Archive for March, 2014

Hydroponics – Dutch Bucket System

I did a post recently about the hydroponic flood table I set up for my lettuce.


Now I have set up a Dutch Bucket system for my broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.  This system is not replacing my garden but complimenting it by extending my gardening season, hopefully, both in the spring and fall.


I have really enjoyed watching the youtube video by mhpgardener, Dutch Bucket Hydroponics-How it works and How to Make Your Own Buckets and Hydroponic Update-Dutch Butch Tomatoes & Kratky Lettuce.  This system is a little more involved than the flood table but still very simple, cost effective and easy to set up. You can watch the above videos but I will also show you how I set my system up, the supplies that are needed and the cost.  You can even set this up in a basement if you use grow lights.  The neat thing is it does not take much space.

I chose this system for my “longer season” and “heavier” crops.  I am experimenting with several crops the video doesn’t show (broccoli and squash). I found another video showing cucumbers.  The challenge with cucumbers will be pollination so we will see how that goes. I have been told by an experienced greenhouse grower that tomatoes do not need bees to pollinate the blossoms. They just need wind to vibrate the blossoms.  I will probably use a small fan to make my breeze when they start to bloom. The other thing I am very anxious to see is whether the squash bore will bother plants in a hydroponic setup. Since they will be planted in perlite instead of soil maybe, just maybe, the bore will not be able to bother the plant.  Time will tell on that one. Stay tuned!!!

I have been collecting my components and today I set up my system. It took me all day. I am one tired puppy tonight but very pleased.


Drilled 1″ hole in my bucket2-3″ from bottom.


Insert the rubber grommet.


Using a hacksaw cut a piece of 1/2″ PVC the length that you need with about 2-3″ inside the bucket. Use a file to remove sharp edges on the end that goes through the grommet. By slightly beveling the edge it also helps it to go through the grommet better. It is a tight fit. Put one hand inside the bucket to hold the grommet and with the other use a firm, gentle and careful twisting of tube until it is properly in place. Add a 1/2″ elbow on each end.


Face the elbow down. This is your drain system from the bucket.


Put the 5 gallon paint strainer net in the bucket. It is a wonderful fit.


Fill the bucket with perlite and rinse with water until you have a steady flow out the drain pipe. This will settle the perlite and also remove some of the dust. Refill if necessary. After it stops draining set it in place.


This is my tote filled about 3/4 full with fertilized water, the air stones and water pump.  Right now I am using the same fertilizer mix as I used with the flood table. 1 T. Peters lite per gallon of water.  I need to go back and listen again to the videos as I know he had a special mix for tomatoes. I am hoping I can use the same tote for my broccoli, cabbage, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. Time will tell!  This is a learning experience and you get to see me learn!



The 2″ PVC is my return or drain line. On the one end put a 2″ cap and the other end a 2″ elbow to drop into the tote reservoir.  I have it on a slight slope so that it drains well.  Then hook the 5/8″ Antelco tubing to the water pump and run it along the drain tube. I covered the tub to prevent evaporation, algae growth and to keep the water clean.  Note the air pump sitting above it on the pallet.


Use a punch tool to pierce a small hole in the tubing.


Insert one end of the connector into the spaghetti tubing and the other end push into the hole in the mainline tubing.  The spaghetti tubing needs to be long enough to go into the top of the bucket. I have several inches inserted into the perlite to help hold the tubing in place and also so it is near the roots of the plants.


Insert a piece of 1/2″ PVC into the elbow and down into the drain line.


Wash the dirt off the roots of the plant (this is broccoli) and plant into the perlite.


I set up this area for my tomatoes (two buckets on the left)  and cucumbers (the one with wire back for climbing).  I plan to plant 4 cucumbers in the same bucket. The bucket on the far left  is an award winning heirloom tomato, potato leaf Marizol Bratka,  given to me by friends Bill and India Cox.  The other tomato is an Early Girl so that I can have some early tomatoes in 45 days. This area is one reason is one of the reason I had to dig a hole for my tote to set in.  I wanted the plants as close to the ground as possible because of their growth height and the drain needed to be able to sloop into the tote.

 Today I only got six buckets set up but I plan to add a few more.  I am thinking about adding a few strawberries. I have strawberries in my garden but my curiosity has me wanting to try. In a few weeks I will do an update on the progress of my vegetables.  I anticipate some great things.


 Setup components, cost and where the items can be purchased.

