Monday, November 9, 2009

General Update-091107

Today I built the first nest box for the fryer cages. I just duplicated the other nest boxes except they are 24" wide vice 12". I had to add another hinge to the roof due to the length but other than that, the same. I still need to add the screen to the bottom of it and mount it. Which reminds me, I need to add the mounting support for both upper and lower cages.

I just bought a book on raising rabbits and chickens on less. It is called oddly enough, "Keeping Poultry And Rabbits On Scraps" by Claude Goodchild and Alan Thompson. It is interesting because it was written in 1941 and references pre and post war issues and their solutions. Mr. Goodchild writes the first half and is an expert in poultry, and the rabbits portion is written by Mr. Thompson. Its a small book, an easy read and I can recommend it.

I will may not work on the rabbitry this weekend since this Saturday is our aquaponics workday, but when I continue I will mount the support scaffolding and continue to make nest boxes.

In the garden where the cabbage, garlic and acorn squash, everything is looking fairly well. I may have planted the cabbage too early since the cabbage worms have ravaged my green cabbage. The red cabbage must be a slower grower since it still doesn't have many leaves. On the other hand it is not being attacked by any worms which I find immensely interesting!

The garlic is sprouted, and the acorn squash is taking over my garden! I thought perhaps I wouldn't get much of a yield because of the recent cold weather, and lack of pollinators, and the flower hidden by the large green leaves, but I was wrong. I have many squash all from three plants which I think have been pollinated mostly by Bumble Bees.

I am still harvesting Cayenne, Bell, and Jalapeno peppers. Somehow I must remember to try planting all these late in the Summer and comparing the yield. The tomatoe plants are doing OK, not fabulous but seem healthy. I am concerned about the same pollination issue as the squash but will be patient. All are being watered as I write by Tropical Storm Ida. She was downgraded earlier from a Category 1 hurricane.

I think some of the plants slowness is the lack of fertilizer in the raised beds where the tomatoes live. I have used my own compost, as well as some "store bought" composted manure. All this is why they look fine but the lack of synthetic fertilizers are perhaps the reason they don't "look" like a picture from "Southern Living" magazine.

All the fruit trees are still in good shape. I have a dozen or so figs on my two Fig trees. I found some indoor plant food outside, left over from one of Gail's house plant fertilizing jaunts, and scattered it around all the plants. This rain will help disperse it, or wash it away!

Cantonment, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

General Update-091024

Yea, I know more pictures, and I have some... videos too, but I just am always in the wrong place when I decide to write! This morning I'm at church waiting to lead a Baptism class and don't have access to the pictures.

I had productive day. I finished all four nest boxes, painted them with rot preventer and mounted them to the support rail. The support rail, being only a 2"x2" may sag eventually so I think I'll run a vertical support leg up the center of the rails.

I also mounted all four Fine-X feeders, and moved the water bottles to the inside next to the feeders. The feeders just need a slot cut in the wire. They have a support wire that is mounted to the feeder and that you just slip into the wire caging... easy!

The above doesn't seem like much but it took all day. I also gave guidance to Samuel as he cleaned the front of the house. The tree frogs hang out on the front porch waiting for the porch light to draw bugs, and they aren't much hassle, but they just don't wipe their feet when when they walk around on the vinyl siding and eventually they form dirty spots where they hang out. Sam sprayed on some bleach and water, then scrubbed with a brush... he did a nice job. I won't tell him that the sides are next!

Next is the fryer cages. I think I will create open front communal nest boxes for the six cages. This will allow the rabbits to congregate together when frightened, or for warmth. I think they will be about 24"Wx18"Dx12"H. I'll make one then see how I like it. I will also make the support frame sturdier to enable it to hold the weight. I will need to look at the fryer cages that are next to the AC fan. In the Summer it will blow hot air onto the box and cook the bunnies. I will have to come up with a housing/vent for the AC blower that vents the air away. Currently I have leaned a piece of plywood up against the offending side and that has worked.

After I complete the rabbitry, which I am lovingly calling the "Wise Rabbit Rabbitry", I need to do a few things to the house. Faceing, eaves, windo caulking, all need to be worked on. I little painting too, around the doors and on the front porch. I noticed that the windows need caulking bad. I fear that I already have wood rot in several places.

