Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hoophouse in October

For us, Fall began on Friday. Though outside night time temps have dropped below freezing a couple times already, the rain began just 2 days ago. And this is how fall has affected the greenhouse. It's WET! Huge droplets of water tremble above our heads, splatting on us when they're too heavy to hang on. When it rains, it rains inside too; the drops shake off the inside of the plastic.

So we don't like this of course. We're trying to figure out a solution. A second layer of plastic, stretched just an inch above the existing layer, is our first plan. (Should have done it when it was dry!) The fans are already fanning - doesn't seem to change anything. Tomorrow I'll try wiping the insides with a big shammy on a stick, and wring it out outside. Jeff's installing the heater with fan, as I write. Somehow the boiler will be heating the greenhouse - hmmm, not sure how, a Jeff thing. We've been feeding wood to the boiler for awhile now, to keep the water around 70 degrees for the fish. We covered the fish tanks, hoping to eliminate some evaporation. 

The good thing about the rain - all our rain tanks are full again! When we had a water loss this summer we had to use city water and wait 3 days for it to de-gas because we had no rain water left. 

Thanks to Angela for feeding the fish and the boiler when we're gone - seems we've been gone a lot this fall, with one thing and another - got to stop that! Angela had to use the tractor and go get wood, and shove it all in there, and break it up to fit, and get her hair all smokey - twice a day! All of you who plan to start your backyard systems - buy a solar heating unit - that's my female opinion! Or maybe one of those cute little pellet stoves they're selling for this purpose. 
But thanks to Angela and Alister the fish are fat and happy. Two weeks ago, Alister was giving a tour to an interested party. 
"And here are the fish, in these tanks here, oops tour is over." 
A pipe had blown, and the fish were gasping at the bottom of the tank. They were saved by the two of them running buckets of water back and forth from the sump.  The pipe blew at the sump, where it gets quite a jolt of pressure each time the pump comes on. Fixed now.
These are some tough fish, let me tell you!
And here is their first photo: 

Pretty terrible photo! Need an underwater camera! But you can see the variety of sizes. Weird how they grow at such different rates. We'll probably have to size and separate them at some point. 

We're feeling a little ignorant about fish-raising (aquatics). Jeff is working on going to a one day intensive seminar at the end of the month on raising fish, and also on greenhouse environmental management. 

About 2 or 3 weeks ago, everything started to really take off at a new speed. The tomatoes I almost threw out because I thought they must have blight,now have lots of new growth on them. Some of the tomatoes are maxing out the height of the greenhouse and more. The basil and lettuce, which were kind of stalled for awhile (temperatures too high??) have grown inches in days. 
I'm not sure why this is. The chemistry is about the same, except the nitrates are lower due to our most recent water loss. And I've only given the system one shot of maxicrop - right after the water loss. 

I'll leave all the heat lovers in while they're still loving it, but I also planted lots of cool weather plants today - broccoli, kale, cauliflower, lettuces, spinach, arugula.  So we'll see who does better as the weather gets colder.

Found a ton of aphids on the parsley, so I took it all out and fed it to the fish. Also the thyme had something on it - spider mites I think. Those I pulled out, shook all around in the fish tank to get the bugs off, and replanted. Trimmed all the herbs, stuck some of the trimmings in the gravel to grow more. This works really well in this system - I've put cuttings of all the herbs, and tomatoes, into the gravel and they grow like crazy. 

This would be prettier if I hadn't just picked all the ripe tomatoes. Making salsa tonight! New plantings at left.

Our own rainforest

Flashy Troutback and Red Sails lettuce

The basil bed
We've been seeing a business adviser as well - he's helping us figure out all the necessary steps to making money from aquaponics. He's nice - "very cutting edge, and he's proud to be part of it," he says. 

So consider this - you too can grow food all year round in your own backyard! With just one tank and 3 growbeds, you can feed a family of 5 all the veggies and protein they can eat. Watch "Food Inc" and think about it! Jeff and I would love to feed the world (sans pesticides and roundup and GMO's) by promoting urban farming to anyone who will listen. But if you can't garden, then "know your farmer." (Us) :)


  1. Love reading your posts - you have a flair for interesting writing! Those plants look amazing! All the kinks you've experienced remind me of our experience importing our cars! How was your family vacation in Victoria? And how is Greg enjoying his classes? Pray all is going well for everyone - You and your venture are on my 'pretty much' daily prayer list! Love, Jenny

  2. Wow, this is really coming along! Quick question: is the "indoor rain" due to leaking, or condensation?

    1. The indoor rain is due to condensation. I guess its the simple cold outside, warm inside thing. The fish tanks are covered, but I imagine there is still moisture escaping. We have fans and ventilation, and will be hooking up heat this weekend, from the boiler. Do you have any ideas?