Welcome to APN! Forums Media Central Stories and Fiction SAM’S RETIREMENT PLAN

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    Hi there preppers!

    This is the beginning of a story that I began some time ago, but put aside when I began the CAPTAIN DAVE series.
    It basically centres around my personal ideas on prepping, self-sufficiency and survival in Australia in the event of sudden retirement or economic collapse,
    (which in my case amounts to the same thing, given my present circumstances, lol.), and was meant to be instructional.
    I haven’t done much with the story so far, but I’m posting this part to see if anybody thinks it might be worth continuing.
    Having done a Permaculture Design Course myself, (and yesterday enrolled in an updated one), started an Aquaponics System with grow towers, grow beds and wicking beds, and am now establishing a small fodder growing system that will also be able to produce mushrooms, the story will revolve a lot around those topics.
    I also have chickens, ducks, geese and quail and hope to get a couple of Boer goats and Irish Dexter cows when I finally do retire. (Hopefully not by being forced to.)
    Anyway, have a read and let me know if you think it’s worth continuing.


    Sam Snead sighed and leaning back in the comfortable leather chair at his desk reached out to the mouse of his desk-top computer and moved the cursor across the screen to hover over a link to yet another preppers website. He enjoyed reading the fictional stories of how people reacted and what they did to survive any number of scenarios ranging from world-wide wars involving nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, massive natural events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, or the havoc caused by NEO’s, EMP’s and solar flares.

    Even Zombies weren’t ruled out, though for the life of him he couldn’t imagine the “Living Dead” being much of a problem, unless you included the number of people attached to I-pods and such-like, and they were really more of a problem to themselves than others. Unfortunately he hadn’t yet found too many stories that centred on the one disaster that he felt could befall him: Sudden unemployment, brought about by either forced retirement due to his advanced age, or being made redundant by a change in policy of the company that he worked for.

    He was ill-prepared for that event at the moment, being hampered by a large mortgage, a somewhat spend-thrift wife, and three children in their late teens who were going to university and were still living at home. Not that he minded the kids living at home of course, because he loved them dearly, and he’d be happy if they stayed until they were in a position to take care of themselves properly. He was not in a position to help them much financially, not that he wanted to do that though as he believed they should learn to stand on their own two feet as soon as possible, but he had at least developed in them the same preppers’ mindset that he had adopted.

    The world had changed a lot since he was a young lad, and although his own children weren’t numbered among them, it seemed that too many people these days were inclined to feel entitled to be looked after by others or by the government than have to look after themselves. It was a big problem, however despite that it was staring everyone in the face no-one wanted to face up to the fact that the whole country was living well beyond its means. An economic collapse, apart from being inevitable as far as he could see, would have repercussions beyond belief to all those Mr and Mrs Averages and their families who believed everything that was spoon-fed to them by Main Stream Media.

    Of course it was difficult for these people to understand what could possibly go wrong as they were constantly, and some much wiser would say deliberately being distracted by so-called “Reality” shows that had nothing to do with life in the real world, soapies, and any number of mind-numbing sit-coms and cartoons that were constantly being aired on television. Even the daily news slots failed to present anything of real substance and often what was presented, particularly events that would really disturb people if the truth got out was either heavily biased in opinion or glossed over. Or more often than not, just ignored completely.

    No, it was much better for the government and big business to keep the populace in the dark. But of course not so dark that they couldn’t see all the baubles, bangles and bright and shiny beads that were dangled in front of them in order to keep the economy ticking over. And as TV advertising constantly reminded them they just had to have those things to make life worth living, didn’t they? And of course it was also necessary to keep up with their friends, neighbours and co-workers who already had those things, wasn’t it?

    Like spending your way out of debt was going to make things a whole lot better? He believed that people with that outlook were idiots, but the idiots outnumbered him and the few like him to a degree that made any change in their attitudes highly unlikely to be influenced by anything other than a total collapse of society. And then everyone would be in trouble, wouldn’t they?

