Aside from all the good cooking and eating we did last week, we also used the time to think a bit more about our projects for 2010 and hoped to get started on at least one of those projects last Saturday.

There is a company in Frankfurt called Becker that specializes in all things wood. Wood for building furniture, wood flooring, veneers, outdoor wood, wooden doors…if it’s wood and has to do with building, you can probably find it there. We planned to finally go check out one of their locations on Saturday morning and see what sort of advice they had for us regarding the wood to use for rebuilding our shutters on the front of the house. The shutters are in a sad state and one of the upper ones looks ready to fall off with the next big gust of wind. And obviously if that takes place, we’re going to have a whole new collection of problems to deal with if it hits someone. Because the shutters are on the street side of the house, it also really detracts from the beauty of the place when all you can focus on are the ratty shutters. Thankfully, we glanced at Becker’s website before we hit the road because they are only open Monday-Friday from 7am-5:30pm. Now I realize that this place caters to carpenters and others that work during the week, but couldn’t they offer just a couple hours of time on Saturday…or stay open until 7 one night? Now we remember why we haven’t been there before…because Stefan actually has to take a day off of work for us to go!

Anyway, after that didn’t pan out, Stefan started thinking harder about the hot tub plans and went in a slightly different direction which was researching aquaponics. In case you’ve never heard of it, aquaponics is a collective effort between a fish farm and a hydroponics system which are mutually beneficial to each other. The fish poop in the water of their tank, it is pumped out into the plant beds, the plants filter the water and the cleaned water is then pumped back into the fish pond. Systems can be scaled to fit inside your home or fill up your entire yard. And since we’d already decided that the hot tub we want will not fit in the hole beside the guest house (too small overall and no space to put the pumps, etc), we’ve been pondering thoughts of filling it in or using it for something else. Which is how we got back to aquaponics research (which we started talking about in the house several years ago in the form of barrelponics…but just found it all a bit complicated to get going). Actually, starting the system is the hardest part of the equation; because once it gets going you’ve really only got to feed the fish and make sure everything continues to run smoothly. Then harvest your fish (if you’re growing edible ones–or crawfish, clams, etc) and fresh produce as it becomes ready.

I won’t even begin to start discussing all there is to know about aquaponics, but it is an incredibly cool thing. And for people like us who really want to be more self sufficient but lack time, the system is great because you don’t need to weed garden beds all the time, you have hardly any trouble with pests (and especially not with snails and slugs) and you produce a huge amount of food (fish and produce) in a rather small amount of space.

Take a glance at the video below for an idea of one aquaponics setup up that may be a bit more technologically advanced than ours but is still inspirational. He also doesn’t have many fish in his system and uses a large water storage tank (which we won’t do) but it’s still a very cool setup.