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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

John C Daley wrote:
Have you moved into this farm area, not understanding what goes on in them?
In Australia I have seen city folk buy a small block in farm zones and complain about farming operations, cows mooing etc and actually shut the operations down.
I hope this does not apply to your goodself.

When I moved in this farm area 40 yrs ago, to do farming, we didn't have CAFOs. But they became permitted. And yes, I too deplore the loss of good arable land to a solar array, although something else could be grown there that likes shade more. Without some private wells going bad with 44ppm of nitrates [too high to install revers osmosis], we would not complain.
But thanks for the tip about putting a tank in my basement and installing a hand pump. That helps.
Here, it is airports that get this unfair treatment [Moving in, then wanting the airport to move].
My apologies for cross-threading, John.
Harvesting rainwater, God's water, is alleged normally to be pollutant free. That is not always the case, however.
Harvesting rainwater is indeed supremely important, especially in areas of drought. Sorry that I let my frustration take over. Since we have corn, potatoes and Dairy as our main products, we often get sprayed on.
Growing corn, potatoes and the grain to feed dairy cattle is fertilizer/ spraying intensive, as you may know in an irrigated, annual row crop farming system. We've had some success in making one farmer plant solar panels so far. [Other farmers lament the loss of good arable land to a solar farm, of course.]
For our hives, I have asked them to get a heads up on what they spray and when, [and they do], but then, I have no ability to stop them. It may fall on my roof as well as on my crops, and the rainwater I can harvest has so far only been used in the garden. A diverter on all down pipes, that I could use to lose the first flush, is a possibility.
As you say, these underground tanks are expensive but if what I can collect is dubious water, even though we are in a water-rich zone, we are in trouble.
I see that other rainwater harvesters are thinking of ways to remove the poop and critters that might soil God's water.
The diverter sounds like a better and better [and cheaper] idea if I want to use this water for drinking.
In zone 4 WI, the tank would have to be buried [we can't use a rain barrel in winter, of course].
How about pulling the drinking water out of the tank when the grid goes down? Hmmm. Lots to think about.

May Lotito wrote:I found another use for sunchoke tubers: chicken food. They always came over and pecked on the tubers when I was digging. Leaving whole tubers for the chicken is too wasteful so I dice a few into tidbit everyday as feed. They are  more welcomed in cold days, when water freezes easily and the chickens can get some moisture without wetting their wattles.

Great idea: when I lift them, there are always a few that get damaged, as well as the entire rest of the plant: they appreciate the greenery.
At hunting time, deer like to munch on these very sweet roots [after a frost, they are sooo sweeet. They can have the damaged ones, the tiny ones, the "impossible to peel" sunchokes.
In exchange, we can get deer too.
4 days ago

Michael Cox wrote:
So my musings bring me to this...
How many such "free" steps can a person take, without seriously compromising the other aspects of their life? We want to grow more of our own food. Again, there is a time cost. Much of the cultural aspect of permaculture is encouraging independence - food security, heating etc... But those things all come with costs, direct and hidden, financial and personal.
I would struggle to justify reducing my paid work to have more time to spend doing these unpaid tasks around the property.