    He gave another sigh. Well, for the sake of his family, and for a reasonably comfortable retirement a bit further down the track, he would have to do something more towards being prepared for unemployment than having a small vegetable garden, five chickens and a well stocked pantry. Not that he could have much more than he already had on the very small suburban lot where the family lived.

    Deciding against reading yet another survival story he pushed the computer’s mouse and keyboard to one side and replaced them with a note pad and pencil with which to outline his plan. He felt he had most of the knowledge required to put in place one that had been forming in his mind over the past couple of years, and hoped that what knowledge he didn’t have now could be gleaned from the internet.

    And he would also ask his friend Clive Harrison for advice, as the man was a fountain of knowledge when it came to helping people set themselves up to become self sufficient. Clive, after having completed a Permaculture Design Course had set himself up as an advisor in that field, however he was as much if not more interested in self sufficiency as he was in permaculture. In fact talking to him first might be the fastest and easiest way to get things moving, however after checking his watch he found it was a bit too late in the evening to telephone him so he went back to his note pad and began writing.

    His plan revolved around the need to become fully self-sufficient, or at least reasonably so, and he had already spent a lot of time thinking about the best way in which this could be achieved. His personal definition of the term did not mean that he was going to chain himself to a large block of farmland and work it 24/7 in order to survive, however it would entail the purchase of some land at least. An acre would suffice, though only just; two to three acres would be better; and in his current situation he felt five acres would be best.

    Having a much larger property might appeal to many of those considering a self-sufficient lifestyle, but at his age there were a few negatives to consider: First, land of significant acreage inevitably means significant funds needed to purchase it, unless it was in a remote location which in turn can bring about its own problems, such as access to medical services if required: He and his wife weren’t getting any younger, so that was something that had to be taken into careful consideration. Second, having over five acres meant that you weren’t able to draw a full pension. Admittedly the pension was a only pittance on which one could barely afford the basic necessities of life let alone live comfortably, but unless you were a self-funded retiree it had to be taken into account. For years now, in fact probably as soon as compulsory superannuation was introduced, the politicians had been spending much of it on supposedly important things that retirees would never need, he thought, but what else is new? No; when the time comes, we are going to have to look after ourselves.

    Across the top of the pad he had written “Self Sufficiency”, and under this he began to make a list of what he considered to be the main elements of the plan he had in mind, and at the same time making notes of things that needed to be considered.

    1. Land: 3 to five acres. Close to a town that had a base hospital but far enough away from it to keep the cost down. Say about a 15 to 20 minute drive. It should have an average slope of no more than 10-12°, and have a Northerly aspect to take advantage of the sun. Good fertile soil would be a bonus, but apart from making the land more expensive, that would not be overly important at this stage, and more marginal land could be considered.

    2. Water: Ideally, the land should have access to a good water supply. Preferably not connected to a municipal reticulation system, so it needed to have either a permanent running stream through it, or be located in an area with a reasonable annual rainfall. Bores, even if they produced a decent quantity and quality of water were not a good environmental option as they lowered water tables, which over a period of time had far reaching negative consequences, as was now being experienced in many parts of the United States. In any case, his plan called for the installation of water tanks, so he would forgo the use and added expense of installing a bore.

    3. Sewerage: Once again, not connected to a municipal system. To many people a septic system would be the obvious alternative that came to mind, which would be OK if one wasn’t concerned about contaminating any ground water below. Unfortunately, while extensive research has shown that that is exactly what does happen with septic systems, most people are unaware of the fact. The alternative that he had in mind was a biological system that enabled both grey and black effluent to be treated to a point where reed beds could be used as a tertiary method of cleaning the water component for recycling through orchards and vegetable gardens. And while the method can produce water that is fit to drink there are psychological and cultural taboos that prevent most people in Australia from accepting this fact. Unless they originally came from Switzerland or a few other countries that have perfected such techniques and do find them to be acceptable.

