Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Aquaponics setup

Laura didn't give up twisting hay or grinding oats in her coffee grinder to keep her family warm and alive during the long winter....and I won't give up before my aquaponics system is feeding Perry and I this winter! Fresh kale in February; sounds wonderful.

We got the giant tank on craigslist for the fish, and a couple smaller tanks (for free!) for the grow beds. Next step, plumbing. Everything I know about plumbing, I learned from my dad. And mostly what I learned is that things are always more complicated and will take longer than you had anticipated.  But when did this prairie girl let something like lack of knowledge keep her from doing something awesome? (See, for example, the 2005 move to Japan with a vocabulary of 4 words.)

So, off to Home Depot!
I love that place. Not nearly as much as I love my little neighborhood hardware store, but I get to pose on ladders at Home Depot, so that is worth a few points. This was the first of many trips to get the tiny but vital piece we hadn't realized we would need. We're buds with the lady who works the return counter from 7-9pm.
 The tank on the left is for fish; the right side is for plants. The basic idea is that the fish poop in their tank, then that water is pumped up into the plant grow bed, where it fertilizes that plants, which clean the water and send it back. That's the idea; we just had to make it work. And we mostly did. It took a few weeks to collect all the necessary parts, but it's up and running and now we are fancy people who have a basement water feature. It's pretty soothing to hear the pump running, like we have an edible zen garden white noise machine.
And we got to bond over plumbing. Which is half the point of the whole project. It's not like this aquaponics project is going to drastically cut our food bills or replace the grocery store. I'm looking forward to our kale bills going down drastically, but it's more of a useful hobby and science experiment.

Normal people go to the movies on dates. Maybe they eat out at a fancy restaurant. And there's nothing wrong with that, but we are people who sit on the basement floor and figure out how to plumb an aquaponics tank when we have an evening together. And I think Laura would approve.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Basement homestead

Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't have a basement in her dugout house. Or in her tar paper claim shanty. But if she did, I bet she would have tried her hand at aquaponics.

I am many things, but I am not a dabbler. If I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. And it is going to be awesome! I read this post on aquaponics (and as I was reading it, P sent it to me because he was also reading it), and decided that I had to learn everything I could about it. And it's brilliant and simple--fish and vegetables all taking care of each other and feeding me.

Like most things that are simple, it quickly became complicated. I found the best stock tank EVER on craigslist for $50, and sent P off to get it in his SUV. Suzukis are big, right? And 150 gallons isn't really that huge, right? Ha! It took a second trip, with a homemade luggage rack on top of his car to get it.
Any tool can be the right tool. And why would you buy a fancy luggage rack for your car when you could make one out of 2x6s and some carpet scraps?
And I loved every minute of it. The problem solving, the craigslist haggling, the driving on surface roads all the way to the North Side from Burnsville with a tenuously attached stock tank on the roof….Laura would be so proud.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The little house on the North Side

I have this recurring daydream about being Laura Ingalls Wilder, growing up on the prairie of South Dakota (check!); spending winter eating applesauce I made from hand-picked apples (check!); whipping the local children into shape in the local schoolhouse (check!); mending my clothes by candle light as I wait out the long winter (check!)

And now I have P, who calls me his Half Pint, pitching in to help run the farm. Only the farm is a .1 acre city lot on the North Side of Minneapolis. And the apples were hand-picked by my grandma on her real farm. And the local schoolhouse is definitely not one room, and my mending is mostly done in the soft glow of a CFL bulb because I save candles for romantic dinners.

I'm going to document some of our adventures as we create a tiny farm and make our little house into a cozy home. There will be some ridiculous missteps along the way, which I will do my best to reframe as learning experiences.

It's not a claim shanty like Laura had, but it'll do!