Creepy Crawlies | Black Soldier Flies and African Nightcrawlers | DIY Worm Composting Bin

So a while back, we had made a DIY Black Soldier Fly Biocomposter and posted the DIY part here.  We chose the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) because they are insatiable composters and we have more to compost than our small worm population can handle at the moment. We have weekly harvested microgreen flats, add to that the lower lettuce leaves, bolted lettuce or herbs, damaged plants from the wind or rain storms… meaning we have lots of vegetative compostables that we certainly don’t want to add to any landfill!  So, we have recruited more composters that are native to Florida. Who doesn’t like free? Just as a reminder, this is what the DIY BSF Biocomposter looked like.

BSF Biocomposter DIY

BSF Biocomposter DIY –

At the end of June, we finally layered in charcoal (up to the top of the horizontal part of the drain pipe) and chunky coco coir (a couple inches) and then some spoiled papaya and other food scraps. Afterwards it was set outside to do it’s thing.

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Farmer Tim with his new best friends, Black Soldier Fly Larvae

On July 20th, we had our first migration and collection of the pre-pupae from this small  biocomposter.  We did not buy any BSF larvae or eggs, just set the container outside in the shade near a bush with some fruit and food scraps where the adult Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) found it and layed eggs. 

Day 32

Day 31 the first two appeared in the collection bin. This is Day 32 – the next night’s harvest.

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This was 2 nights later – Day 34 – looks like full production! Chickens are loving it!

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The migrate at night right into the collection bin. So cool!

Success so far!  Looking to build 2 larger sized ones for outside the harvest end of the hoophouse and maybe even a hatchery and propagation station! This would allow some of the larvae to pupate into mature flies and keep that cycle going. Once our chickens and tilapia have had their fill, we may even try to sell them to other BSF enthusiasts that live in short season climates, as well as exotic pet or other livestock owners looking for a sustainable high protein feed (up to 42%).

Although the larvae are also edible for humans, we will not be producing any for human consumption 😉

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Adult BSF on the outside (and hopefully going in to lay some eggs) The chickens are hungry!

Some interesting tidbits:

  • The adults only live 5-9 days
  • The adults have no mouth
  • The adults can lay up to 900 eggs.
  • The BSF do not carry human pathogens.
  • The BSF larvae in the larger of the containers can eat up to 2 pounds a day!
  • The BSFs can eat almost anything, even meat, unlike composting worms (who get no dairy, fatty, meats, oils).  Truly nature’s best warm weather composters!

On to the next crawlies….though none are truly creepy!

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Worm Release

Bedrun View in the Bag of ANCs

In mid-April, we picked up one pound of African Nightcrawlers (Eudrilus eugeniae) to start composting our harvested microgreen trays (now relegated to the BSFs, they are faster). These composting worms are being used to transform a waste product (our vegetative farm scraps) into a nutrient rich vermicompost to use again to amend of our soil-less soil.  The bag pictured above was bed run, so there were cocoons (worm eggs) and worms of all sizes in there (along with a few BSFs that snuck their way in). The BSFs are commonly found in the same environment as the ANC when they are raised outdoors in Florida.

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One feeding of paper and food scraps (about 4 weeks after transitioning them to the bin and feeding bi-weekly). This was covered by a damp papertowel to keep out any fruit flies that will also want those scraps. We usually put the food underneath the shredded paper   for the same reason.

These pictures are our DIY worm bins we are currently using. The worms migrate from the bottom to the top as you fill with peat and feed. These bins have 1/4″ holes drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage and migration of the worms. When the bin is full almost to the top, you add a new bin on top of the old and they keep migrating up to where the food is, while you harvest the compost and worm castings in the lower bin. This keeps repeating by stacking the bins. We have found that this a quick and simple system that is great for DIY at a home scale. However, we don’t feel it would be practical on a farm scale. So, as soon as we make a couple sifters and some special buckets, we will be repurposing this worm bin for staging worms for sale. We are switching to a bucket methodology to get a better handle on inventory and purposeful production, which is difficult to do with bedrun and the current stacking bins.

