Cécile Stelzer Johnson

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since Mar 09, 2015
I no longer have to work, so I'm developing a lot of different interests, beekeeping being the most expensive. Bees/ pollinators are in trouble and I decided to help. Getting chemicals out of our lives seems like a good idea. I'd like to be self sufficient so that I can have fun doing gardening, raising chickens and selling honey. Red oaks are all dying of the wilt and I may have a CAFO just west of me in a very near future. They will start by cutting all the trees, so I'll be the first one to smell their cows. (A confined Animal Feeding Operation is not my dream neighbor). All our red oaks are dying of the wilt and I'm trying to find suitable trees to replace them. Burying all that brush may be the best option to enrich the soil, which is *very* sandy and *very* poor.
Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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Recent posts by Cécile Stelzer Johnson

Tina Hillel wrote:.

It is way easier to be able to catch the gentled birds, but we found that they ended up with a higher mortality rate.  
Although it is fun having the social birds, I want them to live long and be able to take care of themselves.

These are excellent arguments to keep them "on the wild side". One of my posts on this thread was on the *advantages* of having gentler birds and it needed a balancing counter. This is it. I did notice that my girls tend to stay very close as soon as I'm entering their yard to feed them, and they have risked life and limb to be the first at pecking goodies. When you mention higher mortality rate, I'm wondering what is causing that? Do you feel that they are too friendly and thus get into accidents or do they succumb to *diseases* that perhaps we are bringing them by handling them too often. Loose chickens, friendly or not can easily be run over by cars too: They are not really swift or astute.
You seem to be leaning toward accidents as the main source, feeling that to be closer, they put themselves at risk. Yet my husband, who thinks that these birds are a pooping nuisance until he can get at their eggs is not regarded by them as a friend. They flutter and keep their distance [but it is true that he has never given them food]. Visitors are treated with a fair skepticism as to their friendliness as well. In other words, do you feel that the friendliness to *you* transfers over to cats, dogs ...foxes?
I have heard of poultry diseases transferring to humans and I'm aware that handling of young chicks may be nefarious *to the chicks*, so I'm the only one touching them here. I'm normally happy go lucky about germs but there is something between chickens and humans and we can get sick from them and vice versa.
I have 25 girls and a rooster, so it is hard to establish statistics on such a small number. I had 2 roosters and I lost one this year: The poor thing must have swallowed something that was very picky or sharp and died withing an hour of ingestion. [That is something I was worried about allowing them to run unfettered. Well, it turns out that even in a big yard, they can still find something deadly.]
So what did yours die of?
4 days ago

Rob Stenger wrote:In coastal Maine many people give lobster carcasses/carapaces (leftover shells) to their chickens to pick at.  Gives the yolks an almost red color...  Could probably work with crayfish/shrimp/crabs in other areas.

I'm not sure it will change the color of the yolks but I give them the shells of their own eggs and any shrimp shells from the shrimp we eat. I have not really noticed much difference, but if I believe Garden Betty:"The carotenoids that cause deeper yolk coloring are xanthophylls, which are more readily absorbed in the yolks. (Lutein is one such xanthophyll, and a lot of lutein means a lot more orange.) Xanthophylls are found in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards, as well as in zucchini, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
1 week ago

F Agricola wrote:Chicken fodder/forage success stories?
I think the most important thing is to have them as docile as possible – able to simply pick them up, check them over, give a pat, and release. Some breeds are more stress prone than others, so ensuing they see humans as friends stops them being flighty, which also impacts egg production and lowers meat quality.