    4. Buildings: Apart from a residential dwelling – OK, a house then – a shed large enough to house a workshop plus a tractor and its implements would be needed. His wife had suggested that perhaps a machinery shed in which to keep the tractor, along with their small caravan and a trailer for his car – which by the way he should swap for a small truck – and a separate workshop would be better. He agreed, but as he wrote the ideas on the list told her that he’d have to check around for prices first because though they might look cheap, sheds were actually fairly expensive. At least, they were expensive for him. And it wasn’t as if he only needed one or two sheds: For his plan he would need several more, so under the heading of Buildings he made a sub list of them:

    A). Workshop: Large enough for both a wood and a metal-working bench, a drill press, perhaps a small lathe, and storage space for the many tools that he already possessed.

    B). Machinery Shed: For a small garden tractor and its implements, and a trailer, preferably a galvanised 8′ X 5′ with two axles and a cage, and the little caravan that they occasionally used for holidays.

    He had always wanted to have a gambrel roofed barn and was going to use “for the storage of feed” as an excuse for building one, but on reflection there was no real reason that he couldn’t use that type of structure for the garden shed. In fact, that was a more practical thing to do, so he ruled out Garden Shed and replaced it with Barn.

    C). Garden Shed (Barn): For all of his gardening tools, including the brush-cutter, line trimmer, chainsaw, a ride-on mower with its own trailer, wheelbarrows, a chipper/mulcher and a tiller.

    D). Aquaponics Shed: For a 2000 litre fish tank and a couple of smaller tanks for fingerlings, quarantine use, and a sump. Solar panels on the roof would also be needed to provide power for the pumps and aerators.

    E). Greenhouse: It would need to be quite large as it would house four 5′ X 12′ Grow-Beds and four Wicking Beds of the same size, plus ten Grow-Towers fitted with GroPockets®. This was actually part of a complete Aquaponics System and it would have to be easily expanded, to double the size if the need arose.

    F). Poultry Sheds: A chicken coop with a large run that could hold a small orchard, a quail house and pen, and a small shed each for ducks and geese.

    So far, he estimated, what he had written down, plus space for a simple house could be shoe-horned into a one acre block, so a two acre block would allow much more freedom. Three acres would provide plenty of free-range space for the amount of poultry he was thinking of keeping, and with five acres he could probably have a house cow too, though he knew he wasn’t going to be up to milking it every day.

    And that’s where his personal take on Self-Sufficiency kicked in: He felt that if he could provide his family with fish from the Aquaponics system, eggs and meat from the poultry, and grow a surplus of vegetables to trade or sell, he would in effect be reasonably Self-Sufficient, and the government pension might be enough to provide a packet of Tim Tams now and then.

    There was something he’d forgotten, perhaps several things, but while it escaped him at the moment he knew it would come back to him later, and as that would most likely be at two o’clock in the morning he’d better put his pad and pen on the bed-side table before he turned in for the night. But for now, Midsommer Murders was scheduled to be broadcast soon so he made himself and his wife a cup of tea, placed a couple of slices of fruit cake on a plate that he carried on a tray to the lounge room, then settled down in front of the television. And fell asleep.

