Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tokyo Families Visit Fuji Eco

Recently we were visited by three families on a week-end excursion from Tokyo organized by a travel agent that promotes eco tours and farm stays.When we were given the information that we expected guests we brain stormed ideas for activities that might interest our visitors.The info given was that there were 15 people,half were children aged around 10-12.So we came up with a plan to keep everyone busy and learn about sustainable living.Rain was forecast for the day the visit was arranged,so we also had to come up with an indoor strategy should it bucket down.

We greeted our guests,7 adults and 4 kids, and Waka san gave them a tour of the house and explained the passive solar design behind its construction.Waka san was here in the early days and helped build the house,so he was best suited to explain it.The building is cleverly designed and has an exhaust fan in the ceiling that sucks warm air from the ceiling,generated from the fire place,and blows it to below the flooring and is allowed to heat the floor.

Around the farm is a set of notice boards,about 20,with information in the form of an eco quiz.We planned for the children to explore the farm and answer the quiz and the winner would receive an eco prize.We determined that the visit was purely aimed at the children experiencing farm life.Upon finishing the quiz,Toshi got the answer sheet and went about finding the winner.Not to have any of the kids feel left out,they all received a recycled ,from paper, plant pot with a cosmos plant from our nursery.The kids eyes lit up when they all got one.

Next we went to the chicken house with the kids to collect eggs.The parents didn't come with us as the mothers were scared of the chickens.The travel agent helped me with the kids and we all had a ball running around searching for the eggs.A little secret,we kept all the eggs from the previous couple of days without dates on them to make alot more to collect for the kids.All up the found 25.The same amount we put in there for them to find.

After the egg hunt,we headed over to the nursery where I showed the kids how to make potting mix and to seed pumpkin into pots for growing on the farm.The parents had been in already and potted up one tray,so they stood by with smiles on there faces as they watched the kids having such a fun time.One older boy wanted to be best so he seeded really quickly,I even think that during his racing two seeds may have been put into one pot.Not to worry though,they were all having fun.

The rains started coming down heavy so we headed back to the house for mint tea.The mint harvested fro the garden.We had organized for the children to make a drawing of theirdream for the future and color it in.When finished they all took turns presenting their picture to the adults.The kids had dreams of living in the country some day and their drawings were of that.

In all our guest seemed to have a great time.Everyone was laughing and the kids liked to get their hands dirty.We hope it is a start of a good relationship with the travel agent and they bring us more visitors in the future.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Basic Aquaponics

I noticed in the pond the other day a flash of red.The pond is usually fairly murky as it gets run off from a dairy up the catchment.But I was very surprised to say the least.On making an inquiry as to the sighting I was informed that a coy was living there.

This started to get me thinking on how I can use this information.I am a real fan of a guy in Perth,Australia by the name of Joel Malcolm and his Backyard Aquaponics system.Before leaving to come to Japan, Joel gave me a DVD on his system and I have an interest to make a system here.

If there is one fish in the pond,there has to be fish poo.There is actually a heap of tadpoles at the moment due to a good breeding season of the local frogs and some guppies.This all adds up to nutrient being available to grow something.As I am not quite ready to start a full blown system I thought I would give a basic system a try and see what results were produced.

For those not aware of Aquaponics,it is a system combining aquaculture and hydroponics to grow fish and vegetables in the same system.The fish effluent feeds the vegetables and the vegetables clean the water of nitrates before it returns to the fish.Joel's kits work fantastically with some outstanding results.

We have so much lettuce in the nursery at the moment and we are still preparing beds in the garden to put the seedlings so there was an opportunity to use some of these for the experiment.Having attended and aquaponics seminar in Melbourne a couple of years ago ,I learned that lettuce was a good extractor of nitrates from water so it made sense to use them.
I found an old foam box from the grocery store and cut 4 square holes in the base as recesses for the pots I was going to use.I cut down an older pot tray to fit the holes and once fitted they could not fall straight through.I made up a potting mix and filled 4 small pots and placed them in the holders in the box,then added the lettuce.

I am expecting the roots to hang into the water,so the pot holder sits about 2.5cm below the base of the box.The only difference is that the system will not be a flood and drain system as conventional hydroponics would be.I have seen floating raft type setups before and they were working fine.I hope to put in a few more of these little grow beds in the coming weeks as I get the results back.So far things are looking good.There doesn't seem to be any pests yet and if there is the fish might eat them.