Saturday, December 18, 2010

No posts for months and then two in one day

Alright so I can't not post this, I did all the work first thing in the morning and then I went to feed the fish and I noticed.  LETTUCE!

Pretty exciting stuff!  I am pretty worried that the water temp is not going to be high enough to to allow the seeds to germinate.  So slowly over the next few days I am going to up the heater until it gets to the 70 degree range which should be plenty warm to germinate them.  According to what I read goldfish like to be kept at 68 to 75 degrees.  I will keep you guys posted no how it goes.  I promise to post pictures of the lettuce as it grows.

Wow it has been a long time

Poor blog once again I have been neglectful.  I am sorry I have been ignoring you.  To be honest I think I am going to change my birthday.  This sort of stuff happens every year in the CJ and Nate household.  First is Thanksgiving weekend, followed by CJ's birthday weekend followed by Our annual Jesus /Cj / Nate birthday party.  Followed by our "anniversary" and my actual birthday (which usually involves decorating the house for Christmas) and then Christmas and New Years.  So as you can see we pack everything in from the 3rd Thursday in November to the end of the year and then for the rest of the year we have nothing!  So I think we need to move my birthday and something else to spring time :-)

Despite my lack of blogging I have been pretty busy on the Aquaponic front.  I was successful growing a giant amount of oregano and there was a little cilantro in there too.  I also decided that instead of adding a second grow bed that I was going to change everything around and make one large grow bed and that grow bed was going to have a bell siphon.  I have found that the loop siphon is not very reliable and with this product I found for the original grow bed it will be easy to do.

Below I tried to do a quick paint version of what it looks like.  Basically the outside is just a strainer to keep the whole thing from getting plugged up.  The inner most pipe is just one pipe that uses a uniseal to go all the way through the grow bed. And then there is the pipe that just goes over the top of the stand pipe, this helps provide the vacuum that helps drain all the water.  So when the water fills up to the top of the drain pipe the water flowing through the whole system sucks the water out.  You get really great drainage with this system.  BTW all of the credit for this goes to another blog  Affnan Aquaponics he developed the design I am using.


So I wanted to build a grow bed out of wood that would be lined with a pond liner to do all of this, after I went to Home Depot I realized that I bit off more than I can chew.  Especially with the above mentioned time constraints.  So I was looking around Home Depot as I tend to do when I need inspiration and I saw they had some of those giant Sterlite tubs, and we picked up our Christmas tree.  When I tried to drill through that it cracked and was basically useless, never buy those things for this sort of application.  So back to Home Depot I go and I found a rubbermaid tub. Like the one below, that I was able to drill a hole in that one fine. 
So I got it all set up and I noticed the middle was bowing quite a bit, and with the risk of 35 gallons of fish water on the kitchen floor I went and bought a nylon tie down and wrapped it around the middle to help support it.  I am pretty confident that this will be enough to hold it, but it also means that I am going to have to find another grow bed for the next round.  Which I will explain more later might be outside! 

So I am going to plant Lettuce, Sage, Cilantro, Dill, Spinach and Rosemary I think.  I mostly picked them because they are the seeds that I had.  I think I really should start germinating them and then adding them to the grow bed but I figured I would just toss them in and see what happened because it is going to be after Christmas before I will be able to have the time to germinating some seedlings, and by then we will know if the seeds have grown or not, so I might not have to.  Originally I was going to plant just lettuce for the first round because it has a very short growing cycle but I decided it would probably be best to hedge my bet and plant a bunch of different stuff so I could see what would work and how well it works.

My next big announcement is that my land lord is not all that happy with my aquaponics endeavors in the kitchen.  Not to say that he is going to tell me I can't do it, but he has his comic book collection stored below us in the basement and I can see how that would make him a little nervous.  Anyway he has agreed to let me set up a green house in the backyard!  I am going to have to get permission from the city of Somerville first though.  I am hoping that I will be able to get the whole thing set up this summer.  We will see how long it takes me to gather the funds necessary but I am excited!  

I am debating on what sort of green house I should set up.  Should I just buy one or should I build a hoop house?  I have also heard that if you do a double layered hoop house you can grow year around even as far north as Canada.  So I am hoping that this might be able to get year around growing, obviously I am going to have to keep it at a reasonable temp because I won't be able to take all of the fish out and move them somewhere else of the winter.  So this is a big step that I really need to think about before we start buying things because everything will be on a pretty large scale considering the space I have to work with. I am also going to try to automate as many of the processes as possible such as temp control in the water and the air, fish feeding, lights, pumps ect.

