Cécile Stelzer Johnson

+ Follow
since Mar 09, 2015
Merit badge: bb list bbv list
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.
For More
zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
Apples and Likes
Total received
In last 30 days
Total given
Total received
Received in last 30 days
Total given
Given in last 30 days
Forums and Threads
Scavenger Hunt
expand Pollinator Scavenger Hunt
expand First Scavenger Hunt

Recent posts by Cécile Stelzer Johnson

Fred Tyler wrote:To me, it doesn't make sense to cut out the whole photosynthesising stalk (just because it has berries) to help the plant put more energy into the root. Instead you can just remove the berries.

When the berries are just starting to form, you can strip them off pretty easily. Just run your hand up the plant from the base to the tip. Grasping tight enough that the berries won't pass through,  buy not tight enough to pull all the leaves off.

Of course,  in permaculture,  the problem is the solution. If you have too many berries to plant in your own garden you can try selling the seeds to other people that want asparagus. You can gift or trade them with friends. Plant them somewhere you want to forage "wild" asparagus.

I think the spears from female plants taste just fine.

If you are determined to grow only male plants, just offer your female plants for free on Craigslist or whatever your local marketplace is. People will happily dig those plants up for you...saving you the work. If they are doing this when the plants are not dormant,  have them cut off about 80 or 90 percent of the foliage so the plant will survive the shock of being moved.

I totally agree, Fred. I should have expressed myself better: Stripping the immature berries is much better, and as far as eating the female stalks, there is no difference in taste whatsoever and they are just a little smaller.
3 days ago
Well, Jen, Asparagus is a heavy feeder and quack grass/ Johnson grass will be very attracted to whatever addition you put on. I tried to cover the edges of the bed with a couple of rubber mats cut to size.. It helped a lot as the mat did not allow water to seep in the alleys: The water went right back in the bed, passing under the boards. Eventually, though, airborne seeds of the quack grass found their way in. The first year I discovered them, it was relatively easy to use a claw and they came out easy: they had very little in the way of roots... but I must have missed some because this year, there are tufts here and there with loooong rhizomes.  I decided to interplant with strawberries [surface feeders], and that may have been a mistake.
The very first bed of asparagus I planted here [15 years ago] was directly in the lawn and it is still sorta thriving. The best thing I did for this one is to let crown vetch invade it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Securigera_varia [mine makes bluer flowers. That could be caused by the wood ash I added to sweeten the soil a bit.]
Crown vetch is a legume, so it nourishes the soil AND it seems to compete well with the *&^%$@!!! Johnson grass, so I let the asparagus grow just above the foliage, find the spears and collect, then I mow at the highest setting to not kill the crown vetch. No weeding. Mulch heavily in the winter even though it will not winterkill in my zone 4b. but it will kill some of the competition, and the quack grass does not go as deep when there is a layer of stuff on top: In the spring, I can claw the bed to get rid of *most* of the quack grass. There is no Johnson grass in that area but the spears are a bit smaller than in the tall bed. I heard that male spears tend to be bigger too, so I just didn't let those make seeds, but my reason is that it takes a lot of energy for any plant to grow seeds/flowers. It really is no big bother because the crowns make so many spears!
Don't worry about your bed net being very deep: It actually helps it to suffer a bit of drought.
Other tip: Asparagus will die in the heavy shade of trees, and in my sandbox, they need a fair amount of water.
I have one really huge hill of asparagus on the north side of m hubby's shooting berm. That one was a volunteer! I was a bit miffed that all these other asparagus plants that I made sure to weed and water and fertilize were not bigger than this volunteer. The berm is actually local soil that hubby skid steered to an impressive height!
Good luck to you, but don't worry too much: Because they have deeeeep roots, asparagus are actually quite difficult to kill, even by neglect!
3 days ago
Well, Hayley, since you are moving to a farm, I would make most use of animals on the farm. I am quite lazy, so the idea of turning the compost pile once in a while just has zero appeal. I don't have much, but I have chickens, and all our food scraps go to them, so I can't say that I really compost with a proper compost pile and a thermometer, or that I know the art. Remember that any vegetation that is not growing is dying or dead and will eventually turn into good comport, or at least darn good soil. I'm in zone 4b, so colder than yours, and the chickens' litter goes out too, yes, in the middle of winter.
They have a "winter run" in which I slip all their food, all our leftovers. Their litter ends up outside where it gets trashed some more.
Also going in the yard where they run free is leftover leaves [I put most of them in the garden, but I get at least 100 bags, so there is more to the chickens' delight. When I need a few shovelfuls of good dirt [like when I plant trees] I just go in their yard and help myself: they will make more! [Now, I really wish I had the coop closer to the garden!
When there are storms, the county crew goes around and chips a lot of trees/ branches etc. They will give the chips away if you are nice. [A couple cases of beer, pizza... whatever. Those ugly chips smother the alleys between the beds. You could say they compost "in situ", which saves me the pile turning; where I drop it is where I want it eventually, so I will not have to move it a second time! the chips/ leaves are thick enough that grass/ weeds do not come through. When they start growing through, that's my sign that it is useable: I fork/ shovel the alleys into the beds and re-fill the alleys for a couple of years.
I hear that some folks have arrangements with local restaurants and baristas. Here, it is against the law for restaurants to give away table scraps. I offered paying, but they were scared! They are forced to get that stuff in dump trucks and get that hauled to a dump. Of course, they have to pay for that service, and because dumps are getting full fast, it is expensive. Finally, the dumps stated doing the composting themselves, which is OK, but you are at the mercy of folks that use herbicides and other -ides: You don't know what you get.. [Stupidity has no limit here!] To save myself some work, I had a batch of chickens slaughtered [professionally] You tell them what you want to save and how you want it packaged. I said I wanted the feathers [which take a long time decomposing but are quite rich in nitrogen].
You should have seen their face: "No, we no can do. It is against the law: We must pour bleach on it and get it hauled to the dump". Can you believe that?!
I am presently looking for a machine that could cut feathers over and over until I get  nice feather meal.  With this last batch, I dumped the feathers into the [not quite legal] outhouse. It is moveable, so when it is ready, I will move it and plant a tree there, in memoriam of my chickens but I would prefer a machine that clips feathers really fine: It would decompose faster. Permies, Help please if you have an idea for a feather chipper!
1 week ago