After the house is repaired then I'm not sure. I want to build the aquaponics system, but I'm getting really antsy about building my ferro-cement hut/cabin... whatever. If I consider that the AP build will be fairly easy and quick then that would come first. On-the-other-hand, I really need to build the back porch greenhouse along with the AP build so then it becomes more complex. I could build the back porch green house before the AP project, just add it into the "house" repairs... 'might do that.

I researched construction for the greenhouse and had all but decided on a PVC frame but then I still need to consider the look when complete. I would like the greenhouse to fuse with the courrent house (a small ranch style on a slab) so then maybe wood... still undecided. I think I will draw both up and get with Gail and see what she says.

Pensacola, FL

Sunday, October 18, 2009

General Update-091018

I created the ramp up to the chicken house. I used a 2"x10" scrap about 3' long and nailed some plywood strips to it, then painted on some weather treatment. I think I'm officially done with the chicken coop. Extras excluded; power, heat & water.

I also built the two nest box support braces and another rabbit nest box. I painted weather proofing on the outside of the boxes to keep the weather out. I used the circular saw and the cuts were much cleaner.

Tony Faircloth
Cantonment, FL

General Update-091017

I placed boards around the bottom of then chicken yard and attached the bottom of the poultry netting to it. With the exception of the ramp to the house I think the chicken coop is complete. I still must decide upon any extra insulation to block wind but otherwise I'm finished.

I think I will get the bitties in the Spring so that I don't have to worry too much about extreme cold temps while they're young. However for the next Winter (2010) I will need to work on insulating the chicken house from the wind, and by adding a heat source of some type. Currently it is fully walled with chicken wire except for the floor which is 1/4" screen supported by two lengths of heavy wire with turnbuckles for tightening as needed.

I am also reveiwing my Storey's book on chickens for feeder and waterer placement, as well as feeding guidelines.

I decided to alter the rabbitry design to allow for the nest boxes to protrude outside the cages. I will build a support for the backend of the cages consisting of 2"x4"x12" arms that will hold a 2"x2"8' brace. I have the wood and screws I just need to assemble it.

I also built a 12"Hx12"Wx18"L nest box from 1/2" scrap plywood. The front entrance swoops from 12" tall to 6" to allow the rabbit to enter. It turned out a little rough but I'm sure the rabbits won't complain. I think using a circular saw vice a jig saw would help the look. I also hinged the back 10" of the top so that I can get into them for cleaning and inspection from the outside. I think I can have another three made by the close of next Saturday.

Several weeks ago I ordered some 2 liter bottle adapters from the Bass Equipment company to allow me to use 2 liter soda bottles for rabbit waterers. They came in and I set them up on the four breeder cages. One I filled and found that the spring that holds the top of the bottle to the cage also squishes it strong enough to force the water out past the ball at the end of the waterer. I was pretty upset but i think I can save the expense by buying a set of short bungie cords, or adding a setion on to the spring so as to lessen its strength against the bottle. I did check around at local pet and farm stores for similar adapters but found none.

This week I ordered 4 Finex feeders. This style feeder aids in filtering dust from the food so that the rabbits don't inhale it and get lung ailements. They should come in within a couple weeks. With the waterers, feeders and nest boxes in place I will be ready for the breeder rabbits and then will work on the fryer cages and equipment.

Though the rabbits won't mind the cold I may wait to get them in the Spring also, however if all gets done and I have the money maybe before.

I will take and publish some poictures when I get time.

Tony Faircloth
Pensacola, FL

Monday, October 12, 2009

General Update-091012

Interesting news, apparently they project to widen the road I live on is coming. If so it may remove 8-12 feet of my small front yard. Not just remove part of my yard but also deliver a lot more traffic down the road. My understanding is that there is a housing development that will need the increased road size and that will increase the traffic.

The nice thing is that the house allowed us to send Samuel to a great Middle School, and get us out of the city so I can't complain for the reprieve.

