Our Aquaponic Journey Part One: Building the Greenhouse

Ana White Barn Greenhouse

 

Have you ever heard of aquaponics? It’s the practice of growing food using fish in a water-based system. I heard about it last year, and have been learning all I can about it ever since. This past year was fine with my conventional garden, but I wanted more. I wanted year-round vegetables, in abundant quantities. I wanted a simple system that was self-sustainable. I wanted aquaponics! After a lot of research, I decided to take the plunge and build a greenhouse specifically for my system. I chose the brightest spot, which happened to be just to the right of our house, in the gravel area we designated as a driveway overflow. My husband was generous enough to give up this spot for the good of the larder. We had just enough money left in our house building fund to cover the costs of the greenhouse, which was just under $800.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 10.47.34 AM

 

It took four days to build Ana White’s Barn Style Greenhouse. We purchased all our supplies at Lowes. The first day was spent digging a foundation in for the cement blocks. We decided to add them into the plan since we get such serious winds around here. They have since been buried, so I’m hoping it will be enough to keep the greenhouse in place. I also decided to make the lower “wall” on the left side, the one covered in greenhouse panels, have the ability to open for ventilation in the summertime. You can see the darker brown frame that I used to attach the greenhouse panels to. I just made sure the uppermost panel threaded beneath the one above it so water wouldn’t get in. I’m planning to add some spray foam to each edge to keep the winter chill out, as well as some pool noodles along the base where it meets the metal wall as there is a 1″ gap due to the frame construction. But overall, it’s nice and warm inside.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 2.06.21 PM There are thousands of ways to set up your aquaponic system. YouTube is overrun with tutorials, system tours, and the like. It became overwhelming. I knew I wanted to build my own system rather than spend thousands on a pre-built one. So I decided to invest the $40 to get the Endless Food Systems DIY tutorial, which will fit perfectly inside my 10 x 12 greenhouse with a few small tweaks. From what I’ve read, to feed a family of four you would need 100 square feet of grow bed space. My system will have 78 square feet, so it will be close. Couple that with my outdoor conventional garden, and my dreams of food self-sustainability may come to fruition sooner than I hoped! This 300 gallon tank should hold about 30 pounds of fish, we’re planning on starting out with catfish since they’re so hardy in our area. The limestone rock we live on means we can’t bury our tank, so the fish will need to tolerate some temperature fluctuation.

 

That’s it for my first installment of our aquaponic journey! I’m hoping to get our system finished and running before February 1st, so I can get some early spring plants started. I’ll be sure to update each step of the way!

 

Homemade Holiday 2015: Wooden Play Ice Cream Set for under $10

wooden play ice cream set

 

Is Christmas sneaking up on anyone else, or just me? With only a few days left, I’m scrambling to finish. One of my favorite quick and easy projects is this adorable wooden play ice cream cone set. It’s so stinkin’ easy, and fun to customize! I just grabbed a few supplies from the craft store, and after a couple of steps, I had cute cones!

ice-cream-cone-pot Here’s my supply list:
• 4 pack of 2″ knobs
• 4 pack of flower pots
• 6″ of 3/4″ dowel (cut into four 1 1/2″ pieces)

Use wood glue and attach dowel pieces to the base of the knobs

ice-cream-base

 

This helps keep the ice cream inside the cone. Once it’s dry, you are ready for paint! It really is that simple. And if you use coupons or go on a 50% off day, this project is even cheaper. I already had the dowel left over from my Tiny Tot Tool Bench project, so I only spent $4 on supplies, making each cone $1 each!

wooden-play-ice-cream-cones

 

I had a lot of fun choosing colors, and adding sprinkles and chocolate chips. You can really go crazy! I have one set painted with a “waffle” pattern on the cones, and another left plain. I think I like the plain set just a bit better.

 

So that’s it! If you’re looking for a fun toddler stocking stuffer, this easy little last-minute project is the one for you!

