2016 Chronicles

This page lists the notable events of 2016. All events are listed in reverse chronological order (the January articles are at the bottom of this page).

Summary: 2016 was a year of learning from new friends, the construction of the rear rainwater tank bank and two 4’x16′ hydroponics tanks. We installed a 12’x28′ shed and published several newsletters. We also performed lots of maintenance on the systems already installed. Thankfully, most of our original designs proved successful. The bug wars intensified and we tested various organic methods for keeping them under control.

EBG Newsletter Issue #3 Produced 120716

Spotlight: Moringa Oleifera (Malunggay) 120716

The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and roots of this tree are used to make medicines. Moringa contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals. As an anti-oxidant, it helps protect cells from damage. Moringa is used for anemia, arthritis and other joint pains, asthma, cancer, constipation, diabetes, diarrhea, epilepsy, stomach pain, stomach ulcers, intestinal spasms, headache, heart problems, high blood pressure, kidney stones, fluid retention, thyroid disorders, and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections, to reduce swelling, increase libido, prevent pregnancy, boost the immune system, and increase breast milk production.
It is also used as a nutritional supplement or tonic.
• Moringa can be applied directly to the skin as a germ-killer or drying agent (astringent). It is used topically for treating infection (abscesses), athlete’s foot, dandruff, gum disease (gingivitis), snakebites, warts, and wounds.
• Moringa can be grown cheaply and easily, and the leaves retain vitamins and minerals when dried; it is used in India and Afr ica to fight malnutrition. The immature green pods (drumsticks) are prepared similarly to green beans, while the seeds are removed from more mature pods and cooked like peas or roasted like nuts. The leaves can be eaten raw, or cooked and used like spinach. They can also be dried and powdered for use as a condiment or food supplement.
• Oil from moringa seeds is used in foods, perfume, hair care products, and as a machine lubricant. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction is used as a fertilizer and also to purify well water and to remove salt from seawater.
Tea: Infuse fresh or dried leaves in boiling water for five to 10 minutes. Flavor with lemon or lemongrass. Makes a light, delicious brew. For more information, go to www.webmd.com. —image courtesy of Google.

Dry Mixing Hydroponic Nutrients 120716

Our quest to replace high-priced liquid nutrients for our hydroponics tanks took a major step forward thanks to Mr. Rick Wells of Pensacola Permaculture, and Mr. D. Cavage—a highly experienced hydro-gardener. Mr. Cavage provided the information needed to mix our own nutrients using readily available components. This change will allow us to reduce our (nutrient) cost-per-plant by up to 75%. Testing is underway. Stay tuned.

Insteon Update 120716

The new Insteon Hub and Appliance Module are proving to be a great solution for controlling appliances remotely from by cell phone. The catch: the cell phone must be 4G. Installation was a bit tedious but port-forwarding was not required. Note that Insteon offers lots of cool Smarthome solutions. Stay tuned.

Tesla Powerwall 2: EBG Backs Out 120716

After two years of stonewalling, Tesla finally responded to our requests for information on their Powerwall storage batteries. We made the down payment ($1100) back in 2014—-just to talk. Why the delay? We probed but couldn’t get an answer. So, we began to dig deeper. Our findings were surprising. The upfront costs of purchasing a pair of PW2s (about $12K) are just for openers. Add to that the installation costs (another $10K), and the unknown end-of-life recycling costs (you can’t just throw them away) and the total end-to-end (E2E) ownership cost becomes ridiculously expensive. Divide the E2E cost by the advertised cycle life of ten years and you get an approximate cost of nearly $200 per month. And, if it turns out that the actual cycle life is five years (instead of ten), that monthly outlay jumps to about $400 per month! To us, it’s obvious that residential batteries are not yet ready for prime-time. So, we requested a refund and moved on.

Tech Update: “Dobie” (the Robot) Passes Away 120716

“Dobie” in Repose in “His” Casket / Shipping Container

It is with considerable sadness that we announce that “Dobie” (the robot) has passed away from catastrophic charger failure. Though never practical, this (our first) bot will be mourned—mostly because of the huge dent “he” left in our wallet. Dobie expired just short of an upcoming test of “him” leading an autonomous tour of EDEN.

“Dobie’s” Casket / Shipping Container

Being this close to our goal of actually getting him to “work”, we decided to ship “him” back to the factory for “resurrective surgery”. You don’t want to how much it cost (sigh).

