Welcome to my backyard food production complex page. Sketches and drawings coming soon. Visit often because this page will be changing on an almost daily basis. My simple greenhouse aquaponics system is set up, fruit and nut trees are planted, the tomatoes are growing, The system is producing food. I picked green beans from my aquaponics system, shiitake mushrooms from my mushroom logs, combined those with Vidalia onion from my Dad's garden, some beef and a potato...great one pan dish when the lady of the house is away.
I hope you enjoy visiting Red Bay Farm. Please remember all of the ideas provided are free for your use...just make sure you share the ones you like with your friends and neighbors.
So what is a backyard food production complex (BFPC)? A BFPC...is a style of semi closed circuit intensive gardening I have been developing for years which integrates several different components into a complex of complimentary food growing activities. My BFPC is in the beginning stages (year 2) and is continuously developed with the goal of minimizing external inputs while maximizing year round food and fibre output. I envision a BFPC is more than a kitchen garden, more than a greenhouse, more than aquaponics and more than raising animals. This is a long term project...hopefully decades long (ok, at least one or two) so drop by every once in a while to see what is happening. If you have an idea you would like me to explore please send an email.
I have designed my BFPC with a sub-acre footprint that could fit in many suburban backyards or vacant city lots. My BFPC project area is 2500 square feet in size....50' x 50'. Please note that this is a design that fits my lot and my circumstances...and may not work for other people but many of the components of this BFPC could be applied in an apartment, on a roof, or in other unique circumstances.
19 Jun 2010
You might have read on my Pest page about how the deer decimated my garden and fruit trees this spring. The deer attack, coupled with a full time job and caring for a sick relative really put my garden on the back burner. But since we gardeners are optimist, I am planning for the fall garden.
Since I am building a BFPC I want to grow as much produce as possible during the growing season. I found a North Carolina State University Vegetable Garden Planning Guide which gives planting times for a variety of popular vegetables. Each state has an agricultural college which produces similar lists...very useful for all of us folks who want to grow our own food year round and need local guides rather than regional guides.
13 Jun 2010
The components are slowly but surely taking place...each component filling multiple roles in creating a nearly closed loop system. For example, the worm bin is now inhabited by black soldier fly larvae as well as red wriggler worms. Today I added wet balled up newspaper for a bed and scraped most of the composted bedding to one side. I found a section rich in black soldier fly larvae. I filled up a flower pot with some of the compost larvae mix and dumped it into my chicken pen. The worms and the fly larvae create compost and provide my fish and chickens with a high protein food.
The water hyacinth is a great tool for my aquaponics system. I put them at the end of the aquaponics table just befor the water flows back into the tank. This helps give the water a final filtering. Since the water hyacinths grow rapidly they are also useful as a chicken food supplement. My chickens love these plants...they are tender and crispy...sort of a salad for chickens.
Water - the essential building block of any plant or animal production facility... I use hand/solar pumped shallow well water. City water (24 hours in an open container before use) or rain water are also great sources. Creek or river water may introduce unwanted plants or animals into your system. Eventually I will be driving a new well in the BFPC area, building a water tower and maybe even a water/solar air conditioning system... (by the way for those of you who can't see the text the picture above and to the left is of my chicken manure tea bucket...exceptional fertilizer for my trees, vegetables at a weekly pick me up for my aquaponics system)
Temperature- plants and animals thrive in a narrow temperature range which is between 60 and 80 degrees Farenheit. Temperature modification for cooler regions of the world requires the use of cold frames or greenhouses. I use a homemade greenhouse for my system.
Vegetables- easy to grow vegetables that your family likes to eat...don't grow squash if you don't eat squash.
Soil - healthy living soil is a foundational element of a BFPC. BFPC soil is enhanced using manures, worms and compost. My soil is acid...but by using chicken tractors and bringing in municipal compost (yes it is an external input) I am slowly improving the soil. (You know I read recently that chickens are not cost effective...probably true. But if you factor in the value of the manure and the value of pest control perhaps the value is more than just the value of meat and eggs?)
Animals - for protein and fertilizer. Fish, chickens and rabbits seem to be the most handy animals for the backyard farmer. My trees and vegetables are prospering on frequent fertilization with chicken manure tea nd some occasional fish effluent from the bottom of the tank.
