Saturday, July 9, 2016

Aquaponic Test V3.0 & A Crowded Coop/Run

The tweaking and toying process of discovering what works best for
our aquaponic grow tower system (hydroponic - chemicals + fish = aquaponic) has begun.  We've added another layer to our fish tank to eliminate the leaking of the original liner, attached secondary filtration systems to the water delivery system to eliminate particulate that was plugging the lines, finessed the water cycling composition (ph/nitrate/nitrites/ammonia/nitrogen), re-engineered the water delivery system from flexible irrigation tubing to hard PVC with tower by tower ball valves and finally added a third row of 2" net pots to almost every vertical tower tube to facilitate more obstructions in the water flow and better distribute the nutrient rich water.

We took a hit a couple times over the past months, losing a couple
towers of seedlings (80 plants in all) due to feed lines plugging.
The suspended solids combined with an algae bloom was the culprit. One and five gallon paint strainer nets to the rescue.  Rubber banded on the outflow of the gutter and enveloping the pump housing revealed that we had water saturated with suspended solids.  The difference in two days of filtering and several cleanings is quite dramatic.  The next step will be to transfer the fish into a 250 gallon water tote and use the current tank as the reserve sump tank.  A two tank set up will not only allow ample water

backup but facilitate the creation of a swirl filter in between the two for further water filtration and suspended solids removal.  The swirl filters are designed with a bleed valve that expels the trapped solids for application to garden soil.  The fish poo slurry is one of the best organic fertilizers and the nutrients are like magic growth juice to maturing plants.
The additional raised beds are producing well.  We've turned over and harvested the first round of snow peas and spicy radishes.  Carrots are developing nicely protected from the sun by the big leaves of our zucchini / squash plants.  The beans, watermelon, spaghetti squash are coming along although I believe I might have gone overboard with the concentrated planting.  They are growing up the chicken hoop house nicely though.

We hatched out 30 Black Copper Maran / Easter Egger crosses which hopefully give us hens that will lay green eggs.  The math follows this equation.  30 chicks * 50% male / female = 15 (possibly) laying hens and 15 chicken dinners. My hopes are to turn over 5-6 of our existing flock and replace with the new additions.

That'll leave about 9 or so that I'll sell to pay for the feed to get them to 25 weeks.  Twenty five weeks is the about the time where chicken maturity level reveals male/female and egg production begins. The really neat thing about this type of cross are the egg possibilities.  Black copper marans produce dark chocolate / mahogany spotted colored eggs, easter eggers produce dark to light blue eggs.  When the breeds are combined, maran colored eggs, easter egger eggs and / or a hybrid cross green colored eggs are possible.  More interesting is the fact that although the egg might have a green exterior, when cracked the interior reveals a dark brown shell.  Because of the timing of color deposition, the green egg is actually a brown egg with a blue over coat!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Because I'm not already busy enough...

     Just returned from a great two day trip up to camp with the family and decided to set up the incubators I borrowed from my buddy Greg.  I've been collecting for the last week and will have about 24 Americana/Araucana - Maran mixed eggs (hopefully fertilized) to get cooking.  The temps are good, but the humidity needs to approached 40% and stabilized first.  Tonight will mark the beginning and hopefully in 22 days we'll have about a dozen hatchlings to select pullets from.  Last time (about four years ago) I hatched 28 chickens and got exactly 50% male - females.  Hoping that'll happen again this time around.  Fingers crossed!

While we're at it...why not plant some veggies?!  

Friday, April 22, 2016

EZ Up Tent to Aquaponic Green House - Construction Photos

2X4" framing will support the vertical tubes and channel the return water gutters below.

The frame is in the shape of a "U".  A pump pushes water through tubing to the top where it trickles down through the tubes and exits the bottom into a gutter.  Two of the gutters will return into a single that flows directly into the 275 gallon in-ground tank.  

25 feeder goldfish provide the growing nutrients (waste), when properly fed and cycled, to supply the necessary ingredients for produce growth.  

To the left, $39 Tractor Supply clearance, seedling greenhouse.  The seeds are planted in 3 week cycles.  As they sprout, they'll replenish the 330 net pots of the vertical tube towers.  

