We Have Solar, Finally! Part 2

We lucked out and actually had a place to stack the panels on the roof prior to installing them.

We lucked out and actually had a place to stack the panels on the roof prior to installing them.

This was a small section on the original porch roof where the solar water heating system wasn’t. Our Master Carpenter turned into a Solar Panel Installer (even though he’d never done this before in his life); and we were soon installing our ten rows of three panels deep across our new Fishroom roof.

In the background of this photo, you can see our Greenhouse. The new Fishroom sits under the Solar Panels that are already installed. The existing Growroom we built in late 2010, sits under the solar water heater strips and extends about 30 ft. to the left of the photo.

Our plan is to connect all three of these areas together into a single recirculating aquaponics system we’re calling our Micro Food Forever™ Farm, which will be about 1/10th the size of a full commercial-sized Food Forever™ Farm. To learn more about our Food Forever™ Farm designs, go to our new website at Aquaponics World.net.

We started the installation process by securing that expensive hardware to the Fishroom roof.

We started the installation process by securing that expensive hardware to the Fishroom roof.

Here's an up close view of that expensive hardware we realized we needed to purchase to get our Panels secured to the Fishroom roof.

Here’s an up close view of that expensive hardware we realized we needed to purchase to get our Panels secured to the Fishroom roof.

As you can see from the photo below, it requires quite a lot of that hardware to safely secure the Solar Panels especially when you live in the California desert where wind velocities can reach gusts of up to 40-50 miles per hour.

We started the installation process by securing that expensive hardware to the roof first.

The panels were then secured to the hardware starting at one end.

The above photo also shows the solar water heating system that heats our 32 x 18 ft. pool up to 104 degrees F, at which point we refer to it as a large hot tub.

The photo below shows an important piece of the securing hardware that clamps the solar panels to the rails.

The clamps secure the Solar Panels to the rails.

The clamps secure the Solar Panels to the rails.

Below is a front view of the roof line with the Solar Panels installed.

There's a breezeway between the roof and the panels that is about four inches in height.

There’s a breezeway between the roof and the panels that is about four inches in height.

Installing the Solar Panels was only one part of the job. They then had to be wired up by our electrician. The photo below shows the power boxes that were installed to facilitate this wiring process.

There are ten of these power boxes. Each box contains the wiring for three Solar Panels.

There are ten of these power boxes. Each box contains the wiring and circuit breakers for three Solar Panels.

Wiring both the Fishroom and the Solar Panels has constituted a large portion of the money this project is costing. We hired a Master Electrician who does not believe in cutting corners when it comes to wiring. We’ll be posting a Part 3 of this project in which we show photos and describe the parts of the Solar Panel system that are hidden away in our garage and home including the Inverter-Charger, the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) Solar Chargers, the Generator Control Module and the System Control Panel.

This is an Off-The-Grid System. If the Grid goes down, we stay Up! One of the big problems with signing up for free Solar Panels offered by companies that want to use your roofs (they get the rebates) is these are Grid-tied systems. If the Grid goes down, you don’t have electricity.

We also have a Generator (photos coming in Part 3) that automatically starts and connects when the power has been off too long and there is not enough Solar (night) to keep the system going. It is all very transparent, and we only become aware that anything has happened to the grid supply when we hear the  generator start. This smooth transition is done with the support of 10KWH of AGM batteries that will keep us alive for quite a while if the grow lights in the Growroom are off but only several minutes if the grow lights are on. Grow Lights take quite a lot of power; but once you get the right combination, they work like a charm. Below is a photo of our Fluorescent T5’s growing massive amounts of veggies in this perfectly controlled environment.

Our Fluorescent T5's growing lettuce and basil.

Our Fluorescent T5’s growing lettuce and basil.

 Just as we got the final Solar Panels installed, a massive summer monsoon down pour occurred that chased our Installer off the roof.

The best Solar Panel Installer in the business. A real "Jack" of all trades.

The best Solar Panel Installer in the business. A real “Dan” of all trades.

Here’s a photo of our Greenhouse in the midst of that down pour. Just wait until you see what’s growing inside of it, which we’ll be sharing in our next post.

Every now and then wonderful summer monsoons hit the high desert of California. This was one of those days.

Every now and then wonderful summer monsoons hit the high desert of California. This was one of those days.

Thanks again for following our Blog. It’s so much fun to share the joy of being aquaponics farmers.

We Have Solar! Finally!

We did it!  We got our Solar Panels up on the new Fishroom Roof!

Our Fishroom Roof with Solar Panels!

Our Fishroom Roof with Solar Panels!

What a project this has been. It all started when we discovered Sun Electronics in Miami, Florida was selling Solar Panels for about $1 a Watt. We also knew we could pick them up at a distribution center in Phoenix. This company is now selling panels for 72 cents per Watt. This was late 2011. Next to the Solar Panels, you can see our Solar Water Heating System which took up all of the porch roof we doubled in size when we first moved to the desert in 2006.

The joy of watching fish and plants grow.

The joy of watching fish and plants grow.

We had sold three of our Food Forever™ Growing Systems to three elementary schools in Tucson, Arizona, and we planned to deliver and install them during the 2011 Christmas break. So it would be the perfect time to pick up our Solar Panels with the U-Haul we rented to make the school deliveries. This saved a lot of money on shipping of the Solar Panels. The photo above was taken in early 2012 about three months after we installed one of the three Food Forever™ Growing System in the Davis Bilingual Elementary School Library.

