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  1. Gary, In my experience with soil testing (to grow organically) I find after testing, when I am setting up a new plot or if I am changing or switching from perennials, after a season or so testing, I no longer need the testing. It's as if one creates an intuitive baseline. After that, unless some new variable gets thrown in, like a disease or pest, testing is no longer necessary (I find that with organic growing that such variable don't show up nearly as often as they do in conventional ag). One can simply make adjustments based on previous experience. Call it an empirical approach. Just as valid is to look at someone else with similar experience under similar conditions. This is the saving grace of organic gardeners. I think this should be valid for small APers. But, in the world of organic gardening one can go as deeply as one wishes into the mysteries of soil science. This level of water science (if you will) is simply not available. So far, it seems to me that all we have in AP is that empirical & intuitive approach, but without much real science behind it. We jsut keep swapping stories. There may be commercial operations large enough do this kind of investigation who horde the information, but I am doubtful that it happens at all -- if so, I suspect there would be a lot more commercial AP operations, assuming good, complete information would lead to better profits and, thus, more such operations. It is this kind of information and sharing that has built hydroponics into a major source of fresh food. I know UVI has received US federal funds to put out much of the information they have disseminated. But the interest seems to have dwindled. They hawk their courses, but they are doing the same thing we are all doing: "see if I do this , then this is what happens". There are even consultants who will take your money for such as this. I guess there is the possibility that AP itself is simply not as good, efficient or profitable as proponents have suggested. I'm not willing to admit that -- yet. I still think it is the farming and gardening of the future. The other possibility is that the information is out there but I haven't found it. Maybe there is just not the critical mass of in interest yet to create concepts and research needed. Well, we keep trying. I remember trying to get farmers to grow organically back in the early 80s. I had gov't officials tell me organic would simply never happen. Those same officials sing a different tune today. At least the hydroponics people are not hostile like conventional farmers were (many still are). They seem willing to share what ever information they have and embrace anything that will work. Unfortunately, that may an indication in itself that AP just isn't there yet. When the HP people start lining to to do AP, we'll know AP has arrived. But it ain't gonna happen until we can start getting the basic nutrient information that the HP people have had for decades. m
  2. I live at Short Mountain,TN, about 60 SE of Nashville. m
  3. Gary, the following is a condensation of something I wrote on an AP list but thought it appropriate here. It has to do with the ancillary subject of nutrients. To my engineering mind, we should know (as well as the hydroponics people) what is in the water we are feeding our plants. Disappointingly, all I find are rather bromides like, "the plants are doing well, it must be good". As warm and homey as much of this sounds, none of this takes into consideration many of the variations of circumstances and environments in which many of us must grow. It's nice to see pictures of a mix of healthy veggies but there are rarely any stats with them to tell us what the plants are doing year round, how productive they are on an ongoing basis and, most importantly, why and how they might be so. With all due respect, even Raboky is pretty light on such details when you compare the work done by hydroponics people. I think that if separation of the two aquaponic functions could take place, in order to truly capitalize on it, we must know what is in the mix. I grant you, there are likely elements of aquaponics that are simply not the same and much more than putting elemental water soluble nutrients in water, but I think at a minimum we should know what those elements are and how they get there. Let me explain at least one reason why (there may be others -- I can probably count on you to give an exhaustive lists): Since most nutrients come from the feed for our fish (I realize there are other organic elements like lime and various rock powders that might be used to supplement), one simply can't get more out than one puts in, no matter what the mystical powers of aquaponics are. And, like the various circumstances and environments, feeds are just not all the same. And, unlike the hydroponics inputs, feeds do not come with a list of elemental nutrients -- one must guess or hope. This is an issue not unlike that of the organic farmer. I mean, are there successful organic farmers who do not do soil analysis? I don't think so. Also, by understanding what we get out vs what we put in, it is just possible that we can better control both the quantity and rate of nutrients, which I think will be necessary if we hope to leave some of the downsides behind of combined functions and capitalize on the benefits of separation. Does everyone using aquaponics have to use and be aware of all these vicissitudes. No, let's hope not. But I think someone needs to establish them, otherwise, what goes on as grower information is just swapping stories. m
