Sunday, March 30, 2014

(Over)due for an Update

The aquaponics system is absolutely flourishing.  Mostly.  We have a couple little sprouts that are hard to photograph that we think might be brussels sprouts, but I'm not convinced those are/will do well in the rock bed.  We'll see.  Worst case, they'll go outside in the backyard veggie garden (which will be well-fenced this year so we don't give the bunnies a brussels sprout buffet, sorry, bunnies).

The beans, though.  The green beans are happy.  Ecstatic, even.  Check this out.

See all those extra leaves and tendrils starting?  Happy, I tell you.  Meanwhile, in the foreground, those are some of the leafy greens.  Spinach & mesclun, I believe.  Look how tall they're getting!  And leafy!  In fact, in some spots they're starting to get the actual lettuce-type leaves, the serrated ones.

See 'em?

The cukes are doing well too.  Not as huge as the beans, but starting to get the secondary leaves.

They're budding there in the middle of the initial leaves.  These are pickling cukes, so it'll be fun once Eric takes up making pickles.  Once we have actual cucumbers, that is.

And just a quick overhead view of all the leafy greens and tomatoes, just to show how they've proliferated.

Salad in a bed of rocks!  Oh, and in case you're wondering about the fish, they're still doing well.  Holding at 4 fish, which are eating well and getting bigger by the day.  I wouldn't expect goldfish to get that big, but they're definitely bigger than when we got them.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My, How You've Grown

Just a quick update.  Day 7 and the tallest of the broccoli and mesclun and/or spinach sprouts are 1.25 to 2" high.

I measured.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Leaves! And a Grade School Science Experiment

Remember in grammar school when we were given birdseed, paper towels, and plastic bags?  We wet the paper towels, put the seeds between two layers of them, and sealed them in the bags... and sprouts grew.

We did the same thing here the same night as we scattered the other seeds in the aquaponics tub, only with green beans & cucumbers.  Today, we opened 'em up.

They grew a ton in just 6 days and rooted right into the paper towels, which was pretty funny.  So into the rock bed they went!

Meanwhile, we noticed yesterday... leaves!  Leaves on the shoots in five days!

And today, they're just going crazy!  A ton of growth.

And if you're wondering about the fish, we're down to five, as we lost three while the system stabilized, but those five are doing well.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Negative 2? Really?

Yes, really.  Apparently.  It's cold out there!  The "real" temperature on my way to the office this morning was 19 F, but the wind chill was -2 F.  This is not acceptable, especially considering the fact that the day before yesterday it hit 67!  I took a 40 minute walk at lunch!  Today?  Today I brought a book.

I mean, don't get me wrong.  I like to read.  But we're doing a Biggest Loser challenge at work, and the more exercise I can get in, the happier I am.  I'm competitive that way.  I'm also 43 and way too unfit for that age.  I've gotten sedentary and careless, and it's time to buckle down and turn it around, so I am.  Not doing too shabby, either.  Just the cold is a bit of a hindrance, since I prefer walking to most other exercise.

Anyway, getting fit also means eating better, and so I'm doing that too.  We tried last summer; I posted about our vegetable garden and all that.  Unfortunately, the local fauna got most of the veggies rather than us.  There's this groundhog in the area, our friend dubbed him "Spud," who's a brazen critter, and huge.  He ate all of our tomatoes just as they were getting ripe and gave our cucumber plants crew cuts before the cukes could even grow.  It was crazy.

Well, this year, we're planning better, with more garden boxes, and fencing everything in properly.  Plus we'll have the honeybees, so things should be well pollinated.

In the interim, though, we'd like fresh veggies sooner and we'd like ones that are completely protected.  Which is why Eric set up that awesome aquaponics system.

That was Sunday.

Guess what?

Two degrees or no two degrees, as of yesterday... we've got germination!  These are photos I took yesterday.

That's two days, people!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What on Earth is Aquaponics?

A  year ago, I'd have asked the same question.  In fact, when Eric first brought it up, I might have, in exactly that way.

Well, he got to setting up a system, and today we finished it.  So... aquaponics, day 1.

To answer my own question, aquaponics is the use of water and fish - with light - to grow plants.  Basically, it's a nearly self-sufficient ecosystem you can put anywhere.  Ours is in the basement.

We've got 8 goldfish in a 20 gallon tank of plain old water on the floor, with an air stone to oxygenate the water, and some goldfish food.

We've got a pump in with them, that spends half an hour sending water up a PVC pipe to a bed of rocks in a bin up on some cinderblocks, then an hour off to let the rock bed, which acts as the fish tank's filter, drain back into the tank and give the seeds/plants some time without being immersed.

And then the water drains back out through a PVC pipe in the bottom, back into the fish tank.

Above it all is a light fixture with two metal halide bulbs and two T5 bulbs in it.

Into the rock bed, we just sprinkled the seeds!  We've got spinach, mesclun, brussels sprouts, broccoli, yellow pear tomatoes, and kale so far.  We left space in the back to do some beans, peas, and cucumbers.  Apparently, because of how this system is set up, the plants don't need large root systems or a lot of space, and they should grow pretty quickly.

The waste from the fish acts as fertilizer for the plants, while the plants put oxygen and nutrients back into the water for the fish.  All that's needed after that is fish food.  The pump is already set up on a timer, and we'll get a timer for the light, and we'll see how things go.

I'll keep you posted, of course.

The prospect of year-round fresh veggies right in our own house, though... woohoo!
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