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South African Blog Awards

Yep, it’s that time of the year again.  The SA Blog Awards are now open for voting.  Your support (as always) would be greatly appreciated.  Synaptoman has been nominated this year in two categories, Best Environmental Blog and Best Educational Blog. A good result in this competition raises awareness for environmental issues that I am desperate to address in 2013, so please help me get my message across.

You can vote for me by following this link.

SA Blog Awards Badge

Please be sure to enter your email address to verify your vote.




The Highways of the Mind

For us living in the Southern Hemisphere the approach of Spring is clearly evident.  From the geese that have suddenly gone into gang-rape mode to the morning sun which arrives just a minute or two earlier every day.  My Permaculture experiments have proceeded unabated, mostly concentrated at my little cottage on a wine farm in Paarl.  Travelling back last weekend to the now-deserted Knysna house (the Child Bride being in the UK until November and Brat Deluxe in hist first year at University in Cape Town) I was pleasanty surprised to find that the absence of humans had certainly been good for the garden.

This Winter has certainly been one of the wettest in recent years and my very deeply mulched beds and compost heaps had benefited by the regular downpours turning the plentiful organic material into dark rich compost.Image

Meanwhile at my new home in Paarl, the chickens that are now part of my daily life, have revolutionised the way I look at gardening.  Aquaponics first opened my eyes to sustainable living but adding three simple egg-laying hens to the mix has suddenly made the process so much easier.  Their constant digging and rooting for insects in the mulched beds have aerated and turned over the soil.  Their droppings and littler from their coop has fertilised the soil in way that would have cost a load of money using dangerous and unsustaniable chemical fertlisers.

This Winter I experimented with green manure.  This is basically planting a crop in Winter that just covers the soil and is then trimmed down to soil level as Spring arrives.  Nitrogen fixing plants are used and after the plant is cut, the roots rot under the ground providing important elements to the soil and also opening deep channels deep into the soil.  The leaves also provide a handy snack for the chooks.


On the Aquaponic front I brought a couple of Tilapia and all my Comet Goldfish broodstock to the Paarl Cottage and come Spring I’ll put together a small AP system just to keep my hand in.

As soon as I start my Spring plantings I will have to confine the chickens to a smaller area around their coop as they can cause real damage to new seedlings.  I built a simple fence out of bamboo and will work on a gate this week.  They are going to have to start getting used to a smaller range area but it’s that or a ruined garden.  This is what the fence looks like.  I will probably plant gooseberries and tomatoes up against it.


I leave you with this quote from Henry David Thoreau whose book, Walden I have kept on my bedside table for years;

The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels.  How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!”









Modern Survivalism 101 – An Introduction

Synaptoman, the blog, has concerned itself with many topics over the years and has, surprisingly, thanks to you, the loyal reader, reached the #7 spot in the News and Politics section of the local South African blog charts. Topics have ranged from Aquaponics to Sustainable Living, Permaculture, Humour and even some local politics. I have carefully charted a course for this blog based on what my readers want to read about and have even had the occasional reader survey, not that I have a particularly democratic personality.

What is clear is that most of my readers come here for the Aquaponics. While I could write indefinitely on this subject, I have put most of what I have learned into my book, Aquaponics – the Synaptoman Way, which you can buy from this website. This little publication sells a considerable number of copies and I am sure ranks as one of the most downloaded eBooks on the subject of Aquaponics worldwide.

What you must bear in mind however, is that Aquaponics is just one small component of the ‘bigger picture” and it is this, that will be the main focus of my blog for the foreseeable future.

Modern Survivalism, as practised by Jack Spirko and the other good ol’ boys at The Survival Podcast represents a 21st Century approach to mankind’s oldest problem that is, how to survive as a family or community when things are going well or even when they go pear-shaped. It is a concept far removed from the wack-job bunkered down in a cellar surrounded by guns and “surviving” on tinned food while the world around him goes to hell in a handbag.

No, Modern Survivalism is a holistic approach to the old Boy Scout motto of “be prepared” and the important thing here is that in your preparations (preps) you should not do anything or spend any money on items that you would not need anyway. In a real “Shit Hit the Fan” (SHTF) situation, your preps should place you and your family in a far safer place than all those around you without unnecessarily attracting any attention to you.

I will spend the next couple of posts dealing with the basic concepts of Modern Survivalism and then outline how I have applied them in my life here at the southern tip of Africa.

Be Prepared


Aquaponics 101 – Progress in the Forest.

The days just don’t seem long enough. The gale force winds seem to make every little thing a chore and puts everyone in a bad mood. The winds have been blowing daily now for over a month (Gustav or Ike maybe?) We are still working at the Gouna site with the gable ends off, so the wind has just been whipping up the sand and blowing it straight through the tunnel into our eyes.

We eventually finished our drain and I have decided to paint it with a coat of waterproof paint just to be sure of no water leakage. We have also finished the solids filter and the big pipe that comes into it. As you will see from this image, I have designed three compartments to trap as many solids as possible before they get into the sump. The water will flow sideways and then over a little partition into the next compartment. I am filling the first compartment with filter material and charcoal “sausages” The next compartment will have coral and oyster shells and the final will be a settlement tank in which we have a few Tilapia fingerlings which eat the final solids which have come through.

