Tag Archives: organic

Garden Growth-Good and Bad 2016

Watering, weeding, and digging, but very little close to harvesting. This year has been very strange. I think the spring weather, almost constant rain, getting the garden out later than normal, and now near drought conditions are causing strange growth patterns in our garden.

I actually took time to walk around our 1/5 acre homestead the other day just to survey how all the plants and trees were doing. I was a little surprised at the lack of growth from some plants that usually do very well, while their is an abundance of growth from other plantings.

On the good side-Our corn is ridiculous! I planted it next to one of our sheds and it has grown taller than our 10′ high shed! Not only that, but most years we only get 1 ear per stalk, most of the stalks this year are giving us two!

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20160717_090435Most of the melons are doing very well-trying to take over the garden even when I built “towers” for them this year.

This is the second year for my Jerusalem artichokes and they are feeling very happy as well.

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Many of my fruit trees-in particular the pears- which gave us an abundance of fruit last year, has not even flowered this year. The trees seem full, healthy and happy, but no fruit.  The apple trees, right next to the pear trees are bearing much this year-I had to thin out the fruit growth  there was so much.

I think everything else is pretty much on track with our late planting. Have some nice green tomatoes, green beans are vining well, all the herbs and other plants seem to be doing their job. My only real concern is the pepper plants.

Our pepper plants are usually very prolific. We get so many peppers that I cut the amount that I normally plant down to just 8. They are still growing, but they are much farther behind than other plants. They don’t seem unhappy, just slow growing. I will just keep an eye on them  and if they don’t spring up I may go ahead and plant more, or I guess if they don’t produce, I can put some in the greenhouse aquaponics for late season or winter.

Here are some pictures of our garden beds around our yard. Enjoy!

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2016 Honey Flow

Its that time again. Around July 4 seems to be the perfect time to harvest our honey from the hive. I had high hopes this year, as this was the second year that this hive would give us honey, but once getting into it, I was a little let down.

Last year (2015)we were able to get about 11 pounds of honey. Not a fantastic harvest, but still very excited about our first year. This year I truly expected that we would be able to harvest two to three times that amount, as the hive seemed very strong and thriving.

I guess sometime in the spring, we must have had a swarm from this hive. When I opened it up, the bee population seemed very low. Unfortunately, I had my wife taking pictures while I explored the hive and none of those pictures came out for some reason.

In the brood boxes, I found lots of empty cells, drone and female, along with a good amount of brood. There was a layer of pollen and honey, so the house bees seem to be keeping up on their duties. I did not find any queen cells, so the hive is not “thinking” about a new queen. I am guessing that this queen is starting to fail (I did not re-queen in 2015) so I am going to get a new queen and make that change now, so there will be plenty of time to assimilate and grow winter stores.

Back to the honey. I did get almost the same amount of honey this year as I did in 2015, so I guess I can’t complain too much. I will say the honey this year was much darker, so they must have got nectar from a different source than last year. I will be adding 2 more hives in the spring, so I look forward to the coming years of beekeeping.

Please enjoy some of the pictures from our day.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hopefully this solves my issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Chicken Evolution on the suburban homestead

We started just a few weeks ago with these:

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Which in just about 7 weeks turned into these (Cornish Rock):

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But everything on the suburban homestead has a purpose, so two days ago they became these:

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And last night was a neighborhood barbeque!

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The dark meat toward the left is part of a deer roast from this past years trip to the cabin.

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From 4 hens in just 7 weeks after processing, we had a full 20 pounds of chicken meat! We still have the carcasses to turn into broth which we will can/freeze for future needs.

As an added  note, I will have to say that I am very proud of my wife who wanted to learn to process the chicken and did all 4 chickens herself. Good Job!

We are still fighting our county to allow chickens-if you would like to keep up with our struggle please check out our facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/chickenrevolution/

 

 

 

 

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.

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Left empty over winter since the bees swarmed last year

20160413_115817 20160413_120058 20160413_120149I could not

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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.

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Top Hive Body
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Bottom Hive Body
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Switched Hive body boxes and installed Queen excluder between honey box

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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?!

