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Cécile Stelzer Johnson

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since Mar 09, 2015
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Recent posts by Cécile Stelzer Johnson

It is not really creative, but add them to a wind break for protection from the dominant winds in winter. This also creates a good habitat for birds who nest on the ground as well as squirrels, mice, rabbits etc. and it traps snow. As it rots when the pile goes down, just add more or plant trees there.
2 days ago

Rick Valley wrote:I have a small asparagus bed- originally 4 crowns- on a low berm about 10 ft from the street, and there are also some roses and perennials there. After 8 years or so things seemed to be slowing down, despite mulching with bagged manure. This year the first shoots were very skinny, and my first picking was 2 of pencil caliber.
In desperation I gave the area a "golden shower", which, considering the location right by the street, was administered by gallon jug. WOW! everywhere I "fertigated", up popped bigger spears. second picking was X3 considering weight, and they seemed to be spreading in the thick mulch. As a kid a couple miles S. of Lake Ontario I picked wild asparagus on the sandy ridges from past lake levels and brought 'em home to Mum, so besides mulch I have added sand at times, which I got at the coast. So far I haven't seen any 1 inch caliper spears, but I am being careful to leave the biggest and merely thin, and the bed does seem to be building energy and spreading. My "gardener snakes" seem to be living in the mulch and maybe keeping the slugs down, because there's been little slug damage: so far this year only one spear has been damaged. The slug was detained for interrogation, but maintained silence, and so was released to the driveway but could not find shelter before a bird found him/her.

Sometimes, the first shoots are quite skinny. It doesn't mean that the crown is failing or is missing something. Some come out of dormancy timidly. Perhaps they were planted deeper. The first showing isn't as telling as the second showing, 2-3 days later. At 8 years of age, your asparagus should still be good for another 7-8 years if weeded religiously and mulched.
The recommended balance is 10-10-10, applied right after the spring harvest is over so it makes lots of fronds, which in turn energize the crowns for the following year. If your soil is tighter,  you can also give it another application after there is snow on the ground. This way, the nitrogen won't go down until early spring, after snow melt. I don't add anything besides mulch in the fall because my soil is too sandy: If I were to apply some, with the first rain, it would go down past the root zone and be lost to my crop. They like it quite sandy.
This is what Veganic Culture is saying about our pee: "Our urine contains significant levels of nitrogen, as well as phosphorous and potassium. The relative ratios are typically around 11 parts nitrogen to 1 part phosphorus to 2.5 parts potassium. Americans produce about 90 million gallons of urine a day, containing about 7 million pounds of nitrogen".
So yeah, asparagus will respond to a treat like this.
Incidentally, the largest spears on my property come from a volunteer that started growing on the North East side of a shooting berm, made from ... a lot of sand. It is common for this hill to have 8-10 spears at once, and its growing season is long. The spears are often thumb thick and I have so many asparagus plant that I wasn't  fertilizing or mulching it. It is maybe 3-4 years old? This one seems to thrive on neglect. go figure!

Kate Downham wrote:This year I’d like to plant some asparagus crowns. I’d like to have enough planted to be able to go out there in asparagus season and harvest 1 or 2 pounds at a time (or more), enough for a big family side dish. I like to feel like there is an abundance of food and to just harvest it and tell the kids they can eat up as much raw as they like, but asparagus crowns cost money, and there’s lots of other things I can be growing, so I don’t want to go too far overboard.
I could always feed the excess to the goats if we get too much, I just have no idea how much to plant!
How much yield would you get per week for 10 plants?
How many asparagus crowns would you plant, if trying to grow food for 8 people that love vegetables?
And another asparagus question… Some places say not to harvest any at all the first year it’s planted - is this just for seed-grown asparagus, or is it for crowns as well? What actually happens if you harvest some in the first year?

I can only tell you that 50 Millennial asparagus crowns for 2 people, [one of them who doesn't like asparagus] is probably too much [Ha: ask me how I know!]
Taking your statements in the order given:
Feeding it to the goats: Asparagus are at a premium in the spring, and if you have a Farmers' market, I would either sell them there, or offer them to a farmer that is selling other veggies: split the take 50/50? Otherwise, you might want to can/ freeze them. [This year, I'm cutting them in 1 or 2" lengths, making sure I only snap them so I don't have any woody stems, blanch them quickly, then chill them and lay them on cookie sheets, put in the freezer overnight, then vacuum seal them in bags].
I do love them fresh, so I gorge on fresh asparagus, on their own, raw or in salads in the spring and you are doing that already.
As far as the amount you should plant, that depends on your soil, your climate, if you plant seeds or crowns and the specific cultivar. Seeds will give you male and female plants  and the female plants will give you more seeds. Crowns will only be male, so they won't go to seed. Going to seed does tire a plant and you need to feed more.
As far as harvesting the first year: these crowns need all the strength that a full foliage will give them for the 2nd season: If you pick everything, your plant will be exhausted and that can be long term, with asparagus that can never recover enough to give you the "promised" yield. [Take the promised yield with a grain of salt as these specimens are raised in almost ideal conditions.]
I picked very sparingly the first year that I put my Millennials in the ground [one asparagus/ plant, only if I saw a couple more coming, and only if they were thumb size].

