Sorry ’bout the lateness of this ‘Happenings’…but life just got in the way this week.
A New Waste Transformation Farm Project
In my spare time, I provide consultancy to aspiring waste transformation (WTF) farmers. It’s not very lucrative because I haven’t charged for my time but it does allow me to extend my reach into regions that are dissimilar to my own place…thereby expanding the WTF knowledge base.
Anyway, it looks like I might be working with the owner to adapt an existing small cattle farm to the waste transformation method.
Ebb and Flow Hydroponics System
I divided my collection of about eight kangkong plants into lots of root sections and planted them out into the ebb and flow unit. This unit is now outside (rather than in the shadehouse) so, with the recent mild weather. I’m hoping we’ll have lots of little plants on their way.
There’s been a significant change in our situation during the past week…and we didn’t have to do anything at all.
Our neighbours on our northern boundary removed several very large trees in preparation for house-building. In so doing, they brought about a big change in our solar exposure.
The removal of the trees directly impacts us in three ways.
First, we no longer get the shade provided by the trees and, in a world that is getting hotter, that’s a downside.
The second impact – an upside – is that parts of our place that were previously in shade, are now growing areas. And that clears the way for the remaining impact…we’re now have the location and capacity for solar panels.
The trees will be missed. The decision to remove one should never be taken lightly and we’re sad that they’re gone.
But, now we have to make the best of what we’ve got…and that’s a going to be a recurring theme for all of us…on a personal and global level.
I spent much of this past week thinking about this project and why, although the build is almost complete, nothing was happening.
I’m so close that all I had to do is finish the sump tank installation and connect the pipework from the fish tanks and filtration modules to the sand biofilters and DWC grow tanks…but, with only a few hours of work to do, I felt incapable of making the final effort.
And then I came to the realisation that the premise that underpins my comparison project is no less flawed than the research methodology that inspired it.
The first research trial, conducted at the American University in Cairo (AUC) by Hisham El Essawy sought to establish which method (iAVs or DWC) was the better choice for Egypt – given its circumstances. While the methodology was flawed, this trial concluded that iAVs was the more effective growing method for Egypt.
The second trial, conducted (also at AUC) by Lobna Salem, sought to establish whether deep water culture (DWC) or sand beds were the better way to grow lettuce. While the methodology for this trial was also suspect, it concluded that DWC was the better method for growing lettuce.
Upon reflection, I concluded that my iAVs/DWC comparison was simply going to confirm the findings of the first trial. On the matter of the second trial, I came to the conclusion that knowing how to grow one type of food plant to the exclusion of all others, was actually of little interest to me.
I also realised that by continuing with the comparison, I was going to lock myself into a regime of water testing, filter-cleaning and external nutrient mineralisation (or supplementation) that DWC requires but that iAVs does not.
I was, in effect, going to devote a whole heap of time and effort to confirm what Mark McMurtry proved over 30 years ago…that, all things considered, iAVs is the most productive, resilient and sustainable way to grow plants using the metabolic wastes of fish.
The other more disturbing realisation was that, even if I’d done all of the work that was necessary, it would actually have done little to change minds. I’ve observed throughout my 14 years of association with aquaponics that people act on what they believe rather than that which is verifiable fact.
So, given all of that, I’m not proceeding with the comparison.
Now that I’ve freed myself from that yoke, I plan to take the project in a different direction.
I will now commission the iAVs as soon as I tidy up the few remaining build tasks and arrange for the purchase of some fish.
One of the questions that I encounter, from time to time, is…”Could I connect a DWC tank to an iAVs?” I propose to answer that question as soon as I satisfy my initial curiosity about my new toy.
After that, I’ll probably source some more sand and convert the DWC tank to another sand biofilter…and possibly even a second discrete iAVs with its own fish tank.
There are so many questions that remain to be answered about the method but my first inclination is to determine whether there’s any discernible difference between glass sand and the quartz silica stuff.
So, that’s it…until next week. Take it easy!
Let me introduce you to Rob Greenfield. He’s an interesting man for a number of reasons but it’s actually his home that interests me right now.
Why do we spend 25 – 40 years of our life energy putting a roof over our heads when we could have a mortgage-free tiny house?
I’m sure that there are people out there who feel that they couldn’t live in anything less than four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a 3 car garage but, to me, this is what liberation architecture is all about.
This project was the big winner this week.
I straightened up the leaning pier on the iAVs bed…
…and drilled the holes for the flange fittings…before lining the beds with the local equivalent of Duraskrim.
The flange fittings were bolted into place.
The DWC tank drain was straightforward enough…that’s a simple standpipe arrangement. The iAVs drain was rather more complicated – in this particular application. It features a section of slotted agriculture drain pipe covered in a fine mesh sock to provide for effective drainage while ensuring that the sand stays in place.
And then I waved my magic wand and 1.5 metric tons of sand moved itself into the iAVs bed. I secured the liner edges with some pine battens to finish off the sand biofilter and DWC grow tank.
The sand that I obtained for this project is not ‘sand’ as we’d normally think of it…it’s glass sand.
I used it because it satisfied the criteria for iAVs sand…it’s inert, free of silt and clay and it’s particle size range is such that it will drain very well. It was given to me so the only cost was for the transport from the mainland to our island…a mere $80.00. That it’s made from recycled bottles is a nice little sustainability bonus.
That’s it for next week so, until next week, keep growing – and take it easy.
Apprenticeship in Lifestyle Development
This project hogged the time, this week…but the outcomes more than justified the effort.
To recap, I’ve begun to teach my grandsons the things that the education system won’t teach them…achieving happiness through simple living and self-reliance. While most grandfathers probably teach their grandchildren useful things, my approach will be a little more intensive…and goal-directed.
We spent the week learning simple tasks like ropework and knots…caring for chickens…roughing out blanks on a wood lathe – and various other micro-masteries. This was largely about learning to learn for them…and us getting used to each other in our adjusted roles.
They returned to their mainland home on Saturday – and voted the fortnight a huge success.
While I completed the structural elements of the grow bed/tank last week, the ground under one of the cement block piers has settled to the point where the pier now a slight Leaning Tower of Pisa feel about it.
It’s probably not a big deal – but these beds will weigh in excess of a metric ton once they’re filled – so I want to be absolutely certain that they’re safe to be around. The other issue is that every time I walk past them, I’ll know that one of the piers has a slant on it…and that will annoy the hell of out me. So, I’ll fix the problem before I line the beds and install the drains.
Our twelve chickens laid twelve eggs – last Friday – for the first time. While this wouldn’t normally be noteworthy, it was huge for me after months of fluctuating egg production.
While it’s been a really busy week, there’s been limited progress on the project front. I’m hopeful that this situation will change in the coming week. We’ll see.
Until then, take it easy.