Episode 1: Dennis McClung showcases his amazing backyard aquaponics operation


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I’m very excited to be posting my first podcast. Dennis McClung is our first guest. We talk all about his amazing backyard aquaponics system Please head on over to http://www.gardenpool.org to check it out.

  • A catfish is used for a natural method of population control
  • Evaporative Swamp cooler powered by the sun
  • Self sustaining system
  • The fish eat chicken poop as part of their balanced diet
  • Permaculture system based on observations of pond habitats
  • Fish scraps are composted using black soldier flies
  • Lots more cool features and aquaponics tips

Make your own lump charcoal

I just came in from stacking apple wood in my backyard and I got to thinking, it should would be nice to learn how to make my own charcoal. I waded through about 10 videos for you guys and found this very talkative fellow who showed a fairly easy method that appeared to be very efficient when compared to others.

It seems there are 2 basic methods to making charcoal:

  1. The indirect method: In this method you don’t burn the wood but rather place it in some sort of container like a 55 gallon drum and then cook it with an outside fire source. Most of these methods seemed silly to me as it seems most people are using propane burners as their fuel source. I’m sorry if I was going to do that I think it would be more responsible of me just to buy a bag of Kingsford. Other videos showed people making massive bonfires to cook their charcoal, again this doesn’t seem very efficient to me as your burning twice the fuel that you are creating.
  2. The direct method involves starting a small fire in a container and then adding your charcoal material to that container. Once you get the fire going you restrict the airflow to the fire, at this point you wait for the wood to dry out and then you cut off the air flow completely. Wait about a day and come back and you have charcoal.
  3. If you don’t feel like watching these 2 videos I took some notes while watching

    How to make charcoal

    1. dig a hole the size of the bottom of a metal drum
    2. compact the dirt in the hole
    3. drill a bunch of holes in the bottom a metal drum using a 3/4 inch bit
    4. place the barrel on the hole
    5. Fill it full of flammable stuff
    6. light it on fire
    7. take a bunch of split wood and throw it on top of your fire
    8. take a metal lid and place it on top
    9. slide a slim branch under the lid to prop it open some
    10. Wait until the smoke stops being white and starts being more blue (2 to 3 hours)
    11. Wack the barrel a bunch… (to stir it up I assume?)
    12. Wack the lid down to seal the barrel
    13. clamp the lid
    14. come back in 24 hours

    Watch the videos

    part 2

DIY Cider Press Review: “Anyone can build a whizbang cider press!”

In this video I show you the basics of a simple cider press I built from plans I purchased from whizbangcider.com. I actually built two cider presses and grinders. One of the presses was a gift for my uncle who plans to grow a lot of fruit at his lake house.

Here are 2 key things that attracted me to the ‘whizbang’ design:

  1. Uses a 6 ton tube jack to press the cider rather than laboriously turning an acme screw
  2. Uses a garbage disposal to create the mash, which I thought was a great idea.

In the book Herrick Kimball recommends that the disposal unit you choose should be modified with a more powerful electric engine to avoid overheating. I got antsy and decided to try it without the modification and it has worked fine for 5+ batches, however I do notice it does rather warm. I don’t run it for very long periods of time since it does such a nice job of crushing up apples.

Please check out Herrick’s blog post here: New Techniques for Cider Making for a more detailed explanation of the cider making process. You can purchase his book on his website as well.

Review: Rain Reserve Water Diverter

Today’s entry comes from John Daleske. This is a great article because setting up rain harvesting is a big “to do” on my list for next year. It seems like a simple thing to install.

Review: Rain Reserve Water Diverter

by John Daleske

Capturing precious rain water will be critical in the future and important now for gardeners and permaculturists. It is also important as a back-up source for (mostly) potable water should there be a loss of one’s main water source.

The Rain Reserve water diverter

Rain Reserve makes a downspout diverter. I got a couple and have been testing them with water storage tanks this past year. The design requires removing a downspout section, fitting the diverter in place, then screwing it in place.

Installation requires a way to cut the downspout (metal snips or a saw), screwdriver, and a drill. It took me about an hour.

As a closed system, it is supposed to keep mosquitoes and other water-loving critters out of the barrel. Rain water flows into the chamber. The center of the chamber has an upward extension with a hole at the top. Excess water and floatable debris flow out here. At the bottom of the chamber are the two outlets to which you connect the hoses.

The two hoses are pressure fit, though you could add clamps. One hose runs to a barrel. I installed two 50-gallon barrels.

The diverter input handles only the standard (American) downspout. All of my downspouts are the larger (6″), which required the reducer you see feeding into the diverter. That is an extra item, which I did not realize did not come in the kit. I am a little concerned that if we get a heavy rain for an extended period, the diverter would not be able to handle the excess flow, backing water up the downspout and eventually causing the gutters to overflow.

Rain Barrels hooked up to the diverter

I wanted the barrels high enough to let me water my garden using drip irrigation. The base is loose stacked cement block, two blocks high, leveled to provide a sturdy platform.

Note the sag in the feed hoses from the diverter to the barrels. There is no overflow pipe from the barrels. The intention is that the water fills up the barrel and up the hose at which point all other water fill flow out the center drain hole and down the downspout. The sag is caused by the weight of the water.

Also note the crimping of the hose on the left. When installed, the hose lines seemed the right length and could not have been cut shorter. I am trying to decide on the best way to correct that crimp. The barrel curently still fills up.

One of the main concerns I have is that this design does not handle debris wash from the roof to keep it from getting into the barrels. I have seen washer designs that collect the first few gallons from the roof, which will have the majority of small debris, then allow all subsequent water to fill the barrels.

The other concern I have is that this seems like it would not do well in areas with lower rain fall amounts. It allows too much water to just flow directly to the exit, only capturing a percentage of the overall flow.

For a small installation with just two barrels, it is an easy way to get started. For semi-arid or arid regions, I would look for a better way to capture a higher percentage of the flow.

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SaveOurSkills.com 2.0

This is the obligatory introductory post! I’m not going to drone on about the philosophy of the site too much. This site is about taking action, so this post will be mercifully short.

I’m very excited to be taking over as webmaster here at SaveOurSkills.com. My name is Nick LaDieu and I am a 32 year old web developer living in western Pennsylvania.

Right now I would consider myself to be a product of modern society. I don’t fix my own car, heck, I don’t even fix my own bicycle! I’m part owner of a software company and I’ve never changed the oil in my car or even put on a pair of brake pads.

Why in the hell would I decide to be the webmaster of a website called SaveOurSkills.com?

There was a DIY ethic in this country that our grandparents and great-grandparents took for granted. This self reliant attitude has been lost to my generation, however the knowledge still exists and is making a comeback.

I have decided that anyone can become self-reliant in this modern internet connected society and that includes myself.

Let’s learn together.

Please drop me a line: