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.
zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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Recent posts by Cécile Stelzer Johnson

Chris rain wrote:They are nice to sit on too. Plenty of sitting space all around to sit and harvest lettuce.  
Sometimes, I wonder if the next person that lives here, if we ever move, will appreciate these as much as I do!

As I age, these raised beds become much more user friendly: I sometimes place a short piece of 2"X 11.5" X whatever the width of the path as a movable seat. The seat goes over the path and I can sit between the 2 beds. I can weed and plant from a sitting position. It sure saves on my back.
I have found also at the Garden expo in Madison a guy who sells a circular platform/lid that rolls over the edge of a homer bucket [so you can sit and pivot easily]. It is handy because I can put my seeds and some hand tools in the bucket and hand carry all over. If I get interrupted by the rain, I just leave the tools, seeds and homer bucket [covered, of course] walk away and nothing gets wet.
It is really handy

Chris rain wrote:I'll post my solution to free borders for raised beds:


It looks great, and no more wood rotting since essentially, it is made of cement/ concrete. I like the weeping holes that allow you to have a look at just how moist the bed  really is. I suspect that is pretty much to rich for my blood, but hey, if I had free/ nearly free concrete blocks, [and an arthritis-proof back] I'd love to make myself a couple of these.

Jen Fulkerson wrote:I want to thank you all for your good advice.  I decided to let mother nature take control.  I put up a board and kept and eye for chicks, so they wouldn't fall to there death, but the hen has given up too soon.  No chicks hatched.  I was kind of looking forward to chicks, but we have more then enough chickens, and I really didn't want to have to deal with more roosters.  One is more then enough.  So I'm ok with the outcome.  It's probably for the best.  Thank you all again.

Condolences, Jen. If the hen gave up too soon, she probably knew: Either they were duds [how long were they under her] or she felt she would not be able to stand up to the others hens that might attack her chicks. Or, like me, cramped quarters: She does need an area she can call her own so she can raise them away from indiscreet eyes to the full feather stage but still in view of the rest of the flock.
I heard, and others can opine on that, that aggressiveness is made much worse by lack of protein in their diet.
For that reason, I always have a bag of "pond pellets" like you can buy at Tractor Supply. It is essentially fish meal and is no more expensive than their regular mash but it has 36% crude protein[ compared to 16 % crude protein for laying pellets. They don't seem to enjoy it as much as worms and meal worms, but it is a whole lot cheaper too. 2-3 handfuls disappear in a day. Their plumage is very shiny, so I know they are getting plenty of protein. I feed that alongside food scraps and regular layer pellets. It seems also that their molting period is made much less severe.
3 days ago

Jay Angler wrote:We have "professional egg laying hens" and every 2-3 years one goes broody. If they manage to hatch out the eggs, they've always done a fine job of mothering them despite their genetics. That said, I've always moved them early specifically to stop other birds from sneaking extra eggs in the nest and to give them less distraction that might drive them off the nest.

I think you may be spot on actually: Last year, one broodie adopted brand new chicks that I had gotten for 50 cents at the end of the season. I had figured on hatching the ones she had abandoned. Since she gave up on day 16, I got an artificial incubator. I didn't have much hope because she had been off of them for a whole day and a night.  She had been brooding 11 which I had marked and that is how many I put in the incubator.  
In the meantime, since I was not going to have enough with 11 and Tractor supply had some brand new, partially feathered ones, I got a bunch and built 2 cages inside the coop: One for the partially feathered chicks plus a lamp and one for the new hatchlings.  Well, long story short, she cozied up to the cage and would not walk away from them and would not roost. She sounded distressed when I tended to the new hatchlings. They too wanted to be with her and nestled close to the partition. She was right back to brooding. I put them with her as well, carefully: The bought ones were a bit older and were warm enough in the coop, not needing really to be under her all the time. In retrospect, I should not have gotten so many just because they were cheap. She ended up caring for the 11 plus the 25 I had bought! That was quite a sight.
There were still a few warm days so I put her out with her chicks. So, yes, this one, in spite of being an incubator baby herself had terrific mothering instincts. She gave me the idea that she was not good because she was often off the nest and others would add eggs and finally abandoned the nest on day 16 when I moved her in the cage with her eggs.
I think that more than anything else, I think the quarters may not be adequate because it feels cramped in there: That is not a place where mama can find an isolated place to raise her young in peace: they are always in each other's way.
4 days ago

Jen Fan wrote:We're in off-grid in zone 3 and I had broodies hatching out chicks in late December.  They a ll do just fine with a competent broody.  We don't supplement heat.  Mama is warm enough for them all, as long as they're out of the elements.  I put broodies with chicks in a greenhouse to keep them out of of the snow and wind.  If you take the eggs they all die.  If you let them hatch, maybe some die, maybe some don't.  Best case you get some free chickens

It is so true that they do fine with a *competent* broodie, and they  need to be kept out of the elements.  Being totally off grid in zone 3 certainly has its challenges. I'm in zone 4 but I have a little ceramic heater just for those super cold night.
During the day, I have them all go in the 'chicken run' [a green house, really'] where the young ones learn to forage.
What I've found is that breeds of layers are so conditioned that their mothering instincts have been snuffed out.
I only had one that brought some chicks in this world by hatching them the traditional way. The rest gave up when I tried to move them at night so they would get their own food. So I quickly got an electric brooder that also turns the eggs, and they did fine.
Also, seeing her brooding, other hens kept adding eggs to her clutch. Eventually, that one gave up too.
Because my nesting boxes are 2 ft off the floor, I have not found the system yet: Would they tumble out, perhaps get hurt?
The size of the quarters matters as well. I fear that a broodie might not be able to defend her clutch in a cramped situation.
4 days ago

Nicky McGrath wrote:I haven't been a member of this site for long (though I kind of feel like I'm fitting in :)), so I can't really speak to my impressions of the moderation decisions. However, a couple years ago I did belong to another forum for similar topics and I left that site because I was not a good fit.

