Havemore Happenings – 4 August 2019

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.

Tree Change

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.

-o0o-

 

Havemore Happenings – 28 July 2019

iAVs/DWC Comparison

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!

-o0o-

 

Havemore Happenings – 21 July 2019

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.

iAVs/DWC Comparison

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.

-o0o-

Havemore Happenings – 14 July 2019

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.

iAVs/DWC Comparison

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.

Laying Chickens

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.

-o0o-

Havemore Happenings – 7 July 2019

iAVs/DWC Comparison

I completed the sand bio-filter – and the DWC grow tank – this week. 

  

Both growbeds/tanks are made from treated pine sleepers – 2.4m x 1.2m x 400mm deep.  These structures are supported on cement blocks.  I used more treated pine sleepers to distribute the weight on the blocks.  Each bed will weigh over a metric ton when filled with media and water.

A sheet of 19mm formply completes the structural aspect of the growbeds.  I should point out that I tend to over-engineer things…but this was also probably the most cost-effective way to accommodate my circumstances.

My next task is to install the drains in the growbed and tank.

New Ebb and Flow system

This system has had no end of incarnations.  It was a worm farm, then a quail breeder pen, then an ebb and flow hydroponics seedling propagator, then a worm farm again…and, this week, it’s back to being an ebb and flow hydro system again.  I filled the grow bed with expanded clay pebbles and hooked up a pump and timer.  I planted a bunch of leggy pak choi seedlings – just to get things growing.

Currently, this unit (and my other hydroponics systems) are running on packaged nutrients. It’s a two-part dry powder mix…and each part is mixed with water to produce 20 litres of nutrient solution.  It’s easy to use, cost-effective and entirely predictable in terms of its growing performance.  It’s still my plan to use nutrients that are sourced from organics but, until I get that sorted out, the packaged stuff will suffice.

IBC Test Bed system

I have a love/hate relationship with IBC’s

The IBC basic flood and drain system…and it’s retarded little brother, the ‘chop and flip’ system…are to be found in their thousands in backyards throughout the world.  They are usually slightly oblong in shape and are constructed in such a way that it is generally difficult to concentrate and remove particulate wastes.  They are, therefore, a poor choice for use as a fish tank.  They are also party to what fate has done to the iAVs system…and, for that, I’m not a fan.

As a systems freak, however, I’m fascinated by IBC’s…so this project is about exploring some of the ways in which they can be used in waste transformation farming.

Currently, these IBC components are serving as water storage and two duckweed tanks. That will change within the coming weeks as I begin to showcase the range of uses to which these vessels can be put.

Mega Bin duckweed unit

Mega bins are very useful containers for micro-farming.  My short term plan is to grow duckweed in these two bins.

Apprenticeship in Lifestyle Development

I have my two grandsons (11 and 13 years respectively) visiting with me for the school holidays.  Both are fairly typical products of the education system which parrots the societal mantra…”Do as you’re told. Study hard in school.  Get a good job.  Be Happy.”

Intertwined with all of that is the “Great Australian Dream” of buying one’s own home (over a period of 25 – 40 years) – for which one spend the best years of one’s life working to provide shelter for oneself.

We delude ourselves into thinking that if we do these things, we’ll have made it…but those who cannot achieve this ‘blissful’ state are deemed failures.

I believe that the education system exists for two reasons…to produce compliant workers – and to self-perpetuate. 

I’ve long been aware that, if this nonsense works for anyone, they are few in number.  It certainly didn’t work for me.  What I achieved in life was in spite of the education system rather than because of it.

After considerable thought, I’ve decided to ‘apprentice’ my grandsons.  The indenture is not a formal trade…like building, engineering or cookery.  It’s an Apprenticeship in Lifestyle Development.

It seeks to provide them with the knowledge, skills and experience to chart their own course…to achieve freedom from the bonded servitude and usury under which most people will exist…and to experience a satisfying life.

