Monday, July 13, 2009

Le Coop Du Jour....

Le Coop du Jour -

To the followers here.. I am moving my efforts to the sister site...

I am going to phase this one out.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Graywater Re-Use

Sorry I have not posted yet today, but I have been buried - in a compost heap of my own. So, as I was eating scraps for lunch... I stumbled on to an article written by Carol Steinberg and it is awesome. I assume since many of you read the drivel I write, you've probably already read the good stuff and this will be a repeat for you. But, I want to re-purpose it here for you and then link it to the site where I found it. Don't want to take credit for this - this is good work by Ms. Steinberg. What is it - Ms. or Mrs.? I always thought Mrs. meant married and Ms. was not. But if you don't know, what is the proper salutation? In this day and age nothing would be right. Mrs. would be offensive, Ms. is undoubtedly offensive and just shouting out her name like a football coach "Steinberg! nice article now drop and give me 20" is not cool. Carol is too informal. See where we are? NOWHERE'S-VILLE. We can't move in the name of offending someone. Anyway the article is on re-purposing graywater from our showers and laundry for use in the garden. And, she gives us some great ideas for gathering water which we would otherwise waste... Great stuff here. By the way - I am not putting in the entire article it is too long - This is an excerpt.

As many regions’ water costs rise, more people are asking if the water that flows down their drains after bathing and washing—known as graywater—can be used to water gardens. Increasingly, state permitting authorities are saying yes—with conditions.

In Arizona and New Mexico, homeowners can drain graywater right onto their lawns and landscapes. In states where laws are more stringent, especially California, underground graywater irrigation systems—some involving sophisticated water sensors that direct water to where it’s most needed—are popping up. You can help the earth and reduce bills by installing a system yourself. Though regulations vary by location, setting up a fairly simple water-reuse system in your home is becoming easier and more common.

More than soapy water: A graywater overview

Preparing graywater requires a few basic steps: draining it from the house to your graywater system via pipes kept separate from toilet drains; filtering out fibers and greases; then disinfecting the water and treating its carbon. You can take care of the last two parts—disinfecting and treating carbon—by setting up a system in which graywater drains under a few inches of soil, gravel and plant roots. The plants and soil will naturally treat the carbon and disinfect the water.

Though kept separate from what’s flushed down the toilet—called "blackwater"—graywater still can contain bacteria and pathogens that could cause illness, although the small amounts present in most graywater are a low risk, according to a University of Massachusetts study. Graywater also contains carbon from oils, soaps and skin. As in all organic compounds, that carbon will decompose, potentially causing odors and clogging the air spaces in the ground. Health officials advise draining graywater under three to 18 inches of soil, where soil bacteria decompose carbon and destroy pathogens—and where plant roots can drink it up.

State regulations for graywater vary widely, so check with your municipality to be sure your system is legal. Some states consider kitchen-sink and dishwasher drainage blackwater because it contains grease, nutrients and food bits.In most states, graywater cannot be used above ground without a special permit. In nearly all states, a graywater permit requires submitting results of a soils test and an approved plan

If you’re renovating a bathroom or building a house, consider installing graywater drainage pipes—even if you can’t or don’t plan to use graywater now. In the future, water recycling will likely become the norm as this resource gets too precious to throw away!

Three easy ways to treat carbon

Although plants can disinfect gray

water, pouring carbon-laden graywater directly onto your lawn can cause odors and clog drip-irrigation emitters. Avoid this by keeping graywater oxygenated so fast-acting aerobic bacteria can consume carbon and pathogens. Specialists recommend three ways to treat graywater’s carbon: (1) add an air diffuser to your surge tank, (2) design systems that cascade water, or (3) simply apply graywater only to gravel, course sand or well-aerated mulch, all of which have lots of air spaces for aerobic bacteria to work.

A typical graywater system includes:

A surge tank to which all graywater first drains. This tanks equalizes and cools graywater flow so it doesn’t inundate the system with a deluge of hot water. A septic tank or 55-gallon drum, this also serves as a grease trap if the scum is periodically skimmed.

A filter to remove clogging parti

cles such as hair. You can buy a filter (see "Resources," below) or make one with a nylon stocking. For grease and sludge, use a grease trap—essentially a box with a baffle that holds back scum so it can be skimmed out.

Porous substrate, fluffy mulch or aerated tanks to promote fast-acting aerobic biological decomposition.

Irrigation components such as perforated pipe and drip-irrigation lines that get graywater to the plants.

Thirsty plants to use up nutrients and provide root systems that support microbes, which decompose carbon and germs in graywater.