Click the button below to view the WIRED YouTube movie, How to Not Embarrass Yourself in Front of the Robot at Work, starling a Double Robot just like “Dobie”.

Postscript: After successful resurrection, we developed a voice-control module for Dobie. Unfortunately, Dobie would only respond to commands given in Spanish (who knew?). We also fitted a proximity alarm to keep him from being stolen by an ardent “admirer”. During testing (series 6) Dobie “died” again (June 2017?). This time, we decided to let him “rest”. Since then, he “stands”— now lifeless”—in a corner of the office, a statuesque reminder of what might have been. Stricken by a digital semblance of grief, I’m not sure if I wrote any further reports of Dobie…

To learn more about Dobie’s modifications, please see “Dobie” the Double Robot Guide / Battery Swapper 2014 on the EDEN Features & Tech page.

Raised Bed Wall Correction 120616

The prep work comes first. The cover frame is rotated off the raised bed and cleaned (above). Then the frame is moved out of the way.

The front wall of the raised bed above is bowing out due to the settling of the soil below the bed. The rear wall of another bed (below) is even worse.

It’s best to wait until the soil is wet (after a rain) before starting this repair, for reasons that will become apparent shortly.

Start the repair by removing the cap blocks from the top of the back wall (to keep them clean). Then, dig a narrow trench in front of the back wall, Dig down to grade, but don’t go below the bottom block. I used a trenching shovel for this step (see image above).

Next, I used a weighted tarp to hold the compost in place during the repair. The goal here is to keep the compost from falling back into the trench that was just dug out. Then, remove the top row of blocks from the back wall.

Note that each block is packed with sand (above). Sand is great for retaining moisture, and the extra weight provides stability. If you perform this repair after a rain, the sand will be moist and won’t fall out of the concrete blocks if they are moved carefully. Try this: dislodge each block gently and slide it out of place by about an inch; then tilt it on it’s side and lift it out carefully and place it on the tarp (as shown above). This “surgical” technique will keep the sand from falling out of the blocks and will save lots of time,

Starting at one end of the bed, remove several of the bottom blocks, using the “surgical” technique described above.

Next, use a tamper (or another block) to compact the soil at grade. Fill any obvious low spots (with sand), Then, drop a half-inch layer of dry concrete mix (Quikcrete) into the trench. Then, replace the blocks, one at a time, being careful to level each block as you proceed. To make adjustments, place a 4×4 wood block on top of the concrete block and tap it lightly with a short-handled sledge.

In an attempt to keep things neat, I dumped a few pounds of the concrete mix into a bucket. The bucket is much easier to handle (and it has a “handle”) in the tight workspace.

The back wall is now finished (above). From start to finish, the repair took about an hour.

The repair of the front wall is faster and easier (above), mainly because there’s plenty of room to work.

Garlic Planting 120216

Garlic is sprouting in our pots (and one raised bed) and will soon be bedded in straw. Also: a tray of expensive Japanese Ashitaba seeds are now “resting” (for thirty days) in the refrigerator (stratification is required for germination).

EBG Microgreens 120216

Our expanded sprouting table is in full operation. Our first test of micro-greens is underway. Sprouts for a Basic Salad Mix are shown here at day-6, in a tray of compost (rear), and coco-coir (foreground). Compost seems to be the superior substrate.

Spotlight: Manning’s Feed & Seed 120216

It’s citrus season! Here at EDEN, we rely on Manning’s for seeds, supplies, advice, and more. If they don’t have it, they can get it, and they can provide tips to assist all of your gardening efforts (and more). Stop in and say “hi”. Please click the button below to visit Manning’s Facebook page.

EBG Living Harvest Cup 120216

Designed as a holiday gift for family and friends, the Living Harvest Cup (above) is a mini Kratky hydroponics system.

These Bok Choy plants are unique, attractive, edible, and alive. Lasting up to three weeks, you can clip what you need on a daily basis and watch as it continues to grow. Perfect for holiday table spreads and mantles, these miniature hydroponic tanks let you witness the beauty of soilless gardening. No assembly or maintenance required!

Spotlight: Butler’s Countryside Farms (113016)

I’ve had lots of requests from folks for plans for the elevated planting beds that I’ve been building over the past few years, so I thought this would be a good venue to share my technique. 

Constructing Elevated Planting Beds (by John L Butler, Jr.)