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The cardboard is to give them adequate airflow, darkness and prevent too much evaporation. We have the two containers sitting inside a large box to help contain any escapees. Lights on at night helps with that too.

 

Happy Composting!

 

Here’s some links for building your own worm bin:

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Farm Update | New Honey Bees and How-To Pages

We had a new Honey Bee ( Apis mellifera ) delivery in the early part of the week from the Bees Choice.  Yay!  There were some minor delays in getting queens this year due to the massive pesticide incident in California during the end of the pollination of the almond crops. Someone “accidentally” killed 80,000 colonies by tank-mixing pesticides and spraying during the daytime hours while the bees were out foraging. That’s a LOT of bees when you multiply that by 40,000-80,000 per hive. So sad. 1,300 beekeepers suffered losses. This also started the initiatives from the White House to Save the Bees!  Without these wonderful pollinators, the United States would be out of food in less that four years!

This brings me back to our little story…in Florida, we have an africanized honey bee drone population for queens to mate with (a no-no), so we have to buy queens from areas that are not yet infiltrated or ones that were artificially inseminated to help dilute this current drone population. The goal is that the more beekeepers we have in Florida that follow the best management practices, the more we can dilute the undesirable traits of the africanized drone population. The beekeepers in most of the southern states have to order queens, in addition to the 1,300 beekeepers that lost their colonies in California, which caused an unexpected high demand and therefore, low supplies and delays. Our queens made a long journey from Hawaii to be with us.

Our two 5-frame NUCs should be ready to be transferred to their new lavender 10-frame Langstroth hives very soon.

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary NUCs GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary NUCs GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary NUCs


This week, we were at Mote Marine’s Aquaculture Park (sturgeon facility) and ECHO where we made some new friends and met up with the Phil and the crew from Morningstar Fishermen.

The remainder of the week was a clean up week since it’s a holiday weekend – Happy Birthday America!

  • Lots of mowing and weedeating since the grass, pastures and weeds grow REALLY fast down here in Florida with our hot, rainy summers. By the time you finish, you have to start all over again if you don’t get rained out in the process. 😉
  • Getting materials for next weeks projects – end wall posts to be installed. Yay!
  • Procured a walk-in cooler that we disassembled and transported most of last week that needs a new home in the Quonset. Still trying to figure out exactly where.

We’ve added some Resource pages under HOW-TO link in the menu above. Pages that have links are completed, those that do not are planned and we hope to keep adding to these as we go along. Those following us on this blog and Facebook will be the first to know! So, don’t forget to follow us and LIKE us, if you haven’t already.

Currently, we have:

Florida Gardening – planting calendars, guide for herbs, guide for vegetables/fruits, integrated pest identification and options and other useful online resources that we have come across. More coming soon

Florida Beekeeping – calendar of blooming plants, FL BMPs, diseases and pest of the honey bees, beekeeping associations, and other useful online resources that we have come across.

Aquaponics – here we plan to add Q&A type info from the questions we tend to be asked more frequently. Got ?s, let us know.  The most specific information on aquaponics will be in the DIY Projects section for those that have attended our classes.

Recipes – here we plan to add recipes for many of the items as we get ready to harvest to  allow everyone to see the versatility that heirloom vegetables and fruits can have.

DIY Projects – here we plan to put all the handouts and materials from our various classes. It will be a members-only section, log-in information will be provided at each class.


Still planting and harvesting microgreens (sunflower, radish, broccoli, wheat grass available) and our 3 foot basils (genovese, citrus and thai available). The citrus basil knocks our socks off. It’s really flavorful. Let us know if you want to pop by for an order.

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm Genovese Basil

Genovese Basil

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm Citrus Basil and Thai Basil

Thai Basil and Citrus Basil

ECHO | North Fort Myers FL

ECHO Tour

ECHO Research Farm Tour

Today, it was all about sustainability and appropriate technology (using what you have to make what you need). ECHO is an amazing farm that teaches missionaries how to make the most of their resources and specific gardening environments while fighting hunger worldwide. Thank you Craig for the behind the scenes tour!