Graywater At Work
Several types of systems use graywater efficiently.

1. Shallow gravel or sand trenches: After filtering graywater in a surge tank, drain it into 18-inch-deep, gravel-filled trenches planted with water-loving species. This California-approved solution is relatively easy to permit in many other states.

2. Sand filter: Drained from a surge tank, graywater can be filtered through a basin full of sand before it’s piped to drip-irrigate an orchard or a greenhous

e vegetable garden. In winter, divert graywater to a below-ground leachfield to avoid freezing.

3. Constructed wetlands: Wet basins full of gravel planted with water-loving species such as elephant ear and papyrus can function as a treatment system before you apply graywater to gardens. Plants and roots should be removed periodically to clear the basin of carbon residue.

4. Drip irrigation: Dispersing graywater to an entire lawn via drip irrigation—usually small hoses or pipes perforated with holes—requires filtering and treatment to avoid clogging.

5. Branched drain system and other mulch-filter systems: Graywater can be dispersed underground via a system of pipes that branch out to holes filled with woodchips, which compost the carbon and particles. In rustic variations of this, perforated basins of woodchips and straw at the outflow pipe are used to filter graywater before it’s discharged to the landscape.

6. Surface drip and spray irrigation: Spraying or otherwise applying graywater above ground usually requires, by law, disinfection through either ultraviolet or ozone disinfection or a reverse-osmosis filter. This must be approved in all states except New Mexico and Arizona.

Super article and great idea.

Upon further research, the Aussie's are killing us in this. They are all over it. I need to look into this a little more

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Post and Beam Construction

When I get big and strong, I want to build one of these.

How cool is this? It is from a company called Sand Creek Post and Beam

Check out this website and dream a little.

I have a 10 x10 garden shed with a gambrel roof, which I am a little frightened of, so are my kids. But, if I had one of these I would have everything I need! Except HDTV, running water and some electricity. I can manage that though, so maybe I would have everything... I would need a refrigerator and somewhere to cook... and bath.. Well, I've put all that stuff in before, I can still swing this. Price is going up and my hopes are going down... but you gotta dream!

What a website address, a few more words and it would have been the first

Sunflower and Chickens

One of the easiest things to do and one that everyone enjoys, including neighbors, is growing sunflowers. Some of the giant ones can produce more sunflower seeds than candy sprinkles get dumped on the ice cream in the Verizon commercial. And, chickens love sunflower seeds, in fact you can buy sunflower seeds at the feedstore. I just buy the "David" brand since my chickens like "Ranch Flavored". Oh that is bad.....

Anyway, Sunflowers are worthy of planting, are killer to look at and make a great food source of the chickens.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Soil Test Kits

Are they worth it? Sure...why not?

I decided to try one of these out. I bought the one at ACE Hardware for $21.99, sure glad I am given to impulse, cause I could have saved $7.00 less shipping buying on the web. I.D.o.I.t.

So, Mr. Lollipop grabbed it and was so excited to test for phosphorus and potash you'd thought I was given a lead role in Rocky 8. I would have played the guy pushing the wheelchair back and forth as Rocky's fists of arthritis bruised some shill's kneecaps. Adrian would have been there at the ready with his defib device...

So, like Rocky I took a swing at the soil, knowing, if I did not test it and need to buy $150 worth of soil amendment swamp waste that Madonna uses, I was not "really" doing the right thing for the garden. Argh!

I bought the Rapidtest Kit (seen below) and well, it was so chemistry-looking and technical, I simply could not pass it up. The moment I saw it though, I KNEW, I was going to buy it and get results I could have predicted, yet, still had to spend the money. Cause! what if my soil was deficient. I would be terrified. In this economic climate why add another worry?

I get it home, quickly test for nitrogen and viola' - perfect!. I test for phosphorus and viola' - perfecto. I test for potash and viola' - perfecto!!! I threw the pH test away. My soil has proven to me over and over, that I could drop a meatloaf in the ground and out would pop a meatloaf tree. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm, meeeeeaaaaaatlooooooaf treeeeee!

Have a ketchup tree next to it and when it was windy the perfect union of trees if there ever was one. Oh wait, and a well of beer too.

Conclusion - if you have land that used to be a Jiffy Lube, test your soil. If you look around and see a lot of nothing, growing in your area, I bet your soil needs help and your local nursery can tell you what to add. Otherwise, I am sure it is just fine. Buy a couple bags of Miracle Grow soil amendment, it will make you feel better and your younger plants might just like it - regardless.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Heirloom Seeds

I have read enough and tasted enough heirloom grown vegetables to know there is a huge difference in taste than those that are not. This year we've planted basic Roma tomato's along with cherry tomato's, but we also planted five heirloom varieties. I am anxious to see them and taste them...

