Hello to all my AP friends,
I sure have missed y’all! This has been an interesting and exciting year for me. Unfortunately we haven't been able to do any Aquaponics other than stock our new ponds. I just wanted to stop by and update anyone who might be interested, in what I have been doing.The following is a brief of what we did this year. *Pictures will follow later. Please look for them in Album named "TongZhao 2013".
As some of you may know, I am a self-proclaimed Aquaponics based urban greening guru, an eco farmer, independent researcher and consultant based in Beijing, China. Over the past two years, I concentrated on consulting and help convert about 16,000 mu or 2000 acres (800 acres of vineyard, 600 acres of orchards), of industrial monocrop farmland into bio-integrated (polyculture) organic ("beyond organic") farms.
Last year I partnered with a land developer that had a large parcel that he didn't know what to do with. His original plan was to convert this property into a golf course but for once the government was smart or the "gifts" (bribes) weren't big enough and denied approval. We spent the last twelve months under construction and next year we will expand production so hope to finally start to make some money in the next year or two.
This property is 1,200 mu or 200 acres (6 mu – pronounced :moo": equals one US acre). About one third of the property has stands of older trees that we reserve for biodiversity and natural grazing. Another third will be dedicated to activities and amendment areas . The last third of the property is dedicated arable land which will be rotated with pasture pastures.
I love challenges and this one has kept me hopping! I inherited this huge plot of raw, sandy land. Talk about a fresh start. A simple N-P-K reading indicated that the nutrient content was poor to very poor. Ok, so because they were going to construct an architecturally engineered golf course. It was decided that topsoil could be bulldozed to west border, forming a mound four meters high, to provide a sound and privacy screen. We have our own great wall! Haha.
So, ok, no topsoil, great! Thank goodness someone was bright enough to leave some decent sized stands of older deciduous trees so I have some carbon from leaves, twigs and dead branches to work with. My first mission is to build soil fertility. Our property is actually designated flood plain and runs parallel to the Choa Bie He/ North Running River. This entire area use to be seabed with sand as deep as we can dig, well at least till we hit the water table about twenty meters down. Due to years of non-management and canalling due to city expansion, there was a lot of sediment and buildup, to the point that most of the river to the north and south of us look more like dry gullies. This unnatural buildup of clay that caused damming and other natural nuances: the result of a reduced flow and too much artificially enriched waters via runoff from chemical based, farming, and other commercial practices polluting the river’s water.
Nature in her billions of years of R&D has already got things pretty much figured out and set down laws: laws that sometimes help us. Sand is a wonderful substance. It is good at letting water get drawn by gravity and when the water has passed, air is allowed to seep through. It is good at filtering organic matter and nature even has ways to deal with pathogens. The thing is, nature (though we refer to her as a lady), is kind of rough in a lot of respects and can be sometimes quite violent. Sometimes, certain kinds of earthquakes might shift sand in such a way that the deeper one digs under the surface, the finer the particles. Sometimes it’s all mixed up. Microbes for some reason like to attach themselves to fine particles of sand that is surrounded by food and like rabbits, if conditions are right, procreate rapidly so in no time, the grain is covered in 3-D with microbial buddies and neighbors excreting gooey residue. If the conditions are met for long enough time, over a big enough area, clay can be formed. It takes a little more than that but the jest of it is; I like to think of clay as balls of nutrient Velcro. Zip on, zip off, no problem. Otherwise, sand by itself would just let mineralized nutrients pass right on by: no benefit to anyone. There is a reason why clay is found in riverbeds; natural canals.
Now we will have (at least the patch in my front yard), helped restore eco functions on this river with naturally filtering and detoxifying wetlands. I can imagine how sweet clean and refreshing the water was down river from here, a hundred, even fifty years ago. One just can’t imagine how important it is for most life to combine water, air and sunlight in the appropriate amounts. Sunlight is what charges life, directly and indirectly, so with a thin layer of solar warmed water mixed with rich nutrients, life at all its interconnected levels begins to build, stabilize and begin bioremediation and soon, restore eco function like producing clean water.
