Aquaponic Gardening

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The Organic Movement Is A Lot Of Rubbish

(I wrote this post about a week ago and finally got around to putting the finishing touches on it today...Enjoy!)

I've been thinking this morning about aquaponics. Which is pretty typical for me, I guess. I just about use all of my excess mental capacity thinking about growing things. Mushrooms, chickens, goats, fish, plants, rabbits, bees...they are on my mind constantly. The thoughts for this morning were aquaponics, compost, and redworms.

I give people tours of my aquaponics system constantly. It’s funny to see the looks on peoples faces when I give a demonstration of my “experiments”. You can instantly tell whether or not they are on board with the organic movement just by the look on their face. It's either awe or disgust. To be fair, I do some pretty strange stuff. This may come as a shock to the aquaponic community, but normal people don't keep 4,000 redworms in a box in their garage to compost all their kitchen scraps, raise maggots to feed the fish and chickens they are keeping in the backyard, or have a preoccupation with (legal) mushrooms that causes them to shake with excitement whenever the prospect of foraging arises. This last Tuesday I was being interviewed by a couple of high-schoolers for their school newspaper. As I was answering questions, I pulled out my redworm bin and began to dig around, looking for a condensed population of the little guys to show off. "Eeew!" was the response. The female half of the group didn’t even want to look. (girls…)

This was one of those times where I realized I’m not exactly “normal”. In their eyes, I’m digging around a giant box full of worm poop. Without gloves, might I add (hey, that’s why God made our hands water-proof, so we could wash them afterward, right?) Even my aquaponics system, which is my pride and joy, is powered by fish waste. My entire life’s goals, my future career, and everything I’ve been working for…It’s all powered by garbage!

But what's even more interesting is that waste actually excites me! Not the waste itself, but the potential it holds to become something useful. I’ve worked with this kind of stuff for so long that not only does it not bother me, but I actually enjoy it. When normal people look at food refuse, they see it as something gross, something that needs to be packed up in a plastic bag at arms length and made to disappear by a garbage truck. When I see compost, I immediately want to run my hands through it, pick it apart, and sort it amongst my various methods of disposal. This goes to the chickens…this can go to the grubs…the worms won’t like this, so off to the compost pile. And so on and so forth.

It makes me kinda sad that that’s not considered normal. I am a strong believer in cleanliness and order. And washing your hands. Yes, let it be known that I DO wash my hands after handling garbage. But I also think that this thing we call life… is just messy, and to turn up your nose at any form of mess and instead running to the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer, holding your nose as you go, is to disconnect yourself with life. Why do you think they call dirt "earth"? It is the essence of our planet! Decaying matter has a role in our world, and to think that you can life a lifestyle without ever having to experience it has always come off as rather snobbish to me. Everything has a purpose, our world has been designed to work the way it does for a reason. And I think the healthiest way to live is to understand that nothing that is natural is “below” you, even if it is underneath you :) This is just off the top of my head and I haven’t really thought all the implications of this statement through, but the organic movement seems to be built off of waste. I don’t know when it happened, but for me dirt just kind of stopped being “dirty” and instead became good clean “earth”. And just maybe that’s the definition of becoming organic.

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Comment by Suzanne Hayes on March 31, 2014 at 7:16am

Years ago when I was teaching middle school in a small town, I would often be told by my Middle School students "you're weird!" to which I would always reply "Define normal!" This would often stump the kids since the resonces were often "you know normal" or sometimes"like everybody else." I would always challenge those answers as you cannot define a word with the word itself

The initial statements were generally done in fun, but I like to think/hope I made a few of them really think about what it was they were saying on what "normal" really means.  Coming from a major metropolitan area, my Normal was significantly different than theirs often times, but that didn't necessarily mean that their version of normal was more correct than mine, or vice versa

Comment by Joel Berg on March 30, 2014 at 8:12pm

Well, there is no "waste" in nature. It's nice to see that our society is catching up with this concept of recycling waste, like you do. Methane digestors are a new and simple technology we will hopefully see in the future. It just doesn't make sense to contaminate and displace waste in places it can't be recycled, like we do in the human world. 

Comment by Karen Matus on March 14, 2013 at 7:56am

Great Article!   Whatchya gotta tell people is that Normal is a setting on the dryer...  LOL.    How many of us are truly normal, when you get right down to it?

Comment by Jim Fisk on February 20, 2013 at 2:36pm

Right on Alex! By the way in terms of world history we are the normal ones. Please keep that in mind. This commercialization of food, etc. is VERY new. What amazes me is how quickly real food production has been pushed off to the side in favor of the chemically raised crap for lack of a better word.

We have been enjoying brocs all Winter from just 4 plants in our AP system (among many other veggies of course)that just keep producing (and look like tree trunks) and had the occasion to have to eat some frozen store bought the other day. OMG! We will be doubling our gbs from 5 ibcs to 10 asap. Been an organic farmer since my early 20s and I am now a healthy 66. We also do chickens, sheep, composting, worms (although ours are in the AP GH), etc. There is no better way. And on top of that we heat all with wood right off our little farm. Now if we could just wean ourselves off of that grid IV

Comment by BenHehle Beamz on February 19, 2013 at 8:37am

Great post. Can really feel your words! If you ever have the chance, watch DIRT-the movie (its a documentary).

Comment by Tamra Fakhoorian on February 18, 2013 at 11:14am

Alex, I really enjoyed this post. I am seeing the same "ick" factor when it comes to wastewater. Why isn't our wastewater simply called, "water"? We harvest the nutrients, remove any toxins and return it to our living cycle. With duckweed to do the harvesting and toxin removal, we can reuse the water over and over indefinitely. It's just water, just like it's just "earth."  That's my definition of becoming organic.


Comment by Elan yadan on February 17, 2013 at 6:44pm

Alex great post. really put a smile on my face.. i envy your skill at such a young age and wish you all the best. you're on the right track. the world needs more alex veidel's.

Comment by NetJon on February 16, 2013 at 8:51am


Comment by Bob Terrell on February 15, 2013 at 10:19pm

Alex, wonderful post.  And I want to thank you letting me know I am not normal either, I raise my worms in a bin in the living room so they will be comfy, my baby talipia in two aquariums in the house also.  I sit for hours researching and reading looking for different ways to do "stuff".  Yea I'm not normal, my friends will tell you that, but you know,  I kinda enjoy being the way I am!

Comment by Alex Veidel on February 15, 2013 at 12:02pm

Like this post and leave your comments! What are your thoughts on what it means to be organic?

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