So, what do I do?! I was talking to God this morning and though I didn't get a clear word i deffinitely heard, "Seek me first and everything else will come." So, I am still going to think about my options but if they don't pan out I know God will still be taking care of me.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

General Update-091004

I wasn't feeling a hundred percent today so not much got done. I added a a bottom board to the chicken yard because I had it as spare. I will need 4 more. Then I can tack the bottom of the chicken wire to them to keep critters from getting underneath it. I just need to add the ramp into the chicken house, then hang the feeders/waters and it will be ready.

I added some clamp lights to the rabbitry for when needed. I was going to build next boxes but realized that I needed to calculate sizes before beginning otherwise I may have cavernous nest boxes, or squashed rabbits, neither is acceptable. I looked on myn Storey's book on rabbits (the Bible on the subject as far as I'm concerned) and couldn't find it so I will have to research the topic. I think I build for the New Zealand whites which is a medium large rabbit even if I decide to get something else.

I also bought some devices that you plug a 2 liter bottle into for watering. I have placed several in my raised beds adn will watch to see how they do. My first impressions are that they might be more work to constantly refill; that a PVC line might be more suitable, however I will see... they might be most helpful in dry season, or when we are away on vacation.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

General Update-090929

I didn't actually work on the farm today, but I did build two saw-horses which will help me with building the rabbit nest boxes. I felt pretty stupid in that I should have built saw-horses years ago. They could have helped me build the other stuff though up until I placed the last cage in the rabbitry I used the top of one of the cages to work on.

I also built a little platform to hold the metal cage that I've had for a few years now. I nailed a 2"x4" between the two rear inside rabbitry poles then added a cross piece and a leg. The cage had a galvanized "poop-pan" so I simply set it on the platform and placed the cage on top. I think I will also build some storage below the cage. The cage is kinda in the way but I thought I might use it to house the rabbit I try my experimental feed on... maybe not, maybe just overflow or quarantine, not sure.

I also spent some time planning my ferro-cement hut. I watched an lecture on TED ( concerning growing your own air which caused me to think about adding a small "air pod" to the design for growing plants in to increase air quality. The guy lecturing from India, kamal_meattle, said that they have been creating good air for their offices by growing three different plants in their buildings. He said that they had been logging an increase of something like a 1% oxygen increase over a 10 hr period. The URL for the lecture is:

They added Areca Palm, Mother-In-Law Tongue, and Money Plant in certain amounts per person and Kamal said that with those plants at those levels a person could live in a bottle. I thought about air quality of a sealed hurricane bunker. I imagined not having to worry about air quality, however it all relies on the health of the plants also so... Anyway, I added the air pod then tied it into a small aquaponics system with the water fed by the water catchment system. I have plenty of time before building this tough I would like to have it started this year if possible. I do need to spend a little time and money on my current house.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

General Update-090926

I finally fixed the rabbitry roof today. I used a 2 ton jack to lift the bow out of the middle, then cut and screwed in a 2"x4" on edge. Previously I had layed the orginal roof support in flat so as I added the shingles the roof began to bow.

It occurs to me that I should comment on the size and configuration of my rabbitry:

My rabbitry consists of two seperate pole constructed frames with a 2.5' isle in between. So, four poles on the South set and a lean-to roof sloping to the South. The 2.5' and another four poles and a roof sloping to the North. So basically I have two 3'x8' roofs. Each four sets of poles are wide enough to support two 2'x2'x8' cages one over the top of the other.

I built the cages seperately and slid them into the frame. The South two cages are actually divided into two 2'x2'x4' cages so 4 cages in all. They will house the two pairs of breeder rabbits. The North cages are divided into 3 cages each for a total of six cages. These will hold 2-3 "fryer" rabbits, those heading for the freezer. All the doors to both sides face in. I also built four 2'x8' trays that go beneath the rabbit cages to catch their manure which i will add to my compost pile.

Before I took the bow out of the roof it had begun to drip into the front. Now, there is a 12" gap between the two roofs but it just hit me wrong that I should also funnel water in the middle! Anyway, fixed now.

I am ready to set up the chicken coop, placing feeders and waters, as well as begin to buy feed and hay. On the rabbit side I still need to build nest boxes but I did get the basic diagram of one so I can build it. I have most of the plywood. Then I will need to buy the waterers and feeders, about $100, I think, all totalled.

