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There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza!

Updated: Jan 10

Did your parents or grandparents sing "A Hole in the Bucket" with you? Mine did. I was singing this to myself for a good part of the day yesterday:

Today I am writing about "farming it up", or making use of what you have, or have been given, to build farming solutions, adapt and innovate to make things work. It's about the joys of sharing in community; and the challenges of designing, creating and fixing systems without instruction manuals.

We are so very grateful for all kinds of community support that we have received to get our farm up and going: from hands-on help spreading compost on the fields or working in the kitchen, to government grants and generous donations of equipment.

One awesome example was a gift of some system components for our indoor water garden. We were super lucky to have been given quite a large stainless steel insulated dairy tank, as well as a smaller food grade tank, by a kind and very generous neighbour. The fish actually live in the dairy tank because it is the largest system component, holds temperature better, and provides a nice calm environment. With a few other components on the plant side and the fish side, we have about 2500 gallons of water capacity in our system. We designed a system that has a gravity-fed flow of water in the fish room - from the fish tank and water reservoir (the spare tank) through a solids separator, mechanical filter and biological filter before being pumped up and around. So, basically, any part could fail EXCEPT for the dairy tank and we wouldn't end up with fish sticks on the floor of the tank.

Well, yesterday brought a real life experience of dealing with the "hole in the bucket"! I ended up having to drain our main fish tank because it sprung a leak. We're grateful we had oversized our water holding capacity and had that other gift tank online as part of the aquaculture system. We were able to relocate the fish while we configure a solution to the pin-sized hole in the bottom of the big "bucket" that set off flood alarms.

A side benefit to this otherwise unfortunate event is that I was able to get up close and personal with every individual rainbow trout in the tank. I had been worried that maybe we weren't assessing them well enough and that there was suffering in there that we weren't aware of. All of the maintenance up to this point we had been able to do without a complete tank flush. I'm really happy to report that all 83 fish are alive and swimming; and overall they look good! Of the whole bunch, there was only one that seems to have somehow been injured, and has been removed from the rest. I was also able to get an average weight and size on them, to confirm our feeding rate. We're doing something right! So, all-in-all a good opportunity for some reassurance in the midst of mitigating what could have been quite a disaster!

We've got a plan to repair the hole tomorrow; and reinforce the tank walls using a food-grade pond liner that we have on site (and used to build deep water culture beds on the plant side of the system). A bit of extra reinforcing will hopefully prevent another leak from springing!

It's a good thing it's fixable - we moved the tanks and components into place and then build a room around them - so it would be quite the ordeal to have to remove it!

Honestly, I enjoyed sanitizing and donning my hip waders as my uniform for the day!

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