Well, Michael, life is a constant flow of choices. Even NOT choosing is a choice, said Jean-Paul Sartre.
You mention living in an old house that is not or poorly insulated and you feel that you cannot really, $-wise and especially *time-wise* keep going like this.
Perhaps your choices are poorly stated. The wood is free, but takes too long/ leaves you with little time to enjoy life. True.
Take the *wood option*  off the table. How would you then keep warm? oil burner? gas furnace? electricity?
These things cost to install as well as to maintain: You would have more time but you would spend more money on fuel to stay warm.
I used to live in a house heated partially with wood and partially with LP gas. The cost of gas started going up, and we had no choice on this, since it is imported help. We really insulated the place very well, and THAT made a huge difference! [more on that lower.]
The real kick in the groin was when we renewed our House insurance a few years later[they didn't know we had installed wood heat] We lost our House Insurance: Some companies would not even touch us, others quoted prices that would preclude our kids going to college. Our local taxes went way up as well because we lived more than 10 miles away from a Fire Station and had wood heat. You don't mention this but this is what deterred us from continuing with this 'free' heat source.
I do not know what your options are in the UK, but one way you will start making a (HUGE) dent in your heating costs [and time to get the fuel ready] no matter where you live is in insulating the place properly.
During the winter, your options to insulate are few. Start by closing any rooms you do not use on the north side of the house. Thinsulate the windows/ doors, gaps and crevices you have access to, and suffer through this winter. Even hanging a quilt makes an enormous difference. If you can access during the winter, check what kind of insulation you have behind the ceiling/ upstairs. Heat goes up. Batting insulation is actually quite cheap and will start making a difference today and last pretty much forever. This will enable you to burn less wood [so less wood cutting Yeah]
You do not mention hot water. The option to insulate the pipes is trickier: wrap them if they are close to the outside walls so they don't freeze, but don't if the hot water pipes leak their heat inside the house.
You may also want to buy a little infrared gadget like the pros use to detect heat leaks. Mine cost $124.00 at the time and I also use it to detect dead hives in the winter. It looks like this:
If cats and other varmints have access to your insulation above you ceiling, they may have created a little warm haven up there: They remove all the insulation until they sleep directly on your [toasty] ceiling. If they poop and pee/ give birth up there, the problem can get a lot worse.
Check how good your windows are while you are at it. In old homes, single panes really do not offer much insulating.
Even if you brought in a pro to assess what can be done, I guarantee it would be cheaper than continuing like this. In his youth, my husband had bought a house he *thought* was insulated [who would buy/sell a house without insulation when the temperature can dip to -40F? Right?] It didn't even come to his mind They *said* it was insulated.
They did it one better: In the walls, they had stuffed newspapers! My youngster in Chicago will also have to remodel for the same reason: old 3rd floor, brick house apartment with shredded paper in the walls! I have cold sweats and nightmares thinking about his apartment going up like a roman candle!
Folks, don't assume your house is insulated unless you did it yourself of saw it done!
'Nuff said! INSULATE [preferably with fire retardant stuff]
5 days ago
In Central WI, we don't have the same problems, but having clean water is still problematic.
One benefit that I do not see mentioned much in harvesting water is avoiding contaminated groundwater. I live 10 miles from the closest town and my area is very sandy, which allows nitrogen from dairy cows and the crops necessary to sustain them to flow everywhere under their neighbors' properties. Corn, potatoes and dairy is our Big Ag's economy. All need copious amounts of fertilizer, unfortunately.
This is here a typical, annual  irrigated, planted rows economy. It is easy to dig but it may freeze deeper in a cold winter.
Hmmm. Just looked it up. Our frost line is only 4 ft. actually. Our first water here is at 10 ft. [Yep, I can almost hear you salivating and wondering what I'm doing here complaining about water!]  Dairy farmers and CAFOs dig down to 130-140 ft., which means that in drier years, everyone is pulling on groundwater and shallower wells may be left high and dry, literally! [Most private wells are at around 28ft. Some lakes run dry. The concerns are with quality as well as quantity in dry years. My water is still excellent at 0.4ppm of nitrogen, but we started at 0.01 in 1970. I also have 2 sand points for irrigation.
It should be possible to install deep buried tanks, do you think? Could they heave/ collapse?
Water catchment from a roof would be a lot cleaner. Also, considering that we are relatively water-rich with 36" of rainwater/snow on average yearly, it might be $$ conscious to harvest this God Given water.
How would creating a water catchment  system in zone 4b [yes, we get 20-40 below zero most winters] work for folks whose water has gone bad through excessive nitrogen [that often cannot be "remedied" by reverse osmosis [> 44 ppm of nitrates]  drinkable water is 10 ppm maximum. or by digging another, DEEPER well [which, by the way, may also be contaminated]. [A deeper well does not always solve water woes as we have bogs on the other side of the Wisconsin river: A deeper well will yield brackish water for them.]
A commercial well driller will easily fetch $8,000, just for a 30 ft. cased well.
The farmers [who cause 90+% of our water pollution] are well protected in Madison in the name of "helping farmers" and "saving our Dairy industry]. They get generous yearly subsidies too. In return, they are some of the biggest donors to politicians who support them. When they pollute, it is usually the taxpayers who pick up the tab of 'remediation'. There is even a farm near Green Bay that has severely contaminated the water all round them and they are appealing to our DNR to more than double their dairy cow herd! and it looks like they might get their way!
The Farmers' solution has been to give bottled water [of course not enough] to the injured parties. The Courts are not much help either. They fix to the minimum the amount of water "needed".
Our lakes often has toxic algae bloom and beaches get closed every summer.
It is becoming a nightmare.
So how much do you think it might take for folks to get clean water with a buried tank /several buried tanks? Is it even possible? [we have concrete septic tanks and they don't freeze, so...?
Help. What do you think?
1 week ago

C. Letellier wrote:Here is one link you might want.


Thanks, very helpful for National forests at least. States Parks may have different rules but they are good about posting them at the entrance. Local parks may be more iffy.
1 week ago

Samantha Lewis wrote:I made this skirt as farm clothes to do chores in.   I have been wearing it for over a year most days when I am out bucking hay and mending fences.   I am really hard on my clothing and store bought things just get torn and ruined.  This hand knitted skirt is nicer and softer now than when I first made it!    It is still pretty enough to go to town.
I made these leggings too.   They are so warm and nice I don't want to wear anything else.  
Time to make some more clothes!

And bare foot in zone 1!!! these clothes MUST be warm! I so wish I had your talent, Samantha. Alas, from very young, I developed an intense dislike for any kind of sewing or knitting. I never had any talent in this area either.
I love the quality and practicality of the clothes you wear. The best I can do is scrounge Goodwill and second hand stores. I rarely find what I want. They do have leather shoes though, which is great because I can't stand these ice cold fake leather shoes they sell in stores these days or the tennis. They are just as bad.
The last leather shop has long folded in our area. Sniff...