Then onto the aquaponics system. Part of me just thinks buy some cheap koi, and goldfish since we don't eat a lot of fish, then the otherside kicks in so I think about some fried catfish and selling, trading, or giving the rest away. Even with goldfish I can raise the vegies.

My plan (currently) is to utilize fero-cement technology. I plan to lay out my 1/2 55 gal drums, join them temporarily, then lay chicken wire down and coat it with cement. Let it dry, flip it and coat the other side making 12' long troughs for my grow bins. I will use the same to build a sump, then use the polly-tank for the fish tank. I figure 2-3 12' grow bins will probably do me well but I will have to work out the correct numbers for the amonia-nitrogen conversion so the fish won't suffer. But even then, I don't intend to raise 200lbs of fish so 2-3 long grow bins will probably be enough.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

General Update-090921

Today I did my usual Books A Million (BAM) thing but was kept distracted by a family with three pre-teen boys and a little girl toddler who slobbered on store merchandise, and carried a 10 lbs diaper. I finally had to leave. I came home motivated to get out and work- probably the mocha talking -but ended up watching a movie.

After the movie I went outside, finished the roof on the chicken yard, then begin stitching up the wiring on the end. I still need to place the bottom boards and the latch on the gate, then hang the feeders and waterers. As I stated before the roof netting kinda bubbled up. I ran some wires from the over-laping piece pulled it tight and anchored it while I clamped the pieces together.

I also trimmed bushes around the chicken coop and fed the compost pile. Thats it.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

General Update-090919

I worked on the chicken coop today. I purchased some more chicken wire and poultry staples. I placed chicken wire on the sides and end. I also ran some wire from the chicken house to the end post, I then took some wire-cage clamps that I was given to build wire cages, and clamped the top of the fence to the wire.

I layed two bowed 2"x4"s across the middle and end poles of the chicken yard, then ran three strands of wire from the chicken house, across the top of the center board and anchored it to the end board. This is intended to help support the chicken wire roof pieces of chicken yard. Since I widened the yard the chicken wire can't sit on the top evenly... so disturbing for a perfectionist! They should be flat and stretched tight but alas, they're wavy!

I will add a board screwed to the poles that runs along the ground between poles the length of the yard. The chicken wire is lose at the bottom and animals would be able to climb underneath. I think a board will add some strength and allow me to tack the chicken wire on to the board.

I also noted that one of my rabbit pellet trays was cracked and sagging so I bought a 1" steel brace and screwed it in. I hope it will hold so I don't have to take it all apart and replace the broken board.

I also bought two 2"x4"s to use to brace the bowing rabbitry roof. I will jack up the roof to remove the dip then screw in the new boards to brace it.

I priced rabbit feeders and waterers online from BASS. I think I will need to spend around $50+, and about the same for the waterers so not looking forward to spending that money however I think It will save me some grief in the end. The waterers are adapters for 2 liter soda bottles that also come with a bracket to hold it to the cage. I will start with 10 bottles but will probably end up putting two bottles in each fryer cage.

The feeders are the self-filtering type that allow the feed dust to fall through. They will range from 11" for the fryer cages to to 6" for the breeder cages. I will also make hay racks out of wire caging.

I researched nest boxes and will begin to build them soon. I found a great site that showed how to make ten nest boxes with one 4'x8' sheet of plywood, however the boxes were too small. The basic design is easy though and should be no problem to build. I will try to finish up the chicken coop this or next week then move on to the nest boxes.


Monday, September 7, 2009

General Update-090907

Today I finished the poop trays for the rabbitry.. what pain, and nasty since I used tar to glue the tar paper to the OSB. I used OSB because it was cheap but knew it would not last in the elements so I have used left over tar paper and tar to weather proof it. I will build a thin scraper to scrape the trays regularly. I also bought handles for the breeder cage doors but didn't put them on. I power screwed my ring finger bruising one side and putting a blood blister under the other side.

I must now build the nest boxes for the breeder cages and maybe a open sided box to offer the fryer rabbits more comfort during harsh weather. Then I will bu the bottles and feeders and the rabbitry will be ready.

The chicken coop is almost ready. I need to add caging to the yard and some shelter, maybe another nest box beneath the first, larger I think. I may also build a small shelter area at the other end of the yard, and including a perch.