I strongly believe in symbiotic ways of achieving goals. We volunteered to service the public and government by restoring that section of the river’s eco function. We also designated land on our property as a protected wetland habitat. Amazingly, they allowed us. I mean it is to their and the public’s benefit after all. No one asked what we were going to do with all that debris (nutrient soaked clay). Guess what? Clay is wonderful for sealing natural ponds. It is also a wonderful additive to soil, especially raw sand; combined with rich and balanced compost would make a good start; we just need to add some carbon and balance the minerals, which is definitely something I can work with. That’s what I call win-win-win. We win, society wins, and nature wins. What can be better than that?
With this clay I can now allow the farm to express itself even more fully with ponds. Water is the essence of life, at least on this planet; the more clean surface water I have, the more abundant and secure life on this farm would be. So that’s win-win-win-win. That’s what I like to see…off to a good start.
There were some management issues at first, but as everyone eased into their positions, construction went a lot more smoothly and completed on time and within budget.
By the third week of September, 2013, all major construction is finished and we have already harvest our first crops. Things don’t look too bad at present but I don’t expect results to be anything to write home about. But time, blood, sweat and money will make things better and better. In the mean time, we’ll continue implementing the soil fertility plan and get ready to grow winter, pasture and cover crops. By opening day in mid-spring next year, we will increase the herds, flocks and staff and hopefully be geared for service.
Look for us in the spring and see what a fresh new carbon/ eco-farm/ attraction in Beijing can look like. In as little time as it takes for you to get to work, take a quick jaunt east on ChangAnn Ave. and see the antics of baby animals and the magic of new life abound. Relax and enjoy the sounds, taste and smells that reconnect you with your spirit. See examples of different green/ sustainable techniques and sciences. Soothingly rest in masterfully orchestrated bioscaped gardens that brighten the soul with butterflies and insects of all kinds. Learn how to ride a beautiful horse that was rescued from certain demise. An extra special event that kids of all ages enjoy is our seeding party. One of our food gardens and all forested areas are open for Masanobu Fukuoka's method of natural farming using clay wrapped seed pellets. Guests are encouraged to buy, make and toss their clay balls into these areas at their whim. Drop, throw, kick, slingshot, it's all good.
Come back in the summer and indulge your five senses. We have twenty-two different themed gardens to enjoy. See how your favorite animal has grown. Turn to one of two bird cam channels to see our nest of egrets or sparrow hawk. Spend a lazy afternoon watching squirrels scamper and play or bunnies hop and nibble. Eat the best tasting, healthiest food in Beijing in our restaurant, catered lawns or barbeque it yourself along the river front. For a really special treat, get invited to one of Carey's All American BBQs which may feature whole animal roast, wood fired mud oven baked pies and artisan breads or slow cooked stews. These events only happen once a month (3rd Sunday of the month) from June through October so make sure you are signed up early. Seating is limited.
Next year we intend to introduce our line of fruit sugars to sweeten delicate palates. Imagine fruit-rollups that are dried and granulated. All natural, solar dried and unrefined.
Come back in the fall and see the changes. Learn what it takes for us to grow such wonderful food at Carey’s Farm School so you too can have such wonderful food at home. See how we harvest, process and add value to our products. Learn a traditional homesteading skill like soap & salve making, how to cook heritage foods from Beijing’s top chefs, how to bake artesian breads, make infused oils, custom cheese, age meat, store food…the list goes on.
With activities for everyone, it is definitely best to plan as a day-trip.
Clean healthy fun, great food and friends; what more can one ask for? (Click here for more info on farm amenities)
Tuition free class of all sorts (members only): on and off premise by appropriately skilled master-crafts/ trades people that are quality-of-life conscious.
* Mr. Carey Ma’s Greensmart horticultural, animal husbandry, and integrated farming techniques and technologies are internationally patented for protection against abuse but are freely donated for personal use and the betterment of independent communities. Please feel free to use my designs to grow food for your family or community and live happier, healthier lives. These technologies are meant for personal betterment and not for profit. Profit making entities interested in manufacturing or selling our (green product) systems or components should contact the business department for cooperation that is mutually beneficial. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.