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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am starting a new thread in hopes of designing a dynamic system. This started out over in the 1 million pounds of food on three acres thread. I just did not want to high jack that thread or disturb the jousting.

Anyone can participate as I have no control over this forum, but please if you do not know what you are talking about please remember your place. Make suggestions and ask question like I plan on doing, but let's respect those who have the knowledge and learn from them.

Mountain and Axelrod, You two seem to have the knowledge needed to design a small dynamic grow operation.

Let's work together to build a system that is as good as it can get.

Least expensive
most productive
most nutritional value
most comprehensive (includes different plants and animals)
smallest area

Try to ignore the crap. I am very interested in a "system" that works. I have looked into tulapia and I have raised rabbits. I have access to pounds for raising Pacific catfish or any other native fish here in Western Washington if I want and a place to put up green houses near by. I would really like to incorporate fish and rabbits in the mix. Fish for the protein. Rabbits for protein and soil.

Western Washington is starting back into a 25 year cooling trend. This summer has been wet and cool so far. A green house is going to have to be part of the solution for me. To what extent I do not know, but just for starting plants so as to harvest on time it is needed now.

I want to start out with a 12x40 hoop house. 4 does and one buck (rabbits) can expand these if needed. The ponds can be used as is for perch, bass, Pacific cats and so on. Figured excess rabbit meet could be ground up and feed to the fish.
I am leaning towards a drip irrigation system, but am up for anything. Hydroponics or any other system that you feel would be better please suggest.

Thanks ahead of time for ALL that participate in this thread. I hope that a dynamic grow design can be built by the members here that we can all adapt for our own individual needs.
 

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I am fairly well educated where animals and livestock are concerned, I have a bit of knowleage with garden plants, vegetables etc.

I have alot of good info and understanding with grain crops.

I am pretty good at makeing ******* greenhouses on the cheap, I have some knowleage of commercial designs, I volunteered at my sons school working on their greenhouses while he was going to school there.

I raise rabbits myself, and I could be of use there.

I know absolutely nothing about raising fish, I have never even raised pet fish before.

I understand the world around me in the form of numbers and formulae, give us some numbers and a basic start, I am game, this could be quite cool. If nothing else I will know more after this than I did before and that can never be a bad thing.

A few questions to begin with...

What is the goal of this, a personal way to farm your own food, or financial venture?

What kind of financial investment constraints must it be built within?

What kind of land area, availability of water and quantity of water available.

What kind of electric power constraints, one could run up a real expensive electric bill in hurry, what amount is acceptable?

There are alot of other questions I can think of but this gives a beginning to start with.
 

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TEK Supply has lots of products that might be helpful.
Rabbits or chickens can be used to help heat greenhouses
We do pastured poultry. With 7-10X12 pens, we can produce about 450 lbs. of meat a week. That is about the same amount of meat as cattle that weighed 1000 lb. live.
With pastured poultry you can get a lot of rich compost for plants.
Hoop houses can be used for both livestock and plants.
 

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Well animal body heat will warm a hothouse even in the winter for I have done it, the problem I have found is that plants and animals do not tend to mix well, the animals always find a way to what they want to eat. While the animals do create excess body heat for the hothouse, it comes with a lot of humidity which condensates on the walls, which gives a good breeding ground for illness.

An even more effective and efficient means of heating them would be mulch piles. Laying pipes in the ground and piling your mulch over them produces a great amount of heat. So much heat in fact that you want to avoid plastic pipe because it can melt.

In most any grow operation one usually has plenty of waste plant material for mulch, all waste hay from any livestock can be used for this as well.

Here is a link you might find usefull.
http://www.alternative-heating.com/alternative_heating_home_system.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I stopped off in town today at a hydroponics store. I had a good talk with the guy who ran it and while talking with him, I explained what I wanting to do. One of the things he mentioned is that if I raised rabbits and fish, I would not have to buy nutrients for a system, which he claimed after set up was the #1 expense.

I also found out that grow lights will cost about $15 per month to run on average for a 1000 watt bulb in our area.

I also found out that a grow light will take care of an area of around 64 square feet. Based on this I have decided to work in units. A unit being 64 square feet of lit growing area.