Hear Here: So true: If you handle them very gently when they are baby chicks, they will also imprint on you, too, although if they were born from a protective mother, it may be harder. I've trained my hens from young to get a gentle brush on the wings [best protected part of the chicken]. If you think about it from their standpoint, the weight ratio from a human to a chicken is scary. If you had a creature about 20 times your weight placing their hand on your head, back or shoulders, you might fear being crushed.
Although they are not pets, I speak to them in a soft, low voice. It seems to calm them. Now, they pick up on my mood. They do not run away when I approach. I was picking a hammer off the floor yesterday and one jumped on my back. I laughed.
I rarely pick them up [besides, they have just started to molt] but when I do I can put my left hand and arm between their legs while bringing my right hand on their right wing and lift. Well cradled like this, they rarely protest. If you want to practice petting them, first try them after dark, when they go to roost. Just have a muted light and speak to them softly all the time that you contact them.
I do not pick up the eggs as long as there is a hen in the nest. Laying an egg is an effort that takes 15-20 minutes, so they appreciate not being disturbed while they lay. Since all their eggs are laid before noon, I can go and pick up a couple of dozen eggs totally undisturbed after lunch.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a hawk flying over and I let out a shriek to alarm them. I raised and flapped my arms furiously, shrieking,  looking straight at the hawk. My tone was so unusual they were instantly alert and the rooster is the first one who noticed where I was looking. He rushed toward the coop flapping his wings and alerting the hens. He made sure they were all in and then he went in too.
Besides the benefit to their health, it is also easier on you at age 70 to not have to run after them with a butterfly net! [Ask me how I know ]
2 weeks ago

steve bossie wrote:my wifes cousin is in charge of the produce dept. at the local shop.n save. gives me all the old produce. its shared w/ chickens, roaches and mealworms. also a nissen bread bakery a few miles over that i get stale bread at $5 a 55 gal. drum full. i use this mostly in the winter months to help them keep warm. if it gets moldy, i compost it. worms love it moldy too.

You are so lucky in Maine: Here, the law is that grocery stores are not allowed to sell or give away any old produce. Employees can be FIRED if they do! Instead, it has to go to the dump and be a waste for everybody!
2 weeks ago
"try raising dubia roaches. they are a tropical roach and can't survive northern climes. they are very clean, quiet and breed like crazy. started w/ 100 6 months ago and i bet i have 1000 now. they eat almost anything and grow faster than mealworms. there are lots of places online to buy them and lot of info on care. give them a try . your chickens will love you for it!"

I don't mean to shoot down your idea or be disrespectful of it, but there are a few problems with dubia roaches: Looking it up, Dubia roaches's favorite temperature is 90-95 F, so you would need a specially heated area: The house or the garage just would not do. Perhaps if you have a greenhouse that you can keep at that temperature year round? I'm also looking at the breeding cycle: to become adults, they need 6-7 months of care before they can breed. They lay 15-40 babe nymphs every 28 days *once they are adults*. Mommy's gestational cycle is 65 days. I have no doubt that my chickens would love them but when you add the price of 1000 breeding critters [$36-40 on Amazon] plus the electricity to keep them at optimal temperature all the time, plus the food they need to become adult and breed [Thank goodness, they will eat anything] plus potential losses... That is starting to get pricey. You might be able to get lots of very *good* chicken feed for less money,  less trouble and less of an investment.
Here are some prices for gourmet, high end dog and cat foods that are high enough in protein to satisfy *carnivores*:[I don't have dogs or cats, so I would not shell that kind of dough but it gives you a sense of potential expenses].
It might be less expensive to make a connection with your butcher and get offal of slaughtered animal and turn them into a puree. Kidneys, tripe, lungs, livers, gizzards, bones that can be cracked for the marrow etc. are relished by chickens. Cheaper yet and easier to feed is game bird food at Tractor supply. [Apologies for the plug, but I do not work or get indemnified by them, so that is just my honest opinion].
Unless you have laying, molting or brooding chickens, you might want to get above the normal recommendations of  16% to 24% protein depending on age. You may love your chicken to death with too much protein though: Too much protein causes kidney disease and gout in chickens too.
I am aware that some folks figure on giving lots of protein to have nice very deep yellow-orange yolks. If that be the case, it is actually the lutein in their diet that causes that not the protein. Not to say that this is what you are going for, but just in case, here goes:
Garden Betty says:
"Give them plenty of fresh greens to increase the lutein in their yolks. The darker the green the better, so I often fix them a feast of edible amaranth (one of my favorite summer greens), kale, mustard, broccoli leaves, or whatever I happen to have growing in my garden. If it’s the middle of winter and your garden greens are lacking, you can give them alfalfa."
Alfalfa pellets [horse feed] is available at Tractor supply around here. but I'm sure there are other places. As a treat of when the chickens are under stress for whatever reason, that might be a good place to look.
2 weeks ago

Bryan Beck wrote:
I'm interested to know what other permies have done successfully to grow feed for their chickens or other poultry.  Although I am aware of sprouted seeds, etc. (and am doing some of that now while the field crops are growing out), I am most interested in hearing about forage/fodder you've intentionally planted and grown in the soil, and that chickens can harvest themselves.  Annuals and/or perennials.  

