Update on the Aquaponics System


160 gallon tank with 20 fish

160 gallon tank with 20 fish

It is true that most aquaponics set ups look a little “Red Neck Engineered”, but this is my first set up. I will get better over time.

This tank is 160 gallons and can hold 20 adult tilapia. Though there are 2o fish in there, they are not yet adults. Because the fish that I started with are straight run, and not sexed; I hope that the females will get pregnant. I have placed different width pieces of pvc in the bottom. That is because I hope that some of those babies will hide in the little tunnels provided by the pipe pieces. If they can avoid being eaten, while I harvest the adults then I will not have to purchase new fry to raise.

I have read that in aquaponics, you use 25% of the water to flood your grow beds with. That gives me 40 gallons to work with at a time. That is how I figured out how big (and how many) grow beds to use.

grow beds

grow beds

These cement mixing tubs each hold 20 gallons. When you fill them half way with expanded clay pellets, there is still enough for 10 gallons of water to flood during each cycle. Hmmm, here is where algebra is finally used in real life. 4 (10 gallon x 1 tub) = 40 gallons. I guess that I did not need algebra to figure that one out after all. Oh well, someday I will find real life use for the algebra classes that I took.

Do you see the two totes under the far back beds? Those act as my sump. I needed someplace for those 40 gallons of water to drain into. They are each 27 gallons. That is 2 X 27= 54 gallons. More than I needed, but one was not enough. I had Steve connect them for me with that big piece of PVC Pipe. The tote on the right has a submersible pond pump that pumps the now filtered water back into the fish tank.

The  system is set up to flood the grow beds every two hours. Steve has really started to take an interest. It is pretty low maintenance now. I keep a couple of buckets full of water to de-gas. That way when evaporation occurs, I can dump the buckets into the system with out harming the fish.

I planted bare root strawberries in the grow beds this year, so I do not expect fruit until next year. But I have a friend that planted one year old plants in her beds, and had sweet red strawberries the size of 50 cent pieces this year. I hope to experience that next year.

The orange buckets and the little dog in his kennel are not part of the system. Now that I know what I am doing, I can make my next set up a little more stream lined.

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Milk to Cream

Gallon of raw milk

Gallon of raw milk

Here is how I separate the cream. To the left you see a whole gallon glass jar of raw cow’s milk. Do you see the cream line? I will get a quart of  cream and then pour milk into the half gallon jar. Steve likes the half gallon to pour out of


Separating the cream

Separating the cream

I use the ladle to scoop the cream out of the large mouth gallon jar and the funnel to make sure that I do not waste one bit of precious cream.

The cream is done.

The cream is done.

I will put this jar of  cream into the fridge and use it in coffee until I am ready to either freeze it or use it for butter.

Time to pour the milk

Time to pour the milk

There is nothing like a glass jar to chill raw milk. Now where are the chocolate chip cookies?

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Do You Believe in Magic?


Who's water was I drinking?

Who’s water was I drinking?

I was asked (and paid) to teach at a conference this last weekend. My assignment was a class on gardening in the desert and a second class to share my personal composting methods.

After my first class- one of the attendees came up to me and asked me “Do you believe in magic?” When I responded yes, this person shared something that I will remember for the rest of my life. It does not matter what was told me, it was the feeling that I immediately felt when I heard what this person had to say. The feeling overwhelmed me and quickly brought tears to my eyes. My new friend saw my reaction and said “Now, that is a feeling that you cannot buy in a Circle K.”

When I began my second class, to the same people. I saw my friend sitting in the front row. Though I was sensitive enough not to reveal the identity, I told the story. I said that I do believe in magic, in miracles and in messengers. I believe that God puts people (angels)in our lives to give us messages. We just need to keep our ears open, and our hearts in tune so that we can recognize from where the message is actually coming from. I knew that I may never see this person again, but I wanted to say thank you anyway.

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Well, Hellooo Emma!



When it comes to shopping, it may seem to some that I am fickle. But there is a secret to that part of me. While I do lots of window shopping, it takes a long time for me to make a decision to buy. I may not be wise with my time, but I am wise with my money.

About a year ago, I started thinking that it would be nice to have some white dishes. That way I could dress the table with home made place mats and napkins and no matter what pattern I picked, the plates would not clash. Besides food looks so delicious on white plates. So I began my search.

I wanted something that was truly microwave safe. I found that a dish is not truly microwave safe unless it can be placed in the microwave without heating up. Have you ever placed your microwave safe plate in the microwave and burned yourself taking it out? Thought so! Me too! I have been informed that there is still some lead (lead? now wonder we are all  crazy!) in our ceramic dishes.

So my search took me to William and Sonoma. Youch! Beautiful dishes, great big prices. But that is where I met my lovely friend Ms. C. She was so knowledgeable about things like All Clad Pans and Le Creuset pots. Whenever I walked through the mall, I would peek in to see if she was there. I enjoyed playing in that store, but never made the big buy.

