Tag Archives: education

Aquaponics-Grow bed maintenance

I had to make some changes in the greenhouse this winter which gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at my grow beds. The grow beds had a high concentration of fish solids making it difficult to maintain clean water and a proper ph balance.

These tanks have been in operation for over 3 years so I guess that’s not bad considering how lax I have been cleaning the swirl filters, which removes 80% of the fish solids. Note the mud like substance in the photos as well as the algae buildup in certain areas of the grow bed.

20160419_135643 20160419_135648 20160419_135704 20160419_135708 20160419_135723

The only real option I had was to remove the grow media and rinse it through strainers to remove as much of the solids as I could before returning it to the grow bed.

20160419_140031 20160419_140053_001 20160419_140101 20160419_140524 20160921_123639 20160921_123642 20160921_123647

Hopefully I will never let it get that bad again, but I know my fish and plants appreciated the clean out.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Water Retention is just “Swale”

On our little 5th acre suburban homestead in the Mid-Atlantic Region, there is always one area of concern from mid-June through late August…..Water.

We don’t tend to get a lot of rain during these months and when it does rain, it is a quick storm or sudden downpour. The problem with the rains we do get is it runs off very quickly instead of soaking through for a deep root watering of all our plants.

So, this year I decided to try and build a water retention ditch through part of our back yard. Most of our ground is very level, so I don’t know if you could call this a true swale, but it is built of the swale concept.

I started by digging a trough basically about 18″ deep and made sure that the bottom grade of the ditch was perfectly level from one end to the other. Getting the base level means that although the trough is anywhere from 12″ to 18″ deep, the water will still remain evenly throughout ditch.

After the ditch was dug and I insured it would hold water evenly, I put a layer of landscape fabric before adding fill. The fill is done with old logs and tree trunks, which will help retain the moisture of every rain.

Then to top it off is a “path” of large rock. The rock will allow easy water flow, yet adds the appearance of only being a path through the mulch of garden beds.

Sorry I did not get pictures of the area when I first started, but here are the pics of the project and finished work.

20160622_195136 20160622_195145 20160622_195205 20160622_195236 20160622_195239 20160623_095400 20160623_095408 20160623_100336 20160623_100340 20160623_122701 20160623_122707 20160627_142644 20160627_142655 20160627_142704 20160628_141014 20160628_141023 20160704_125709 20160704_125723 20160710_153328

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The swale runs between some fruit trees and in the middle of a larger “food forest” which I am hoping that it will keep enough water dispersed throughout during the dryer season.

The berm built on the side from the dirt dug from the trench will serve as extra planting space. Have not decided exactly what I will plant yet, but I will have it finished up in the next few days.

My plan is to add two or three more if this does exactly what I am hoping it will do. Any way I can keep more water on the property is a great advantage to the amount of watering we have add to do these past few years.

Project expansion-Barrel Garden & Aquaponics

A few days ago I wrote about many of the projects I had been working on since it was almost impossible to get outside between raindrops to plant the garden.

I talked about the potato barrel project, which since first installing, I have expanded quite a bit since I had so many extra barrels. (Some already cut for AP tanks) The potatoes seem very happy in the new “digs” so I thought other plants might feel comfortable as well. I have not decided what else I am going to plant yet-other than a couple of barrels of red potatoes-but I have no doubt that my wife will soon let me know what I am thinking about.

20160526_155523 20160526_155530 20160526_161346 20160526_161354 20160526_161405 20160526_161417

Another project I had been putting off but really needed done was to paint all of my fish tanks and grow beds in the greenhouse.  I have had a real issue with algae, and although I have kept Plecco’s (algae eaters) in the tanks, the issue is still out of control.

So I finally took the time to paint the exteriors of all my tanks and grow beds flat black. This will keep the sunlight from penetrating, thus reducing my algae growth. I also bought black bucket lids to put on to20160512_171615 20160512_171622p of my swirl filters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160512_171400 20160512_171548 20160512_171610 20160526_155553 20160526_155607

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160526_155544

Hopefully this solves my issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powered by the sun-almost 2 months in

Solar.SaveGreenGoingGreen.netIt has been almost 2 months since we had the solar panels installed. We have a website to monitor the production on a daily basis and I must say I am pretty happy with the first few weeks-even with all the cloudiness and rain.

