Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was back in Arizona and had the great opportunity to stop by the Garden Pool and interview the creator Dennis McClung.
In the interview I ask him a few questions about what inspired the Garden Pool, how much time he invests in it and what he is able to produce from it. In summary, Dennis tells us how his pool to farm conversion was inexpensive, didn’t take much time and now provides his family of 5 with 50 to 75% of their food needs. Let’s face it, this is simply AMAZING!
Enjoy the video, soon I will be doing a case study on the Garden Pool that will show the cost/benefit of such a project and show that it’s economically worth while for anyone to produce their own food at home.
Check out GardenPool.org for more information AND to DONATE to their upcoming humanitarian project in Haiti!
I first learned about the Earthship concept when I was in middle school. It made perfect sense to me and really appealed to my practicality. Little did I know I would be building Earthships one day… Before attending the Earthship Academy this summer I did a great deal of research on Earthships.
I read every publication I could find and watched virtually every video I could find on YouTube. Out of all the videos I watched, the 5 day food challenge where Mike Reynolds, Amzi Smith, and Brian Chev try to survive only on food produced in the Earthships caught my interest the most (watch below if you have time).
I noticed that while they were able to harvest an impressive amount of food compared to the average American household, they still struggled to get enough calories and decided to end the challenge on day 3.
I realized immediately that the food production element was lacking in Earthships. Don’t get me wrong, all the other aspects of Biotecture are totally dialed in. Earthships have a stable and comfortable indoor temperature year round, harvest enough water to sustain a family, and even have enough electricity to operate a flat screen TV with Netflix.
Food production is certainly happening in Earthships and I have personally eaten some incredible Earthship grown heirloom tomatoes… probably the best I’ve ever tasted… thanks to the growing expertise of head greenhouse manager Michelle Locher and company. However, we know that there is room for improvement.
The video inspired me, and at that moment, I decided that I needed to integrate aquaponics into Earthships to crank up the amount of food that could be produced in the buildings.
Aquaponics can help people easily produce nutrient dense vegetables and hormone free fish protein. Aquaponics uses 90 to 99% less water than traditional soil-based gardening and maximizes energy efficiency by slowing down the cycle of energy through the system. Many aquaponics systems make use of recycled materials like 55 gallon drums and IBC Totes. The system relies on maintaining balance with it’s inputs and surroundings and thus fits perfectly within the framework of Earthship Biotecture.
Last month, I made progress in my mission of helping people grow food everywhere by installing an aquaponics system in the Visitors Center at Earthship Biotecture’s Headquarters in Taos NM! In conjunction with the build, I taught a class on aquaponics for the 2012 Fall Academy session.
After the class, the Academy students helped build out the aquaponics system. I was astounded with the level of inspiration and excitement that the students showed as they assisted me in the build. I was so excited to hear the diverse questions and comments coming from the students. And of course, I had a blast and a bunch of laughs as we dealt with the challenges of organizing a build with 12 people in a narrow greenhouse using an entirely off grid power system.
Next week I will be leading an Earthship style building workshop here in Boulder. We will build a rad looking chicken coop out of bottles, cans, and tires using some of the skills I learned at Earthship Biotecture in Taos NM. If you or anyone you know is interested in having the best free eggs every single day in your own backyard or interested in building beautiful structures out of garbage come to this workshop!
Please visit www.earthshipcolorado.com to sign up!
I was recently in Melbourne Australia to do a PDC with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. Here is a short interview I did with Geoff Lawton, master permaculturist and founder of the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI), Australia. In the video I ask him three important questions on how aquaponics relates to permaculture and how the two disciplines are related. We also had a special guest, Latifa 🙂
Enjoy the video, and let me know what you think. I’m curious to hear the opinions out there on how aquaponics and permaculture are related. When commenting, specify whether you consider yourself an aquapon or a permaculturist… or both!
(Yeah, the sound isn’t great on this one, so I will be providing a transcript at some point)
Welcome to Grow Everywhere! Here our mission is to harvest the inspiration of successful home gardeners and inspire people all over the globe so they too can grow their own food at home. Our goal is to show that sustainable gardening can be easy and fun by providing step by step instructions on gardening topics and by showing empowering examples that show how anyone can do it under almost any circumstance! We aim to become the premier gardening blog on the web by attracting a vibrant community of home gardeners, sustainable farmers, and homesteaders. Our vision is that of a nation-wide culture of individuals that excel at growing their own food and in doing so take pleasure in finding the truth, that we are all stewards of the earth.
