Monthly Archives: October 2013

Build an aquaponics system for under $50

Recently I hosted a tour from the great folks from Aquatic Design. A local company that sells, installs, and services ponds and other waterscapes. They are beginning to enter the world of aquaponics, and wanted to see some real examples from the area. Granted my system are no commercial operation, nor are they often pretty to look at. I mean, I use kitty litter boxes as biofilters. It was cheap (free), I felt accomplished, I did it myself, it works, I can replace parts easily and inexpensively (free).  

 blogger-image-180826912

The tour was a learning experience for both I felt. I shared my experiences and lessons learn, often the hard way, and what I, as a new consumer, or someone just getting into aquaponics might be asking, looking for, and solutions to some problems I encountered. I have been a past customer of Aquatic Design and probably continue to be. It was a great feeling when they asked me to come see their new building which will house their aquaponics examples and configurations and maybe give advice as they were setting things up. I felt like all my lessons learned the hard way, shortfalls, and set backs were for a reason. I didn’t need to go to a course, an educational institution, or pay a big chunk of money for the education I had experienced. So when I tell people you don’t need to spend a ton of money on videos, books or classes, to learn about aquaponics I come speaking from experience.  

 While they were here I talked about the largest system 4500 gal outdoor down to my smallest system 30 gallon. As of now we have 4 systems in operation. 4500 gal outdoor pond, 3000 gal currently in a greenhouse but being converted to hoop house, the newest a 275 gal poly tote in the garage – still under development, and the 30 gal inside our kitchen/dining room. This 30 gal is something many people can put into place for inexpensively, it is a great conversation piece, it is entertainment, it is educational for kids of almost all ages, and in my mind, it’s really cool.

 

4500 gal system

4500 gal outdoor system

3000 gal greenhouse system
3000 gal greenhouse system
275 gal still under development

275 gal still under development

Tubs on top of the 275 gal tank. Using Raft grow system

Tubs on top of the 275 gal tank. Using Raft grow system, romaine, celery, and azola growing

30 gal indoor system

IMG_0720

Romaine from purchased head

IMG_0727

Romaine 3 days later

I made this system a continuous recycling flow system. I got the aquarium from a friend who was throwing it out. Free. You can look on Craigslist, Goodwill, or friends and family for aquariums. Many times people would love to get rid of them. Bonus if you get pumps or other stuff with it you can use later.

The rocks on the bottom of the tank are landscaping lava rocks. Mine were free. The previous owner of my current house landscaped with it. I hate the stuff in the yard. Again free. (well, if you count the $10 I pay kids to collect if they want to earn money). Fish habitat or hiding spaces I used left over PVC pipe from another project. Find them at building sites, or look around. It could be old Tupperware, or food containers just something for the fish to swim in and out of.

I actually paid for the submersible pump. But it was 75% off so I think I paid $10. Some big box stores will clearance pond and fountain pumps in fall and early winter. Just watch for sales. Or it may come with your aquarium you got for free. You can watch Goodwill and I have seen fountains or other pumps on occasion. Worst case $30 or so retail price.

The grow beds are wash bins. This was a Goodwill special and I only paid $0.25 each. Dollar Store has them for a buck. The grow media, lava rock again. Do not pay for the extruded clay. Not worth the extra money in my opinion. I drilled holes in the bins and had the pump take water from the tank, pump into the bins, and out the drainage holes in the bottom. It is important to add more holes than you think is necessary, because over time roots and other gunk can fill the holes and it will overflow. Another important lesson, add overflow holes below the lip. VERY important, if you don’t, and your drainage holes become clogged, your tank will overflow, and all your water will go onto the floor. Want to know how I learned this?

Because of the location in my house the system doesn’t get enough direct light to support plant growth. So I added a florescent light. The light, the stand, and the bulbs maybe $30. I made the stand out of PVC pipe and fittings. I could have just as easily hung from the ceiling and saved the cost. I use this system sometimes when I to talks or presentations and the stand is needed for display purposes. You need to use a bulb that will hit 2700K to 6500K, read the labels on the bulbs. Choose a T5 over a T12 type of bulb. T5 is higher intensity over T12, and more efficient use of energy. The fixture should match the bulb type, T5 bulbs fit in T5 fixtures. You could use HID, or LED. But for the money and energy I found fluorescent was just fine. HID gives off too much heat, and LED was too expensive. With fluorescent lights you want them 2-6 inches from the plants. The light needed for photosynthesis loses its intensity after 6 inches using fluorescent bulbs. HID can be several feet away because it is a more intense light (and 2-6 inches will literally cook your plants).  

