Duckponics – In the planning stages

If there is one thing about my personality that I cannot stress enough, it is that I obsessively research, plan, and prepare for things.  Well, that is… things that in the grand scheme of things do not matter that much.  Things that you can generally pretty easily change and/or fly by the seat of your pants on.  Things that require careful formulation, design, or attention to detail?  Those are the types of things that are far less fun to plan.  I liken this to a 6 year old planning her future wedding, and then as a 30 year old being totally unable to decide on vendors and particulars.  That’s where I am in the planning stages of my duckponics setup.  I might as well be doodling my crush’s last name on my spiral notebook and cutting pages out of hand-me-down bridal magazines from my aunt.

Ducks need ponds.  Swimming makes them happy, allows them to keep clean, and many ducks need water to breed.  Ducks are also totally disgusting.  Based on my understanding, any new duck owner is woefully unprepared for just how disgusting they make pond water.  They will carry mouthfuls of dirt into the pond, then swish it around to rinse the dirt away and hopefully leave tasty bugs in their mouths.  They shit everywhere.  They carry their food into the pond, and their preferred method of eating vegetables is floating in their disgusting pond water.  As a result, many duck owners get plastic kiddy pools and dump/refill them every day.  But a) that wastes a lot of water, b) kiddy pools are pretty unattractive and c) I am not going to be out there every day no matter what dumping and refilling the pond.  I need something a little more self-sustaining than that.  Using a larger volume of water should allow me to go longer without changing anything out, and if I can figure out a way to collect the water, I can use it to water the garden.

For Phase I,  I found one of those hard plastic pond liners on Craigslist for $50, and convinced my mom to go pick it up for me with her little trailer.  And she did.  And now I have it.  I’m going to cut a hole in the bottom and install a sink drain in it.  The sink drain will be plumbed into 1.5″ PVC pipe, and the whole thing will be buried into the ground.  Due to the nature of the slope, I should be able to to either excavate a hole out, or just run it out the side of the slope.  At the end of the pipe will be a 1.5″ PVC ball valve ($6 on amazon) and then a “T” which will allow me to plumb the remainder of the duckponics setup in during Phase II, while still allowing for me to drain the pond as necessary and drain the water into a bucket, can, maybe even hose and irrigate the yard.  The pond will be sunk into the ground all the way on the uphill side, and require a small retaining wall on the other side, which I will use to hold in gravel and river rocks (the purpose of surrounding the pond in rocks is to help reduce the amount of soil that gets carried into the pond).

Phase II will include adding a rubbermaid watering trough or similar (once I find a sweet deal online), a pond/waterfall pump, and one of the $18 planters from Costco (I already have one of these that I converted into a self-watering planter and you can’t do better for the price)  The basic setup will include the rubbermaid tub plumbed up to the duck pond, and both of them sitting on the same level.  Water can flow freely between the two with the ball valves open, and it’ll be easy to isolate one or the other to flush out part or all of the system by simply closing either of the ball valves.  Them being on level with each other should allow me to lose electricity or take the pump offline without any overflow issues.

The trough will have 2 false bottoms(made from the egg-crate light diffusers they use for fluorescent lights.  One will be several inches off the bottom, which will hopefully allow the worst of the sludge to settle out.  On top of the false bottom, I’ll have a much coarser version of this milk crate prefilter with the pump inside, and on top of that prefilter setup, I’ll have a secondary false bottom towards the top of the trough that will allow me to set in pots for stuff like pumpkins, lettuce, and kale (all of the leafy greens will be fodder for the ducks).  The outlet of the trough will go uphill to connect to the bottom of the costco planter, where the water will then be forced through increasingly fine filter media before hitting the top, and squirting out a hole that’s been drilled towards the top.  I haven’t decided yet whether the pot will be inside the enclosure or outside.  My gut says to leave it outside, as it’ll be easier to grow stuff like water lettuce without the ducks having access to it, plus, they’ll have more space inside the pen.  From a logistical standpoint, I am concerned that there may be a little dribbling, and being able to sit the pot on the edge of the pond may be the only way to effectively collect the water and get it back into the system.  I suppose we will see how it all works out after I have it set up, as supposing isn’t going to accomplish much.

Long term, I hope that this will help filter out some of the waste and keep the water clearer for the ducks, as well as contribute to growing some healthy green fodder for them  I’m sure I’ll still need to drain the system every now and again, but it’ll be easy to repurpose that wasted water for nonedible and cooked food garden irrigation, and add the sludge from the bottom of the pond and sump to the compost.

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