Thinking - Aunty Dulcie

Our aunty Dulcie died this week. 

She was a major player in my young life and in the life of many of our young friends. 

I cant remember who it was, but some kids that were friends of the family on an overseas trip bumped into her in Italy or somewhere, and much to their parents surprise said "Aunty Dulcie!".

She had no kids but had infinite time for them. 

Aunty Dulcie was that aunty that would rally all the kids and take them all to the park.

She ran a switchboard for GoodYear tires, and as a result could multi task her conversations in what I suspect was magic based. It allowed for maintaining a conversation with the grown-ups at the table, and simultaneously with every kid within earshot that wanted any attention at all. 

In short...

the perfect aunty and half sister to my mum.

So tonight we took mum to a little restaurant we discovered a few weeks ago. It's a Uyghur restaurant owned and run by a couple and their very bored 10yo kid. The kid sits in the dining room playing very loud games on his phone, the mum sits at your table telling you stories about China, and the husband cooks your food and drinks vodka. She's Muslim, and he seems a little closer to the Russian, more drinky side of the world. 

The place isn't licensed but you can BYO as long as you keep it out of sight. 

So you sit there pouring drinks under the table chatting to the owner and eating some of the best food ever, and then when you leave, there's no charge.


They refuse our money no matter what we do. 

We have no idea why.

They dont know anything about this being a wake as the subject never came up. 

Mum takes an ice cream from the Uyghur supermarket freezer that fronts the place on the way out so I slip some cash into the freezer under the guise of deciding I wanted an ice cream then changing my mind, but I get busted by the kid. 

So the owner is chasing us out into the car park waving my money at us trying to give it back. Mum left her walker at home and is using two walking sticks, so she's only moving at half pace and the owner is catching up fast. 

We try to outrun her with general giggles all round, but mum's in front blocking the way and as result we eat for free after all, leaving a perfect wake.

Thanks aunt D

Epic adventurer - Customs

I just received the ten pieces of paper I need to get my solar panels through customs.

Actually it was only nine, but I'm trying to make a point here.

What's with all this paper?

Why am I even involved with the process?

If someone has to send something to someone, and then they have to present that to someone else, just make it so the someone else can get it from the someone!

And make it all online.

And call "something something international import export clearing house"

120 things in 20 years thinks this might be why some people don't become major players in import export. I also think I might be wrong. But seriously, what do you do if you are a major international import export business, and don't happen to own a printer? Then what? Is my lack of printer ownership hindering my ability to be seen on the S&P 500? The world has gone totally crazy.

Aquaponics - Silver Perch

I just spent a very pleasant 45 mins watching (and patting) my silver perch eat duckweed. 

I took some video but ran out of arms to do everything (lighting, camera, patting) so tomorrow I'll get someone to help and get some decent footage.

I know this doesn't really qualify as worthy of you taking the time to read it, but I was pretty excited, so have to bang on about it to someone. And Mrs 120 Things in 20 years is already asleep. 

Wasabii - cold house

I've been thinking of growing some Wasabii and have been following a thread on Backyard Aquaponics discussing things like the temperature it likes.

It seems it likes to grow in less than 10c water, and less than 25c air.

I'm about to get two solar panels for my epic solar boat adventure, so when they're are not powering the boat, I'll be using them to power my aquaponics system, and I've been thinking of ways to keep the system cool to extend the trout growing season, so perhaps I could use them for that as well.

I ran the problem through the invention engine, and it suggested running coils of hose through a container of water in a fridge as a heat exchange. And connecting the hose to my system. This would obviously cost a lot to run because each time the water went through the growbed, it would collect a stack of heat on a hot day.

But if I put a shade house over the top, I might be able to work something out.

Wasabii likes shade as well, so it should be easy enough to get a couple of layers of that grown up bubble wrap they use for pool covers, and make a tent. Wasabii doesn't grow very tall, so it should only need to be around half a metre high. Perhaps on hinges so it can be lifted when access is required.

I'd add a window so I wouldn't need to let all the heat in whenever I took a peek.

120 Things in 20 years is being told to finish the boat first.

Thinking - 懐かしい


Now there's a word we need an English equivalent to.

Why is my native language so incomplete? 

I want my money back!

120 Things in 20 years is slightly disappointed!

Thinking - Baby spinach with blue cheese and a drop of lemon

Baby spinach with blue cheese and a drop of lemon is really nice.

A small amount of cheese on a leaf like a cracker, add another leaf and a drop of lemon juice.

Making smoked foods - A better way to brine

If like me you have no room in your fridge for a bucket full of meat when you're brining, try putting into an icebox.

Throw some ice in with it and you're set.

120 Things in 20 years  thinks this might be a record shortest post ever.

Winner - The great MPPT solar charge controller competition

So I asked the invention engine what kind of competition I should hold to give away that first solar charge controller I bought, and it said I should ask everyone else.


It said I should get a load of people to submit their ideas.

I asked it why people should spend their precious time helping me out with their ideas.

It said I should provide some kind of incentive.

Like a competition.

So the first ever 120 Things in 20 years competition is as follows...

Whoever can come up with the best idea for a competition wins.

The prize is that solar controller I had so much trouble with because it didn't match my solar panel's too high voltage.