I assume you will have several pastures that will be out of the reach of the chickens while they are in the immature stage of they may get totally wrecked before they become useful for your chickens.
With this in mind, I'll proceed. If you can, since you have mostly fields at this time, remember that your chickens will need some shade. Especially for the "self-harvesting" kind, the best combination I can think of for your chicken is any kind of drupe [plums, cherries, Tupelo etc] or pomes [apples, crab apples, serviceberry etc] that will grow in your neck of the woods]. Grow them in fields of clover, alsike, alfalfa etc. That is for the greenery they need if you can rotate pastures. If you can't, let's hope that the fields are so large in proportion to the chickens'appetite that there will always be something green there for them. Squash and pumpkin are natural de-wormers, so you might want to raise a few just for them. Select the best for yourself. Those that have blemishes go to the chickens. They will be ripe just before the chickens spend more time in the coop.  But that is not "self-harvesting". Comfrey is also a very good food for your chickens, but it must be harvested by hand. I tighten a belt or string  around the plant and cinch tight, then cut the whole plant about 3"off the ground. I go and hang my comfrey bouquet of greenery in the yard, about 6" off the ground. It disappears in less than 20 mins. Comfrey is *extremely* attractive to any ruminant too, so fence it in!I do not raise cows, so I use comfrey for fertilizer [I make comfrey tea: It is the cat's a$$ for your squash and pumpkin too!] I have 30 plants in 2 beds that I never allow to flower [They stay more vigorous that way]
When you create an orchard, there are always trees that are suggested as "good pollinators". [Unfortunately, these are rarely trees whose fruit I'd want to collect for myself]. I would put those definitely in the field my chickens are pasturing: First, because they will be very good to the trees, chasing insects, manuring. Second because they will love the shade given by these trees. You might have to protect them with a tube for the first couple of years. I have apple trees which I harvest. Those will work great too, especially for the "after harvest cleanup": It will insure that you do not have rotten fruit left on the ground to foster bad insects over the winter.
Since I do not have harvesting equipment, the large fields, the planter etc I usually buy the grain I feed them. It saves me the investment Beyond that, table scraps are very appreciated. Stale bread, old rice, old split peas that we never got around to eating are also real treats for them.
I hope you find this useful. Good luck!
2 weeks ago

james buttler wrote:I’m wanting to buy 100 acres of land and I’m very interested in permaculture principals ive been reading about it constantly for over a year now but never seem to read enough!

WOW! sounds like you are taking on a lot of work, James. First things first: Assess your soil. That can be done with a soil sample test. Contact your University Extension. They are very helpful. This will prevent you from agonizing over the status of your soil and wondering/ wander... and it is not very expensive. Here, we can get a nitrate test for $49 and a more thorough one for all pesticides under $100. It will be money well spent because if you don't know what you have, you are flying blind. They will also tell you what corrective measure are needed, if any. They are good about respecting your wishes to not put more toxic crap on your land, too.
Second, you did not indicate your growing zone. Assuming it is 4 or higher, look into comfrey as a fertilizer: it goes deep, gets a lot of nutrients, can be fed to livestock and used as mulch. I make a tea, [very stinky] that works wonder on all plants and brings no weeds I don't want. Comfrey can propagate quite freely from root cuttings and get harvested 3 times a year in my zone. I started with 30 little bits of roots and they are outgrowing the 2 beds I planted them in. I will have to dig and split them already to make more.
Third, a hundred acres is quite vast. Do you already have trees? keep them. If not, plant a variety of them. Depending  on your zone and how much help and time you have, I'd recommend looking again to your University Extension. They usually have a forestry program with young people who will even plant little trees for you. Or you might want to ask the Arbor Day Foundation. Yes, you may have to import mulch for a while but I would suspect that if anything grows on your land, a decent mower and bagger, where you can use it would bring you a lot of free mulch.
Four, look into the laws of your state to see if you can plant industrial hemp. That is a plant that requires little fertilizer or water yet grows very tall in one season. Chopping it and turning it under would start building your soil pretty quickly for a minimal cash outlay and would not be an import.
Five, look for sources of animal manure or better yet, raise your own livestock.
Six,  what kind of man power do you have? Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it: There are a lot of good folks who will work hard, and with 100 acres, one thing you want to do is keep your health.
Seven, you might want to start a little smaller. Like: This year, I'll work on these 20 acres and the pond, next year, I'll tackle the 30 by the creek, etc. I fear if you try to tackle it all at once, you will burn out: In a vast field, like Permaculture, it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Good luck to you.
2 months ago

