Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rafting update

An HSM is an aquaponics term, short for a Holy Shit Moment.  Defined as an indeterminate period of time during which all hell breaks loose in an aquaponic system, and where serious intervention is required.  In some cases accompanied by severe fish losses and lots of swearing and running around like a mad person .  Examples include broken pipes, serious biological imbalances (nitrite spikes etc), and in some cases, you get dogs OPENING YOUR FRIGGIN' DRAIN TAP.  I lost maybe 1000L of water today.  This is the 3rd time.  No idea how they do it, no idea how to stop them from doing it.  Maybe I should apply liberal doses of chilli to the handle... <GRIN>
Luckily the super clever design of my system will never leave the fish without water, so I did not lose any fish because of this

First winter casualties
Arrived at the smallfry tank this morning after our first particularly cold night, and (apart from the HSM) found two little bite-size dead guys.
Here is one of them.  I assume they could not handle the water temp dropping below 18deg C.  I am convinced not all of them will die, because tilapia are flourishing in our local dams, which get as cold as 12degC in winter.  But I am worried.  I would prefer not losing half the fish..  And the water is not even that cold yet.  I need to make a plan and quickly..

Rafting update
Here are the promised pics of the rafting system.

The cabbage are doing particularly well.  I have some pots open where I plan to plant a second batch..
Some nice roots growing out of the pots and hanging into the water.  The water is well aerated to keep the roots from rotting.

Making chillisauce!
 I had WAY too many chillis harvested, and I don't really like the taste when raw, so I made chillisauce!

DO NOT TOUCH EYES OR NOSE when handling chilli.  And if you are male, DO NOT GO PEE!!!  (Or if you do, go freestyle!)

That is all I am going to say about that..

Recipe?  Comment to the blog if you want it.  I used lotsa chillies, some fresh paprika, 2 red peppers, 2 red onions and a LOT of sugar.  yum.

Luckily I do not make a huge mess when cooking.  

The result..  A very sweet, medium hot chilli sauce.  Sort of tabasco plus sweet chilli sauce plus a truckload of sugar.  Plus maybe some more sugar.

Did I mention it tastes sweet?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Winter is coming!

Sorry for the long silence!  And thank you to all my new followers! - it is awesome to blog if you know some people are actually reading the crap you are writing.

The tomatoes are doing very well, I am harvesting maybe 1kg of ripe tomatoes per day, plus a few handfuls of chili and paprika.  Way too much for normal day-day use.  I pick them when they start to go pink, and have them turn red in the kitchen.  If I don't use it right away, it goes to the freezer, where they are collected for ketchup day.  Paprika tastes great.  Sort of sweet like a green pepper..

Made my own ketchup the other day!  It was great fun and it tastes AWESOME.   Used my own tomatoes, paprika, herbs and an onion. Tastes somewhere between regular ketchup, tomato-and-onion mix and salsa...  Will do it slightly different next time, but I am very very happy with the results.

The raft system is taking off.  This is an old pic taken the day I planted the seedlings.  I have cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and some basil going there.  great fun!  Will do another post to show the roots coming out the bottom of the netpots.  very cool.

Also, I have not mentioned my worm farm before.  Today I peeked inside and was particularly impressed by the sheer number of worms that are packing in there.  They just LOVE rotten bananas!.  Every now and then I chuck a bunch of them into the smallfry/fingerling tank, and then I sit and watch amused as they tear the worms apart.  The chickens also love a few worms, and I normally chuck another 2 or 3 onto the growbed and watch how quickly they graft down in-between the gravel.  Of course the worms are very good to have in the growbed.  They help to process any solids that arrive there from the incoming water, and of course they also help to get rid of any dead roots (especially when your plant has reached the end of the line)

Winter is coming..   Tilapia depressed
Weather is turning cold.  Water is cooling down quickly, and the tilapia are not too impressed.  They sit in a huddle and complain to each other, reminiscing about the good old days when you could go and swim around without getting your fins frozen stiff..  They have now all gone on a hunger strike to get the politicians to turn the heating back on..  I feed them less than 50% of what I used to, and then I still from time to time notice them not eating the food.  I normally try to remove uneaten food because when it starts to rot it gets all mucky and gross.  It is good practice to check the tank 5-10 minutes after feeding to make sure they are eating.  If I catch them not bothering with the food, I stop feeding for 2-3 days, and thereafter they are more likely to come and catch a sniff at the food.  Maybe I should feed them some happy pills.  Prozak?

I am considering getting some trout for the winter.  Will have to eat them all before summer is back.  No idea how well the trout and tilapia will like sharing a tank.  I could move the tilapia all into the small tank, since they are just sitting around being depressed anyway, but I think it would be interesting to see a bunch of depressed tilapia together with some really excited pink trout..  Maybe the trout will cheer them up?

Mozzie fish and sick dear Geoffrey.
Brian gave me some mozzie fish to help fend off the mosquito invasion.  I have them in a heated aquarium tank trying to get them to breed.  I want a whole gazillion of them.  No success yet.  The sick make tilapia is in another tank, getting back to normal.  He had a case of white spot, which I cured with some medicine, and thereafter his fins started rotting away.  Gave him antibiotics and whatnot.  He seems happy now.  Not depressed like the others because his tank is sitting at 33deg C..   My wife decided he is to be called Geoffrey.  Now we will never eat the sucker...  He actually has some personality.  He was watching me cook the ketchup in the kitchen with a "are you sure you don't know what you are doing?" look on his face.

Water heating..
The cold water is a bitch.  I have been considering different options of trying to get the water temp up.  One would be a solar water heater system.  This would help to get temperatures up in daytime, but at night it would plummet again.  Was thinking I could preserve a lot of the thermal energy if I insulated the main fishtank, maybe add some styrofoam rafts on top plus some foam around the sides, then switch off the pump during nighttime.  Not too sure of my story, but I heard somewhere the plants don't need the water so bad during the night, so I could halt the pump after sundown, which should help to keep the water from losing all of its temperature.  Thoughts anyone?
If I had the space and a steady supply of organic material, a compost heap would have been an excellent water heater option...