All posts by Roze

Melding Hydroponics and Aquaponics. A winter Issyroo project.

Winter Issyroo Experiment
Part 1Here are some pictures of our new hybrid aquaponics rig going in.  Right now some conventional potted plants are on the stand, but by tomorrow evening we will have the unit all but completed.  It combines soil enrichment techniques, aquaponics, and vermicomposting in a small space and sports automatic controls.  Plant, cull, feed and harvest will be the only tasks, and these are vastly simplified.

The first crop will be lettuce, radishes, and spinach with crops in  parallel bins on the shelves above and below.  bear in mind that the room these are in varies from 5-30C, just as a winter time greenhouse would.  Other test objectives include:

1. Test the effectiveness of the LED full spectrum lights (7W draw!) as grow lights, comparing these to the sunlight coming in the south exposure window behind the rack.

2. Test the hybrid soil enrichment techniques, aquaponics, and vermicomposting system on a small scale before deploying a similar system in an enclosed greenhouse (scheduled spring 2015).

3. Build and program the control system which will allow nearly unattended operation.  The system is intended to be transparent to the growing operation, only requiring the human touch on the plants.

4. Create a fully documented, scalable, and open design which may be replicated allowing apartment dwellers to grow a fairly substantial amount of food in a very small space with minimal expense and effort.

Yes, you read that right…  this is to be a fully documented open hardware project!  Stay tuned for updates both here on G+ as well as issyroo.org,

PS. Dear stoners… this project will be vastly disappointing to you.  Even though I live in Colorado, I don’t grow or use pot.  This is not to say these techniques won’t work for it, but I just don’t know and I won’t be finding out.  I don’t have anything against Cannabis, but we do Federal and State contracting and subcontracting.  I must test clean, and abide by federal laws.  Besides…  It’s just not my cup of tea… more for you! 🙂

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As Autumn shifts to Winter

Life has been busy. While the weather has been wild, we’ve gotten a lot done. Between unseasonably warm weather, snow and wind, we’ve managed to paint and trim the Wendy House and construct another raised bed. We’ve trimmed trees of deadwood and chopped, split and stacked a lot of firewood. We still have a lot to chop, as two truck loads were donated.

We’ve planned for new buildings as well. We hope to have at least one greenhouse by spring. We came across plans for a greenhouse made from deer fence and scrap wood. We will be making one or two of them. Plus, we plan to build a small barn/chicken coop. All of this of course is dependent on funding and time.

We did have a bit of fun. As the weather got colder, we moved all of the herbs inside. The front part of the Wendy House is full of herbs. This of course started a discussion. Aaron had been looking into hydroponics and aquaponics. He began looking at things online and discovered Dutch Buckets.

Next thing I know, we are off to Home Depot and Lowes. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but we learned some things, and will incorporate them in the spring. Below are a few pictures. I’ll be posting a full article after this one.

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Seasonal Change

It’s Autumn. The landscape is drying up and the nights are growing colder. In fact, we’ve had a couple of days that were cool enough to merit a fire. Over the last few weeks, between meetings, Celtic Music festivals, family emergencies and the like, we’ve begun to change our routines to match the weather.

We were ‘gifted’ with a truck load of wood. It still occupies a large part of the back yard, but is slowly being cut down to size and stacked to dry. We picked up a bunch of pallets and have been using them as a base for firewood stacks, and garden tool storage. It’s amazing what you can do with pallets.

We’ve slowly been putting the gardens to rest as well. We still have lettuce, rhubarb, squash and herbs in the various beds. I’ve brought in all of the herb pots and distributed them around the house. Seed pods are drying and we will store those as well. We plan to improve various raised beds, build a few new ones and add a truckload of manure to the garden. Our soil is very poor, so making anything grow is a challenge.

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A New Chapter

“Feuerwerk Raketen”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Feuerwerk_Raketen.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Feuerwerk_Raketen.jpg

Life has been rather busy. We’ve gone from an idea for a NaNoWriMo novel, to a discussion on “could we do this for real”, to Issyroo Farms LLC.

August 1st is Colorado Day, the ‘birthday’ of the state. To commemorate it’s birth, the state discounted all business licenses to $1. We had planned to organize as a business later in the month, but the opportunity was just too great to pass up. Aaron did the paperwork and by the end of the day, Issyroo Farms was an LLC with all the papers in a nice neat folder.

Today we did bank paperwork and city licensure. We are listed as Agricultural Research. I still have a logo to make, but we are now down to the easy paperwork. We’re celebrating too! It’s not every day that you start moving a dream into a reality.

Through some of our other work, we have gotten some leads on property that we might purchase and start to build out some of our larger “dreams” that simply will not fit or work on in a city. (not for a lack of trying!) This of course has meant reconsiderations on the use of space here. A second development has been my parents giving us permission to use their back yard as garden spaces as well. This means we can expand some of our work and the variety of fruits and vegetables grown.

At home, we are working on green house designs, raised beds and other experiments. We’ve had a plethora of rain, and things are greener that we’ve seen them in decades. Is this climate change? A long cycle? We don’t know. However, we are working to do what we call the start up experiments and baby steps that will eventually translate to other bigger experiments, like greenhouse domes and sealed environments.

When things settle down, we will be posting some of the lessons learned this year. Compost, and moisture have been heady topics of discussion between ourselves and our neighbours who have been working similar soil for ten years and are only just now getting good and consistent results.