Max Stadnyk wrote:Should i go to college is the wrong question; yes entirely the wrong question when there are so many better questions. Start with - Why should I go to college. And if your answer is to get a degree; that is the wrong answer. Now continue asking questions until you are exhausted.
The goal is self mastery, and the paths are myriad and personal. It is no more complicated than that.

I agree with you that going to college just to get that sheepskin is probably not the right question. but the decision is not always elitist. Some kids who are not sure what they want to do next and whose goals make going to college necessary may opt to go there. For them, that makes more sense than just grabbing a job to get money right away. For others, who may be in a dire situation, making money may be their only option. The particular talents that a person has are a big part. Some kids are just better with their hands. My husband is great at taking a gun apart and fixing it, even if he has little prior knowledge  of that model. I'm happy I don't live in a society where excellence in math is a top priority for example: I would probably have been stuck in a more menial job because I really suck at math [and business]. Make the best of what you have to achieve happiness.
Also, consider this from the APLU:
"The earnings gap between college graduates and those with less education continues to widen. In 2021, median income for recent graduates reached $52,000 a year for bachelor's degree holders aged 22–27. For high school graduates the same age, median earnings are $30,000 a year".
While the goal may be self mastery,[and part of it certainly is], finding out what you are good at and enjoy doing is much better. I once told my kids: "To me, it does not matter what job/ profession you choose provided you are happy doing it".
It really depends on what their goal is, and as a parent, you just want to make sure they have one. There are some goals that are not achievable without a college degree [Doctor, Teacher, Brain Surgeon] . For those, yes, it makes sense to go for it.
Through all this, we are not addressing the elephant in the room, so to speak: Higher Education has become so expensive as to be a barrier, even to the gifted/ talented, and kids have to get in heavy debt, a debt that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy [unlike all other debts].
Please read on:
The various laws that were passed makes it impossible to discharge through bankruptcy. Some students are now old enough that their Social Security checks are garnished! That should not happen in a free country, and these laws should be amended to allow bankruptcy as a last resort.
When I was taking college classes in my native country [France], tuition cost $55.00 at the Sorbonne in Paris. That was for a whole year, not just a semester !  [I'm talking about the 60s]. Things have changed a great deal, but the point is that a system can be devised that works for all at an affordable price. Books, lodging and food  were on top of that, but it was definitely very affordable. We had large classes, but at an age when you are supposed to be self motivated, that was OK: If you didn't study, you failed. That was fair. Having to have a full time job just so you can afford college without getting into unsurmountable debt is NOT fair. But that is largely a political decision that should be addressed by Congress. Most of us are unfortunately not in a position to effect changes.
1 week ago
As a retired teacher, I can tell you that Education is such a personal issue that it is really difficult to decide on formal versus informal Education: I knew from age 12 that I wanted to study Foreign Languages [English and Spanish especially, but Italian later]. That was my star, something that I felt I was pretty good at, and for many kids, as they learn, they will start figuring out their "comfort zone". I also loved mechanical stuff and at age 6, seeing mom struggle to keep the house clean, I designed a house that could be cleaned from top to bottom, just by starting the water pump. there were little gutters along every wall and nothing was made of water soluble material, or something that could get damaged by water. It looked really good on paper and mom said that was the best present I could give her for Mother's day. It never came to pass, but I still have a passion for building stuff.