We have some kale, some medicinal plants, and a philodendron, which are poisonous, but we can split and propagate to other containers to sell, or help purify the air in the house. We always leave the main plant so that there is always a plant purifying the water in the system. We have had tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, parsley, basil, cilantro, marigold and more. You can get plants from what many people think of wastes. We have started planting the bottoms of romaine lettuce. It was originally just an experiment, but now we are just harvesting the leaves for food. Celery is another plant that can be planted from the hearts when you buy them at the store. Here is another list of plants you can plant from cuttings when buying food. You can also regrow scallions, 3+ years of cuttings from the same plant.

Regrow

IMG_0756

Celery, this is the 4th regrowth for this plant

I got feeder fish from the pet store $0.12 each. I got a plecostomus (sucker fish) to eat the algae off the sides so I didn’t have to do it. $2.00. I feed the fish azola or duckweed I grow myself. So feeding them is free.  From an educational standpoint there are so many things to learn. From the 2 year old feeding and watching the fish, to adults and learning about the nitrogen cycle. There are lots of lessons to be learned. Want to learn more. Contact us, or follow us here, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  Or come see us in person November 23rd for a full day class on homesteading, growing your own food, preserving your own food and more! Ensure your spot is reserved by registering and prepaying for the class. Schedule your own series of classes with the Be Prepared Series.

Advertisements

Thank you Trade School Indy and Students

Today’s class was amazing and some great questions and answers. Thank you all who came out to participate and for the barter items. I hope you all got something out of it. I apologize if it was a bit rushed but I wanted to cover as much as possible. If any of you have further questions or follow up please contact me through e-mail or use our contact us page. This was a first time as a presenter with Trade School, and it was a very rewarding experience. I hope to give more on similar and other topics in the future. Thanks for the help loading at the end as well.

 

I am having another class the end of November covering much of what was covered today and so much more. It will be 8 hours on homesteading, 4 hours on back yard food production, more in depth details, how to build, and examples. We will also cover how to preserve and store all that you grow and produce. The last part of the class will be examples and how to make you own items such as soaps, laundry detergent, and more. Here is the link to the details.  

 

There will also be a 2 and ½ day conference in January. Covering Permaculture, rotational grazing, bringing your products to market, and designing both a urban property and a rural property. Participants can submit their own property for consideration. This design is worth hundreds and then add on the time, energy, and resource savings and it is well worth your time and money. More details to come.  

Global Soaps confirmed November 23 homesteading class

It is confirmed Global soaps will be at the November 23rd class on homesteading. Come talk to them about natural soaps, lotions and pick up a few things.

Here is Global soaps blog.

Oct 26th is FULL and Bonuses for the Nov 23rd class

The class is full with Trade School Indy.

October 26th 2:00 PM

This is a short, but dense class on turning your back yard into a food production machine. Get some ideas and get ready for spring.

If you would like a similar class at your location Contact Us. Or if you want the Be Prepared Series.

There is a full day class, with bonus of making your own soaps, laundry soap and other topics including food preservation. Free samples of tooth paste and soaps. If you want laundry soap sample please bring a sealable 1 cup container for each soap type (currently 3). We will have sample containers for the toothpastes. Register through the link below.

November 23rd class

Prepay and register for the class and get a free entry to win a planting barrel. $340 value if purchased other places (will not name but sale online and in some local markets), $100 value from me. Discounts are available for couples or families. We now can take credit cards online or at the door using Square even though we personally despise them. Cash is much better. If the class fills completely (80 paid or bartered seats) each person in attendance will get a free gift. ($20 retail value worth much more in savings of time and energy)

Not 100% confirmed yet but we may have a local soap and lotion producer present who have goat milk soaps and lotions. Learn about the process, try, and buy products. I have personally been to their operation and was very impressed. More details once everything is confirmed and links to their site.

Update

Global Soaps will be at the class to discuss and sell natural soaps and lotions.

If there are some other local producers (that align with the topics covered) in the area let me know, we may have additional spaces available for booth or tables.

I made the cover of Prepare magazine!

I recently wrote an article that landed me on the cover of the October Digital release of Prepare Magazine. The digital publication is free. Sign up to start getting them.

http://www.preparemag.com/

October Prepare

Question of the day, Who owns the interstate cloverleaf?