I have been surrounded by farming my entire life. My family is from Nebraska, where we farmed hundreds of acres of wheat, milo and alfalfa. I remember as a young boy traveling back to Nebraska during the summers and my folks dropping me off at the homestead and saddling over to Estes Park, CO for time alone. My sister and I would stare at each other thinking; "As soon as I can, I am going to knock your block off" Sure enough, we did, then we settled in to farm-life. Up at 5am for and a snack and out to the Combine. In at 7:30am for breakfast. Back out for more harvesting, in for dinner at noon. Back out for harvesting and then in for supper at around 6:00pm. Hard living, but good living.

Once on the west coast we settled in Salinas and I worked in the fields for many, many summers moving sprinkler pipe in the fields. Lettuce, onion, cauliflower, sugar beets, broccoli... we grew many of the staples for large produce houses. Foxy Lettuce, Bunny, T&A... Antle... Getting dirty, planting seeds, watering the fields and harvesting has been apart me longer than I have been on this earth.

So, to grow food in your backyard is smart, honorable, healthy and, well.... just good for you. Plus it doesn't get any better. So, I want to grow food that when planted - on my table, people not only notice the difference they want it for themselves and go off and become gardeners themselves.

Which brings me back to heirloom seeds. Find them, plant them and enjoy them. Here are some links to various seeds companies...

I would push you to the last one... if I was shoved up against a wall and told to eat a tomato from Safeway.

Composting - Weird Dirty Science.

Now that I have chickens, I am composting, nothing like chicken manure to light up a compost heap. So... instead of digging a hole and tossing various waste items in it - rat magnet... I began researching compost bins. WOW.. they are all over the board and all over the map in regards to price. It appears right now the one I am choosing is called the Exaco Composting Bin. The reason: It make sense to me. Hopefully that reason is sufficient, but really here is my thought process;

1. Looks - It really needs to look decent. Garbage cans are, well, for garbage. People across the world see it and think "garbage" - usually followed by "Wash your hands" so to have something that looks like a dirty garbage can sitting in your backyard, where people will be BBQ'ing and playing, is not cool. Even the ones by Mantis (two people looking like they are trying to start a Model T) or Urban Compost Tumbler, which look like a concrete mixers is not something I want on display. The Mantis looks like it could be seen from space ( with the gentleman spinning it on its stout frame - can't you spinning this thing and it jumping off the stand and taking your garden, pets and children out with it?) . Our how about this one... the EcoComposter. Really? The Death Star of composters?
The idea is to take organic material and break it down. Whether hot composting or adding worms to get the chemical process to begin, it doesn't matter, the Exaco, also known as the WIBO... it a nice, square shape and will fit in nice clean spaces.
Operation - Exaco's operation? Pour it in the top, shuffle the drawers, and open the hatch - Viola' compost. Gravity at its finest. I don't need to start a car, build a feable stand which is precariously perched off the ground 4ft, carrying a couple hundred pounds of dirt. Nor do I need a big ugly orb sitting in may backyard scaring my kids and taking up space.
Price - Exaco's range from $99-$159... some of these others are $299-$499. UGH.! In fact the one with my folks in the picture is $499. That is a complete waste of your money.
Of course do your own comparing, but I would keep the Exaco on the short list.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pest Control

Today, I was still recovering from some miserable bug I got on Friday. Some kind of a food poisoning with stomach cramps galore.... had me sleeping on the bathroom floor. We've all been through this. I felt a little better on Saturday, but without coffee and my favorite addiction Diet Pepsi, I crashed. So, now I am going to try to kick the Pepsi habit. Not coffee though there are too many good things in coffee to drop it.

Anyway, I was re-hanging a sagging gate, fixing a dutch door on my shed and some neighbors stopped by; Dad and two of his three boys. Dad is a botanist with a minor in entomology. He walked through the garden and mentioned how chicken manure is probably the best fertilizer out there, along with rabbit dooky, and then talked about a terrible problem we are having with a moth in the State of California, which orginated in Australia and doing some significant damage out here. He is a super mellow guy with the disposition of a scientist crossed with Fred Rogers. So why am I telling you this? He told me about the coolest sight for us "types"

Here it is.. managed by UC Davis, it has an answer for nearly any question you might have on pests. Now, it is regional in nature and I am sure other colleges may have similar sites, but this will give you a huge head start on managing your pests and encourage you to seek similar information from your local "Go-To" University.