  4. Gary, Wow, good points. The one thing, a question really, raised in my mind was, of all the aquaponic work done over the last decade or so, no one seems ever to have analyzed the fish effluent to see what they are actually feeding the plants. They just seemed to have assumed that the effluent would provide a complete plant diet. As thorough as Dr. Raboky is, I've not seen anywhere he covered the subject of nutrients except very vaguely, mostly centering around nitrate. (If I am ignorant of such work, someone please inform me, Please.) None of this is to say that such fish effluent can't provide a complete diet for plants but there has got to be a lot of variation among different fish species, different fish diets, etc., without any idea which one(s) is best, most efficient or how it can be modified. It all just seems to have been guess work. Am I wrong? And, I have to admit, it never occurred to me to analyze effluents until I began to investigate hydroponics. Hey, after 6 or so decades, I think these folks know a thing or two (just a little misguided about using chemicals). For example, DR. Howard M. Resh's "Hydroponic Food Production" recommends: Ca: 180-200 ppm mg: 40-50 ppm K: 210 ppm P: 50 ppm Ammonium-N: 15 ppm Nitrate-N: 165 ppm Fe: 3-5 ppm Mn: 0.5 ppm Cu: 0.1 ppm Zn: 0.1 ppm B: 0.5 ppm Mo: 0.05 ppm Any one know how this stacks up with what they are doing? Interestingly, all this has rekindled my interest in fish. Now I think much of what I have learned with worms may well pay off with fish. But, while I think this discussion presents us with potential opportunities, the critical element that is not established yet is, how do we take the nutrient out of the effluent water in order to use it separately? My guess is reverse osmosis. The reality is, I don't even know yet if is practical. Anyone? m
  5. Sue, I guess "easiest" depends on your resources and and how they are deployed. But separation does solve a lot of problems that are kinda ubiquitous in Aqua/vermiponics. As I posted in Gary's aptly titled "Aquaculture - Aquaponics without Plants", it seems to me, the notion of separation applies to aquaponics too -- but no one seems interested. BTW, there are services that will test the leachate. I have used Micro Macro International (MMI) analytical laboratory in Athens Georgia. It's not cheap ($40US), so one would want to use the service in a very strategic way. But, doing it at least once will give you a grounding for your intuition to take over. This particular service (they have more extensive ones) will give a pretty complete idea of what is in the mix. I'm guessing that since hydroponics is so commonplace, such services are available world wide. So far, my "mix" of nutrients is not up to hydroponic standards. The great thing is that the knowledge base that exists will tell exactly where any deficiencies reside. All that is rather well documented by the hydroponics folks. I am in the process of manipulating the worm food to try to get what is needed. Since, I ferment the worm food and add limestone to stop the fermentation, I can add small amounts of rock powders to increase trace elements or phosphate (rock phosphate or colloidal phosphate) or potassium ( (sulpomag). Even better, I may find ways to grow plants rich in such nutrients to feed the worms. I very much like to grow soy bean hay for worms -- they love it. It improves my soil and worm food. Maybe, once these kinds of things have become common knowledge, testing won't be necessary. As I learn more and get my "sea legs" back with my re-constructed system, I'll post what I know. Please tell me how you will use wicking beds. I'm still fuzzy on exactly how they work in any event. Thanks, m
  6. Hi, Periodically, I speak about the notion that aquaponics is not the only way (and quite possibly not even the best way) to integrate fish and plants. In the rush to embrace aquaponics, we sometimes overlook the fact that you can grow fish without plants......and that there may be good reasons for doing so. Long before there was aquaponics.......there was aquaculture. mornings has pondered the same question so I moved his post here to enable it to be discussed in its own thread. Gary Gary, While fish are not my bailiwick (I do enjoy eating them), I've given some thought to growing them in a system that has gravel beds with worms only in them (no plants). The gravel would provide home for bacteria to turn fish urine to nitrites to nitrates and worms to turn the fish solids into nitrate and various other nutrients. A reverse osmosis filter would take all these out, leaving the fish with nice clean water. The whole fish system could be housed out of the sun, even underground, certainly out of valuable growing space; maybe a place more temperature friendly to fish. Since the comfort parameters for fish fit well within those of worms, temperatures and other conditions could be keep more easily ideal for fish. What little experience I have with RO filters indicates low energy usage, low maintenance and relative low cost. It does add a new technology we've not normally used and metrics not explored. Any one have any knowledge on how these might work out? Are there better alternatives? Then, the nutrient could be fed into any one of many hydroponic configurations, the size being independent of one fish operation. Maybe some of you enterprising fish growers, who don't want to be bothered with plants or don't want to match plants with fish volumes, could sell your nutrients to hydroponic growers. Not sure this makes sense for a small system with both separate components as it would seem to create more overhead. Then again, one might be able to grow fish in one's basement and place the plants in a hanging hydroponic unit in the living room window. Since you apparently have at least experienced and become ware of some of the agony of an integrated system, what say you? Anyone, thoughts, ideas? M