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Catfish Added to Aquaponics System

For the last five years I have fueled my aquaponics entirely with Tilapia Fish, but this year have seriously considered expanding our systems with catfish. Have not as of yet, but probably will before summers end.

Symbi Biological

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After a little bit of a wait, I finally got some catfish to help power the system. They’re really small at about 4 inches. Not sure if we should be calling them kitten fish at this stage. I’ll have to check on that. After the big fish kill from the aerator diaphragm failure, I wasn’t sure how many hybrid carp I had left in both tanks. So to make room for the catfish, I emptied the tank with the least amount of fish “stashing” most of the water from the 500 gallon tank into the rest of the system. Earlier in the day, I noticed the sump tank was low and figured if I clear the swirl filter to lose about 100 gallons, I could isolate the fish tank by closing the valves and use a pump and hose to empty it into the rest of the system saving my…

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Spring work at the suburban homestead

We  had a small streak of nice days: 60 degrees + with little rain. It gave me a good chance to get out and start taking care of the spring cleanup and get ready for planting.

I have had a huge truckload of wood chips sitting in my backyard since fall, so I was very happy to start moving it around to the different areas that I use it for each year. A friend of mine that owns a tree service is happy to donate his chips to me whenever I want them-free of charge.

So I started around the raised beds in the garden. Making good places to walk which will keep the weed growth down in between the boxes.

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Once the garden paths were complete, it was on to the permaculture in our front yard, as well as surrounding all of our fruit trees.

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Everything is really starting to take shape, Unfortunately, some cold weather has returned and other projects have gotten my attention. We are supposed to be back in the 60’s next week, so I will probably return to planning/prepping outside then.

Exciting interview about Baltimore Aquaponics

I have officially been in business as Baltimore Aquaponics for about a year now, although I have been doing business for almost 4 years in the aquaponics industry. As a growing business in the Mid-Atlantic region, I have started to gain the attention of industry leaders. Just recently I was interviewed by The Aquaponic Source, a renowned aquaponic trainer and retailer in Colorado.

A little background: My start came when I got a call from a friend who wished to see an abandoned fish farm that had come on the market. (Being in real estate for 26 years, I had many friends and previous clients which contacted me anytime they wished to see or sell a property.) I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I did go through the process of securing an appointment to view the property. Little did I know that I was going to receive a very solid beginning education into this new-to-me concept of aquaponics, during the tour of the farm.

His education and excitement piqued my interest to further study the concept. In my research I came across Sylvia Bernstein’s book on Aquaponic Gardening: A step-by-step guide for growing fish and plants together. I became enthralled with the process and dove in head first to educating myself on all things aquaponic.

I have since had many conversations with Ms. Bernstein and her help as been invaluable in insuring proper setup and maintaining the mini eco-systems. Since her company was in Colorado, I thought extending her educational reach to the east coast just made sense, so I opened Baltimore Aquaponics to start an educational side to my business.

Teaching aquaponics has been fun and rewarding, watching budding enthusiast’s grow in knowledge and see how their systems evolve. I look forward to future classes as well as growing relationships with former students.

A few months ago, Ms. Bernstein contacted me and said that she would like to do an interview with me about my business that she could post on their website. I was all too excited to comply, since she was such an integral part of my business growth.

Although she has since sold the Aquaponic Source, she is still very involved in the industry. New owners JD and Tawnya Sawyer have been full time aquaponics researchers, educators and farmers since 2009 and have fully dedicated their lives to the development of sustainable food systems for our planet.

You can see the resulting write-up from the interview on their website:

www.theaquaponicsource.com

 

Aquaponics – New hybrid system experiment

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One of the challenges in having longer term plants, that lives more than 4-6 months, in aquaponic growbed is that they fill up the grow media with roots over time and it increases water level in the growbed. Also removing older plants from the growbed becomes very hard.

A new experiment is in progress to reduce the intensity of this problem. I am removing media (gravel) from a growbed so the growbed will have just water in it, and then to place pots filled with grow media in the water. It will look like a vegetable plant in a pot but the pot itself is placed in water with top two inches above water. I am using pots with holes around it for easy waterflow and for roots to extend into water. This way we can easily lift each pot/plant out of water or move around in the growbed.

Technically…

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