In April, which we were only live about 20 days and most of those days were deluged with rain, we were still able to produce 291.5 kw of energy through the solar panel. I would say this is not too shabby of a start.

So far in May (Through May 28 2016) we have produced 310.69 Kw. Still a little low, but as you can see from the graph below, we have still had a lot of clouds and rain.

May282016solar

Our highest day production was 22.07 KW on May 16th. If we could produce 20 Kw a day for an entire month (600Kw for 30 days) This would run my greenhouse without issue, never having to pull extra energy from the grid.

Comparatively, my electric bill from the local utility (Baltimore Gas & Electric, BGE) for LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME due June 1, 2015 was a total od $280. I received my bill this year and it was for $195-a total reduction of $85.

But lets look at Kw usage from our utility bill. (Does not include solar production)

May 2015-934 Kw Average temp 57 degrees

May 2016-538 Kw Average temp 56 degrees

This is a reduction of 396 Kw from last year overall, but since I cannot know the exact days to calculate to compare apples to apples, meaning I do not know the exact reading dates that are accounted for in billing. If I did, I could calculate how much energy I produced in solar for the exact same days-giving me a very good picture of how we are doing.

I will be tracking our progress as I want to be able to have accurate information for anyone who may be thinking about going solar.

For more information on how easy and inexpensive it is to go solar please visit:

Solar.SaveGreenGoingGreen.net

 

 

Relax and Tour the Gardens

I took a little time off last Saturday since it was going to be a beautiful day, except for a few sprinkles early morning. I decided to go to one of our local garden experts tour and talk, so I visited Miriam’s Gunpowder Gardens.

This is the first time I have ever been to Miriam’s but I must say it was not only beautiful on the banks of the Gunpowder River, but educational. Miriam is very versed in all manner of flower, shrub, and tree on her property. With over 30,000 plants that is some feat indeed!

One of the great things about taking the free tour of the gardens is the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and learn more about specific plants and gardening techniques. Not to mention, when the tour is over, the opportunity to dig and take some plants home-again absolutely free!

I went to the tour with the idea of grabbing a few bee-friendly plants to enhance our honey production from the hives. There was so much, I ended up walking away with several varieties of bee-friendly plants and trees.

It was a great day and Miriam offers free tours every Saturday-weather permitting- through the summer. The tours start a 9 & 11am with 1 afternoon tour at 1pm.

For more pictures or to ask Miriam a question follow her on Tumblr at:

http://miriamsgunpowdergardens.tumblr.com/

Here is just a 2 minute preview of the gardens from our tour.

Capture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to go back when everything is in bloom….Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Bee-utiful Morning

Finally! Had a nice weather day and some actual time in between planned and unplanned projects to see how my bee hives looked.

My one hive is empty because the bees swarmed last year and found a new home. I took it apart first just to see if I could determine any cause in the housing conditions to make them swarm.

20160413_115729
Left empty over winter since the bees swarmed last year

20160413_115817 20160413_120058 20160413_120149I could not

20160413_120310
Threw away all the existing frames. Don’t want to transfer anything to the new hive.

get any definitive information from the empty box. The pest’s that took up residence may have come in after the swarm, so I can’t really blame it on hive moths, veroa mites or other small critters. I may have inadvertently killed the queen at one stage last year and the bees decided to leave with the new queen they had grown. Who knows?

 

I am throwing away all the “guts” of the hive and will burnish the interior of the hive body with a torch to  be able to use it for my next hive. Hopefully this will kill anything that may have survived after the last bees left.

So, on to the good hive. It has been thriving well. This is the hive I got 11 pounds of honey from last year. They seemed to over-winter well, but I felt I need to take the hive down to see what is actually happening.

20160419_104008 20160419_104023I put a honey box on top a couple of months ago because the weather has been strangely warm-and rainy-so I just wanted to see how it would go. Surprisingly, when I pulled the honey today, it was about half full and the majority of comb was drawn and ready to accept more. This may bode well for this years honey harvest in July. But my main concern today was to check and see that we had a good brood, meaning lots of new bees over the next few days.

20160419_103952
Top Hive Body
20160419_104538
Bottom Hive Body
20160419_104554
Switched Hive body boxes and installed Queen excluder between honey box

20160419_104543

When checking the top box of the two deep hive, plenty of activity and lots of capped cells. So we should start seeing an explosion of bees in the next week! But maybe not….

