Aquaponics September 2014

First year of attempting aquaponics.

 4 feet deep 3 feet wide and 24 feet long. There are two grow beds Lots of room for expansion.

We hope to keep it going till the end of October and restart it when it thaws out around March.

Grow little squash grow!
Purple basil is happy in the upper bed.
 Yummy duckweed!
 The fish love it! I scoop out handfuls
 from the floating rafts and feed them,
 the raft keeps it safe
from being eaten completely gone.
We are setting up this immersion heater as a heat exchanger. The tank water is piped through a garden hose that is submerged into the very hot water in the 55 gal drum. It returns to the tank warming the fishy water. This keeps the fish happy and they eat better. We will be moving the stove set up inside the greenhouse as soon as we get a couple more lengths of stove pipe.
So far it is a great experiment in growing food. We have lots of plans of expanding and ways to keep the water warmer than the expensive electric on-demand heater that we first tried. Yes! The water temp is up to 72 degrees! It is 44 degrees outside and 65 in the cabin.  Can’t wait till we can get the whole stove inside the greenhouse.

Dryer Balls

Well, I have been very busy and even productive… I just haven’t written about it all on here. I think it is time to get this going again. I was encouraged this last year by a dear friend of mine to make dryer balls to sell at the farmer’s market.

So I looked up some youtube videos and read some posts from other fiber artists and decided to try it myself. It took a little work and lots of soap and water to figure it all out but I now have a system that works pretty well.

They are adorable since I also needle felted on some cute smiling sheep faces. I gave my daughter some to try out for me and sold a few sets. Then had a couple stores asking for them so I have them for sale in three stores as well. Now, this is not how I will get rich but it is a great way to use some wool and make a little money to pay for hay for the sheep.

I had to learn why the dryer balls were so valuable and then educate people. Of course, some people show up so thankful they found some locally but lots of people have not heard what all a dryer ball or three in a load of laundry can do. Clothes get filled with static because of too much dryness. (Talk about oversimplification!) But the dryer balls, being wool, hold that moisture from the clothes which keeps them from getting all staticky (There must not be a real spelling for this word.) It will also shorten your dryer time and make you smile when the smiling sheep are found among the laundry.

I used my square to take payments everywhere I went to sell, markets, meetings and even on the farm when people came to buy chickens and eggs! So I made an online store where people anywhere could buy the dryer balls and I can just ship them anywhere in the U.S.

https://squareup.com/market/sundew-acres

Hold Onto Your Heart

This piece is wet felted with Shetland and Marino wool and yarn, ribbon, and bead embellishments.

As I have watched my children grow, I was learning about love. Having children changed me in so many ways. It changed how I looked at my husband, other women and what I think about God. I have always “thought too much” about everything but taking a deeper look at my experiences is how I live my life. Each heartbreaking moment is an opportunity to love deeper, to better understand me, others and my God. Of course, when I was younger I just cried. You know. I just cried. The tears water the broken heart and flush out the debris that will slow the healing.
Watching my children developing their hearts through disappointments, betrayal, and heartache is taking me on a whole other level of growth in my ability to love.

I often look for ways to connect myself to others… to relate to Eve or other women in my life. Not to compare myself to them as if I am not good enough, but to know they survived heartbreak and there will be more disappointments and heartbreak but this heart will heal and still love even more. Yes, you may walk around like you are not part of this world in a fog for a time. But hold onto your heart, daughters. You will heal and love deeper.

Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

There are many more verses but these encourage me. What are some of your favorites for brokenness and healing?

Starting Seeds for 2018

Growing seasons are short in Alaska, a little longer where we live in Wasilla. I started many seeds in February, like garlic and onions, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Some teas like chamomile. Asparagus and artichokes, tomatoes and tomatillos. I just planted some Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower here in late March.

I looked up how long it took to germinate each type of seed, when our last frost date of 2018,  and how many days till harvest was expected. I thought about how many onions I would like to have to last a year. If I used an onion a day I might want to grow 365 onions then! I watched videos on how to braid onions to store them. I may not get 365 onions to grow but it is a goal now.

All the new windows were great for the seedlings. I was able to use natural lighting even as little as we have worked fine. I used trays to keep water from dripping everywhere and that worked well. Since we were in the middle of finishing the new addition to the cabin, there was no window trim yet and I was able to put up shelves. I have a new design idea for the brackets that should work better next year.

I used a homemade mix for soil starter at first and then purchased some dirt from the local shopping store. Growing plants really helped with the cabin fever we get after the long winter. Windows full of green and three feet of snow on the ground is pretty comical. Also, remind you that you really do believe spring is just around the corner.

Pruning the Kiwi Vines

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Female Kiwi Flower

I have had some amazing kiwi vines growing in my green house for the last few years.  I have two Arctic Beauty vines that I purchased from Northern Fruits in Palmer, AK.

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I had originally put up some plastic chicken wire for trellising the vines but discovered over the years that it catches the leaves and then as it got taller was blocking a lot of light and spiders were making webs of them and just getting very messy looking. So I actually did a lot of pruning and using scissors, cut out all  the plastic.

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Now I have it zip tied to some wire  I put up. It is all clean and tidy!

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I looked up some trimming ideas and will be learning more as this plant gets older. The kiwi needs lots of water in the spring and throughout the growing season I keep it well watered. I have it over a huglekultur bed so it seems to be well drained and doing well in this environment. Here is a link to an article I read years ago about huglekultur.  Huglekultur

Kiwi need to mature at least four years before they bear fruit. I am very excited for when it will produce fruit.

 

Homemade Laundry Soap

We have been making laundry soap since 2009. I wish I would have know how simple it was to make back when I first started having kiddos. It is three ingredients: fels-naptha soap, borax, and washing soda. I use a bar of the soap grated and dissolved with six cups of water heated. I add a cup each of borax and washing soda. I dont know if it is right or not I just know it jells and cleans the clothes.

We made a video of the first time making it after watching a couple videos ourselves. It was hilarious trying to make our own video. I made something so easy look hard but we sure had fun doing it. If you watch the video you get a little glimpse into our life here.

I make soap super simple now loads easier. Maybe I will make another video to show you but the kids are grown and I am not sure how to make it as adorable.

 

A Thousand Fibers Connect Us

 

 

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We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”      ― Herman Melville

 

      This is such a beautiful thought.  As a fiber artist I work with fibers and attempt to get them to connect in a way that will tell the story I want to convey. When I need a break while working, I put the glass on top of the painting and set it where I can see it while I do other things around my cabin. I can see what “relationship” I need to work on to create the effect I am wanting to portray. Each of our actions create causes and effects in our connections. Some beautiful and some we do not understand.