Not only there are subjects I will never be good at, no matter how hard I apply myself [math and business] but I became a pretty good typist. I didn't make a career of it, but I could have.
What I'm getting at is that every kids is different and learns differently, in spurts. My older boy got a degree from Madison. a triple major[ Languages, history and politics]. He really liked it, but upon graduating confided in me that he still didn't really know what he wanted to do. I had noticed his love of computers and I said: the only time I see you really happy and smiling is when you are at the keyboard. Maybe computers would be good for you? He now lives in Chicago and is making 6 figures as a computer server administrator. His younger brother decided that Law was his path from early on. He really applied himself and did become a lawyer.
My students followed similar paths, some deciding early, others getting out of high school without a clue. Some went in auto mechanics, others in the Armed Forces, other took an apprenticeship. Several pursued careers in music and the arts. I don't know if they eventually got jobs, but that was a strong feeling they had. You have to go with that and at 74, I can tell you that you may not keep that desire to excel in this field or that one: It is great that folks can change, find a passion for a while, then switch to something completely different:
Can you imagine getting a job that you thought you wanted and then realize that you hate a particular aspect of it? and feeling so engaged that you can never change because you have too much education in that field?
Not only are we different from one another, but all along our lives, we evolve as well, and that is a good thing. Keep seeking what you want to do. It is a process that cannot really be rushed. My first husband took a job out of High School that he didn't really like and kept complaining  about "These [expletive deleted] kids nowadays" and felt quite envious I gave him the same advice and offered to help him get there. He went for a couple of months but he quit. He just didn't have it in him to study computers and he went back to his job as a papermaker and hated it until he retired. Now, he farms and likes it.
One problem that I didn't have and my children didn't have is that Higher Education was still relatively affordable when we went to college.
So I'm not much help, am I? You may just have to think really hard about what kind of work makes you HAPPY and really go for it. You will find it. You are smart, you are capable. It is just like love: out there, there is one that is just right for you.
1 week ago
My dream system would be to get rainwater for a few ducks right in their orchard without moving hoses while giving them cover [We have a couple of eagles as well as red tailed hawks]
So when I saw your idea, I immediately thought of the old Roman pluvium. Essentially, it was a central feature of the richer Romans that would catch rain water and guide it eventually in a cistern. The water would converge from the 4 roofs of the pluvium and fall in a shallow pool/ pond in the center then disappear in a cistern underground that could be pumped [manually] for the household. They used clay tiles to cover those 4 roofs, so the water was pretty clean [and they did not have such a phobia of microbes we have here anyway]..
I would modify it for my purpose by making it low enough that I could just  get under [4-5ft high?]: Ducks are a lot lower to the ground, so I could save a lot of $$$ with much shorter pillars], and the little pond would be the "cistern". I could empty the pond from time to time and give the enriched water to the trees in the orchard. [My meat ducks patrol the orchard].
Here is a good visual:
2 weeks ago

Benjamin Abby wrote:A question for the hammer users: do you get quick enough with that method that would compete with a nut cracking tool
Cecile- did you try to make drink?  
With the husks I always played; I took family and neighborhood kids and we'd throw them up against a brick way to break them.  