Lessons Learned

While the weather kept us from doing much work on the gardens, we’ve done a fair bit of discussion and experimentation internally. Some of this took the form of ‘war gaming’ a situation. We discussed ideas and tried to figure out the best way to handle them.

While Aaron worked on various radio satellite experiments, I began to figure out some of the issues that we would face living in an offworld or dome environment. There were a lot of questions.

  • How many plants per person to balance CO2 vs oxygen
  • What variety of plants. This includes herbs, medicinal plants and food.
  • What kind of livestock?
  • Water and sewage
  • Heating and Cooking
  • Clothing
  • Privacy and a whole lot more.

One of the big things that came out of the discussion was a Space Oriented Maslow’s Hierarchy. This is what we came up with:

  • Self Actualization: Personal growth, Fulfillment, helping others
  • Personal Esteem: Achievement, Responsibility, Reputation, Purpose
  • Community: Family, Affection, Work groups, Legacy
  • Psychological: Relationships, Sex, Safety, Stability
  • Biological: Air, Water, Food, Temperature, Sleep

As the weather warms up, we plan to start working on the gardens again. Plus there will be some new pages. Recipes and Issyroo Prelude, the first part of my book.

November Update

The summer months have been filled with a variety of activities. The lost of the grant meant that we had to restructure how we were going to do things. We concentrated on some smaller projects and more research than gardening or building.

One of the first was to move the compost bin. We moved it to the eastern side of the yard and the construction zone. The electric power was laid to the guest house and the ditch filled in. There will be more work over the winter to clear the garden.

 

Then we got a 1-2-3 punch. Drought and a fire, followed by the ‘monsoons’. We made a gutter bed, and built some raised beds. We also planned for a keyhole garden. I planted seeds in various beds and literally could not keep enough water on any of them. Some of the herbs survived. Most of the veggies didn’t. Then we had the East Peak Fire. This meant that we spent the better part of two weeks under evacuation orders, just waiting for the fire to get too close. In the end, the fire stopped 6 miles from town and burned 13,572 acres.

Within days of the fire evacuation order being lifted, it began to rain. Just enough to make us think that the drought might be over. Wrong. It helped damp down the fire, but it wasn’t until late August that the rains really hit. Northern Colorado flooded in what they considered a 1000 year flood. 18 inches of rain in just a few days. We had our fair share, and it made for a right mess of the yard. However, the garden began to grow. Lettuces and squash. We’ve also done a lot of weed control as the rains made them grow like crazy.  Since then, we have been making plans for next year and discussed financing a greenhouse.

Rainstorm!7 Rainstorm!6  Rainstorm!2 Rainstorm!1Rainstorm!5

Space Gambit Grant

No, we didn’t get the grant. This morning we got a notice via email.

Aloha Submitters

Thank you for submitting your proposal to SpaceGAMBIT. We’ve received so
many proposals that we’ve only just finished evaluating them.  We were only
able to select a few for funding this time around and unfortunately your
proposal didn’t make the final cut.

We will be checking with Space Gambit to see why our application was not accepted. The idea there being to find out what we can improve on to make our grant application better.

Meanwhile we are working on reclaiming the back yard. We will be adding a 10 x 12 ft green house and starting various experiments as we can without grant funding.

As Aaron said, in many ways it was a blessing not to receive funding as we are entering a crazy busy time of year. We shall see.

The Merry Month of May

As the weather warms up, we are beginning to work on a variety of projects. Aaron is cleaning up the lab and I have begun work in the garden. We have a number of projects lined up and one is to clear our back yard enough to build a greenhouse. The greenhouse will be where Aaron works on the plant respiration experiments. We will be starting aquaponics there as well if all goes well. In the meantime, we are gardening in a variety of manners. Among the projects on the list is a keyhole garden.

For those not familiar with this concept, keyhole gardens are raised beds combined with compost bins. They take up very little room and less water than your average garden bed. We will be building one in the yard to see just how they work. Aaron of course wants to hook one into an aquaponics system. That was the subject of a long debate, and it was decided to build and understand a basic keyhole garden first.

keyhole

After we understand how this functions, we will see about the aquaponics. As it is, Aaron has a number of tests he wants to run using his Beaglebone electronics packet. 🙂 Below is one of my many recycled planters.

May_12

 

Earth Day!

cleanupToday is the  43rd anniversary of Earth Day. I remember celebrating it in school. This wonderful new holiday. Science lessons on ecology, recycling, and the Earth in general. It was wonderful. Now 43 years later, I look at our planet and wonder why we aren’t farther along. We still have issues with pollution, energy use, food and all sorts of issues that celebrations like Earth Day were suppose to make us more aware of and be more responsible.

We still have all of the issues that there were 43 years ago. Some have improved, like recycling. Others such as pollution, have gotten worse. So, what can you do? How can we help our planet? There are lots of ways. Visit the website above, and find things that you as an individual or family can do.

Here at Issyroo Farms, we do our best to tread lightly. Over the last four years we have worked to lessen our footprint on Earth. We recycle, reuse and upcycle everything we can. We choose planet friendly options when it comes to packaging, travel and building. We are working on growing our own food, and figuring out how to best deal with an increasingly odd climate.

Take time today and walk outside. Take a good look at the Earth, and then see what you can do for her.

This is part of one of my favourite poems by Henry Beston.

Touch the earth, Love the earth, Honor the earth,

her plains, her valleys, her hills and her seas;

rest your spirit in her solitary places.