It's not about being in an echo chamber; I don't mind a diversity of opinions (I often play devils advocate to my own ideas).  But seeing too many opinions that I felt were not making the world a better place, just made me feel sad, and that's the opposite reason I intend to join a forum. One day, a particular post crossed my line and I left that community. I didn't participate in any swan song, I just knew that I wanted to spend my energy elsewhere.
This seems like a good place ;)

Kinda voting with your feet, or voting with your wallet. That is a better way to let the moderator of a site know that things are not OK.

Sorin Trimbitas wrote:A little bit of HTML never hurt anyone, I mean .. it looks nicer to the eye and it gets easier to read if you pick the proper background/text color.

Define "A little bit". 🤔😊
In the email, there is already an explanation of what's in. I think that is the best of both worlds. I click on the links I'm interested in. I'm also sensitive to the argument that folks with a slow internet can get timed out while loading, so pleeeeease, keep it simple. It is really good. [Don't try to fix what ain't broke!]
Well, Jen, You seem to feel racked with guilt because you let the situation come to this. Get over it. You will be more effective. The first question is do you want the new chicks? Are you situated in a way that you could keep mom and her brood within view of the flock but separated? [It makes it easier for her to defend her chicks from other hens and from roosters]. If so, get the new place ready and in the dark of night, without lights, take her off the nest and very quickly put her in the new place with the eggs under her. Maybe she has been on them long enough that she will not abandon them, but she may: The new place may not be to her liking or she may get chilled during the transfer and lose her broodiness. A hen's broodiness is determined by her age and by her body temperature. Being a new mother is much harder inside a coop because of the cramped quarters.

Alternately, you may leave her alone, but when the chicks are born, make sure you can make a day nest for her because they may tumble out without hurting themselves but they will not be able to get back up 3 ft into the box. Once they are born, she will immediately have an attachment to them and will not abandon them. Once they dry out and fluff up, she will want them more to herself. They will also require slightly different nutrition, so that is another reason to separate mom and her brood from the rest of the flock now. If the weather was warmer and she could go wherever she pleases, she would quickly find a new spot to keep her brood away from prying eyes until she feels it is OK to present them to the rest of the flock, but I take it that is not your situation. In cramped quarters, she may have more trouble keeping the others away from her brood too and in her weakened state, have trouble defending her brood.

You could also fork over the price of a good incubator[ $145 at Tractor supply last year]. That would be worth it if you intend to raise quite a few chicks over the years. I got my chicks for 50 cents/ piece in the late summer because Tractor supply could not find buyers. Make sure it automatically turns the eggs or you will have to. [It is well worth the price for that convenience!] How many eggs does she have now? Are other hens adding more eggs whenever she steps off the nest? [that has been my worse problem with brooding hens in cramped quarters: you don't know which ones are fresh and which ones are not.
At this stage in the incubation, she may be able to hear/ feel movement, so she should want to continue, but it is getting late to make that decision. Which trauma is worse: letting her continue and risk losing the chicks that you may or may not want? or Breaking her broodiness. Both are tough: a hen eats very little while she is brooding, and does lose weight, drinks less too.
Yet another solution especially if you don't want all that bother for X number of eggs might be to pull her off the nest and chill her. Have a bucket of water ready and dip her quickly to her armpits for about 10 seconds. Her temperature will drop and that will stop the broodiness. She will be, well, "mad as a wet hen" [which is where the expression comes from, by the way: The cold water method for breaking broodiness...] But you will save yourself all the trouble. you will have to throw the eggs.
Let us know what you choose to do. I'm with you, sister!
1 week ago

bruce Fine wrote:my mother has grid tie solar, she never has electric bill, but one thing that amazed me is after a storm took out power lines on the street the grid power went down she had no power even though the sun was shining, I guess that's just the way her systems works. I'm no expert but just in practical terms I would think that type of set up needs to have a way built in to still provide you with power no matter what happens with the grid power.

Good point: When you are grid tied, the electricity can be directed to the most necessary (emergency) users]. That would be  hospitals, police, old folks'homes, schools traffic signals  and other necessary services.
Which means that in theory, you could get a grid tied system installed and have it fail you at a crucial moment. This would be more likely if your local electric company has given you 'help' / 'incentives' in getting it tied  to help you get there. Here, in Wisconsin, there has been a couple of lawsuits because the amount of electricity you would *give* to the grid was not as valued as the amount of electricity you would *take* in a lean period. [Old wisdom, here, but if they helped you, they had their reasons]
I feel myself leaning toward off grid. We could survive on the food we produce, be warm in winter and have water that is not tied to the grid pretty easily. So I feel we are sitting pretty.
In a pinch, I'm looking for appliances that are DC, like they used in mobile homes, with maybe some solar panels to feed these batteries. We don't use *all* devices at the same time, so it should be possible to do intermittent switching?
Cumbersome system, no doubt, but still survivable.
More problematic is the possibility to have to defend your system against folks who are starving and have not prepared and are set on violence. It is true that civilization is only a veneer, and when things go bad, all hell can break loose. I hope to interest folks to be willing to change to get water/ food/ shelter rather  than resort to violence. I may be naive, but I'd rather be naive than heartless. I do believe that folks would rather be honest and work than just steal.
Give them fish and they's eat for a day. Teach them how to fish and they'll eat for a lifetime kinda reasoning.
1 week ago