  7. It's been a while since I've posted on my system (been a busy summer with berry crops). I'm in the process of converting my system to a constant flow pump rather than flood and drain. However, I'm keeping my gravel in beds. Most of this is in preparation to find out what my worms can actually produce in terms of nutrient and growing environment (including growth regulators). Once I know that it really will work, that the nutrient base is whole and I have the knowledge to manipulate worm feed to attain the ideal environment, I will likely tear the whole system out and start over again with contant flow, floating raft system. This last is purely for economics -- I don't find that gravel is better or worse than floating systems, it just has to do with what I want to grow and the costs therein. Over the last months I've been besieged by a number of problems that have little to with the principles of "vermipomnics", but the problems of leaks, water temps, air temps, evaporation, and green house stuff. These factors are also affecting what my final system will look like. I am of the opinion now that if vermiponics means keeping worms and plants in the same physical system, they are better separated. There are simply too many conflicts between worms and plants and too many compromises to make (and, I believe these are minor compared to fish and plants). None of is to say that there is any thing wrong small backyard systems having plants and bio-reactors together, they are still efficient in spite of these problems. But larger systems, in my view, should be separated. I have in mind to have separate facilities for worms and plants. My plant system will look very much like a hydroponic operation where I will add my own organic nutrient from my worms. I find that hydroponic operations -- for growing efficiency -- beat aquaponics and vermiponic hands down. Too, there is a huge body of knowledge and decades of experience to exploit. On the worm side -- obviously I still have a great deal to learn -- I intend to run water through a gravel bed with worms contained. I'll feed the worms inputs I grow on my farm. I'm going to experiment with using a reverse osmosis filter to take all nutrient out of the effluent water in a, more or less, concentrated form (which will be applied in the hydroponic system). If this works out well (that is still a big "if" as I am once again plunging into uncharted waters) I may even consider bottling the vermi-concentrate to sell. There seems to be a world of people who are doing hydroponics (with chemicals of unknown or origin and even content . . ugh), people who would like to use organic nutrients, people who haven't the interest or inclination for fish or worms. I assumed this would only make sense for a larger system but I've have two co-hort worm enthusiasts who have expressed interest in finding a way to do this separation on smaller systems, I guess to overcome some of the problems of growing worms/fish in the same system with plants. We'll see. M
  8. Thanks fishfood, I guess I don't understand why, if one has good, deep, balanced soil (which, admittedly, has taken many years and tears to get) with a natural reservoir of water, one would not just have regular beds in one's garden. I mean, what is done with WBs looks good, but are they really cost effective? Or, maybe, are they cost effective when, for some reason, one simply cannot create good deep soil? m
  9. Gary, Paint me dense if you like. This looks good but I still do not understand how it works. I thought worms were involved. What happens when the mushroom compost plays out? m
  10. I suspect all this pigeon-holing of problems into isms is just a way to slice and dice symptoms -- and not deal with the illness. It is also an attempt to come up a simple philosophical or political answer when, in fact, none exists. I still contend that at the base of all our social, economic and environmental problems (these are really part and parcel of the same larger problem) lies the rather difficult and murky subject of culture, the unexamined assumptions we collectively make. I have a new, rather intuitive contention (I can't really prove it) that gov't, its unique characteristic being the use or threat of "legitimate" force, is a part of a feedback loop and is simply and expression of culture. And, more significantly, that gov't, always impacting culture, tends to enhance all the more negative cultural assumptions made. This isn't saying that gov't is the bad guy (as I may have implied) and it certainly doesn't agree with the traditional view of anarchy. It is saying, I think, that unless people take some sort of conscious control over their culture by examining its assumptions, the culture, the economy and the environment is left haphazardly meandering down a spiral of decay. I don't really know for certain the above is true but it fits empirically with the collapse or failure of every single succumbed society in history. Unfortunately, I also don't know how a society (especially a global society) goes about systematically examining all its base, unquestioned assumptions. (I find it difficult enough to just examine my own.) It would seem that political control over the mechanisms of force are a major impediment. I do know however, that if we do not examine and change our cultural assumptions, we will simply continue to whistle in the dark for solutions and move steadily down a path of mutual destruction. m
