A recent Treehugger article alerted me to the fact that the folks at Growing Power are involved in what sounds to be a very exciting new proposed project in Milwaukee, called The Urban Agriculture Center.
The planned center will apparently feature a 150,000-sq ft indoor aquaculture/agriculture facility combined with educational facilities, sustainable farming exhibits, a restaurant and fish market.
As the author of the Treehugger article points out, the Urban Agriculture Center website is somewhat confusing, so it is quite challenging trying to find pertinent information regarding the status of the project. Nevertheless, this is certainly very exciting news, and something I look forward to following as it develops.
Here is a blurb from a press release posted on the site (also included as part of the TH article):
In Milwaukee, the Urban Aquaculture Center is working to expand the industry using an approach that engages the community. The UAC hopes to have the City of Milwaukee lead the growth of urban aquaculture in the United States. To address the problem of the risk involved in start-up operations, the UAC seeks to have all of Milwaukee take on urban aquaculture as a new industry. This project requires the cooperation of all stakeholders — government, academia, and local businesses. What the UAC proposes is a large-scale perch production facility and an education center for the public, oriented to urban agriculture, particularly aquaculture.
Milwaukee is uniquely positioned for this endeavor for two primary reasons: its proximity to fresh water and to Growing Power, an urban teaching farm growing edible plants with fish in the same system. The Great Lakes WATER Institute and Growing Power are conducting tests on the ability of plants, worms and bacteria to remediate water in a perch grow-out system. The results thus far are encouraging. Adult perch have done well in a greenhouse environment with only a pump to move water to gravel beds containing plants and beneficial nitrifying bacteria. This system, which closely mimics nature, shows promise.
I came across an interesting article yesterday, describing a very cool (mini) sustainable floating farm called ‘The Science Barge’.
According to the Science Barge Website (which is part of the New York Sun Works Sustainable Engineering site):
The Science Barge is a prototype, sustainable urban farm and environmental education center. It is the only fully functioning demonstration of renewable energy supporting sustainable food production in New York City. The Science Barge grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce with zero net carbon emissions, zero chemical pesticides, and zero runoff.
Here are some more tidbits I gleaned from the site…
The farm is solar, wind and biofuel-powered, and uses rainwater and purified river water for irrigation.
The crops on the Science Barge are grown hydroponically
It uses seven times less land and four times less water than field crops.
Future plans may include designing similar systems for New York City rooftops. Studies suggest that New York could potentially meet its demand for fresh vegetables with via rooftop gardens!
If I lived a little closer to New York City, this is definitely something I’d love to go see! It sounds like a really cool system.
Hopefully demonstration systems like this will actually lead to more ‘real world’ initiatives – but I guess only time will tell.
[tags]science barge, urban farming, sustainable agriculture, sustainable living, hydroponics, solar power, biofuels, wind power, alternative energy, rainwater, rooftop gardens, green roof[/tags]
For the record, to the rumors about me ‘finding the edge of the earth and falling off’ have been greatly exaggerated!
All joking aside, I do apologize for the lapse in posts over the last little while! I’ve been taking a wee bit of a holiday since last week, and have also been busily absorbed in the planning stages of an exciting new venture, which you will certainly hear a lot more about in coming weeks.
I have also been dusting off the cobwebs from my Compost Guy vermicomposting section, which I had actually intended to publish quite some time ago (surprise, surprise). While certainly still a work-in-progress, my new Worm Composting Basics page is now ready for visitors. Originally I thought it would be rather redundant to have a vermicomposting page on this site when I have an entire site dedicated to the topic, but then I realized that there are probably a lot of people who are simply looking for a decent worm composting overview – not necessarily the ‘whole enchilada’!
For those of you already actively (or at least familiar with) vermicomposting, it may not be all that exciting – but my hope is that it will help newcomers gain a basic understanding of the process and get pointed in the right direction should they be interested in learning more.
[tags]worm composting, vermicomposting, worm bin, red worms, red wigglers, composting worms, vermicompost, worm castings[/tags]
If you’ve read a fair bit about backyard composting you will likely know by now that one of the cardinal rules is “don’t add pet waste to your compost bin”. This advice certainly has merit, at least as far as a regular compost bin goes (i.e. one you add your kitchen waste to, and eventually empty for the garden). After all, these materials can contain various pathogens, and aren’t exactly all that enjoyable to work with.
I should mention that the term “pet waste” is actually far too broad to be used in this context. There are many different types of pets out there, and a lot of them produce waste materials that make for an excellent addition to your compost piles. Really, any of the herbivorous rodents (is there such a thing as a carnivorous rodent – haha?) – such as rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs – will create some quality compost fodder for you. It will be very easy to work with (not wet and smelly) and there won’t be the same risks involved.