I managed to break off two branches off of two blueberry bushes. Maybe I can root them, maybe not.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

General Update-090906

I think I must be the worst blogger in all bloggerdom. I should be taking pictures as I work on the farm so that I can show before and after but I simply find myself out working and not thinking about later when I blog. Something I need to work on for sure!

Yesterday I managed to plant two types of tomatoes, two types of cabbage (green and red), 4 acorn squash plants, and some garlic. As usual I bought too much garlic. One bulb breaks down into like 15-20 cloves, each one to be planted. I bought two packs each with three bulbs, enough to give Gilmore, CA a run for their money!

I went to Lowes earlier and bought two bags of topsoil and one bag of peat/humas for each of three raised beds. Thi8s adds bulk to the beds and adds nutrition. I had previously added a little triple 13 to each bed so I think that will last for a bit.

I also worked on the chicken yard, hanging wire- which was a pain! Wearing gloves helps but wearing gloves hinders holding the poultry nails. I will need at least one more large rold of 1" chicken wire to finish, possibly two since I am also doing the roof.

As far as the roof I had originally thought to run wires on a turnbuckle the length of the yard to support the netting but I found two warped 2"x4"s and thought I would use them instead. I still need to add a 1"x2"x8' and replace a 1"x2"x4' with one that's 6' long. These are the top and second from the top rungs of the ladder/perch respectively. I'm still thinking about adding another covered perch to the far end of the chicken yard. Also, I think I will need to add a board running along the length of the yard to give a surface to nail the bottom of the wire to and also to keep animals like raccoons from pushing underneath the wire.

I thought I could make the shelter big enough that it could be a perch but also a place for the chicken waterer and feeder to hang. I will reread my chicken book but it seems to me that the feeders and waters are also located IN the house. Also, I wondering about a door to the ramp. I mean if the animal can get through the 1" fencing of the yard it can get through the one inch fencing of the house I think.

Tomorrow I will either work on the pellet trays in which case I will need to get 4- 1"x2's and 2- 2"x2"s, or I will get some more chicken wire and see if I can finish the chicken yard.

I was also thinking that I will build a stand at the far end of the rabbitry and sit the wire cage I have. This can be for my experimental bunny I feed dehydrated veggies and hay to. If I built the stand correctly I could use the underside for storage. The wire cage is a commercial cage about 3'x3'x2' and has a galvanized metal tray beneath it.

Mark Ns family has a lemon tree that has giant lemons on it, seriously the size of green softballs. Perhaps I could get some clippings and try to grow some myself. I noted that Lowes is selling blueberries and blackberries again, and their stock of fruit trees is back up. I might get a few more bushes but I think I will wait on the Spring to purchase and plant anymore trees to avoid a cold weather kill. I would like to get a couple kumquats which I will prune to around 4' and keep them bushy.


Friday, September 4, 2009

General Update-090904

Today when I got home I cleaned out the two 4'x8' raised beds in the front yard and the long raised bed on the West side of the house. I sprinkled some 13-13-13 on all the beds then turned the soil. I decided to pick up a couple of bags of top soil for each bed but when I got to WalMart they had no top soil so I will wait until tomorrow when I go to Lowes.

I found it interesting that in one of the beds was full of large very active earthworms. It was obvious that the worms liked the soil that was rich in organic material. The soil was full of un-rotted compost. By next Spring my compost should be ready and I will add it to the raised beds.

After I get the top soil I will plant the tomatoes and squash plants then move on to the rabbitry though I may also need a small drill bit. I might also get some 2"x4"s to put together some saw horses to help with the manure trays. Also I will spend a couple minutes on the chicken coop ladder and planning the other nest box. I will also spend some time putting up chicken wire on the chicken yard. I will need to saw off the end posts to the same length.


