Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hand Augering Wells

So, one of the benefits of living where I do is... the water table is at 15ft. Yes, 15ft... So, this gives me the leverage to "hand auger" a well versus paying someone to come and drill a well in my backyard. The price differential is about $3000. After researching this, I found a company on the East Coast, who specializes in hand-augering equipment for wells. The coolest thing here is; they are a Christian organization who's mission is to provide the means and the tools for countries where fresh water is miles away and where the water if not boiled, could make them deathly ill. HydroMissions provides the parts or a pre-packaged unit for hand-augering your well. The beauty of a well, is... our earth acts as a natural bio-filter for water, thereby extracting all the nastys that otherwise will keep you a slave to a Johnny On The Spot... The water should still should be tested for microbes and alkalinity, but for watering your yard, crops and tapping it into certain household needs is very doable.

So, here is the link to HydroMissions:

The steps will be; get the equipment, casing, pump and begin drilling. A 4" casing will be used and I anticipate hitting water at 15ft. I will need to drill to 30ft, as you need to double the distance to compensate for head pressure and usage.

Usually, outside of coastal locations, the water will be very high in mineral content and good for your crops and lawn. I would not recommend watering your chickens with this water unless you have the water chemistry tested. There are a number companies on the web or in your local area who can test your water for less than $50. To me this is worth it...as I have kids and animals, sometimes hard to tell the difference and peace of mind for health's sake is worth it.
I will report more later, but in the meantime ask around and find out where your water table is, see if you can't hand auger a well in your backyard and get off the grid.

Backyard Tilapia

I am not sure whether to cluck with glee or make fish sounds with my mouth or describe what these sounds, sound like - not sure where to go with this now.. anyway.

So to all you chicken farmers who have the desire to get off the grid. Get this; people are beginning to put "Tilapia" farms in their backyard's too. Tilapia has been described as the "Aquatic Chicken" (coooooool) because it possesses many positive attributes that suit the fish for a varied range of aquaculture systems. For one, tilapia tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions and is highly resistant to diseases and parasitic infections. Other good traits of tilapia include excellent growth rates on a low-protein diet, ready breeding in captivity and ease of handling; and, more importantly, wide acceptance as food fish. And it is harvested around the world due to it's ease of raising, reproduction and low protein diet. I have seen tilapia used extensively on The Food Network and eaten with joy by Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern on The Travel Channel. I always wanted a water feature in my backyard, why not make it a food source!?

And further more there is a symbiosis to this as well. In order to get your pond ready to take fish it needs to be "fertilized".... And guess with WHAT? Chicken 'nure is the fertilizer...it promotes algae which the Tilapia loves! So here the process;

Site selection: Select a site where water is accessible throughout the year. It should be well exposed to sunlight, which hastens the growth and multiplication of small aquatic plants called algae, which serve as food for the tilapia. More important, it should not be flooded during rainy season.

Pond preparation: The size of the pond should be determined by the number of fish you want to raise. A good guide is 5-6 mature fish per square meter of water (39" x 39") surface. So a 10' x 10' pond could raise 9 fish. I think based on growth rates this could be cycled through fairly quickly. The depth of the pond should be one meter as wel with water not less than three-fourths meter deep. A BIG WARNING HERE; the deeper and the wider the pond, the less likely it will be that predators will be able to reach and pick them off. It is allows the fish to swim to the center keeping them out of harms way, either by land or air.

Pond fertilization Since the pond is newly constructed, you have to apply fertilizer. Do this one week before stocking. Apply chicken manure on the pond bottom with water depth of about 6 centimeters at the rate of one kilo for every lo square meters. Fertilize the pond once a month to insure good production of algae.

Securing fish fingerlings: Obtain your first supply of young tilapia from any reliable fishpond owner. I located one in Florida. http://www.tilapiaseed.com/ You will need to plan on about 5 to 6 fingerlings per square meter of water surface area. The most common breeds of tilapia available are: Nilotica, Mozambique, and GIF (genetically modified - not sure I like this one). But the link above will give a better understanding of the breeds.
Stocking the pond: Fertilize the pond one week before stocking. Stock the pond either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the water temperature is low in order to avoid weakening of the fish. Allow the water in the pond to mix gradually with the water in the fish container before putting the fish into the pond. So set the fish in the pond, in the bag they came in. This will allow for the water in the bag to slowly acclimate to the water in the pond. Also, slowly mix in pond water into the bag, this will allow the fish to not become shocked...

Care and maintenance- Feed daily during morning and afternoon at one portion of the pond. Supplement feeds with fine rice bran, bread crumbs, earthworms, termites, and others at an initial rate of 5% of the total body weight of the fish.- Maintain the natural fishfood by adding more fertilizer (Chicken Manure). Place chicken droppings in sacks and suspend in the water at every corner of the pond. Put 2.5 kg of chicken manure per bag.- Maintain a water level depth of 1-1.5 meters. Gradually remove excess fingerlings after the third month of stocking. Retain six fingerlings per square meter. It is recommended to plant at one side of the pond to provide shade for the fish during hot weather and to serve as growing media for natural fish food. Water lily also provides shade. However, do not totally cover the pond with plants as this will interfere with the natural food production process. ( I am using metric here, because it makes me feel international and intelligent!, Actually it is because I am adapting it from a website.