Now, back to the Solar Panels. The following photos show the process of getting our Solar Panels into the now empty U-Haul.

We really thought we'd be able to go home and get these panels up in a month or so. One and a half years later, they're up.

We really thought we’d be able to go home and get these panels up in a month or so. One and a half years later, they’re up.

The Solar Panels are going into the empty U-Haul.

The Solar Panels are going into the empty U-Haul.

Oliver, our System Designer, watches the loading process.

Oliver, our System Designer, watches the loading process.

Done deal; and we're back on the I-10 to Yucca Valley.

Done deal; and we’re back on the I-10 to Yucca Valley.

This purchase cost approximately $6,000. But we unwittingly neglected to purchase the hardware necessary to secure the Solar Panels to the structure that was to hold them. That hardware, which was also purchased from Sun Electronics, cost another $3,000. So far our Solar project has cost $9,000. We paid labor hours for two System Installers who were hired to install the three Tucson school systems so about $150 extra was paid in the hours it took to pick up the Solar Panels.

Then came the big delay in the project, a delay that lasted one and a half years while our beautiful Solar Panels sat useless in the garage waiting to be installed and our electric bill kept going higher and higher. They became a cumbersome fixture in the garage where they were shown to many Tour participants and touted as a project that was to be completed sometime in the near future.

Why the delay? We had no where to put our Solar Panels. Our south facing house roof had already been taken by our solar pool heating system. Those are the black rubber strips right next to the Solar Panels.

Our Solar Panels on the Fishroom Roof next to our Solar Water Heater

Our Solar Panels on the Fishroom Roof next to our Solar Water Heater

So we were going to have to build something to hold the Solar Panels. Our first thought was to build a roof only structure that would extend from our existing growroom addition lengthwise toward the greenhouse. Then came the dellimma about what to make this structure out of–wood or iron. Then came the consideration about making a possible move to Arizona, which we dropped given how far back a move would take us in our business and our Solar Panel project.

Finally, we decided to stay put and build an addition to our existing Growroom in the form of a Fishroom so we could separate the indoor growing area from the fish tanks. The following photos show that Fishroom building process.

Our Master Carpenter, Dan, measures the roof line

Our Master Carpenter, Dan, measures the roof line

The outer wall studs are in place.

The outer wall studs are in place.

We had to give up some of our original deck area to add this room. We put a solid floor over the decking and added two drains.

Here's what the inside wall of the Fishroom looks like after we tore off the siding and wired it for our new system.

Here’s what the inside wall of the Fishroom looks like after we tore off the siding and wired it for our new system.

The wall studs are in place along with several roof beams.

The wall studs are in place along with several roof beams.

The supporting posts were placed in a ribar reinforced box according to code.

The supporting posts were placed in a ribar reinforced box according to code.

In order to hold the 30 Solar Panels, the roof had to extend past the Growroom.

In order to hold the 30 Solar Panels, the roof had to extend past the Growroom.

The farthest support beam on the right side of the photo is the one placed in the ribar reinforced and cemented hole.

Wall studs and roof beams in place.

Wall studs and roof beams in place.

Plywood is going up on the roof to receive the finishing roofing material.

Plywood is going up on the roof to receive the finishing roofing material.

The roof edging is in place. The door is the door to our existing Growroom.

The roof edging is in place. The door is the door to our existing Growroom.

We didn’t get a shot of the completed roof without the Solar Panels. Believe us, it was beautiful. We are still in construction on the Fishroom.

Here's the Fishroom as it sits today. The roof has the Solar Panels in place; and the solid floor is finished.

Here’s the Fishroom as it sits today. The roof has the Solar Panels in place; and the solid floor is finished.

As you can see, the room hasn’t been enclosed yet; and, once again due to funds, we may need to delay the finishing of the interior and exterior walls until late Fall.

That’s not going to stop us from completing the floor and moving the four 120 gallon fish tanks and fish into their new Fishroom. Then we’ll be dismantling the Food Forever™ Growing System we call the FFGS-40 that is presently in the Growroom and building our newly designed aquaponics system we are calling our Micro Food Forever™Farm. If you want to learn more about Food Forever™ Farms, visit our new website at Aquaponics World.net. We’re building a single system that will link the Greenhouse to the Growroom and Fishroom. This new system will be growing leafy greens for our local marketplace to prove that money can be made doing aquaponics. Wish us luck.

We started building the Fishroom in February making the finished roof the top priority of that project so we could place the Solar Panels on it. The roof of this Fishroom was designed to hold the thirty Solar Panels. Once the roof was completed, we had to stop the project until we saved up enough money to pay for the extra $3,000 in hardware costs, mentioned above, the electrician and laborer that would be required to get the Solar Panels installed on the roof. We’ll show you the Solar Panel installation process in our next Blog post as this one is getting to be a book.

Thanks so much for following our Blog.  Sharing our adventures (and expenditures) in Aquaponics somehow makes it much more worthwhile.

There’s been a coup in the Greenhouse!

Things change fast in the Greenhouse. We published a beautiful Greenhouse photo (below) in our June 20th Blog post that featured the two Queens of the Greenhouse. They were huge Zucchini plants that were sitting in the back. Greenhouse Full ShotIn that picture, the middle beds had Okra and Corn that were little spindles of growth we hoped would survive. The original Zucchini Queens have been replaced by new Sovereigns, the Corn. It’s unbelievable how quickly and beautifully they are growing. And this corn is among the small number of corn stalks in all of the US that isn’t GMO! And believe it or not, this all happened in 18 Days.