    * * * * *


    Clive Harrison had just finished cleaning the lawn mower he’d been using when Sam strolled up the driveway bearing somewhat more than half of the fruitcake that his wife had baked the day before yesterday, and asked him if he thought it was time for morning tea.
    “Actually,” Clive said with a smile, “Naomi called out a moment ago that she’d made a large batch of scones and was putting the kettle on to make a fresh pot of tea, and I should come in and have a rest. Why don’t you go back and bring Carol over so the girls can have a bit of a chin-wag too?”
    “Won’t need to: Already told her if I’m not back in ten minutes she should come over,” Sam replied with a grin as he headed towards the back door to hand the fruit-cake over to Clive’s wife.
    Clive laughed and went into the mud-room to change from his grass-clipping-covered gardening overalls into a clean pair of slacks and a T-shirt, and thoroughly wash his hands, as Naomi wouldn’t let him into her kitchen if he didn’t. Despite his being no slouch when it came to cooking, the kitchen was totally his wife’s domain, and she was very fussy when it came to cleanliness… And woes betide anybody who made a mess in it! Sam was unable to make any sort of joke about that as his Carol was just as particular about her kitchen.
    To their credit, the work benches in each of the men’s’ garages were kept as tidy and as well organised as their wives’ kitchens were, and this not only made working there more pleasurable but also easier, and they quite readily admitted to friends that that was due to following the examples set by their better halves.
    When Clive came in from the laundry it was to find Sam seated at the kitchen table, and after hearing the principal reason for the visit he disappeared into his study and returned a few minutes later with several folders full of information he’d been downloading from the internet over the past eighteen months or so.
    “I think you’ll find most of what you want to know in these,” Clive said as he placed the folders on a small part of the table that wasn’t taken up by the tea set that Naomi had laid out.
    “You’ll have to put those papers on the sideboard for now, dear” Naomi told him. “I also invited Dot and Harold over, and they should be here any moment.”
    “I suppose I should’ve expected that when you said you’d made a large batch of scones,” replied Clive with a smile as he did as instructed. “Do we have strawberry jam and cream to go with them?”
    “The cream we have. I gave Carol a call after Sam gave me the fruit cake and she’s going to bring over a couple of jars each of the strawberry jam and the lemon butter she made last week, and I’m giving her a couple of jars each of the mustard pickles and the fruit chutney that I made.”
    “That’s really good of you Naomi,” put in Sam. “I love those pickles of yours, especially on ham sandwiches, and your chutney goes really well with roast pork.”
    At this point Carol arrived holding a large basket containing the promised jars, along with a few more, and she’d no sooner cleared the doorway when Dorothy and Harold turned up and were made welcome.
    Not to be outdone in the way of home produce to be exchanged, Dorothy had asked her husband to bring with them a big flat box into which she’d layered eight large cutlets of cold-smoked yellowtail tuna and an equal number of whole tailor. Harold was an avid fisherman and he’d taken to both hot and cold smoking as a way of preserving his catches, which were invariably quite good. One had to be careful about striking up a conversation with Harold on either topic however, as once started he could talk the leg off a cast-iron pot. And of course due to past experience those who were now sat around the table were careful not to do that!
    Not that there was a whole lot different when it came to permaculture or self-sufficiency, but as that was the purpose of Sam’s visit there would be no objection to Clive holding forth on his two favourite subjects, which he cleverly managed to merge into one. Fortunately, Harold was also interested in learning something about what Clive was going to talk to Sam about, so after a leisurely morning tea over which compliments on Carol’s strawberry jam and lemon butter were given and other non-related topics discussed, the ladies retired to the lounge and left their men-folk to it.
    When Clive asked him what did he have in mind for his retirement plans so far Sam handed him the list and notes that he’d made the night before, then typed up and printed out just before coming over.
    “It’s not so much a plan really; more an outline of what I’d like to do with a few acres I’m thinking of buying. I’m hoping that with your input I’ll be able to determine just how few acres we’d need to be both self-reliant and reasonably comfortable,” Sam said as Clive quickly read through the pages he’d been handed.
    “Well, given that none of us are getting any younger, and ageing will have a big effect on how any of us would able to maintain a property of any size, how few acres is a good way to look at it. From what I can read here, you seem to have picked up on the most important points that need to be addressed when choosing a block of land for what you want to do, namely position, orientation, slope and water supply. I also like that you used the term self-reliant rather than self-sufficient.”
