Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 59

Today's pick was just a few herbs.  It's all I needed for the dish we made tonight which was something I have been thinking about making for years.  Its a variation on a dish that has been handed down for generations in my family.  Its the simplest of dishes and I was never sure if I should attempt this new one but today we decided to try it.  We picked fresh parsley and rosemary from our patch.

Our three year old daughter used the pestle and mortar and crushed up the rosemary with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. 

We then roasted a free range chicken upside down, which is the first time i've done it that way.  It worked well by allowing the juices to run through the breast meat keeping it moist.  It's flipped just at the end to brown.  We tore the chicken meat into pieces cooked the pasta and the rosemary was added to the pan juices to blend with the pine nuts and sultanas.  it was then all tossed together with parsley and this is the result.

A new twist on a family favourite.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 58

We are starting to see some progress in the patch now that the new trout have been introduced.  The system seems to be picking up which can take a short while.  The trout need to produce ammonia which triggers the bacteria that converts ammonia into nitrite to start reproducing to deal with the increased levels of ammonia and then the same happens with the bacteria the converts nitrite into nitrate.  Then last but certainly the most important the plants start to take on that nitrate and grow.  We have noticed some great growth in the leafy vegetables, including spinach and silver beet.  

Some of the other things are just growing bigger and as you can see below our squash is a great size.  My wife is even eating things like cabbage now as its flavour is so much different grown in the patch.  We pick them smaller and they are not bitter at all.  It actually has flavour and the nutrient loss is nil as we eat them straight away with no over cooking.  Happy days.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 56

Today was one of those days where I got time to feed the fish and that was about it.  I did however prune right back the vietnamese mint.  We have a heap of it and I want to keep it under control.  I am taking it into work tomorrow where an eager bunch of work mates will gladly snap it up and use it for all sorts of delights.

We had a quick look around the tank at the Murray Cod.  I don't know how they do it but they are so good at hiding.  I managed to net a couple and take a picture though.  I couldn't catch the biggest one but they are slowly getting bigger.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 55

Well the fish must be doing their thing as we were able to pick a bunch of silver beet today.  Have a look at the larger image by clicking on the picture of the silver beet.  It will show you just how fresh and crisp it  should look.  Its not limp at all like the supermarket stuff.  Its amazing.

My wife picked this spinach early in the morning and today made a variation of a roly poly.  Using freshly made pasta and 3 different cheeses, ricotta, parmigiano reggiano and barrel aged feta.

It was delicious.  I even went back for seconds.  Nothing like fresh home made pasta and greens picked from your own garden.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 54

Well the trout are going exceptionally well.  We lost 7 on the second day but only because they jumped out.  We had planned to put a cover over the tank but I thought they wouldn't be able to jump out as they are so small at the moment so wasn't in a great hurry.  Sadly I was wrong but we now have a temporary cover to stop them jumping.  They have settled in really well and the water temp is 20oC.

We've been picking some squash and strawberries and yesterday I picked a bunch of different herbs to mix through creme fraiche that was added to a smoked trout risotto.  Yummy but it wasn't our trout yet.

All in all we are slowly getting back on track now that the trout are in..  The cooler weather will start soon but I think by then we'll have the system cranking along again just nicely ready for the Autumn/Winter crop.

We are considering pulling out most things in the 3rd growbed soon and transplanting them to the 4th.  That way we can plant seed in the 3rd keeping in line with our plan to rotate the grow beds.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 51

We are taking a small gamble today.  We have introduced 150 rainbow trout to our aquaponics system.  I have been looking at long range forecasts and I think we are clear of all the hot weather now.  We have today and tomorrow to get through but so far its going fine.

We have very energetic little trout swimming around in the currents produced by the pumps and they seem to be loving it and these 150 nutrient producing trout will help us get the system cranking again.

They are so much more lively than the Murray Cod.  It's quite a treat to watch them swim around.

We even found a few well hidden veggies in the grow beds.  A couple of large squash and a cucumber were just some of the things we found today.  Sometimes it seems we need to just look harder.  In fact my wife found them.  Maybe I need to look harder next time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 50

Well its been quite a few days since I last posted.  Not because I have been slipping but I felt I mat have been raving on a bit.  I'm disappointed I cant be showing you great produce being picked.  Nothing is really ready.

