Godney Aquaponics

Godney Aquaponics
In the village of Godney, with the beautiful back drop of the Glastonbury Tor, Melv and Sal are embarking on a new venture. Fed up with the poor quality of veg in the shops, they have the ambition to set up an aquaponics system to provide fresh vegetables and salad crops for the village, and with a little help from their hens a supply of fresh free range eggs too.

What is Aquaponics??

What is Aquaponics??
Aquaponics is a sustainable method of producing quality food with minimal external inputs. It is a system that combines conventional aquaculture (e.g. fish in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Water from the aquaculture system is fed to the hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down and are utilised by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then re-circulated back to the aquaculture system.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Birthday babies

Last week I 'celebrated' another birthday, they do seem to come round rather quickly now!! However on many of my birthdays, as it falls on mid summers day, we go and collect new hens and this year we did just that - always a rather lovely thing to do and very special. Our existing hens are getting older and we felt that it was time to put some new youth and vigour into the flock. So in preparation, we recycled loads of old timber and roof sheets and built a new coup to a standard that could take some new recruits, although not finished it was weatherproof.
Never ready until we actually decide to go to collect the young birds, by the 24th June we made the trip to Manor Farm, Illminster, to collect 12 new pullets.
Due to the current situation with Covid 19, it is difficult to get point of lay hens, which is typically the age that you buy, when introducing new hens. As such we decided to go for 6 week old pullets, for a number of reasons, but in the main because they were the breeds that we wanted and that are quiet and unconfrontational, with little to no bullying instinct. This latter point we need to consider now we have rescued bantams, that due to their size alone can make them prone to being picked on.

We chose 6 Bluebells and 6 Speckledies, both of which we have had before and have found perfect for the combination of birds that we currently have. But being very tiny they needed to be kept separate until they were at least at the point of lay stage.

We soon had their area kitted out with what they needed, a new feeding station, nest boxes for sleeping, whilst they were so small, perches and water, they soon settled in.
After an initial inspection, it didn't take long before they were using a perch - something they had not come across before
Next it was to explore outside, again not a side of life that they had experienced, but they took it on with the upmost enthusiasm, like little 'uns playing football - all chasing the ball, they ran around in groups to investigate, areas within their new home.
The next investigation was the new coup, whilst we still needed to complete the cladding and complete the finishing touches the pullets weren't phased, as I cladded they investigated.
They didn't take long to settle in -  lovely
Now, over the next few weeks we look forward to watching them grow into young hens, learning as they go and growing in confidence from new experiences. We look forward to when the time is right to introducing them to their new home...
Then of course the existing flock when their role will be to boost its vigour and vitality and keep the old 'uns young and on their toes.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Sunshine and showers

With a growing amount of produce to look at to and much of which such as celeriac, beans and beetroot benefit from plenty to drink, we have really welcomed the recent mix of weather - heavy down pours and warm sunshine.

Thankfully this has presented plenty of opportunity to fill up our large water storage tank, quite a noisy procedure during the really heavy showers

It was great today as I climbed up the ladder to take a peep into the tank to see that we are nearly full

As the weather forecast speaks of 29'C this week, it is great to now have 40,000 litres of rain water ready to use, our plants certainly won't go thirsty


Saturday, 20 June 2020

A couple of stunners

Self seeded red orach has really come into its own and has well out grown the plants that we grew from seed. It is both stunning to look at and stunning to eat, with a real silky taste, holding its texture and has proved to be an excellent addition to curries providing a richness and depth, being a valuable addition to what is a regular dish for us.

The globe artichokes look amazing, as for taste - we are working on that as we didn't have a market for them and they are new to our culinary expertise!!

But none the less, their structure is amazing and they are really photogenic - beautiful

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Tomato Tactics

Since we found that our main polytunnel was contaminated with the powerful herbicide, Aminopyralid, we have had to come up with a plan for how we were going to continue with our planting programme, especially for our tomatoes, aubergines and beans that are all devastated by this hateful substance. After loosing all our early beans and tomatoes already we were extremely cautious and fully aware of what we were now up against. 
Watching plants which we have devoted time to and lovingly grown, literally shrivel up and die before our eyes was not an experience we could cope with for the third time, so Plan B for the 100+ tomatoes that we had desperate to get our of their pots had to be formulated. We were soon inspired by the very warm weather that we have had recently as this meant it was time to move the salads to a cooler place.
They took up their new home in the shade tunnel, which provided the cooler temperatures that lettuce prefer, that left this beautiful growing space.
Our new tomato tunnel!!