There is only one rule*, and that is the winner wont be anyone who enters by simply adding another layer of competition to the competition to see what the competition should be.

I already thought of that one, and I've decided I probably wont give the prize to me, although I am currently in the lead so I may change my mind.

Mrs 120 Things and I will judge the winner at our own discretion, in our own time, whenever we feel like it, if we feel like it, and reserve all rights to do whatever we want without reservation or regard for others.

120 Things in 20 years thinks the invention engine may have just gained consciousness, or at least the beginnings of a consciousness-free sense of humour.

click the comments thingy to enter or offer derisive laughter

Winner - The first 120 things in 20 years competition

So a while ago, I bought a MPPT solar charge controller.

It turns out the nice ebay based company I bought it from was a fraud, and sold me a product that wouldn't work with my solar panel in spite of my having asked them and then double checking. My solar panel had too high a voltage, but the listing said it would be fine.


The result was that I was sent a product that didn't work as advertised.

Eventually ebay made them give me my money back. The company insisted I return their product at my expense.

I posted it to their registered address, but the post office in China said there was nobody by that name at that address.

So China Post returned it to sender.


All this is old news to anyone who follows this blog, but this is the new bit.

I thought I'd give it away because it's of no use to me, and might be exactly what someone else wanted. But who to give it to?

I thought I'd hold a competition, and give it to the winner, but I cant think of a decent theme.

The current plan for the first ever 120 things in 20 years competition is to run it through the invention engine and see what it thinks.

so... stay tuned I guess. It's late, and I'm going to bed.

Tomorrow, the competition begins!

Epic adventurer - New solar panels

Bullwinkle III is about to be born.

Bullwinkle was the first incarnation of my little boat. It was originally a SunDance 4.3m one man racing catamaran.

I went halves in it with a friend.

It was old and slow but built solidly.

We broke it.

We fixed it up, but it wasn't strong enough to put it under the kind of strain that a boat sees when it's under sail, so the sail had to go.

I put a 1.8m square of marine grade plywood on it and turned it into a fishing barge. I added a large deep cycle battery and an electric trolling motor. This gave me a range of around 6km which is surprisingly enough to catch lots of fish and more importantly, lots of blue swimmer crabs. This incarnation was Bullwinkle II. With the aid of some rope, and some plastic hand reels as pulleys, two empty milk crates as seats, and a pram wheel as a steering wheel, it was quite comfortable. the only downside was that people kept boating up to us to see if we needed help because we looked like a sinking dingy. A sinking dingy with two people standing on it fishing.

Then came Bullwinkle II.V which was essentially the same as Bullwinkle II but it also had a 3hp two stroke motor, but that was just annoying.

So today I spent the money I've received from you nice people clicking my blog's ads on two new 180w solar panels. They have apparently been built, and are now being put on a ship in China.

Thanks clickers.

Thanks China.

Thanks boats.

So now I can finally build Bullwinkle III.

I have the hulls, the decking, a motor, the frame of my 1.8m grow house (the one that let the sun dissolve it's cover), and an office chair.

That should be plenty enough junk to solar boat the length of the mighty River Murray.

120 Things in 20 years just remembered that I hadn't ever gone camping alone, so the night before last I drove to the river with my swag, and tried it. Nothing bad happened.

Thinking - meat based analogue communication

We used to have this bird named "Spork".
Sometimes he was named "Pogo" because he didn't have enough legs. (he always didn't have enough legs, he just wasn't always called pogo (that sounds suspiciously like something Clevinger (Catch 22) might say)) (and what's with all the nested parenthesis?)))
Spork lived in a sectioned off bit of the house near my desk where I spent most of the day, so we got pretty close. As close as a human that really likes magpies can get to a magpie that almost always hates humans. I say "almost", because if you turned him on his back with his one leg in the air, he would relax so much you could push him around on the floor like a kid playing with a matchbox car. If you tried that when he was upright, he'd peck your eyes out in a heartbeat. One of his fast bird heartbeats as well, not some dopey slow human heartbeat. Except Shaan when she offered Spork her (maybe smurf) keyring. Sporked liked Shaan and her keyring.
Anyway... I would whistle "Doo, du do du, and he would instantly reply "Do du do, du dooo do". It was almost as if he could help himself. He had to finish the tune. (I originally taught him the entire tune, but it took the first few notes for him to realise that it was time to sing)
We had to give him up when we had to move back to the flat lands from Cudlee Creek. We also miss all the other creatures we shared our lives with (a goat, an emu, a pig, three sheep, an owl, and various chickens) all still missed terribly.
Anyway... Some nice bird rescue people took in Spork to live with all their other magpies, a magpie loving dog that protected them all from foxes, and a parrot that nobody could understand because it spoke too fast. I suggested it was horse race calling as a result of being pre-owned by a gambler with a radio, and there was a general agreement that that might just be the case.
Really odd sulphur crested cockatoo.
But... it occurred to me that Spork now lived only 30 km away as the crow flies.
That's only 5 magpie families or so. The other night I found myself trying to teach my local magpies the first (my) half of the tune so they might in turn teach the next groups radiating out from them. I managed to add one extra note to the current call of my local group, but interestingly I managed to get a complete (my half) call from a group further in the distance.
So, so far so good. So, so. You don't see the word "so" followed by the word "so" that much.
And... once I teach the local magpies the first half of the tune and get them to teach the next closets magpies( and so on, and so on), in 5-30 years or so, I hope to hear the second half of the tune (Spork's half) in reply.
If so, I expect a Nobel prize for developing very slow, organic, analogue communication, and creating the first "bird meat" based communication protocol that doesn't require tying things to their feet.