From past experience, one rabbit should be able to supply enough waste to produce the soil for a unit for maintenance of the soil. I would use commercial rabbit feed. Cost to feed a rabbit is about $3 per months. Now this system would not have enough waste to produce extra waste, but adding 2 more rabbits would produce enough waste to compost and bag which the guy at the hydroponics store said he would give me $6 per 1.5 cubic feet. This would pay for the feed for my rabbits and I would have all the soil I needed for my operation.

Now I have access to two ponds on the property. If I stock them with catfish. I can grind excess rabbit to feed the fish. I think I would have to figure out a fish to clean the pounds or dig a specific pond and set up a cleaning system on it if I feed this route. Not sure yet. If anyone has done this or set up tulapia please chime in.
I will try and work out #'s in the next few days for tulapia if no one who knows what they are doing chimes in first.

So what is the best route to go when it comes to a dynamic system? Should it be built on hydroponics or drip irrigation?

I am really thinking about starting out with a small 1-4 unit system, to try and get a hang for things. Initial cost should be kept to the minimal as this should be a system that anyone could afford to build.

I have level well drained ground to work with. I live in Western Washington.

What do you think would be the best crop to grow for nutritional value? I like the idea of peppers, tomatoes, onions and cilantro so that I can have fresh salsa year round among other things. I am really up for anything though.

Rough figures on per unit cost: Green house, 64 square feet of growing area, 2 rabbits and cages, 1 grow light, ballast, reflector, drip irrigation, soil and amendments (set up), timers, water tank.
Total set up cost per unit- $750 Operating cost- $8-$10 per month if you figure in the return on the bagged rabbit waste. This is per unit cost. If more than one unit is constructed, then the cost of the green house structure, rabbit cages, multiple discount on lighting system and the cost of drip irrigation system would all drop by approximately 20%. The initial set up costs is also figured on all items purchased at full blown retail, so I am sure that initial set up per unit could be cut by 30% if one built their own green house, cages, mixed their own soil and so.
 

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Thanks for starting this thread.

I have been studying aquaculture, permaculture, off-grid living, and farming for about 30 years. I first got into the field in the early 1970s by studying the work of the New Alchemy Institute which even today remains pretty damn impressive. I also was captivated by the Solviva permaculture greenhouse and other similar large-scale proof-of-concept operations. I did the requisite pilgramage to Eco Village, the birthplace of the now yuppified Mother Earth News in North Carolina.

I also experimented a lot on my own. In addition to majoring in animal science in college, I've raised a lot of livestock and plants in the interim. I say these things so you know my experience and my general bias in favor of self-sufficient living.

To answer some of the questions raised above:

If you're going to use fish waste for a nutrient solution you will probably be limited to raising vegetables with low nutrient demands like lettuce or basil. Tomatoes and other vegetables that require higher nutrient concentrations will not thrive without supplemental nutrients. And, if you put supplemental nutrients in the water, you can't then recirculate that amped-up solution to the fish tank.

A brew of rabbit manure and fish waste water, allowed to be aerated and possibly activated with a little molasses to form compost tea, would probably be a fairly complete fertilizer for heavy feeding vegetables. One issue would be sufficiently straining the tea so it doesn't clog emitters or design a hyrdoponic system that doesn't require emitters.

Here's the sytem I developed. I live in an area with pure groundwater that can be pumped into a fish tank. I have tilapia in tanks with sloped sides that drain through the bottom. The tanks have automatic water leveler valves. I feed the tilapia a commercial fish pellet. Three times a day a timer activates a solenoid valve on the bottom of the tank and dumps about 20% of the tank. The waste washes out the bottom. Fresh water replenishes the tank through the leveler valves. The waste water is stored in a separate tank and used in the hyrdoponic system. It can be amped up with more nutrients depending on the demands of the plant species.

This method doesn't really require any filter system. Enough fresh water is put in the tank each day to keep the water clean for the fish, and the dirtiest water at the bottom of the tank gets purged with every flush. I do aerate the tanks.

This is a system that works well if you're willing to meet the energy and hardware demands of the system. It will produce quite a few vegetables and lots of fish. (Nowhere near the amount usually claimed by so-called experts, but a decent amount.)