We have used some herbs over the last few days and I cut some stalks of celery tonight for a Bolognese sauce but thats about it.  Our seedlings are going well.  19 days since they were planted.

In the mean time while we wait for some more things to pick here's some videos of the seedling progress.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 45

Another day where not a lot is happening.  I really am starting to realise how much timing is needed to ensure the constant availability of fresh produce and avoid non harvest periods.

I have read that if we ran out of fuel in the world, our supermarkets would hold enough food for 3 days.  It's a scary thought but I don't see it happening in the near future, but it sets me a challenge.

Could i get our aquaponics system to the stage where if the supermarkets ran out of food for any amount of time, i could support my family with food.  If you knew that for 2 weeks you needed to be able to support yourself and family could you do it?

The fish would obviously be there to eat, but it also means we would need fish big enough to eat.  That I feel is something I want to aim for.  I need slow growing fish and fast growing fish.   The fast growing fish so we have a constant supply of fish to eat. Trout in winter, silver perch in summer?   The slower growing fish to help keep the system stable and producing the nutrients, but also a back up if we need fish and the others aren't up to size at that time.

As far as the veggies go, I also need the constant nutrient from the fish to keep them going and also timing of the grow beds so that even if its a small harvest we can manage each day, at least we are harvesting.

It's a lot to aim for but the ease of the aquaponics system means I can achieve it without back breaking soil digging.  I don't have to rotate crops because of nutrient loss.  I just need to plant for the seasons, stagger the grow beds and watch it grow.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 44

Last night I was watching one of the gardening shows on tv and they were talking about picking your zucchini's when they are quite small.  I have been waiting for them to grow to a much larger size but the have been rotting before they had a chance to grow.  So tonight we picked our first zucchini's and another few squash. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 43

Overnight we received another dose of rain which now takes our tally to around 700 lt of rain water harvested and added to the system.  I hope now that all our water can come from the skies rather than the tap.

Only 2 strawberries came from the garden today but Grace refused to eat them.  We bought a punnet of strawberries from the supermarket last week and she tasted a couple and decided she didn't like them.  Now she wont eat the ones from the garden.  She is obviously used to the sweet freshly picked garden ones and the bad taste of the bought ones have left her with a taste and she doesn't want to eat any at all.

Seeds are still growing strong and I am thinking of thinning out the two original grow beds into one so i can get ready to plant new seeds in a week or so.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 42

Rain glorious Rain!

Today we had 17.6mm of rain which filled our rain catchment tank twice.  Its a 240 litre wheelie bin designed specifically for the task.

Only this week I installed the pump and not too early as we were able to drain it once into the fish tank just before we received another down pour which filled it in about 5 minutes.  A total of just under 500 litres of water was added to the fish tank which is fantastic.

Our aim is to use only rain water to keep the tank full so in the future we may put in a large tank which would store water for the summer evaporation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 41

Not much to talk about today.  Our Diggers Club seeds arrived and I have to make sure I don't order online in a hurry late at night.  I ordered things that need to be planted in spring.  I guess that I can always start collecting the seeds for the next spring crop.  Our water temp hasn't gone over 28oC which is great.  The Cod are very active.  See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 40

Today I want to show you how much the seeds have grown since planted.   We planted the seeds on the 31st Jan and the post on the 4th Feb shows a small amount of growth.  Now only 9 days later on the 9th Feb we have the most amazing growth.

The best part is we aren't totally sure what is planted where.  We know a couple of them are pumpkins and a few different beans but the rest is a mystery.  We are really looking forward to the treasure hunt.

I also think this will be good for helping with any pest as they will become disorientated and may find it hard to attack any particular plant.  The only real issue with pest though so far is cabbage moth and there caterpillars.  They have staged an airborne attack but the Murray Cod love the caterpillars.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 39

Just when I thought we weren't going to get anything from the patch for awhile I found a few little gems tonight.   Squash.  They are everywhere.  Just hiding well.  I also noticed the zucchini are starting to take off again.   The system slowed a little recently but the last few days the Murray Cod have been feeding really well.  I think the cooler water has triggered this.  The shade curtains are keeping the water a lot cooler and tonight after two very warm days the water was only at 28oC.  This extra feeding will result in extra nutrients produced by the fish and the plants will take off again.

