Fintastic news from Lord Horatio! I can report that things are going swimmingly here at Dawdle Hall thanks to the latest in a long line of cunning plans being floated by my nephew Simon.
Currently he can be found ensconced in the lower greenhouse surrounded by a sea of plastic pipes and tanks of various sizes. I left him to it for a couple of days until I could contain my curiosity no longer.
Accompanied by Whimsy the dog I ventured forth into the whirlpool of activity. What on earth, I hazarded, was he up to? Looking up from the large blueprint spread out on a wallpaper pasting table Simon grinned mischievously.
Holstering a, still dribbling, industrial sized mastic gun he spread his arms wide and announced: “Welcome to the wonderful world of Aquaponics!” Strange visions of bathing beauties performing synchronised swimming to music immediately sprang to mind.
Whimsy too seemed equally baffled and had decided the crinkly white piping was some sort of sea serpent that needed to be cornered and chewed into submission. Having rescued his plumbing from the jaws of death Simon quickly poured oil on troubled waters.
Aquaponics, he revealed, is not some trendy new form of New Age entertainment but a serious stab at self sufficiency. Basically you have freshwater fish thriving at one end of the system and vegetables growing at the other in a kind of virtuous golden food circle.
It’s all down to what comes naturally to our finny friends after a hearty meal. The nutrient rich liquid is used instead of soil to grow greens in special water beds. The water then goes round again. You can enjoy fresh fish and disease and pest free produce all year round.
Instead of fattening up the fish to eat, ornamental breeds such as Koi and Goldfish can also be raised for sale to enthusiasts. Although we are slowly catching on in this country the Americans have embraced the idea enthusiastically. Just take a peek at what Nelson and Pade have been up to.
They are able to put solar powered systems into remote disaster zones as well as cater for schools, market gardeners and seriously big growing concerns. It all sounded marvellous and my mind was awash with ideas as I left Simon wrestling with his conduits. The concept seemed so simple I thought – why not have a go at it myself?
Seizing the moment I headed for the lake, trusty spade in hand. Lady Winifred is very fond of her greens and regularly exhibits at the local village show. What better way to ensure bigger, cleaner leeks and marrows than to introduce a bit of hydroponics into her life. Luckily her well tended kitchen garden nestles in a little hollow below the bank.
Half an hour of digging later, ably assisted by Whimsy, a trickle of water had grown into a torrent. Within minutes the vegetable patch was submerged. There was even the odd trout flapping about in the mud. A result! Standing back to admire my handiwork I sensed the presence of the good lady herself behind me. Turning to accept her heartfelt thanks for a job well done, I was somewhat taken aback to be greeted with a face like thunder.
To cap it all I then felt the sharp end of her silver topped cane amidships. Unable to keep my balance on the slippery slope I plunged head over heels into the quagmire below, quickly followed by Whimsy who was delighted his master had finally embraced the joys of mud, mud, glorious mud. Having scraped the sodden soil out of my eyes I looked up to see Winifred laughing fit to bust!
Suitably chastened I set about repairing the hole in the dyke with the help of the head gardener. A dinner of fresh trout and fine wine went a long way towards unruffling the feathers, but as ideas go I have to admit it was another one that got away.
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