But, let me be clear: This is a system that is very dependent on external energy inputs, mostly in the form of electricity and fish food. Neither may be available in a grimmer future.

I recommend a more practical approach if you're looking for realistic sustainable food sources: a type of free range livestock you can manage and raised bed intensive gardening. This is a sytem fundamentally based on solar --as opposed to petroleum-- energy. These two things can provide lots of food at a relatively low cost and a much lower failure rate. I'd start with a few chickens and a couple of 4'x8' raised beds. The chicken manure mixed with hay and aged becomes amazing fertilizer/compost, and the raised beds can produce phenomenal amounts of produce; usually far more than a similar size hydroponic system.

Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
OK. So let's start going through this one question at a time so as to keep it simple.

BTW: this is going great, thanks for all the participation.

So let's figure the five most nutritious vegetables to be grown per square foot of space per year.
 

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I have no experience with this sort of thing, but I will be reading the thread with interest as it progresses.

But I probably won't be able to resist a suggestion now and then. That's just the way I am.
 
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This is a system that works well if you're willing to meet the energy and hardware demands of the system. It will produce quite a few vegetables and lots of fish. (Nowhere near the amount usually claimed by so-called experts, but a decent amount.)

But, let me be clear: This is a system that is very dependent on external energy inputs, mostly in the form of electricity and fish food. Neither may be available in a grimmer future.

I recommend a more practical approach if you're looking for realistic sustainable food sources: a type of free range livestock you can manage and raised bed intensive gardening. This is a sytem fundamentally based on solar --as opposed to petroleum-- energy. These two things can provide lots of food at a relatively low cost and a much lower failure rate. I'd start with a few chickens and a couple of 4'x8' raised beds. The chicken manure mixed with hay and aged becomes amazing fertilizer/compost, and the raised beds can produce phenomenal amounts of produce; usually far more than a similar size hydroponic system.

Hope this helps.
Thank you for all of your post, but especially this later part of it. It's my belief that anyone who thinks they can rely on cheap petroleum inputs is not being realistic. I'm not saying I don't have implements that require petroleum to get things done, but I've learned to be very frugal about it, and I am purposely avoiding anything that requires long-term cheap fuel. Even what land I can dig up now and loosen with a combination of fossil fuels and sweat and muscles will still be easier to keep digging when the fuel isn't so cheap.

Anyone who thinks that gas is expensive now... well, hold onto your hats, because it's not going to get any easier. And in many areas, neither will fresh water.

I have a sickle I can use to cut the hay... if a good sickle isn't part of prepping for survival, then good luck...
 

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OK. So let's start going through this one question at a time so as to keep it simple.

BTW: this is going great, thanks for all the participation.

So let's figure the five most nutritious vegetables to be grown per square foot of space per year.
Nutrition varies by person and what part of life development they are in, and what sorts of physical conditions they might have.

For example, I am a woman with celiac disease, so I can't have wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, etc., and it's not that uncommon. I'm also 40, so I need calcium, protein, fiber and a plethora of other things nutritionists could argue about. A child or younger or older man would have different requirements, many of them still mysterious.

If nothing else, a green vegetable, a red vegetable, a leafy vegetable and two others based on what is seasonally appropriate are probably as close to any "magic bullet" you're going to get.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
One thing I have not brought into this conversation yet was the fact that I am in the middle of a steam engine project that burns wood for fuel. This is mostly because i live in the PNW and solar is not going to be an option especially in the winter.
 

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Good article on Aquaponics and backyard Fish Farming:

This backyard harvest has gills and fins

"When Atlanta gardeners pick their pumpkins and gourds next month by hand, landscaper Brian Barth will harvest his bounty by net.

Barth has raised more than 100 tilapia and a dozen catfish in a 1,200-gallon tank in a Decatur backyard, his first adventure in aquaculture"



Read more at:

http://www.accessatlanta.com/atlanta-restaurants-food/this-backyard-harvest-has-606966.html


Side note, there is a 10 acre lot accross the street for me is going on auction tomorrow. Gonna try to snag it if the price is not too high. The land has a spring fed pond on it that overflows into my land.

Keeping my fingers crossed.
 