    “They seem to be the same thing to me. What’s the difference?” asked Howard, who began looking at the list that Clive had placed back on the table.
    “On the surface they would, as you said, seem to be the same thing,” replied Sam. “But recently I was looking at a few of the permaculture web-sites that Clive recommended and found that there’s actually a world of difference. In a nutshell, I think you could describe self-sufficiency as being rather isolationist, whereas self-reliance is more community based. Something akin to what we are doing here now with our pickles, chutneys, jams and smoked fish, but on a much larger and broader scale.”
    “Well put, Sam: To my mind, community is a vital aspect of permaculture that’s often overlooked by many who are trying to “green the desert,” as Geoff Lawton is doing in Jordan. Mind you, as committed to permaculture as Lawton is, he’s equally committed to community involvement, and does take the time during his courses to stress its importance.”
    “I’ve seen his online courses advertised on some of the web-sites I’ve visited. Do you think they’re worth the time and money?”
    “I’m probably a bit biased, Sam, but I’d say most definitely. To be honest though, I think people would get more out of one of those courses if they followed it up with a practical hands-on course where they’d get to be closely involved with an actual community. But enough of that: You didn’t come here to enroll in a permaculture course so let’s get back to your plan.”
    “A question,” said Howard, interrupting before Clive went any further. “Which would be best to do first: Buy the land and then make a plan for it, or make up a plan then look for land that would suit it?”
    “You could do it either way really, but in this case I think a bit of both: Make up a rough plan containing the basic elements, as Sam is doing, then look around for a property that will accommodate it but be ready to make changes according to the lie of the land where necessary. For what Sam wants to do, particularly if he’s able to get a bare block of land to start with, I’d recommend planning a system that follows the water.”
    When both Sam and Howard looked at him with baffled expressions Clive laid a blank sheet of paper on the table and picked up a pencil.
    “Here, I’ll show you what I mean,” he said as he drew a small circle near the top of the paper. “This is your main water tank, which should be positioned at the highest point of the property in order to provide a good flow of water. We can go into the details of how to fill it later, but for now we’ll just follow the water. First, some of the water in the tank is piped to the aquaponics system for the fish tanks and grow-beds,” he added as he drew two rectangles side by side to represent an aquaponics shed with an attached greenhouse.
    “The greenhouse should also contain the wicking beds as well as the grow-beds, and these would be sub-irrigated by water from the main tank, with an occasional shower from above with water from the aquaponics sump tank
    “Sorry, but what are wicking and grow-beds?” asked Howard.
    Sam explained: “Grow-beds are contained beds of gravel that are flooded and drained in a continuous cycle that keeps plant roots moist and fed with nutrients. The flooding also pushes stale air out of the beds, and draining them sucks fresh air in, so the plants get plenty of oxygen too. Gravel isn’t really good for growing root crops such as carrots, parsnips, beetroot, radishes and suchlike though, so those are grown in beds of soil that are irrigated by the capillary action of water being drawn up from a reservoir at the bottom of the bed. Wicking pots and the like have only been around for about a thousand years or so, though the systems widely used around the world today were invented a relatively short time ago by Colin Austin, from Queensland.”
    He took a piece of paper and another of Clive’s pencils and at the top wrote Aquaponics – Murray Hallam, then beneath that, Wicking Beds – Colin Austin, and handed the paper to Harold. “See what comes up when you type those into your browser. Better hang on to the pencil for the time being: You’ll probably want to write more things down as we go.”
    “Are you sure you need any of my advice, Sam? Looks like you’re all over it!” Clive chuckled. “Have you thought of setting up a small system in your backyard to see how they work…. like I’ve done?”
    Sam looked at him in astonishment. “You’ve set up a system here?”
    “Yep. Put it in about three months ago. Only a small one though: More of an experiment really. Wanted to make sure it worked properly before shouting about it, but it seems to be working OK. Want to come out back and have a look?”
    There was a sudden scraping of wooden legs on the floor as Sam and Harold quickly pushed their chairs back from the table, stood and headed for the door, eager to see what Clive had been up to. Once outside he led them to a three by six metre greenhouse that he’d constructed from star posts, poly pipe, plastic sheeting and shade-cloth, and upon entering were met by the sight of two blocks of four bathtubs each, set up side by side down the centreline.