Yes, and my fake nocino is pretty good. I did not have access to immature black walnuts though, so I used regular dry, shelled walnuts. Here is my recipe:
In a clean 2 quart jar, place 2 cups of shelled walnuts,[I used the roller pin to break them in smaller pieces so I could retrieve all of the good walnut taste]. 1 bottle of vodka, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, a tablespoon of vanilla extract.  Wait 8 weeks. filter.
I found that it was a bit strong for me so I cut it 50/50 with cherry juice to rink it. Yum. As a matter of fact, I'm happy I saw your post: I'm running out of nocino. I'm going to make some more tomorrow.
I didn't have to get the husks out, obviously, but the best trick I know is to use sharp stones, about walnut sized, and water and run them through a cement mixer: The stones will get them pretty clean but you may have to run it a couple of times, picking up the clean ones, leaving the husks on the driveway and sending the rest for another run until they are all clean.. The dark juice will stain everything but pouring it on a gravel driveway will insure that your driveway is free of weeds thanks to the juglone! win-win stacking functions: making nocino and weeding the driveway...
2 weeks ago

Anne Logston wrote:Hey folks. My husband and I (60 each) are retiring to a place that belonged to my deceased parents in rural southern IN (6a). There are 11 mostly wooded acres, two .25-acre clear spots with decent sun, and a 2-acre lake. I’m setting up my first ever garden, with 3 permaculture guilds, one deep raised bed for annual root crops, a straw bale garden with trellis for annuals, and some containers. The property is on spring water and I will water from the lake. What I’m wondering is, are there any food crops I can plant at the water’s edge? I know Asian water spinach is an invasive in Asia, but it would die over the winter here, so is that feasible? Any other suggestions?

If the water moves, watercress would be a great crop. I know that it survives easily hear in zone 4b, with no winterkill. I'm trying to start some near my rain barrel. I just need a small pump to keep recirculating the water. I'm looking for a recirculating solar pump.
2 weeks ago
In the old times, in France, the poorer folks used to have wooden clogs ["sabots"]  to go to work or work in the garden. The more expensive leather shoes were for their Sunday best, to go to church.
From this tidbit, you have the following word in the English language: Sabotage, saboteur, to sabot. How are they connected to the humble wooden clogs?
When those French workers were quite unhappy with the working conditions and their low wages, they would put their clogs in the cogs of the machines they were working on, resulting in ruined machinery. [Yep, it ruined their clogs too, but they made their point!]
3 weeks ago

Thea Flurry wrote:Well color me inspired! Does anyone have a good resource for when different mushrooms fruit, and how mushrooms play well together? I know winecaps and oysters were mentioned earlier, and someone else was talking about successive harvests in the spring and fall. Is there a database I can use to plan such things?

Those are the 2 that inspire me too. Wine caps grows very quickly on clean straw and can be planted either in the spring or in the fall. If planting in the spring, it should fruit in the fall and if planted in the Fall, you should be able to harvest in the spring. For us in Wisconsin, a great company is Field and Forest, out of Peshtigo and this video shows you how. They have great videos for just about any kind of mushroom they sell spores for!
For oyster mushrooms they grow well and without much help on our poplars and come in the Fall. They can be grown on straw as well, and seeing that they are carnivorous on nematodes that are found in the ground, I just might try them near my tomatoes as my garden soil seems to have lots of nematodes! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleurotus_ostreatus
There is one that fruits in the spring too: https://ngxchange.org/may-mushroom-of-the-month-the-spring-oyster-pleurotus-populinus/, so it depends on the species of pleurotus
3 weeks ago