I have a question and putting it out to as many people I know and can reach. If you know the answer please either respond in the social media which you saw this or comment on the website for the original posting. This website is linked into all my social media outlets and I home one of you will be able to answer.

FW Cloverleaf

I have researched but not been able to get a good answer. I want to know who owns the cloverleaf exchanges at interstates. They are maintained by the state, but does the state own them? Is it city, county, state, federal? Is it a little of all of the above? I see some with trees, some with “do not mow” signs, some with grass, some even have art around my area downtown, but who controls them. If some of you know me, and know my passion for permaculture you may see where this is going. I would like to know who owns them, how and possibly how to contact them. Is it a department, is it a group? What is needed to “make improvements”? Do  you have to have a public hearing? Additionally who “owns” the medians between the interstate. For the purposes of my area (Indianapolis) Interstate 65, 70, 74 etc.

I have a plan and once I get to the bottom and have some answers, more to come as I may need help in “persuading” these same people this could be a good idea.

Be Prepared Series

Be prepares is a series offered by Wolf-Beach Farms. It is designed to be a multiple series of classes picked by the audience, and delivered as often as you would like. The course designers pick from a series of classes or all of the classes. The class on average is about 2 hours and can be one a week, twice a month once a month or every other month. The goal is to fit what your needs are in the time you have.

The series starts with an opening class to go over what and how the classes will be organized. The beginning class the participants will be given a binder. This binder will hold the class notes, handouts, examples, etc. from that particular topic. Each class, the participants will get the handouts, listen and participate in exercises and gain useful insight into the particular topic. Each class will have a section in the binder. At the end of the series the participants will have a handy binder with the necessary information all in one spot. This binder can be used as the “go to” book whenever it is needed.

Classes can be purchased on an individual bases, a series of classes (at a discount) or a whole series at once for a set number of participants. Pricing and classes are flexible and affordable. These series can be customized for your group. Do you want a stronger community built around your church group? When an event happens, who in your group or organization has the skills to help the fellow members out?

Be Prepared series were designed to give participants tools and information in case something happens. This is not to instill fear or doom and gloom. This series was design to help participants face challenges and situations with knowledge and strength rather than fear and ignorance.

Here are some examples.

When a snow storm is announced, what happens at the grocery store? A rush on bread, eggs, and milk. Is everyone going to make French Toast during the storm? These are the wrong things to be stocking up on. Two of the three require electricity to keep them cold and preserve freshness. What if, an announcement was made of a bad storm and you and your family didn’t blink an eye, because you didn’t need a single thing at the store, EVEN if the power went out for days?

Here is another example.

A family of 4 on average spends about $400 per month on groceries according to recent information. Some may be more some may be less. What if I told you that our family of 6 can spend less than $275 per month? It isn’t rocket science, and our pantry is completely full. We eat three meals a day. We even have reserve that if needed could outlast any storm sent our way. Hurricane Sandy had some people without power and local groceries for 6 weeks.

In both cases people say they will just go to the store. Having worked in a major grocery store I can tell you what you see on the shelf is ALL there is in the store. There is little to nothing in “the back room”. The fancy scanner that is used to checkout automatically places an order for the item as it leaves with the warehouse or distributer. IF the trucks are running and they are able to get on the roadways it is 48hrs or more before delivery. The benefits of on demand stocking.

A tornado comes in and wipes out your house. Everyone made it out to safety and you had the keys to the car and everyone is in their PJ’s. You are thankful your family is OK. You return home and everything is gone. How do you document who you are, what you had? Where are all of your papers for insurance, mortgage, bank accounts, and credit cards? In this day and age fraud is rampant. You will need to prove who you are, that your kids are YOUR kids, that what was once your house was YOUR house. Can you imagine the stress, the heartache? Taking a few simple, easy steps and proving who you are, and all the important information will be easily retrievable. Better yet, what if you left, but each had a bag that had cloths, the documents and everything you needed for three days. Three days to put things in order, Three days to not worry about where to sleep, clothing, feeding the family. Sounds like a lot but it is easy to accomplish.

Did you know if you drive a car, SUV, truck etc. you already have access to a generator capable of giving you power in your home if the electrical grid goes down?

Did you know you may already have access to 60+ gallons of water in your home if the water is shut off?

Did you know that you can still communicate with loved ones if cell towers are overloaded?

