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How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters

 
Chugiakian

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07/13/2014 03:20 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Are your squirrel cage fans powered by the wind blowing through them, or are they electric, That is such a good idea!!
 Quoting: Lil Sis

My first attempt at inflation was with pure wind-powered inflation (I once saw a pic of an Amish fellow's contraption of that type), but it didn't work well enough, so now I use electric squirrel cage fans. The fan kits are ~$140 and use around 10 cents of electricity per day.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


OP,
can you elaborate a little more on the double wall and inflating the greenhouse walls?

thanks.
 Quoting: Chugiakian

Sure, here's how I set it up--

After creating the skeleton/shell (getting the pvc arches in place and attaching purlins across their undersides to give rigidity to the structure), I cover it with two big sheets of greenhouse plastic, right on top of one another, each one being big enough to totally cover the greenhouse by itself. I dig small troughs along the lengthwise (north and south) sides of the tunnel, place the extra plastic on those sides in the troughs, and bury it to hold it down and to make a fairly air-tight seal. On the ends of the tunnel (where I've built wooden end walls), I use small strips of wood that I screw down onto the extra plastic hanging over those ends, so that there's a mostly air-tight seal on the ends, too.

So at this point I've got the pvc skeleton covered by the two big sheets of greenhouse film, and the film is held down on the long sides by dirt and on the ends by small strips of wood screwed into the end walls. I then install the inflation kit.

The inflation kit has a hose that pulls air from outside (through a hole I cut in the wooden endwall), through the "squirrel cage" fan, and into the space between the two layers of plastic. This requires slicing open the inner layer of plastic and mounting the exit pipe in that opening, which the equipment then seals. Then, when you turn on the fan, it pulls air from outside and pushes it in between the two layers of plastic, causing the outer layer to bulge outward and the inner layer to bulge inward. The inflated space in between the layers (4"?) serves as a great insulator, and the rigidity of the outer layer (it looks and feels like an inflated balloon) prevents it from being whipped in the wind.

It's far simpler than my words make it sound! The pictures that come with the inflation kit make installation easy. Here's a YouTube video I found that might help to better convey what's going on:


 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Wow!
Where did you get the inflation kit from?
I have a small 190cfm blower motor. is this too powerful?
Chugiakian
Rabid Wolf

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07/13/2014 03:22 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
A quick question for you OP, did you line the bottom of the pits with plastic, or do you simply top off the fish water tank as needed?
Rabid Wolf

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07/13/2014 03:24 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Wow!
Where did you get the inflation kit from?
I have a small 190cfm blower motor. is this too powerful?
 Quoting: Chugiakian


If I may suggest, you could always hook up your blower motor to a high amperage dimmer switch and adjust as needed. :)
Anonymous Coward
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07/13/2014 03:50 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Very cool. I am looking at doing an aeroponic vertical system to maximize sqft and not having to use any soil.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 04:05 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Just where are your "harsh" Winters?
Anywhere that you can "dig down" a couple feet and achieve some geothermal heating is a very mild climate indeed; or you're siting your greenhouse over or near an active geyser.

Plenty of places with "harsh" Winters require 5' or more burial depth for water/waste piping, just so the liquids won't freeze. If the pipe has continuous water content, like a water supply line, the pipe has to be insulated a couple layers before it is buried, and likely buried closer to 8' or 10'.
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

I live in Kansas, so harsh here = -10F to -15F

It's true that the frost line goes down a bit IF you're just talking about bare open land. But we're not. We're talking about building a greenhouse over that land, digging down to yield a pit, AND insulating it very well. Those are very important considerations, and they explain why I have success.

Got much gravel or rock content to your soil? Unless you line your pit with 6 mil plastic and probably use styrfoam insulation on either side of the plastic sheeting, you're just making a conduit pathway for "frigid" air that exists in the loose soil. Rocky soils don't pack, air pockets exist in the soil and they freeze quickly and solidly. Like making your pit in a glacier and expecting a geothermal effect...
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

I did insulate underneath my high tunnel aquaponics system with styrofoam. You're not the only person to have thought of such things.