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If you're talking about self-sustaining food sources in a survival setting, I think you have to consider a combination of livestock and gardening. If you had to pick one, I'd pick livestock. For example, other than vitamin C and a few trace minerals, goats can provide you every source of nutrition you need.

For smallholders, I'd try chickens and a few vegetables. Potatoes are the ultimate calorie dense vegetable and fairly easy to grow. Sweet potatoes are more nutritious than white potatoes. Then, go with a range of vegetables and develop the skill to manage a four-season garden. For most people that means tomatoes, beans, squash, melons, and the like in summer/fall. Then, all manner of greens and peas in the winter. Strawberries are targeted for the spring. With plastic tunnels you can manipulate the planting timing quite a bit.

I'd also consider fruit trees if you have the space. Species and variety will vary depending on your location. But, I have some Asian pear trees, for example, that grow tall and narrow and just finished producing fruit for the year a few weeks ago. I probably got 200 pears off a single tree.

The final two skills you will need to develop are preserving foods and cooking with them. We've bred a whole generation of people who only know how to program a microwave oven. So, it takes some training for some people to learn how to can and dehydrate food and then later combine ingredients into a decent meal.

There is an out of print book called the Self-Sufficient Suburban Gardener that not only teaches you how to grow stuff but includes a planning guide that tells you how much to grow of each food type, when to plant it, etc. It is the best single source I've seen that specifically addresses the subject matter of this thread. It's a little dated (the book is almost 30 years old) but the basic information and analytical approach are still valid.

Amazon.com: The Self-Sufficient Suburban Gardener (9780878574575): Jeff Ball: Books
 

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It's my belief that anyone who thinks they can rely on cheap petroleum inputs is not being realistic. I'm not saying I don't have implements that require petroleum to get things done, but I've learned to be very frugal about it, and I am purposely avoiding anything that requires long-term cheap fuel. Even what land I can dig up now and loosen with a combination of fossil fuels and sweat and muscles will still be easier to keep digging when the fuel isn't so cheap.

Anyone who thinks that gas is expensive now... well, hold onto your hats, because it's not going to get any easier. And in many areas, neither will fresh water.

I have a sickle I can use to cut the hay... if a good sickle isn't part of prepping for survival, then good luck...
I agree with this, but you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish with human energy when you're raising plants. There's a reason that the Bible mentions trading a small amount of grain for prostitutes: It is very labor intensive (and therefore the product is very valuable) to manually grow grain, cut it, stack it, dry it, thresh it, and remove the kernels. You will be stunned at the amount of time and human energy required when John Deere is dead. A single gallon of gasoline provides as much energy as a hard-working man can generate in two months of labor.

Compare this to herding a large pig in the woods. A pig roots around, finds its own food, and grows to a huge size. A 400-lb. pig carcass has the calorie equivalent of almost 5,000 large tomatoes. Or, you could let a hen free range and once a day spend ten seconds swiping an egg that has more nutrition than a large tomato. There's a reason our ancient ancestors built their lives around calorie-dense livestock. It was a very efficient way to live.
 

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The vitamin c is easily supplied by rose hips, just collect rose hips in the fall allow to dry and use them for tea all winter long, you will never have a problem with vitamin c or scurvy.

We have about 25,000 wild roses growing in our forests so we don't have to garden them or anything.

If this is based on survival I would also go with the basic foods as axlrod wentioned.

One nice thing about hot houses is that you can grow radishes and spinach all winter long in there, while most people other me do not eat them, the greens of radishes are actually quite edible, and if you don't like them the rabbitts love them.

Beans can also be grown in winter in a hot house, though you will need to hand pollinate, I grow beans in the house from November to mid January when I harvest.

Greens are important through the winter and you can sprout root crops like garlic, onions, carrots etc in a hothouse and eat the greens of them.

I also grow potatoes through the winter in the house, they get a bit leggey and will cover my entire window area but they still produce potatoes.

For winter hot house I would grow potatoes and radishes and sprout root crops for greens. You can also sprout things like wheat, barley and oats and eat the greens while young and tender.

I agree with Axlerod also on the livestock, I am guessing that you probably do not have livestock as an option there.

Have you ever considered raising grubs for fish. I have been considering making a building for growing grubs to use as a supplemental feed for the chickens in winter this could also be used for fish food as well.
 
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