I think the ‘no pet waste’ rule is definitely more applicable to carnivorous (or at least omnivorous) animals. Of course, the two most popular pet poop produces that fall into this category would be cats and dogs. Both of these animals produce wastes that are not only unpleasant to work with in general, but they can also contain nasty microbes as well.
Cat waste in particular warrants extra caution, since it can contain a parasitic protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii. This organism is relatively harmless for many people who become infected, but it can be a serious threat for pregnant woman (it can harm the unborn child) or those with compromised immune systems. Just so you know, most cases of Toxoplasmosis actually result from the consumption of raw meat, NOT from contact with cat feces (see http://www.metrokc.gov/HEALTH/prevcont/toxoplas.htm), so there’s no need to get ultra-paranoid about it – unless of course you like your steaks rare!
While I definitely DON’T recommend adding dog and cat waste to your ‘regular’ bins, I do in fact recommend setting up a completely separate system to handle these wastes – after all, why bag it up and send it off to the landfill when you can easily process it yourself and take advantage of the extra source of plant nutrients as well.
A pet waste composter should be set up a good distance away from your other composting systems and vegetable gardens, and as far as possible from the nearest water body (at least a good 100 yards or more). You can start by simply digging a hole in the ground – perhaps 2-3 feet deep and 2 feet across. Once the hole is dug you should add a nice thick layer of shredded cardboard, or some other carbon-rich, absorbent material (coir, shredded paper, aged straw etc) in the bottom. I would also recommend using some sort of enclosure over top. A regular plastic backyard composter will work fine. Aside from leaving you in control of the amount of water added (the last thing you want is to let it get flooded), this will also allow you add a lot more material, and should even help to ward off any curious children/animals.
Now all you have to do is start adding your poop (well, not YOUR poop – although I suppose you could – haha!), along with more bedding material and a sprinkle of water with each deposit. If you leave one of these systems to sit for a couple weeks or so without adding any more fresh waste (you might want to start up a second system), you could also add some composting worms. The worms would help you turn the material into compost much more quickly than would occur by simply letting it sit – but the worms definitely need a buffer zone from the fresh waste materials (hence the suggestion to let the system age for a bit) since it is a little too potent (with ammonia etc) for their tastes.
I wouldn’t personally harvest the compost from these composters – I would more likely try to put them in a strategic location so that surrounding trees/shrubs could take advantage of the rich compost being produced.
[tags]pet waste, dog poop, cat poop, pet waste composting, composting, composter, backyard composting, worm composting, vermicomposting, pathogens, toxoplasmosis, compost bins[/tags]
For quite some time I’ve been meaning to buy some compostable plastic bags so I can see how quickly they will breakdown in a composting system. I’ve always been really fascinated with the idea of biodegradable plastic in general, and really happy to learn that the technology has continued to improve (I seem to recall that the earliest bioplastics simply decomposed into a zillion plastic fragments rather actually breaking down completely).
Anyway, yesterday I ordered a box of 50 BioBag (R) doggy poop bags and can’t wait till they arrive – I have lots of ideas for different experiments.
For a guy who is mega-passionate about composting I can certainly be a dunce sometimes! Until just a couple of hours ago, I had no clue that ‘International Compost Awareness Week’ (May 4-10) was about to begin. Thankfully, I at least found out BEFORE it started, not after it had passed!
Anyway, I just wanted to write a quick post to let everyone know. In a sense it almost seems like my subconscious knew it was coming up – as you may have noticed, I’ve been pretty active with the composting-related posts on the blog lately (in comparison to my usual posting schedule and range of topics, that is).
Needless to say, I am going to make a real effort to continue the trend, and will keep all my posts this week themed around the topic of composting (and related practices).
If you have been thinking about potentially starting up your own composting system for the first time this year or getting back to a neglected compost pile/bin in your yard, what better time to do so than during International Compost Awareness Week?! There are lots of great composting-related events taking place so be sure to check out your city/regional website to see what’s happening in your area.
Anyway, I’m off to bed so I’ll leave it at that for now, but I’ll write more soon!
I’m sure most people have heard the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”. Well, the wisdom behind these words will certainly become apparent if you spend any length of time on the Gomi Style website and watch some of their videos.
So what the heck is Gomi?
Here is a blurb from the site:
Gomi is a slang word meaning trash or junk. It’s originally a Japanese word for dust or garbage, but it’s now used to describe anything that we discard or no longer value. It was introduced to English speakers by the best selling fiction writer, William Gibson, who is also credited with coining the term “cyberspace” back in the 1980’s. Gibson used the word gomi frequently to describe the near-future dystopia of our material culture gone haywire.