The lower box was empty! I really was not expecting it to be empty, thought I might at least see some eggs or larvae. I went ahead and switched the two boxes positions (Since bees like to work their way up) and I will check it again next week to see if the queen is laying in the top box now.  I am hoping that will be the case, so just have to wait and see.

I will update when I get into the hive again. For now the hive is back together with the honey box on top—-fingers crossed.

 

Dreaming of Fish Poo Plants

I love to hear stories from people discovering the joy of aquaponics.

NipplesAndJoysticks

Written by Jackie

Living through our 20’s are tough for most of us – it’s the time we make some of our biggest decisions. We have moments of clarity and joy, scattered with moments of inquisition and uncertainty. We question the time we spend on this planet earning money, and whether more money and stability is worth sacrificing happiness. Through our love of the environment, science, and community, Sean and I discovered aquaponics, and the possibility of a tiny business selling plants grown from fish poo. Sounds exciting right?!

View original post 556 more words

Emergency Readiness in the Neighborhood

Emergency responseThe last few weeks I have been writing about the classes we undertook sponsored by the Maryland Department of Emergency Management(MEMA): Neighbors Helping Neighbors. (Previous posts:Sustainable & Resilient Communities, Disaster Readiness) Our final class was this past week and I am really thrilled that I took the time to be involved.

Since we moved to Maryland (August 2003) most of our natural disasters have only caused service interruptions of a week or less. If you remember the date, Hurricane Isabel hit us 2 weeks after we moved in to our nice little row home just across the street from waterfront. We quickly became educated in the need for preparing for these eventualities. Maybe it is 12 years later but the class was our next step in being ready and further educating us on areas where we may be weak.

The class information was well prepared and very well presented for anyone who is interested in not only being prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster, but those concerned about others within a community.

The overall takeaway from the class was getting oneself ready for eventual disasters or emergencies that may come along. Living on the east coast, our potential for hurricanes and flooding put us in a category of not if but when they will occur.

Although important to have a good mental attitude for any situation,Hurricane-Sandy but having a few supplies carefully crafted and stored is key to being in a position to survive AND to help others that are in need during a crisis.

FEMA & MEMA both recommend 3-7 days of necessary supplies, while our instructors think a 10 day supply is more adequate. I tend to lean in the more category, being somewhere between 10 and 30 days.

The basics of any emergency stock:

  • Water-The suggested amount of water is 1 gal per person per day. With only 3 people in our household now (I sure this number will triple in case of real emergency-kids and their families) That means for a 14 day supply, we would need at minimum 42 gallons of fresh water.  (# people X # days = absolute minimum gallons needed)
  • Food-This is a gray area as to the amount needed, but having a good stock of foods on hand will be important to any survival plan.  Be sure that it is shelf stable, long term storage. Don’t depend on fresh or frozen since during a heavy disaster there will most likely be no way to store these foods.  If storing up canned foods (store bought) be sure to pack a can opener! Enter the homesteader: someone who grows and maintains a constant stream of food through gardening, aquaponics, or small animal husbandry. (rabbits, chickens, etc) Although as a suburban homesteader, we have home canned and dehydrated foods, we also have the ability with our greenhouse and aquaponics to refresh our food supply.
  • Radio & flashlight-Needless to say these need to be battery operated and you will not be able to just plug and play in a grid down emergency. This could be supplemented with the use of portable solar power. Having a rechargeable battery pack through the use of solar panels makes life a little easier in the worst of disasters. I personally like Goal Zero products.
  • Basic first aid-Bandages, compresses, eye wash, topical creams, scissors, tweezers, etc. During a disaster there is always the potential for some minor medical needs. Along with first aid, do you have anyone in your care that takes prescription medications on a regular basis? Having at least an extra month of those meds on hand could make the difference in that person surviving.
  • Extra clothes, blankets, and compact emergency tools-I am talking an emergency supply bag, many may call it a bug-out bag, but no matter what you call it, it is a part of necessary preparedness.

If you are not able to maintain yourself and family, how are you going to be a benefit to those in need in your community?