120 things in 20 years - So... that's where my life is at.

Aquaponics - Cooling a fishtank

I found a source of really inexpensive trout fry from my local fly fishing association, but it's already half way through the trout season, If I were to buy them, ($30 per 100) I'd need a way of cooling my aquaponics system through summer.

A while ago, we had a burst water main in front of our house, and it got me thinking about the possibility of shedding a bit of heat into the water main. Given the foot path is currently dug up, and there are a couple of orange cones alerting people to this fact, it might be possible to run some plastic tubing around the main supply pipe, and pump some of my system water through it.

The temperature of the water and the underground pipe will be roughly the same as the earth around it. If you dig down a few feet. the temperature is much more stable than air temperature in the same location. If you think of a cave, you'll see that the temperature is pretty close to the average yearly temperature of the location. This is because stone (dirt) holds a lot more heat than air, so it takes a lot longer for the rock to change temperature because so much "temperature" can be stored within it.

Because the pipes on my side of my water meter are open to the main pipe running down the length of the street, it might even be possible to use the pipes within my property.

It's just a vague thought, but it was in my head, so it had to come out.

120 things in 20 years just thought of something else, but it's too naughty to post about.

Thinking - Old people's hands

I got old peoples hands yesterday.

I've never had old peoples hands before.

Wear Levi's, pick guitars and go riding on trucks.

I'll be right back in just a sec...

Aquaponics - Silver perch eat Kale

I grew some kale that turned out to made of leather and task a bit like canvas.

But it turns out my single, enormous silver perch eats it.

Even in winter where the water tends to be too cold for silvers to be interested in anything except worms.

You learn something new every few months.

I have some health stuff to deal with, and then I'll start some kind of exciting new thing.

I promise.

Aquaponics - Direct composter success

I just got back from my trip to the East coast of Australia, and was happy to find the system ticking along nicely.

Some of the dried duckweed in my direct composter looks like it might be trying to live again, but I cant tell if it's greening due to life or mould.

There must have been some heavy rain while I was away, as it was soaked through.

I think I'd better put a lid on it.

When I lifted it up I saw a stack of worms going to ground into the growbed, and some more hanging from the little composter.

The worms seem to like it.

It was also very easy to grab a handful of worms for the fish, so the fish seems to like it as well.

It should also be adding some nutrient back into the system, and also saving some because of the duckweed I removed, so the plant will like it as well.

All in all, I count this a complete success, and it seems like quite a good solution to my problem of only having one fish.

120 Things in 20 years thinks flying around in helicopters is a pretty good way to spend some time.

Aquaponics - Duckweed - direct composter

Having dried some duckweed by spreading it out on some concrete for a few days, the next stage in creating my direct composter is using my cheese press to bring it all together. My PVC cheese press has seen a few different purposes in it's lifetime, but this one looks like it might be the one it retires to.

The duckweed shrunk down to a quarter of it's former live self.

I found my PVC pipe with holes that was formerly a cheese press, and rinsed it thoroughly.

I filled it with the dry duckweed, and planted it into the growbed.

The day after tomorrow, I'm off on an adventure to the other side of the continent, but tomorrow, which is really the day after tomorrow a far as this experiment goes, I'll check to see if the worms like their new feeder. But really I'll be somewhere else.

120 Things in 20 years is wondering if anyone is actually following this convoluted narrative.

120 Things in 20 years thinks that as far as it can tell, it's made a worm motel.

Aquaponics - Direct composter - duckweed drying

My system has only one fish, and I'm getting a little worried about my growbed's worm population. I'm not confident there's enough fish waste going into the system to feed them all.

What I thought I might try is creating a small compost bin directly in my growbed to make sure the worms have enough to eat.

I have a lot of duckweed growing in my system, and that one fish has to power the new bigger growbed, and the duckweed.

Duckweed uses quite a bit of useful nutrient so I thought I should remove some, and add it back into the system via the composter.

 I pulled out a quarter of a bucket or so of my duckweed from the system, and dumped it on some dry, sheltered concrete to dry.

I need to dry it first to kill it, because the direct composter will be a small container full of holes, sitting directly in my growbed. That means it will be damp, and the duckweed might just stay alive.

As I understand it, worms feed on the stuff that feeds on rotting vegetation so live duckweed wouldn't work so well.

120 Things in 20 years seems to be growing plants for feed to grow other plants. I think I finally developed a way to make growing vegetables as inefficient as growing beef.

Aquaponics - New system at two months

In a couple of days my new system will be two months old.

I wasn't sure how it would go being on the wrong side of the house and in shade for all but a couple of hours a day, but it looks like it might be ok.

This is the original empty growbed two months ago.

And now it looks like this.

