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Author Topic: A backyard food production complex (BFPC)  (Read 4690 times)

Carolinajim

  • Joined Dec 2008
  • Eastern North Carolina, USA
    • Red Bay Farm
A backyard food production complex (BFPC)
« on: March 28, 2010, 02:52:00 am »
Quote from: redbayfarm;1443048
Producing your own food in a concentrated manner may be something some of you might be interested in pursuing.  I call the concept a backyard food production complex...a term I coined a couple of years ago.  Backyard food production is easy to understand. However, the next word, "complex" is all about a minimum external input food production complex.  I'm pretty excited about this system because it is completely off grid.  I've talked about it on a survivalist forum and they liked the concept.  Maybe you will find some ideas here that are helpful for your small holding?

My idea is to stuff as much food production capability as possible into a 16 X 16 meter (about 1/8 th of an acre) area.  The goal is efficiency and sustainability for year round food production (easier in the South and harder in the North...or in reverse for our Southern Hemisphere friends).  I chose the size for my long term experiment based on suburban lot sizes here in the US.  Cramming everything together into a compact easy to use system makes sense for other things...why not for backyard food production?

Since I live in a climate which doesn't get Scottish cold but is also not San Juan Puerto Rico, I have decided to center my complex on a greenhouse which contains a simple aquaponics  system and runs on solar energy.

Anyway here are the beginnings of the concept.

A greenhouse (technically a cold frame today) with solar power for some of the internal workings.

Aquaculture...combined with chickens and rabbits a small signature BFPC has the potential to be very productive.

Simplicity.  The picture above and the picture below are of an inexpensive air pump, powered by the solar panel charged battery bank which pumps air 24/7 into a simple airlift pump which circulates and pumps the water in the white fish tank. This plan is free and can be viewed at http://www.webofcreation.org/BuildingGrounds/aqua/Chap1.html).

Please note the gray bucket to the right of the air pump/airlift pump/fish tank...it is screened with landscape cloth and is the tank for my bucket drip irrigation system.

Water! water is absolutely essential.  It is a must have.  I use 10 gallons of water a day in this system...and it is March.  I pump all my water from my shallow well with a hand pump...right now (in the summer I will switch to my solar well pump) I recommend a water well for most folksl...a driven well is simplest if you have the right soils.  Do you need tips for well drilling?  Visit http://www.redbayfarm.com/water.html for information on producing water on your property.

Finally the end product (other than animals)...vegetables.  In this case the end product has a double meaning in context with the picture below.  The water flowing from the pipe is the outflow from the aquaculture filter which is fed by the airlift pump.  The lettuce and radish plants are just the beginnings of what I hope will be a very productive and very long growing season.


Today I planted walnut, pecan and chinese chestnuts in the complex adding to the figs and hazelnuts planted last year.

I am also working on a vertical windmill cobbled together with this and that to augment my solar panels.

I hope you found this post useful.

Best Regards,
Jim
www.redbayfarm.com a website about a small 46 acre family owned tree farm
Become Carbon Neutral - Buy Land and Plant Trees
Voss Electric Fence

Carolinajim

  • Joined Dec 2008
  • Eastern North Carolina, USA
    • Red Bay Farm
BFPC update
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2010, 02:37:02 am »
I've added about 25 bluegills (freshwater panfish here in the states) to the barrel.  Most of the goldfish have been transformed into bluegill food.  I've also added mosquito fish for forage.  My wife calls my little backyard school of blue gills the piranhas because they strike the surface of the water when feeding...so hard that putting your finger in the water looks like a dangerous thing to do.

Recently I added a worm bin to my greenhouse.  The worm bin is a simple one made of rubber maid totes that a neighbor gave me. Here are the directions for making one if anyone is interested. http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/Easywormbin.htm The worms are already doing a great job converting kitchen scraps to compost and once the population grows a bit they will be used to give my bluegills some extra protein.

Today I planted a banana tree in the greenhouse which also houses a Nagami kumquat and Meyer lemon (both make the greenhouse smell wonderful now that they are blooming).  By the way, I had both of these trees on my front porch with only a blanket thrown over the top and they survived...even though nighttime temperatures fell to 15 F. The Nagami's were absolutely delicious!  They Meyer's did not set fruit last year but it was the first year for the tree...this year lots of fruit is setting and we should have some nice lemons next year.

As I add items to my BFPC I am trying to maximize multiples in utility...and I am trying to stay away from single utility items which don't have a very important role to play in my little micro farm.  It is very difficult to think of any item which has only one purpose...by placement even an ornamental plant might produce shade.

So, my banana plant is a multi use item. 

- I planted it on the south side of my fish tank...it will shade the fish and keep them cool in the summer but will be cut back in the winter to allow sunlight to warm the water.
- The tree should make bananas in my greenhouse but it will be a challenge! http://www.news-record.com/content/2008/08/12/article/banana_project_is_finally_fruitful
- Banana leaves can be used in cooking.http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaicookingessentials/ht/bananaleafhowto.htm


Best Regards,
Jim
www.redbayfarm.com a website about a small 46 acre family owned tree farm
Become Carbon Neutral - Buy Land and Plant Trees

Carolinajim

  • Joined Dec 2008
  • Eastern North Carolina, USA
    • Red Bay Farm
Re: A backyard food production complex (BFPC)
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2010, 12:15:16 am »
I discovered another synergy.  Underneath a aquaponics grow bed is a nice cool (shaded) and damp (from condensation) area...perfect for two things at least.  A worm bin and my shiitake logs.