And the explanation for why I don't bother with bottom insulation in the semi-pit tunnel is touched on above: the heat trapped by the greenhouse plus the heat coming up from the soil, even in my extremely sandy region, is more than enough to totally overwhelm the frigid air flowing down through the "conduits" in between the grains.


What's it cost to heat your outbuilding/greenhouse? What's it cost to build it right?
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

$0/year to heat for general food production (which I find to be pretty affordable). Well, if we count the inflation fans that provide insulation, then it's about 10 cents per day. I only provide extra heat if I want to jack the water temps up over 80F and breed the fish during the winter.

My first winter with my high tunnel aquaponics system I was not breeding...so I left it entirely without electrical heat. The lowest the water temps got were into the low 50's (F).

Good design/engineering eliminates almost all need for electricity.

So I guess I'd say that these simple 1st generation systems are already built right enough to kick ass. And at very little cost: $2,500 for the high tunnel aquaponics system, $1,500 for the semi-pit tunnel system.


You talk about Tilapia as if that trash fish were a fine meal. Catfish, trout, salmon; those are quality meats. Tilapia is just a recent resource the fish mongers can still sell halfway cheap. Nobody who knows fish wants to eat that shit, so why grow it?
 Quoting: Lester 35595779


The quality of tilapia meat is determined greatly (as it is with all fish) by the environment it is raised in and by what the animals are fed. Since I grow mine in pristine conditions with extremely healthy diets, they taste as good as or better than any native gamefish I've ever had (bass, crappie, catfish, etc)...and I've had a lot. My tilapia taste 10 times better than the best catfish I've ever had. Sounds like you've just never had clean tilapia.

As for why to grow tilapia? Because I'm going at this from a subsistence point of view, not a high class point of view. Tilapia have the best feed conversion ratios and are extremely robust (as long as the water is kept warm enough for them), making them very easy for the average person to raise. Common feed conversion ratios for tilapia are darn near 1:1 (so a pound of feed is converted into almost a pound of fish weight). Mine are even better: I get about 3 pounds of growth for every pound of feed I give them...because I create ecosystems that naturally produce an abundance of forage for them, especially algae. Since my blue tilapia are almost entirely vegetarian, and since they love algae, I only really give them extra commercial feed as more of a nutritional supplement as opposed to being a primary sustenance. Not only does that make for inexpensive growing, it makes for far healthier meat on the dinner table, since commercial feeds have all sorts of nasty things that bio-accumulate in farmed fish like salmon, trout, catfish, etc that rely almost exclusively on commercial feed when grown commercially.


There is no free-lunch in frigid climes. You got routine overnite lows of -10F or much lower, you don't waste time looking for nonexistent geothermal gains. Insulation don't make heat, it just preserves what you have.

Maybe you have some kind of Korean underground ducting for moving the furnace exhaust from your house and route it so it heats the pad of your greenhouse? That would be scavenging and pretty efficient. Not too practical if your GH is more than 15' from your house & exhaust vent. Like some of the Rocket Stoves, but doubtful you're using anything renewable or home brewed to heat your home. Heat is serious stuff if you live where it is really cold...
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

You sound like Baghdad Bob. I'm not telling you untested theory, I'm telling you what I've already been successfully doing for years now. My original background was in engineering and physics, and I designed these systems to do what they are in fact doing.


Since I took the time to respectfully reply to you despite your caustic comments, will you alter your tone going forward?
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 04:12 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Where did you get the inflation kit from?
I have a small 190cfm blower motor. is this too powerful?
 Quoting: Chugiakian

I ordered mine from Growers Supply (a.k.a. FarmTek). Here's a link to the kits I mentioned: [link to www.growerssupply.com (secure)]

That blower fan of yours is a lot bigger than mine. Like Rabid Wolf mentions, you could still use it as long as you wire in a dimmer switch.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 04:20 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
A quick question for you OP, did you line the bottom of the pits with plastic, or do you simply top off the fish water tank as needed?
 Quoting: Rabid Wolf

My semi-pit tunnel is totally bare-earth on the bottom and sides. In the future I may cover the sides with plastic mulch to keep weeds from growing.