Check out this site, well worth the perusal.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

One 4th of July Tip...

My tomatos were going nuts. I had purchased those spherical upside down funnel wire mesh holder-upper, but realized quickly, these things are not going to do the job. So, off I motor to Navlets a local nursery and begin looking over the wares as it relates to tomato supports. The choices were...

Super expensive, powder coated funnel wire meshes - $27/ea and come in a variety of colors.

1" x 1" redwood stakes in a pack of 6 - $6.99 per pack.

Bamboo articulating fencing, which is really cool, but again is $16.99/ea.

I settled on 1 x 6 bamboo posts - loose, which were $1.49/ea. I bought six of them and used some wire at home to knit them together. I personally think this is the least expensive way to go and the coolest. In order to drive them in deep, I actually used a steel foundation stake and drove it into the ground, then came in a drove the bamboo. It worked perfectly and I got out of there for under $10.00. It supports 4 tomato plants - currently, but is now infinitely expandable and can travel in any direction.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Happy 4th of July

I will be working the garden and trapping rats~!

Enjoy your holiday...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tilipia Alert

I was just reading to buy Tilipia from USA breeders. There are tons of breeders of Tilapia in the USA and quite honestly, I don't think you could get them from overseas anyway, they would never clear customs. That being said, I would look into some of the advertisers on the side of this blog and check them out. One of them, Lochow, has numerous fish to choose from and many ideas on pond construction and style.


Besides the fact our chickens have been free to roam the garden since 8 am ( it is now close to 11), they have eaten every spider along "Spooky" fence there is. Yes, we have one of those. You know, the fence that is slightly rotten on the bottom and has spider webs everywhere. Well one of the chickens pulled out a Woolly Mammoth of spiders. It was the size of the chicken. They all wrestled for it ultimately tearing the spider from limb to limb and devouring it in no-time at all. While this a creepy, nothing compares to this...

Why do we insist on having talking Avatars, are people too creepy? Too expensive? Too large a file? I think this is Animatronic hell. "Hi buy my bird feeders and they will attract pterodactyls and then you won't sleep cause you'll be thinking about my talking head" ( you need to read this with one tone and a little herky-jerky). Why do people think this is cool? Let's think of the market. Outdoorsy people, farmer-like, gardners, possibly older.... 35+ Do we (me included) think this is a sell?

Anyway, I think my point is... chickens are incredible pest control. I have read where farms no longer have flea problems due to chickens...really this is all too cool. Manure, pest control, food and fun. My Aussie is fun, but leaves a lot of poopy to haul, that is worthless and sheds everywhere. Thank goodness he is scary, cause it keeps the creepy door to door sales people from peddling their $100 a pint citrus colon cleanser.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gardening With A Drip!

I have spent the better part of two days installing and testing a new drip system. I feel like the drip here... it makes me nuts when it takes this much time to put something in. The system was designed to irrigate the garden and send water to the chicken coops waterer.

So, after making a short 20ft trench about 12 inches deep, no worry about freezing here, otherwise 18 inches would be better, I dropped Schedule 40 PVC into the trench. The nice thing about S40 PVC is the wall of the pipe is thicker and less likely to puncture or break in the event I come back in a couple years and put a shovel into that same area...which I will.

I bought a simple little kit of RainDrip... Made in the USA!!!! WOW.. Small plastic parts? Made in the USA... you're kidding!? BUY RAINDRIP

The kit was $20 and it came with 11 sprinklers and more tubing than a hospital. It was super easy to install, although the instructions were really sad... there weren't any. I got the drip system in and viola' it worked... and worked well. I will add and subtract from it as time passes... bubblers, soakers... etc.

The next thing I installed was a shut off valve for hooking up the automatic waterer for the chicken coop. The chickens are really messy with their water. Actually, they are gross. They have no mental switch that says - "Hey don't take a dump in the water!" Nothing happening here, so you need to mount the waterer up, above their need to scratch and higher than their rear-ends. This is a good tip. There food needs the same treatment.

At the end of the day, everything is working - new Toro Automatic Timer, it is a 6 station unit, drip system for a 30 x 15 garden and a spigot for the chickens. The total cost for it all was $104.00

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tilapia and more... and more and more....

Something to keep in mind when stocking tilapia.... they reproduce like rabbits. You will need a place to keep the fingerlings and, if you like, sell them. Here is another article by an author from the Philippines.