When designing these beds, my main goal was ease-of-access, mainly because my wife and I are finding it more and more difficult to crawl around on the ground when taking care of a garden. 

Elevated Beds

We soon discovered that elevated beds offer a few unexpected advantages as well. First, we lose less produce to deer, as they don’t get into the plants anymore. Second, moisture control is easier: any excess water drains right out and we can tell immediately that we’ve watered them well when the water starts dripping out below.

Here’s the parts list:

  • 9 – 5/4” x 8’ Deck Boards
  • 2 – 4” x 4” x 8’ Posts
  • 1 – Roll of Chicken Wire
  • 1 – Roll of Landscape Fabric
  • 1 – Box of 1 1/2” or 2” Nails (deck nails are best)
  • Staple gun and heavy-duty staples.

Start by cutting the 4” x 4” post into thirds. This should give you 6 posts around 32” each. You’ll only use 4 legs for each planter, but trust me, you’ll want to build a few of these beds, so it’s good to have the extras.

Next, cut 4 of the 5/4” deck boards in half. You should end up with 8 sections around 4’ each.  These are for the ends and cross support. You’ll have an extra one here too.

Next, cut one of the 5/4” deck boards into 1’ sections. These will help support the side walls.

To assemble, start with two of the 4” x 4” legs and lay them parallel to each other on a flat surface about 8’ apart.  Lay two of the 8’ deck boards in parallel on the legs, flush with one edge. Go ahead and nail these pieces together.

Next, make a mark every 2’ along the deck boards you just attached. Then add a 1’ section of deck board centered at every mark to help tie the two parallel boards together (the long deck boards tend to twist under pressure). It’s important to extend the 1’ section about 1-1/4 inch from the top of the top deck board so that you have an overhang of at least an inch; you’ll need this overhang later, when attaching the cross supports. Repeat these steps for the other side.

Next, stand up the two sides just finished and prop them up with a chair. Then, attach the 4’ deck boards (in pairs) to connect the sides. This will give you the basic frame of the planter.

After the frame is complete, add 3 of the 4’ deck boards to the underside of the planter and use the extended 1’ sections as guides and supports.

After the nailing is complete, attach sections of chicken wire to the inside floor of the planters. You can run it side-to-side, or end-to-end, depending on the width of chicken wire you buy. Be sure to overlap each run and extend it up the walls a few inches. Repeat this procedure with the landscape cloth.

Finally, fill the planters to the brim with potting mixture. The landscape fabric will hold the potting soil, and let any excess water drain out. The chicken wire supports the landscape fabric and the cross sections support the chicken wire.

I hope you enjoy this project, and Happy Farming!

Spotlight: Pensacola Permaculture (110816)

Pensacola Permaculture specializes in ecological landscape/garden design, maintenance, and quality food products.

The Front Garden

Founded by nature and wellness enthusiasts Michelle and Rick Wells, Pensacola Permaculture is the result of over 10 years of experience working in Healthcare and Engineering fields. Years spent in these demanding fields, along with starting a family, highlighted the need to preserve optimal health and well-being. Studying ecological design fueled a strong passion to learn techniques to restore the environment and provide an authentic lifestyle for their family and yours.

Spawn Bags in the Cold Room

After 5 years of trial and error in applying these solutions personally, they began to spread the word and share these solutions within their small community. Years ago, they started with just a seed and today offer Permaculture garden design and maintenance services on a small and large scale. Products from the 4-acre farm include cultivated mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, honey and eggs. An onsite nursery provides unique and productive perennial plants, which are used in landscape designs and for individual sale.

Shitake Logs

Pensacola Permaculture offers classes on how to cultivate oyster mushrooms. Click the button below to view a demonstration hosted by Rick.

EBG Newsletter Issue #2 Produced 100716

Issue #2 of the EBG Newsletter was distributed (in PDF format) by email to over 200 friends. Unfortunately, the links in the newsletter didn’t work properly on iPhone devices.

The Photography of Mr. J. Stephenson 110416

Fall Cometh

Mr. Stephenson maintains two different blogs; one is My Bukidnon Life, a pictorial blog about making Bukidnon, the mountainous farming community, home. Click the button below to visit My Bukidnon Life on Facebook.

Mr. Stephenson’s other blog is Gathering Breeze, which showcases his photography. A sample is shown below.

Fall Leaves
Sunset at Avalon Beach 072116

Click the button below to see more of Mr. Stephenson’s photography on Developing Breeze.

