Saturday, March 29, 2014

Emergency Preparedness Kit - You really do need one... really... you do...

Moderate Earthquake in LA


I have talked about this before and I know you all think you will get to it someday, but I would like to encourage everyone to start working on an emergency kit. Here in California we have these natural roller-coaster rides called earthquakes and while I am not afraid of them, I do respect their power. I have a co-worker who was living in San Francisco during the 1989 quake and her building wasn't damaged, but she lost power for 5 days. If you lost power and water for 5 days, can you cope? 
This isn't a California only thing, this is anyone who lives anywhere on planet earth. Do you have hurricanes and tornadoes, or winter storms and wildfires? A bare minimum supply of 2-3 days water, food and medicine can help you get through a temporary outage of all services. Some people say, I live in the city and we have stores and public services like police and fire, that wouldn't happen to me. Think about the city of New Orleans after Katrina, or New York after hurricane Sandy... and say that with a straight face. Now that we agree you need something, what is the next objection?
I don't know what to do... it is too hard and too much stuff. There are a lot or resources out there that can guide you and the Red Cross has the easiest site to follow. It walks you through everything you need to know and let's you customize for your situation, such as seniors or pets.

Red Cross Family Preparedness Planning

Here are the contents of their basic kit recommendations..
  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit – Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map(s) of the area
Put this stuff somewhere that will be easy to get to, and if you have to evacuate, easy to take with you. Plastic totes or that old wheeled ice chest you don't use any longer are a couple of options. The point is all of it should be "grab and go" and not "find and seek" when you are already in a stressful situation.

Plan how you would "get out of dodge" if you have to leave because your home or neighborhood is unsafe for whatever reason. (In California, wildfires are a really likely reason!) Have more than 1 way out and have a place to go to once you are out of harm's way. I live in the bay area and before I moved to my current home, I lived in Moraga. A town with only 2 main roads out and 4 possible routes all together. Think about that.. if you are in that situation with limited escape routes and everyone is going to take the most common road, what can you do? Do you know another way? Is your vehicle capable of taking a fire break road or do you have a motorcycle that can manuever through congested roads?

These are all things that you need to think about but first, get started! Start accumulating your kit items now... you can build it over a period of time but just get started!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Catfish Disaster!

3/29/2014 - Update
I am not up there this weekend because of work, but my parents and their friends are and they reported back that the goldfish survived the week with only 1 casualty. Also, my mom's friend found some turkey eggs that had been laid in the bushes by my front entry. Here is the picture.. 
Just what I need - more turkey babies!

My aquaponic adventure is off to a really rocky start, I managed to kill off all of the baby catfish. Every single one in less than 1 week. As near as I can tell, the fish feeder I bought was pumping out too much food polluting the water. I had a solid cover of duckweed that blocked oxygen transfer to the water and the tank didn't have time to cycle. AND the pump doesn't go all night long and there was a silt from the clay planting material which resulted in the great catfish massacre of 2014. I am regrouping after cleaning out the dead fish, and 80% of the duckweed and replacing 50% of the water, I bought a dozen feeder goldfish and threw them in there. I have no food in the water for them, since there is so much in there already and frankly if they survive until I get back again, I will be amazed.
Good luck goldfish!
Even though the fish died, the plants in the two grow beds are doing good! 
Raft plants doing good!

Tomato babies

Lettuce with great root system

One new thing I am trying besides the aquaponics tank, is to see if hops will grow there. I have 2 rhizomes of  "Nugget" that I planted in pots to grow up to my deck, and since they are a vining plant that can grow up to 25 feet it should reach it. Why hops? Well it seems that there is never enough supply in the world and home brewing is a very popular and growing hobby. Most home brewers have to use pelletized hops, so if I can get these to grow I will have organically grown hop flowers that I can sell. I have a friend at work who is a serious home brewer and he is ready to try them out for me and brew some beer! (He is so excited he actually bought me a book on how to grow hops!) I am not sure what the deer will do with them.. I will need to protect them a bit I am sure.
Nugget hops - they are doing really good!
Here are more pictures of flowers that are starting to bloom in the is some kind of hybrid of the California poppy. Hopefully I can be there when it blooms since it is so interesting already to look at..
Not sure what this is but it is blue and beautiful

Hybrid poppy? orange and red?

Erigeron (Santa Barbara Daisy) with some strange bug on it

My lady bugs are coming back!

Pretty flowers hanging out together

Lasagna garden update

Last year was the 4th year that I added layers to the garden that I call my "lasagna" garden. I am not planting the veggie yard this year because of the drought, but we have had enough rain to cause the weeds to spring to life and take off. Guess what? That lasagna garden area has no weeds! I am stunned at the difference, so see for yourself.
Left side is lasagna garden area - right is traditional garden area.
See? I swear I didn't run out and weed that side before the picture was taken and really I can't weed too well with my back anymore. The impact is stunning...and I think I will need to try it on the whole yard now.  

Here is hoping for a better outcome with the $2 worth of goldfish that are in the tank now..and some happy news for my poor aquaponic system!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Building a Greenhouse Post #5 - Aquaponic tank is stocked and working !

Installation of the Aquaponic System in the Greenhouse


What a weekend! First off I want to thank my friend ARM for being a good sport and going to the boonies with me to work hard. To be truthful, he is a fish fanatic and an obsessed gardener so when I asked if he wanted to visit a fish farm, finish setting up the tank and put the plants in, it was a resounding yes! 