For more in depth information I invite you to visit one of my favorite websites. A. H. Trimble , instructor, teacher, author in the art of being prepared for any emergency situation.

 

Let’s Back Up-Disaster Readiness

I did a post yesterday on Sustainable & Resilient Communities, then thought that I should have started with a post talking about Disaster Readiness  first. The class we are taking, Neighbors Helping Neighbors-Disaster Readiness, sponsored by Baltimore County and Homeland Security, is a step toward preparing one’s family for the eventual emergency situation.  Eventual meaning, not if, but when an emergency occurs. So let’s back up and talk about disasters that can occur.

Most disasters can be broken down into just two categories;Hurricane-Sandy

Natural-Hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding, earthquakes, etc

Manmade-train or plane crashes, hazardous material leaks, vehicle accidents, etc.

Depending on the area of the world certain natural disasters are more prevalent. Here on the east coast of the United States our primary concerns lean toward hurricanes and flooding. These are the two predominant forms of natural disasters for our area. Yes we do get a few tornadoes and we are on a major fault line for earthquakes, but these occur much less often.

The U.S. west coast would be more concerned with earthquakes, while the Midwest would be watching for tornadoes. Excessive heat or cold could be a natural disaster. Lighting strikes in excessive heat make for huge natural disasters on the west coast with the spreading wild fires. Of course some of these could be considered man-made as well if started by a discarded lit cigarette.

mdtrainMan-made disasters can be just as devastating as any natural disaster and can occur anywhere and anytime. Here in Baltimore, just this past year was a major train collision with a dump truck in a heavily populated area. The explosion was phenomenal and could be felt miles away. From my house I could see the flames rising above the horizon.

After the initial impact came the threat of an area evacuation because of the potential for a hazardous material spill from a train car. Fortunately there was no spill and no evacuation had to occur.

But what if an evacuation had to occur and we would have to leave our homes for a few days. Would it not be easier to leave in an emergency IF there was already a plan in place and a bag packed for just such an emergency?

That is the goal of emergency readiness! We never know when one of these disasters may occur, but taking steps ahead of time to prepare for the potentiality of a disaster that is predominant to the area just makes sense.

No I am not a “doomsdayer” or “prepper” per se, but being prepared for common to our area emergencies just shows that I care enough about my family, friends, and neighbors to be a help and not a hindrance during troubling times.

I would advocate for every family to take some time to educate themselves about disaster readiness. Take stock of the area in which you live. Do a risk assessment of potential disasters and prepare for eventuality, not just for yourself, but your family, and your community.

Be sure to read Sustainable & Resilient Communities on this blog to see how to prepare a community for disaster readiness. I will be following up with other posts as we progress through the class.

 

Mental Attitude for Emergency Readiness-Part 7

Humans are social. This means, as human beings, we enjoy the company of others. Very few people want to be alone all the time.lonliness With this in mind, there is a distinct chance of isolation in an emergency setting. This is not necessarily  always bad. Loneliness and boredom can bring to the surface qualities you thought only others had. The extent of your imagination and creativity may surprise you. When required to do so, you may discover some hidden talents and abilities. Most of all, you may tap into a reservoir of inner strength and fortitude you never knew you had. Conversely, loneliness and boredom can be another source of depression. As someone dealing with an emergency alone, or with others, you must find ways to keep your mind productively occupied. Additionally, you must develop a degree of self-sufficiency. You must have confidence  in your capability to “go it alone.”
This brings us to the possible feeling of Guilt.
The circumstances leading to your being in an emergency situation are sometimes dramatic and tragic. It may be the result of an accident, a poor choice, unwise decision, or even a natural or manmade disaster where there was a loss of life. Perhaps you were the only one, or one of a few, to survive. While naturally relieved to be alive, you simultaneously may be mourning the deaths of others who were less fortunate. It is not uncommon for survivors to feel guilt about being spared from death while others were not. This feeling, when used in a positive way, has encouraged people to try harder to survive with the belief they were allowed to live for some greater purpose in life. Sometimes, survivors tried to stay alive so that they could carry on the work of those who didn’t  make it. Whatever reason you give yourself, do not let guilt feelings prevent you from living. The living who abandon their chance to survive accomplish nothing. Such an act would be a great tragedy and does not honor those who have passed away!

Did you miss any of the series? Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5part 6