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FarmShorts NorthBay: Aqua Gardens Family Farm

Long Overdue Update!

David came up a few weeks ago and delivered some new signs. Notice that there is no lettuce on the table. WE SOLD OUT!!
David came up a few weeks ago and delivered some new signs. Notice that there is no lettuce on the table. WE SOLD OUT!!

Hello Hello!

Today’s Quote: “Great sailors aren’t made on calm seas”.

I know I haven’t been keeping the blog abreast as to exactly what has been going on at Aqua Gardens Family Farm, but it has been a race against time with winter closing in quickly. With the additional help of my close friend, colleague, and Aquapimp Extraordinaire Chris Thompson we have been quickly moving through the final and following components: Radiant heating system for heating the water, enclosing and insulating the fish house, dialing in our rain water collection system, installing the environmental control computer, and building a homemade gasifying heater that uses waste oil as fuel and will eventually produce hydrogen which will power generators to provide our system with electricity!

The need to get our water heating system up and running and our fish house enclosed and insulated before the rains and cold weather cool the water down to unhealthy levels for the fish and plants.

The fish that we use, Tilapia and Koi, metabolize faster in warmer water (75 degrees F, however the Koi seem to not mind cooler temperatures as much the tilapia), which means that they eat more.  When they eat more, they poop more, which fertilizes the plants.  The fertilizer in an aquaponic system is often not considered sufficient until about a year of fertilizing by the fish. Being on a stringent budget, we were not able to purchase the number of fish that we needed in order to get our system up to “full fertilization” as quickly as possible, so we bought thousands of small feeder goldfish, which as they grow, will add exponential weight of fish to the system, which in turn exponentially increases the amount of food they eat, and thus the amount of fertilizer in our system.  So…being that we are under-fertilized, it is of the utmost importance for us to keep the fish eating, fertilizing, and growing at the fastest rate possible, which will in turn allow our lettuce to grow faster.

Heating Systems

Radiant Heating System for the Water: We have two zones that need to be heated. The water and the air.  The water will help keep the air warm, but it also adds a wet heat to the air, which could induce mold in the lettuce, so we need to also heat the air with dry heat. With diligent work from Chris, our radiant heating system is installed and functioning well (See Photo). We are using a propane on-demand water to circulate hot water through PEX tubing underneath the water troughs, which transfers the heat from the tube to the water in the troughs.  This is the most efficient heating system for the water, but we are going to take it one step further and are in the process of adding solar, pool water heating panels to the system, so that we will be using the sun to heat our water during the day and the propane heater at night.

While the heat from the water helps keep the air temperature elevated at night, we need more heat as well as dry heat to keep the temperature and humidity down in the air.  Chris had the wonderful idea to no vent the tankless water heater’s exhaust, which is CO2 out of the greenhouse, but to vent it into the greenhouse. This adds heat and CO2 to the greenhouse environment, which improves the growth rate of our lettuce. The idea was simple yet brilliant and has greatly improved our environment. Great job Chris!

Rocket Heaters

We have also been researching and are starting to collect the components to build our “air” heating system.  This will be a gasifying oil burning rocket stove that produces hydrogen as a bi-product and burns used vegetable or motor oil.  This type of heater is very, very efficient, is a great use for old oil, and the hydrogen will eventually be able to run small generators which will produce the electricity to run the fans and pumps for the greenhouse.  You can research the Babington Burner, rocket mass heaters, and gasifying stoves on the internet to learn how you can fabricate these stoves using materials found around the home and industrial yards.

Some other really cool points of interest are:

-Farmer’s Markets and roadside stands have shown us a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for our product, Living Gourmet Salad Mix. Most importantly, people are starting to realize the value in a salad mix that doesn’t go bad within 2-5 days, but stays fresh for up to 4 weeks!

-Friday December 7th is the inspection date for our Organic Certification which will allow us to sell our lettuce to high end health food stores.

-We had our first hatch of baby fish (fry).