In this day and age we are constantly watching out for our own health and the health of our families. A simple trip to the grocery store becomes an even more daunting task each time we hear about a new pesticide or pathogen outbreak in a particular food product. More and more people are starting to become aware of the fact that the way our nation produces food is not sustainable, safe, or healthy in the long term. Thus, we are experiencing a strong movement in the area of sustainable gardening and farming practices. It’s a revolution and a rebellion against the status quo of mass produced meat and mono-crop cultured fruits and vegetables.
More and more of us are realizing the importance and the value of using local products and services and eating locally produced food. It is rather ironic that in ancient times everything was local by default. In our modern world, we have become so obsessed with economic specialization and competitive advantage that we don’t even care if our food is produced thousands of miles away, we only care about getting the lowest price possible on that food. It seems that we are coming full circle and slowly moving back to the ways of old and reverting to a locally based economy. In doing so, we are not only finding that it works more efficiently and makes more economic sense, but it is also a healthier choice for ourselves and our planet.
Grow Everywhere is dedicated to promoting sustainability and agricultural self sufficiency for everyone regardless of living situations.
When people start composting they sometimes think that it will be a walk in the park… And often times, it can be if you know a few basic principles. One of the common complaints I hear is that they don’t know what to do about maggots in compost. Maggots in your compost bin are not a great thing to have because they breed pesky house flies and can carry disease. Luckily, it is very easy to prevent maggots from entering your compost if you follow these easy steps.
1. Understand the fly, master the maggot
I often take the approach of understanding the nature of whatever organism I am dealing with whether it is a plant, animal or an insect. With a bit of research you can easily learn the weak points of your pests and how to beat them. So, to get started we need to know a few things. Firstly, maggots are fly babies. Flies lay eggs in rotting matter so their young larvae (maggots) can have an abundant supply of food right when they hatch. Secondly, maggots need a very wet environment to grow and thrive BUT they need a dry environment to hatch into flies. A maggot will leave its rotting food dwelling in order to reach it’s next cycle of life. If the area is too wet, they won’t be able to hatch and flies will no longer lay eggs in that area.
That said, if you are using a worm composter and find maggots in there, just be sure to keep your composter wet because the maggots will not be able to pupate in the wet environment. The worms will then compost the maggots and add a little protein to the mix 😉
2. Provide good ventilation NOT an entry way
The way the maggots get into the compost in the first place is from a fly getting in there. So, you have to block them from entry. A screen is all you need to keep flies out and let air in. Many pre-made compost systems (like the one shown here) come equipped with screens. If you are building your own composter, be sure to include a wire mesh screen that is fine enough to keep out flies.
3. Bring the heat!
In order to create high quality finished compost it needs to heat up. And I don’t mean warm. I mean HOT. We’re talking between 120 and 140 degrees. Believe it or not, the right balance of leaves, green mater and oxygen can create and sustain this hot environment in no time. The point here is that when it is that hot, no maggot will survive nor will any harmful bacteria or seeds that you don’t want germinating. The only thing that survives is the good stuff, just like nature intended it. Learn more about how to compost here.
If you are able to follow these three easy steps, you won’t have any trouble keeping your composter maggot free and your home clear of house flies.
Any other concerns on maggots in compost bins out there?
If you read this, follow the directions and STILL have maggot issues, please comment or contact us directly and we will help you clear it up.
(Public service announcement: DO NOT search for maggots on Google Images unless you want to be sick. + Image credit: Google Images)
Maggots In Compost And How To Easily Get Rid Of Them
This Aquaponic micro-farm was a really inspiring place to visit. I unfortunately arrived a little bit late to the tour and had to stay late to ask more questions.
At TC’s place, I learned a few new things about horticulture including what a luffa is. To my surprise, a luffa is actually a hanging vining plant that grows large pods that look similar to a giant cucumber (see photo). The pod is actually edible, however at TC’s place they are grown for the production of dry luffa which she processes by drying, cleaning, washing and de-seeding. These dry luffas are great for use in the shower and are much more sustainable than your average sea sponge (I admittedly thought that luffa WAS from the sea and thought they were unsustainable) and can also be used to wash dishes or even decoratively. They grow incredibly fast in the aquaponic environment.
Here are a few more interesting things that I noticed at TC’s place:
Firstly, I noticed the common practice of running PVC pipe along the ground to connect multiple Aquaponic systems to eachother without obstructing paths, this is an important factor to consider when designing a mid to large scale Aquaponic system.