Did you know that you can produce 800+lbs a year of food on less than 1000sq feet of yard or patio?

Did you know that you do NOT need a rooster to enjoy the benefits of backyard fresh eggs?

These are just a few examples. The Be Prepares series allows you to plan ahead, so that IF you ever have to use these skills, tools, and tips it was planned and thought out when you had a cool, calm, and collective thought process. Here are just a few classes

The series is designed for groups as small as 5 and up to 100 or more.

This is for the average person. It explains things from a basic point of view and uses practical, real world solutions. The series explains how to use what you already have. This isn’t a demo of the latest and greatest gadgets. This is how to accomplish your goals with little to no investment and on a budget.

Do you already have a meeting location? Church space when no services being offered? Meeting rooms, halls apartment club house? All can be used. No location? We work with various venues on different sides of town in and around the Indianapolis area.

Contact us for more details or to start scheduling your own series.

Get advice before you buy property

Are you interested in buying a property but would like some advice or opinions on how you can incorporate permaculture into the design? We can help. Before you buy, bring us out for a tour of your potential property. We can help advise for home placement, pond locations, swales, and general design. Permaculture doesn’t have to be a all at once endeavor. Want to phase it in a piece at a time? Want to know what to do first; what should be your first priority, what needs to be done now and what can wait? We can answer questions like this. We are not structural engineers, nor can we advise you about current codes and regulations. Each state, county, and sometimes city or township has their own rules and is best left to people who know the area. What we can do is advise based on the permaculture principals of sustainable agriculture where ideal placement would be. It would be up to the buyer or owner to verify no zoning, code, or rules would be broken. Do you already have property. We can still help. Let us help you optimize your food production machine. 30 minutes of advice and consulting could save you hundreds or thousands and the additional headache of things we have already learned or mistakes we have already made.

Consulting Page

Contact Us Page

Full day homesteading skills class

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey for what people are looking for as far as education here in Indy. Here is the first response to that. Based on the survey results this is what most people wanted to see.

Full day homesteading basics class. 8 full hours plus free samples to take home. As of now here is the breakdown of the class. This is for people from apartments to rural areas. I will give examples of how you can implement in just about any situation. I will bring examples, what materials I use, photos, and a CD/DVD of resources I use when I need additional information.

Class will be $40 per person or $60/couple. If bringing the family or more than 2 please contact me for other arrangements. Pay in advance or at the door. Cash only at the door. You will save the cost of the class alone if you just adopt and use a few of the topics mentioned.  Due to the limitations of Meetup payments (can’t do discounts based on number of people) contact me if you want to pay in advance with cash or use electronic payment.

Register through one of the Meetup groups below although not required. There is a limited number of seats but should accommodate a larger class size but to guarantee a seat registration is recommended.

http://www.meetup.com/AlternativeGardening/

http://www.meetup.com/Indiana-Disaster-Preparedness/

Here is what is being offered. I can add additional topics if time and my experience permits. Seats, and tables provided along with two large overhead screens for notes and examples. There will be breaks and a lunch period as well. Bring your lunch or visit one of the many local places.

  1. Backyard Grocery (fall is one of the best times to start this)
    1. Mini Orchard
    2. Vegetable garden
    3. Edible landscaping
    4. Aquaponics
    5. Backyard Chickens
    6. Goats
    7. Bees
    8. Rabbits
    9. Vertical Gardening
    10. Potatoes
    11. Container Gardening
    12. Medicinal Herbs
    13. Composting and mulch
    14. Water harvesting and rainbarrels
  2. Food Preservation (what to do with everything you harvest)
    1. Canning
      1. Water bath canning
      2. Pressure canning
    2. Dehydrating
    3. Freezing
    4. Smoking
    5. Fermenting
  3. DIY
    1. Laundry soap – how to make – free samples 5 ingredients or less
    2. Tooth paste – how to make – free samples 3 ingredients or less
    3. Bar soap – how to make –(free samples if cured in time)
    4. Fire starters – how to make
    5. Homemade bread – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    6. Homemade pasta – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    7. Make your own ethanol
    8. Battery backup for emergency home power use
    9. Make your own generator from your car with an inverter

It’s October, You Still Have Time To Build A Winter Cold Frame Or Hot Bed

With temps in the 50’s today this came at the right time. There are some great varieties of veggies that will do will in the colder temps.

 

It’s October, You Still Have Time To Build A Winter Cold Frame Or Hot Bed.