New Queens in the Greenhouse!

New Queens in the Greenhouse!

Now you will notice that we have one rather challenging problem in our herculean efforts to grow corn in our Greenhouse. It’s obvious that at this incredible rate of growth, it won’t be long before our corn stalks reach the ceiling. We’re going to try to bend them forward and are taking the tomato plants that are standing in front of them out of the bed and planting them outside in order to accommodate the corn. We also have a ceiling window we can open to let two of the stalks grow out of the ceiling.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Next to the corn is a lovely little maid in waiting to the new Queens. It’s a Greek Basil plant. It seems that Basils of many countries love aquaponics systems. Here’s another shot of the Queen Corn, the Basil and the tomato plants.

Queen Corn, Greek Basil, Tomatoes and Okra.

Queen Corn, Greek Basil, Tomatoes and Okra.

Behind the tomato plants in another bed is Okra. We’ve never planted Okra before but it also seems to thrive in an aquaponics system. Apparently, Okra is a flowering plant that puts out edible green seed pods often called lady’s fingers or gumbo. So far, we haven’t seen any pods growing; but we sure do have the leaves.

Our first grow out of Okra.

Our first grow out of Okra.

In this last photo, you see the Queen Corn and the Okra together in one bed. The corn is spread across the back of two of our 11 sq. ft. Grow Beds. About midway in the shot at the top, you can see the roof window we’ll be opening so a couple of stalks can grow out of it.

Queen Corn and our first grow out of Okra.

Queen Corn and our first grow out of Okra.

So that’s the story of the recent Greenhouse coup. We’re learning gardening in this Food Forever™ Growing System as neither myself, Grace, or my partner, Oliver, had ever gardened before we built this aquaponics system and this Greenhouse. What’s important for you to realize if you don’t already know, we live in the California desert where the temperatures were 105 degrees F last week and there is no real soil, just sand. This is a climate-contolled system that is growing so much better than our outside raised bed plants with soil. This system is a great teacher, which explains why schools are buying our Food Forever™ Growing Systems; and we have them in several edible schoolrooms around the U.S.

Thanks for visiting. We’ll keep you posted on how the Queen Corn does as she runs into her “glass ceiling” (polycarbonate actually).

Out of the Grow Bed, Into the Pan and Onto the Plate

Here’s what’s going on in our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse these days.

Greenhouse Full ShotWe just harvested a ton of lettuce and moved into flowering plants. Notice we still have lettuce in the first Grow Bed, which is about to be harvested. In the back bed we have the Queens of the Greenhouse–a couple of huge Zucchini Plants that are pumping out huge Zucchini. The leaves on these plants look like African Elephant ears. They were planted in early April. We’ve got eggplant, tomatoes, okra, peppers and corn in the middle beds.

We’re giving corn another try this summer as we actually got cobs to grow last year; but they didn’t mature into edible corn. I’m so eager to be able to grow non GMO corn, which is pretty much impossible to get in the U.S. these days thanks to Monsanto and friends. I just broke down and ordered non GMO corn flour so I can make my own corn tortillas as tacos is one of our favorite dishes around here. Bob's Red Mill

We just harvested four Zucchini from the Queens; and I can’t wait to get them into the kitchen so I can cut one up and make Italian Zucchini paddies.Four Zucchini and the Queens #1Four Zucchini and the Queens #2

Below are a couple of photos of an outdoor Zucchini Plant that was planted on the same day the indoor plants were placed into our Food Forever™ Growing System. Every day we have to go out and water this puppy. Once we do that this evening after the hot desert sun goes down, it will perk right up and not have those droopy puppy-dog ears.Zucchini in soil #2Zucchini in soil #3

The difference between these two plants is remarkable to say the least; and we’ve hardly done anything in the way of maintenance on the indoor plants. Trimmed off some of those huge elephant ears the other day and that was about it. No watering and no weeding. Aquaponics systems don’t have weeds, and the watering is done automatically in what is called an ebb and flow schedule designed into the system.  That means about every 15 minutes the Grow Bed is flooded with water and then it drains out. This goes on 24/7 with the aide of the Bell Siphon.

So here they are in the pan, thick slices of zucchini that were dunked into a couple of raw whisked eggs and then dipped into Italian Bread crumbs and quick fried.Fried Zucchini Paddies

And from the pan, they went to the plate. I’m not planning on auditioning for Master Chef any time soon; but I had to add a few leaves of our fresh basil (we’re growing tons of it on our growroom right now) for color and image appeal. Notice shadow of the cook in the foreground.Zucchini on the Plate

Here’s a photo of the ingredients that went into making the zucchini paddies. Fresh, just picked zucchini from our Food Forever™ Grow Bed, 2 eggs, some Italian Bread Crumbs, graded cheese, salt, pepper, oregano and our own aquaponically grown dried basel (in the bottle with the yellow lid). Oh, and some Prego on top.Ingredients for Pan Fried Zucchini

This is making me hungry so if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to send the zucchini on the next leg of its journey–into my stomach.

Thanks for visiting.

We’ve got our own Black Soldier Flies!

Black Soldier Fly #1Here they are, one of the most incredible creatures on the planet–Black Soldier Flies–and they’re flying around in our enclosed growroom. Notice their lovely purple and blue iridescent wings. Because we live in the high desert of Southern California, Black Soldier Flies are not native to our environment so for the first several months of owning and trying to operate our new BioPod™, we failed to produce Black Soldier Fly Grubs. I realize for those of you who are not in the know, I need to start at the beginning so this blog post makes sense. Here goes.