Dian Green wrote:I have seen some people talk about doing strawberries over aspargus, since their roots are high and low. Apparently, while the amounts for both are a bit lower, since you get both it's a net win.

I've been leaning towards trying it myself, I just need to lay out my aspargus in a longer, narrower patches than I had at my old place. It'd be great to be able to let the strawberries cover the bed and reduce the need for weeding!

I love to know if anyone here has had this work for them.

I do have 50 "Millennial" asparagus spread in 4 raised beds. To this, I added a number of strawberries and it worked, for a while... You must still be extremely diligent in covering the strawberries in straw in winter. Last winter, I didn't: It was a a mild winter and I didn't have straw. this year, I cam back to a real mess, with Johnson grass that had invaded all 4 beds. It will be a lot of work to retrieve!
Realize also that the fertilization of strawberries and asparagus differs:  Strawberries need a balanced fertilizer [10-10-10] while for asparagus, it is more like [5-10-10] or even [5-24-24] I use chicken manure and/or comfrey tea. If you use the artificial stuff, you can try to put the 10-10-10 more specifically on the strawberries and the other one on the asparagus, since those are in hills.
As far as strawberries being "perennials", well, not really: they do tend to peter out after 2 years. They then leave you with a tangled mess of dry runners that is hard to remove with new strawberry plants mixed in. Pulling the runners will lift the new strawberries that you will then have to replant, so it is 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.
The new strawberry plants are easy to find right after harvest because they are at the end of nice green runners. This year, I am planning to do what the "commercials" do to keep the patch new [or at least my own version of it]: Pick the new plants in the summer and immediately place them in their own bed: You can crowd them at that time because they will be new and won't have long runners. Then in the fall, do your best to rid the patch of weeds and of the older plants.
Later, there is still time to replant them in the old bed, among the asparagus, and cover them with straw.
This guy explains the logic behind what the commercials do.
1 week ago

Jay Angler wrote:

Christopher Weeks wrote:This doesn't address its suitability to Midwest growing, ...

The fact that the article says it can mature in as little as 6-8 weeks, seems to open possibilities in areas that get really hot in the summer, if they can count on the heat in a specific window.

The article doesn't say what the temperature range for that period must be. One article suggested that germination requires 25 to 30C ( however, it also mentions that in Guinea, it is produced at altitude where it's cooler.

Christopher's article is very interesting and certainly suggests that if you've got a micro-climate area that is consistently hot - possibly too hot for other crops - it would be worth some experiments. It certainly wouldn't grow in my cool climate!

However, there are permies using green houses for fall, winter and spring crops, but can't use them in the summer due to the heat. This might be a crop for that purpose. On my farm, "straw" from grain crops is very useful for all sorts of things, and is actually hard to come by at any sort of reasonable cost.

The talk in Christopher's article does worry me in one way - people encourage small farmers to produce a "product" for "an over-seas market" without considering that everything that is exported is removing nutrients from the land. I am happier with the permaculture approach which tries to look at the importance of closed-loop systems. [/quote

If the seed was easier to come by, I'd be willing to give it a whirl. I totally agree with you on the uses of fonio as straw, as well, and also on encouraging small farmers to grow their fonio for their 'foreign' market. It is their grain and it should benefit them first. I read elsewhere [and in French] that a local man had found a way to create a machine that was giving superior cleaning results as far as cleanliness of the seed. It looked somewhat like a coffee grinder, but just a bit larger.
It was still no the kind of machine that could process a hundred pounds an hour, but much better than doing it by hand.

Christopher Weeks wrote:This doesn't address its suitability to Midwest growing, but I thought I'd lodge this article here:

Thanks, Christopher,. Yes, I had forgotten that the worst barrier to fonio is indeed the laborious processing of the seed and how even when processing by hand, some sand remains in the product. [that would make it OK for my chickens, but humans don't care so much for sand. Considering that a crop can be ready in 8 weeks, though, makes it possible to grow it pretty much anywhere in the lower 48.
Now, how do we go about getting seed?

