More homemade stuff is happening on the Funny Farm. Today was busy with Roasted Corn Yard Salsa. Made completely with homegrown veggies and a small amount of time, it is quite tasty. The final ears of corn for the year were harvested yesterday and roasted this morning. We’ve had a good harvest of heirloom tomatoes over the last 2 days and were perfect for salsa making. Of course, our peppers haven’t slowed down one bit and we’ve been looking for more ways to use them all. These few jars may only last a week or two at most. Mackenzie and I ate the 5th jar today.

Roast Corn Yard Salsa

We’re also looking into making all of our own tortillas, crackers and breads. Crackers were quite easy and today’s experiment yielded some yummy Spicy Salt and Pepper crackers. Next time, I want to use baking sheets without edges so I can make thinner crackers. Today’s were plenty crunchy, but some very thin and crispy crackers was the goal.

Spicy Salt & Pepper Crackers

Learning how to make bread really isn’t that tough. Verifying the ingredients before assembly has shown tough today. By mistake, this Honey Wheat Bread has become a very tasty and high protein wheat bread.

Honey Wheat Bread?

The kiddo is shipping out to Camp Longhorn on Sunday. She’s getting some customized gear to mark it as hers. The knot on the bottle is a Turkshead in a bight and the knot on the flashlight is a repeated Over and Under Heaving Line Knot, also called a “Rattlesnake Knot.” I did retain some knowledge from being a Boy Scout for a few years – Thanks, Dad.

Custom Gear

Well, the greenhouse plans are pretty much ready for the permit. It’s been a busy spring and the greenhouse construction has been delayed a good bit. It will definitely need to be ready for fall. We plan to have early seedlings next year so we can keep improving our system.

It’s a basic wood construction. It will need some reinforcements to stay put in the winds we’ve had. The roof and walls will have clear, UV protected polycarbonate sheets. Cooling in the summer will be made possible with lots of ventilation and a water mist. Heating in the winter will be a combination of a passive solar radiant floor heating, forced convection solar heating as well as thermal mass inside the greenhouse.

Hopefully, the permit will be in hand by the end of next week so more construction can begin. The floor reflector, tubing and gravel will go in first. 4 yards of gravel will be moved from the driveway to the back yard. Anyone else want to grab a shovel and wheelbarrow?

I’ve managed to post a few videos of our aquaponic ecosystem. Everything has settled down, the water is crystal clear and the plants are flourishing. Technical details will be coming soon with drawings and notes.

The high pressure sodium grow lights were turned off for the video. They produced bad scan lines on the video. The veggies are currently under a 430 watt High Pressure Sodium lamp. If you are playing around with flourescent or led grow lights, that’s all you are doing. The plants need a high power light source and flourescents can not produce the same lumens in the proper light spectrum for strong growth.

Soon the eco system will be out back with a small lean-to roof for shade. The delicate lettuces are no match for the Texas sun.

Keep checking back for more updates on our aquaponics system.

So far the aquaponics system has worked out nicely. Once we added the fish, the water clouded a bit and a good few of the fish died. We monitored the water temperature and ph only. Feeding the fish the proper amounts while waiting for the plants to begin to grow was a tough balance. Now that the Arugula, Buttercrunch Lettuce and a few Beets are growing, the water has cleared up perfectly.

Our aquaponics system has 3 stages of passive biofiltration. The video posted below shows the startup of the system without fish or plants. The water was a little cloudy due to residue left in the gravel, even after hours of rinsing. The overflow system change to a venturi overflow system which will be shown in the next video. I will also post sketches of the biofilters I made.

We’ve realized that is truly the way towards a sustainable food supply for our home. Once the system is moved, we will use Tilapia for fish in the system and the beds will be expanded to grow more veggies. Want to know how our chickens and vermicomposter tie into our aquaponics system too? Don’t be afraid to know where your food comes from.

Things are really taking off this Spring. The strawberries we are growing taste absolutely amazing. Juicier, sweeter and more tender than any store-bought berry ever. This season we have about 45 berry plants growing, I can already tell next year we’ll need room for double that.

The peach trees are doing equally as well. In about 2 weeks, we’ll need to trim back the peaches so only 1 per 6-8 inches are left. We don’t want the young tree to be stressed or crack under the weight.

The drip irrigation we had installed by my now employer, Lupton Irrigation has been perfect for irrigating our strawberry patch. It lets us keep the crowns and fruits dry while getting plenty of water to the roots. This prevents any rotting of our berries!

Wipe that drool off your chin. 🙂

We’re still rocking on the Funny Farm! The blog was put on hold for a while. It was becoming a chore to keep the pictures updated. We’ll continue to post pictures just not for a daily timelapse video.

Our growing space has doubled in the backyard and we’ve expanded into the front yard as well. A greenhouse is in the works and will hopefully be ready by May. We found a few designs we liked, but had to modify and design our own to get things just right.

In a few days, we’ll have some pictures to post of everything we already have growing. Be on the lookout for strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and tons of other stuff. There’s also a new aquaponic system operating in the garage. Running on goldfish, we’re growing arugula, beets and lettuce in the grow beds. Expect to see some videos of that soon.

It’s been really tough keeping up with the farm blog pictures -priorities have been adjusted in the Funny Farm household. The 1st grade and kung-fu lessons have thrown us all for a loop. All that, along with trying to maintain the farm and chickens with all the cooler, wet weather, we’ve been getting has definitely taught us to juggle better.

We’ve taken our first, very small harvest of corn that will be enjoyed at dinner this evening. The tomatoes are fruiting very well and if we can get some warm weather again, they should ripen quickly. Our first canning experiment has gone very well and we look forward to canning a lot of our own tomatoes and beans soon.

Hopefully, the chickens will be moving into their new pen in a week or two. We’ll be cutting close with the much cooler weather. They’ll need a nice, warm spot to rest and keep laying eggs for the winter.

Daily Farm Pic – September 28th, 2009
Honeydew Melon
More melons and butternut squash.
The new chicken pen.