Yes, it’s time to start working in the gardens again. This year we will have a double challenge. Not only will we be working on the garden we had last year, but there is a new site as well.
In December we inherited a property that has since eaten our lives over the last four months. The yard is one of the biggest challenges. Once we clear the rubbish, we will have to totally revitalize the soil. In many ways, it will be a perfect testing ground for some of our ISRU projects.
The front yard was xeriscaped once upon a time and we will be restoring that. The back yard will have a compost heat experiment as well as a couple of keyhole gardens.
Over the winter, we have worked with District O.N.E. and One Table, our local food to table group. It has been very interesting and I am looking forward to our further adventures.
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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
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
No, we didn’t get the grant. This morning we got a notice via email.
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.
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.
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.
Today we are working on a grant to fund our Plant Respiration Project that is presently on ODE. This grant is through SpaceGambit We learned of the grant through Mach 30. If we can complete the application and receive funding, we will start one of the first projects that came from discussing and wargaming the novel Issyroo.
This involves studying the respiration rates of plants. Once we have a test apparatus that gives us the data, we can make much better decisions on the kinds of plants necessary to survive in space or on Mars.While we know that it takes about 400 plants per person per year to provide oxygen to survive, we have no clue as to what plants will work for oxygen and food production. As we’ve discussed before, there simply isn’t enough data out there. Hence the plant respiration project.
The project was the brainchild of a late night discussion on Google+ with a bunch of Mach 30 and maker space members. The realization that no one had tested food plants astounded us. It gave a major plot line to the story as well as made Aaron and I think about whether or not we could do this.
While major science experiments are usually the purview of the scientific community, we wanted to do something that the ‘common man’ could do. That students in high school or the avid gardener could accomplish. We realize that if we are to become a space faring civilization, we must have mixed facets of society involved, and not just the military, scientific or educational communities. We need to include the dreamer, visionary, gardener with dirt on their hands and the social engineers that lurk under the guise of grandparents or loving family. It has to be a mix of people. Moreover, it is our belief that the major occupations of humanity in space or on other worlds will be life support and agriculturalists. Scientific exploration may only comprise 10-20% of those involved. The rest will be involved in keeping the colony alive. This means we must understand the symbiosis of humans, plants and atmospheres.
It is this experiment about plant respiration, which may lead to better understanding of extraterrestrial agriculture, that we hope to fund via SpaceGambit.
With few exceptions, the entertainment and aerospace industries combined with modern literature, have done humanity a disservice. Extraterrestrial life and space travel are portrayed as clean, oddly sterile and devoid of the debris of life. Strife is a momentary issue. Everyone has a good lifestyle. The Mounties always ride to the rescue during a disaster. Genetics have weeded out obesity, learning disabilities, disfigurement and birth defects. Only rare throwbacks need glasses, hearing aides or heaven forbid, have mental issues. Life will be so much better in Space.
Or will it? Life in space will be life on Earth in a titanium can or tyvek dome. We can’t keep our planet clean. How will we manage on a ship? It will be dirty, gritty, full of individuals with weird personalities and strange mannerisms. By nature we are hoarders and pack rats. We want those small comforts that remind us of home and Earth. We don’t live in clean room environments, as the average human is host to over 10,000 different types of symbiotic organisms. We sweat, have sex, give birth, die and have other bad habits. Then there are the animals and plants we’ll need to survive. We can’t run home to Mother Earth every time the water tank empties or the air supply fouls. We have to learn to live in space with all the quirks that are inherently human. We have to be pioneers and deal with all the hazards, frustrations, excitement and giggles of life in space.