Monday, January 17, 2011

Building a Geodesic Dome Greenhouse - Part 1

Hi Everyone! We're Expanding! We are pleased to announce that we have just received the necessary permits to build a new greenhouse. This 1200 square foot, state-of-the-art building will utilize some of our latest technology to enhance the building’s energy conservation, as well as monitor and control an aquaponics growing system. The greenhouse will be used for our research and development, and it will become the focal point of the farm as a visitor center. Construction is scheduled to start this spring and we are eagerly waiting for the ground to thaw.

This video is the first part of a series I'll produce over the next year or so. I hope you enjoy the adventure! (click on the video image to view in a new window...blogspot likes to crop these grrrrr)

Below is the transcript....I put it in here for the search engines!

Hello everyone. I wanted to welcome you to my winter wonderland. A couple days ago, we received about 2’ of snow. Here it is, I’m standing in it at about knee height. Here’s a show of the greenhouse and the garden.

One of my exciting things that I’ve been working on is to build a new greenhouse. This area down in here, which is off of one of my main fields, is going to have a 900 square foot geodesic dome, along with an out-building attached to it for heating and storage. It’s pretty exciting that I’m going to be able to build this. It’s going the be a big improvement over my 120 square foot greenhouse. This wooded site here is where it’s going to be. All the old farm equipment and trees will be moved and the ground will get leveled off.
It’s going to take me about a year to build it. I’m going to do everything from scratch – no kits at all. This is the location again – it’s just off of one of my fields we use for growing corn.

At the end of my video, I’ll also show you some of the plans for the building and some of the ideas for how the aquaponics will work too. I also wanted to thank everyone for reaching a 1000 subscriber mile mark. It’s pretty good for the aquaponics folks. Not quite like some of the millions or so that some of the other guys get on YouTube, but it’s nice to see a good group of people following along with what we do in the aquaponics world. Thanks again.

This is the site plan that was needed to obtain the wetlands permit. It shows the existing land and outlines what type of grading and the types of erosion control that will be installed to protect the wetlands that are near the site.

This particular location was picked because it was near one of the fields and needed minimal amount of excavation work.
This is the side profile of the geodesic dome. It sits on a required 4’ frost wall and will have a shed on the north side that will house a wood furnace. This also shows roughly how the grow beds will be set up.

The foundation plan shows the 33’ dome, the shed area, and post footings for an open-air shed roof which will be used for wood storage.
This plan displays the grow bed locations and how they drain into a central sump tank. The sump will pump water to the larger fish tank. This tank will have a siphon that will drain through a swirl filter and into a second tank. The second tank will be used for extra water storage as a thermal mass. The water will then be pumped from this tank back into the grow beds.

Buried under the floor will be 4” perforated pipe. During the summer months, air will be blown through these to get cooler air from the ground. Over the winter, warm air during the day will be pumped underground into the thermal mass, which will radiate back up into the dome during the nights. Hopefully the wood furnace will only be needed on extremely cold,cloudy days.

That’s all for now. I hope you subscribe to this channel for future updates. I will be showing detailed plans on how the entire dome will be built. We’re hoping to get started this spring once the frost is gone. Oh, and this is our skating ring that we love to use during the winter!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter in New England

18" of snow...we'll get a few more before the storm is over. It's nice to see all that money I spend on heat goes right through the roof and melts it! (sigh)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How To Build Your Own Strawberry Tower

By popular demand, here's a video detailing how I build my strawberry towers. I hope you find it helpful! Full transcript is below. Click on the video image to watch in HD!

Hello everyone.

One of the top requests I get is how to build a strawberry tower. This video will display all the necessary steps to build your own.

The first step is to place a mark on each end of the pipe, then rotate it 180 degrees and mark the other end. Then snap a line down the entire length of the pipe. You could also use a straight edge to mark a line, but I find the chalk line to be more accurate and easier. Turn the pipe over and snap a second line down the opposite side.