An Introduction To Intracyclic Dynamics

The idea of intracyclic dynamics is very old, ancient in fact. It involves creating sustainable cycles of food production, then finding ways to integrate the cycles into each other. Perhaps the best way to describe it is by using an example:

> A rabbitry is built. It house 2 breeding pairs of rabbits. The rabbits eat vegetables and hay and produce meat and fur, they excrete high nitrogen manure that is caught on trays positioned below the cages.
> At some interval the manure is collected and placed in a composte pile and a worm bed. The composte is ammended and amps up the nutrition value of the composte with nitrogen and trace minerals, and the worms in the worm bed eat the manure and produce a highly prized soil enricher.
> The composte can be used to suppliment the worm's diet, and it can be used to amend vegetable garden soil. It can be used to make "tea" and used to feed any other plants as a spray or from a watering can. The worm castings can also be used as a highly nutritious soil ammendment for plants.
> Some of the vegetables are harvested, used raw or dried, to feed the rabbits. The tops and unused leaves and stems can be fed into the composte pile, while the nutritious parts can feed the rabbits. The worms can be supplied to the garden to benefit the soils, as well as used in an aquaponics system to feed the fish.
> The fish are harvested and a small portion dried, ground and added to the rabbit food to increase the protien portion of the rabbits diet.
> The some of the rabbit offspring are harvested and their intrails are fed back in the composte pile.
> There might also be a water catchment system that both waters the rabbits, worm bin and garden, though not to much feedback applies to it.

As you can see the individual cycles are established then interlinked to support a more effective total outcome. The human, or steward, taps the cycles to feed and cloth himself. The more cycles you can establish the more you can possibly interlink to create a richer and healthier environment. As I stated before, to some extent our ancesters-maybe as close as our fathers, grad fathers or great grandfathers lived this way though I suspect they never had a need to write it, it was probably established in them from an early age. Spreading manure on the hay fields, harvesting the hay and feeding it to the cattle which make more manure is an early example.

Though enjoying its own philosophy and methodology Permaculture is very much like this- utilizing and combining natural processes (cycles) to effect a positive multiplying effect on the whole.

I beleive that with some preplanning and work an entire farm could be developed using this intracyclic dynamic. I will supply some diagrams at another posting.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

General Update-090903

Today I was able to place one row of chicken wire down the back side of the chicken yard. It amazes me how difficult poultry nails can be to hammer in. Its never about a flat board on a hard surface. I had to bend over and hammer in the nail while stretching and placing the chicken. I think I may only need one more role of chicken wire, maybe two with the roof. I think I will use the turnbuckle and wire support for the roof.

I also bought 6 tomato plants, three Celebrity's and three... Sundowners, something like that, and four Acorn squash plants. I also have a packet of squash seeds I will put out too. I think I'll put the tomatoes in the front raised beds, and the squash in the raised bed on the side of the house. These will be easy to clean and plant, though I'll need to use some fertilizer. I hope the tomatoes will produce outside the normal bug life cycle.

This weekend I will try to get all the chicken wire I have up, and build the rabbit pellet trays. Maybe even jack-up and fix the roof. I need will need a couple straight 2"x4"x8' boards and some 3" exterior screws, and my jack. For the rabbit trays I will need to buy another gallon of tar though I think I have the needed wood.

A thing I learned recently is not to store boards standing up. I think it makes them warp. Store the flat; horizontal.

I was also thinking recently, after the success of my new gate made from 1"x2" s that I might make 8' sections of fence the same way... basically a 2"x4" on each end, a 2"x2" on the top and bottom and 1"x2" boards spaced out at around 4" running in between. I could eventually replace the interior wire fences and ugly green metal poles. Its something to think about, after I fix the things wrong on the house this Fall/Winter.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

General Update- 090901

I went out this afternoon and dug two post holes for the last two posts for the chicken yard. I mis-measured on the first post and had to pull it and re-dig the hole. So, all four poles are in and I used the old dog kennel gate for the entrance to the chicken yard. I need to change out the second to the tol rung of the ladder/perch in the chicken house and add a longer last rung.

I need to add the chicken wire to the chicken yard and figure out the configuration; where to hang the waterers and feeders. I also need to think about creating further shelter. I will either add something to the chicken house, or add a little nook somewhere in the chicken yard.

Maybe add a slightly bigger nest box below the first box. If I did this the wood-row would protect the house from the East and the box from the other three directions.

