Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Skippy Filter

Bio Filter
It turns out that if you put fish into a pond it doesn't take a long time for it to become pretty funky. Our fish were sitting at the top of the pond, listless, gulping air. It was pretty much a cesspool.

I did a lot of research online and came across what's known as a "Skippy Filter". Basically you pump water from the pond into a bucket all the way to the bottom. The bucket is full of some sort of media with lots of surface area like lava rock or scouring pads. Near the top there is a hole in the bucket so that the water level stays in the same place. As the water fills the bucket from the bottom up the water is forced through the filtration media and flows out of the overflow hole near the top.

water is forced to the bottom
through the pvc
It's a simple device but very effective. Since I do not have a/c electricity down at the pond I was able to use the dc pump in this instance to good effect. I did need to run the pump at night as well and I had a car battery that I had just taken out of our car and started using that in the evening. Although it won't crank a car any more, it will run the small pump all night long.

On top of the lava rock that I used as the filter media, I put in some expanded clay grow rocks to support some plants. I've got sweet potato, pineapple basil, and a sweet potato that I started indoors now growing in the top of the skippy filter. So far so good.
It isn't pretty with a car battery and a drywall bucket sitting on top of the pond rocks with water pouring out of the side but it's a stopgap measure until I have time to get something more permanent in place. The water is totally clear now the stench is gone and the fish aren't lingering at the top sucking air because their gills are burning with ammonia. The plants in the filter seem to be thriving as well so it's a little bit of an aquaponics system I suppose.

In due course I will add a charge controller to recharge a deep cycle battery that can run the pump 24/7. The pump draw is miniscule so I might be able to run some lighting as well. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


It turns out that we aren't too bad at growing berries although the vegetables leave a lot to be desired.

When we moved to this house the area that these strawberries are in now was completely covered with English Ivy.

Ivy is something that you never completely eradicate you just sort of keep it in check. The same goes for monkey grass.

In order to supplant ivy with strawberries we had to do a lot of work. We sheet mulched the ivy with cardboard and newspaper first. Then I laid on about 4 inches of compost and then straw over that. After that we covered the straw with wood chip mulch.

The summer of 2012 I planted strawberries into the mulch, last year there wasn't any real production to speak of, but by the fall the strawberries had gained a good foothold and they were beginning to dominate the area.

The patch is against an eastern facing wall, so they get sunlight in the morning and then it goes away around lunchtime. I've never watered them after about a month of putting them in. There is a drip hose there if needed, but the mulch and compost over the old ivy seems to retain lots of moisture.

I've bought a lot of strawberries at the grocery store, I like them. Sometimes you get some decent ones, flavor wise, but mostly they are never really ripe. I don't water, fertilize or spray pesticides on these berries. That's extra work anyway.

None of them are perfect and lot are sort of deformed a little and some of them the ants eat. So I am positive at this point the strawberries at the grocery store are by necessity sprayed with chemicals and probably over watered. They are all fat, really firm because they aren't ripe and usually not sweet at all. And imagine that there are acres upon acres of just one crop and they all end up perfectly shaped?

I don't think so. And it's hard to imagine the labor to harvest them. They aren't easy to see until you bend down and start moving the leaves, in other words it's labor intensive to harvest them.

But for us it's fun to pick them, they're six feet from the back door. If they aren't ripe today we'll wait until tomorrow. No worries.

I guess you'd call it free food and it's easy to think of it that way, but then I remember loading all of that mulch and compost by hand and unloading it and carting it to the yard and dispersing  it and sheet mulching etc, etc. So no, it isn't free, but at this point we are set to get much more out from what we put in. And, on their own, the strawberries are spreading. Without any help from us, food is multiplying.

That's a nice concept!

Thursday, May 1, 2014


I think these are Roma tomatoes. They were sown on February 7th.  I put them outdoors a couple of weeks ago. They are doing well so far. They are about a foot tall now.

Mar 25

 I think these tomatoes were from seeds leftover from last year.

I've started all new seeds from Baker Creek this year. There is about 9 varieties in this tray. Yesterday we potted them up.

It dropped into the 40's again last night and probably will tonight as well. But it is supposed to be in the mid 80's by this weekend.

We have a 700 percent increase in peach production this year. We have seven peaches versus the one we had last year.

This peach tree was just put in the yard last fall. The Elberta peach that produced the one peach last year, got hammered by frost while it was in bloom this season.

It didn't set any fruit at all. This new tree is doing very well and has grown a lot. It even got hit by a big poplar limb and has a large scar on it's side now. It seems to be healthy though.
The strawberries are literally going crazy. Hundreds I imagine. If we can manage to get some to ripen that will be fantastic.

Blueberries are really going good this year. I have about 4 or 5 big bushes that are loaded with them. Some of the smaller ones I planted last fall bloomed but I cut them off so they would grow a bit more since it's their first year.

They bloom all summer though so it isn't a big deal to drop the blooms off of them. I had a few blueberries all the way into November last year.

Here is one single berry that is beginning to ripen. All of the others are still green. So hopefully in a week or so we can start harvesting some strawberries.

There are a few tartarian cherries and a few nectarines as well. I'm not sure the cherries will ripen. The nectarines are very, very small still, so it's hard to know what to make of them yet.

There are a few gooseberries on as well. They seem to be doing okay, but I'm not sure how long I am suppose to wait to harvest them. I've never had one before.