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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fish Tank OOPS

We tested the fish tank after installing it in the greenhouse.  It failed when the water was just beginning to drain.  My son repaired the tear and erected concrete forms around the perimeter of the platform.  Then he put the mended fish tank in place and began to slowly fill it with water, pouring concrete into the space between the form and the fish tank at the same rate as it filled with water.  As a result, the outer concrete shell fits like a glove to the inner tank and there is no visible bulging or distortion from concrete or water.  He stopped at 16" since the upper 1/3 of the tank receives far less pressure than the bottom 2/3.This is a closeup of the interior, showing one of the tension rods and the 1" gluing strip along the bottom.  So far the tank has proven to be sturdy and water-tight.
Here are pictures of the inside insulation of my greenhouse with the ends of the legs of the tables that will support my grow tanks.  I daubed on silicone to form waterproof sleeves 2" up the legs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Diversion into Chickens

A week ago one of my daughters asked what she should do with her extra chickens.  Her municipality allows a family to keep eight chickens.  She had expected some die off of the chicks she raised, but all of them survived, leaving her with twelve chickens.  I volunteered to adopt the four excess chickens.  Some family members suggested that I look into the idea of a 'chicken tractors'.  This is essentially a portable chicken coop that can be moved around the yard, providing many of the benefits of free range chickens without the need for lining the entire yard with chicken wire and setting up a video surveillance and slingshots to keep 'varmints' like dogs, cats, and coyotes from disturbing the hens.  I had some 1" mesh vinyl fencing on hand and after browsing the internet I came up with the design that resulted in the structure shown above.  The roof is made of 1/2" corrugated plastic sheet which can be bent at a nice angle when the inside surface is cut through several cells.  I used 2" wide poplar planks coated with polyacrylic for the structure other than the floor beams which are in contact with the ground.  I had some square aluminum tubing on hand and used that for the floor beams.  Nesting boxes and roosting poles are hidden under the roof.  I had planned to put in ramps but the chickens quickly demonstrated a willingness to jump the less than 30" distance to the upper story of their cozy new home.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Readjusting measurements and putting in insulation

Although we've had some significant winds in the past two years since I installed my greenhouse there has been no problem with missing panels or wind damage.  I figure I should insulate the structure to provide for year-round aquaponics, however, I have to avoid any significant added weight to my plastic and aluminum greenhouse.  I used 1/2" x4'x8' polystyrene foam to line the north walls and ceiling.  I drilled holes in the struts on either side of the ceiling in four locations and strung plastic coated clothesline wire across from wall to wall at ceiling level to support the foam against the ceiling.  I simply taped the upright panels to the north wall and taped all seams with some 3" wide industrial tape that seems to be holding very well.  On the south wall, from the ground to four feet up, the upper level of the grow beds, I used conventional sheets of foam insulation that I had in storage.  I also had some mylar/aluminum coated bubble insulation which I used on the west wall up to a level of four feet.  That is to protect my fish from getting too much light.  Above the insulation I used 1/2" interval bubble wrap that came in 30" wide lengths about 27 feet long.  I taped the pull-apart seams with postal tape and taped the several strips together.  The material is very light in weight, an advantage in the situation, and quite strong when the pull apart seams are taped.  I chose this material instead of using poly sheeting because of the additional insulation factor.  I had underestimated the width of the bins that I plan to use as grow beds which led to readjustment in the size of the supporting tables.  I'm not using concrete blocks because of size constraints and my two level setup.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Google Earth view of Utelite factory near quarry.  Look for the long 'roasting' tubes where the slate is heated and expanded.

Views of Deer Creek Reservoir with Mt. Timpanogos in the distance and Bridal Veil Falls.

Revision and Progress

After a quick trip to Florida to witness the marriage of my youngest son, I'm back in Utah getting things going with my aquaponics set-up.  My middle son, the guru of anything he puts his mind to, strongly advised me against the use of wood in my fish tank design.  Not only the moisture from the tank, but the condensation created by a large amount of water would threaten the material.  I've decided on a similar design, but  using various types of PVC instead of wood.  This should save me on the liner since the PVC itself is waterproof and chemically inert.  After all, I'm using PVC pipe for the water supply.
I drove up to a quarry/manufactory north of Park City for my expanded shale/slate in the form of Utelite.  The back of my small pick-up was filled almost to the brim by a large loader.  Fortunately I have a cover for the back which prevented other drivers from getting cracked windshields as I made my way home past Rockport, Jordanelle and Deer Creek Reservoirs with a view of Timpanogos, still in her winter robes, and Bridal Veil Falls.  It was a picturesque trip.  Regional Supply delivered the plastic I ordered the same day.  With a pile of gravel, stacks of other supplies, and the promise of good weather, I have a lot of work to do.