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Thanks for your post, Oliveoilguy. After extensive experimenting with aquaponics, hydroponics and aeroponics for several years, we recently abandoned aquaponics. Once an aquaponics system is up and running, and properly balanced, it works well. But getting it balanced is tricky. In theory, you can grow duckweed to feed the fish, which feed the plants and etc. But in practice, it's not that simple. I can describe aquaponics in one word: tricky. Hydroponics is fairly simple by comparison, and it works just fine once you learn how to set it up. But you must purchase the nutrient solution to add to the water.
While we got decent results with aquaponics, it was a lot of trouble. We concluded that hydroponics is easier so we have three separate systems, all of which are largely trouble-free. The largest has four 4 X 8 foot hand-built nutrient tanks in which 2" Styrofoam panels float. The next larger system we purchased from a farm supply company. It consists of a series of narrow metal channels through which nutrient solution is constantly pumped. The plants root in the nutrient channels and it works just fine. The third and smallest of the three is a so-called "ebb and flow" (flood and drain) system. They all work well. All have to be taken down and thoroughly cleaned now and then.
In a taste-test comparison, we found that hydroponically grown vegetables taste as good as those produced in an aquaponic system. Ours are in an 1,800 square foot high tunnel greenhouse, with a passive solar heating system (55 gallon plastic drums filled with water and stacked on the north side), evaporative coolers and a fogging system for the extremely hot Texas summers. Our produce is largely blemish-free. Along with our keyhole gardens, hugelkultur beds and raised bed gardens, we can produce more than enough vegetables for the two families who live on our Central Texas ranch. We also have a cow-calf operation (and chickens) so in a pinch we're mostly self-sufficient if need be. We have a large root cellar.
What we lack is solar panels. I am still studying them. We have a 22 Kw standby propane generator, but propane is a fossil fuel. As of now, we're grid-dependent.
Those who live in a hot, relatively dry climate should take a serious look at keyhole gardens. I have two of them and they are becoming popular in Central Texas. I've found that keyhole gardens are the best outdoor gardening system by a large margin over the alternatives. These can become a hot house in cold weather by adding a plastic cover, and a greenhouse by also adding a string of Christmas tree lights or a few incandescent bulbs in cold snaps.
@ Oliveoilguy: Apparently you live to the south of me because olive trees don't do well here (Nearest town Waco of "Fixer-Upper" fame). There are parts of Texas where olive trees do pretty well, and some entrepreneurs are said to be cultivating them with the goal of producing olives and oil. I hope they are young and patient. I'm 72 so that's out. Hahaha, having studied Permaculture, I was keen to start a Food Forest until I realized it takes about 25 years to bring one to full maturity.
I've been a Gold Money customer for years. No problems to report. Good service. Innovations that may or may not interest customers. But if you have an overseas account you must report it under FATCA. The information you must report annually includes the custodian, your account number and approximate value of your account. Uncle San can confiscate your holding so do not be fooled about that.
As I understand it, you can avoid FATCA reporting by arranging for a vault storage facility (similar to a safe deposit box) in Europe and storing your precious metals there. As long as it is not a "bailment" type arrangement, it appears to be exempt from FATCA reporting requirements. Consult a knowledgeable lawyer about that. And let's face it — what I have described is a deliberate loophole for the very wealthy, who can afford to fly to Europe once or twice each year to stroke and caress their precious metal holdings.
The rest of us are screwed. But we sort of knew that.
Wendy makes an excellent point about sterilizing garden tools. Purchase a bottle or two of 91% denatured alcohol (you may need to search for this, for 91% is needed, not 50% or so) and spray your cutting tools before and after using them.
I am SO glad that I was wrong. According to the Kitco charts, the shorts did not manage to close out the year with the price of gold below $1,200. The last couple of years have been pretty discouraging. Thanks to Dave Fairtex for bringing us a thoughtful running commentary from a trader's perspective.
Yes, indeed. It all depends on the close. My working theory is that the gold shorts would like to close out 2013 trading with the metal below $1,200. We will know pretty soon.
For some reason, this reminds me of the late, great Dr. Albert Bartlett's famous lecture on Mathematics, Population and Energy, which he delivered some 1,900 or so times, in which he stated that the greatest failure of the human race is inability to understand the exponential function. The stars seemed to align exactly as the Fed wished when the "taper" announcement was made.
But as Mike "Mish" Shedlock seemed to say in the most recent Off the Cuff podcast, the Fed has been fudging the numbers on its pre-announced QE targets. Mish said that the Fed has averaged $90 billion a month in Treasury/Agency securities purchases compared to the official number of $85 billion this calendar year. James Howard Kunstler said recently something along the lines that the Fed has back door ways of introducing stimulus that might not be reflected in the official numbers. What a surprise, eh? Uh, no. The Fed's numbers have the same credibility as those of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and I am much more trusting of John Williams' numbers (http://www.shadowstats.com), which are probably understated.
