Apartment homesteading?

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Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

sky wrote:
Wed Jan 20, 2021 7:16 pm
I will copy this guy's method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs-S6k16wLc

I'm not sure how often it needs to be watered, maybe every 3 to 4 days.
hey we finally managed to catch up with that video. looks great! much better than everything we've seen. guy works like i prefer, just eyeballing it, no great precision. i think that's the method we can make work over here.

noticed that he uses coco coir but it's in pellet form, that seed starter bag, which seems low maintenance, so-- great.

seems that everything starts and ends with the worm bin though, so i'll have to focus on that officially now, as it all finally makes sense.

please keep us posted on the progress with this method. thanks!

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

@Alphaville

Yes, I really believe the worm composting bin is the gateway. Like many other things, you’ll find Jacob was writing about it on the blog 10+ years ago.

The worm bin was my first step and it really helped me to start thinking about my waste streams and how to close loops. The advantage of worms is they can process cellulose in a much smaller area than a conventional compost pile (also can do it indoors).

In terms of insect composting, I think Black Soldier Fly larvae are actually more efficient with some caveats. BSF can process meat, manure, and most foods without issues extremely fast (I think there’s a time lapse video of a bin completely eating several whole fish in <24 hours). However, they can’t process cellulose so really a proper homesteader will still need separate worm and BSF systems. Additionally BSF systems are generally outdoors and seasonal in nature. BSF also provide high protein larvae that can be fed to livestock, while compost worms can be used as fishing bait.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

@white belt

wow, just checked out the bsf online... looks pretty awesome.

this page has a picture of a hypothetical kitchen-scaled fly farm. cool!

https://www.eatcrickster.com/blog/black-soldier-fly

ive added this to my someday/maybe folder... i have no animal waste to speak of currently, but should come handy at some point.

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

@Alphaville

I think I posted about BSF earlier in this thread or maybe it was the compost toilet one. Anyhow, my design would be to have a bin for BSF that I feed humanure, quail manure, meat scraps, fish guts, maybe restaurant waste, etc. BSF harvest themselves when they reach the larvae stage (~40% protein) and then I’d grind them up and mix them with some kind of grain to make quail feed.

The problem with BSF indoors is they generally won’t lay eggs indoors, which means you won’t be able to have new generations without some kind of outdoor systems to at least allow the adult flies to mate and lay eggs. I think the strategy I would do is to seed the colony with larvae purchased online at the start of spring, which should help them to jump start things and outcompete pests I don’t want in the bin. The pheromones from BSF larvae will help to attract flies from the native wild population of BSF, so you should be able to get continues laying until things get too cold in the Fall. You can check out the range of BSF but they are present in most of the USA.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

yeah, i've got sewage, which is why i originally spaced it (and would not eat fecal larvae-- a bridge too far! :D)

eta: gotta say also my gradual transition to plant-based protein is making the idea of edible insects kinda moot for me at this point. any kind of step up the food chain is going to be a waste of resources (eg feeding flour to mealworms, when i can eat flour). hence focusing on plant production makes more sense for my indoor urban flows-- particularly the pricey perishable stuff.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

@wb

ok here is why i think the fecal stuff is bad: in case of contamination, you're cycling a pathogen within an animal loop: from you to the larvae to the cornish hens and back to you. it's too close for comfort. a bit like how mad cow proliferated by feeding cows cow.

and yes, we use manure in our food loops, but i think the plant phase helps protect against pathogen retransmission. besides, even with plants, humanure has its risks. so the longer you can make the cycle the better.

i've had parasites before (i spent some time in the tropics) and even the mild ones are no fun.

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

@Alphaville

I covered that here: viewtopic.php?p=234916#p234916

To be extra safe, I'd probably boil the BSF larvae after harvesting, but it's unclear if that is entirely necessary. BSF haven't been found to transmit pathogens like other types of flies. Humanure processing with BSF is already being done on commercial scale in some developing countries.


Mycology
Well here are the results of my first mycology experiment:
Image
Image


I grew oyster mushrooms from a kit, which are known to have a high oxygen requirement. The long stems and small caps are indicative of not enough airflow, so I may try making the ventilation holes larger in my worm bin. Humidity was adequate in the bin for proper fruiting, which shows that this method might be viable. I might try growing shiitake or enoki mushrooms next, which have much lower oxygen requirements.