My high tunnel aquaponics system and garden pond have styrofoam insulation on the bottom and heavy duty 45 mil epdm pond liners on top of that.
Rabid Wolf

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07/13/2014 04:30 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
A quick question for you OP, did you line the bottom of the pits with plastic, or do you simply top off the fish water tank as needed?
 Quoting: Rabid Wolf

My semi-pit tunnel is totally bare-earth on the bottom and sides. In the future I may cover the sides with plastic mulch to keep weeds from growing.

My high tunnel aquaponics system and garden pond have styrofoam insulation on the bottom and heavy duty 45 mil epdm pond liners on top of that.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


I certainly applaud you for creative use of materials. (like you, I prefer function over form)

However, I live in Georgia, so I need to figure out a decent way to keep a greenhouse like that cool enough to grow subtropical and temperate zone crops. :/ hmm...

I am on a well so evaporating water is not a problem, maybe I'll just have to leave it open sided during the spring, summer, and fall, and close it up just for winter.

You gave me lots of great ideas OP, so I thank you!

wolfflowers
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 04:45 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
A quick question for you OP, did you line the bottom of the pits with plastic, or do you simply top off the fish water tank as needed?
 Quoting: Rabid Wolf

My semi-pit tunnel is totally bare-earth on the bottom and sides. In the future I may cover the sides with plastic mulch to keep weeds from growing.

My high tunnel aquaponics system and garden pond have styrofoam insulation on the bottom and heavy duty 45 mil epdm pond liners on top of that.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


I certainly applaud you for creative use of materials. (like you, I prefer function over form)

However, I live in Georgia, so I need to figure out a decent way to keep a greenhouse like that cool enough to grow subtropical and temperate zone crops. :/ hmm...

I am on a well so evaporating water is not a problem, maybe I'll just have to leave it open sided during the spring, summer, and fall, and close it up just for winter.

You gave me lots of great ideas OP, so I thank you!

:wolfflowers:
 Quoting: Rabid Wolf

Glad to help :)

You might want to look into using shade cloth. It's relatively inexpensive to buy and stretch over the top of a greenhouse, and some crops can still do well in highly filtered light (like chard and bananas).
bigD111

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07/13/2014 04:50 PM

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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Excellent! This may be a life saver down the road! 5 stars!
deplorably republican
pool
repugnant ideological philosopher

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07/13/2014 04:55 PM

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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
We use lake water for irrigation too and it has great fertilizer qualities.

high5
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Close your eyes and quiet your mind and describe the surprising images that appear in your awareness. Self liberation for seeing with naked awareness...move to freedom with naked awareness. ~Russell Targ
Loup Garou

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07/13/2014 04:56 PM

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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
My high tunnel aquaponic garden was previously featured on C2C back in 2011 shortly after I had built it: [link to www.coasttocoastam.com]

I'm writing to share an update because my project has expanded to such a degree--and in such strange directions--that I think a lot of you will be fascinated by what I'm doing and will hopefully be inspired to create your own systems.


Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope it can be helpful to some of you.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


OP, how do you keep the snakes out of the green house and pond? I live in the south and we have more than our share of the poison ones.

Next, the electricity around these parts is off more than on most of the time, don't ask me why, but everyday for at least an hour. How would one operate this system without electricity, or is it not possible, ( I don't live near any running water like streams or rivers)

Thanks

Last Edited by Loup Garou on 07/13/2014 04:57 PM
Just because YOU don’t believe
in the Rougarou; or the Loup Garou, don’t make you safe; No !

The Constitution is a blend of 'moral certitude' -- which is one of the reasons that criminals are determined to be rid of it and We the People must be even more determined to defend it.

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." - Thomas Paine

The only thing the Illuminati fears is an independent person who can live, eat, sleep, stay warm and defend themselves separate from Federal help. Pray that the Lord gives us more time! The End is near and time is short!

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. ~Proverbs 18:2


For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible

"A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - James Keller

Checkd, Keked, and Rekt!
Rabid Wolf

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07/13/2014 05:07 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
OP, how do you keep the snakes out of the green house and pond? I live in the south and we have more than our share of the poison ones.

Next, the electricity around these parts is off more than on most of the time, don't ask me why, but everyday for at least an hour. How would one operate this system without electricity, or is it not possible, ( I don't live near any running water like streams or rivers)

Thanks
 Quoting: Loup Garou


I have to build a snake fence too, but haven't decided on the materials to use yet. (also to keep out the deer and other critters)

As to the pump, I have been thinking about that one ever since I first read this thread.