I also want to run some conduit and wire to the coop area and the rabbitry; lighting for the coop and rabbitry, and a fan(s) for the rabbitry to help combat Summer heat. I could also run a line to the aquaponics area. I will also need to run a water line to the chiken and rabbit areas. I will also develop a rain catchment system to compensate for the "city water".


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aquaponics Calculations & System Planning

I recently ran into some frustration while trying to recalculate an aquaponics project I am working on. The project consists of 6- 4'x8'x8" ferro-cement grow bins, and will eventually use a 4.5'x6' ferro-cement fish tank. The basic formula is 200lbs fish = 400 gal water = 800 dry gal of medium.

I originally calculated the number of grow bins needed using a 4'x8'x12" size but we never made any bins that deep- with the exception of one 10" deep bin the others are about 8" deep. However this still cannot be used in the calculations because the functional depth (the depth the water shouldn't go above) is 6" so the formula should be 4'x8'x6". Using this I worked the calculations:
  • Convert all numbers to the same unit of measure (inches)- 4'x8'x6" = (4'x12") x (8'x12") x 6", or 48" x 96" x 6", or 27648 cubic inches.
  • Convert cubic inches back into cubic feet- 27648 cuin / 1728 cuin (1 cubic foot) = 16 cuft
  • Convert cubic feet to US dry gallons using website ( 16 cuft = 102.86 dry gallons (dgal)
  • So each of our grow bins needs 102.86 dry gallons of medium like pea gravel
  • We need 800 dgal and we have space for 514.30 dgal however the 514.30 number is using only 5 of 6 grow bins of the above mentioned size. We also have one bin that is functionally 4'x8'x8" = 21.33 cuft = 137.12 dgal.
  • So 514.30 + 137.12 = 651.42 total dgal
  • Therefore 800 dgal - 651.42 dgal = 148.58 dgal needed to meet the requirement for the 200 lbs of fish.
  • One solution would be to build another grow bin functionally 4'x10'x8" = 26.67 cuft = 171.49 dgal.
For this last bin we could use 2"x10"x10' lumber, some 2"x2"s for corner supports, and a liner. A 4'x10' support table would need to be built from 2"x4" lumber. Using this method would help us get the last bin in quicker and test the liner method.

The system I build for my microfarm will not need to be so large but will utilize the same formulas. I will probable build a ferro-cement sump tank as well as long ferro-cement grow bins. I was going to use plastic food grade barrels but have only found a couple and they have their own problems.
  1. They are... wobbly. They warp and sometimes aid in water spillage. They need cross bracing
  2. They have rounded bottoms making them a little difficult to calculate medium
  3. They are harder to mount on support tables
If I just build the grow bins I can make them whatever size and shape I need. On the other hand I might just make them from wood and liner. I will also consider different tops to go on them so I can have mini-greenhouses, bug screens or shade screens.

The fish tank needs some work too. I may put a drain in, or I might just jack it up and use a pump, or even manual siphon vacuum for cleaning the bottom. It just depends on... how I'm feeling that day I guess. I am going to try to utilize a overflow pipe that sucks solids from the bottom, but it may not work.

Lots of work to do.

Anthony Faircloth

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beginning Summary

To Begin With:
I have less than half an acre but my plan is to raise chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits for meat, fish for meat, fruits and vegetables. This post will summarize where I'm at and what I have planned. Future posts will be updates as to my status and observations.

I have built a 4'x8' chicken house made almost exclusively from chicken and welded wire. My theory is that in North West Florida the heat is the predominant factor so the floor is 1/4" welded wire supported by 10 gauge wire connected to turnbuckles so it can be tightened as needed. I have chosen to raise bantam (small) chickens so I built the nest box 10"x10"x8', a 8' long ladder made from 1"x2"s allows entrance as well as acts as perches. I am not comfortable with letting the chickens roam around the yard so a 4'x16' chicken yard will be built to allow the chickens to move around while being protected by animals. I still need to figure out the the placement of feeders and waterers.
I hope to select hens that are both good layers and brooders. The laying attribute is obvious but because of my limited time I need the hens to raise their own young. I will research the best overall breed prior to ordering. I would like to get a rooster, and have cleared it with my closest neighbor, but wonder how long we will need to get use to it's incessant vocalizations! On the other hand I can then have the possibility of new chicks. I hope to install the new chickens by the Fall of 2009.


