables like Good-King Henry or kosmic kale. Bulbs like daffodils are always a good option to add!

But you don’t have to start with all those plants. Just start with the 3 steps covered in the blog post and you will be off to a great start.

So what is your favorite plant to have as part of your fruit tree guilds? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to check out the blog post which covers these 3 steps in much more detail.

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.

Thank you!
1 month ago
Tyler – Thanks for sharing that beautiful picture! I really love the Texas Bluebonnet. I have been so tempted to try to grow it here. I just love the blue color of its flowers.

Diane – I’m not sure, that species of lupine is not one I’m familiar with. Here is a link to a document with a little information from the USDA: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_lupe3.pdf

Looking at the US Forest Service page about this lupine they do list it as being toxic to sheep and horses. https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/lupper/all.html#IMPORTANCE%20TO%20LIVESTOCK%20AND%20WILDLIFE

One thing I would note about toxicity and livestock is my understanding is that in a diverse pasture animals will avoid the toxic plants and sometimes even use them to self-medicate. These plants tend to be an issue in hay or overgrazed pastures where the animals have no real options. But someone else with more experience with livestock might be better able to answer your question.

Kc – They sure are beautiful plants and thank you for the comment on the blog post!

MK – Thanks for sharing! Yeah, lupines are fantastic for helping to improve degraded sites. I wonder what type the ones you saw were… interesting that the rabbits browsed on them at your Mom’s place. The rabbits here have left mine alone. But I’m sure they are different species of lupines. Thanks for sharing!

Jay – You might try some of the native ones to the west coast. Here on my wild homestead the rabbits have left all my lupines alone despite there being an abundance of lupines for them to choose from. The rabbits have browsed plants growing right along side my lupines but left them alone.

I have had good luck soaking lupine seeds overnight but riverbank lupine can just be broadcast seeded in the fall. I did this at a restoration site on top of woodchip mulch and there is already a ton of seeds germinating and growing down through the woodchips.

Ashley – There is a lot of information to learn about plants! I feel like I’m always learning something new! 😊 Lupines are very vigorous in their growth and I have had to cut some of mine back to prevent them from overtopping young shrubs and trees. But that can be a good thing if you have the time to chop-and-drop them. All that nitrogen rich biomass can really help your other plants out.

But you can also look at growing different varieties of lupines. Some are more compact and smaller—miniature lupine which grows in BC only gets up to 3-4 inches but is also an annual. It grows wild in prairies in my area and is really beautiful when in bloom.

------------------------

Thanks all for the comments! Please keep them coming and I would love to see more pictures of lupines! 😉 Sorry for the delay in getting back to you all—my son (almost 3) has been sick all week so I haven’t had as much time to get on here as normal.
1 month ago


Lupines are a fantastic plant for a wild homestead and in my opinion should be considered in any temperate climate permaculture design.

This week’s blog post – Why You Need to Grow Lupines – dives into these amazing plants but here are some of the reasons why I love lupines.

I have planted lupines all over my wild homestead and they're a big part of how I boost the fertility of the soil in my new planting areas. I also just love seeing their flowers in late spring and early summer. They're amazing plants so please keep reading so you can learn more about lupines!

Benefits of Growing Lupines



There are native lupine species found all over the temperate world and even a lupine tree in Mexico. Here in western WA there are several native species of lupine that all grow a bit differently—some are perennial, others annual and some are tiny and some huge.

But they all have the same core benefits.

Lupines are nitrogen fixers and they all have a deep taproot. This makes them fantastic at improving degraded soil. Some species of lupines also put out a ton of biomass and can be chopped-and-dropped.

A great example is Riverbank Lupine – Lupinus rivularis

Riverbank lupine is a short-lived perennial native to the western coast of North America from British Columbia down through northern California. In its first year of growth it gets an abundance of non-woody stems but during the 2nd year these stems become woody and tough.

But you can chop-and-drop all the new growth coming from these woody stems resulting in a lot of high nitrogen mulch. I’m able to get at least 2 cuts from my riverbank lupines during their 2nd year before I let them flower in early summer—bees and especially bumble bees love lupine flowers!

The first chop-and-drop happens early in spring well before comfrey has grown much—at least on my property.

Riverbank lupine is a great example of the usefulness of lupines but there are dozens of other species of lupines for you to try on your wild homestead!

Another species of lupine is the broadleaf lupine which is also found in western WA. Despite having a taproot this species of lupine can regrow from small root fragments and will even send up shoots.

This growing behavior made the broadleaf lupine one of the first plants to colonize the disturbed area after the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens—the existing lupines got torn apart but then the root fragments that were spread all over just regrew!

So to summarize here are the core benefits of lupines:

- Deep taproot
- Nitrogen fixing
- Can produce large amount of biomass for chop-and-drop
- Support pollinators and other beneficial insects

I should add that some lupine species are even edible for human use (seeds) and some are good fodder for animals. But many are also toxic to livestock and humans so do your research into the different species of lupine before using them for these purposes.

Do You Grow Lupines?



So do you grow lupines? If so which ones have you grown? Please leave a comment sharing your experience with lupines.

And if you want to learn more about lupines make sure to check out the blog post which provides a lot more information about growing lupines.

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.

Also, feel free to share pictures of lupines in this thread—I think they’re very beautiful and I would love to see pictures of lupines you have growing on your wild homestead or in your area!

Thank you!
1 month ago
Thanks Dan for sharing your strategy for seeding! Lot's of good suggestions. I had forgotten about lambsquarter! That would be a good one to add to the list of possible plants!

Thanks again Dan and Phil for helping out!
1 month ago

Phil Stevens wrote:That is a good start. Some things I would throw in as well:

Plantain (pioneer, edible by humans and chooks, does not mind compacted ground)
Birdsfoot trefoil lotus (N fixer, plays nicely with trees)
Flax (fibre and oilseed crop, also nice in orchard settings)
Yarrow (attracts beneficial/predatory insects)
Borage (edible, plus bees dig it)



Thanks for the suggestions Phil! I will add them to my list of possible plants.
1 month ago