maria McCoy wrote:Besides hugelkulture, how have you made raised beds?

Our soil is very sandy, so very poor and without doubling the thickness of the little bit of 'soil' we have [like 2.5" inches] it would be hard to get anything out of the garden. Straws goes in the bed around the plants to keep the weeds down and the roots cool. Also, I get chips from our county crew when I can for the alleys. After a few years, it is rotted well enough that I can add some of it to the bed. I also irrigate with 6 barrels that I fill with water and comfrey. I fitted them with a valve to empty them by gravity. After 3 weeks or so, it is very stinky but oh so great for the plants! I've also used Milorganite in a nylon sack soaking in there but discontinued this year because I heard that there are some heavy metals in the stuff. [I'm not sure, but why take the risk]?
To those who fear treated lumber, many lumber yards no longer treat their wood with the toxic stuff, [chromated copper arsenate]. They swear this new treatment isn't toxic, and from the looks of it, it isn't, and folks say it is safe for raised beds. At the corners of the bed, I use a short 4"X 4" standing vertically, but I do not plant them because I like to be able to move my beds if the fancy takes me. In the 4 corners posts, I drill a hole for a rebar, then put a PVC sleeve over it: This way, I can drag hoses from the barrels of good stinky stuff to the beds where I need it without dragging the hose over my plants. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and my garden is growing better and better every year. In a cold zone 4 where earthworms struggle to outlive the winter, I now have some! Yeah!
3 months ago
Hmm... "creative". I don't have a creative bone in my body and rush to the more utilitarian. Road kills are something I feed to my chickens, but then, there are these bones ... and they stink! We do have ants, lots of them, and they will clean these bones lickety split. [well, weeks, actually]
I'd like to find a good way to grind bones to use on my garden beds as organic fertilizer, or make some of the grindings available to my chickens as feed: With all the eggs they are laying, they need all the calcium they can use. I have a meat grinder, a good one [one Hp.] but I don't want to bust a $500 grinder either. There is always a maul, I suppose.
Suggestions welcome.
3 months ago
I'm saving seeds to try and acclimate them to Wisconsin zone 4, but my production is too small to rival what I've read on this blog. I do have one thing to add, however. It is about garlic scapes:
We think of garlic scapes as these curly things that will make flowers and sap the bulb's energy. I had the surprise as I watered a bouquet of scapes, when the flower aborted and out came some bulbils. Apparently, garlic has the ability to switch from flower making to bulb making. I was intrigued, and as I looked further into it, it was confirmed. yes, all these little bulbils can be planted and make garlic bulbs. They will take one more year than starting from a clove because they are quite small: the biggest are about the size of a pea.
If you like the garlic you have, you might want to reproduce it in large quantities vegetatively. They will take longer to produce, but if you want a large quantity at a good price [like free], that is the way to go. Essentially, they are clones of the parent plant, so if you like the taste and characteristics of what you have, that is the way to go. also, because the bulbils were not pulled from the ground but from the umbel, they are disease-free. Here is a link to make your mouth water
3 months ago