There are about a million details to work out but that is all part of the fun. 

Monday, October 25, 2010


So I have been doing a lot of cooking on Sundays.  Football season is upon us and I always enjoy cooking some food for my friends and hanging out.  For me it is really the perfect Sunday afternoon.  Unfortunately I haven't been taking many pictures because I am lazy.  But I am bound and determined to make everyone jealous of all the awesome food I cook :-)  In weeks past we have had steak and cheese, chili cheese dogs, pot roast, just to name a few.

Well this week I smoked a turkey.   I know it is hard to see, but I stuck my hand between the skin and the meat.  Rubbed the meat with butter and a creole seasoning, and then coated the outside with oil. 

Then we take the whole thing out to the grill, and I am using my smoker.  I did not use the water pan in the smoker because I didn't really see the point.  I put an aluminum foil pan under the turkey on the grill to catch drippings for the gravy (which turned out awesome)!

 Here we have the bird, ready to go, I added a chimney full of light charcoal and a chimney of unlit charcoal and then bundled everything up.  It took about 4ish hours, this is a pretty small bird in the 11 pound range.  I think next time I am going to start it breast side down for an hour and see if that affects anything.  I gotta say this was the easiest thing I have ever smoked, just set it and forget it.  Once I got the temp adjusted of course, that took a little bit of fiddling.  I usually smoke me at about 225 degrees, but this was more in the 325 range.  But I think it was a big hit.  My girlfriend who was very suspicious about the turkey thought it was awesome.  Also you can see the pan drippings below the turkey.  They made a terrific gravy.  Also I smoked it with apple wood as opposed to hickory which I really enjoy but the apple was a nice mild flavor.  I think hickory would have been way too much.

This is the finished bird, the breast and dark meat both finished about the same time.  I made some gravy mashed potatoes and some frozen green beans.  It was pretty terrific.

It is hard to see but there are three slabs of turkey breast under the gravy.  I gotta say it made for a pretty awesome meal.  I was a little concerned about the gravy being too heavily seasoned because of the rub on the turkey but I think it was perfect.  Now the next question "What do I do with the smoked turkey stock I made?"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aquaponics update

Another update, things are coming along well.  I haven't had any fish deaths since I last posted, The plants are growing although I am fearing that my kitchen might be too cold, I am getting some yellowing of the plants but I am not sure if that is just the light or what.  The basil seems to be thriving if you look below, they are green and healthy.

The garlic is looking ok this was a last minute thing.  The garlic had sprouted because I didn't use it up, and I figured why not just throw it in and see what will happen.  It looks like it is doing well, I have only had it in for about a week and it has doubled in size. 

I am pretty sure that this is cilantro and you can see it is just yellowing slightly but I think it might be the light. They have been growing at a pretty fast rate so I don't see how they can be that unhealthy...

Here is another shot of the basil, looks like it is growing.  I am not sure what I am going to do, I have a ton of basil growing, and almost nothing else.  The two cilantro plants that sprouted appear to be the only ones.  I have  most seeds sprouting in another setup, but for some reason I always forget to take pictures of it.

Another shot of the cilantro, this one shows the yellowing much better.  Tonight I am going to test the water and see if there is anything causing issues there.  Below I have posted a video of the set up, but it is taking with my digital camera, the quality isn't the best but soon there will be a video detailing how to build an aquaponics set up in your own house!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

We have sprouts!!!

So I have some good news and some bad news.  The bad news is we lost a couple more fish.  I think I over stocked the tank with 24 fish, and we have lost about 4 of them I think over the couple of weeks it has been since I got them.  I think I have been so worried about over feeding them that I infact have been under feeding them.  I have been checking the PH and everything so far we seem to be doing pretty good.  I think the bio-filter I added is really helping to stabilize things until the plants can get growing.

Also I found out a source to get Hydroton which is the best growing media for this sort of thing.  But the problem is that I have already have a grow bed full of landscaping rocks.  So I think it is time we start designing the second grow bed.  Then I can have one of the rock and one of the hydroton, to see which is the most effective.  I am still trying to figure out how I am going to hook a second grow bed into the system.  It would be nice to have it so that it fills up one tank, that drains and then it fills up the second tank and so on.  I worry that if I try to fill up both of the grow beds there won't be any water left in the aquarium!  We will see, I am also going to redesign the siphon I think it will work much better and be much simpler to put together.