I also saw that TC is doing some rain water harvesting. She has configured a system using a refurbished holding tank which has been positioned upright to save space and connected them to two large water harvesting saucers. This system provides extra water for the bluegill aquaponic system (behind the cistern in the photo). In a place like Orlando, rainfall is abundant and it would make no sense NOT to harvest it!
Another thing I liked seeing at this Aquaponic homestead was the soil growing that she was doing. I like when people integrate soil growing with aquaponics, in my opinion, it is not one technology that leads to sustainability but a combination of approaches, this is why I like Sahib’s place so much. NOT ONLY is there soil growing going on, but before you step onto the property you notice that the driveway is of sand. This is impressive considering that TC has been growing sweet potato in the front yard. She seems to be an advocate of wood mulch as a soil building technique and I can see why.
There’s a lot I didn’t cover here, so please ask away if you have questions!
–This post was written on September 16th but didn’t make it to the blog until today–
WOW! What a day. The day was packed with Aquaponics and isn’t even over yet.
I’m sitting in a great little coffee shop with a conscious mission in Winter Garden FL which happens to sit under one of the most epic rooftop Aquaponic greenhouses in the country (see below).
Despite a plethora of less than ideal conditions (including: getting up earlier than usual, driving for several hours, paying dollar after dollar on toll roads, getting lost in rural Florida and getting locked inside an elevator for a little while, yes I really did get locked in an elevator) the things I saw and learned today were worth it!
Today I visited 3 Aquaponic farms which I have listed below. There is a lot to say about each one so please click through to the link to read about each one, it’s well worth it.
Sahib’s Place: A fully integrated approach to Aquaponics using ALL growing techniques and not just one.
Green Sky Growers EPIC Rooftop Operation: A very high tech Aquaponics operation on the roof of a downtown building.
Each one of these farms has it’s own flare and again, I highly recommend you read about each one and leave your comments on this post about which one you liked most. Anyone else out there have an aquaponics system that you want to share on this blog? Please do contact us if you do.
It has been about a month since we started our worm composting system (aka vermiculture system) and we were really itching to see how much black gold I could extract from the composter. For those who aren’t familiar, worm castings (worm poo) is extremely rich in all the elements that plants love! Worm castings are about 5 times higher in nitrogen than typical soil, 5 times higher in potassium and 10 times higher in potash. This stuff is one of the best soil amendments you can find out there. Essentially, it’s the gooood sh*t 😉
Step 1: Get ready to dig in fecal matter.
Ok, so it’s not that bad. Worm poop is really just dirt. It’s pretty amazing, they take fresh green matter (nitrogen) like egg shells and old lettuce and eat that along with their bedding which can be made of newsprint or some other type of brown matter (carbon). They munch on that as they squirm around and what comes out the other end is potting soil, like magic!
Step 2: Take out the bottom layer of your worm composter.
This is the lowest layer where all the castings will have fallen to. This layer will probably be the wettest and most decomposed. It is ready to go and be removed from the system. The only problem is that it’s full of worms, and you will need them to continue your black gold manufacturing operation.
Step 3: Grab a handful!
Time to start separating the worms from the castings. Grab a handful and start to pick the worms out of it. Interestingly, as soon as you hold a bunch of worms and castings they will start to congregate and form a worm ball which gradually squeezes out the castings. Technically if you had all the time in the world you could just sit there and wait while the worms come together and push all the castings out the sides.
Step 4: Watch out for precious worm eggs!
As you sort through the castings and worms, you will notice very tiny worms all throughout the castings. Lucky you, your worms are reproducing and multiplying quickly. Worms will double their numbers every 3 months or so. We started with 500 worms about a month ago. In two more months we will have 1,000! Anyway, the worm eggs. The worm eggs (see photo to the right) are tiny and look like little luminous seeds. Take these out and put them back in the composter. They can be hard to see so, you should make little casting patties and crush them down so you can see the eggs. Fun aint it?
Step 5: Separate out your finished product.
Once you have taken out several handfuls, extracted the worms, the tiny newborn worms and the eggs you will have pure castings all piled up. I was able to harvest about 2 pounds of wet castings in 30 mins. We calculated that one pound of castings is worth about $1.50. Not bad for a first try after only one month of composting. We are sure that as we move forward it will become more efficient and profitable to our sustainable gardening efforts.
Anyone have a quick way to harvest castings or have any questions about vermiculture?