I’ve done some more internet research on mycology and have learned a bunch since I started the experiment. I’ve discovered that there is a dearth of information for the individual trying to grow mushrooms at the household scale. Most sources seem to immediately escalate to requiring an autoclave, laminar flow hood, automated fruiting room with humidifier and fan, and other specialized equipment. However, after more digging I think I’ve found a viable method that uses equipment most homesteaders should already have laying around. It looks something like this:

Supplies needed
• Wide mouth mason jar
• Self-healing lid (instructions here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ1uDfsT4yI)
• High temperature RTV silicone sealant (for lid)
• Pillow stuffing (for lid)
• Liquid mushroom culture syringe (order online for $10-15 per strain)
• Substrate (used coffee grounds are probably the easiest waste stream to leverage, but it is possible to use a range of grains and sawdust)

Steps
• Fill mason jars with substrate
• Attach lids
• Sterilize mason jar substrate in Instapot (a pressure canner is the best tool, but I don't have one and others have used instapots successfully)
• Inject liquid mushroom culture into jars (through self-healing lid)
• Store jar at room temperature in dark place for 1-2 weeks until mycelium have fully inoculated the substrate
• Place jar in worm bin for fruiting (or you could place inoculated grounds in a 5 gallon bucket with more substrate and grow outside)
• Spray down mushrooms occasionally to maintain high humidity (a worm bin already has very high moisture content)
• Harvest mushrooms after ~1 week
• Depending on type of mushroom, you should be able to get more than one flush (harvest) off of one substrate

The only material that is not already laying around the typical homestead is the liquid mushroom culture. You should only ever need to buy this once because you can keep growing more culture by injecting it into a jar of honey and water.

Mushrooms aren’t the most calorie dense food, but they do provide some good umami flavor and micronutrients. They can grow indoors in very low-light conditions, so I think they fit quite well with the apartment homesteading lifestyle.

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

Alphaville wrote:
Mon Feb 01, 2021 8:21 pm
eta: gotta say also my gradual transition to plant-based protein is making the idea of edible insects kinda moot for me at this point. any kind of step up the food chain is going to be a waste of resources (eg feeding flour to mealworms, when i can eat flour). hence focusing on plant production makes more sense for my indoor urban flows-- particularly the pricey perishable stuff.
With the exception of transforming BSF into eggs or possibly small fish, I don’t think edible insect production is viable at the homestead scale. As you mentioned, meal worms require feeding of edible grains. At least with BSF you can feed them waste that you otherwise couldn’t recycle the protein of (manure, animal guts, etc). I think of BSF as an alternative to using pigs (like Carpenter did) for garbage disposal conversion to protein.

I do agree that microgreens are the first food production step that makes sense for the apartment homesteader. They are highly perishable and nutrient dense, which means you are reducing the need to grow/buy many other nutrient dense vegetables ($$$) and also the need to make frequent trips to the grocery store. With careful planning, you could also reduce the need for refrigeration if you harvest only the microgreens you will eat each day (rather than harvesting an entire tray at once).

On paper I liked quail eggs as a similarly consistent nutrient dense food source. The daily egg laying also means you don’t need to worry about refrigeration or preservation like you would for other animal based protein sources.

One problem statement that was originally guiding my homestead interest is, how do I feed myself if I can’t go to the grocery store for a month? 3 months? A year? Certainly you can stock up on staple foods like beans, rice, flour for a year relatively easily, and that’s why I would incorporate into my strategy. But that still leaves a gap for micronutrient dense vegetables and animal protein sources.* Hence my interest in microgreens and quail eggs. But I also mentioned before that I’m eating an extremely high protein diet (170 grams a day) because of some other things in my web of goals, so I understand that animal protein might not be as essential for the average person.

*= I know with proper canning techniques it’s possible to store vegetables and meat at room temperature indefinitely, but that would still require restocking at some point. I do think canning is going to be necessary for any homestead, but I admit I haven’t really pursued it thus far. I think that will change once I start harvesting vegetables from my garden.