Trees - for shade, nuts, fruit and wood. Careful selection, planting and management of trees can enhance a BFPC. Last year I grew trees from seed from nut trees that grow well in my local soils (Chinese chestnuts, black walnut and pecans)...I also moved some plum trees into the complex. I planted the trees in stump holes...important since I have something called hardpan and the stump holes provide a great place to plant the trees. (Planting trees is only for optimist...some nut trees require over 20 years before they reach production. I like to think that planting trees is a truly selfless act because even a child won't likly see the full majesty of a mature some trees that grew from a nut or seed they planted. Planting trees is not for the timid...it is an admittance of our own mortality).
Energy - solar power and wind power all add to the "closed circuit" or "off grid" aspect of a BFPC which is critical for remote locations and gives the homeowner a bit of independence in a suburban or urban area. Right now solar powers my very simple aquaponics system. I hope to incorporate wind energy into the system in the next year or so which will make my system very robust in terms of energy.
(Isn't it just cool to have a little bit of energy self sufficiency...why with a wood burning stove and my solar panels I can stay warm and listen to the radio and maybe even have something to eat from the BFPC if everything goes kaput! By the way, my solar panels are two Harbor Freight Tools kits plus an inverter and 3 deep cycle batteries in parallel. Do you want to learn a little before getting into solar? If so, here is the most informative site I have found...Northern Arizona Wind and Sun)
BFPC Component Requirements
Simple - complexity is not good. Food production is the focus of a BFPC not technology...think Model T not Prius.
Inexpensive - not cheap...strive for durability, longevity and repairability. Example; greenhouse plastic versus glass; or build a greenhouse using recycled windows rather than spending a considerable sum on a manufactured greenhouse.
Efficiency - small size forces efficiency and makes the homeowner think carefully about how an addition to a BFPC will affect other components. The compactness of a BFPC is also a time saver...and if you are like me and work full time, have family responsibilities...keeping the BFPC running can be a real challenge. But smallness is a great efficiency forcer...enjoy finding efficiencies in your BFPC because they will save you time. (I think a miniturization mindset might be useful for future farmers and homesteaders...smaller is better especially if we are doing chores by hand)
Multiple uses - each component should have multiple potential uses. For example, a fish tank stores water, stores heat, stores cold, produces condensation, produces fertilizer, produces food etc etc. Each potential use of a component should be considered before integration into the BFPC.
Water Hyacinth...a useful weed. I use water hyacinth for chicken feed, worm bin bedding, a nutrient moderator in my aquaponics system and shade for my fish.. Water hyacinth grows very fast and is easy to find in southern climates. I have read reports on raising rabbits on a diet of nothing but water hyacinth. Just one example of a great multiple use plant that can provide utility in your BFPC
Plan - have a plan...don't just let your BFPC happen. Think about traffic flow (that means you toting stuff, pushing a wheel barrow). Think about sun light. Your plants will need at least six hours a day of sunlight to do well...don't put the garden shed on the south side of the BFPC unless you want more shade. There is a lot more to think about...plan, plan and then plan some more.
Why should a person build a BFPC?
First of all BFPC is something like a giant science experiment which produces food, beauty and entertainment but unlike other "hobbies" a BFPC can put food on the table...more so than just a garden, or greenhouse or hen house. If your children are small involve them, let them participate in planning. (If they are teenagers...good luck) A BFPC can be a wonderful means to demonstrate to a child how long things really take to grow...A BFPC will beat Zynga's Facebook Farmville to bits in terms of really learning how food and fibre is produced...but games lke this do have a real potential role to play iin planning. The bottom line is that the BFPC should be fun and exciting for both kids and adults!
Next, just as social networking tools like Facebook have revolutionized communications. posting information about your BFPC may help people throughout the world. As the population grows the amount of land available for farming decreases. Who knows, you may be the one who perfects a techniques for growing food which will make someones life just a little better. There are lots of great sites out there...visit them...if you like what I am doing, visit my site. Most importantly put aside your computer and pick up your other tools and start your own BFPC adventure!