The key, and also the game, is getting the nutrient supply in check.  It is a chemistry equation based on input of fish food, quantity of fish, fish waste, ammonia, ph, nitrate, nitrogen, suspended solids, light, produce water cleaning function, water levels, etc...

When the proper balance is achieved, an aquaponic system requires 70% less water, increases vegetable output by 70%, and requires no weeding.  A well designed system can almost become self sustaining.  Replacing commercial fish food with duck weed grown by the system, running on solar, using gravity and water flow for venturi oxygenation, growing fish that can be eaten, raising worms that are fed leaf cuttings and selling the resulting castings (highly desirable), etc.  The possibilities are endless with a little ingenuity and willingness to redesign and expand as experience is gained.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Aquaponic Trial Run @ Home Base

Found some time and acceptable weather to fill the new planter boxes surrounding the chicken coop here at home. Loaded them up with the super duper garden blend offered by Mazzola's here in town. This soil is loaded with a well rounded balance of plant loving grow nutrients. Three yards was enough to fill the new beds, top off the subterranean irrigated beds, a few ruts in my grass, skim coat the front flower bed and I still had a couple extra wagon's full to put on the compost pile that my chickens fortify regularly with nitrogen rich dung.

You'll notice in one of the photos the 7" deep, 12' X 11' cut dug out of the ground and in another the large pile of stacked bricks (free craig's list find). Soon I will be getting base delivered and then install a nice brick patio. On top of the patio, Jennifer and I will construct a green house from an old 10'X10' EZUP PopUp shelter that I'll reskin with heavy clear plastic. Inside this structure, I will get to work assembling the necessary components for the Aquaponics system. EVENTUALLY, we'll get to growing something! But, in the mean time, the raised beds will be busy providing a spot to get some early crops in the ground.

 Enjoy the photos.

The orange marker is staked into the opening of what I believe is the sixty year old capped water well that was used years ago.  I'll have to pack gravel and sand around it.  Luckily it is far enough below the fill line that it won't interfere with the brick level.

Seven more of these to construct to finish off the fifteen grow towers that will fill the Green House Ez Up.

Finally, Here's a quick video pan of the last cleanup that my son and I tackled.  Having his help is a Godsend!  The area directly behind the new pile of branches was a mess of downed and cut up trees that got buried under snow.  The warm weather allowed us to stack it, rack it and bundle the rest for burning.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The First of Many "Big Burns"

This past Saturday my neighbor Matt and I headed up to Light Haven with the hopes of enjoying a big fire.  The property had at least a foot of snow, but the forecast for the day was a high of nearly 50 degrees.  PERFECT!  I had a branch pile of cut-offs that was the size of a house to burn.  In fact, the photo I'm posting is about half the size of the pile that we actually took to burning.  A few hours into the day, I texted my buddy Greg and asked him to join us.  These guys were a huge help.  Without them there would have been no way I'd have that entire pile reduced to ashes...I appreciate it!  We cooked some brats, had a few beverages and killed a bag of cool ranch doritos too!

Here's a few snaps of the day's activities.  It started at 9:30AM and we left after sun down around 7:30PM.  The ash / hot coals pile (no pics, sorry) was the size of what a usual fire would typically be.  When we finally got the thing blazing, it sounded like a jet aircraft engine and the center flame was a good 20' in the air!

By the way, I'm gearing up for the aquaponics system this spring.  Had a chance to toy around with making the holders in the PVC tower pipes for the 2" net pots.  The bottom slots are the last couple I attempted.  Wasn't difficult once I had the wooden spike shaped correctly and figured out how much heat and pressure to apply to get the cup shape I was after.  I'm excited to see the yield I can achieve from ten 5' tubes with 20 or so net pots in each pipe.  Jennifer and I are going to concentrate on fast turn crops such as Kale, multiple varieties of lettuce, cabbage, swiss chard, a multitude of herbs, and strawberries as well.   I can't decide which fish I'm going to get...just might start with goldfish until we get the hang of it.