Monday, 29 December 2014

Frozen Fruit

I left describing the construction of the aquaponics system as I was adding a sump tank and a RFF.
I was hoping to bring you up to date slowly but event have intruded.

Last night the air temperature dropped to, -4C 
Water temperature this morning in both fish tanks is, 3C
The fish are OK.
I have two fish tanks. In the large IBC four Rainbow Trout and in the smaller 225 ltr tank 30 European Perch fingerlings.
I have a 300 W heater in the Perch tank and slowly the water temperature is rising.
One pump in the sump tank floods the whole system for fifteen minutes every hour.
We call that 15/45. At night to keep heat in the system it stays shut off.
15/45 from 8am until 10pm.
Fish don’t like big temperature fluctuations so slowly, slowly bring up the temperature.

The top of the fruit pot is frozen but the main grow bed is OK.

Fingers crossed

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Shaving a Pig

Should I use an electric or wet razor? This was the dilemma I faced on Christmas Eve. It’s a special event.Let’s go for the close cut of the wet razor!
Whilst washing his face I had noticed quite a bit of stubble.
The blow torch had reduced it considerably but some of those irritating patches remained.
It was while I was tackling a particularly tricky bit round the chin I happened to glance up his nostrils. After a good twirl the cotton buds were still coming out green.
A lick and a promise were not enough to wash this bad boy’s face!
OK face down in boiling water for ten minutes.
Now you are ready! Just a tad more Rosemary.

Into the oven. As with most meat very hot to start and then reduce the temperature.
About four hours in total.
You need to wrap foil around the ears and the nose to prevent burning these extra special bits. We took turns to baste him in honey.
Onto the serving plate. A cocktail stick secured the customary apple.
It was carried through to the dining table.
The smoke coming from the super clean nostrils added a nice dramatic touch.
Pig’s snout anyone? Or would you prefer an ear?
It tasted delicious.

The cheeks were particularly good!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Luba's Chicken Pate

Luba was our friend.
She grew up in Beirut.
Long ago before the troubles came.
She told stories of a home in an apartment block built around an open atrium.
At night in the summer heat they would lean over the balcony facing the atrium chatting to neighbors.
Many neighbors many languages. She spoke more languages than I have fingers.
One Christmas she made a large amount of chicken pate.
She put the pate into the cups of a tea set.
Cheaper than buying Tupperware, “She said”
I have one sixth of the tea set.
I don’t remember the recipe for the chicken pate.

I remember Luba.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Catching Fish

Twenty five trout fingerlings were added on July 25th.
We were happy
So happy we could have jumped for joy!
Unfortunately the trout did. Straight out of the tank!
I had not realized how high out of the water the fingerlings could jump.

Our long forgotten wicket keeping skills helped.
One memorable evening Mrs Fishcake caught two in one over. However she broke a heel and declared. What she declared I cannot repeat but a plastic mesh net was quickly fitted.

The ideal temperature for trout is 15C. Above 22C they get very stressed and die.
This was turning out to be one of the hottest summers for many years.
The pump in the fish tank is controlled by a simple timer. It runs fifteen minutes in every hour. 15/45 By varying this timing you can, in a small way, affect the temperature. Pumping more in the night and less in the heat of the day for instance.
The summer heat continued.
Each morning I checked the temperature.
Slowly it was rising. The daily water temperature swing was about three degrees.
When the morning reading showed twenty I knew I was in trouble.
We froze water in plastic milk bottles and added them to the fish tank.
Increasing the amount of water in the system will reduce the temperature swing.
It was time to expand.

Two 225 ltr ex olive barrels were added. One as a sump tank the other as an RFF.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Beetroot and Vodka

As I have previous said,’We love soup”!
My recipe for beetroot soup or,’ Borch’ is as follows;
Clean and trim the raw beetroot. Boil with a peeled onion until a knife will go through it.
Peel the beetroot.
Liquidize the lot.
You can add additional water.
Serve hot or cold.
We add lemon juice and sometimes sour cream.
Mrs Fishcake read an article in a newspaper that said, ‘beetroot was a super food and  good for you’
A carton of beetroot juice appeared in the fridge.
We were out of tonic water.
Vodka and beetroot juice.

Contented smiles all round.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Trout fingerlings are high up on my Christmas list.
Mrs Fishcake just dropped a hint that our little Angel fish was buying them. Yippee!
She moved out of our tank several years ago and now lives nearby in a very nice pond.
However I am worried.
She is famous for her exquisite packing of Christmas presents!

Please Not newspaper! Please No salt and vinegar!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Fish tank and grow bed in place the next job is to rinse the clay pebbles.
Make it look a bit more attractive.  When I bought the clay pebbles they offered to wrap them in a plain black bag? Erm. Am I naive or what!
Did I mention rinse the clay pellets?

You can plant seeds directly into the grow bed or rinse the dirt from ready bought plants and plant them.