Information spreads in an interesting way; and about a year and a half ago, information about a certain kind of fly–a Black Soldier Fly– was flying (pun intended) around in the lexicon among aquaponics enthusiasts. It was purported that this fly could produce offspring, their larvae, known as grubs, that are very high in protein and that this larvae could be fed to poultry, reptiles and fish (hence the interest among us aquaponics buffs). Now this fly it was said has no mouth and, therefore, does not eat. All it wants to do is mate and make more grubs so it’s not interested in getting into the house or foraging for food in your kitchen. Hopefully, the two below have decided they’re in love or at least ready to talk about doing the wild thing as perhaps indicated by antennae apart vs. antennae together so they can make grubs together.Blk. Soldier Fly #5

If you’re wondering why these beneficial insects are called Black Soldier Flies, the image below may help us figure it out. It appears they have body armor as indicated by the black shield over their backs.Blk. Soldier Fly #6

But this fly needed technology to become the boon to mankind it has the potential of being. So a piece of equipment (that does not require power of any kind) came along that assists this incredible protein producing insect to make more protein using . . . (wait for it) YOUR HOUSEHOLD WASTE!

Egad! That’s almost too good to be true. All you need to do is gather your food waste, place it into the machine and Wha Lah! Soldier flies climb into the bin where the food is placed, not to eat the food because, remember, they have no mouths, but to lay their eggs, which will hatch into larvae called grubs. And guess what these grubs do. These grubs do nothing but eat. They eat your household waste and become chubby morsels of protein for your chickens, reptiles and fish. This machine is designed in such a way as to encourage the grubs to self migrate right into the harvesting bin. This machine is called a BioPod™.A USA BIOPOD

Just click the link to go to our website page that further explains this phenomenon and watch an amazing video of grubs devouring two large fish. You can also purchase a BioPod™ on our page designated especially for it.

As a grub farmer, all you have to do is keep the feeding bin supplied with moisture and food waste, harvest the grubs from the collection bin and make sure several grubs mature into adult black soldier flies so the process remains self sustainable.A World Grubbs on hand If you live in an environment where Black Soldier Flies are a natural insect in the eco system, you can keep your BioPod™ in a cool place outdoors. We need to keep our Black Soldier Flies contained in our growroom as there is no one to mate with outside; and the colony would die out quickly. We’re working on getting our neighbors to start raising Black Soldier Flies in hopes of creating a desert colony; but for now we’re on our own.

We’ll do another blog post on the BioPod™  and all the stages that the grubs go through before becoming adult Black Soldier Flies for those of you who are beginners at this so you don’t make the same mistakes we did. One of the biggest mistakes we made was we cooked our first batch of grubs because we left them outside in the BioPod™ without enough moisture before realizing we needed to bring them indoors. The other mistake we almost made is we saw these black (should have been a clue) crusty looking things where the fat, beige grubs were supposed to be and almost threw them out. This was the stage where the grubs were turning into Black Soldier Flies.

If Black Soldier Flies are not natural to your environment, you need to order a little box of newly hatched grubs from the BioPod™ manufacturer. If you’re interested in doing that, just give us a call at 760-671-3053 and we’ll set you up. Four years ago if someone had told me I’d be selling Black Soldier Fly Grubs, I would have recommended they get psychiatric care.  Funny how the twists and turns take you down unexpected alleys on the pathway of life. On the aquaponics path, there seem to be lots of wonderful surprises. Black Soldier Flies are one of them.

Thanks for following our Blog. Stay tuned. More surprises coming.

The Growroom is really living up to its name now!!!

We’ve been operating a Growroom we built by closing in a typical ranch style home back porch about a year and six months ago. Because we sell our Food Forever™ Growing Systems to people who place them in Greenhouses, basements, garages or spare rooms, we wanted to be able to demonstrate aquaponic food growing technology in an indoor environment as well as in our Greenhouse.

We also wanted to do a comparison between the two growing environments; and we’re coming up with some interesting conclusions. One of those conclusions is that right now, January 19, 2013, our Growroom is putting out more veggies than our Greenhouse. We’re in the high-desert of Southern California, and we’ve been dealing with some bitter cold for the last week. It’s actually gotten down to the mid 20’s at night and stayed in the high 30’s during the day; and for Californians, that’s really cold. Nevertheless, our Growroom has stayed a  balmy 77 degrees F; and our fish tank water is up around 80 degrees F. And here’s what’s happening in that wonderfully controlled environment.

We have walls of Basil growing and beds full of Butter Lettuce.

An 11 sq. ft. Grow Bed full of butter lettuce flanked by Basil.

An 11 sq. ft. Grow Bed full of butter lettuce flanked by Basil.

The Basil is growing so tall, we have to keep moving the lights up higher and higher.

Chinese Cabbage, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and lots of Basil

Chinese Cabbage, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and lots of Basil

We finally figured out the right amount of light needed to grow incredible amounts of veggies. We’re using Fluorescent Fixtures, which are great for growing leafy greens; but they won’t grow flowering vegetables like cucumbers. These T5 Grow Tubes are on only eight hours a day and are really doing the job. We’re selling these lights on our website in two sizes. There are eight Grow Tubes in each light; and it takes two of the larger sized lights (FF-8B) to cover one of our 11 sq. ft. Grow Beds. When we were trying to do this with one of the small lights, FF-8A, we were getting stunted growth and brown spots on our leaves. Now we are getting huge, beautiful leaves, no spots and virtually no pests in this Growroom. To check out these great Grow Lights, go here.