They will learn how to produce their own food…and provide their own shelter.  They’ll learn how to design and make things…and they’ll discover how to acquire the means of exchange through owning and operating their own enterprises.

That’s it for this week.  Feel free to comment or ask questions.  Until next week, keep growing – and take it easy.

-o0o-

Havemore Happenings – 30 June 2019

iAVs/DWC Comparison

Frequent heavy rain stopped work on this system, this week…but sand beds were still the subject of discussion elsewhere in the world.  

Fresh on the heels of the iAVs/DWC comparison study conducted by Hisham El Essawy at the American University in Cairo (AUC), is another study that sought to compare lettuce yields between a DWC and with a “sand-bed system.”   Like its predecessor, the latter study, by Lobna Salem (also from AUC), failed to optimise either of the units thus bringing the study outcomes into question.

While I’m delighted that universities are starting to demonstrate an interest in iAVs (even when they are not aware of it), I regret that we were not associated with the researchers because these comparative studies would have been better served if they’d sought advice about what sand can do…particularly using the iAVs method.  The rainy weather provided an opportunity to take a close look at both theses.

The really interesting thing that has come out of the two AUC studies is the confirmation (yet again) of the versatility of iAVs.  We’ve seen some outrageous deviations from the instructions and guidelines…and yet the iAVs (or other sand-bed aquaponics) still grows plants…and better than any other media bed that I’ve seen.  

New Worm Farm

The new worm farm is now in operation.  I put some coco coir into the bottom to allow the worms somewhere to retreat if conditions weren’t to their short term liking.  I then transferred the worms – and several kilograms of castings.  I topped the bed off with several layers of weathered cardboard smeared with the larvicast out of the BioPod.   I’m planning to use worm castings in the evolving organic hydro units and while, we’ve got modest stocks of vermicast, we’re also experiencing cooler weather.

New Ebb and Flow system

The old worm farm is now the new ‘ebb and flow’ hydroponics system.  The grow bed is a fraction under one square metre in area…holds about 200 litres when full, and is, at the moment,  part-filled with clay pebbles.  Below the grow bed is a 200-litre nutrient tank.  A small submersible pump controlled by a timer…and some simple plastic fittings…facilitate the pumping of water from the nutrient tank up to the grow tank.  An electro-mechanical timer – and a simple standpipe arrangement – ensure that a predetermined amount of water gets pumped up.  Once the pump is shut off, the water drains back into the nutrient reservoir… and awaits the next irrigation event.

Organic Hydro Biofilter/Brewer

It’s been about a week since the ammonia level in this system dropped to zero.  I’m currently waiting for nitrite levels to rise.

Seedlings on Steroids

I’ve left a bunch of pak choi seedlings in the seedling propagator – well past the time that they should have been planted out.  I’m keen to see how they turn out so I’m going to put some of them into 2″ NFT pots – and some others directly into the clay pebbles in the new ebb and flow system.

The Emerging Vision

The overall plan for Havemore Farm is to turn it into a fully-functioning waste transformation micro-farm…showcasing a variety of food production (and other lifestyle development) options.

As recently as a few months ago, most of our food production capability had been mothballed.  

We have considerable capacity once it’s all up and going.  

But it’s all useless if it’s sitting idle. so, sometime back, I decided that, before taking on any new projects, I’d put everything that I had lying around to work growing food.  I decluttered the backyard and unearthed a number of tanks and tubs…and incomplete projects.

That means that there will be new projects happening soon.  They include:

  • IBC Test Bed system
  • Mega Bin duckweed unit
  • Organic Hydro Biofilter/Brewer 2.0
  • Pond Biofilter

More details on the new projects will be available next week.

Got any ideas or suggestions for improvement in this weekly report?  I’d love to hear from you…and it doesn’t matter what it is…I’ll give it a try.  More pictures…less reading?  Bigger pictures?  Prefer video?  More links?

Until then, keep growing – and take it easy.

-o0o-