I have constructed four 2'x2'x8' cage frames. They are all use 2"x2" lumber covered with 1/2" welded wire. Two of the frames are divided into two cages each making four cages total. These are the breeder cages. And two of the cage frames are divided into 3 cages each making a total of 6 cages I will be using for "fryer" cages- a place to fatten the young rabbits.
The cage frames are stacked in twos between buried 4"x4" posts with a isle running between the two stacks. Each stack is roofed with leftover roofing shingles. I have a slight bow in the roofs due to a miscalculation as to the weight of the shingles but I will be correcting this. Trays are mounted below each cage to collect the feces for composting.
The cages are competed and only need to be furnished with nest boxes, feeders and water bottles.
I want to order something other than New Zealands, or Floridians (white rabbits). I will try to get my breeders installed in the Fall of 2009. I intend to have two breeding pairs.

I have been working on an Aquaponics project with another group called Sustainable Missions (see their FaceBook/MySpace accounts) so I plan to duplicate a smaller version of this system on my microfarm. I have a small aquaponics model on my front porch that has been supporting several goldfish for a few months. I grew jalapeno peppers in the grow bin with no extra effort from me.
I have a 400 gal poly tank and will need to build some grow bins as well as a sump prior to installing the fish and planting the bins.

Fruit Trees:
I planted two grapefruit trees this year in 2008 and will probably not produce anything for a couple years. I also planted two Santa Rosa plum trees that may bear something next year, as the figs might do since they have already produced several figs already. I have determined that I will top these trees when they get around 12' so they will not become a problem for storms and hurricanes.
I also planted 6 blueberry bushes of three types. A local blueberry grower told me to pull the blossoms from the bushes for the next couple of years so the growth will go into the bush.
I hope to add a couple more citrus trees (lemon and Satsuma), then either peaches or apples. I may also plant some strawberries in some unusable areas like fence rows.

This year I dug and tilled several long rows about three foot wide. I purposefully left the grass between the rows which in the end caused trouble by allowing weeds to invade the rows. Since I have limited time to pull weeds, and my family is not 100% on board with the microfarm, I will need to develop and better system. I will be building formal raised beds using 2"x10" lumber and weed-block fabric on the bottom. I will also integrate a PVC watering system into the new plan.
Once the beds are built the tops can be built; plastic for early season plants (green house), insect screens, or shade. The beds will be filled with a fertile mix of my own compost and purchased soil amendments. Other than the weeds I neglected soil preparation this year and had limited success in the new beds. This should not be a problem once I begin composting the animal manure.
As far as crops I will be sticking to the old standards, but I will plant some root crops to begin experimenting with drying and feeding them to the rabbits. Also, experiments on cutting and storing bean hay.

What Is Left:
I have several things the need to be completed prior to installing the chickens and rabbits.
  • Chicken yard established
  • I need to consider further sheltering for the chickens, not just nest box
  • Ramp for chicken house
  • Two rabbit pellet trays built and installed
  • 4 rabbit nest boxes built
  • Rabbit feeders and bottles purchased and installed
As far as the fish...
  • Build & mount grow bins
  • Build sump (ferro-cement); overflow drain
  • Plumb poly tank; drain and supply lines
  • Configure system; set things where they go
  • Plumb system; supply and drain
  • Purchase, install and test pump
  • Acquire fish of some kind to prime system.
At some point I will also need to complete some home repairs. Things needing done since Ivan! I would also like to redesign my compost bins. And level/back-fill some areas of my yard.

My wife, Gail, has also suggested that we also get some pygmy goats to raise and milk. If we do thin we will need to bring in food since there is no way I could raise enough food for them. The good news is that there is a farmer at the end of the road who might sell me some hay and straw. However, the goats are certainly further into the future.
I am also reading up on bee keeping. I would only need one hive and I'm thinking of it in the context of honey for medical purposes, not just to eat.
I also have a dream, and the beginnings of a plan, to build a little (14'x10'x10') domed ferro-cement farm house for one. It will be my office and part of the experiment using a water catchment system, saw dust toilet, PV-DC electric system and other sustainable low-tech features.

Stay tuned for other posts!

Cantonment- 090825