Preparing To Plant A Pepper Plant ~ I Wonder How I Can Over-Complexify It?

PART I ~ A Very Long-winded Introduction To A Significant Project

Sorry, no pictures this post.

Time sensitive note: I’ve wanted to write this post for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic kinda knocked the wind out of my sails. But today I determined to sit down and write. I hope you are all well. We are watching the world change in front of our eyes.

For some years now, I have wanted to grow our own veges. But our soil is rock hard and would need significant augmentation to be successful soil. And if the bugs flying in the air and/or the leaf cutter ants marching on the ground don’t eat the leaves, then the grubs underground will eat the roots. And then there are the rabbits. And the windy season would leave the leaves in tatters. And the dry season requires constant watering as the soil turns to stone. And the torrential flooding in the rainy season is no help either. And who wants to bend over and work the soil at 70+ years old anyway. The only dastardly thing we are missing here is deer! So I tabled the desire.

At one point on this blog a bunch of years ago, you may remember that Armando and I started to dig a fish pond to raise tilapia, and my future plans were to dangle my toes in aquaponics. But our decision to sell the house caused us to back fill the pond area. Reminds me of the old movie, Cool Hand Luke, where the Boss asked Luke, “See that hole? Why is your dirt in the Boss’ hole?” Then when Luke dug the hole, the Boss said, “Luke, why is your dirt on top of the Boss’ ground?” Basically it was a dig-a-hole, fill-a-hole punishment. But we put that episode behind us.

Now that we have decided to stay, let’s fast forward to a year ago, when I revived the aquaponics idea. As the title of this entry suggests, just for my own exhaustion, frustration, money-letting, and entertainment, I like to over-complexify and over-build stuff. So I thought about what I would need to do to harvest my first pepper. Here is that list:

Item One ~ Greenhouse: Farming outside is a fool’s errand without a lot of ongoing backbreaking work. So how about building a greenhouse? How complicated can I make a greenhouse? I know how to build stuff so I should be able to do this.

Item Two ~ Aquaponics: I would still like to have an aquaponic system. Aquaponics, if you don’t know (and I suppose it is the same even if you do know…) is the symbiotic relationship of raising fish and vegetable plants in a relatively closed loop system. Simplified, you feed the fish. The fish poop and pee ammonia. Bacteria colonize and convert the ammonia to nitrites and then to nitrates. The plants thrive on the nitrates and clean the water which then returns to the fish. Everybody is happy. It is a relatively closed loop with very few other chemical needs. There is no soil involved. There is also aquaponics distant cousin, hydroponics, which is fish-less system of growing plants in a liquid solution of numerous chemicals. One could say that aquaponics appeals to naturalists and hydroponics appeals to chemists. I know nothing about aquaponics.

Item Three ~ Solar: Raising fish requires a generally stable electrical system to run water pump(s) and air pump(s). If the fish go too long without air, well, they tend to go belly up. Not good. Over the years here, the electrical distribution system has had many black-outs, brown-outs, and drop-outs. The former national electrical company, Union Fenosa, (which changed its name to Gas Fenosa ~ yes, it seems ironical) was recently purchased by a world-wide energy producer, Naturgy. Naturgy has been doing a good job. They seem to have bought the system with the idea of rebuilding much of the infrastructure so that they can more easily profit from a system that is stable. I give them credit. But still, there are planned and unplanned outages that last too long for fish to survive without the stress of gulping for air. Nearly every morning, I check Twitter for a tweet of planned outages in our area. I decided that I needed to include a solar panel array with battery energy storage. I know nothing about this.

Item Four ~ Internet: Every time we lose power, we lose Internet as the modem goes down. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the modem and WiFi and VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol ~ a “land line” that doesn’t have wires but instead is connected via the Internet) and cellular communications backed up by the batteries? The answer is yes. But if I am going to all this trouble, why not add Ethernet wiring and better WiFi coverage? Sure, why not? I decided to upgrade all this stuff. I know nothing about networking.

Item Five ~ Security Cameras: Every time we lose power, we lose our security cameras. And the camera system is older and not very pixel-rich. It was difficult to make out facial features from only a few feet away in the night. Hey, let’s get a new camera system with PoE (power over Ethernet) and have it backed up by the batteries. Cool! I know nothing about any of this.

So there you have it. For the past year, as my physical energy and physical dollars have allowed, I have tackled these five elements. This has been a great deal of fun and has occupied hundreds and hundreds (and Cynthia adds, “and hundreds MORE”) of hours of YouTubing and Googling to understand things that I know absolutely nothing about. I’m not nearly done yet, but my next several posts will bring you up to date on my past year’s progress. Photos will be included. Lots and lots of photos.

My motto: Learn something new every day.

Thanks for stopping by. Next post ~ The Greenhouse!

12 thoughts on “Preparing To Plant A Pepper Plant ~ I Wonder How I Can Over-Complexify It?

  1. If nothing else, you cheered my day with your comments and explanations. Glad to hear you are staying in Panama! Probably a wise move given the world situation at this time. I will look forward to the next installment.

  2. I came here for the shipping container house build (several years ago). I’m staying for the greenhouse, aquaponics, solar power, networking and security.

  3. Fred, your blog is great, tell Cynthia “Hi” for me and I too will stay with you on your current journey through this adventure of yours.

  4. I have always admired how you find new things to learn to keep busy. Keep that gray matter challenged on a daily basis.

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