Laura Johnson wrote:
I am 80 years old. I bought a Kohler  soaking tub on Craig’s list for $150. It was 6 feet long. I worried about getting out of it. I had a 2x2 piece of lumber installed along the outside left edge. I sit up grasp the 2x2 with my right hand and spin around backwards. Then stand up backwards. And step out. Works great.
I can get out of a regular tub by spinning around backwards and standing up also - try it.
I looked into the tubs with a door, you have to sit there until the water drains out. Figured I would get cold. And the expense.
Love to soak  my Arthritic bones in a hot tub.

"I looked into the tubs with a door, you have to sit there until the water drains out." LOL. They don't mention that in the commercials!
I don't know how well this would work for me: I'm considering building a bench like structure along the tub, so I could sit on it, then swing my legs over and onto the floor. The tougher part is actually standing up in the tub, so I figured getting something so I can sit on the edge might work better for me. The alternative would be a cable so I can hoist myself up, but things ae not quite that bad yet. Right now, I have to, while the water still affords me some buoyancy, roll on my knees, then grip the [slippery edge], sit myself on the [freaking cold] edge and swing my legs on the floor. Then I drain the tub.
I think we are describing pretty much the same movement, the idea being to get our legs/ knees beneath us so it is easier to stand up. Right?
2 weeks ago
Hear here, Phil on asking for help. For a couple of reasons:
1/ we will need that help if we don't already! [I'm a 72 year old female, so of course, there are a few things I won't try anymore; but that doesn't need that the work will not get done.
2/ We have knowledge that can be shared passed on in this manner. All our lives, we have looked for 'experts' to help us learn and grow, to give us "tips".. Parents, knowledgeable neighbors, family & friends. Well, now, WE ARE these free experts who can help along. It is a wonderful symbiosis.
The secret to staying active and productive in the garden is taking the time to "smell the roses". When I was younger, I worked like a brute, running from one task to another without taking the time to reflect and enjoy. I got a lot accomplished, and many are the days that I was exhausted, sore, hurt, [and not particularly happy]. That is the best change I made in my life as I grow older: make time to enjoy.
But there is work to be done, still. So...
Think specifically about the work you want done, and put it in one of 2 lists;
The stuff you can do yourself versus the stuff that requires either more expert help or strong muscles. Sub divide into the work that can be done in a building, like fixing the blasted mower! [keep that for when it is rainy/ cold] and the work you need warmth and sunshine to do: Planting, weeding, grafting.
For the stuff I can do myself, I enjoy doing it and I get a great deal of satisfaction from achieving it. I'm not about to give that up!
For the stuff where I require help, make it easy for your helper[s]. Get it clearly defined, have the tools ready and in good working order. [Few things are more annoying that wanting to help someone who can't express exactly what they want, keep looking for lost tools, need to fix the tools before getting to work. [Trust me, I've been there!]
My local University has students every year in the forestry department looking for special "hands on credits". A couple of years ago, they planted about 25 trees on my front lawn which are now doing quite well. This year, if my electric auger gets a bit too heavy or rambunctious to use safely, I plan on calling them again to help me transplants beach plums and other small trees. It cost me a dozen soft drinks and a pizza. [The University was specific about that: they were not supposed to be paid, but hey, what student would refuse soft drinks and a pizza if those are the rules.]
I may be able to move the door to my chicken yard. I think I can still do it, although the door is heavy. My hubby doesn't care for this kind of work, but for a short amount of time, after I prep the work to be done, he will lend a hand.
Carrying stuff isn't as easy as it once was. They make trailers and wheelbarrows for that. Look critically at your tools and resolve to keep them in good repair: It is a delight to work with sharp tools, a mower that gets cleaned up after use, is dry [under a roof] and kept gassed up, a wheelbarrow with a plump tire...
Few things are more frustrating than deciding on a big day of work and find out that something has fallen in disrepair and you have to let the beautiful sunshine go unused while you tend to fixing the @#$%#$%^%!!! mower!
When you get old, everything takes longer, so you must take more time on the prepping work. This way, when the sun finally shines on you, you are ready.
Other things: Among my raised beds, I need to sit more often than I used to. I plan to build a bench this year, so I can admire and enjoy looking at the work accomplished in the garden at the end of the day. Also, a board resting on the edges of 2 raised beds, plus a thick cushion will allow me to weed in peace, at my own rhythm. Knee pads are helpful too, for a short while, although my knees don't like that.
I built 2 really large planters,  [4'X4'X30'] a few years back. Closer to the house, I can grow my herbs in them, and because they are high enough, I can tend to them more easily.
I've tried to get certain tasks done automatically, like watering. Hmmm... That is still a work in progress.
Instead of lamenting at what you didn't get accomplished, rejoice in what your DID accomplish. [I'm learning to make running lists and checking the work done at the end of the day. It is satisfying.]
That is the real secret of staying working and productive.
Finally, dream! That is what I do all winter long: I have 3 seed catalogs already. I have sorted the seeds I reaped by the treatment they need to sprout, the month to plant them in and I dream of adding new trees, making new beds etc.
Those are the things that give me joy. It is joy that keeps us going, not work, not even accomplishments, [at least not for very long].
2 weeks ago