A great many people in the investment world have an interest in aligning with the Fed, which is, unlike God, neither omnipotent nor omniscient. One day the wheels are going to come off the Fed's story, and that day will be unpleasant for those who bought into it. This idea of becoming resilient deserves careful consideration, for we are entering "interesting times" in the sense of the ancient Chinese proverb/curse: "May you live in interesting times".
As an example of an interesting time in history, consider that you are a subsistence farmer on the Asian steppes, living a bare existence with your family. And then Genghis Khan arrives with his Mongol hordes.
Summing up, let us remember that timeless sage advice, (a) don't fight the Fed, and (b) never underestimate the ability of the powers that be to continue the status quo longer than we think possible. In the end, we pretty well know the outcome. But that could be a while in coming. When it does, those of us who have prepared will likely find it easier to cope. In the meantime, we occasionally get discouraged and that's understandable.
Although I did not start this discussion thread, I had the privilege of putting up the first post. It has been a fun learning experience reading the subsequent posts. What an interesting group of people! I would like to add a few comments about bug-out bags and the ongoing situation at Fukushima Dai-Ichi.
First, bug out bags. This past weekend my wife and I hosted a member of the Peak Prosperity firearms thread and his wife here at our Central Texas farm. What a delightful and charming young couple they are! We had a great time visiting with them. I was able to examine a bug-out bag and I was thoroughly impressed. He has it down to a science and his kit includes everything needed and nothing superfluous. It weighs about 65 pounds, more or less, and includes everything one person needs to survive for several days.
What is easily feasible for a young person is challenging for us seniors. I see that others on this thread recognize their limitations, as I do. We accept our limits and make decisions based on what is practical. That's the point of this discussion thread. Perhaps bug-out bags are not the way to go for most of us. That said, having a bag with some travel essentials and important documents packed and ready is probably a good idea. We can hope it won't be needed.
Turning to Fukushima, I have followed this more or less on a daily basis since the earthquake and tsunami, so I know pretty well what is happening. At Thanksgiving dinner today, I asked my brother-in-law, an educated man and a CPA, if "Fukushima Dai-Ichi" means anything to him, and I got a blank look. That speaks volumes and is pretty well representative of the knowledge level of the general population. That's because the mainstream news media, for whatever reason, has chosen not to inform the public about the issue.
Here is where we are now: TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), owner of the Dai-Ichi and Dai-Ini (Fukushima number one and two) power plants has commenced removing the fuel rods from the spent fuel pool atop reaction #4. TEPCO has taken a lot of criticism but so far the company seems to be doing pretty well with this very — and I mean very — delicate operation. One cask (with several bundles) of unused fuel rods has been successfully removed from the #4 spent fuel pool and transferred to the common fuel pool about 100 yards away. Another cask has been filled with spent fuel rods and is ready to be transferred to the common fuel pool. For security reasons TEPCO has not said when that transfer will occur, but it might have already taken place or it might happen shortly. The fuel rods are in bundles called assemblies. As a cask is filled with assemblies, it is carefully lowered to a waiting transport truck below and moved slowly to the common fuel pool (which is at ground level and is deemed safer). If all goes well, unloading the #4 spent fuel pool should take about a year. Some patience is required. TEPCO is moving very, very slowly and deliberately.
The immediate problem is transferring about 1,400 fuel rods from the #4 spent fuel pool to the common pool nearby. This is vital because the #4 spent fuel pool is unstable and is five stories above ground level. The underlying soil has been de-stabilized and the entire structure is in danger of collapse. TEPCO has shored up the structure but it is vulnerable to a major earthquake — and Japan sits atop the Pacific "Ring of Fire".
Just my opinion but based upon my extensive reading of everything I can get my hands on, I think TEPCO will likely succeed in transferring the fuel rods from the #4 pool to the common (and more stable) pool. But that's when things start to get really interesting, as in really interesting.
You see, there are six reactors at the Dai-Ichi plant. Reactors #1, 2 and 3 suffered melt-downs and it is thought that the molten nuclear fuel in the #1 reactor has escaped the containment vessel and is within about a foot of melting through the reinforced concrete foundation (pedestal) and into the ground beneath the structure. Reactors #1, 2 and #3 also have spent fuel pools five stories above ground level. Because of the melt-downs radiation levels in all three reactors are much higher than at the #4 spent fuel pool. The fuel rods will have to be removed manually due to extensive damage of the underlying structures. So when TEPCO completes the process of transferring the fuel rods from the #4 spent fuel pool, the real difficulties begin in earnest. Technicians will have to work in high radiation conditions and will quickly use up their allowable exposure time.
