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

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.
3 days 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!
2 weeks 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 weeks 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 weeks ago
I'm long on ideas but short on how tos. I was wondering about pumping water with a bike. Do you know if such a contraption has been devised yet? First water at 10 ft should make it possible but I'm trying to picture it. I'd like to water chickens during the winter, so it would have to be one of these crank pumps that releases excess water when you stop pedaling? [The chicken coop is over 100 ft from the house. I have an electric gizmo to keep the water warm but it first needs to get pumped up].
4 weeks ago

tel jetson wrote:forgot about scapes.  pulling scapes out should make bigger bulbs, too.

It is true that removing the scapes on the garlic will make bigger bulbs. I had an interesting experience with stiff neck garlic scapes: I removed them and ate a few, but had too many, so I thought: What about making a great looking bouquet of scape flowers? So I clipped them with a long tail and placed them in a vase full of water:
I DID NOT GET FLOWERS! instead, each head started to develop tiny bulblets! It was so weird I went to Jung's  to ask them and they were stumped too, but one of the ladies there persisted and we eventually found out that yes, if flower scapes are removed, they will attempt to make tiny bulbs out of each flower [about the size of a pea on the best ones]. I was not sure how to proceed because some clusters were starting to develop quite a green mane. I placed all I could in small pots with potting soil and watered. The ones with a long mane did not make it [I suspect that was too much leaf for the undeveloped root]. Those that had just a little green nub seem to be doing better. They are growing tiny hair roots.
The article said that is one way to get the garlic to make clones of themselves: They skip the flower stage altogether. If you like the garlic you have, that is a really neat way to develop a lot of them for no investment besides the starting mix. I don't suppose they will be huge by next year but I'm going to try: I don't have anything to lose and I would encourage others to do it. The tiny bulblets are fragile, so handle with care.
And yes, garlic is not a good competitor for weeds. I placed straw and had a great crop last year.
1 month ago

Mike Jay wrote:I usually say "It's getting multiple uses out of one element of your design.  Like a pergola that gives shade, has a gate to your garden, supports grapes and looks pretty."

Couldn't have said it better myself. BTW, I was serious about rhubarb. How many?
4 months ago

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

City regulations say you have to handle all your runoff on your land.  Which is the first helpful thing I've heard yet.  Yes, we have a good City council!
But my housemate says the contractors who did another job here said we need to have a big box stuck in the back yard with holes in it, and water will gradually diffuse out of it into the soil.  5' cube (about 2 m cube). 
We get about 40 inches (1 meter) rain per year, officially  ( though recently it's been in big bursts with long dry periods between.)
Is this OK? it's far enough away from the house (10' is what I recall as danger zone, from someone with more experience and wisdom on this site).
Supposing you had to convince people cautious about unusual fixes for problems, what might you say to present this?

Indeed, you have a great City Council! I wish: We have large ag fields, and they run a lot of manure that runs in the ditches and ruin the groundwater!
I don't think that a 2m cube/ 5'cube will be enough to handle just your roof runoff if you get 40"of rain a year. You will need to calculate how much water falls on your roof in a one inch rainstorm and X by 40. You will be amazed at the amount of water! Here is a link to help you calculate accurately:
You did not indicate what kind of soil you have, but if you want to keep water nearby, how about using that water for crops? We live in very sandy soil but we wanted blueberries, so I had a 33' X 4'X4' ditch built [yes, we asked for help ]
We mounded the original dirt on the edges and placed several tarps and filled with a mixture of that soil [sand, really] wood chips and sawdust. [The tarp was not water tight: I left it open on both ends]. From the corner of the house, I ran an 8" PVC pipe to the ditch. You'll have to see what you can do to keep the water farther away from the foundations, or you may get even more water if your water table is already high.
I put a hedge of blueberries and we are very happy with the results. You may also look at trees that really absorb a lot of water. Basswoods [Tillias] are very good, so are gooseberries and elderberries. NO to willows!: They do suck a lot of water, but their roots are extremely invasive and will bust concrete!
Something that just contains water that slowly escapes can still overrun its boundaries in a harsh rain, but once you add as much soaking vegetation as you can, whatever hole you can make will really help.
As far as convincing arguments, I'll give you 3: crops, water retention for a good purpose [the material will filter the water], no mosquitoes.
5 months ago