When that store closed, I started playing in Pottery Barn and found that they were smart enough to hire my friend Ms. C. So I continued our visits. Each week, I would go in and drool over the “Gabriella” dishes, but I just could not bring myself to make the commitment.

For my birthday, my daughter; Ms. M gave me a gift certificate to Pottery Barn. This would make it easier to make “Gabriella” mine. But when my favorite Friday friend (Ms. V) and I went into the store-there it was-”The Emma Collection”. It was there all the time; Pottery Barn’s best selling collection. Just waiting for my discovery.

Now I am the proud owner of 4 complete place settings of “The Emma Collection”. There will be more trips to purchase additional pieces, but that will come with time.

I will also be making some placemats and napkins. I am not big into table cloths because I love to look at my dark wood; farm style table.

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To My Favorite Friday Friend

I do not care how busy I get, this lady will be the last person crossed off my list. To spare her embarrassment, we will call her Ms. V. I have known her as long as I have known Steve. Actually she was friends with Steve before I met him.

Every Friday we walk each other. I walk her to help her de stress, and she walks me to help me de stress. When the weather is nice, we hike South Mountain. When it is hot, we walk the mall. When we walk the mall, we stop and get See’s candy. Then we stop at Godiva and then I stop at Macy’s for a spritz of my favorite perfume. How can you get into trouble at the mall?


I have had my eye on a certain place setting at Pottery Barn. I go and visit it every week. I also have a favorite salesperson (Ms. C) who helps me so much when I am there, even if I do not buy anything. I like to move things around; and make the place my home, Ms. C  encourages me to do so (smart woman).

Well, today we were there, and I was mix matching plates. Ms. V was getting nervous because a couple of the floor girls that dress the tables were watching me (I was just helping). It was obvious that they did not like what I was doing. Ms. V was being so patient with me and actually liked the look that I put together. I liked it too. So much so, that I decided I was finely ready to buy.

As I moved away to find Ms. C, I noticed the two girls swoop in (darting less than nice looks in my direction) to put everything back in their original boring order. It is ok, they are too inexperienced to know. Not only did I tell Ms. C that I was ready to buy, and would wait for her to be available, but I also brought her to the table to show her the look that I liked. My poor friend Ms. V became nervous (and mumbling threats of leaving the store) that I was going to start moving all the plates around again. I could feel the  two floor girls peeking around the curtains at us.

While Ms. C went off to get the place settings that I asked for, I asked to see the manager Ms. T (they all rhyme, I like it). I told Ms. T how Ms. C encourages me week after week to play in the store. Because of her encouragement, I will only buy from her. I also told Ms. T how the two floor girls were behaving, and that they should be encouraged to relax when someone like me walks into the store. Ms. T told me that is the reason that Ms. C receives  employee of the month so often.

Here is to Ms. C- May she win every month. I am writing a letter to the company to honor her.

But most of all.. Here is to you my friend Ms. V. You are my favorite Friday friend.

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Have I told you lately?

Nursing School! Do not let anyone tell you that it is easy. I have worked in the medical field most of my life. So none of it is hard, but there is so much of it. I feel so sorry for the young ones in the class who have no real life experience or medical experience.

We have just taken the exam for our 5th week. We have 10 weeks of exams and then a month of clinicals. So we are not even half way through yet.

Several of us were talking the other day and we all have the same thing going on. Our spouses are beginning to feel unappreciated. They all are acting out in different ways. Some are getting mad, some are picking little fights. Some are just plain getting whiney. Mine included. I am not saying this to be mean, just an observation.

So I told my younger friends (yes, they are all younger than me), that our spouses are indeed putting up with a lot. I know that I walk around the house with a glazed over look, I am not hearing half the things he says because I am trying to remember which O2 mask delivers what percentage of oxygen.

I have also been keeping up with my backyard farm and farming friends. I taught at a conference this last weekend, and I clean the house, and go grocery shopping.

I also told my nursing school friends that it is important to take the time to pet our spouses, pay attention to what they are saying, or just tell them the things that they need to hear.

So I am starting us all out-Steve this is for you.




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Baby Praying Mantises (Manties?)

One of the egg filled cocoons has hatched.

One of the egg filled cocoons has hatched.

There are two cocoons in this dish. One of them has hatched. It is my understanding that the mother Preying Mantis spins a cocoon and then lays approximately 200 eggs inside before sealing it. When the babies hatch, they eat their way out of the protective shell of the hardened nursery chamber. I took this dish outside tonight and hoping to increase their chance of survival; I spread the babies throughout the garden. Ants and birds will try to eat them, but hopefully some of them will be able to hide and survive. This is one (or 200) bug(s) that     make(s) me happy.

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