Feeding the Fish

And then; Drum Roll add the fish!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

I have always been fascinated with Ancient Rome.
Behind the power and the conquests the technology they developed and used on an everyday basis inspired me.
In the fifties and sixties in the UK most houses were heated in one room.
Pullovers, scarves and ‘balaclava helmets’ were common.
Two thousand years before the Romans had underfloor central heating.
1965 before it arrived in the Fishcake residence.
On trips and holidays I have dragged my family to numerous Roman sites.
In Southern Spain just up the coast from Tarifa is a place called Bolonia or Baelo Claudia.
A fishing village.
As time swept the Roman Empire into history the sands covered Bolonia.
The archaeologists came along and swept it back.
Today you can enter through the main gate and walk the streets.
In the photo you can see the large circular pits used to make ‘Garum’ 
A fish sauce, prized, and used throughout  the Roman World.
Well this a blog about aquaponics!

On the other side of the Med I stood in front of a house once owned by one of the richest men in Pompeii. The fish sauce merchant.
I wonder if he ever visited his factory on the Spanish coast?
Pompeii. For a very long time I dreamed of visiting it. I read all the books. Fiction and nonfiction. I liked Mary Beard’s book especially.
It was a day trip from a cruise ship.
On board they served food around the pool from a purpose built serving counter.
Very similar to the one in Pompeii. 
Sadly no fish sauce. I must make some one day. 

Many of the houses in Pompeii once had extensive and expensive mosaics.
The dog guarding the entrance to many homes has become famous.
This is a job for the junior fishcakes.
My entrance hall is a shade under two meters square.
We blew up a photocopy of the original to fit.
The twenty four sheets of A4 were  stuck together with sticky back plastic. They then cut out the shape. Placed on the floor we chalked the outline.
It guards my house as I sit writing this.

The blood dripping from it’s mouth is junior artistic license.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Ten years ago I read about the new, ‘water chicken’ Tilapia.
Did extensive research into commercially farming this new wonder food.
We even got as far as looking at land in southern Spain. At the time the EU were offering up to 50% retrospective grants. 
And then as they say life intervened.
Fast forward ten years. I saw an ad on E bay for a fish plant system.
Small second hand system, indoors for temperature control. Tilapia like to be warm. Use lights for plant growth, probably herbs, should be fun.
So I started to do some more research. Bring my knowledge up to date.
On an Australian website I watched a video about a guy growing lettuce.
His main point was that the vegetable crop was the cash crop.The fish were the engine room and a useful by product.
It was a, ‘light bulb ‘ moment. Think veg!
His other points were about closeness to market. He had no need to convert me on this. One of the reasons we had looked at southern Spain is the Spanish people love their fish.
So KISS. What’s the easiest plant to grow in water; watercress. What fish? Move outdoors, no heating cost, trout.
Is there a market for watercress? Yes, I believe there is a local niche market for fresh,very high quality produce. 
The fish plant wouldn’t be big enough.
Again on an Australian website I came across IBC. International Bulk Carriers. Never heard of them before but I could see immediately what could be done with a 1000 ltr container. Back to E bay. I bought two. I l also  bought lots of the other paraphernalia required, pump, grow media, my choice was clay pellets, PH test meter etc.

An IBC is a one meter cube plastic box in a metal cage. You cut it roughly 1/4 3/4. The base is the fish tank. The reversed top filled with media is the grow bed.

 Chance led me to Bibury Trout Farm near Cirencester. What a beautiful place! The Fishery Manager went out of his way to be helpful.They were double bagged in plastic with a small amount of water and oxygen injected into the bags. Into a cold box for the journey home.
At home I floated the bags on my FT and then after a while gradually added water from my system until they swam free.

There is a lot written about the nitrogen cycle. You need to understand it.
To one of the junior fishcakes I explained that friendly bacteria in the grow bed eat the fish poo! His face went from delight to disgust in about one milli second. They then pass on Nitrites to other friendly bacteria who produce Nitrates. The plants like this and so the cycle continues.
So thats where I am. Growing bacteria. Once this single system is stable and up and running then I can add more grow bed area and possibly another FT.
I made up another  acronym, ‘SMELL”
Start (small); modify;enjoy; learn and listen.
Unless it all goes wrong then it might STINK.

We love soup.
One of the joys of the AP has been fresh watercress.
I have tried many recipes but this is our favorite;

Soften a medium chopped onion in 40 grm of butter
Add 1 table spoon of flour stir,
Then add 400 mltrs of milk and 200 mlts of water.
Without boiling simmer for 5 mins.
Set aside.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil
Blanch 400 grms of Watercress for 1 min
Then plunge into ice cold water
Drain and add to your food processor /liquidizer.
Slowly add the onion milk mixture to the machine.
Chill and garnish with a few fresh watercress leaves.

I don’t think I need to write the recipes for ‘Gazpacho or even ‘Ajo Blanco’ ( almonds and garlic) also favorites but I will if asked. 

Another of our favorites, this one hot, is “Sczaw”
This Eastern European soup we make with Sorrel leaves. They have a slightly bitter citric taste
I make a stock with pork bones carrot onion celery bay leaf etc.
Drain and then add the finely chopped sorrel. Top with sour or ordinary cream.
 I also add sometimes to a salad. 

Aquaponics UK: Food, drink, travel and Rome will be the main topics of my blog
But not always in that order. This is my first post.
A whole new World is opening