The lettuce in the foreground went in as store bought seedlings, and the rest was from seed, but I wasted a lot of time before I actually sowed them.

We have started harvesting leaves from the lettuce and within a week or two we should be picking rocket as well.

The growbed is around two metres long and a little over a metre wide, so it should keep us in salad greens with ease.

I've also planted a few sugar snap peas at the back because I like to eat them when I'm doing anything with the garden. There's not enough to harvest but I enjoy picking something and eating it at the growbed.

Also at the back I've planted quite a bit of basil, some coriander (cilantro), and a few other herbs.

That's all. Just a quick update.

Aquaponics - Venturi adjustment

I thought I'd make a little adjustment to my venturi as suggested by Mike Creuzer in a comment on this post on my Venturi air thing.

He thought I should have some extra bubbles breaking the surface, and it turns out it's a bit of a hot topic in great debate all over the place, but I noticed a very slight oil slick on the surface of the water. I guess lots of things case very slight oil slicks. Eucalyptus leaves for one. Uneaten fish food probably would. I suspect an oil slick - and I'm talking an almost invisible one - would have some effect on gaseous exchange between the atmosphere, and my fish tank's water.

I have no idea if that's true, but I figure it couldn't hurt to stir the surface a little.

So I trimmed the pipe carrying water and bubbles down to the bottom by an inch or so and now lots more bubbles exit.

A 1/4 second exposure shows how much extra water movement on the surface is actually going on.

After only a few seconds there was no more sign of the oil slick.

Auqaponics - Baby spinach

Normal people buy seedlings from plant stores.

Normal people type on normal keyboards.

i'm typng this on tisflexible waterproofkeyborthat my mumbughtfor me for my boatt trip becausei spilt scotch ndcoke nto my old keyboard.

t's ok .

tat'th best cnsay for it.

From this oinon I'll do some proof reaing,nd tryto edit it so it's actually readable.

I bought some baby spinach from my local supermarket today, and thought I'd plant it out rather than just eat it.

It looked a little sad so it only cost a few cents.

But There was a decent root mass so I thought it might be viable.

I trimmed all the sick looking leaves and think I now have some baby spinach plants.

I'll post  an update in a few days after cutting off all the leaves that will inevitably die, but I  think the plants will survive.

10htings in20 years reallyneeds tobuya new keyboard

Thinking - Moons

According to my blog's stats for today, I've had a few hits from the moon, and also from Jupiter's moon Europa.

Which is nice.

They even clicked on a few adds and earned me a few Earth cents.

Which is also nice.

Thanks for the support moon people.

120 Things in 20 years thinks it might be April 1st.

Aquaponics - Silver perch feast

I cant remember if I even mentioned this because I was probably in some kind of deranged pain killer broken rib induced state when it happened, but I may have forgotten to mention I ate one of my big silver perch.

It looked like this.

The South Australian Fisheries people suggest the most humane way (and best way to protect it's eating qualities) to dispatch a fish is to plunge it into an ice water slurry, and leave it there.

A few hours later I scaled and cleaned it, and lightly salted it inside and out.

I wrapped it in whatever you call thin plastic kitchen wrap where you live, and left it in the fridge for twelve hours, then cooked it whole.

It was one of the nicest fish I have ever eaten.

Crazy fat.

You cant really tell from this angle, but it was in very fat condition. Looking down from the top, it had that thick section just before it's tail like a dolphin.

Most wild caught fish don't seem to have that.

I'm guessing it's because life is a little tougher in the wild when you don't have an unlimited amount of feed available.


This fish was in very good condition and had excellent fat content.

Apparently silver perch fat is high in Omega 3, but it was mostly delicious.

It weighed 1.08kg gutted and scaled and was 33 cm long.

I wish I had built a much bigger system ages ago so I could have a lot more.

Successfully farming your own protein in only a couple of cubic meters or space is an amazing thing to be able to do in suburbia.

I totally recommend it.

120 Things in 20 years totally recommends it.

Aquaponics - Aeration

I'm planning on buying some trout in the next few days to grow in my aquaponics system, so I'm thinking a bit about my oxygen levels.

Toward the end of the trout growing period you have a lot of stuff acting against your trout. Your trout are big and make a lot of waste which depletes oxygen as it breaks down, your trout are big and need lots of oxygen, and your weather is getting warmer,  and warmer water doesn't hold as much gas as colder weather does.

You can test this by opening a warm can of beer, or waiting a few years and watching what happens when the oceans stop absorbing carbon dioxide as they warm up a bit.


I have a tube dumping water from my growbed to my sump.

This much water.

It's not under pressure, but is simply overflowing from the growbed at that height. ie this tube's height regulates the depth of the growbed.

no pressure

The tube stopped a few inches above the water and made some nice splashing and bubbling which I thought was adding some oxygen.

I'm probably quite correct in thinking that.

But then I added a tube all the way to the bottom of the tank, and pricked a few holes in the tube just after a narrowing where there was an elbow.

This sucks air into the tube via the Venturi effect.

Apparently, this is because the water experiences higher pressure at the restriction just below the elbow, but then lower pressure when the tube becomes wider again. The result of the low pressure is that it sucks in air.

Which is a little odd.

When you put holes in (or before) the bit that's actually restricted, the holes blow out water.