  • I purchased a 18 liter tote for my water/fertilizer reservoir.  Usually the totes have lids and you can drill holes in the plastic lid for your tubes to come out of.  I got my tote for half price as it was missing the lid. Of course it was the only one they had like I wanted so I will improvise with a piece of ply board. (Dollar General)
  • I am using a 290 gph Danner Fountain Pump (Hertzler Farm & Feed): $36.99
  • 2-outlet Aquascape pond aerator with 2 air stones (Hertzler Farm & Feed): $59.95
  • 8-5 gallon buckets (I was fortunate to have some from here on the farm that I could recycle).  I am doing 2 tomatoes, 1 cabbage, 1 bucket with 4 pickling cucumbers, 2-broccoli, and 2-straightneck squash.  I am thinking of adding several buckets of strawberries. ($4.50 Hertzler Farm and Feed).  I can easily add more buckets as I “grow” into my system.
  • 5 gallon paint strainer nets (Goodwyn’s Hardware): 2 pkg $3.99
  • 4 cu. ft bag of Coarse Perlite (Hertzler Farm & Feed): $18.99
  • 2″ PVC tubing 10′ ($7.95) and  2″ PVC end cap ($1.29) and 2″ elbow ($2.39):(Goodwyn’s Hardware)
  • 1/2″ PVC tubing ($2.49 for 10′ section), 1/2″ PVC elbows ($.49 ea):   (Goodwyn’s Hardware).  The pipe is actually 7/8″ outside diameter and 1/2″ inside. This  works with the grommets.
  • I used 5/8″ Antelco irrigation mainline tubing A51082 ( $12.00 50′ roll), Antelco 1/4″ spaghetti dripline tubing A50812 ($4.99 50′ roll),  Antelco 1/4″ tubing barb connectors A40195($.59 each) and Antelco Pocket Punch tool A50048 ($14.95): Hertzler Farm & Feed.
  • 4′ Fluorescent Light Fixture with pull chain ($29.99) and 4′ grow light bulbs.  (I needed this as the section of my greenhouse that I am setting this up in does not have the best lighting). (Hertzler Farm & Feed)
  • 8-rubber grommets. Inside hole is 3/4″ with outer ring 1-1/8″  (Graingers). This was my hardest and most confusing item to come up with.  After checking numerous places, I ordered from Graingers. They were $8.71 but with tax and shipping it was $18.94 for a package of 50.  Item #3MPL8.

Hydroponics – Flood Table Style

I am very excited about dabbing into hydroponics this season.  I have been intrigued for quite a while; reading, browsing the internet, talking to a friend and visiting her aquaponic setup.  I did not want to spend lots of money nor did I want a fancy setup.  I just wanted a simple, easy-to-do method to expand my home garden growing season, especially for lettuce and tomatoes.  This particular blog will deal with lettuce.  I plan to use the dutch bucket method for my tomatoes.  That blog will come later.

Hydroponics is growing plants in fertilized water.  Aquaponics is a little more involved as you use fish to fertilize the water.  But the benefit of aquaponics is that you are also growing fresh, homegrown fish to eat.  I decided to venture into hydroponics.

There are numerous “how-to-do it” videos on youtube and the one that really caught my eye was Off Grid Hydroponics Experiment-The Kratky Method and a follow up video Floating Raft Hydroponics.  This guy has convinced me and I am trying his method.

I am blogging my setup and you can join me in watching the progress in my greenhouse.  This is a first trial run so hopefully it will work the way I envision.  You get the privilege of watching this develop!

I purchased a 48″x48″ flood table 6″ deep.  I decided this was easier for me than having to build a table. (He shows on the video how to build a wooden frame table and line it with black plastic).  I filled it with water and added 1 T. Peters Lite Fertilizer (label says it is good for hydroponics) per gallon. It took 26 gallons to fill this baby.


(The sides of the greenhouse  and shelf are reflecting off the water of the flood table)

I took a 1″ thick 4’x8′ sheet of Styrofoam insulation board and cut it to fit (45-1/2″x 45-1/2″).  The flood table has a lip for the board to set on making it flush with the top.  The sheet will make two flood tables.   I purchased 3″ net cups.

Laying the board on the floor, I set my cups on the board to determine placement and then using a straight edge or T-square I marked grids on the board where I wanted my cups placed, approximately 7″ apart. Then I turned my cups upside down and drew my circles on the board.