I plan on going with a 12 volt water pump hooked up to both an ac to dc converter from the house power, and a car battery hooked up to 12 volt solar panel/charger in case the power goes out for long periods of time. (about $200 for the pump, converter, battery, and solar panel)

Last Edited by Rabid Wolf on 07/13/2014 05:08 PM
Shurrie

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07/13/2014 05:34 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
OP- I live in Kansas as well, I would love to come and check out your Greenhouse, if you do that kind of thing.
Shurrie
 Quoting: Shurrie

I have given around 3 or 4 dozen tours (all free), and have been happy to do so. On my website I say that personal tours now cost money, but that's just to slow down the influx of visitors who were stopping by unannounced--I've never charged anyone for my time or my insights.

However, the State of Kansas notified me last week that I am to cease all tours until they approve me as a registered agritourism site (even though I never charge anything). So I filled out all the necessary paperwork and should hear back within a month or so. I think they're just trying to help--they're predominantly concerned with liability/safety issues.

Hopefully I get approved. When I do, I'll post something about it on my GreenFin Gardens site and begin setting up structured tours. (It's very time consuming to give individual tours, so I'd prefer to set up organized group tours and give them once a week or once every two weeks. That way I can help others while still being able to get my work done on time.)
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Awesome--I hope they approve you! I will tag your site in Fav's...and keep an eye on it.. I am sure I have checked your site as I have been looking into alternative gardening.. Thanks for what you do and giving us your time.
Spinning on the Pause...Rewind
happy2day2012

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07/13/2014 05:39 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
What is Aquaponics? How it Works & Why an Aquaponic Setup Can Fail.


happy2day2012
Rabid Wolf

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07/13/2014 05:41 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
*snip*
However, the State of Kansas notified me last week that I am to cease all tours until they approve me as a registered agritourism site (even though I never charge anything). So I filled out all the necessary paperwork and should hear back within a month or so. I think they're just trying to help--they're predominantly concerned with liability/safety issues.
*snip*
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Maybe it is the conspiracy-tard in me, but that just seems more like the State wants to know exactly what resources you have that they can simply take from you if the need ever arises.

:/
Judethz
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07/13/2014 06:00 PM

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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
broccoli BUMP banana
Anonymous Coward
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07/13/2014 06:01 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Every home should have one. People need to become self-sufficient and grow their own food.
Loup Garou

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07/13/2014 06:07 PM

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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
OP, how do you keep the snakes out of the green house and pond? I live in the south and we have more than our share of the poison ones.

Next, the electricity around these parts is off more than on most of the time, don't ask me why, but everyday for at least an hour. How would one operate this system without electricity, or is it not possible, ( I don't live near any running water like streams or rivers)

Thanks
 Quoting: Loup Garou


I have to build a snake fence too, but haven't decided on the materials to use yet. (also to keep out the deer and other critters)

As to the pump, I have been thinking about that one ever since I first read this thread.

I plan on going with a 12 volt water pump hooked up to both an ac to dc converter from the house power, and a car battery hooked up to 12 volt solar panel/charger in case the power goes out for long periods of time. (about $200 for the pump, converter, battery, and solar panel)
 Quoting: Rabid Wolf


Thanks wolf, that gives me a starting point , I really had no ideas.
hf
Just because YOU don’t believe
in the Rougarou; or the Loup Garou, don’t make you safe; No !

The Constitution is a blend of 'moral certitude' -- which is one of the reasons that criminals are determined to be rid of it and We the People must be even more determined to defend it.

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." - Thomas Paine

The only thing the Illuminati fears is an independent person who can live, eat, sleep, stay warm and defend themselves separate from Federal help. Pray that the Lord gives us more time! The End is near and time is short!

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. ~Proverbs 18:2


For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible

"A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - James Keller

Checkd, Keked, and Rekt!
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 06:38 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
OP, how do you keep the snakes out of the green house and pond? I live in the south and we have more than our share of the poison ones.