The "food fish of the 21st century." That is how Dr. Kevin Fitzsimmons, president of the World Aquaculture Society, called tilapia. After carps and salmonids, tilapia is now the third most important fish around the world and is considered the single most important aquaculture product.

"Historically, the introduction of the first tilapia species, the Mozambique tilapia, in the Philippines in 1950 was initially not well-accepted by the industry because of the lack of appropriate culture techniques," said Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, the executive director of the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Aquaculture and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD).

"Growth of the fish in ponds was stunted with too much breeding and overpopulation," added the man who popularized tilapia consumption in the country. "The small size and dark color of the fish did not also appeal to local consumers."

The coming of the Nile tilapia in the 1970s improved the acceptance of tilapia in the Philippines because of its lighter color and faster growth compared to the earlier-introduced tilapia. "The development of technologies for the improved breeding and culture of the fish and its affordable price are the main reasons why the tilapia is now the fish of the masses," Dr. Guerrero pointed out.

He found out that tilapias are among the easiest and most profitable fish to farm. "The tilapia has good attributes that make it suitable for aquaculture," he said. "It matures early, breeds readily and is a hardy fish."

The Philippines now ranks fourth among the top ten largest tilapia producers in the world -- after China, Egypt and Thailand. Other top producing countries, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are Indonesia, Uganda, Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.

While most people raise tilapia in cages in lakes, and rivers, the fish can also be grown in ponds, according to the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation, Inc. based in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

"The size of the pond should be determined by the number of fish you want to raise," said Roy C. Alimoane, the MBRLC director. "A good guide is 2-3 mature fish per square meter of water surface. The depth of the pond should be one meter with water not less than three-fourths meter deep." The water should be managed so that it will not flow continuously through the pond.

Before stocking the pond with tilapia, it must be drained thoroughly and weeds and unwanted fish that may be present are removed. The pond is allowed to dry up until it cracks before refilling with fresh, clean water.

As the pond is newly constructed, it is highly recommended that the pond be fertilized. "Apply fertilizer one week before stocking it with tilapia fingerlings," Alimoane said. "Apply chicken manure on the pond bottom with water depth of about 6 centimeters at the rate of one kilo for every 10 square meters." Pond fertilization is done once a month to insure good production of algae.

Farmers are advised to buy their first supply of tilapia fingerlings from a reliable fishpond owner. "If fingerlings are unavailable, you need about 20-30 pairs of good breeders to start reproducing in your tilapia pond of 10 by 20 feet," Alimoane said.

"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," he said. "Allow the water in the pond to mix gradually with the water in the fish container before putting the fish into the pond."

In maintaining the pond and providing care for the tilapia, here are some pointers from MBRLC:

* 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 fish food by adding more fertilizer. 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. (As another source of income, you can sell those excess fingerlings to other farmers in the area.)

* Plant kangkong and gabi at one portion 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.

* Prevent seepages and leakages by patching them with mud. Clear the pond dikes of weeds. Check the gates occasionally to prevent entry of other fish species and avoid loss of stock. If your home lot is easily flooded, place stones around the top of dikes to prevent the escape of fish if the water overflows.

* Plant trees within the sources of water to maintain the flow. Protect the riverbeds from toxic waste water and pesticides and avoid dumping of garbage. In addition, plant trees and grasses near the dike to avoid erosion.

"Tilapia is here to stay in the country," said Dr. Guerrero. "Its farming should be further promoted in upland and coastal areas of the country where fisheries production will be adversely affected by climate change."

To make tilapia available to all Filipinos, certain problems like the lack of quality fingerlings in areas like the Visayas and Mindanao and the need for extension services to fish farmers must be solved first.

"The establishment of more private hatcheries and the pushing of a national extension program will definitely help," he said.

Good tips and it should be understood, you need a climate where warmer summers exist and not so freezing winters occur.

In The Garden

Those of you who are new to this blog, don't know I have chickens too. Here is a picture of the chickens in garden. They ate bugs, weeds and pooped in the garden.. who cool is this?

So, here - they are free and are acting like Tom Hanks upon returning from his Island Experience, in Castaway, accept they don't appear nervous, pensive or sad because their Rooster married someone else and now have a chick. Anyway, they are happy and eating every bug in the yard, plus they are eating weeds!!!! How cool is this, natural weed control?
Interesting thing happened - they got startled by another bird... Blue Jay and they all hid under the corn and layed perfectly still. I thought they all died at once. With Jacko, Farrah, Ed, Fred Travalena and Billy Mays dieing, maybe the awful trend hit my chicks!!!!
More to come