  11. Gary,For some reason that page doesn't load. Although, I did read about the Venus project on Wikipedia. Not sure it is communism but it would seem to need a dictatorship to carry out. It is just another scheme to change human nature by dictum. Throughout history many have tried and almost invariably they end up making the things they complained about, worse. The old Soviet Union said they could produce shoes for $1 a pair. When they couldn't do it, they just said by edict, shoes aren't important anyway. And, hey, I tried to stay on "stuff" but you never bothered to answered my question. And, all those "meanderings" are definitely tied to "stuff". "Resource based economy" sounds as vague as "equitable distribution of resources" m
  12. arachdog, there is part of me that wants to tell you how smart or how able I am. The truth: I've been lucky. When I came here, I did see much of this coming but that is not the reason I did so. I just couldn't take what I was doing any more. I am doubtful I would be alive. So, really, I just stumbled into a great life. I could not agree more. Again, I suspect you are right. Although, I'm doubtful it will get that bad, at least not here. Of course, when there are great disparities, war always seems to the obvious answer to gov'ts. Gov't logic: when things get really bad, make them worse.Maybe I'll be lucky and do a little better than others, but even that is a point of discomfort. Today, e.g., our business is actually growing while my neighbors continue to lose jobs and income. The reason our business is doing well isn't because people are buying more, it's because we are getting a lot more customers. Will it last? Who knows, but the point is, when I started the business, I could not have known I would do well in hard times. Just luck from desperation. "Impractically" is pure opinion and disregards the history of real money. Seems to me that you are simply defending an unsupported assumption to the contrary. I have no problem with that. My suggestion is to take gov't out of the money business altogether (except to protect us from force and fraud), especially eliminate legal tender laws. Let currencies compete. Technology will quickly present us with an answer as it has done so for thousands of years. By and large, the only cheaters of any significance have been and are gov'ts. Real honest-to-goodness counterfeiter can't hold a candle to gov'ts. It's just that with paper or digital systems the gov;t controls, the cheating has become incredibility easy and massive. The ancient Romans cheated -- brought down the empire -- but it wasn't easy then. Took much longer to completely destroy the economy -- as gov'ts are doing today with just keystrokes. Is gold perfect? No. Nothing is. It's just that given the propensities of those who hold a gun to our heads to steal and rob us, it is still the best way to protect ourselves. It has history solidly behind it. Paper does too, but to the opposite effect.If you think a monetary system based on gov't controlled paper or digits can actually protect us from the ravages of gov't, then the burden of proof is upon you. You must show how it can work. Let me warn you, however, no such system has ever worked or avoided ending in catastrophe. Not one. Extrapolating from the systems we have today, I can find no reason to believe history will be disappointed. I don't need to defend gold. History does that quite well. m
  13. arachdog, No. Well, I did finally get electricity and running water. But, my wife and I live on just about thin air. My truck is 15 years old. No boat, no television (never had one), no vacations. We farm and we have a little business, a buying club, selling food within a community that has created itself over the last 30 years. Most of the fun I have in life is with my two granddaughters and stuff like vermiponics. Eat when you're hungry, rest when you are tired, grow your garden, take care of your family and neighbors . . . what else is there to life? Actually, I hope I am wrong. But, no, this is not a collapse due to a lack of resources. It's just that much of the wealth accumulated since the industrial revolution has been squandered and an adjustment or correction must be made to the losses made but not taken. The standard of living is defined as per capita capital surplus. That surplus has been badly eroded over many decades, we just have not adjusted our life styles to reality -- yet.Interestingly, the American people have done a lot of adjusting. But, the US gov't seems to think that more of what got us in to this mess (spending) will