Gomi Style then is essentially the utilization of materials/objects thought of as junk to make something functional and/or aesthetically pleasing. In the words of Marque Cornblatt – the man behind the movement – Gomi Style is “so much more than dumpster diving – it’s a way of life”!
The overall Gomi Style philosophy is very cool in itself (and is certainly a prime example of ‘turning wastes into resources’), but I must say that Cornblatt has also done an excellent job presenting his ideas in a very interesting and entertaining manner!
The video I’ve included above demonstrates how to build an aquarium mirror using mostly junk materials – very cool! The Gomi guys also have a number of other great videos featuring other creative DIY projects using junk.
I highly recommend you check them out!
[tags]gomi style, dumpster diving, diy, do it yourself, recycled, recycling, aqua mirror, Marque Cornblatt[/tags]
I came across an excellent article yesterday evening called Humanure Composting. It not only covers the author’s own personal experimentation in this area (which believe it or not, makes for intriguing reading), but it also offers insightful commentary on the topic of human waste management in general – effectively highlighting how, despite our so-called advancements in modern sanitation, we have in a sense gone backwards.
Here is a great excerpt from the article:
The fundamental (so to speak) error in the way we have thought about human wastes for a couple of centuries is to think of them as waste at all, i.e. as dross or discard, a substance with no value — or a substance with extreme negative value (dirty, pathogenic, icky). The collection of humanure and urine into centralised processing centres to be biocidally or biotically neutralised and then dumped into bodies of water means that we have interrupted the nutrient cycle, turned what should be a circular energy diagram into a linear one. Instead of returning the excess or byproduct of our metabolic function to the soil that produced the food we ate — as every other living creature on Earth does in a healthy biotic system — we have intervened; we “flush away” our own metabolic byproducts and (in modern times) dump them far, far from the fields which fed us. We thus impoverish the soil (by removing nutrients, minerals, elements which are not replaced), and increase the cost of agriculture by having to replace artificially the missing nutrients, etc.
If this is a topic area that even remotely interests you, I highly recommend that you check out the full article: Humanure Composting (on the ‘Feral Scholar’ blog).
This is one of those topics that will almost certainly make some (if not many) readers squeamish. After all, we’ve essentially been programmed to think of our ‘waste’ products as dirty, disgusting, and dangerous – better known as the ’3 Ds of Doo Doo’ (ok, so I just made that up) – so it can require a pretty substantial paradigm shift to wrap our heads around the notion of dealing with our own wastes in any manner other than what is considered the ‘norm’ (i.e. the porcelain genie that makes it magically disappear).
As many readers probably know by now, I’m very passionate about this idea of wastes being ‘misplaced resources’ – hence the Compost Guy motto, ‘turning wastes into resources’. As such, the topic of human waste is certainly a topic of interest (not in any sort of creepy, obsessive way, of course – haha), and something I’ll definitely be writing more about here. Aside from blog posts, I will be putting together a resource page all about composting toilets as well.
Back to the article…
The author was originally inspired to start her own humanure composting experiment after she read Joe Jenkins’ “Humanure Handbook” (incidentally, a book I myself own and plan to write more about here) – but rather than going the thermophilic composting route, she opted for vermicomposting. I’ve heard of numerous examples involving the successful use of composting worms in a compost toilet, so I wasn’t too surprised to learn how well they thrived in her outdoor humanure heaps. Nevertheless, I was in awe of her bravery for trying this out in a small suburban yard (not in a conventional composting toilet, or even a rural property), with neighbours only a short distance away. In fact, she continued with the project for 2 years (likely without anyone suspecting a thing) – clearly a indication that such practices don’t necessarily create a horrific, smelly mess, at least not if done properly.
I’ve been looking forward to someday having my own composting toilet. To me, the idea of flushing it all away (along with countless gallons of clean water) just doesn’t make much sense. I could only imagine what would happen if we (society) put more focus on these materials as nutrient resources. As the author of the article points out herself, it’s pretty crazy that we have such strong feelings about the safety concerns associated with human waste, yet we have zero issues with spraying all sorts of nasty pesticides (and other chemicals) on our properties (among countless other hazards we just don’t take the time to consider).
Anyway, despite my keen interest in all this, it’s not too likely that I’ll be making my own low-tech humanure bucket system (as the author did) anytime soon – it’s enough of a challenge just keeping my wife happy with all the worm bins (and other experiments) in the house!