-We may have the opportunity to provide our local co-op Ukiah Natural Foods with Aquaponic Wheatgrass!  Very exciting stuff!!

Please keep posted for future updates (hopefully much more often) and you can follow us Facebook to at Aqua Gardens Family Farm.

 

Our fish-house is enclosed and insulated, which will keep it dry and decrease heat loss while the water travels through the fish tanks.
Our fish-house is enclosed and insulated, which will keep it dry and decrease heat loss while the water travels through the fish tanks.

 

Inside the Fish-House. Ahhhhh! Its SOOOOO cozy. I almost wish I were a fish.
Inside the Fish-House. Ahhhhh! Its SOOOOO cozy. I almost wish I were a fish.
The lights which are moving on light tracks keep the plants growing on dark, rainy days. 1/3 of the greenhouse is planted!
The lights which are moving on light tracks keep the plants growing on dark, rainy days. 1/3 of the greenhouse is planted!
The tankless water heater with the thermostat controller. When this is burning, the exhaust delivers heat and CO2 into the air of the greenhouse. In the permaculture world, this is called “Stacking Functions”. Great Recommendation Chris!!!
The tankless water heater with the thermostat controller. When this is burning, the exhaust delivers heat and CO2 into the air of the greenhouse. In the permaculture world, this is called “Stacking Functions”. Great Recommendation Chris!!!

 

An Eventful Weekend!

Well we had an action packed weekend.  This kids helped harvest our first planting in the Big greenhouse.  We loaded up a bunch of lettuce and headed to the Ukiah Farmer’s Market, which is quite a bit more busy than our local Potter Valley Farmer’s Market that he have been going to.  We were met with enthusiasm and curiosity about our lettuce as Cora and Jaden helped take money and giving change while dad answered questions.  We were thrilled with the reception that greeted us at the market.

Sunday morning, we were harvesting the rest of our lettuce when the great mishap happened. The parking break on the work truck was not fully engaged and it rolled down the hill and into our pond.  Luckily nobody was near the truck and nobody was hurt. I rowed around in our row boat, fishing out items from the water.  We finished our harvesting and went to the Potter Valley Farmer’s Market for a great afternoon of visiting with our local neighbors. It’s a great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday.

Afterward a local our friend and local farmer Matt came over with his boys and helped pull the truck out with the wench on the 4X4SURF (our heavy duty camper built for surfing Baja). The 4X4SURF proves its worth once again!!! The kids sure enjoyed watching the truck get pulled out of the pond.

Things are coming together nicely.

Jaden and Cora helped man the booth. We had a great time!
Jaden and Cora helped man the booth. We had a great time!
Lettuce Raft Just Before Packaging
Lettuce Raft Just Before Packaging
Cutting the roots off from under the rafts. The worm bin is going to feast tonight!
Cutting the roots off from under the rafts. The worm bin is going to feast tonight!
Cora and Adia had their roles too, pulling labels off of the net pots.
Cora and Adia had their roles too, pulling labels off of the net pots.
Jaden’s role in harvesting is spraying the rafts clean of roots and leafs. He’s a great helper, especially when he gets to spray water.
Jaden’s role in harvesting is spraying the rafts clean of roots and leafs. He’s a great helper, especially when he gets to spray water.
Just about to winch the truck out of the pond with the all mighty 4X4SURF
Just about to winch the truck out of the pond with the all mighty 4X4SURF
They’re all SOOO cute!
They’re all SOOO cute!

 

 

Two Week Update

Here on the farm, things have been moving along nicely since our Blue Moon Planting.  The environment in the greenhouse seems to be keeping the lettuce happy as seen in the photos of the plants planted just two weeks ago! We are finalizing the installation of the computer environment controller which will automate the cooling system and save us energy and money. We have paid the deposit for our Organic Certification application and finalized artwork for our labels!

A fire broke out on Cow Mountain, just across the valley.  We got some really great sunset photos! In the foreground are our friends from Farmocopia, Sharif and his son Ambrose.

Have a great Sunday! We are off to the Potter Valley Farmers Market today!