Many years ago, when we bought the house in the mountains, I had a hankering to have a greenhouse in the lower tier of our garden. The plot is on two levels, with the top tier being laid to lawn, and with the obligatory swimming pool for the summer months. I love the pool, and used to spend hours cleaning it. Then I realised I would just rather swim in it, so we invested in one of those robot pool cleaners which go round on their own, and even climb up the poolsides to clean it. The robot is affectionately known as ´Roberto’ and it does a better job than I can, for no effort.
The lower tier was mainly wasteland, with a few trees growing in it. We got Paco to plant some fig, apple, and other fruit trees, but that is as far as we got with it, as we had to concentrate on getting the house to our liking.
Our figs, in early April
Back to the greenhouse: I met a guy at one of the weekend open air markets that are so common in Spain, after I saw his leaflet on a stall saying he did metalwork. So he came round and built a 9 metre x 5 metre metal structure, which we then transformed into a greenhouse.
By now, some readers are probably thinking – why have a greenhouse in Spain? The answer is simple. In the winter months it does get cold in the mountains here, and a couple of times we’ve even had a sprinkling of snow. So we want somewhere to overwinter our plants, start the seedlings early in January, and a hothouse for early tomatoes and more tropical plants. It does get very hot in there in summer, so we have cooling fans going full blast.
The fans are on a solar panel system of course…….
We realised that solar power really was the way to go. All this sunshine, all that free electricity…..it just had to be solar! So we had two systems installed, one for the pool, and one for the rest of the electric. I think the initial investment is totally worth it, when I see the sunshine glinting off the panels, and know that we are generating our own free power. Even on cloudy days, it is good to see that there is still some electricity being generated. The only other thing I wish we could get is free water. Now that would be something.
So we have a greenhouse and we have power. Now lets discover what we do with some of this energy……lets tell you about the hydroponics, the aquaponics, fish farming on a small scale and oh so much more!
To start it off – have you ever heard of tilapia? It is actually the most commonly eaten fish in the world, yet most people I speak to about it have never heard of it.
Tilapia is a fish that is usually found in places like the River Nile. It enjoys warm water of between 26 and 32 degrees, and it feeds on plant matter. Given the right conditions, the female will produce anything up to 1,500 fry at one go. She keeps them in her mouth until they are ready to survive on their own, but sometimes she will eat them by mistake. There are many species of tilapia, and they are either silver or reddish pink. They are fast growing and can grow up to 1 kilo in 6 months given the right conditions. They are extremely aggressive fish, killing each other willy nilly in order to create and protect their territory. Males grow faster than females, and many commercial tilapia fisheries only raise males as it is more economical to buy in the fry, raise them and sell them for food. Therein lies a story….catch up with us in the next part!