Sunday, November 26, 2017

Monarch class of 2017

When we find caterpillar's on our milk weed, we bring bring them into the house to protect them. Here we are releasing numbers 2, 3 and 4.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Aquaponics set up

After our turtle escaped, I have been turning her former tank into an aquaponics set up. Here is a picture of what it looks like so far, minus the trays for growing veggies (since I've been busy finishing up my PhD). Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (growing fish) and hydroponics (the growth of plants with only water and nutrients). Basically the fish poop feeds the plants. The systems are supposed to be very efficient and have fewer problems with weeds.

I'll probably be working on this over the winter so that we can try growing leafy greens come spring. At the moment I only use the set up to grow duckweed, which is a small aquatic plant that grows rapidly under the correct conditions. We had originally grown it as food for our turtle, but now I am playing with it for carbon capture experiments. I remember reading an article about these high tech ways of capturing carbon dioxide and thought it could be cheaper to do with just simple plants, algae, and water. No data yet but now that I have time on my hands I'll take a second look.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bio Reactor 1.0 and 2.0

Howdy all,

I will now share with you the trials and tribulations of my bioreactors. I wanted to create the bioreactor as a way of increasing the green material I put into my compost heap and a way of sucking out additional CO2 from the atmosphere (since I dable in the sciences), with out using too much water. Even though you can see bottles filled with water, they actually didn't evaporate that much since each were closed off at the end (See below).

The bioreactor is basically bottles filled with water, a small amount of fertilizer, and green balls of algae left over from Bioreactor 1.0. My first bioreactor had the same exact set up, except I had tried to grow a specific strain of Cyanobacteria, called Spirulina. This is the same stuff in Naked Juice green machine, which I wanted to try my hand at growing since it had the added benefit of being edible. Well, all in all bioreactor 1.0 was a failure. I couldn't find live strains of Spirulina on the internet, and so bought some powered stuff on the assumption that some spores might still be active. All I managed to do was grow string Algae, the most hated annoyance of pond owners.

Anyways, back to set up. The bioreactor was set up in two chains. In the first bottle I have two air hoses. One delivers air pumped from a small aquarium filter, and discharged it into the bottom of the bottle, allowing the oxygen and CO2 to be absorbed into the water. The air is then discharged into the the bottom of the second bottle, and so on in a chain:

The bioreactor experiment worked well. I managed to grow algae (not that hard, I know), but not nearly as much mass as I would have liked. Usually the first bottle had the most green and vibrant algae, which decreased as you went further down the chain. I take this as proof that the C02 is getting absorbed, since it must be limited the growth in the bottles.

I found that the amount of fertilizer you use is a very steep learning curve, meaning that if you put too much you kill the algae, but I am sure that I didn't experiment enough to find out the perfect amount. As well, as you can tell by the bright blue color, I used dreaded chemical fertilizers (miracle grow), which I have since stopped using, and replaced with compost tea (basically the liquid that comes off of my worm composter).

I stopped experimenting with this type of set up. Mostly because it was hard to get the algae out of the bottles. I have since started experimenting with growing duckweed (and unfortunately algae if I dont pay attention). I'll post more about this in the future, as well as approximating how much carbon I can get out.

Little Library part 1: building

Howdy all,

Here is an older (but big) project that we finished six months ago. A little library! For those of you that don't know what they are, here is a link to the organization. They are small community gardens, operated by home owners,take a book, leave a book style. We liked the ideas behind the project and it seemed like a good way to build community, meet neighbors, and share some good books!

We used left over plywood from another project, cutting four of them:

To each end, at the back end, I attached a 2 x 2. In the front I used two by fours, which needed to be able to hold the weight of the heavy recycled window door.

After attaching one 2 x 2 to the end piece, I used a clamp to hold the pieces while I drilled the holes.

Here you can see it from beneath. The pieces don't make it all the way to bottom on purpose ;)

Alright, the window fits, that's a good sign!

The roof goes on! I did a slight bevel cut on the end of one so that they would fit tight, though not as tight as I had hoped. Should have just used the table saw! ugg..

Photo of the inside of the library. I added an extra piece of 2x2 for a later shelf. You can also see the floor in place!

Shot of the library with the basic shape worked out.

The window (after a quick sand) in place, with the hinges on. I added a bit of the left over plywood around the window to beef up the edge a little bit, so that it can take some abuse. 

Decided to add a bit of style to the ends:

Alright, I might have gone a bit too far:

Next post. The (never ending) roof, and paint!

Pergola construction

Howdy all!

I'm clearing out the drafts that we have saved up, so some of these projects are a bit old.... sorry, life has been a bit busy.

We have a lovely gravel seating area at our house, but it just gets too hot in the summer! We had a large umbrella (see the photo below), which just didn't cut it. We decided to build a pergola, a more permanent structure that would also serve as a growing trellis for our grapes. First off we dug four holes for the foundations:

The foundation blocks were prefabbed from home depot. We placed them ontop of about a half inch of gravel, and then reburied them. To block out weeds, we have a tarp under the gravel of the seating area. Here you can see the hole in the tarp for the corner posts which are attached to the foundations.

Here you can see the buried foundation blocks (covered with the black planting containers with keep the dog from running into them).

We used redwood for the pergola, which is resistant to decay. You can see here our 4 x4 corner posts, which are then sandwiched by 2x6s. We used two 5/8" bolts to attach them once everything was level.

Since the seating area isn't perfectly flat, we place a 2x4 between the two sets of 2x6 cross beams, and dropped the nearest beam until the 2x4  was level. We then leveled the nearest 2x6 beam and drilled the holes for the 5/8" bolts.

Here is a view of our supervisor, inspecting our progress:

Eventually Flint decided to hide under our grapes, to get out of the sun.

After the posts, and 2x6 cross beams were installed we placed seven 2x4s between the two structures to hold everything together.

Under the structure, N placed a shade cloth to keep us cool until our grapes grow in.

A final photo of the project, after N trained the grapes

Happy gardening!