Next, the electricity around these parts is off more than on most of the time, don't ask me why, but everyday for at least an hour. How would one operate this system without electricity, or is it not possible, ( I don't live near any running water like streams or rivers)

Thanks
 Quoting: Loup Garou


I have to build a snake fence too, but haven't decided on the materials to use yet. (also to keep out the deer and other critters)

As to the pump, I have been thinking about that one ever since I first read this thread.

I plan on going with a 12 volt water pump hooked up to both an ac to dc converter from the house power, and a car battery hooked up to 12 volt solar panel/charger in case the power goes out for long periods of time. (about $200 for the pump, converter, battery, and solar panel)
 Quoting: Rabid Wolf


Thanks wolf, that gives me a starting point , I really had no ideas.
hf
 Quoting: Loup Garou

You raise a good question, thank you for calling attention to it. I don't have a solution that I'm content with.

I've battled snakes some. I've never found a venomous snake in my tunnels, but I've had a number of garter snakes, western ribbon snakes, and king snakes. Usually those are all 'good guys' in the garden, but not if you hold fry/fingerlings in shallow pools in the gravel or in other accessible tanks; in that case, the snakes go after the easy meal and eat the fish.

I've only seen a couple of snakes out there in the past year. The sound/vibrations of the blower fan help a little, and my almost constant presence probably deters them, too. When I find a king snake, I let it stay, since I've never seen them in the water going after the fish (unlike the garter and western ribbon snakes), and since they scare off and/or eat other snakes.

I also try to always close up shop each night so that the wildlife can't wander in. My greenhouses are fairly well sealed, so that helps a great deal, but there is still the occasional mole tunnel that pops up and can provide an entrance.

I've considered making giant sticky strips to snag them, then taking them out and releasing them using a solvent, but never have.

I think a snake fence is a good idea and would almost be a necessity in areas with venomous snakes.
Black Diamond
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07/13/2014 06:44 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
I always had problems with white fly when I grew green house vegetables ? How do you control them or is it too cold up there ? I'm in California.
Ashen

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07/13/2014 06:44 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Wow...nicely done OP.
Some very interesting ideas, like insulating below the greenhouse, insulation of greenhouse via air cushion. Those are actually very useful tips, as mine would have to survive in European continental winter (Slovakia). Self-sufficieny is where I want to be, so I'm going towards building Aquaponics system myself, so far just collecting information.
Thank you for posting this, very inspirational material. hf
Anonymous Coward
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07/13/2014 06:51 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Cool OP, good job. Other's getting in too:

[link to livingsystemsinst.org]

.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 07:03 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters

Next, the electricity around these parts is off more than on most of the time, don't ask me why, but everyday for at least an hour. How would one operate this system without electricity, or is it not possible, ( I don't live near any running water like streams or rivers)

Thanks
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949

I currently use a backup generator to handle power outages. The plan is to take everything totally off-grid, but I probably won't do that until I expand and build my new systems, probably next year.

You can generate and store adequate electricity for the inflation fan with a small solar kit and deep cycle battery(ies), since the fan only uses around 40 watts iirc. It's also possible to rig a very small turbine to trickle charge the battery(ies).

If you want to power air pumps/water pumps, that'll increase your electricity needs a little bit, but there are still relatively cheap solar/wind systems that can provide more than enough juice.

I also think it's wise to choose your fish type and stocking density with an eye toward a worst-case scenario. It's possible to raise a lot of tilapia at a low enough density that they can thrive without aeration (or even filtration), so a large enough system of that type could supply you with all the meat you want without having to worry about catastrophic suffocation from electrical failures. If that's the route you go, I'd suggest putting a few apex predators like bass in there to eliminate the possibility of the tilapia overproducing and getting too densely populated.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 07:07 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Wow...nicely done OP.
Some very interesting ideas, like insulating below the greenhouse, insulation of greenhouse via air cushion. Those are actually very useful tips, as mine would have to survive in European continental winter (Slovakia). Self-sufficieny is where I want to be, so I'm going towards building Aquaponics system myself, so far just collecting information.
Thank you for posting this, very inspirational material. hf
 Quoting: Ashen

Thanks :)

The common carp would do extremely well in one of these systems, plus they're way more cold hardy than any tilapia. Carp are even revered as a food fish over there, from what I understand.