Saturday morning we went to the fish farm in Elk Grove, out on the delta, to pick up my baby catfish. They are a commercial fish company that raises everything from Sturgeon to Crayfish and are open to the general public only for 3 hours on 1 Saturday a month. It was a fish fiends folly - and Anthony was in awe wandering around and looking in every tank. They were the nicest people there  and said he could go look at the big fish out in the field tanks as well. 
Anthony trying to figure out how to get all of them home!

Baby Red-eared sunfish
I needed really tough fish so I went with the channel catfish fingerlings. (If you have fished at all, you know these guys are the iron men of the fresh water fish world.) The man at the place said I could hold 50 in my tank, but I just got 25 to start, along with food and duck weed. We took them to the house and starting hooking everything together to get the water flowing. My original plan was to do all of this 2 weeks ago before the fish got there, but the Casey got sick;  which meant we had to do everything this weekend. 
First we had to get the top grow bed in position and stable and get the water moving from it to the bottom grow bed. That bottom bed is where the siphon drains the water back to the fish tank. One issue is that my pump at 264 GPH is actually not strong enough to get enough water through the hose and up to the beds in the amount that I want, leaving the bottom bed drier than I would like.  I need to get a bigger pump and replace it. 
Top grow bed draining to the bottom one

The whole system in view

Then we built a "raft" for the top bed to float the lighter weight lettuce and spinach plants. Anthony was helpful here by cutting out the holes to hold the flow-through plastic pots.
ARM cutting out holes in the raft

Raft with baby plants in place

Then the fish went in along with the duckweed. Duckweed is a water plant that will help suck ammonia out of the tank until it cycles enough to stabilize. Another benefit is that it keeps the water temperature down and believe me that greenhouse was warm! Even with all the ventilation it was at least 80 degrees in there. So I plugged a fan into the solar panel as well and there is more than enough power coming from that panel to run the pump and fan. Really amazing!
The most frustrating thing is that automatic fish feeder I bought. Really hard to program and I hope the thing works!
Here is the final product along with a video of it working.. 
Final Setup
Video clip - that is Anthony and I in the window reflection..

We finally got some rain and that means the flowers are starting to bloom! Here are a couple pictures of my favorites from this weekend.

Lupine - very small but it has been a rough year!

Poppy - just the most gorgeous color!
Thanks everyone and I hope next weekend when I go back everything is still goal is to be able to eat something!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Tucson Trip - March 2014


This weekend I was able to go to Tucson to see Nick and a spring training game, and that was really a lot of fun.
On Saturday Nick, Jessie and I went to the Colossal Cave on the outskirts of Tucson.. and it was really interesting! The cave is dormant and dry so not the usual cold and damp of most caves. In fact, it stays at 70 degrees (F) year round which is nice in the summer and in the winter. Here are some of the pictures of the cave and surrounding area;
barrel cactus



Early equipment to explore the cave



Watch your head Nick!

Saguaro Cactus

This bird was so loud! No idea what it is but wow, what a set of lungs!


More Functions

It was a great trip!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

March 1st, 2014 - Casey's Vet Emergency and Gold Country Treasure


I am sitting here in Walnut Creek when my plan was to be up at the hill house this weekend, but sometimes life gets in the way. My dog Casey, who is 16 years old, was acting strange on Thursday night when I got home I couldn't find her. You have to realize that I live in a 900 sq.ft. condo, so that was a bit puzzling. Finally I heard her collar jingle and she came out of Nick's room where she had been hiding in the farthest, darkest corner. She ate dinner but was still not herself.. but nothing was visually wrong. The next morning she was in obvious distress.. she wasn't drinking or eating or moving around and her eyes were glassy. Worse, she was drooling and there was blood in it. I was pretty sure my dog was dying and her system was shutting down on me. I got her to the vet and he was shocked at her condition but instead of putting her down, he suggested that we try one last thing, a large dose of antibiotics and give her 24 hours. I agreed and took her home. She was perking up about 4 hours later and by that evening while not 100%, she was eating and drinking and much better. Long story to say that all my plans for working on the greenhouse and finishing the grow beds and putting the plants in failed to happen. 
If you know me personally, you know I am a planner. I don't like my life to have any traces of chaos so I plan my meals on Sunday for the week, I review my work calendar for the next day the night before, and don't get Nick started on what I am like on vacation! But things happen and Casey has been there for me, and with me for going on 13 years now, so being a little disrupted was okay. She is doing good today and will be on antibiotics for a week or so to clear up whatever that was that did this to her. She is such a tough dog! 
Casey lying down in the meadow pretending to be stalking prey.

Pictures from last summer when she was "helping" me in the yard.

Other news - did you read about the couple in the gold country who found a stash of gold coins buried on their property? First, it wasn't me!

They don't say their names or where they live and since the gold country is a big place it could be my neighbors or 100 miles away. Makes me want to get out there with the metal detector again! What is funny (or sad) is the after this story broke, the next story was the IRS saying how happy they were for the couple and by the way, they will have to be 50% in taxes.
Today the story is that people from all over the world are calling the newspaper and saying they had an ancestor who lived in the region and buried a treasure and they are sure it is theirs... seriously? I am happy for them and really, most of the people in the foothills there are struggling. Businesses are still going under and there really hasn't been anything driving the economy. Maybe this will entice people to come to the area and search for buried treasure? Hey that could be a business! 
I will charge you $100 and 10% of anything you find (after taxes!) and you can come search on my property... hmm...