I know because I checked.

So the result is that oddly enough, air is drawn in and the flow of the water draws it down.

Even more oddly, is that the bubbles don't ever really come out. Some do when the water level is a little low, but these are very small, and not many.

The tube is full of bubbles all in chaos, churning around madly.

It looks like this in real life.

The bubbles enter at the top just where the clear tube starts, and they move all the way to the bottom.

Which is also odd given how gently the water is flowing.

At first I thought they were the same bubbles, but if you block the holes, they clear after a few minutes.


As far as I can tell the air is dissolving.

I have no idea if I'm probably quite correct in thinking this.

If gas really does dissolve in water that readily and in that quantity, it's no wonder fish can live in the stuff.

I think I just got re-interested in the world.

Perhaps it's because I stopped taking all those opiates for my hurty ribs.

120 Things in twenty years  thinks ribs make me less thinky.

[EDIT FROM THE FUTURE - I Thought I'd add a link to wikipedia's entry on Venturi and now that I've read it I don't think I have any idea what I'm talking about, but what I did clearly works. I'm just no longer sure why]

The shell grit seed raising seems to have worked.

There was some slight discolouration on some leaves that I think might be due to nutrient lockout because the pH is probably off the chart in that local area, but generally speaking, I think it works. The discolouration is not shown well on this pic. The true colour is closer to the lettuce leaf on the left.

When pH is at certain levels, various elements become less available. If your system sits at about pH 7.0 then everything is available.

I just lifted my first seedling out of the shell grit, and it had a 24cm root that came out in tact. I made no attempt to be gentle and just lifted it out. I tried another one and achieved the same result.

Anyway, no washing - not even a rinse, and three tiny bits of shell grit was all there was stuck to the roots.

I think I should have left it a little longer because there were hardly any side roots developed, but I planted it next to some existing established kale, so I'll have something to compare it with. The existing kale was planted around ten days earlier.

I add some seasol® from time to time, so I might add it directly into the shell grit once I see sprouts to make sure there are extra trace elements available next time. The slight discolouration might also be due to lower oxygen levels as the water probably moves quite slowly through the fine particles. I might sive the shell grit so I can get a slightly bigger particle size. I plan on reusing it for ever, so it's no big deal to sieve it.

120 Things in 20 years thinks raising seedlings in shell grit feels like a success

Aquaponics - Duckweed

Since I moved my duckweed into it's new home it's growing like some kind of thing that grows a lot.

It looked like this nineteen days ago.

Then eighteen days ago I lost a lot of it because I overflowed my tank and all the duckweed went for a walk over the edge.

It looks like this today.

It's not lost on me that this is a poor comparison.

I realise they look pretty much the same, but this latest one is many layers thick in most parts. The original pic is all a single layer thick. I had no idea it could grow this way in multiple layers.

I suspect this is a dangerous thing to grow on top of a fishtank as it might choke the water. I doubt  the water will see enough oxygen. If not for the fact that I only have one fish, I think there could be trouble.

I think I might scoop all this out and do a time lapse of it growing back, but then I think I might move it into some other containers or something.

120 Things in 20 years wants some trout fingerlings.

Aqaponics - Experimental tomato tactics

It turns out you can simply hack the top of a tomato off, stick it into your aquaponics system's media, and it will grow.

So as a bit of an experiment, I've been waiting until my big old tomato vine develops some flowers, then cutting off around a foot tall of the end growing bit with the flowers.

I jam it into the media and it wilts a bit. But then it comes good, the flowers open, and fruit is set.

It seems to be working, and might allow me to grow better quality tomatoes. I have no idea why, but it might.

It certainly will save some space.

Also it  allow me to grow six enormous tomatoes on a tiny one foot high vine which although it might not serve any purpose, it might look interesting. And let's face it. Looking interesting is what sells all those perfect little tomatoes still on the vine in nice neat rows that we see in super markets.

 My bee visited again today.

120 Things in 20 years is doing all those experements that don't really need doing so nobody else has to.

Aquaponics - Shell grit seed raising bee and gecko visitors

I found a little helper in my shell grit seed raising trial.

This gecko is tiny!

I also found a bee.

That's two now this year I think.

It left soon after I saw it visit my freshly transplanted wild rocket.

But my bee came back a little while later.

At least I think it was the same bee.

It certainly looked and behaved like the previous bee.

She looks busy.

120 Things in 20 years is now a bee keeper. I keep a bee.

Aquaponics - Transplanting weeds (wild rocket)

Sometimes I wonder what normal people might do if the weeds in their front lawn were getting so high that they were lowering local property values, but they were too delicious to cut down.

Our front "lawn" is made up entirely of weeds that we normally diligently mow to a controlled inch or so in height. This year, quite a bit of it is wild rocket.

Mowing the lawn swells amazing.

We've been enjoying it so much this year, that I decided that I should grow some in a more controlled fashion. Perhaps even in the new aquaponics grow bed. I'm not sure if weeds will enjoy the happy plant habitat of a constant flood grow bed. Even if they don't go into the grow bed, I'll at least grow it behind my shed or something. Somewhere out of sight anyway.

