Archive for the Nature Category

Gardening – Rain Gutter Grow System

Posted in Food, Gardening, Nature with tags , , , , , , , , , on 2016/10/31 by rmolby

Some time ago, probably about two or three years ago, I discovered Larry Hall’s Self Watering Rain Gutter Grow System!

I was impressed, and it filled a concept void in my mind, where something wasn’t right for my logic when it comes to aquaponic and hydroponic systems!

So, let me touch on this last thought process real quick. I need to define a few pieces of information for context here:

  1. Hydroponics – a method of growing plants in a non-soil grow medium like rock-wool and feeding them via the water submerged roots by adding essential nutrients to the water via chemicals.
  2. Aquaculture – a method of growing fish in a man-made pond system, feeding them a commercial diet of fish pellets and cleaning the water of wastes via mechanical and chemical means.
  3. Aquaponics – combining the above methods solves several issues in both systems, and can reduce the need for outside sources of feed and chemicals dramatically, because the plants absorb some of the waste produced by the fish, and some of the kitchen waste (i.e. lettuce cuttings) can be fed to the fish.

So, the problem I have with the systems above is that the plants didn’t evolve to grow in soil-less environments!

Then I discover Larry Hall’s ingenious Self Watering Rain Gutter Grow System! Go watch the video at the link to the left or visit his YouTube channel. I will wait 15 minutes while you watch the video, and when you come back here I will expand on my thought process.

[waiting…]

Alright, you are back? Excellent!

Basically, my beef is with the missing soil food web. You might ask, what the heck is that?

The soil food web is a compilation of organisms that live in the soil in harmony with the plant roots. The organisms feed the plants by converting minerals in soil particles to a plant usable state to be absorbed by the roots, and the plants in turn release nutrients, such as sugars, into the soil via the roots which the organisms live on. You can read in more detail at WikipediA and SoilFoodWeb.

Well, in a purely water based system, this soil-food-web environment is incomplete or non-existent, as in the hydroponic system. But what if we were to put soil back into the system?

The problem I was seeing was that soil submerged as in the ebb-and-flow beds or the floating raft beds of the aqua/hydro-ponic systems is that you create a swampy environment that goes anaerobic quickly and the roots rot in no time!

This is where Larry Hall’s bucket and rain gutter system filled the void. Since the grow buckets only absorb the amount of water that can wick up from the rain gutter through the wicking cup, and the plants will only grow roots as far down as they need to reach the water, we are re-creating the natural water flow of natural, healthy, loamy soils of fields and gardens.

In such environments, water will wick up from the soil substrata as needed to gain hydrostatic equilibrium of moisture in the soil – in other words, water will wick up as needed in order to compensate for water lost at the soil surface due to evaporation and from the plants consuming the water as needed.

In natural systems, this is very efficient and inefficient at the same time.

Efficient in the fact that if the soils both at the surface level and deep soils are moist they will transfer or wick water to dryer areas.

Inefficient in the fact that if the soils get too dry, the wicking action can stop, and then it takes along time for water to reabsorb into the sub-soils, causing saturation during rain sessions where the healthy top soil washes away.

Larry’s system solved all of this by containing the growing soil in buckets, keeping it in place, as well as supplying a continuous source of water simulating the sub-soils by using rain gutters and wicking pots, and if we combine this with aquaculture, we can even get the fish waste nutrients delivered to the plants through soil, and the soil organisms will gladly convert them into nutrients the plants can use.

I really believe that this will become the defacto standard for incorporating aquaculture and horticulture into an integrated food growing system.

With this in mind, I would like to define some new terms:

SWaRGGS – (Larry Hall’s) Self Watering Rain Gutter Grow System

I had another one in my head but my memory is failing me, but once I recall the other acronyms I will come back and edit this post.

I will be doing some additional posts regarding how I am implementing this system at my home.

Since we are going into winter, I am building a leant-to greenhouse on the west side of our house. I’ve wanted to do this for some time and now have the blessing from the wife to pursue this, so I am building this greenhouse with some flavor of SWaRGGS in mind.

I am also attempting to get starter tomato plants buy making my own SWaRGGS pots from small laundry baskets and training side shoots from my in-ground tomato plants through the holes in the baskets and then filling the baskets with soil.

Some of these tomatoes are already basically 3 years old since I have done this with some success with pots the last two winters. I lost a lot of tomato plants during the high heat and now the drought, but if they were inside a SWaRGGS system I doubt they would have croaked.

Anyway, I will post a few more times about this subject; the next project will be documenting my laundry basked pot system.

Catch you later.

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Earthquake in OK!