Based on my extensive reading on this topic, I can visualize how TEPCO might go about removing the spent fuel rods. It will be extremely challenging and dangerous, but it seems at least feasible. But then comes the ultimate problem of retrieving the molten nuclear fuel from reactors #1, 2 and 3. Nobody knows where this "corium" is located and the tools and engineering methods do not presently exist to find and extract it safely.
Let us not even contemplate worst case scenarios — you don't want to know, for it's that bad. It has been suggested by knowledgeable experts that a concrete sarcophagus be constructed over reactors #1, 2 and 3 and that would make sense except for one thing — groundwater is flowing beneath all three reactors and if the molten corium comes in contact with it, there will be the devil to pay.
So, let us all wish TEPCO the best and hope that they, along with the Japanese government, are able to find ways of decommissioning this toxic disaster before it contaminates the Northern Hemisphere. And yes, that is a realistic possibility.
Please do not give up on us, Mots. We need this kind of discussion. I hope that I did not drive you away from this website, for I would regret that greatly. Your comments were thoughtful and rational.
Hi, Mots. First of all, understand that my rebuttal was not personal. Here on the Peak Prosperity site there is an understanding that civilized discourse is the standard. You make some reasonable points. But I think you understand that we are bound by certain constraints at present. Perhaps those constraints will lessen over time with advances in technology and let us all hope that is so.
The last couple of days have been especially busy for me, and I regret that, for I spotted a post in the Daily Digest a couple of days ago that intrigued me – but I was too busy to post a follow up right then. The gist of it was that an Arizona public utility figured out a way to store the sun’s energy for short periods by focusing it (through an array of mirrors) on sand, which absorbs the energy by heating up. Then, that heat energy is tapped early the next morning to provide energy to the grid.
I’m all for innovations like this, but I’m also an old guy who is intensely practical and I’ve seen so many announcements over the years of problem-solving “solutions” that once announced, are never heard from again. So please forgive me for being rather skeptical; it tends to come with advancing age (I’m a geezer).
The fact is that the sun provides far more energy than we need at present and this is likely to be the case for eons to come. The problem, of course, is capturing that energy in a way that can meet our electricity needs. This is the challenge. After all, the earth is dark half of each day (let’s keep it simple, please, and not introduce latitude right now for in the off season that tends to compensate.)
So back to what I posted in response to your original (thoughtful and interesting) post): The sun provides plenty of energy – far more than we need. But we need an effective means of capturing that energy and providing it to end users when they need it.
My thesis was and is that we need some kind of storage medium. It does not have to be long term storage, keeping in mind that a “day” consists of 24 hours, of which sunlight is present for varying amounts of time depending on the latitude. I’ve looked into this for the past five years and flow batteries still stick in my mind as posing considerable promise. More research is needed.
Present energy storage solutions are pretty inefficient. I’m thinking, for example, of pumping water uphill to storage reservoirs overnight, and then releasing the water to power turbines the next day to meet energy needs. This is – ahem – not an elegant solution.
I am not happy with your assertion that my previous post parrots MSM views on energy. You could not be more mistaken. My contempt for the mainstream media is complete. So please erase that from your mind, and in turn I will agree not to be offended. This is fair.
You make some good points. I accept them in good faith. But I’m a skeptic and will reserve judgment due to my years of careful consideration of these issues. What is needed at this inflection point in history is thoughtful discussion by reasonable people, in the hope and expectation that we can together influence the outcome. On that particular point, however, I’m a pessimist. We will likely have to accept what is imposed on us by those who feel they have superior wisdom and the power to command.
I was quite farsighted and underwent Lasik in 2007. It's more difficult to correct vision in farsighted persons, though the eye surgeon (one of the best in the country, in Houston; a surgeon to whom other eye surgeons refer their difficult cases) was able to correct my vision to 20-30. For a time I did not need reading glasses, but after six years I'm now farsighted again and need 2.5X reading glasses for close-up work.
My wife was very near-sighted and the same surgeon was able to correct her vision to almost 20-20, which she reckons is a near-miracle. After six years her vision has remained pretty constant and she is very happy. It changed her life for the better.
For my part, I"m glad that I had Lasik, for I can get by without glasses except for reading. Those who are contemplating Lasik or an alternative surgery should be aware that vision will change with increasing age. Also, my opthalmologist told me that cataract surgery is more difficult for patients who have had Lasik.