Edit: I guess another way to say it is, continuous harvest trumps seasonal harvest so try to maximize things with continuous yields. At least that’s my current theory.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

the thing with apartment homesteading is that keeping around shit buckets in apartments is a nonstarter.

in a rural homestead it's a different story: you can keep shit buckets and even make your own biogas digester. you can grow plants, raise animals, and hunt. not a problem.

city life, especially in small spaces, comes with real constraints though. some legal, some sanitary, some merely practical.

i get the idea of feeding the maggots scraps then eating the maggots every now and then. a bit of spice/variety and efficient trash disposal. but if you use manure to raise maggots to feed quails to eat eggs daily--the efficiency goes down at every step of the food chain. there's gonna be a lot of ammonia out of that phase of the nitrogen cycle. it's a geometric reduction. the base of that food pyramid is made of *a lot* of shit buckets.

for food self-sufficiency you can probably do it with a intensively-worked 1/4 acre, but more if you need a lot of protein. a 1br apartment can't possibly manage that scale. supplemental micronutrients yes, but in a city environment the macronutrients need to come from the outside. it's just math.

ive solved my 6+ month "what if" survival supply with a stockpile of whey isolate powder, multivitamins, tuna cans, grains and beans, various oils, salt, calcium powder, etc. now thinking of ordering a supply of dehydrated squash for the gut flora. so, microgreens on top of that... would gravy. same as the microbes from yogurt or the buzz from the occassional homebrew.

but in an apartment, macros are imports.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

i'll support the above with some numbers.

assume 10% conversion efficiency at each step.

from shit to maggots 0.1
from maggot to quail 0.01
from quail to egg 0.001

so for 170g protein a day you'd need...170kg of shit and scraps per day, i think? where do you keep that? (assuming you can find it)

we could try to get the precise conversion rates and grams of nitrogen etc, but it's the number of steps that will be the undoing.

whereas converting 10% of plant trash to maggot meat... it's a nice crispy snack.

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

@Alphaville

I agree there are limitations with an apartment that doesn’t have outdoor space. Every situation is different, but perhaps there is a rooftop one can gain access to for some outdoor space? Another alternative would be guerrilla gardening or partnering with a nearby business to set up some containers on their property (as long as you throw in some flowers along with edible to boost visual appeal, I’d think they’d be happy with it). Nevertheless, the lack of outdoor space is such a constraint that my leading housing option in my next HCOL city is now a room rented in a house instead of a studio high rise. Although dealing with roommates may be annoying, at least the house will give me access to outdoor space and potentially unfinished basement space.

To be clear, I wasn’t planning on processing manure indoors and understand that there will be odors involved (the prototype would be to use food scraps and quail manure). In a densely populated area the odors might be too much, then again dumpsters and trash cans are all over cities and generate quite a bit of odor themselves. People raise beehives on rooftops, so I’d think it wouldn’t be out of the question to put a BSF bin up there.

Of course there are going to be reductions at every level, but what the BSF don’t eat can still be composted so I view it more as getting bonus yield from waste products. An advantage of living in an urban area is you can leverage the waste all around you from restaurants, dumpsters, etc.

There may be a slight semantic issue here because I’m interpreting apartment homesteading to cover homesteading in any rental property (house, high rise, etc) while I get the impression your definition of apartment homesteading only includes a high rise or commercial building.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

oh, yes, semantics: i meant apartments as dwelling types, a subunit of a larger building, which is how millions live in densely populated urban cores.

a house already takes it to another scale, because something like backyard chickens or raised bed gardening or basement rabbits are possible in a house, but not in an apartment.

i intended this thread more as an exploration of small indoor spaces--maybe with a balcony, but not much more.

under such constraints we've shown that fermentation, microgreens, mushrooms and worm composting work well, but generating large quantities of macronutrients requires a different scale altogether, and sizable outdoor space (bigger than a house).

this is not to say urban farms aren't possible--they are. but they only become possible with more space and at different scales, and with larger networks than a kitchen plus a bedroom.

e.g. i wouldn't consider rob geeenfield's borrowing of suburban backyards "apartment sized". in that case the apartment is just the central office for a larger economic enterprise. there was a woman who tried a kickstarter for people to grow plants in city windows at a massive scale, but that project failed. nevertheless, the latter was my intended focus.