James turuc wrote:What PEST  affect  this grain?

So, first, Welcome to permies, James. I was looking for some kind of grain I could grow in my sand and they said fonio was good in sand, but then, I checked on the possible range [tropical climate] and realized that in Central Wisconsin zone 4b, it wouldn't have much of a chance so I gave up. Plus actually procuring the seed didn't sound easily feasible.
I found this, which might be helpful to you... or not.,and%201000%20mm%20of%20rainfall.
At any rate, good luck to you. Tell us more about the zone you live in, the soil, the precipitation. Sometimes, that helps permies to find you what you are looking for.
Well, Charles, the leaf curling on your Jonathan apple tree does indicate that all is not well. Better Homes and Gardens says that the curling of the leaves on an apple tree, [not necessarily Jonathan] has one of 3 causes:
Fungal diseases, bugs and bacteria.
You pointed out that you've had a lot of rain, and perhaps the Jonathan cultivar doesn't handle that well. I know my Wealthy apples on the tree will burst if they are given too much water toward the end of ripening, but I also have Jonathan, and that didn't bother them, so perhaps, it is the cultivar?
They recommend checking the unhealthy leaves for stickiness or powdery substance on the underside. That might  indicate bugs or bacteria. Unfortunately, we can't fix the weather. For more:,might%20even%20see%20small%20insects.
1 week ago
I found this interesting article in Quora on sleep. As it turns out, the sleeping habits we have now have more to do with the industrial age work scheduling than the sleep pattern requested by our bodies:
It does make sense to me that the 2 phase sleep, which is recorded in several European languages may have been the norm: Go to sleep at dusk, then wake up in the middle of the night, have a snack, visit etc. then go back to sleep again. I rarely sleep the whole night through.
On the other hand, my husband naps for an hour or so after lunch every day without fail. I just can't sleep during the day, but that's me.
TV, radio, lights, cell phones, the Internet do tend to keep us up at any and all hours. Before we had those, we probably had more restful sleep, whether it was in one block of darkness or two.
2 weeks ago
Perhaps it is our interconnectedness that gets in the way. The need to work to get a salary.
I am not sure I would like the state of torpor or hibernation. When a person is seriously wounded, doctors can put him or her in a medically induced coma.
This, however, must be done under supervision, presupposing that someone has to stay awake to assist the sleeper...
After a serious accident, I was unable to move for a long time. Worse, they could not put a cast on my leg and every movement caused excruciating pain. I was given a self dosing of morphine, which made this bearable. This lasted from June 6th to July 4th.
I almost lost a leg. It had to be debrided every other day and scheduling meals around these operations became a serious concern. I lost a tremendous amount of weight at a time when I wasn't particularly fat [I have regained my healthy appetite since then, unfortunately].
The inability to move had another consequence: Constipation. After 4 days, I tried for over 20 minutes to pass... something. A very sweet nurse I will never forget ended up relieving me... manually. I remember being quite apprehensive when I noticed that she had long fingernails. Even gloved, it took over an hour to get relief. After that, they gave me some medication to assist. Since I wasn't eating much [I had lost all appetite due to the trauma and the scheduling of multiple surgeries] that didn't help my weight. [No meals and little water for 6 hours before and 6 hours after] That was the only time when I weighed less than 110 Lbs. The only way to weigh me was to weigh the entire bed with me in it and subtract what they knew to be the weight of the bedding. They came in and were quite worried as we got into July.
On July 4th, Independence Day, I finally got a cast... and then, the Doctor wanted me to stand up just to get in a wheelchair. Yeah! right! When pigs fly! is what I thought. I had lost so much muscle that I could not stand up on my own. 2 strong nurses assisted me to get in the wheelchair. The three of us where huffing and puffing when I sat down in the wheelchair.
This is the closest that I came to hibernation. Even with the morphine drip, and try as I did, it wasn't hibernation; more like forced rest, but it helped me to see why we do not hibernate, even if some folks can, with a lot of training, get into a trance that could pass for prolonged torpor/hibernation.
Meals and meal preparation are another problem: Bears are capable of putting on a lot of extra weight to spend the winter in their den, and they burn it off while sleeping, apparently without losing muscle mass, but we do. I don't know what they do for pooping, which is also a problem of horses [another mammal] who will have serious digestive issues if they stay laying down too much.
I'm not sure we should wish to be able to hibernate, although it would be great to be able to spend a really restful night, every night, at will! Maybe that is what we should wish for. I know I would fare much better if I didn't wake up around 4:30 every morning, summer or winter [and sometimes, I just can't fall asleep until 1 or 2 am]. Self hypnosis helps, sometimes...
2 weeks ago