An up close look at some of the most beautiful and delicious Butter Lettuce possible.

An up close look at some of the most beautiful and delicious Butter Lettuce possible.

This is a Grow Bed full of Rex Butter Lettuce. It’s delicious, hardy and prolific. This lettuce went from seedlings to full heads in about one month and it was the coldest month we’ve experienced in California in a long time with outside temperatures around 25 degrees F at night.

This Growroom has two entry doors. Below is the room from the North facing door. There are two fish tanks in this room. The one in the foreground of this photo is our 120 gallon tank; and it’s holding about 25 tilapia. In the foreground is our automatic fish feeder. When someone asked us who was taking care of the fish, both Oliver and I looked at each other and said, “No one’s taking care of the fish.” Then we both thought for a moment and corrected ourselves to say: “The fish feeders are taking care of the fish.” If you think raising fish is difficult, think again. They pretty much take care of themselves and only need to be fed.

Coming in the South facing door, you see our 320 Gallon Fish Tank in the foreground.

Coming in the North facing door, you see our 120 Gallon Fish Tank in the foreground.

Below is a photo of our South facing door. When you enter from this side of the room, you see our 320 gallon fish tank that has around 35 Tilapia in it. Some of these guys we’ve had since we started doing aquaponics and they’re huge. We’re letting them grow to see how large they’ll actually get. Everything’s R&D around here as we started from scratch not knowing anything about aquaponics until we discovered it in 2008. We’ll share some photos of these guys in our next Blog post.

Entering the Growroom from the South facing door. Here is our 320 gallon fish tank

Entering the Growroom from the South facing door. Here is our 320 gallon fish tank

We’ve explained in the past how we keep our Growroom a balmy 77 degrees F in the dead of winter; but for those of you who missed that important tid bit of info here it is again. We use a standard home hot water heater in that room. It’s rigged with a stainless steel pipe that comes out of it and wraps twice around the bottom of the 320 gallon fish tank. The hot water heater heats the water to whatever temperature we want. A couple of days ago, we upped the temperature from 76 degrees to 80 degrees to heat up the room a little bit more because it’s all that hot water that’s keeping the room warm. There’s nothing else in the Growroom except a small air conditioner for summer.

Hope your Holiday Season was joyous and you’re getting off to a great start in 2013. We’re about to start harvesting that Butter Lettuce and will be selling it over at Sue’s Health Food Store in Yucca Valley, CA, our local go to place for everything that’s good for us. Our next Blog post will be about the harvesting, packaging and delivery of the veggies we’ve talked about here.

We’re growing more than we can eat ourselves right now, which is the good news; but we’re not really growing enough to make money on the food sales. We wanted to make that clear so we don’t send out the wrong information here. Right now, selling our veggies is practice for moving into a viable commercial operation down the road. An economically viable commercial aquaponics operation requires a much larger set up than our little R&D set up. Our focus right now is selling systems. We grow food for ourselves and to demonstrate how well our systems work. When we grow more than we can eat, we’ve arranged to take our excess over to our local Health Food Store because that’s the right thing to do; and I get to exercise my marketing brain with packaging, point of sale signs, vendor/owner relationships etc. It’s all practice.

Thanks for visiting our Blog. We really appreciate your participation in this exciting new way to grow food. We love sharing and are so blessed to be able to do that with you here. We’re keeping the same motto for 2013 as 2012.


Once you get the bug (pun intended) Gardening becomes a way of life!

Through The Eyes of Grace Photography, Title: Desert Dreaming

I’ve lived in the desert for over six years now; and I’ve yet to get used to what happens when the seasons change from fall to winter as it appears to happen over night and unexpectedly. One weekend we’re in our pool playing pool volleyball and the next weekend is winter. Last year we got caught with our volleyball court still under the pool cover and our swimming suits hanging on the fence. Then, poof, summer was over.

This year we did a little better personally and had voluntarily abandoned the pool ; but we were still trying to hang on to our outdoor garden and failed as four cool days and frosty nights in a row hit us like an arctic winter. We desperately tried to tarp this little outdoor oasis that sits beside our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse; but it wasn’t able to keep the freeze out. We pretty much lost everything although there are some tomato plants still hanging on to life. They are the ones that were closest to the cement blocks that make up the riser we built to raise up the greenhouse. The heat from the blue flame heater inside the greenhouse must have passed through the wall enough to keep these plants alive.

The photos below are what frost bite looks like on cherry tomatoes, squash and corn. It’s a sad sight. 

Still I got a sweet harvest from this outdoor garden today as you can see by the photos below. You wouldn’t believe how incredible these cherry tomatoes taste (although, they’re not quite as sweet as the ones that are growing in our Food Forever™ Growing System).

The squash had a ways to go so they are pretty small; but I’m sure they’ll taste really great. The radishes hadn’t been in the ground long and I was surprised to see how big some of them were as we harvested them prematurely as well. They actually survived the frost better than the squash and didn’t have frost burn at all. It seems that the plants that were closer to the ground did the best. 

You may be wondering how we’re gardening outdoors at all since we do live smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert as you can see from the lead-in photo. The truth is we didn’t think we were going to be able to grow a traditional garden here either. That’s why we built a Greenhouse and started our gardening careers doing Aquaponic Gardening. Neither one of us had ever gardened before so our first foray into gardening was Aquaponic gardening.