I discovered it was easier for me to set the board on edge to cut the holes. Trying to work on the floor killed my back and knees. Using a box cutter, I carefully cut out the circles about 1/8″ smaller than what I had marked.  The cups have a narrow lip that need to rest on the board.



When I was finished I put the board on my flood table and it was a perfect fit.  I have 25 holes in the top.


I carefully washed the dirt off the roots using lukewarm water and messaging the roots to separate the roots from the soil. You want to remove as much of the dirt as possible.



I put some pea gravel in the net cup and tilted it over on its side so I could gently lay the lettuce in the cup and get the roots stretched out evenly before adding more gravel.  You can use pea gravel or hydroponic clay rocks.  The videos say there was no difference using either medium so I choose pea gravel as it was easier to obtain.



I put the cups in the holes in the Styrofoam and checked to make sure the bottoms of the cups were in the water about 1 inch.  Done!  It was that simple!



Now we will see what happens.  I anticipate lettuce in 4-6 weeks.  I only planted 8 lettuce plants (4 Red Sails and 4 Boston-Buttercrunch) as we can’t eat but so much at a time.  There are 25 holes in my board and every 2 weeks I will add 8 more. This will give me a 6 week rotation of lettuce.  You can add herbs.  I am considering doing one with strawberries.

I set some lettuce plants out in the garden 9 days ago.  I wanted to do both at the same time but my hydroponic supplies didn’t get here as planned.  It will be very interesting to compare growth rate, quality and flavor.  The youtube videos say you can put this system outside-you don’t have to have a greenhouse. But since I have one I am using it as I feel it will extend my season both in the spring and fall even though the greenhouse is unheated.

Expenses and supplies:

I have in stock:

  • 4’x4′ x6″ flood tables: $89.00
  • Peters Lite 20-10-20 Fertilizer: 6 lb. tub $16.00
  • 3″ net cups: $.65 each

You can purchase the insulation board at Lowes for $15-18.  I like to buy local but our local hardware store does not stock it.

Actinic Keratosis – Part III

To read….. Actinic Keratosis Part I (Days 1-15) and Part II. (Days 16-18).


This is the final post on this series……

Day 21 (Three weeks): It is now 1 week since he stopped the Fluorouracil Cream treatment and today he felt really good.  Each day his face is looking better.  He still has a few areas that are  peeling but all the angry redness is gone. His face is still red but it looks more like he just got a good dose of sun.  He there are also a few sore spots but they are not bad.  The sorest areas are on the top of  his forehead just below the hair line and over the cheek bones. The burning sensation is gone. He put lotion on this morning but did not reapply during the day. He was also able to use sunscreen today.



He has a few little “whiteish” spots (two above his left eye and one above his left ear)  and “darker” spots (at the edge of his right eye, in front of his ear and on his cheek). It will be interesting to see what happens to them.

Day 24:  Today he was comfortable going out in public again and went to church.  Except for a few small flakes of skin peeling and a few other spots that aren’t quite healed,  Gene’s face is looking good.  If you didn’t know he had the treatment you would just think he got a little too much sun on his face.  He is almost healed and every day is an improvement. Hopefully when he goes back for a checkup in six months he will be given a “clean” bill of health and not have to do the treatment again.


Actinic Keratosis – Part II

To read… Actinic Keratosis – Part 1  (Days 1-15 of treatment)

Day 16:  And just when I thought he couldn’t look any worse….over night he does! He tries to stay out of the store as much as possible but it can not be totally avoided.  He is not embarrassed by how he looks but feels like he is a white elephant in the room. His approach has been to just tell people what is going on and that will usually opens a good, sympathetic, “I feel your pain” conversation.   Some people will ask what is going on, some will look and not ask, and some will ask me!  He is so ready to feel like he is over the hump and on the downhill side of the mountain he has climbed.  It is amazing to discover how many people have had this treatment or know someone who has.



We are amazed at how these pictures make his face look better than it really is. I can’t capture the deep, purple-red, puffiness!  And all these years I thought camera made me look worse than I thought I looked!!!  How ironic!

His face really hurts today and it is making him feel bad.  He can not stand any ointment or lotion that has alcohol in it.  The pharmacy does not have any sunscreen lotion here in March and he can not stand to be outside even if the sun is not directly shining on his face.  He is suppose to protect his face from sun with sunscreen even in a vehicle and wear a wide brim hat.