    Beneath the first block of bathtubs, which were gravel-filled grow-beds topped with a layer of sugar-cane mulch, was a sump that consisted of two more bathtubs plumbed together, with each containing a twelve-volt pond pump, both of which Clive told them was run by a solar power system.
    “Only needs one pump to run the system but it’s important to have backup in case of a pump failure. There’s also enough power in the battery bank to run the system overnight, or even for a couple of days if it’s overcast and there’s very little sunlight.”
    “Where are the fish?” asked Sam, looking into the sump where he expected to find them.
    “Don’t have any in here yet, but when I do get some they’ll go into a tank I’m going to install in an extension to the back of this greenhouse. I’ll bet you’re now going to ask me about the nutrients that the fish are meant to supply.”
    “I have to admit the thought did cross my mind.”
    “At the moment I’m using compost tea, with a bit of Thrive thrown in, and it’s working out well, as you can see.”
    And Sam had to admit that the tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, cucumbers and other above-ground vegetables growing there really did look healthy, despite the fact that there appeared to be almost double the amount of veggies that would normally be grown in a traditional garden of the same area.
    “Now this may seem sacrilegious to dedicated adherents, but I maintain that while the plants you’d normally see growing in a good aquaponics system may look healthy, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’d contain and provide your body with all the nutrients it requires. In fact, they couldn’t, because in such a system there wouldn’t be any available for the plants to take up. You’ve might’ve read that a bit of chelated iron should be added to the water to address a deficiency of that element, but what about other trace elements of such as boron, selenium, iodine and a host of others that are just as important? The compost tea and Thrive supplies those.”
    “The water in the sump appears to be reasonably clean; do you think fish would survive in there?”
    “I can’t see why they wouldn’t. Have a look at most rivers, where the water isn’t exactly crystal clear, or even farm dams which can be really muddy: Plenty of fish in those, despite the fact that you’re occasionally going to find a bit of pollution that isn’t exactly healthy. You’ve given me an idea, Sam: I’ve got fifty fingerlings in an aquarium on the back veranda, waiting until I’ve got my big tank installed. I’ll bring a few down here later and put them in one of the sump tanks to see how they go.”
    Harold was intrigued by the flood and drain system that was used for the grow-beds and Clive was only too happy to show him how the auto-syphons operated in a continuous cycle of filling and emptying the beds. When dug down in the gravel a few inches to let him see the water rising and falling in its never-ending cycle Harold was amazed to see that there were a large number of worms in the system.
    “Don’t know where they came from originally,” Clive said. “Though I suspect there may have been quite a few egg capsules in the compost I was using to make the tea-bag that’s suspended in the sump.”
    Sam had a quick look under the grow-beds and found that there was indeed what looked to be a porous bag hung on the side of one of the sump tanks.
    “I once read that spraying the vegetables in the grow-beds with diluted molasses, among other benefits helps reduce the chance of attack by insects as it raises the Brix number, or sugar levels, to a point where insects find their chosen meal to be unpalatable. I apply the molasses liberally with a simple hand spray and naturally some of the solution drips down into the grow beds. Bacterium which develops in the gravel thrives on the stuff, and as worms feed on bacteria they also thrive. When I’ve got my fish tank up and running the effluent from the fish will also be processed by the worms and will further enrich the system.”
    “I hope you’ve included something about that Brix thing in your notes,” said Sam, and was glad to hear that it was… At least, in the form of it was.
    The next block of bathtubs, dedicated to growing root vegetables, was filled not with gravel but with a fibrous and humus rich soil sat above a reservoir of water, and from the look of the above-ground foliage it appeared that this system was working well too.
    “Where are the fill-pipes and overflows for the reservoirs?” asked Sam.
    “I’m glad you asked: I designed a cunning little contraption that connects the baths’ outlets to that lidded box at the end. It incorporates a float valve to maintain the correct level of water in the reservoirs and directs what little overflow there is back to the sump under the grow-beds, where it provides a little more nutrient. It’s been working without any problems since I installed it, and if it continues to do so you can copy it. In fact both of you are free to copy everything I’ve made here, apart from the mistakes.”
    “If that’s your idea of a small system, I’d hate to think of what you’d consider a large one,” said Harold as they proceeded back to the house.