Posted in Environment, Nature with tags , , , , , on 2016/08/17 by rmolby
So I had just arrived at work this morning, and was getting ready for my daily work load, when my cube walls shook, and the floor started to rattle and roll in a back and forth movement roughly north and south.
About 12 minutes later, the Geological services started reporting is as a 4.3 Richter scale earthquake, the strongest in a while (over a month) and the strongest I have felt here in Oklahoma.
I have to say, for the last 20 some years I was glad to live in Oklahoma where the major natural disasters are flash flooding and tornadoes, both of which you ample warning about if they are coming. With earthquakes you don’t get any warning, you are at the planet’s mercy!
So, now that we have become earthquake central I am ready to move.
Over and out.

Environment – Nutrient Cycling

Posted in Environment, Health, Home, Nature, Uncategorized with tags , on 2015/12/26 by rmolby

Today I prepared a meal of leftovers from our Christmas dinner and an Indian-Chinese fried rice meal. After I ate I went to rinse the bowl of the orange colored turmeric residue stuck to it, and it occurred to me what a waste it is to rinse even these minute remnants of health down the drain.

What if our domiciles were engineered to recycle all waste streams, whether on-site with gray water and kitchen scraps, locally in the community for items like paper and yard waste, or in the case of plastics, metals and such, on a regional level.

If our ability to cycle even small amounts of nutrients on-site goes up, then we keep more vitality local, and by using the (waste) nutrients from our wash water to grow more food for ourselves, and cycle those nutrients as much as possible, we reduce the long distance food hauling fuel footprint as well.

Each time we cycle the nutrients on-site, we are keeping fertility for our benefit, reducing fertilization costs to us, as well as stretching commercially mined fertilizers and minerals further, giving future generations more time to improve the nutrient cycling even further.

To be truly effective, the waste recovery process needs to start as close as possible to the usage source. The sooner we can intercept waste reclamation, the easier it will be to do so. So, not only would we be able to recycle nutrients, but also vital resources such as water. By recycling both nutrients and water on-site, say by using the wash water from the kitchen sink to fertigate food plants, we also reduce our potable water needs keeping us from depleting fresh water resources, especially aquifers that are depleting at alarming rates.

Our ultimate goal should be leaving this world in the same or better shape than we found it – so, if I get a chance to build a new home, I plan on designing in as many resource capturing means as possible.

Environment – Drought (and potential food shortages?)

Posted in Economy, Food, Gardening, Health, Horticulture, Nature with tags , , , , on 2013/12/27 by rmolby

So I come across this article on HuffPost Green about the Rainbow Mountains in China, a great article with amazingly beautiful pictures, but I decided to click on the HuffPost Green link to visit, since I had never been to the web site,  and right there on the front page is a a link in bold letter proclaiming “DRIEST YEAR EVER.”

In the article on USA Today, mentions that

California is enduring its driest calendar year on record, with no signs of relief coming anytime soon. In San Francisco, the city is seeing its driest year since records began during the Gold Rush year of 1849.

Although a drought emergency has not yet been officially declared, a lack of rain and snow this winter could bring catastrophic losses to California agriculture, as water allotments are slashed by state agencies.

Further down the article it states:

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that 94.25% of the state is enduring some level of drought conditions and that most of the prime agriculture area of the Central Valley is in extreme drought, the second-worst category.

When you look at the Drought Monitor web site, you can see the extreme drought conditions, and this should really make us think. How many people know that a large percentage of fresh vegetables have traditionally come from California?

For some vegetables, only three states, California, Florida, and a few states like Texas and Washington grow a large portion of some vegetables for the entire USA grocery market.

Due to the vast size of the produce industry, minor problems with the distribution chain, such as the 2006 E. coli contamination problems in pre-cut spinach shipped from California, can cause ripple effects throughout the nation’s food system.

The same will hold true for drought conditions, which also exist in Texas and Washington at the current time. So where does this leave us for fresh fruit and vegetables? I think we will be very vulnerable to shortages starting as of this Summer (2013), and going forward until this drought subsides or we get alternative production online.

This situation should reinforce our need to grow more of our fresh produce as close to home as possible. I am ever more encouraged to have a vegetable garden ready to sow into by spring. I hope to be able to grow at least 10% of my vegetable needs right in my own back yard.

Part of this will involve traditional organic vegetable gardening in raised beds, but in time I am also hoping to get an aquaponics system established that will be part of my winter time lean-to greenhouse attached to my backyard shed. This would allow me to not only grow vegetables in the winter, but also supplement my diet with fresh protein in the form of fresh fish.

If all goes well, I will start with a grid powered circulation pump, which will be supplemented in the future with a solar powered unit, probably the same pump running of an inverter and a large battery bank that will be charged from solar and wind.

Until such time, though, I am fully expecting there to be both physical shortages of fresh vegetables, as well major price increases for those imported from out of state, causing shortage in the household budgets or personal health of millions.

The Central Valley of California, with the San...