Harvesting - You can harvest tilapia by using a dip net or a lift net. Lower the net down to the bottom of the pond and spread a small amount of feed on the water just above the net. Lift the net as fast as possible to prevent the escape of the tilapia. After harvesting, stock the pond again.
You can make your fish pond more productive ( you pig-raisers) and profitable by raising a pig at the site of the pond. Pig wastes go directly to the pond and help to fertilize the tiny plants that serve as the tilapia's main food. Tests have proven that tilapia cultured in this kind of pond can be eaten without any harmful effect.

Uses of tilapia: Tilapia is a good quality food and has a firm and delicious flesh it has few fine bones. Tilapia is suitable also for processing into dried, salted dried, smoked or pickled products. It is a good insect and worm predator and is known to help clean many injurious insects from ponds. To a certain extent, tilapia can help in keeping down the number of mosquito larvae, thus preventing them from developing into troublesome and harmful mosquitoes.
Get digging!!!!! Eggs, water, fish!!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Omnivore's Dilemma

A friend of mine - we'll call him "Joe"... recommended a book. While I will avoid appearing like the Oprah's Book Club although you can call me the "Chicken Whisper"..., I think this could be a good recommendation. I have also read a few reviews and this seems to be right up our ally... Here is a quick review written by Beverly Crumpacker (I hate chuckling over some one's name - but Crumpacker slays me - what is the derivation of this name? Crumpacker? Was it Crumbpacker? Did it have to do with some one's job in Elizabethan England?) I digress...
"We've lost touch with the natural loops of farming, in which livestock and crops are connected in mutually beneficial circles. Pollan discusses the alternatives to industrial farming, but these two long (and occasionally self-indulgent) sections lack the focus and intensity -- the anger beneath the surface -- of the first. He spends a week at Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley, a farm that works with nature, rather than despite it. Salatin calls himself a grass farmer, though his farm produces cows, chickens, eggs and corn. But everything begins with the grass: The cows nibble at it at the precise moment when it's at its sweetest and are moved from pasture to pasture to keep the grass at its best height. Their droppings fertilize the grass, and the cycle is under way. There's a kind of lyrical symmetry to everything that happens on this farm. Even the final slaughtering of chickens is done quickly and humanely, in the open air. It isn't pleasant, but compared to the way cattle are fattened and slaughtered in meat industry feedlots and slaughterhouses, it is remarkably reasonable."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Carbon Storage

So Han Solo was frozen in carbonite - I think..

I am sure there is some Star Wars freak that actually has the chemical chain to replicate this.... Anyway, As I was rambling through the web this morning I read an article from Purdue University on carbon storage in Chestnut Trees.

Move over, "The Christmas Song." Chestnuts are doing more than roasting on an open fire—they are doing their part to help save the world.

A recent Purdue University study reveals that chestnut trees may help reduce the amount of carbon in the environment.Douglass Jacobs, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources, discovered that the American chestnut tree grows faster and absorbs more carbon than other hardwood trees.“The American chestnut is an incredibly fast-growing tree,” says Jacobs. “Generally the faster a tree grows, the more carbon it is able to sequester. And when these trees are harvested and processed, the carbon can be stored in the hardwood products for decades, maybe longer.” Jacobs compared the American chestnut with the black walnut, northern red oak, the quaking aspen, red pine and white pine in four sites in southwestern Wisconsin. In nearly every case, he found that the American chestnut grew faster—with as much as three times more aboveground biomass—and absorbed more carbon than the others, says reports by Purdue University.“Each tree has about the same percentage of its biomass made up of carbon, but the fact that the American chestnut grows faster and larger means it stores more carbon in a shorter amount of time,” says Jacobs.There are few chestnut trees in America; however, after a fungus-induced blight crippled many of the trees in their natural zone about 50 years ago. But new efforts to hybridize the remaining American chestnuts with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts have resulted in a chestnut tree that is about 94 percent American chestnut with the protection found in Chinese species, say experts at the University.Jacobs says the hybridized trees could be ready to plant in the next 10 years. Since trees absorb about one-sixth of the carbon emitted globally each year, Jacobs says increasing the number of chestnut trees could make a considerable difference in slowing climate change.“This is not the only answer,” Jacobs says. “We need to rely less on fossil fuels and develop alternate forms of energy, but increasing the number of American chestnuts, which store more carbon, can help slow the release of carbon into the atmosphere.”
So really, our environment has all the answers, we just need to use them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inaugural Urban Suburban Farmer Post

This blog is dedicated to getting off the grid... we will discuss and banter about, gardening, wells, small hobby farms, solar, wind-energy, foraging in the yard for food... you name it, we'll talk about it.
I don't know who's home this is and don't care... But WHAT AN AWESOME IDEA! Forget your lawn and grow food!