George Yacus

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since Sep 27, 2018
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I'm a Navy Veteran and beginning hobby farmer who is passionate about developing truly sustainable systems.
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Recent posts by George Yacus

Speaking of wicking beds, a friend of mine has been enjoying his.  

He has a very professional looking setup with an amazing SketchUp video describing its construction.

https://www.homegardenfarms.com/build-your-own-wicking-bed/

He sells the plans online, too, if folks are looking for more details.
3 weeks ago
That's great to hear about your production volume!

My family's ongoing experiment is obviously *way* smaller... smaller than a shoebox even.  

But it's been going on 5 years, and that presents opportunities from a genetic perspective, I hope.  With perhaps a conservative 19 week life cycle per generation (based off estimates listed at https://mealwormcare.org/life-cycle/  ) that's potentially well over 20 generations.

About the poop.

For those unfamiliar with the substance, the frass is light, airy, brown dusty poop and exoskeleton remains.  It is easily visible in the pictures. It's probably so fluffy, that if you were to sneeze near it, it would likely go *poof* in the air.  Supposedly it is a good fertilizer.

However, obviously if one doesn't think it's safe or healthy to use, then don't partake in the styrofoam cycling experiment.

What we can *personally* say from direct observation, is that the shear volume reduction and color transformation is impressive.

What was once a big brick of white styrofoam trash taken floating from a river (or a takeout container from wherever, etc etc), now just looks like dirt.
3 weeks ago
Behold the mighty mealworm!  
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mealworm

'Tenebrio molitor' aka Mealworms aka Darkling Beetles present a very unique opportunity to the permaculturist entrepreneur and homesteader.

The bugs are favored by birds (including chickens, of course), fish, and reptiles alike as a wonderfully wiggly protein-rich tasty snack.  

Furthermore, there is a growing market for insects as a crunchy noodly people-food even, for those whose stomachs can actually stomach the thought of eating bugs.

Insects' high feed conversion ratio make them attractive from an environmental and cost perspective.

The Mealworms have yet another super power however, in their ability to consume styrofoam.
So in addition to concepts such as those proposed by "StyrofoamMom"
( https://m.facebook.com/styromommovie/?__xts__%5B0%5D )
the beetles present a recycling and waste disposal solution or opportunity which helps to actually "obtain a yield."

Yes, you read that correctly, these critters actually eat polystyrene.
https://news.stanford.edu/pr/2015/pr-worms-digest-plastics-092915.html


In late March 2015, my dearest green-thumbed mother, also backyard bird enthusiastic, purchased 1000 mealworms for ~$10, including a bird feeder, through a promotional deal through Wild Birds Unlimited.  She took them out of that refrigerator and into her home and heart, as well as into the local birds' beaks and bellies.

After a quick trip to Bug Lots...*correction, BIG LOTS discount store...for a small (less than 12" by 6") set of 3 stacking transparent plastic bins, I was able to make a home for these wiggly pioneers.  

*Simple frass bug bin:*
-Take a series of plastic stacking bins.
-Cut out the bottom of most of one or more of the bins.
-Cut a scrap of window screening to size.
-Apply hot glue to the window screen/box bottom edges.

Note: Frass is mealworm beetle or larvae poop, a good garden fertilizer.  Science is incomplete regarding HBCD ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexabromocyclododecane ) toxicity. From what I've gathered about him, Paul hates toxicky things, and would probably recommend never using mealworm frass or bugs as edibles. For more on that discussion and others, check out posts over here ( https://permies.com/t/40/50485/Mealworms-Eating-Styrofoam#1164735 )

*Feeding and care:*
-Ensure the bugs have oxygen via mesh screen, but cannot crawl out of their bug bins.
-The larvae and beetles primary food is originally oatmeal bran.
-Moisture and nutrients are obtained by the bugs via discarded veggies or fruit scraps (carrot, potato peel, etc)
-Styrofoam trash can be added in increasing amounts, and will be consumed entirely with no (visible) trace other than normal frass.
-Life stages include
1. Egg.
2. Tiny tiny larvae ---> Larger wormy mealworm larvae.
3. Cacoon-like white Pupae.
4. Lively Darkling beetle. --> mating, repeat...
-Frass is sifted out and used as fertilizer or discarded.  
Pupae can be separated and placed in the upper bins to hatch new beetles.
-Worms can be fed to critters, or freeze dried, or added to new oatmeal bran filled cups to propagate.