The Central Valley of California, with the San Joaquin Valley in the southern sub-region, and the Sacramento Valley in the northern sub-region. © 2004 Matthew Trump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ramblings for 2013.07.20

Posted in Blogging, Food, Gardening, Liberty, Nature, Technology with tags , , , , , , , , , on 2013/07/20 by rmolby
English: Baked loaf from Bread Machine

English: Baked loaf from Bread Machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, today I got the bread machine that my dad ordered for me. I am really excited to be making my first loaf of bread. I already have a few of the ingredients, but I am lacking instant yeast, organic sugar, and dry milk to try the basic recipes, so I will have to get those on one of our next shopping trips.

In the mean time, I cleaned the machine’s bread bowl with dish soap and warm water, and it is drying right now, and I am studying the manual to make myself familiar with the machine. There doesnt seem to be that much to it, really. There is even a sourdough recipe, but it still calls for active dry yeast… I will have to try that, and slowly reduce the amount of active dry yeast over time… I bet I can let the dough rise over night on starter alone and then let it run like a normal basic loaf… something to try later once I’m comfortable with the bread maker.

Ramblings for 2013.07.14

Posted in Blogging, Food, Gardening, Liberty, Nature, Technology with tags , , , , , , on 2013/07/14 by rmolby
Sourdough spelt loaf

Sourdough spelt loaf (Photo credit: GabeD)

I had a really nice conversation with my father via Skype.

We spoke at length about making our own bread using a bread machine, using non-wheat flour, sourdough starter using seed starters from Sourdoughs International, and a variety of other tangential subjects.

We also discussed pizza crust and how to use your grill to do some baking, such as portrayed on Breadtopia. This website is an amazing resource, and I need to order a few things from them so I can grill pizza and bread – I need a good peel for the pizza, and a cloche and proofing basked for the bread.

Dad said that he had wanted to get me a bread machine for some time, and asked me what brand and model I would like, so I looked up the bread machine that Steven Harris uses and mentioned on several of The Survival Podcast episodes he has been on. My dad promptly ordered it. Wow! I love my parents.

We also discussed capturing rain water and storing it, using collapsible rain barrels I ordered from Amazon, here and here.

So we had a good time discussing the above and I am very grateful to have such caring parents, as I see so many families struggle with their internal relations and many families get torn apart in the process.

Garden – plans for this year of 2013

Posted in Blogging, Food, Gardening, Home, Horticulture, Nature with tags , , , , , , on 2013/02/10 by rmolby
Chickens

Chickens (Photo credit: Allie’s.Dad)

I am getting into backyard farming this year, out of necessity because my pay is not keeping up with inflation and the health care premiums are going up, leaving us short in our household budget.

So I am hoping to make up for it somewhat by growing at least 2-3% of my food this year, and hopefully 3-5% next year, after I expand the vegetable garden, and get the raised bed chicken tractor built.

I am designing the raised beds around 4 foot long planks cut from 2×4, 2×6, 2×8, 2×10, and 2×12 by 8 foot or 16 foot boards, and using 3.5 inch long deck screws to screw the beds into 4×4 foot squares.

I arrange the beds so there is just a little less than 2 feet of space between them for walkways, and I use 12 inch square pavers to line the walkways. This way the beds sit on top of the pavers for leveling and less contact with the soil. I treat the wood of the raised beds with linseed oil and let it absorb and dry completely, then line the raised bed with one or two layers of corrugated cardboard  and fill them with compost/soil mixture.

When I build the wooden frames, I also attach a piece of 2×2 on the inside corners, but offset so they stick out the bottom about one inch. This way I can stack multiple beds for extra depth for veggies such as carrots, as well as stacking the chicken tractor on top of the beds as well.

As the chickens clean up the bed(s) they have access to, by churning the soil and eating every last seed, bug, and plant until there is nothing but soil, I move their tractor house to the next bed, and their run as well, and let them continue to clean the newly accessible bed(s).

The raised bed I move the tractor house from, now is well composted, has nitrogen and nutrient rich soil, that I will plant heavy feeders into the first season, and then alternate with low demand plants, followed by fallow or cover-crop, and then several other crops before I run the chicken tractor over it again.

I have part of this system in place, but I still need to built the 4×4 chicken tractor and 4×4 chicken run that will go on top of two beds, and a connector between the two so the chickens can get to the run.

I will also build a few beds that will be either 4×6 or 4×10 foot and pull the walkway pavers they would straddle, and have some bigger beds to work with for such plants as garlic and cabbages, etc, where I either need lots of plants or lots of room for a small number of large to huge plants that will require a lot of growing space.

I know, this sounds quite ambitious, but that is what I have been working towards for the last three years since I have moved into this house.

I will try to keep blogging about my garden endeavors as I find time to record my efforts. Hopefully I can get some pictures added as well to add tot he documentation of what I accomplish this year.

 

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