Aquaponics for everyone
The first seven months of our work on the family farm sub allotment to turn a broad acre monoculture enterprise into a sustainable small farm polyculture using permaculture principles and doing-more-with-less summary.
We have been tinkering around with various thoughts of what to do on the farm but we were never in the position to do much of anything as we didn’t live on site.
That changed in March 2013 when we finally moved into the farmhouse and started serious renovations. Use of the farm and it’s assets started to be written down and considered in the context of living simply with little effect to the land but rather making it more vibrant and productive.
Recently things got a little more serious when one of us attended a week-long permaculture design course at Melliodora, sitting at the feet of David Holmgren who along with Bill Mollison began the move towards permaculture more than 25 years ago.
After that week we evaluated what was on farm that was usable and what was detrimental that would need to change. A scaled map was drawn up and everything plotted to within a metre of accuracy. Major buildings like the house, barn, garage, potting shed, terradome (an old underground piggery), water tanks, mallee stand, Buloke Savannah revegetation, bush food plantation and permanent veggie and herb gardens along with a permanent placement for the aquaponics setup were all measured up and plotted.
We then sat down and worked out where our zones would fall. Zone zero being the house, garage, outdoor entertainment ares, zen garden and future library on south side of house. Zone 1 takes in barn accommodation for the boys, orchard, smaller rotational veggie beds and herb gardens, chook shed and run. Zone 2 is the wood lot, permanent veggie and herb irrigated beds, aquaponic pads and the terradome where all yabby, silver perch and eel tailed catfish are being bred. Zone 3 includes the bushfood and savannah plantation out to the surrounding fence line. Zone 4 is the outside world.
This is the current use of the 20ha equating to 9ha showing the major buildings and land use. The shaded area is reveg and bush food plantation.
The sub division continues out to the left but that has been fenced off for now. The reveg actually goes right up to the driveway but does not include the brown section in the left side, that remains the 48 irrigated 80m x 50m veggie beds. House and garage in the center and terradome vents visible to the north-east of the barn. Aquaponics are on the two slightly offset concrete pads to the west of the dome.
So concludes the potted history…
An update of the past week to Nov 6th 2013.
Things are warming up during the day but nights are still cold and the house fire has been put on three times, no frosts though.
All the laying hens have hatched their broods, started with almost forty chicks and now steady at 29. Only lost five or so to our dogs who played a bit rough with them until educated that they were not playthings. Isolated each hen in cages with two courses of gutter guard around each one to stop chicks slipping through the wire and being picked off by magpies and other birds. One clutch of six chicks has very different markings than the hen or either rooster. Will keep an eye out for their development.
All tomato seedlings are in, larger ones from Melliodora are along a dripper line with lemon basil seed thrown in as companions, anything growing outside the guards is cleaned up by the chicks and hens. All fruit trees are in and some setting fruit. Will leave them on as our watering and fertilising schedule should help them set. Every Wednesday is watering and Epsom salts day which the tomato’s love. Seems Epsom is like chocolate to them.
Finished setting up the pallet vertical gardens for the rethink reuse recycle event Nov 14 in Horsham. Interesting Facebook page, just type in a search for rethink & reuse & recycle event. Will put some pix of our efforts up here and on the Facebook page.
One of our IBC aquaponic beds with hatchling yabbies with mom below in the tank. Holds about 700lt and contains azolla, lemna and other aquatic plants for cover as young yabbs don’t like seeing the open water surface. Also inserted 1″ PVC pipe at 10cm long for added protection. Lettuce and spring onion growing in the scoria grow bed above.
Yabbies Are finishing their first round of eggs hatching and some females are back in the breeding tanks with the males for a second round. Will see how many cycles we can get out of them now we are here full time.
Third test is on in Perth so time to do a catch up.
All plants in ponics pots and dirt beds fertilised with a sweet water mix.
Back of farmhouse cleaned up, old verandah removed and replaced boards, chicken yard and run plotted.
CFA tank filled, weeding in orchard done. Pepper spray mixed and applied to veggie beds, so hot it burns your eyes at over 800,000 shu (scoville heat units).
Discovered big spider in orchard, looks like tarantula with a mud ball between front legs (see pic).
Bad bug night 27 nov with almost a frost on 28th. Meat ants going mad collecting all the bugs around the zapper and outside lights.
Willy wag tails fledged and feeding up big on the bugs. Neighbors sheep got attacked and mauled by dog.
Family went to Bali for a week to celebrate La Vergne’s 50th. Second lot of yabbs berried up and seperated.
Five eggs a day from chooks, another two nests being sat on, will allow one to hatch the other is raided and collected. Dogs shawn and loving it!
2nd dec 39 deg C. 4th and 5th hail and 10 deg C lounge fire on overnight. 9th and 10th fire on again. 16th warming up again. Leveled entertainment area outside kitchen, grey water pipes in ground, zen garden area pegged out. First French doors installed in lounge room, kitchen French door being replaced. Painting doors and verandah steps.
Installed the the first two vertical gardens made for the Rethink expo in November. One done with flowers and the other a productive pallet of lettuce spring onion and strawberries. Just have to be careful chooks don’t get the lower ranks of lettuce and chicks love to fly to the top and graze.