Our first season of Aquaponic gardening was in 2009; and our Greenhouse turned into a jungle. We were amazed and we got the gardening bug big time. In fact, now I just don’t feel right if I don’t have food growing in my environment. In 2011, we decided we wanted to use the space alongside our greenhouse for a traditional soil garden. So what we did was we ordered a truck full of “real dirt”, built raised beds and planted our first outdoor garden.

This year our outdoor garden did better than our first year; and by next season, we plan to have a little protective fence around it to keep the critters out. They don’t seem to like tomato plants and corn so they pretty much left the garden alone this past season; but we were feeding them in an area that is close to the house so that may have made a difference.

Through The Eyes of Grace Photography, Title: Lunch Date

So now we basically had to give up on the outdoor garden. But back in the Aquaponics USA Greenhouse, things are still growing and there’s no fear of frost burn.  We have two Grow Beds full of runaway tomato plants. By runaway I mean I haven’t trimmed off the suckers enough and these plants have taken over the Beds. I recently harvested quite a few tomatoes from them, but as the weather has cooled, their production has gone way down. However, they are still working at putting out fruit as you can see from the photos below.

Tomato growing in our Greenhouse in November, 2012.

Below are a couple of photos of lettuce that is growing in our Greenhouse right now.

Lettuce growing in our Aquaponics USA Greenhouse.

Here’s some Chinese Cabbage and Lettuce growing in our Greenhouse.

The Peppers you see in the photo below are also growing in our Greenhouse right now in mid November; but the Pepper Plant that produced this fruit isn’t doing well because it’s being strangled by the huge tomato plant that has taken over that Grow Bed. Nevertheless, this determined Pepper Plant was able to pop out these lovely peppers.

Peppers hanging out of the Grow Bed that has been taken over by Tomatoes.

I planted a bunch of seeds into seedling trays yesterday (Aquaponics gardeners can be planting seeds in November) so we plan to plant a lot of leafy greens into our Grow Beds soon. Leafy greens love cool weather; and we’ll be growing a lot of lettuce, basil,  chinese cabbage and more in both our Greenhouse and Growroom soon.

We’ll share more photos and stories about our adventures as Aquaponics (and soil) Gardeners in the near future. In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and GET GROWING!

Aquaponics USA is a big hit at the Self Reliance EXPO

At 5 AM on October 25th, we climbed into our Honda Pilot packed with two traveling fish tanks and 35 Tilapia in the back supported by two air pumps, two aerators, a back-up battery pack, inverters and a lot of prayer. We got on the Interstate 10 and headed East followed by our Installation Team in a Toyota Tacoma with a trailer full of supplies for our Fish & Veggie Road Show.

After stopping for breakfast, and hitting a couple of roadside rests, we arrived in Mesa, AZ around noon to begin the rigorous job of moving everything, via dollies, from our vehicles to our Exhibit space, which was directly in line with the main stage. The fish came into the Mesa Convention Center in nets supported by buckets one and two at a time.

The next day, Friday, October 26th, the EXPO opened at 11 AM. Below are a series of photos showing us putting the final touches on our Booth that morning. This was only the second time we had set up this Booth, so we were still figuring out the logistics; but this set up went twice as fast as our set up in Los Angeles at the KNOWPHEST.

Our close neighbors were Equip2Endure. They are a broad based survival website that features Survival Training, Survival Hunting, Survival Gear and much more. They were teaching people how to start fires without matches in their Exhibit. Equip2Endure is a member site and you can join for free. They have hundreds of YouTube Videos up and  saw all the exhibitors and customers coming over to see what we were selling and asked us if we would allow them to do a Video Interview of Aquaponics USA. Of course we said, “Yes”, and just last night that Video went into the YouTube stream. It was a real splash as now less than 24 hours later, it already has over 1,000 Views and counting! Just click on the Equip2Endure website; and you’ll find us on their Home Page, or if we’ve scrolled off their Home Page, just go over to our Aquaponics USA TV site to watch our Video. The editing, video, interview team from Equip2Endure really know what they’re doing; and they created a great promo piece for us. Thanks, Guys!

Between the KNOWPHEST and the Self Reliance EXPO we also added another component to our Food Forever™ Growing System Series, which are insulating skins made out of Double Bubble Foil Insulation. It gives our systems a high tech look and feel while adding warmth to both the Grow Beds and the Fish Tanks. Below is a photo of Fred, our Systems Builder and Installer, placing the new skins on our FFGS-20 Demo System. The next picture is of our completed Exhibit as it looked from the Main Stage. We had a perfect location; and since we were the only booth in the EXPO that used EZ-Ups, we were impossible to miss. We heard through the grapevine that there were over a thousand people at the EXPO, which really isn’t that big of a turnout; but we were so busy we hardly had time to eat. We gave out every System Flyer we printed, every Brochure and ended up hoarse from talking so much. We were definitely a big hit; and we went away wondering how we would deal with a 5,000 or 10,000 strong crowd, which, by the way, turned out in the Utah Self Reliance EXPO.

As I explained in my previous post, there’s a movement happening called the Prepper Movement; and it’s all about getting and being prepared for whatever disaster, natural or manmade, that may be coming in the future. There are literally millions of Americans actively involved in this movement. To date, over 4 million Americans self identify as Preppers. The Self Reliance Expo and the several other Expos listed in our previous post are proof positive that Preppers are here to stay and are offering interesting out of the ordinary, creative, off-the-grid products for their fellows in the marketplace. These products meet needs for being self reliant and independent in the areas where survival is the most important including Food, Energy, Shelter and Water.