the size/scale do matter though, because that is the least explored aspect of city life. so this is in part a bit of an architectural question, i.e., how to maximize a small dwellings, rather than how to set up urban farms by harnessing city networks.

but the setting up of urban farms is an interesting question in itself. i tried to get involved with a community garden this past year, but it wasn't a huge success.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

so within these constraints i can see the viability of direct consumption of bsf larvae fed from food scraps. it's simple, efficient, sanitary, and eliminates food waste. it won't be large scale, but it will generate efficiencies in small indoor places which will aggregate with other diversified efficiencies.

however, adding more links to that particular food chain, and involving human and bird feces in an operation scaled up for large macronutrient output, is only gonna be practical outdoors and in the boonies.

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

@Alphaville

I define a farm as a business enterprise that intends to sell its yields for a profit to others. So I have no interest in urban farming because my focus is only on providing yield to myself. However, in my view utilizing previously unproductive outdoor space (ie building rooftop) is still allowed under the constraints of an urban environment. I guess this somewhat depends on how committed you are to feeling that your individual solution should be scalable to everyone in the world, which in my opinion has merits but at a certain point is moot because we know not everyone in the world is going to do it. To me, turning a previously unproductive space into a productive one is a net win provided it is designed intelligently to factor in all energy inputs.

However, if we factor in your constraints and say the boundary is the indoor area of your urban apartment, then here's what I've come up with;

Constraints
-low square footage
-production space and living space are the same
-low natural lighting
-inability to modify infrastructure

First off, you are limited by the most abundant natural energy source (the sun), which is what is the energy source for virtually all biomass production on Earth (whether directly with plants or indirectly with a food chain that at lower levels eats plants). In an ideal situation you would have some large south facing windows, which would also help with passive solar heating. But that's not a scalable solution since not everyone can have their apartment facing south in conventional building design. You are also limited by square footage because any production space is also being shared as living space.

Mitigations
-low square footage - make use of vertical space with shelf systems, walls, etc
-production space and living space are the same - multi-use and space-efficient furniture are essential to allow for decreased living space and increased production space (see boat, RV, tiny house designs), make use of barriers or intelligent design to mitigate effects of odors, humidity, etc on comfort/safety of living space
-low natural lighting - utilize viable window space for efficient production, utilize artificial lighting when natural lighting isn't possible, position artificial lighting such that it is multi-fuctional (ie a grow light can be used to light an entire room, or as a reading light, etc), maximize production that doesn't require lighting (insects, mushrooms, etc)

That means if you want to grow plants you are going to have to rely on artificial lighting. Whether using electricity to grow food makes sense from an energy perspective depends a lot on how the electricity is sourced and how efficiently you can turn the electricity into food. I would say microgreens qualify as an efficient use of electricity because of their exceptionally fast growth rates. Conventional vegetables grown hydroponically may not.


So now that we have some principles/big ideas laid out, we can get into specific solutions. The master list we've come up with so far is the following:

-microgreens
-worm composting bin
-mushrooms
-BSF*

I would propose another possible candidate for inclusion is duckweed (Wolffia microscopica seems to be most suited for human consumption). Duckweed grows extremely fast in water with some nutrients and is 30-35% protein by dry weight. I've had some difficult finding accurate numbers for what kind of production one can expect per sqft, but I have seen one academic source say you can produce 20 grams dry weight (7 grams of protein) per square meter per day (1.85 gram protein per sqft).** I'm unsure if that figure is utilizing only a square meter of grow space or if it is from a multi-tiered system with a foot print of only one meter. The only design pictures I could find of something similar are here: https://www.planetduckweed.com/post/hyd ... ng-modules

More online research is needed to find out whether that 7 grams of protein per square meter per day is an accurate number. I've seen another source say 800 grams wet weight density per sq meter is possible, which would come out to 1.56 gram protein per sqft (potentially half that if we assume a one day doubling time so you can only harvest half of the biomass daily). Even with those conservative assumptions, if I were to convert my existing shelf system which has 4.16 sqft grow space per level and install clear trays every 4 inches, that would give me 75 sqft of grow space in a foot print of 5 sqft. If we assume .78 grams of protein per sqft per day harvested, that would yield 58.5 grams of protein per a day. That would be more than enough to supplement a full meal's worth of protein for me. Long term storage is possible if you dry out the duckweed into a powder. Some design work would be needed to be able to have the trays slide out for harvesting and to figure out how to rig up effective light systems (I'm thinking rope LEDs like that prototype linked).