get us out of it; as if an individual or country would spend and consume it's way to prosperity (HAHAHAHAHAHA. What a bunch of idiots!). And "collapse" may be a misnomer. Collapse is usually a political term, and I'm really talking about an economic collapse. And, I am not attempting to predict anything beyond that. Many countries may well collapse politically, I just don't know about that. The US had been in a steady decline in terms of wealth for about a decade and I (really my kids) continue to profit by it. I can wait if it takes longer -- if that's what it takes. But this decline will not end with any less than a real correction. Watch the value of the dollar. When it falls, watch the US bond market, when it collapses, the party is over -- for the whole world. The US may well come out on top . . . eventually. But it will require a lot of changes. The US may still be the richest and most diverse nation on earth, but it is undoubtedly the most profligate. That simply has to and will change. I can't say how the change will come out. I'm neither a doom and gloomer or a Pollyanna. It will all depend on the new assumptions we make. I'm optimistic, though. I see a great demand from young people for some real change to a more sustainable world. We'll see. That is simply not true, just an old wives' tale that suits the political and banking establishment's needs. There is always plenty of gold -- depends on it price. Essentially, if the sum of all capital wealth increases, then the value of gold will increase and the amount needed to make a purchase will be less. The basis for this old wives' tale is (yet another) assumption that no one seems to ever question: price stability -- as if it represented something good. Would you not prefer for prices to steadily go down with the rise of productively and wealth? Actually, it did that in the US for 150 years (with a couple hiccups for wars) and no one worried about "running out of gold". Then we turned the monetary system over to the banker's cartel, turned the chicken house over to the foxes, so to speak. I never liked Maynard Keynes, however, we was right when he said the gold standard is a "barbaric relic". It was a dumb idea from the get-go. Instead of denominating gold in dollars, dollars should have been denominated in gold. That simply acknowledges the fact that gold is money, and for the most part, it is the only real money ever to exist. In fact, the gov't never needed to be in the money business at all (you didn't make that assumption, did you?). There is no fear of not having enough gold, that is, unless its price is pegged to a monetary unit and we have monopolistic legal tender laws. If you have a piece of paper that is denominated in gold, it makes little difference if the gold is tendered in ounces, micrograms or molecules. Could a paper backed system be made to work equitably? Sure, if you could ensure that politicians and bankers will always be honest. But, it ain't gonna happen. Never has, never will. m
  14. arachdog,I already have. I'm a little embarrassed to admit how well I've done over the last decade. Actually, not embarrassed at doing well, but knowing that the hedging I've done helps no one, it just makes me relatively better off. The people who have been foolish enough to take the other side of the bets have lost both absolutely and relatively. But it is exactly real value and wealth that the world (everyone) has been losing at a faster and faster clip either as the waste/corruption of gov'ts or the consumption of people encouraged to do so by the same gov'ts (and banks). No one ultimately gains. I would take issue with the system's predictability. I saw this coming in the 80s. Sold my business selling computers and services and move to the country and bought a "wilderness" ridge farm. My family and I lived down in a "holler" in a cabin with no electricity or running water for about 5 years. The part that is not predictable is the timing. This has lasted far longer that I ever thought it would or could. It is very difficult to predict what gov'ts will do or how far they can/will go to protect themselves and their supporters. The particulars are different but the outcome is always the same. Failure, then collapse. This time, it's not just an Argentina, it's the whole world. Maybe it will give the earth a breather. My daughter is in the process of getting her phd in sustainable manufacturing methods and processes for the apparel industry (or something like that). Even as a grad student, just based on some papers she wrote, she is doing consulting work for small to medium size companies. They seem to be hungry for developing some sort of sustainable future. What seems strange, however, is the most trouble she has, the most resistance she gets, is with the institutions that teach the stuff. They want to spend forever on defining the problems but they don't want to teach or even use solutions. Essentially, they don't want to change; effectively, they don't want to be sustainable. Institutional assumptions, I guess. There are bright spots but this is not going to be a fun ride for anyone. As I intimated before, we can only hope something is finally learned. My contention is that it must be learned and accepted culturally. m
  15. Hmmm . . . that might be me. Can you explain exactly what a more "equitable distribution" might be a nd how it might be determined?m