ECHO Tour

Biogas Digest

ECHO Tour

Bamboo Bike

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Ram Pump

ECHO Tour IMG_5872 IMG_5822 ECHO Tour IMG_5956                           If you haven’t been to ECHO yet, you don’t know what you are missing.  Make sure you catch a tour at ECHO! You will definitely learn something new on either of their two tours. ECHO’s Global Farm Tour is a fascinating walking tour of the most creative working farm you have ever experienced. You will find demonstrations, plants, and techniques useful to farmers and urban gardeners in developing countries and learn all about ECHO’s mission of helping the poor help themselves.  Experience seven settings of the Global Farm and taste tropical leaves while you explore rain-forest habitats, stop at a simulated rural school and witness urban gardening techniques that allow gardens on rooftops. You will also see some of our simple technologies and visit our friendly farm animals: goats, chickens, ducks, tilapia, and rabbits….and if that is not enough to entice you, ECHO has one of the largest collections of tropical food plants in the United States. Appropriate Technology tour  discover simple technologies made from local or recycled materials that can improve lives.  Learn how sand can be used to filter water, how manure can be converted into energy, even how a bicycle can be used to run a power saw!

Farm Update | City of Cape Coral gave us the Thumbs Up!

After 6 weeks of discussions, we finally have our occupational license from the City of Cape Coral!! A great big THANK YOU to Vince Cautero for making it happen! 


Microgreens are back in production!

Available next week: Wheat Grass, Popcorn shoots (green and blanched), Pea Shoots w Tendrils; and Microgreens: Broccoli, Fenugreek, Kale, Mustard, Radish, Sunflower

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Wheat Grass | local microgreens

Wheat Grass

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Sunflower | local microgreens

Sunflower Microgreens

 

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Popcorn Shoots | local microgreens

Green Popcorn Shoots (also available blanched)


 

Grape tomatoes are growing like crazy!

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Grape Tomatoes | Local Produce

Aquaponically grown                   Grape Tomatoes

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Grape Tomatoes | Local Produce

Grape Tomatoes in the Hoophouse

Farm Update | Worms in Aquaponics and Worm Tea and Fish Update

This week we released the composting worms into the media bed to do their thing (vermicomposting). They help break down any excess and dead roots, fish solids, along with other organic matter in the beds that could otherwise produce anaerobic conditions in an aquaponics system. As an added benefit during that process, they release nutrients into the system for the plants to uptake that would not otherwise be available, mostly micronutrients and chelated minerals.  Due to our hot climate, we chose a NightCrawler specimen rather than the more common Red Wiggler, who like the cooler temperatures. Didn’t take them long to run from the light.

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Worm Release

Worm Release in Aquaponics Media Bed

More on the worms in the coming weeks, including how to build a DIY Worm Tea Brewer. The aerated worm tea contains lots of beneficial microbes that help the plants fight off pests and diseases naturally (not for human consumption). While you are waiting, here’s a great video from Murray Hallam about the Aquaponics Secret Weapon – the worms!


 

The Red Nile Tilapia are getting to a good healthy size. They are ranging now from 1″-3 1/2″ still being fed pellet crumbles and few whole pellets.

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Red Nile Tilapia | Farm Fresh Fish

Red Nile Tilapia

The Blue Nile Tilapia are enjoying some duckweed in addition to the pellet rations. Some are getting to be breeder size. Time to build the hatchery!

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Blue Nile Tilapia | Fingerling and Fry

Blue Nile Tilapia


Reloading the DIY Black Soldier Fly BioComposter… papaya and other goodies we didn’t get to in time.

GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm | Black Soldier Fly Composter

BSF Composter

Rabbits Etc Farm Tour | Masaryktown, FL

What a spectacular family farm!