Alright so on to the good news we have sprouts!  Very tiny they might be but I am excited!

You can see them a little bit here.  It is really hard to take pictures of something so small.

 You can see these pretty easily!  I know they are so small but you have to start somewhere.

 Here you can see them, I wish this focused in a little better but you get the idea.  Hoping we see some more growth shortly. I added some liquid seaweed to the tank which should help the plants grow.  I think I am going to take a stab at Paella tomorrow since the Patriots aren't playing till Monday Night Football.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Would You Like an Encheeeelaaadaaa?

I will admit something to you -- I am lazy. Very lazy. On occasion I like to do big-deal cooking, but if I am going to cook during the week, it is likely going to be something VERY simple. This Green Chile Enchilada recipe is adapted from one I found on Simple Recipes, which is a great food website. I made it a lot easier and a little more filling.

Caustic Critic's Lazy Green Chile Enchiladas

2 small cans green chiles
1 large jar tomatillo salsa
1 package of small tortillas (I used flour, but you could probably use corn too.)
10 oz can of white meat chicken
1 bag of Mexican blend cheese or plain Monterrey Jack
Spices to taste (optional)Fresh cilantro (optional)Sour cream (optional)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size pan, pour the chiles and let them cook a little. Add the chicken and cook until heated. Add spices if desired. I used Penzey's Turkish seasoning (it has cumin, cilantro, paprika, and a few other things in it. You could use any other spice blend or fresh herbs/spices if you like, I just used what I happened to have.)

2. Get out a 9x13 casserole dish and pour a little of the tomatillo salsa on the bottom and spread it around. Put 3 or 4 tortillas in the microwave for 20 seconds, covered by a wet paper towel.

(You'll need to keep repeating this step as you go along.) Spoon a blob of the chicken chili mixture into each tortilla, followed by a sprinkle of cheese. Roll and place into the pan seam-side down.

3. Once you've rolled all the tortillas and used up all the filling, pour the rest of the jar of salsa over the top, then cover with the remainder of the cheese.
4. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

5. Serve with sour cream and some fresh cilantro.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Hey guys this isn't going to be the usual blog post, it is however something new and exciting (probably only exciting to dorks) I have been doing it in the kitchen so I figure that it belongs in here. Either way I am excited and I want to talk about it.

Anyway It is called Aquaponics and it is all about growing plants. It is like hydroponics except that instead of using fertilizer water (which can be very toxic) you use water from an aquarium with fish in it. So basically what happens is that the fish poop ammonia and then there are some naturally occurring bacteria that will change that ammonia from to nitrites and then there is another lovely naturally occurring bacteria that will change it to a nitrate and nitrates are plant fertilizer!

Alright so lets get down to how this whole things actually works. Well for one you obviously couldn't grow the thing in soil because it would all wash down to the bottom of the aquarium. So it grows it rocks that I bought at home depot. It would probably help if I showed you a picture of the whole thing.

Alright so we have the aquarium on the bottom with the fish, we have a plastic grow bed full of rocks. This is where things get a little more complicated, you need pump the water up to the grow bed till it fills up to a certain level and then drains back out. This needs to happen a bunch of times through out the day. So you probably notice the tube sticking out of the grow bed, well that is my solution to the draining problem. I actually stole it from someone else on the internet, Thanks Wolfracer! Anyway basically when the water fills up to the top of the tube it starts a siphon which drains the whole things pretty quickly. There is a pump in the aquarium that just trickles water up into the grow bed, so it very slowly fills up. It takes about 15 minutes for the grow bed to fill up and about a minute to drain out, so it spends a lot more of the time dry than wet so this will hope keep from having issues with roots rotting which obviously can be a problem.

Alright so down below I show you a quick clip of it filling up and then the grow bed emptying out. I had to turn off the grow light because with it it was looking way to washed out it was so bright. But it give you an idea how it works. I also added a filter which I have said in the past that we wouldn't need because the plants would do the filtering, well as it turns out I don't have any plants growing yet! Also the bio filters work on the same principle as aquaponics, and it is suppose to get things going much faster. It can take a few weeks for the system to cycle up. (something I didn't realize until after I got the whole thing built)

The video is a little shaky but I took it with my digital camera, I actually think it came out kind of good. I am going to see if I can borrow my friends camera and we can do a better one. Hopefully in the next few days we will have something popping up in the bed!

I am hoping to fit a second grow bed on that shelf but when I do that I am going to come up with a new design for the siphon I hope it will be a little simpler.