The problem is, the front lawn's collection is going to seed. I want the seed, but it's not quite ready to collect. So they are getting too tall and ratty to pretend they are simply between mows. That coupled with the fact that by a bizarre twist of circumstance, in the last few weeks, we went from a one car household to a three car household, all makes the front of our house seemed a little neglected. The natural habitat of cars you don't use is of course, the front lawn.

The result is I collected a bucket full of weeds.

And transplanted them to my aquaponics system.

It's quite an odd feeling seeing such fully developed weeds in an aquaponics system.

It might have been a first if not for the fact that a few years ago, I lovingly transplanted something that I thought was a lettuce, and even more lovingly watched it grow into a thistle.

I just looked up "thistle" and it turns out they are food as well.

120 Things in 20 years learns something new every day. (at least)

Aquaponics - Shell grit seed raising shoots

My attempt at raising seedlings in shell grit seems to have worked.

No real surprise there, because if it's going to fail it wont be for a while yet. The point of failure, if there is one, will be the plants rotting because the water might flow through too slowly, and become stagnant.

The shoots appeared this morning.

The lettuce and rocket have sprouted, but the kale is yet to.

I think it was only 4 days ago that they were sown.

On a slightly interesting note, the seeds that were directly sown to the growbed came up yesterday afternoon.

They were sown around 10 days ago. I figured they weren't going to show and moved on to trying the shell grit idea.

I still think it will be better to grow seedlings and transplant them just so you can space the plants properly. When you direct sow, you have to plant lots of extra and think them out because some don't grow, and some move around a bit and as a result you can get clumps of seedlings all in one spot.


So far so good with the seed raising in shell grit experiment.

120 Things in 20 years still has no taglines forming in its addled brain.

Aquaponics - Swirl filters for solids removal

Over the last few days, I've been reading a stack of stuff on radial flow and swirl filters.

Here's what I think I know so far.

As far as I can tell a radial flow filter moves the water in a very gentle manner, first down then up. The solids stay at the bottom. It often does this by having a container inside another container. One container acts like a bucket, and the other is mounted upside down from the lid. You add water and solid waste into the centre top, where it gently moves down to under the rim of the upside down container. The water then rises up to exit near the top outside rim, leaving the solids behind at the bottom. A tap is placed at the bottom so you can remove the solids.

I think I'm going with a swirl filter instead.

The swirl filter migrates solids towards the centre and the bottom, which should be the best position to remove them via a siphon. The path the solids take is a long one because the flow is circular due to the direction of flow on entry to the device. This allows more time for the solids to fall out of suspension (maybe).

So a swirl filter is a bucket with an inlet pipe mounted near the rim to introduce water and solid waste from the fish tank. The inlet tube is pointed in such a way as to make the water create a gentle whirlpool.

Normally, a tap is added to the bottom to remove the solids once collected.

As far as I can tell, a swirl filter changes the pressure of the water on the outside, making it higher than that of the centre due to it's rotational ... disposition.

This pressure (and depth) difference means that the top is no longer the top as far as the poop goes. The poop now thinks the top outside edge is the new top, and the bottom centre is the new bottom. So the poop moves to the new bottom which is right where I'l mount the bell siphon.

What all this means is that the poop is a little more committed to sinking than it's normal, only slightly sinking self.

It's also more likely to settle out near the centre of the bottom of the swirl filter.

Instead of using a tap mounted through the bottom of the swirl filter, I'll be adding an auto siphon in an attempt to automate the dumping of the solids into a worm farm.

Aquaponics - Shell grit seed raising

It seems like I've been trying for ages to find a decent method to raise seedlings from seeds.

My preferred method would be to just throw them all over the place and see what happens, but I suspect the clay ball media allows seeds to fall way down into it. It's possible that with the normal vibrations of city life, that the seeds fall all the way down into the water and then sink to the bottom and rot.

One problem with raising seeds in potting mix is that you do a lot of damage to the roots when you wash them before transplanting them into the aquaponics system.

I add shell grit to the system as a pH adjuster. The nitrifying bacteria tend to move the system toward the acid side, and the shell grit brings the pH back into line (approx pH 7.0).

So I figured it might be a good idea to raise my seedlings in shellgrit.

I started with a food container, and drilled a few holes around the base.

Then added the mesh from a stainless steel sieve, and filled it with shell grit.

Shell grit can be bought where ever you might buy chicken feed, as they sell it to people who have chickens. Chickens eat it and it helps make their eggshells strong.

I chose a space close to the water inlet in the growbed to bury it so the water flowing through would have high levels of dissolved oxygen. I figured this might be important as the flow through the tightly packed shell grit would be slow.

I buried it at a depth so the water level just reached the shell grit. The water "wicks" up through the shell grit so it stays moist.

I also added a lid in the form of another food container.

I'm not sure if the lid is needed, but a lot of store bought seed raising trays have lids so I thought I'd add one. It probably isn't required because I'd guess the lids are used to keep the moisture in, but with water always wicking up from the bottom...

Who knows.

I have no idea if this will work, but as always, I'll let you know one way or the other.

120 Things in 20 years - My ribs hurt.

Aquaponics - New growbed flow control

I few days ago I created and installed all the required bits to control the way water enters and exits my growbed.