There are lots of fun and interesting possibilities, have fun exploring them!
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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07/13/2014 07:16 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
I always had problems with white fly when I grew green house vegetables ? How do you control them or is it too cold up there ? I'm in California.
 Quoting: Black Diamond 59709822

I didn't have any problems until I ordered some infested citrus trees from California. Then I got sooty mold (which grows on white fly poop).

My solution was to get a concentrated jug of neem oil and go bonkers spraying. I think the jug was enough to fill 85 spray bottles (after diluting), and I think I probably went through a half dozen bottles, twice a week for a couple weeks. But after that the problem was over and they haven't been back.

It helps that I'm in Kansas, since there aren't wild white flies outside to keep re-colonizing my greenhouses (I think it gets too cold, like you suggested). So once they're gone, they're gone until I accidentally re-introduce them. But it's a different story in California.

If I were in California, I'd probably have to re-spray with neem oil every month. I'd probably look into biological controls, too. Maybe there's a good creature you could stock that would eat all the white flies? That's how it is with spider mites: you can just stock with good predatory mites, and they keep the bad spider mites under control.
NOLAangel

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07/13/2014 07:17 PM

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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Excellent thread OP! I love gardening and have been wanting to try something like this.

5stars
Put God as the head of your life and everything else will work out.
Anonymous Coward
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07/13/2014 07:27 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Hey OP, how did you anchor the PVC struts into the berm that you built? Did you just push them in the ground at an angle?
Lester
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07/13/2014 07:29 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Just where are your "harsh" Winters?
Anywhere that you can "dig down" a couple feet and achieve some geothermal heating is a very mild climate indeed; or you're siting your greenhouse over or near an active geyser.

Plenty of places with "harsh" Winters require 5' or more burial depth for water/waste piping, just so the liquids won't freeze. If the pipe has continuous water content, like a water supply line, the pipe has to be insulated a couple layers before it is buried, and likely buried closer to 8' or 10'.
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

I live in Kansas, so harsh here = -10F to -15F

It's true that the frost line goes down a bit IF you're just talking about bare open land. But we're not. We're talking about building a greenhouse over that land, digging down to yield a pit, AND insulating it very well. Those are very important considerations, and they explain why I have success.

Got much gravel or rock content to your soil? Unless you line your pit with 6 mil plastic and probably use styrfoam insulation on either side of the plastic sheeting, you're just making a conduit pathway for "frigid" air that exists in the loose soil. Rocky soils don't pack, air pockets exist in the soil and they freeze quickly and solidly. Like making your pit in a glacier and expecting a geothermal effect...
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

I did insulate underneath my high tunnel aquaponics system with styrofoam. You're not the only person to have thought of such things.

And the explanation for why I don't bother with bottom insulation in the semi-pit tunnel is touched on above: the heat trapped by the greenhouse plus the heat coming up from the soil, even in my extremely sandy region, is more than enough to totally overwhelm the frigid air flowing down through the "conduits" in between the grains.


What's it cost to heat your outbuilding/greenhouse? What's it cost to build it right?
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

$0/year to heat for general food production (which I find to be pretty affordable). Well, if we count the inflation fans that provide insulation, then it's about 10 cents per day. I only provide extra heat if I want to jack the water temps up over 80F and breed the fish during the winter.

My first winter with my high tunnel aquaponics system I was not breeding...so I left it entirely without electrical heat. The lowest the water temps got were into the low 50's (F).

Good design/engineering eliminates almost all need for electricity.

So I guess I'd say that these simple 1st generation systems are already built right enough to kick ass. And at very little cost: $2,500 for the high tunnel aquaponics system, $1,500 for the semi-pit tunnel system.


You talk about Tilapia as if that trash fish were a fine meal. Catfish, trout, salmon; those are quality meats. Tilapia is just a recent resource the fish mongers can still sell halfway cheap. Nobody who knows fish wants to eat that shit, so why grow it?
 Quoting: Lester 35595779


The quality of tilapia meat is determined greatly (as it is with all fish) by the environment it is raised in and by what the animals are fed. Since I grow mine in pristine conditions with extremely healthy diets, they taste as good as or better than any native gamefish I've ever had (bass, crappie, catfish, etc)...and I've had a lot. My tilapia taste 10 times better than the best catfish I've ever had. Sounds like you've just never had clean tilapia.