Along each chalk line you will place a series of marks. Starting at 2 inches, draw a mark every 8 inches. This will be the spacing between each pocket in the tower. If you are going to grow plants that need more root area, set the spaces further apart. I typically replace the strawberry plants every season. If they grow for more than one season, they can become root-bound.

Starting at the first set of marks, draw a line from one mark and connect it to the mark on the opposite side. Then turn the pipe 180 degrees and connect the next series of marks. Continue rotating the pipe while connecting each series of marks. These lines will be used for cutting the slots in the tower.

Along each cut mark, carefully cut through the pipe until you reach the measured mark you placed at the chalk line. Do not cut through more than half the pipe! Rotate the pipe 180 degrees and cut the next slot. When you are done, each slot should be on the opposite side of the previous slot.

Time for some good gloves. The pipe doesn’t become flexible until it is well above the boiling temperature of water. Please be careful!

The general area that will be heated will be an arch shape starting at one end of the slit, up about 8 inches to the back side of the neighboring slit and then back down to the other end of the slit.

Heating PVC should be done in a well vented area. If you overheat it, it can release some nasty gases. Please be careful! Continuously move the heat around the arched area. Try to avoid heating the area below the slit to keep the pipe from bending too much.

After a few minutes, the PVC will become soft. It helps to apply a little extra heat at the each edge of the slit since this is where the sharpest bend will be.

Push in the PVC so it makes a concave shape in the arched area. You will want to push it in enough so that it will touch against the back wall, but not create a seal since the water will need to trickle through that area, but don’t leave too big of a gap so your growing media will fall through it. When you let go of the pipe, it will usually spring back a little, leaving a gap around ¼”.

I found it to be very helpful to use a few spring-clamps to hold the tight bends in place while the plastic is cooling. You will want to hold the shape in place for a couple of minutes while it is cooling.

It takes me about 3 1/2 minutes to completly create each pocket.

When you are done, you will have some nice pockets alternating on each side of your new tower.

As the water flows through the tower, the surface tension in the water can cause it to flip out of the edge of the slit. To correct this, I added a collar around each pocket.

With some extra pipe, cut some rings about 1 ½” wide. Then remove enough of the ring so when it’s placed over the slit area, it extends just beyond the slit. Add some silicone adhesive and clamp the ring in place. Half of the ring should be placed above the slit line. Use clamps to hold it in place until it cures.

If you’re not going to be draining directly into a sump tank, you’ll need a way to catch the water from your towers. Take a 4” cap and add a fitting to it. Drill a 7/8” hole and thread it with a ¾” tap. There are several ways of adding fittings, but I found this to be very cost effective method.

Take a ¾” NPT to barbed fitting and screw it into the tap. If it is screwed in far enough, it will be higher than the base of the cap. This work well to help any media that as fallen through from going down the drain and clogging it.

This cross-section shows how the fitting is placed into the cap.

Place the cap on the bottom of the tower. The bottom pocket should not be filled with anything so you can clean the base cap if necessary.

To hang your tower, drill a couple of holes on both sides near the top and insert some S hooks. Use a wire or chain to hang it from a strong support.

To connect the tower drains together, you can attach them with tubing and barbed fittings. I made some stands from scrap 3” pipe to support the bottom of the tower. Then I used a 1-1/2” pipe with holes drilled in the side to catch the water from each tower. Each pipe then drained into the main sump tank.

Filling each pocket can be a challenge so I made a tray-type funnel to speed up the process. Take a section of pipe and do a cut down its length. Heat the entire piece so it can be flattened, then bend up the edges so it forms a V shape.

I created a cross-cut section so you could see the inside of the tower. Please note that this sample is done with black ABS so you could see the various surfaces easier. Each pocket will hold about 5 cups, or 1 liter of growing medium. This is enough space for most shallow root plants like strawberries or lettuce. For my strawberry plants, they will usually get water for 10 minutes every hour and a half.

Thank you for watching. Here’s a quick slideshow of my strawberry towers in action!