River Spinach (Khang Khong) 092516

A truly unique herbaceous plant, River Spinach (Khang Khong) is incredibly easy to grow. You can literally drop a cutting into a bucket of water and it will grow. Delicious (stir-fried or battered for Tempura), Kang Kong is high in beta-carotene, natural antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fibers. It’s also rich in electrolytes, including sodium and potassium.

Tangerine Tree 092516

Moringa Babies 092516

Bitter Melon Vines 092516

Cycling Tank-4 092516

Ref: Garden and Tank Photos 092516

Tank-3 (above) has been emptied and cleaned in preparation for planting the next crop. Note the aeration hoses weighted down with bricks to keep them submerged.

Tank-4 Rafts 092516

EBG Newsletter Issue #1 Produced 092516

Issue #1 of the EBG Newsletter was distributed (in Word format) by email.

Downspout Filter Testing 091816

Our testing of the often-recommended first flush system (shown behind the Zinnia flower above) for keeping debris out of the rainwater tanks produced unsatisfactory results. Although effective for removing the granular debris that sluffs from composition roofing shingles, it doesn’t stop leaves, because leaves float! Our new three-layer strainer outperformed the first flush system. Best of all, it’s invisible when installed. And, after several years operation, we had no problem with sludge buildup in the system (or sump).

Eden Garden Photos 091216

New Tank Drain Pump 090816

Draining 200 gallons quickly takes a good-sized pump, specially outfitted here (above and below) to do the job.

EBG Photos 071016

Eden Tomato Imports 070116

River Spinach (Kangkong)

EBG Flyer 062416

Rear Tank Bank Installation for Rain Water Collection 062316

The photos above show the rear tank bank under construction. It would later be extended from 5000 gallons to 7000 gallons. Lacking experience, we made several mistakes. First, we underestimated the amount of settling under load (when full, each tank weighs just about a ton). Second, we mixed small (270-gallon) tanks with large (330-gallon) tanks, which complicated plumbing. And, we made no provision for tank removal or replacement. These problems and more would be solved in time.

Happy Harvest 062116

Our friends appreciate freshness. Many enjoy participating in the harvest, as shown above.

The foot-operated rinsing station (shown above) is a big help at harvest time.

Building Hydroponics Tank 3 032316

Base (above)

Supported by strategically placed piers (stacked concrete blocks topped by a 2″ cap block) with 4’x4′ pressure-treated crosspieces, 3/4″ plywood is used as the floor of the tank. As these tanks must be as level as possible, Styrofoam shims of various thicknesses (cut from sheet stock) are stacked under the cap block of each pier to ensure that each pier is level before the 4×4 posts are added.

Floor (above)

The 3/4″ plywood sheets (used as the floor of the tank) are screwed to the 4×4 posts, using only enough screws to tie the posts together and keep things from moving around.

Sidewalls (above)

The sidewalls are constructed of 3/16″ luaun plywood (typically used for door skins) screwed and glued to 2″x4″ pressure-treated boards that have been split lengthwise (pre-cut 2″x2″ boards will not do). 5″ lag bolts are used to fasten the sidewalls to the base (and to each other).

Styrofoam and Plastic Liners (above)

After the sidewalls are installed, the floor and sidewalls are lined with 1/2″ Styrofoam sheets. Next, an 8’x20′ sheet of string-reinforced plastic sheeting (stapled to the top of the sidewalls) is used to provide a waterproof liner for the tank.

Featuring a lightweight Gen-2 design, this 4’x16’x18″ tank can grow up to 110 plants in 2″ pots (before thinning).

A frame for the rain cover is constructed of 1″ galvanized pipe (shown above). The crossbar spanning the mid-section of the tank keeps the sidewalls from spreading when the tank is full. The raft supports are constructed of 1/2″ PVC pipe.

Additional images are shown on the 2015 Chronicles page. Scroll down to the entry entitled “Hydro Tank 2 Build 111615“.

A closeup of the interior of the tank is shown above in the entry entitled “Tank Drain Pump 090816“. See also “Cycling Tank-4 092516“. A closeup of the rafts is shown in “Tank-4 Rafts 092516“.

Testing Dobie’s Ultrasound Attachment 010416

Click the button below to view the first test of Dobie’s portable ultrasound attachment. Impractical but effective, the audio feedback from this sensor would be used to help avoid obstacles during remote steering.

——– End of Page —-