Over the years, my mom's pet bugs and beetles have eaten untold (though small) amounts of styrofoam, including trash removed from local wetlands and river waterways.  

As of September, 2020, these bugs have reproduced through countless life cycles, with minimal support.  They have been forgotten about on vacations, and yet they persist, +5years later, consuming styrofoam every year.  


*Possibilities for Permies*
-Waste removal: How much styrofoam (volume-wise) will they eat?
-Production analysis:
  -What mass of bugs can be produced per what unit of bin volume and feed mass?
  -What volume of frass is produced?
-Scalability:
  -How to neutralize styrofoam at a larger scale?
  -How to propogate and make more with the least effort?
3 weeks ago
I'm coming to this conversation a little late.  But hey, perennial discussion, right?

My mom has had the same group of mealworms propagating and consuming styrofoam since March 2015.  It's currently Setember, 2020, and the bugs are still doing their thing.

I've created a new thread (wiki-able, I believe) with some pictures we've taken over the years:

https://permies.com/t/149177/ungarbage/Mealworms-Darkling-Diaries#1164725



3 weeks ago
Now for some pictures of mealworms munching styrofoam, oatmeal, and food scraps.
3 weeks ago
Behold the mighty mealworm!  
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mealworm

'Tenebrio molitor' aka Mealworms aka Darkling Beetles present a very unique opportunity to the permaculturist entrepreneur and homesteader.

The bugs are favored by birds (including chickens, of course), fish, and reptiles alike as a wonderfully wiggly protein-rich tasty snack.  

Furthermore, there is a growing market for insects as a crunchy noodly people-food even, for those whose stomachs can actually stomach the thought of eating bugs.

Insects' high feed conversion ratio make them attractive from an environmental and cost perspective.

The Mealworms have yet another super power however, in their ability to consume styrofoam.
So in addition to concepts such as those proposed by "StyrofoamMom"
( https://m.facebook.com/styromommovie/?__xts__%5B0%5D )
the beetles present a recycling and waste disposal solution or opportunity which helps to actually "obtain a yield."

Yes, you read that correctly, these critters actually eat polystyrene.
https://news.stanford.edu/pr/2015/pr-worms-digest-plastics-092915.html


In late March 2015, my dearest green-thumbed mother, also backyard bird enthusiastic, purchased 1000 mealworms for ~$10, including a bird feeder, through a promotional deal through Wild Birds Unlimited.  She took them out of that refrigerator and into her home and heart, as well as into the local birds' beaks and bellies.

After a quick trip to Bug Lots...*correction, BIG LOTS discount store...for a small (less than 12" by 6") set of 3 stacking transparent plastic bins, I was able to make a home for these wiggly pioneers.  

*Simple frass bug bin:*
-Take a series of plastic stacking bins.
-Cut out the bottom of most of one or more of the bins.
-Cut a scrap of window screening to size.
-Apply hot glue to the window screen/box bottom edges.