As for why to grow tilapia? Because I'm going at this from a subsistence point of view, not a high class point of view. Tilapia have the best feed conversion ratios and are extremely robust (as long as the water is kept warm enough for them), making them very easy for the average person to raise. Common feed conversion ratios for tilapia are darn near 1:1 (so a pound of feed is converted into almost a pound of fish weight). Mine are even better: I get about 3 pounds of growth for every pound of feed I give them...because I create ecosystems that naturally produce an abundance of forage for them, especially algae. Since my blue tilapia are almost entirely vegetarian, and since they love algae, I only really give them extra commercial feed as more of a nutritional supplement as opposed to being a primary sustenance. Not only does that make for inexpensive growing, it makes for far healthier meat on the dinner table, since commercial feeds have all sorts of nasty things that bio-accumulate in farmed fish like salmon, trout, catfish, etc that rely almost exclusively on commercial feed when grown commercially.


There is no free-lunch in frigid climes. You got routine overnite lows of -10F or much lower, you don't waste time looking for nonexistent geothermal gains. Insulation don't make heat, it just preserves what you have.

Maybe you have some kind of Korean underground ducting for moving the furnace exhaust from your house and route it so it heats the pad of your greenhouse? That would be scavenging and pretty efficient. Not too practical if your GH is more than 15' from your house & exhaust vent. Like some of the Rocket Stoves, but doubtful you're using anything renewable or home brewed to heat your home. Heat is serious stuff if you live where it is really cold...
 Quoting: Lester 35595779

You sound like Baghdad Bob. I'm not telling you untested theory, I'm telling you what I've already been successfully doing for years now. My original background was in engineering and physics, and I designed these systems to do what they are in fact doing.


Since I took the time to respectfully reply to you despite your caustic comments, will you alter your tone going forward?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Sure, I'll alter my tone....

-10/-15F you say, but rather doubtful you get that on a 24/7 basis for months or weeks on end. Correct?

Kind of clueless is my observation about what a "harsh" Winter is.

You might reflect on what I wrote and get off your high-horse. Cool if you think Tilapia is a good protein source. I recall when it came into stores' fresh seafood section as a cost effective alternative to more desirable species. Not so cheap anymore, but why not raise better quality fish?

What you write about here is useless to anyone in the Intermountain West, Canada, or further North. Might be useful in BC if on the Pacific side of the mountains; but nowehere that actually has a "harsh" Winter. Clueless.

There is no "geothermal" effect from ground soil. If you ever checked the soil with a thermometer you would see that. Still, your temps vary too much to really make that a concern. Takes couple of weeks of constant freezing 20F or better weather to begin to effect soil. You get a front through, maybe a pretty good dump of snow, but the snow melts pretty quick and temps moderate. Not like you're living in UP Michigan, Northern Wisconsin, or Minnesota/ND.

Glad you've had the success you've achieved.

Plenty of other large scale production processes can be achieved w/o the fish and tanks. Not like anyone living in a "harsh climate" could use your plan.
Ashen

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07/13/2014 07:31 PM
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Re: How I grow food year-round despite harsh winters
Wow...nicely done OP.
Some very interesting ideas, like insulating below the greenhouse, insulation of greenhouse via air cushion. Those are actually very useful tips, as mine would have to survive in European continental winter (Slovakia). Self-sufficieny is where I want to be, so I'm going towards building Aquaponics system myself, so far just collecting information.
Thank you for posting this, very inspirational material. hf
 Quoting: Ashen

Thanks :)

The common carp would do extremely well in one of these systems, plus they're way more cold hardy than any tilapia. Carp are even revered as a food fish over there, from what I understand.

There are lots of fun and interesting possibilities, have fun exploring them!
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 57472949


Hmm...I haven't thought about Carp (and yes, it is indeed considered a food fish here, it used be a special Xmas meal), i thought I'd start with Trout. Trout has a high amount of omega-3, Carp is quite low in comparison (as is Tilapia).
Idealy I would use a fish which can handle temperature extremes as you can have both harsh winters and very hot summers in these parts. Will have to do a bit of research regarding this....but i'll look into carp as well.





GLP