Day 17:  Today was a rough day and Gene did not feel well at all.  His face was puffy and hurts; there just was not much relief.  It was good that today was Sunday and there was no work pressure. He was able to lay on the sofa and take it easy.

Day 18: He feels like he is finally over the hump!  He had a good night’s rest and woke up without a headache. Some of the angry redness seems to be lessening.  One of his big challenges has been what to put on his face for relief.  The skin feels tight and brittle.  It is basically like a terrible sunburn. A & D Ointment has worked the best. Neosporin has helped but it makes him look like a greased pig.  Everything else seems to set his face on fire. Most lotions and ointments have alcohol in them. Because of the “heat” in his face the ointments tend to melt off his face and he has to continually dap up the grease!

Today a display of “The Naked Bee” supplies that he ordered at a recent Purina expo came into our store.  It is an assortment of hand and body moisturizing lotions,  chap stick, soap, and salve made from Orange Blossom honey. He decided to try the lotion on his face. It was almost instant relief to his face with non of the greasiness, residue or burning of other lotions.  By the end of the day his face was even looking a tiny bit better.  He is now starting to peel, but this is good. It means the damage skin is starting to slough away and  I am seeing glimpses of ‘pink” skin underneath!!!

Now for a commercial on The Naked Bee.  And the good part…we sell it in the store!!!

Naked Bee Lotion

On the product it says…”All the good stuff” (70% Certified Organic).  It has a mild but pleasant, citrus smell. In reading the below list it is easy to see why this is working!

  • Organic Aloe and Sunflower Oil helps restore, heal, promote healthy skin.
  • Green & White Tea extracts protect skin from oxidative stress.
  • Honey is antibacterial, moisturizing and nutritive for all skin types.
  • Hyaluronic acid, a powerful hydrator that smoothes and softens skin.
  • Spirulina, concentrated nutrients for skin conditioning and detoxification.
  • Ph balanced, Hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic.

“None of the bad stuff”

  • Paraben-free.
  • No propylene glycol.
  • Gluten-free.
  • No drying alcohol.
  • No dyes or pigments.
  • No mineral oil.
  • No EDTA.
  • Phthalate-free fragrance.

Part III: Days 21-24

Actinic Keratosis – Part I

Actinic keratosis  (AK)  is a precancerous skin growth that happens on sun-damaged areas of the skin.

Gene is a farmer and has basically spent his life outdoors working and playing softball. He always wears a hat and most of his farm work is done from the cab of his tractor. But that has not protected him enough from the sun’s rays and through the years has caused red blotching on the side of his face (see the picture below).  It had gotten worse and he had developed some slightly crusty areas. Finally the family doctor recommended that he see a dermatologist.


  Years of sunlight (UV) exposure damages skin and causes it to grow abnormally. Patches on skin pale or redden causing a mottled appearance. Then rough, scaly, or crusted areas develop. These areas are usually pink, but can be gray. Sometimes a small horn of fingernail-like material grows.   This is often due occupational sun exposure or sun-bathing.

The lesions are benign (noncancerous) but they can occasionally convert to squamous cell skin cancer.  If this happens it must be surgically removed. Patients that  have many lesions have a higher chance of skin cancer.

AK may remain unchanged, spontaneously resolve, or progress to skin cancer. The fate of any one AK is impossible to predict.    People with sun-damaged skin should see a doctor at regular intervals.

This information was taken from

Fortunately for Gene, they are not seeing any cancer but they decided he needed to do preventive treatment to his face with Fluorouracil Cream which is a chemo drug.  The dermatologist also “froze” some spots on his ears and face. We knew several people who have taken this treatment and heard their stories about how “bad” their faces looked. Now he has his own story.

Gene is allowing me to photograph and write about his experience so that it can help or educate others.  He has found other people’s personal blogs and utube posts to be very helpful. The doctors give you medical expertise but people tell you personal experiences.

Two weeks ago he started the Fluorouracil Cream treatment. Twice a day he had to put the cream on his face and ears.  This was a bigger ordeal than it first sounds.  He would take a shower and shave. Then he had to wait half an hour before putting the cream on. He feels like it is taking him a long time to “primp”, especially in the mornings. It took about a week before the skin reaction started showing.  Each day his face has become more blotchy and red.

Day 11: I decided I should take a picture….



His face is starting to hurt.  The skin feels tight and tingly. He said it feels like there are needles pushing into his skin.  He can not stand for the pillow to touch his face. He didn’t go to church on Sunday as it looks bad enough you don’t want to be in a group of people-you try to avoid people!

