Monday, November 8, 2010

Got a lot done! (Updated with pictures)

Everything is definitely taking longer than I expected, but then I guess that's one of the things I should expect. I have an overly full calendar already and neither the tools nor the physical strength to do some of the things myself. Nor the know-how to completely plan things out. Some a lot of stuff is being done, and adjusted, on the fly instead of being completely planned in advance the way I'd prefer.

Last weekend the water tested too high in nitrites, and my growbed was clearly not going to be finished in the next day or two, so I purchased a 300 gph aquarium filter and hooked that up. Hopefully that'll keep the tilapia healthy enough until I finish everything. I've also cut down on food, though that's hard to do since they swarm to the surface when I'm there and gobble up the pellets when I feed.

This weekend I (with the help of a coworker/friend and her circular saw) finally got the legs onto the growbed. It required a lot more cross-bracing than I'd expected during my initial planning, and I wasn't going to skimp on that once I realized how wobbly it was, but that's taken care of and it feels very sturdy now. (I'll post pics later this week.) The bed is nearly perfectly level. It actually slants just slightly away from the incoming water and toward the drain.

I've once again pulled the fixtures out of the rain barrels and tried yet another method of silicone and attaching them. I'm giving them 48 hours to cure per manufacturer's directions, and then I'll pressure test again... except I just realized while typing this that it rained last night, and I left the barrels outside because it NEVER rains here! Oops. Sigh...

I've already purchased the hydroton, and it's waiting next to the greenhouse. On the bright side, the rain probably washed away some of the clay dust from them.

If the rain barrels pass the pressure test, I just need to decide what type of drain system I want to use, make/install it, and finish plumbing the overflow out of the tank into the growbed (I've already got the pipe from the bottom of the FT to the overflow hole). Everything else is done... I think... until I realize something else I've missed.

So the final decision to be made... what kind of drainage will I do? The GB has a huge hole already in it, with gaskets and stand pipe. But I don't need a drain hole that big. (Off the top of my head I think it's 3" diameter.)
  • I could drill a small hole near the bottom of the stand pipe and use a timer for quick fill and slow drain.
  • I could build a bell siphon, but with an outlet that large I don't even know what the specs would be for all the parts. I could figure it out, or maybe ask around. But bell siphons just seem so finicky to me.
  • I could do an internal or external U-siphon. I'd still need a reducer, I think. And it has to be on the downflow of the pipe or it won't work. But I think that's probably the most fool proof.
  • I could use a tube for a loop-siphon. Those also seem a little finicky and harder to keep clean. And I'd still need to reduce a ton before the tubing.

I still want to build a cover for the fishtank.  And I really should drain it down, jack it up, and shim it - it's pretty far from level and slanting in precisely the wrong direction.  But those aren't urgently necessary for it to function... I think.  It's possible that in order to overflow I'll have to get the water level too high in the rear (lower side) of the fishtank.  If it's too high it'll either overflow out the back (that would be terrible) or the water will be too high and the fish might jump out (that would also be terrible).  One solution would be to level the tank right away.  Another would be a cover which I'll need to do anyway to control algae.  So, yeah, something will need to be done.  But I'm hoping to postpone those until Paul is here in a little over a week and can help.  :)
It's all taking shape now!

The fully braced leg:

The side view with both legs:

 Side brackets attaching the growbed to the fishtank:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Well THAT isn't going to work...

Progress report:

I'm still fighting with the rainbarrels.  This time I invited a friend over to help me, and we removed the fittings, put rubber gaskets in on *both* sides of the rainbarrel wall so it was sandwiched in, reinstalled the fittings, and one of them *still* leaks.  The other one sealed fine on the fitting, but it leaks around the actual PVC pipe.  Sigh.  So I'm going to pull them apart and put silicone into the sandwich on both sides, and some PVC glue, and if that doesn't work I'll just scream.

I also purchased the 4x4 posts to make table legs for the growbed.  But without cross bracing they wobble way too much.  So I'm working on cross bracing (and meanwhile the growbed is still safely propped on cinderblock).  I should mention that this little project necessitated the purchase of a jigsaw.  The mitersaw was a piece of junk, a miterbox wouldn't have the angles I needed, and I'll be damned if I'll saw everything by hand anyway.  I really want a table saw, of course.  ;-)  But this will do for now.

Oh, and the fish... I nearly killed 'em.  I tested the water Saturday morning and it was bad.  Scary bad.  Everything would be fine if the growbed was set up so the water was being filtered.  Weeks ago like I'd intended.  Meanwhile, the fish are happily eating and pooping and the water isn't being filtered.  So I rushed out to my local pet store and purchased a 300 gph aquarium filter.  Of course it won't fit on the side of MY fishtank, like it would over a skinny little aquarium.  But it actually sits quite nicely on top of the fishtank wall.  It's very stable there.  I also hooked up a long hose to the uptake tube, and fitted a screen on the other end (purchased from my local hydroponics store) so the filter is pulling from the bottom as it should.  After running it for 24 hours I removed the slimy, greenish-black filter pad and hosed it off so it was pristine and white again.  I'll probably do that again after work tonight.  My poor fish!

And while I was at the hydroponics store purchasing the tubing and filter, I discussed Hydroton with them.  They'll sell it to me for the same price as everywhere else offers it, plus they'll deliver it to me (for free, I believe - if not, they're close enough to home that I can make 3 trips without wasting the whole day).  So if I ever get the growbed properly braced, I'll have the Hydroton ready to fill it.

Oh, and on that note, I'm having issues with the draining of the growbed.  It's got a HUGE pipe fitted through the bottom right now.  I think it's like a 2" or maybe even 3" (I'm going from memory here).  There's no way I'm going to try to build a bell siphon with that as the upstand.  I considered just drilling a drain hole near the base of it and doing a timer-based fill with a slow drain, but the fittings come up too high.  So the next step is to see if I can unscrew it.  If so, perhaps I could put in a reducer immediately at the floor of the GB and do a U-bend siphon off of that.  The U-bend would be my preferred method anyway.  If I can't do the U-bend up into the GB itself, I can run it off to the side and U-bend externally, leaving the gaping hole (properly screened from media, of course) on the bottom as is.  That would probably be the least hassle at this point.

Plants have sprouted nicely and will probably want to be planted in the next few weeks.  My fiance will be here on vacation in 2.5 weeks, so if all else fails he and I will just spend our vacation blasting through this and getting it done.  I hate to admit it, but that actually sounds like a good vacation to me.  Getting this project complete would make me very happy!

Rainbarrels: fail
GB legs: fail
GB drain: fail
Fish health: fail
Stress management for me: fail

LOL.  At least no one is dead yet.  Not me, and not the fish.  And where there's life, there's hope!