Rabbits, etc – Owners Mike & Dee Blaha

If you live in their Central Florida area (Hernando/Pasco counties), I would strongly suggest joining their CSAs. They are wonderful giving people that were an absolute joy to meet.

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Harvesting worms and worm castings


We took home our first pound of composting worms for the media bed and to start some vermicomposting. We picked the “Eudrilus eugeniae”, African Nightcrawlers, which can grow to 6-8″ long, have a flat belly and a purplish sheen; usually averages 600-1000 worms per pound. More details on Vermicomposting to come.

Farm Update | Tilapia Release | DutchBucket and DWC update

The Red Nile Tilapia were released from their mini-home to the whole tank. Some were too small on arrival and would have gone through the pick up tube into the media bed to their demise. No kamikaze’s here…all made it safe and sound!

Red Nile Tilapia Release Red Nile Tilapia in Tank


Lettuces are growing like crazy in the DWC, but it’s starting to get hot. We’ll see how well they do in the coming weeks. Hit 92 already this week!Lettuce growing at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL Lettuce growing at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL Lettuce growing at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL

Wheat Grass and the microgreens are doing great. The Cucumbers in the Dutch Buckets are having a flower fest with tiny cukes forming every few inches.

Wheat Grass and Microgreens growing at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL Cucumbers growing at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL


Chickens still growing and check out those feathers! Btw…the chick’s not really that red (even though it’s a Rhode Island Red) that’s just the glow from the heat lamp to make it look like a pschydelic bird.  Gave them a roost last week and they have all figured it out, but only 10 of the 12 fit up there…Heat lamp goes off this week.  Americauna Chick at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL Rhode Island Red Chick at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL The flock of Chicks at GreenView Aquaponics Family Farm and Apiary in Cape Coral FL

Farm Update | Katana visits the farm | Chicks

Today we had a new helper at the farm – Katana (Astrid’s niece). She helped feed all the fish, played with the wheat grass and the chicks. After all that hard work, it was lounge time with Maggie and Sponge Bob.

Katana feeding blue tilapia Katana feeding red tilapia

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Katana and the chicks Katana and Maggie

Chicken Update

Everyone’s doing well…and growing fast. Still kind of awkward looking, but feathers are coming in.

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Farm Update | 12 chicks + 50 fish + 1 dog | Dutch Bucket | Microgreens

It’s been an exciting and eventful week!

We have our first chickens ever!  Picked up six Rhode Island Reds and six Ameraucana 2-week old chicks in Wildwood, FL on Thursday on our way back home from Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC this past weekend It was a traveling zoo after we picked up the next 50 Red Nile Tilapia fingerling in Clearwater, FL. Then it was the 12 chicks, 50 fish, and our 19-year old Jack Russell Terrier crammed in amongst the farm goodies and camping supplies for the last couple hundred miles. Not to mention, duckweed, 10 strawberry starts and a raspberry plant. 🙂


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A big shout out to our neighbor – Denny – for watching after the farm in our absence! THANK YOU Denny!  Everything is growing great!

Can’t believe we have cucumber blossoms a week after transplanting!

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And a big Thank You to Rob for uncovering the sunflower microgreens!

It’s HARVEST TIME!!

If you are interested in buying any of our wheat grass and/or microgreens,                     please pre-order at our online square marketplace.

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Mother Earth News Fair | Asheville NC

The first annual Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC was just held and what a great turnout they had. Over 15,000 attendees to see workshops and presentations from Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, who showed how to dress a chicken and Sylvia Bernstein of the Aquaponics Source, who talked about the basics of aquaponics.

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Along with lots of booths proudly representing their innovative and sustainable products and services.

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Let’s not forget the livestock.

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As executive board members of the Aquaponics Association, Meg and Astrid manned a booth for the Aquaponics Association handing out lots of brochures as well as explaining aquaponics with the representative mini aquaponics system on display. The response was phenomenal.

For more information on the remaining Mother Earth News Fairs this year in other parts of the country, see their website. Next is Puyallup WA 5/31-6/1, then Seven Springs, PA 9/12-14