All this is probably overkill as a lot of people get away with just dumping water at one end, and draining from the other, but there's a fair chance that at some stage down the track I might try to make this system ultra low energy, so I thought I'd design it so the water can move very freely through the browbed, and so it doesn't leave any areas that don't get enough flow. If I go low energy, that might mean low flow, so I designed it to what I think is the best way I could.

The plan is to have the water enter into a submerged pipe at one end of the bed that has a lot of holes in it, and exit via a similar, submerged pipe at the other end. This way the water will enter and exit evenly throughout the width of the growbed ensuring that no corners are left to go stagnant. With high flow, this wouldn't normally be a concern, but I wanted to make sure I had lots of options for the future.

After a bit of experimentation I discovered the quickest and easiest way to make holes in PVC pipe for water flow was with an angle grinder.

Just a normal metal cutting blade does a pretty clean job of cutting a lot of slots in a 90mm PVC pipe.

Just tap it onto the PVC quickly and it works a treat. A one second cut is perfect. Three seconds will burn it.

Slots are a must when using the clay balls for media as if you drilled holes, the balls would block them all.

All sized balls will block all sized holes regardless.

Go with slots.

The end result looks like this and only takes around 5 minutes per meter at most.

I cleaned it up with a little sand paper and added end caps and an elbow.

I cut a hole with a hole saw so that I could add a stand pipe that would go through the elbow, then continue on through the growbed.

There's no great need to make these joins exact because you want water to seep in all through this bit of kit.

I  found some fittings that for some reason have a tapered thread.

When I got them home, I found that the things they screw into don't, which is kind of strange.

The original idea was to cut a hole through the growbed, and screw the two pieces together from either side to lock the fittings on tight.

Because of the taper, I ended up just making the hole in the growbed really tight, and screwing the fitting in really hard so it cut it's own thread into the growbed.

It seems solid enough.

This is what the finished drain looks like. This will drain water from the growbed back to the sump.

A pipe will be fit into the recess at the bottom, so that even though the water enters the drain from the bottom of the growbed, the water will exit the device at a bit lower than the top of the growbed.

I cut a hole with my hole saw into the bottom of the growbed.

This is an oddly scary thing to do.

Shiny new water tight containers don't lend themselves to be holed without causing some distress to the new owner.

I cut the hole slightly smaller than it needed to be, and then hand filed the rest so I could be sure of a very tight fit for the threaded component.

Once coaxed through the hole in the growbed, the standpipe was cut to size, and pressed into place without any glue.

There's no need to glue it because if it leaks, water wont actually leave the system, and there might come a day when I want to adjust the level, or change the system from constant flood to an auto siphon or something.

The drain assembly looked like this when fitted.

The standpipe runs through the growbed on the left hand side.

The other end was completed in a similar manner, but this time with a central inlet because there was already a hole in that position.

This is where water will enter the system from the fishtank.

And that's it.

The growbed part of the system is complete.

It's worth adding plastic caps top the top of the inlet and outlet media guards to keep the clay balls from getting in when your digging around in the garden.

Like I said, it's probably overkill to make the inlet and outlet pipes like I did here, but it should make it just that little bit more efficient.

120 Things In 20 Years isn't above pretending to make a new growbed when really I made it more than a week ago.

Aquaponics - Flow meter

I got up in the night a week ago, went for a stroll through my house, and promptly fell over a lump of furniture nesting in my hallway. The last few weeks has seen us deciding that we really don't need a ... whatever you call that room with couches and a TV in your part of the world ... living room, lounge room... something like that if you speak English. Anyway, we decided we don't do enough "living" or "lounging" to really need a room dedicated to it, so we filled it full of floor to ceiling shelving, some desks and benches, and turned it into something more like a factory. A factory that doesn't actually produce anything, but does a heap of product development.

We figure when we want to entertain, we'll just do it at our guest's house.

The result of all this that meandering about our house, is a river of transient furniture acting as flotsam and jetsam and nesting where it feels most comfortable, or simply where it last got stuck.

The result of that, is I tripped over an upturned thing with casters on the legs and impaled myself in the lower rib cage.

The next day I went to a doctor with a temperature of 39.7 c.

Who knew falling down gives you a temperature?  The doc thought I had ruptured my spleen so he suggested I go to hospital. The hospital decided I had three cracked ribs and pneumonia. A week later they finally disconnected all the feeding tubes, the morphine drip, and the catheter and let me go home.

The interesting upshot of all this, is that as a result of being given some kind of lung exercise device, I now have an excellent flow metre for my aquaponics system.

Which is nice.

Thinking - Beam me up Scotty

Dear The-President,

I'm reasonably sure that the pressure difference between the Enterprise and (statistically speaking), pretty much every planet's surface, would result in a lot of sinus pain and some scenes involving explosive snot.

I feel these scenes were conspicuously absent in the filming of the Star Trek franchise during beaming exercises.

I further feel that in the interest of reality, this should be easily rectified.

The absence of snot is the absence of reality...


120 Things in 20 years - It's possible that I have a cold.

Aquaponics - New growbed

I have a shiny new allotment of auqaponics real estate!

Yay me!

With a huge amount of help from Mrs. 120 Things, we added two submerged sections of 90mm PVC as inlet and outlet drainage media screens.