Just ate sauteed shiitake, green onion and seared tuna steak ... great could have been better if I had some broiled tilapia instead but I am not there yet.
Best Regards,
Jim
www.redbayfarm.com a website about a small 46 acre family owned tree farm
Become Carbon Neutral - Buy Land and Plant Trees

Carolinajim

  • Joined Dec 2008
  • Eastern North Carolina, USA
    • Red Bay Farm
Update on my BFPC aquaponics system
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2010, 12:48:48 pm »
http://www.redbayfarm.com/aquaponics.html I put together a little web page which provides some pictures and lots of references if you are interested in aquaponics.
Best Regards,
Jim
www.redbayfarm.com a website about a small 46 acre family owned tree farm
Become Carbon Neutral - Buy Land and Plant Trees

egbert

  • Joined Jan 2010
Re: A backyard food production complex (BFPC)
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2010, 02:35:06 pm »
Hi

Just been reading up on aquaponic and hydroponic systems and your own website. It looks quite fascinating and I am tempted to have a go, however as I am new to growing my own veg in a normal garden, investing in all this equipment is a little scary. So I have a load of questions for you - more coming to mind all the time, if you wouldn't mind having a look through them.

 How large is your greenhouse and system - how long did it take you set up and how much do you think it has cost to get running? Do you produce food for your own consumption or is your system large enough that you end up with surplus? Also, you have mentioned some animals (rabbits I think) - but I can't see where they fit in?

How much time do you think you spend looking after the fish, plants and upkeep of the system - do you think it is similar to maintaining a 'normal' raised bed or less time, as presumably there is no/less weeding? I assume you also eat the fish - are they self producing or do you have to re-stock?

Do you use heating - I have been reading up on Solar powered heat sinks for the greenhouse.

Hope you don't mind me asking so many questions - it all looks confusing but the concept is fairly straightforward, it's just getting it all together that is off putting.

Cheers

Carolinajim

  • Joined Dec 2008
  • Eastern North Carolina, USA
    • Red Bay Farm
Re: A backyard food production complex (BFPC)
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2010, 11:30:30 pm »
Egbert, sorry to take so long to respond. Here are my answers to your questions.

Q: How large is your greenhouse and system
A: My greenhouse is 16' X 12' the plans can be viewed for free at: http://www.redbayfarm.com/Voting.html There are also other plans available.  Here is the link to the plan I used. The greenhouse is just one facet of what I call a BFPC.

how long did it take you set up and how much do you think it has cost to get running?
Greenhouse - $350 (2 days)
Aquaponics - about $100 (1 day) http://www.redbayfarm.com/aquaponics.html
Solar energy....about $500 (1 day)
The rest of the BFPC...a lifetime

Q: Do you produce food for your own consumption or is your system large enough that you end up with surplus?
A: That is the goal...I have chickens, mushrooms, eggs and vegetables.  This is the first year for this greenhouse system...right now it seems to have resolved some of the virus problems I have had with tomatoes...not exposed directly to soil splash from rain....bottom line loads of work to get to a meaningful production capability.

Q: Also, you have mentioned some animals (rabbits I think) - but I can't see where they fit in?
A: I am interested in the vertical spaces in the greenhouse.  For example, I place my mushroom logs under the aquaponics grow bed for shade and on the ground for coolness.  I see an opportunity for a rabbit hutch/wormbin combo perhaps under a grow bed.  I am still thinking about that one.


Q: How much time do you think you spend looking after the fish, plants and upkeep of the system - do you think it is similar to maintaining a 'normal' raised bed or less time, as presumably there is no/less weeding?
A: I spend about 15 minutes in the AM feeding my chickens and fish and about 30 minutes in the afternoon replenishing water in the aquaponics system, filling my bucket drip irrigation system and feeding the fish.  I feed the chickens kitchen scraps with supplemental grain.  I feed the fish worms and minnows that I raise in a separate tank.  You will love weeding a waist high grow bed!

Q: I assume you also eat the fish - are they self producing or do you have to re-stock?
A: The bluegills are my graduation from goldfish.  Bluegill are supposed to be good to eat...but I won't know until this fall.  I am trying to figure out a way to breed bluegills. I am researching breeding these fish as well as small catfish (bullheads)

Q:Do you use heating - I have been reading up on Solar powered heat sinks for the greenhouse.
A: My greenhouse does not have conventional heating.  I live in USDA zone 8B which means that the temperature gets down to about 10 degrees F.  A hoop house makes a micro climate which is similar to southeast Florida...which means that my temps in the greenhouse get down to the lower 30's which really opens up opportunities for growing a variety of plants like kumquats, lemons and bananas (maybe).
I am thinking about a solar thermo siphon type heater but I need to do a lot of design work to make that feasible in my system.



Best Regards,
Jim
www.redbayfarm.com a website about a small 46 acre family owned tree farm
Become Carbon Neutral - Buy Land and Plant Trees

 

BIOGAS PRODUCTION (methane)

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Last post March 01, 2008, 08:04:36 pm
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