So tonight we had from our system, cabbage, squash and pumpkin.  The pumpkin was small and didn't have a lot of flesh so I was interested to see how it would taste.  To my utter surprise it had so much flavour. Often a bought pumpkin is bland and even watery.  This was the opposite and was amazing.  I still have a half pumpkin left so will take a pic tomorrow to show how it looks cut.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 38

Today is the marking of 12 months since we first put in our large aquaponics system.  You can see from the images that we started with one grow bed and 1000lt fish tank.  It was up against the wall of the house.  Then within 12 months we pulled down our 2 garden sheds and with 2 stages of work we went to 2 grow beds then 4 with an additional 3000lt fish tank.

This day as you can see from the original image was very hot.  My mate Peter jumped in the tank with a beer to cool off.  This image was taken just before the first fire of Black Saturday.  It was the hottest day on record.  It will always be a day we remember those who lost their lives.  

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 37

I think I have to concede defeat at the moment.  Our patch has given up about 80% of the summer produce.  We really don't have a lot to pick at the moment which is a result mainly because of the way I planted the original 2 grow beds.  We planted them at the same time which meant we were harvesting from them both at the same time.

My new plan is to use all 4 grow beds in a rotating fashion.  As we sow the 1st growbed the 2nd will be at seedling stage, the 3rd at almost ready to harvest and the 4th will be what we are eating from.  I can see this as the way to move forward and keep a constant supply.   So for the moment we will just keep you updated on the progress of our just sowed bed and the bed that is at seedling stage.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 36

Today's pick was actually a couple of accidents.  In looking around at what we had growing both of these fell of the vine .  Maybe the aren't accidents and maybe it was time to for these to be eaten.  We'll find out soon when we eat these.  

To give you an idea of the sizes the capsicum is about the size of a golf ball.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 35

An update on the seedlings today.  Its been 4 days since we spread the mixed seeds over the growbed and already we have a heap of shoots coming up.

Click on the image to see it close up.

It always amazes me and I just love seeing the new growth. I am already trying to work out just exactly what it is thats growing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 34

Its been a hot week and today the rain and slightly cooler temperature arrived and so we decided to try our first of the autumn crop.  Cabbage.  We picked the largest one which was probably 3/4 the size of a supermarket cabbage.  It was firm, crunchy, tightly packed and almost sweet.  Certainly no bitterness at all.

 I cooked it very simple with unsalted butter, seasalt and freshly ground pepper, with an oven roasted pork loin.  Simple and delicious.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 33

Strawberry success!  I think our shade cloth is helping the strawberries.  We are getting larger strawberries now and I think its because they are getting the chance to grow before they ripen.  So it was a number of larger strawberries that disappeared into the tummy of the oldest daughter before I could say "I need to take a picture of it,"

Tonight I did some water tests to see how the nitrogen cycle is going.  The nitrogen cycle is what this is all about and it is basically the fish producing ammonia which is converted into nitrites.  The nitrites are converted into nitrates and the nitrates are what the plants love.  The water cleaned of ammonia is then returned to the fish and the cycle continues.   I tested for the levels of all these things to see how the system is going.  All my levels are going well.  The one I am a little concerned about is the nitrates.  They are at 0 which is great.  It means the plants are taking up all the nutrients but they may also be not getting enough.  The quicker I can get the trout in the better.  I added some Seasol to the tank to make sure the plants have some food in the mean time and while doing so I noticed we already have some seeds sprouting.  The tiny shoots are starting to poke out of the larger seeds.  Its 3 days since we planted them and I think by the weekend we'll have something to take pictures of.  It amazes me every time just how quickly the aquaponics system is.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 32

Well today is a bit of an uneventful day.  Not much is happening.  We haven't picked anything, in fact the only thing we have done is the next stage of the Green tomato chutney.  

It looks a lot like Branston pickles.  Its the first time I have made it and its a brown chutney.  I cant wait to try it with a cloth bound Australian Cheddar, cold meats and some of our cucumber pickles.