*= BSF do show potential as human feed and there are some research reviews that dive deeper into the topic. However, a bin is going to require outdoor space (rooftop or balcony) to complete the BSF lifecycle, so maybe we keep it on the list with an asterisk. Further reading: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/ful ... 4337.12609

** = https://www.rutgers.edu/news/could-duckweed-feed-world

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

yessssss...! we're talking almost space station food systems now (but space station processes feces).

i'll take the day to read some of that, but i like where this is going. duckweed! never heard of it. great find.

please don't delete your post in the future :D

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

Maybe I should look into some of the space station food research then. One challenge I've already encountered is sourcing the duckweed strains that are most ideal for human consumption. W. Hyaline and W. Microscopica both show promise because of their fast growth rate and high protein content, but the only place I've found that I can purchase them online is Rutgers University where I can get a petri dish at the low low cost of $150. Not exactly economical at this point, but perhaps it's possible to convince someone at a university lab to give it to me for free.

Edit: Wolffia Arrhiza (Asian Watermeal) is the most commonly consumed duckweed in SE Asia and I can source it for $15 on eBay, so I might start with that.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

yeah i've looked into space station, antarctica, etc, for ideas on anything from food to exercise gear.

anyway macronutrient production is a real limiter. see @jacob's post here:

viewtopic.php?p=209705#p209705

"While I can't say it's impossible due to personal failure of making it work (fallacy of incredulity), we've had little success in growing anything edible at a productive level, but see @sky, so the focus has been more on storing basic ingredients and then having the capacity to process them."

but after he wrote that he grew something like 190lb of garden vegetables in raised beds. that was outdoors though, in his backyard.

$150 for the duckweed would be a good price if you can reproduce it in perpetuity. imagine all the cans of protein powder saved.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

hey, check this out!

https://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Duckweed

i could grow that in my balcony in warm months. could even add a cover to prevent stuff falling into it (eg bird droppings... they come around and soil things on occasion)

white belt
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by white belt »

Alphaville wrote:
Sun Feb 07, 2021 3:55 pm
hey, check this out!

https://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Duckweed

i could grow that in my balcony in warm months. could even add a cover to prevent stuff falling into it (eg bird droppings... they come around and soil things on occasion)
Yeah I would say you’re going to want some kind of screen if you’re growing outdoors or else mosquitos are going to lay their eggs in the container. Also to keep other wild animals from drinking the water and contaminating it.

To maximize space I think you want to use clear, shallow plastic containers that are stacked/on a shelf system. I’m not sure the ideal depth, but in that prototype I linked earlier it looked like they only had maybe 1-2 inches of water per tray.

Alphaville
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Re: Apartment homesteading?

Post by Alphaville »

white belt wrote:
Sun Feb 07, 2021 4:18 pm
you’re going to want some kind of screen if you’re growing outdoors or else mosquitos […]
To maximize space I think you want to use clear, shallow plastic containers that are stacked/on a shelf
yeah definitely nets or something. i read that it prevents mosquitos, but in case that's wrong i dont want zika or west nile.

and i saw the tower stuff thing, but i can't do towers on the balcony.

the method i tend to prefer is one of iterations/successive approximations rather than a master plan. it allows tinkering and minimizes the downside of bad decisions.

e.g., once upon a time i started using hemp protein as a whey replacement. tasted a bit weird but i could take it. but then somehow i started developing an aversion to it. made me gag. so i returned to whey because it's been my go-to for years.

same thing when instead of eggs i started doing tofu pies for breakfast. i got sick of it real quick. i can now eat tofu again, but only small quantities.

so, i gotta taste the duckweed first and see if it's really edible and if so how much. i might just start with a decorative fishbowl by the window and see what happens.

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