 

Kitchen Love Story: A Review and Giveaway

kitchen love story

 

It’s no secret that I built my kitchen from the ground up. We did everything ourselves, from building the cabinets to installing appliances. It helped to have a handy spouse, he’s an electrician by trade and a plumber by birth (well, sort of, his dad is a master plumber and he grew up learning the trade). With my history of furniture building, and the invaluable help from the amazing Ana White, it didn’t seem like too much of a leap to try out building kitchen cabinets. Overall, I consider our kitchen a resounding success!

san-bernard-kitchen1

 

I love my kitchen. So, so much. But. There are a few things I don’t love, now that I’ve used it for two years. That’s where Camille Finan comes in. Here I thought I had covered all the angles. I had dozens of magazine tear sheets, hundreds of pins on Pinterest, sketches for cabinets and house plans to study layouts. I got a few things “right”. I’m glad we moved our sink and dishwasher out of the island and onto the wall. Everyone told me that was crazy, that I would want to have a “view” when doing the dishes. Wrong. Doing the dishes means staring at dishes, so who cares where the sink is? I’m happier to have a huge solid space that’s basically indestructible (thank you, stainless steel!) and leave my huge piles of dirty dishes somewhat hidden behind the refrigerator. I’m still quite happy with our open shelving, and we use those island stools just as much as we do our dining table.

 

Before I read Camille’s book, I was happy enough with my kitchen. Sure, there were the annoying things. My trash can cabinet worked okay as long as you didn’t try to pull them too hard. And the uncovered bins did attract a lot of fruit flies. The flip-up drawer front above it where I intended to store paper towels lay empty, as we nixed the paper for cloth rags to save on waste. The baby is constantly opening up the island cabinet doors and pulling out all my jars. My upper cabinet with vertical dividers for baking pans is pretty much a joke since only half of my vintage oven is actually an oven, and I have two generous shelves on the other side for my pans. When I read through Camille’s book, it was like the skies parted. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I should replace those door with wide, deep drawers! Then, I wouldn’t have to empty out half the cabinet to grab the big jar in the back. I would just pull out the drawer. Now that I don’t need paper towel storage, I can make a drawer for that space to keep our dish cleaning supplies. Adding in a few shelves to the pan cabinet would make several small cubbies that will be great for those odds and ends with no real “home”. Over and over I was hit with new, great ideas every time I finished a chapter.

 

Kitchen Love Story serves as a primer for your kitchen renovation. Gone are the layouts and floorplan examples and confusing jargon. Camille fills you in on the secrets behind the curtain. She shows you how to  ”Design From the Inside Out” when planning your kitchen. That’s one key step I missed. She advises to think about every last little detail. It’s great to look at pretty hardware and paint colors, but where are you going to keep the zip-top bags? I have small children, so I need to think up the best way to store sippy cups and snack bowls. What about the bakeware and food storage containers? She explains that those fancy custom cabinets don’t have to be as pricy as you think. And that some of the flashy add-ons are just that, all flash and no real substance. She shares where you should save your pennies, and where you should splurge.

 

Planning a kitchen, whether it’s a renovation or a new build, can be extremely confusing. There are thousands of choices that have to be made. Camille helps guide you through the process, explaining that really, it’s not so scary after all. Each chapter is chock full of great tips on how to avoid the “little lady” treatment from contractors, which I often faced. You don’t have to settle for builder-grade standard options. With a small bit of customization, you can achieve the kitchen of your dreams!

 

So by now you can probably tell that I loved the book, and 100% recommend it to everyone planning to make improvements on their kitchen. The only thing I feel the book was lacking was listing a few of the less standard, creative, or budget options for things. For example she mentioned solid surface or laminate countertops, like granite, marble, corian, etc. My absolute favorite surface hands down has been our stainless steel island. It’s fabulous. It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. We’ve processed raw meat, rolled out cookies, made play dough, chopped veggies, and performed basically any and every kitchen task on that thing. It’s a simple wipe, rinse, repeat. I also wish there had been some mention of looking outside the standard procedure for a few items. As an extreme DIYer, I know we saved a bundle by doing things ourselves, getting inventive with materials (open shelving saved us a huge amount) and sourcing vintage and great used appliances on Craigslist. But that’s a pretty nit picky criticism. Many people plan to hire out all the jobs, and Camille has great advice for how to handle things as your own General Contractor. I wish I had read it before trying to work those issues through myself!

If you have any kitchen projects coming up in the near future, be sure to pick up Kitchen Love Story before you get started. And one lucky reader will have the chance to win a copy! To enter, leave me a comment with your favorite kitchen organizing tip. Whether it’s how to stack up the dishes or the best undercabinet lighting you’ve used, I want to hear about it!
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