This is what it looks like.

We have started welding on the ends of the growbeds. The first step is to measure out and cut a half-moon out of PVC sheet.

Then you glue (with PVC glue) and clamp into place with a re-inforcing ring.

This is what the final welded end looks like. Note the gravel that we are using on the ground. It is the same gravel that we use in our growbeds and the central drain and is certainly helping in cutting down on the dust.

Meanwhile back at the other site that we finished last month, we are harvesting like crazy. Here are some radishes that apparently “don’t do so well” in Aquaponics !!

To the numerous schools from around the globe who have commented on this blog or sent me emails, send me photographs and descriptions of your systems and I promise that I will publish them.

Keep up the good work.


Aquaponics 101 – Next?

Today I officially handed over the commercial site to the client.  Everything is now installed and all the ponds, growbeds, pumps etc. are working fine.  The heat pump that we installed last week is not coping with the cold weather so we have ordered a much bigger unit which arrives tomorrow.  Once the water temperature is up to 25 degrees, I’ll order the fingerlings.

As mentioned previously, everything that we have planted in this system is growing like crazy including all the seeds sowed directly into the gravel.

We are planning a “greenhouse-wetting” party that will have to come after the Knysna Oyster Festival which hits us from this weekend, with non-stop parties.

In closing, a photograph of the completed system and some little tomato seedlings popping out of the gravel.

I will post some follow-up images in a month or two from this site, but for now we will be concentrating on the two tunnel site at Gouna.

I have numerous enquiries for similar systems from all over South Africa, so the future looks really interesting.

Cheers for now.


Sex sells.

So Boet, I hear you’ve been in Japan.

Haasoh Bru, I bring greetings from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Why are you speaking so funny?

What do you mean?

Well you keep looking at your feet when you speak, And bowing.

Oh sorry man, these habits are hard to break, but hang it’s good to be home.

So? Tell us about your trip.

Ja OK. Remember I told you I was going to look for business opportunities?

Yes, and did you find any?

Yep, bought a franchise. I’m going to be a millionaire within the year.

What kind of franchise? Japanese food, or what?

Naghh, something MUCH more interesting.

Well, don’t keep me in suspense man, let’s hear it.’

It’s a franchise called JAPANESE SEX AEROBICS.

WHAT? Does Doris know about this?

Of course not you idiot. I’ll tell her all about it AFTER I’ve made my first million.’

Well, how does it work?

You know the Japanese are such hard workers?

Yes, and?

Well they work so hard that they don’t have time for sex.

So what? According to Doris, you don’t have time for sex because you fall asleep.

In Japan, this worries them, so this brilliant businessman came up with this idea.

Please continue.

Well you just have to find a big hall in the business district and rent it. Even a warehouse will do.


Well then you schedule half hour sessions with an instructor and then the couples come in and do it.

Do what?

IT, you know, that thing. Don’t make me say it.

Boet, what are you talking about?

In their lunchtimes or whatever, 200 or 300 couples, half an hour, in and out and back to work.

Boet, you are starting to scare me, I have no idea what you are talking about.

They pay 100 bucks each, the instructor tells them what to do, undress 1 minute, foreplay 3 minutes, doing IT 25 minutes, then they run through communal showers and dress and straight back to work.

You mean like synchronised?

Yes, that’s it, you’ve got it.

And you PAID for this franchise?

It’s big in Japan !!

And you think it’ll work here?

Well don’t you? Here’s a picture, judge for yourself.

Harvesting Energy.

The first law of thermodynamics states that, “energy can not be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.

As we sit in the midst of an energy crisis with Eskom not coping and global oil prices sky rocketing, I find it so strange that so much energy is wasted. We actually design systems (believe it or not) to soak up excess energy and dissipate it. What rubbish you may say, but let me give you some examples.

Have you ever been to a gym and seen all those panting people running on treadmills, cycling, working out with weights? All of them are converting one form of energy into another. A treadmill is designed to offer various levels of resistance to simulate various running conditions.

A simple generator built into the treadmill could offer the same resistance required and at the same time generate energy in the form of electricity which could be stored and used to reduce the gyms reliance on Eskom and save valuable carbon emissions.

Everytime I read about protest marches, I think what a waste of energy. Why not install a sort of travelator at each towns city hall and whenever protestors had any grievances they could all get on and walk, toyi-toy or run for an hour or two and then pop their stupid memorandum into a convenient built-in slot?

All the energy harvested could be fed into the local electricity grid.

There are already hamster wheel powered cellphone chargers, why don’t we harvest all of our excess energy.

Here’s an exercise. For the next week keep a look out for any activity that uses energy and then dissipates it by weight, gravity, springs etc. and think of how it could be converted to useable energy. And before anyone suggest using all the hot air that Synaptoman generates, I’ve already thought of that.

Be good.