So it’s been too long since I’ve updated this thing. I have been so busy and got so much done. I’m excited about where this is heading. I’m going to upload some pictures and explain from there.
So I built this thing, it’s some combination of NFT(nutrient film technique) hydroponics and some kind of DWC(deep water culture). Essentially I have a 55 gallon barrel that’s buried halfway into the ground and a nutrient solution circulating through the entire system. First impressions are that It’s amazing. In a 6′ X 10′ footprint I have room for 200 plants. The bok choy went from transplant to harvest in less than a month and I’m still pruning back and harvesting the basil. The first major basil pruning amounted to over 2 pounds of basil! That was just in 3 weeks of time in the tower. I have been so impressed with this tower that I have planted it out in all strawberries, save one pipe and I’m in the process of building 2 more for herbs and greens. If the strawberries do well then I’ll probably expand that some more. Why would I want to many basil plants or so many of any kind of plants? Well, I’m zeroing in on actually turning this hobby into a profitable venture. I’m a long way from turning a profit but I’ve checked out many of the local grocery stores and fresh basil is selling at really high prices and the quality is always pretty crappy. Hopefully with a full compliment of herbs I’ll be able to inject myself into the local food scene and start selling really high quality herbs. Did I mention how fantastic this basil smells and tastes, hydroponics might not be the best way to grow everything but for the high value per ounce crops like herbs I think it’s the ticket! I’ve got some more wild plans in the future which I’ll keep posted here. Hopefully on a timely basis now that things have settled down and I’m actually ahead on my projects.
I’m interested in sharing what I’ve found in my build process of this contraption but I know this site is barely checked at the moment so I’m not going to go into too much detail yet.
Well I’m a few weeks off from looking like this but bare dirt isn’t even fun to look at. Tried some companion planting today and planted out 3 beds after I topped them off with some compost. Planted something like 300 onions and a bed of radishes, beets and carrots. Cleaned out all my old seeds so hopefully the germinate! I covered the carrots with some old signs to keep the soil from drying. I never get the best luck with carrots but hopefully this might work better! My sprouts inside are coming right along and I’ll be ready to get them planted outside soon! I think I’m going to experiment with some hydroponics this year. I really want to get a killer batch of tomatoes to dehydrate or do something with. I really want to try to get a bunch of dehydrated soups or sauces for next years sailing trips! Raised beds certainly make the job a bit easier. Not as much bending over. I still might put some big plants into the ground but I’ve got a big pile of cedar I need to pick up to turn into some more raised beds. More food and less grass!
The tinkerer in me really loves seed starting time. As a bachelor I can freely bring the rack into my front room and all the necessary lights, timers, cords, heating mats and whatever other fun gizmo I have packed away. I usually start seeds too early just because I get antsy but this year I’m going to hold off a bit. I just want to get some strong plants started that can go into the ground before they get too spindly from sitting inside and just the overall hassle it is to deal with potting and repotting if the plant gets too large. I have acquired quite a collection of seeds and I’m sure some won’t germinated but I’m not dependent on them so I’m going to try to use these old seeds before buying anything new. Those prices add up! I’ll be using two T5 HO light fixtures with 4 bulbs each. They put out some serious light! Sometimes I wonder what passersby think when they see such a bright light in the window. I think this year I’m going to cut back on how many varieties I try(especially tomatoes) and focus on getting a useable amount to ripen at the same time. That’s what’s held me back from canning in the past. I bought a fancy All American canner and collected plenty of jars from garage sales but when your stuff ripens at such different times it’s difficult to get enough to make running the big canner worth it. Like I said in a past post, this year I plan on building a massive dehydrator, possible solar powered. Just putting trays of things in as they become ripe will be easier and making things like tomato sauce will be just as easy with tomato powder and other dried ingredients. Also work better for my boat trips, having a large variety of “just add water” recipes will be so convenient in my little galley. Anybody that reads this and has any killer dehydrator plans or awesome dried food recipes I’m all ears!
This solar cooker is exactly the sort of thing I hope to do more of this summer and in the future. I made this a couple years ago on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I was hoping to show the locals (who have plenty of sun) how to use less charcoal and hopefully become more self sufficient. I was only there a week and left it with someone, no idea if it ever was used again.
There are plenty of solar cookers on the market but this one could be made for just a few dollars or even free if you found a big box and scavenged some foil. I painted a mason jar black on the outside but you could use a small black pot. A glass bowl or oven safe turkey bag around the pot or jar would certainly improve the efficiency of the cooker. Even with a “greenhouse” around the cooking vessel it still acts more like a slow cooker than a frying pan. With some forethought you can set your food out a couple hours before meal time. The risk of burning is slim, the stove just doesn’t get hot enough. I used it most for beans and rice. This summer I plan on building another one and broadening the food I cook in it. Keeping heat out of the kitchen in the summer is an additional bonus! Happy cooking!
Here are the plans for this cooker and many more on this site!
Hello urban farmers, this is my first blog post and I’m excited about keeping track of my success and failures as I really dive into the prospect of making my yard more productive! I live in a small city in Illinois and I happen to live on a street named Interurban, so that’s where the name for this little project comes from, Interurban Farm just seemed fitting. I’ve had a garden in the past and it has been successful but the current situation with our new administration has just left me uneasy so my plan has been to take more control of my life and regardless of who is in office I’ll be in a better place. This won’t be in any way a political blog because I’m sure there are folks on both sides of the aisle that have this same goal. So while we’re here, we’ll forget about the he said, she said and focus on doing what we can to get more control and more freedom for our own lives! Thanks for reading this, lot’s of fun projects to come. Maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse but before I get elbows deep in dirt and weeds I want to get a very large scale dehydrator built. Dehydrated foods have very little energy embodied in them as opposed to canning or even freezing. The more I can dry, the better. If anyone has any hints or tips, send them my way!