    Clive gave a laugh and replied that though he had seen pictures of aquaponic systems that covered acres, much smaller set-ups than his were quite common and could actually be purchased in kit form.
    “If you wanted to set up a very small and inexpensive system you could make one yourself using one or two of those blue 200 litre plastic barrels that you can often buy at agricultural stores. Just cut one in half lengthways and use one half for a grow-bed and the other half for a wicking bed, then use one more for a sump. Make a siphon for the grow-bed, attach a solar powered pool pump and a battery and you’re good to go. I wouldn’t bother with fish for such a small system though: Better to have a larger tank for that. A thousand litre IBC would be really good because you could cut it so that one part becomes a grow-bed and the other a good sized fish tank.
    “What type of fish can you raise?” asked Harold when once again they were seated around the table.
    “There are several types of fish that are suitable for aquaponics but a lot depends on where you’re situated: Some fish do well in cold climates and others in warm. It’s probably best to choose a species that won’t require you to provide any heating or cooling of the water as that isn’t always easy to do without going to some expense. Around here Silver Perch is quite common though I’ve heard that despite being native to the warmer waters of the north a few locals have been successful in raising Golden Perch. I think they use simple solar heaters and thermostats to keep the water temperature fairly constant.
    “Golden Perch? That’s Yellow Belly! They can be smoked, and while I’ve never tried them myself I’ve heard they’re pretty good eating,” exclaimed a suddenly more interested Howard.
    “Harold, if you decide to get into aquaponics I’d recommend that you do it for raising fish rather than vegetables,” said Sam.
    “Oh, why’s that?”
    “Because,” put in Clive, “if you start raising your own vegetables we wouldn’t be able to trade ours for your smoked fish, would we?”
    Over the next half hour the paper on which Clive had begun drawing what he thought should, considering that it followed the water, be called a flow-chart for Sam’s project was filled in, outlining integrated areas for composting, a worm farm, a chicken coop and run and a pond, with safe housing for ducks and geese.
    It was well past lunch-time when they’d finished and by the time they’d paused long enough to look at the clock the three wives had already decided to put on a combined dinner for them all. Not difficult to organise when all three households had decent sized pantries.
    Purely so they wouldn’t be in the way of course, the men abandoned the kitchen table and headed for the seating on Clive’s back veranda, just happening to take with them three glasses and two long-necks of beer from the fridge on the way.
    Before settling down and opening a bottle Clive took a bucket of water from the aquarium, at the same time scooping up about a dozen fingerlings, and with the other two men in tow took it across to the greenhouse and emptied it into the sump under the grow-beds. Fortunately the water temperature in both the aquarium and the sump were about the same and the fish didn’t appear at all fazed by the change in venue, and in fact seemed to be more active than they’d been in the aquarium.
    Before returning to the veranda Clive connected an air pump to the power system, and after attaching two lengths of clear plastic tubing placed both in the sump. When the pump was turned on the air stones at the ends of the tubing began emitting a steady stream of fine bubbles that would aerate the water and keep the fish supplied with a more than adequate supply of oxygen.
    They were back on the veranda and just into the second bottle of beer when the call that dinner was ready was made, and after topping up their glasses took them inside and sat down to eat. When Dorothy asked Harold what had they been up to he sounded most enthusiastic as he described the aquaponics system, and after he finished a small frown seemed to cross her brow as, more of a question than a statement she said “Don’t tell me you’re thinking of setting up a system like that! Surely not.”
    “Why not? Clive said it’s possible to raise Golden Perch, and though I haven’t tried them myself they’re supposedly not a bad fish for smoking, and from what I’ve read in the fishing magazines they taste alright too. It’d save me having to go fishing for them myself and I can’t really see that as being a problem.”
    “But not having to go fishing for them would be the problem; because then you’d spend more time at home getting under my feet!” And that statement, as intended, got a good laugh from everybody.
    Later that evening Sam found when looking over the flow-chart that Clive had drawn up found that it wasn’t all that different to what he had in mind, however the time spent with his neighbours had been well worth it. And having been shown the greenhouse and aquaponics system he thought it would actually be a good idea to build the same type of system himself, even if it was at the expense of having to remove a couple of his raised garden beds. It would be a good project to keep him occupied through the winter, he told Carol later.

    To be continued….

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