Day 14: Two weeks and each day it is getting worse and worse.  It is really bothering him and hurting. The corners of his mouth hurt and feel sore. The skin feels tight and hot.  He is having headaches and trouble sleeping.  He had a two-week appointment with the dermatologist today and he was anxious to go.  She gave him some options going forward but decided to stop the cream treatment and see how it looks in six months when she will reevaluate. He may have to do it again or take the “blue light” treatment. Going forward he is suppose to wear sunblock lotion every day-even cloudy days as there are still ultraviolet rays coming through the clouds and wear a wide brim hat.  He asked her on a scale of 1-10 how bad he looked.  She said a 6.  She showed him a picture of a guy who looked a lot worse.



Day 15:   Gene is plain miserable. He felt terrible last night and had trouble sleeping.  He finally got up and dug around in the medicine cabinet during the night and found some pain pills. He also put some Neosporin on which gave him some relief.  Now in addition to being deep red he looks like a greased pig!  His face hurts.  The skin is tight,  slightly swollen, deep, fiery red and painful.  He says he looks like he has been lost on the ocean on a raft for two weeks with no shade protection!  I went to the pharmacy today and got him some A & D first aid ointment and Caldyphen Clear Lotion for pain relief.  The Caldyphen Lotion did not help as it set his face on fire.




These pictures soften how bad it really looks in “real life”!  Needless to say he doesn’t like to be out in public any more than he has too!

Two of the men from church came by today to see him. They could sympathize as they have had to do the same treatment.  Both were rather shocked at how bad he looked. They thought they had looked bad but both said they were not this bad!!  At this point you cling to the promise that there is hope at the end of this ordeal. He will have a new face and everyone says his face will be good-looking again with nice skin-better than what he had.  He is blessed. He does not have cancer and he does not have to have areas surgically repaired.

Actinic Keratosis-Part II  (Day 16-18) and Part III (Day 21-24)



Only A Farm Wife

I woke up this morning so mad at my husband.  I dreamed he had decided to feed the cows on my glassed-in front porch.  He brought in feed boxes full of feed and I had six or eight of the cows crowded on the porch contentedly eating.  One of them had pushed open the front door and was in my bedroom!!!  If you know anything about cows you know that as food enters one end it is also exiting “stuff” out the other!  I was crying and trying to holler for him and he just ignored me. Then I awoke. With that dream I should be mad at him all day.  I do believe it is a dream only a farm wife could have as no city girl could come up with that one!

Sassy Mama

Today was one of those “cold as the blazes” March winter days.  It didn’t help that yesterday was a balmy, warm, short-sleeve kind of day.  This morning we woke up to sleet pouring down like rain followed by a heavy, wet snow that fell all day.  It was hard to believe it only amounted to 3 inches.


This afternoon Gene came in and said, “”This is a South Dakota day”!  In other words, it is a cold, winter day on this Virginia farm and he has a mama cow needing help!  He had a first-time heifer trying to calf. She was in the pasture running around like a wild, sassy mama with the feet of the calf sticking out. She would not let him near and let it be clear she would take him on if he did.  Gene rounded up some help and headed out to the pasture to try and coax her into the corral area so he could deliver the calf.  Instead of singling her out by herself and running the risk of her bolting or charging,  he rounded up a bunch of the cows and got them all into the corral area.  After some sorting, they had her in a small enclosed area, and then quickly closed some gates, confining her in a chute where he could work with her.  She was not happy and did her best to not cooperate.  He carefully attached some string around the calf’s feet and after hooking it to a come-along  were able to racketed the calf out alive! This is sweet success for a farmer.

Gene put some fresh hay in the pen for the mama to eat and as clean, dry bedding for the calf. The mama immediately began licking the calf and nudging it to nurse.  I had to wait awhile to go take pictures as the guys said there needed to be quiet in the OB unit so she would settle down and bond with her calf.  Even then I had to stay my distance from the fence.  As I eased up to the fence she lowered head and told me in no uncertain terms to “stay away” and you don’t question her vocal advice!  I didn’t trust just a fence between us, so I quickly snapped a few pictures and left.




It is amazing to me that a wet calf born on a frigid, cold, winter day in the middle of a snow storm can survive!  This evening both mom and babe are doing well and for now, all is peace and quiet on the ranch!


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