This explains why Aquaponics USA was so intriguing to this clientele. We offer something in the realm of becoming more Food Independent that goes beyond stored food, which is what most vendors catering to Preppers are offering. We believe a combination of both stored food and food you grow yourself are important to insure food security in uncertain times.We offer Food Forever™ Growing Systems that are Survival Food Growing Systems, which with added Grow Lights,  can grow food in a basement, a garage, a spare room or an enclosed back porch. And, of course, what’s growing isn’t just veggies. It also includes protein in the form of fish. And once we get our Solar Systems hooked up to our Growing Systems, which won’t be too far in the future, Greenhouse growing will appeal all the more to this new, savy customer.

As we shared in a previous post, our first Fish & Veggie Road Show was in Los Angeles. The clientele and the venue of that Show was very different from the Self Reliance EXPO; but nevertheless, a comparison can be made. Most of the people who came into our Booth in LA did not have a clue as to what Aquaponics was; and we introduced them to the concept. Not so at the Self Reliance EXPO. There, very few of the people who came into our Booth did not already know what Aquaponics food growing technology was. Of course, many had never seen an operating system, so seeing ours was very exciting; and they appreciated the embellishments on their basic concepts that we had to offer.

What we discovered in Mesa, AZ is that Preppers are intelligent, well-informed and determined to not be victims of the next disaster, whatever it may be. One way or another, they’ve given up on the false, albeit comforting, belief that the government will be able to save them when TSHTF. They are putting their money behind their belief that they have to be able to save themselves and their families. Prepping is almost a religion. It has a fervor, drive and enthusiasm behind it that is contagious.

Check the Self Reliance EXPO website for their 2013 Show Schedule. The EXPO offers way more than a unique line up of Vendors. It also offers classes in subjects like “Suturing/Stapling Hands-On Lab”, “Preparing and Using Nature’s Medicine”, “Bread Baking” and “Soap Making Demystified” to name just a few. The EXPO also offers Guest Speakers who share information on everything from “How To Sprout Seeds” to the state of the U.S. Economy to how to be your own Doctor or Dentist when one isn’t available. Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy were two such featured speakers. Their website, Doom and Bloom™ Nation is full of life-saving information that we would all need in a national disaster.

The following photos create a collage of a few our fellow entrepreneurs who exhibited at the Self Reliance EXPO in Mesa, AZ. Under the photos or before the photos is the link to their websites should you care to learn more about them. Many of these Exhibitors did all the venues of these EXPOs, which concluded their 2012 Tour with the Mesa Show. So here comes the Line Up of some of the Self Reliance EXPO Exhibitors offering products in the first important survival category, FOOD, starting with yours truly, Aquaponics USA.

And here’s the link to our website at www.aquaponicsusa.com

Here are a few of the Food Storage Exhibitors.

And here’s the link to the Thrive website.

And here’s the link to the Grandma’s Country Foods and other important survival products.

And here’s the link to Survival Cave.

And here’s the link to Noah’s Pantry.

And here’s the link to Go Foods.

As we explained earlier, we were so busy we barely had time to eat, so believe me, we didn’t see much of this EXPO on this trip. We had every intention of rubbing shoulders with our fellow exhibitors and we did; but it all happened in our Booth as we explained what we were up to. Oliver did a quick run through the EXPO to shoot these photos; but we can’t tell you much about our fellow vendors. If you find that the time has come for you to start  storing food, check out these websites. We haven’t tried any of their products (although we plan to) and can’t give recommendations, this is just a place to start your exploration into becoming more Food Independent. By the way, if you Google “Food Independent”, you will get Aquaponics USA.

On to the next important survival topic, Water; and we only have one water purification system company for you to look at. This company is advertising on every Prepper website on the net; so it was no surprise it was exhibiting in Mesa. It’s the Berkey Water Purification System

Next comes Energy and an innovative company featuring compact-powerful, renewable-energy solar power generators that are built in the good old USA. This company is called ARK SOLAR SYSTEMS. Like so many of the entrepreneurs in this EXPO, it’s a family company that came up with this idea in order to solve a problem for itself–how to have a reliable energy source while camping. Again, we discovered this while chatting with them in our Booth rather than theirs. If you’re interested in a compact solar powered generator, check out their website.

There’s a second solar company we want to mention called GO Solar. It features a variety of portable solar power packs.

Now, on to Land and Shelter, two other very important survival necessities. Due to low lighting conditions the photo below is quite blurry; but you get the idea of how roomy a yurt can be. This company, Groovy Yurts, is building some of the most eye-catching, versatile and easy to assemble shelters on the planet. Made to resist extreme climates, this circular domed abode is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Easily dismantled, the yurt is portable and self-supporting. Check them out at Groovy Yurts.com.

Need some land to put your Groovy Yurt on? Check out Rivers Edge. One plus acre plots in Arizona on the Verde River and backed up to a National Forest. This land is in the cool Ponderosa Pines at 5,500 ft. We’re not sure how yurts do in the snow. Go to the Groovy Yurt website to find out.Here’s the opposite of a yurt for shelter. Instead of cloth, it’s made of steel and it goes underground instead of on top of it. If you had one of these at Rivers Edge, no one would know it. Take the virtual tour of the ATLAS on the ATLAS SURVIVAL SHELTERS Website. We actually took a few minutes to tour the one that sat outside the entrance to the Mesa Convention Center. It was very interesting. Below are a couple of photos of the exterior and the interior of an ATLAS.