We also cut holes in the top of one end of the BYAP grow bend to allow water in from the fishtank, and the bottom of the other end to allow a standpipe to be fitted.

Then we fitted the standpipe. Basically a short length of pipe that sets the depth the water will sit at, by draining the growbed from the top of the pipe, out through a hole in the growbed.

Or in normalspeak, a plug with a tube stuck in it.

The result of a lot of picking through the media (clay balls) to remove all the rubbish that comes with buying second hand media, was this very nice looking growbed. (the growbed was second hand as well)

Working with a purpose built growbed with purpose built media is soooo much nicer than working with home made stuff. I'm all for tinkering and DIY, but if you just want a garden, this pre-made stuff is great. I have no connection with Backyard Aquaponics other than existing on their forum* (as BullwinkleII), but having bought one of their growbeds (second hand), I feel very comfortable recommending them.

Getting there.

* and winning my pump and some other stuff in one of their photo competitions.

Aquaponics - Rain rain it's ok

I was planing a bit of a build post on setting up my new improved aquaponics system, but the heat wave we have been having of up to 44 C (111 F) was interrupted this weekend by two days of rain that sunk our fringe festival.

But I like rain.

For one thing it's nice that 44 C, but it also lets my put off doing things that I really should.

44 C days also let me put stuff off, but they are less pleasant to sit in.

Rain is much better.

So my new system looks like this...

I'm in the process of siphoning it out, but it collected enough water to fill it to the 3/4 mark.

But I think I've finalised a plan for my new system.

I've never been a big fan of removing solids from an auqaponics system because I really like the way it forms an integrated system, where the fish waste feeds the plants, but I thought I'd have a go at it because years ago someone thought it was a good idea.

The only real problem I have with removing solids is that it seems like a waste, but I figure if I can use the solids in the system, it will still fit within my comfort zone.

So the plan is...

  • Make a swirl filter to collect solids
  • Build a bell siphon into the swirl filter with an adjustable (height) stand pipe
  • Set an outlet on the swirl filter such that it can dump water from the surface at the same rate that water is entering from the fishtank. This way the siphone will never trigger under normal operation.
  • Make a stock tank float valve so that it adds water from the tap if it gets below a certain level 
  • Make a Shishi-odoshi, which is a thing you might find in a Japanese garden that water trickles into, and occasionally goes "Doonk". It's basically a length of bamboo that is mounted at 45 degrees on a pivot point just a bit lower than it's half way mark. Water enters the pipe from the top, and when it gets full, the weight at the top causes it to pivot and dump it's water. The nature of the universe being what it is means the device dumps all it's water, because once it's commited to the dump, the weight of all the water shifts to the (now) bottom end. It also hits the ground and makes the "Doonk" sound that is apparently useful to scare deer away from your garden. Also apparently, Shishi-odoshi (鹿威) means "scare the deer" in Japanese. I dont know why you would want to do that. 
  • Make an automatic water topup system for my sump tank so that when the water gets low due to evaporation, it will add a bit. There is such a thing as a stock tank valve that makes sure your cows always have a full trough no matter how thirsty they get. I'll use one of those. They have a float that regulates when water can flow. I'll use that in the sump, set so it triggers at my minimum low tide mark, then rather than dump that water into the sump, I'll dump it into the Shishi-odoshi. When this happens the water will continue to flow from the tap until the sump is filled again, so the Shishi-odoshi will fill reasonably quickly, then dump suddenly. 
  • Build a cup of PVC with a half inch hole in it so that it surrounds the standpipe from about halfway up and is higher than the standpipe by a few inches. 
  • Drill a half inch hole into the standpipe at the bottom, of a size that would mean the water being sucked into the standpipe would be roughly equalled be the water entering the cup. ie it wouldn't just instantly drain and halt the siphon once triggered. 
  • Direct this dump from the Shishi-odoshi into the cup surrounding the siphon, and it will instantly trigger the siphon. 
  • The swirl filter will collect the solids at the bottom in the centre, so only a small amount of water needs to be dumped to empty the solids from the system. Perhaps only a litre or two. 
  • The dump of solids from the contraption (and this is by far my favourite bit) will drop directly into my soon to be newly constructed worm farm. My fish go crazy for worms. 
The beauty of the system is that the hotter it is, the more active my silver perch are. They eat way more in summer than winter. The result will be in winter when the fish and worms are less active, the worm farm wont need or get much water, and the system wont need as much topup water. 

The result is that it should regulate itself perfectly. 

in summer...
  • worms are more active and eat more
  • the fish are more active and produce more waste
  • The worm farm needs more water (or at least can handle the extra litre or two every day) (mine will be a fairly large worm farm. I'm thinking of using a blue barrel)
  • the system needs more topup water to replace evaporation so the Shishi-odoshi will trigger more often, and so supply more water and solids to the more active worms.

The worms eat my kitchen scraps, and fish poop.

The fish eat the worms, some duckweed growing on the sump, the scraps from the system (cuttings, root balls etc) and some store bought feed.

The plants eat the fish solids.

I eat the plants and the fish.

Everyone is happy.

Except the plants and the fish, the duckweed, and the worms. 

120 Things in 20 years Where I am everyone.

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