With effort, the transformation was instant, grow bags were made from old compost bags, filled with a mix of uncontaminated growing media and slow release fertilizer. These were placed in watering trays made from damp proof membrane and gaffer tape and hey presto...
The chickens were keen to help as soon as we opened the doors for ventilation!
100+ tomato plants later - we were full - after what we have been through it was a beautiful sight, to look through the tunnel and see so many healthy plants.
However we still had a large number of plants to house, so Plan B in the main tunnel came into play, to scrape back the muck and try to provide a clean substrate to plant into.
We needed to do everything we could to try to ensure that the plants put their roots down into uncontaminated ground. To try to improve the chance of this we decided to leave them in their 'Hado' pots and cut the bottom out to force the roots downwards instead of sideways.
Then we excavated a shallow whole, so that the pot still protruded out of the ground, added slow release and carefully lifted into place.
They looked good and fingers crossed we have done everything we can do to ensure that they are good.
We managed to make room for a further 150+ plants, where the beds were narrower, Melv used boards to hold the offensive material back, especially at watering time, when there was a danger that pieces of contaminated material could get knocked in close proximity - belt and braces.

Job done, the race is now on to see which plants produce fruit first, initially we thought it would be the Sweet Cassidy as they were developing well.
However the Latahs are storming ahead and just maybe in a couple of days we will have tomatoes for lunch - lovely, the fresh basil is ready and waiting - that real taste of summer.

We now cross our fingers hard that our tomato tactics are enough to ensure a successful season, with tomatoes all different shapes, colours and sizes a plenty.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

They always makes me smile

Everyday, with no exception, the hens and bantams make me smile, either by what they do or the sounds they make. However one of the most special things is the chorus they deliver after laying eggs and it is something that is a must to hear. So click on the play button and look at the photo below and sit back and listen for 30 seconds - guaranteed to make you smile!!!

Friday, 5 June 2020

Plan B for Beans

As we have learnt, unfortunately the hard way through bitter experience, that the herbicide aminopyralid is really damaging to beans, tomatoes and potatoes. As a result, the area we had originally planned for over 200 runner beans was now not an option as it was contaminated via a large trench of muck. 
Originally intended to provide structure and goodness this trench was now potentially a lethal trap that would have devastating results. So despite all the supporting structure and canes already being in place we had to disregard this bed and develop a Plan B quickly as the beans were desperate to be planted outside.

We decided to move into the next field, and use a piece of ground originally intended for squash, and set to making a new bed and install the necessary supports.
Instead of muck we were going to use bagged compost - although an extra expense it gave us the assurance that at least the plants would survive and that all our time and efforts would not be wasted.
We constructed two simple beds out of 4" x 1" and covered with black plastic, which would both supress weed growth, but more importantly help keep moisture in the ground.
Once the compost was in place and covered, it was time to get the plants out, currently residing in troughs in the shelter of the polytunnel, it was time to untangle and take them to their new home.
Muck truck and trailer put to use and Melv in the driving seat, the plants were on their way...
Looking a little yellow and in need of a new home, it was great to know that they had a new bed to go to, even though it wasn't the one they were originally destined for.
Sal got them in the ground and Melv followed on behind building the new frame
After just a few hours we had an instant runner bean bed - lovely and a positive step that we really needed.
Once tied up, all that was needed now was to water and feed, and with the aid of a small pump, Melv was on to it.
I must also add an additional positive was that the contaminated bed was not wasted - but filled with squash plants - these would not be effected by the herbicide, and would lap up the enriched ground.
A win, win all-round, which not only got the plants in the ground, but also gave us the positive platform on which to build - next it was the challenge of finding a new home for the tomatoes.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Where there's no muck theres spuds!

After seeing 95% of all our early potatoes behave in a deformed and depressing manner, with leaves curling and flowers failing to form we started to ask some questions...

As covered in a previous post we discovered that we were victims of herbicide contamination in muck we had imported to lighten our soils. True to this diagnosis in the same bed, the spuds which were not planted in muck were looking like early potatoes should.
They continued to grow well and produced leaves and flowers which were vibrant and healthy.
This week all flowers having made their appearance and the food cupboard without any potatoes in it (after not visiting the supermarket for 7 weeks), we decided to see what lay beneath. If we needed further evidence of the effect of the herbicide aminopyralid, it began to appear in a crate...
It is certainly proof indeed, where there isn't muck there are spuds - just in time for tea!!
It is now very reassuring to remember that the remainder of our spuds our not in contaminated ground, down the road in our next door neighbour's field and it is great to say they are certainly doing well.
Very well indeed...

Birthday babies

Last week I 'celebrated' another birthday, they do seem to come round rather quickly now!! However on many of my birthdays, as it fa...