This company was our immediate neighbor, the Homestead General Store, that offered everything from soup to nuts and more. You can actually see our tent tops on the left side of the picture below. We’re posting two pictures of the Homestead General Store because the hand grinding mills are quite literally works of art from a time that many believe is not gone.

Hope you enjoyed your virtual attendance at the recent Self Reliance EXPO in Mesa, Arizona. We plan to take you on a lot more of these Reliance EXPO Tours in 2013. If you want to know more about the Prepper Movement, be sure to read our previous post and look into joining the new website called PreppersPost where you’ll get lots of information about this Movement and remember, IT’S TIME TO GROW FOOD SO GET GROWING!

What’s a Prepper??? Hint: It isn’t a soda.

On the local front, sadly us Californians rejected the proposition that would label bodily destructive GMO’s. On the national front, a man in Orlando is fighting to keep his vegetable garden that is against city ordinance because it’s in his front yard. Ironically, the FEMA office on Staten Island closed due to weather on November 7th while, overall, more than 139,000 Staten Island households were affected by hurricane Sandy.There were 80,000 New York-area customers still lacking power Tuesday night, November 6th, more than a week after Sandy hit that coastal area according to Con Edison, New York City’s largest utility company.

Meanwhile way down south in Argentina, the power went out for an extended period of time due to the opposite weather conditions–it was too hot and high demand caused two high voltage lines to fail. Even the Congress building and presidential palace went dark.

What’s wrong with this broad stroke picture? Everything.

What’s coming that can correct this wrong course for our country and the world? A movement of huge proportions. It’s called the Prepper Movement.

And it’s taking the US, in particular, by storm.The Prepper Movement is a truly grassroots movement that is uniting people of all countries, ages, ethnic groups and religions into one ever growing mass of people who have come to realize they cannot depend on their Governments. They know that they can’t rely on government to protect the country’s food integrity from unscrupulous corporate greed or save them in a time of crisis. They have also come to believe they need to be able to feed themselves and fend for themselves when faced with an interruption to their modern way of life no matter what the cause. They understand our newly acquired civilized existence is too dependent on forces beyond their own autonomy and ingenuity.

Why am I saying it is newly acquired? Because homes in U.S. cities have only had electricity since 1930, and only 10% of the people in rural communities had it at that early date. Although Supermarkets started in the U.S. in the 20’s and 30’s, they didn’t become dominant until after World War II in the 1950’s. Why are supermarkets vulnerable? Because Supermarkets depend completely on a functioning trucking industry, which, in turn, depends completely on plenty of economical fuel; and that depends on a fully functioning electrical power grid.

Now, most of the world is dependent on outside sources for both food and energy. Those outside sources aren’t providing healthy, nutritious food or reliable energy. It’s a very vulnerable interlocking network that is subject to all kinds of natural or manmade disasters including solar flares or terrorist attacks on the grid. Ask the folks in New Jersey, New York and Virginia about how that inter-dependent network is working out right about now; as gas stations closed due to power outages causing lines that are five hours long in the few remaining open stations.

There are three major areas where Preppers (which is an abbreviation of the word Preparing) are becoming self sufficient. The most important factors for sustaining life are Food, Water and Energy, and that’s where Preppers are focusing their time, effort and money. Besides online networks, like the ones pictured and linked above, Preppers are flocking to EXPOS that are popping up across the U.S.

Our next Blog post will feature one of those venues, the Self Reliance EXPO. Here, upcoming entrepreneurs and savy customers networked together in this new marketplace that is launching out of the box and off the grid products. These products offer healthy alternatives, convenience, safety and peace of mind to the growing number of people who know the really big crash is still coming. This coming crash tsunami threatens the power grid, food security and food safety, which has already been violated by the emergence and full acceptance of GMO’s by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But before we get specific, let’s go wide with a list of all the Prepper/Survivalist Expos out there including: Arizona Survivalist/Prepper, Get Prepared Expo, Prepare & Survive EXPO, The Home Safety Prep Tour, Kansas Prepper EXPO, Sustainable  Preparedness, The Great Utah Emergency Preparedness Expo, National Preppers & Survivalists EXPO, and the Self Reliance Expo.

There wouldn’t be a growing list of EXPO’s like the ones above if there weren’t a growing list of Preppers to attend the EXPO’s and growing interest in the subject of prepping. There also wouldn’t be two new TV series out on the national networks including National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers”,  a reality show focused on Preppers across the nation and the fictional NBC hit, “Revolution” about a U.S. without a power grid where rebels fight for the flag.

Every time there’s a national disaster like hurricane Sandy or another GMO crop becomes approved by the U.S. Food Czar and ex-Monsanto Lawyer, Michael Taylor, the Preppers population grows exponentially. Thousands will be added to the Prepper roles in the near future compliments of Sandy alone.

Check back with us soon for the post featuring the Self Reliance Expo that happened in late October in Mesa, AZ. We’ll introduce you to some of the up-coming businesses that are being launched by Preppers for Preppers, which, by the way, includes Aquaponics USA. These businesses won’t be the ones going bust in 2013. They will be the ones growing as this gigantic wave of American entrepreneurism coupled with the Prepper Movement comes to shore. See you again soon.