Note: Frass is mealworm beetle or larvae poop, a good garden fertilizer.  Science is incomplete regarding HBCD ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexabromocyclododecane ) toxicity. From what I've gathered about him, Paul hates toxicky things, and would probably recommend never using mealworm frass or bugs as edibles. For more on that discussion and others, check out posts over here ( https://permies.com/t/40/50485/Mealworms-Eating-Styrofoam#1164735 )

*Feeding and care:*
-Ensure the bugs have oxygen via mesh screen, but cannot crawl out of their bug bins.
-The larvae and beetles primary food is originally oatmeal bran.
-Moisture and nutrients are obtained by the bugs via discarded veggies or fruit scraps (carrot, potato peel, etc)
-Styrofoam trash can be added in increasing amounts, and will be consumed entirely with no (visible) trace other than normal frass.
-Life stages include
1. Egg.
2. Tiny tiny larvae ---> Larger wormy mealworm larvae.
3. Cacoon-like white Pupae.
4. Lively Darkling beetle. --> mating, repeat...
-Frass is sifted out and used as fertilizer or discarded.  
Pupae can be separated and placed in the upper bins to hatch new beetles.
-Worms can be fed to critters, or freeze dried, or added to new oatmeal bran filled cups to propagate.

Over the years, my mom's pet bugs and beetles have eaten untold (though small) amounts of styrofoam, including trash removed from local wetlands and river waterways.  

As of September, 2020, these bugs have reproduced through countless life cycles, with minimal support.  They have been forgotten about on vacations, and yet they persist, +5years later, consuming styrofoam every year.  


*Possibilities for Permies*
-Waste removal: How much styrofoam (volume-wise) will they eat?
-Production analysis:
  -What mass of bugs can be produced per what unit of bin volume and feed mass?
  -What volume of frass is produced?
-Scalability:
  -How to neutralize styrofoam at a larger scale?
  -How to propogate and make more with the least effort?
3 weeks ago
Is it moveable?
-Composting toilet / outhouse foundation
-Outdoor shower
-Hammock nook with Christmas lights
-Water feature with mosquito fish, summer lounge chairs
-Summer cooking patio
-Rainwater storage
-Wood storage
-Rabbit hutch
-Chicken shack
-She shed
-Maple syrup evaporator housing
-Mushroom log storage platform
1 month ago
The other common answer you'll hear for "Where do I start?" is "At the door step."  It's especially helpful to think this way for zone designing.

But first, as mentioned, before making that initial step outside, in the permaculture design process it's important to think about your own personal long term goals and objectives, and your needs and desires; and also consider your capabilities and assets.  

Additionally, having buy-in really helps.  Consider who else may be your "client" to serve?  Family?  Friends? Community?  Critters?  They can be your "cheerleaders" to help make progress and share in small successes.  Get them involved to help defeat the blues.  

I personally like to have a (digital) document via Google Docs, listing mission, vision, and long, medium, and short-term goals, as well as unique personal challenges and characteristics.  A notebook would work too, of course.

Parallel to your "people analysis" is the "land analysis" and then assessment and design, and then the "doing" part.

How well do you know your land over the seasons?  The permaculture principle to "observe and interact" comes into play, here.  In my digital document, I list as many nuances and observations from being on the property as I can.  

Where does the sun hit the land in winter?  What is the average rainfall?  Where do I need more privacy?  Where is the soil best/worst?  What animals pass through?  Best access?  Sunny slope? Yada yada yada.  Just a big ol' document of observations.

The PaDM in Chapter 3 lists several Permaculture design methods to choose from after you know what you're working with.  Map overlays, random assembly, component characteristic matching, zone and sector design, and flow diagrams are all examples.

The fact that you have a home plus land is fantastic! Something to be proud of.  

And even if you feel like you aren't "doing" anything in the moment, sometimes that can be the best thing, you know?  Simply observing and thinking while letting the land express itself... that's still progress.
1 month ago
I'm totally excited for you and your family!

So am I right in saying the current plan is to:

Design a quality multi-use shop (or farm structure) which will also provide temporary shelter to make it through winter, for a family of 6 in Washington state.

My vote is for researching Mike Oehler's $50 and Up, Underground House book, using the PSP method.  With your skill level, I bet you will make something beautiful, regardless of construction method.

What questions can the permie community specifically help with next?

Have you decided on a "Zone 0" for your shop site?