Tag Archives: Synaptoman

Virtual sheepdogs

I have spent my entire life dreaming up, fine-tuning and then documenting ideas.  Most completely wacky, but some worth serious consideration.  I’m just not much of an “executor”.  When these ideas, often years later, are launched amidst great fanfare and millions of dollars, I look on in dismay.  If only?

Wednesdays are going to be devoted to publishing some of these ideas.  My rationale is two-fold.  Firstly, I have a date and timestamp of the blog post should I wish to pursue the matter at some time in the future.  Secondly, and more importantly, maybe one of my readers would like to take one of these ideas further with me.

This idea dates back to 2014, but now much of the required technology has come of age and its probably worth a re-look.

The idea is for a “self-herding” flock of sheep (or any other domestic animal).  All the sheep in a flock are fitted with collars containing an internet-enabled tracking device and GPS.  It is powered by a small battery or could even have solar panels.  The collar also contains a speaker (or buzzer).   It is linked to a mobile app and the farmer can track his entire flock (and each sheep individually) in real-time.

To move sheep, one would traditionally use a shepherd and a trained sheepdog.  The shepherd would instruct the dog, which would then run after the sheep and slowly move them in a general direction and then into specific areas.  Although it is great fun for the dog, it is time-consuming, labor-intensive and certainly too random for 2018.

The Virtual Sheepdog concept works like Google Maps.  The farmer locates the flock on his smartphone (from anywhere in the world),  indicates the required destination and the software goes to work.  The collars of a few sheep on the far side of the destination (as determined by the algorithm) start “barking” or “buzzing”.  Sheep closest to them dart off in the opposite direction (ie. the direction in which you want them to move).  The “barking” stops.  The barking sheep who are now confused just follow the general flock.  A few seconds later the algorithm recalculates, and a few more (maybe different) sheep on the outside “bark” again.  Repeat until the sheep are safely at their destination.

Potential equity investors are welcome to contact me at synaptoman(at)gmail.com.







The Pivot

Pivot, verb. “to turn on or as if on a pivot”

I was always told, “if you don’t have anything interesting to say, just keep quiet.”  Well the reason for my “radio silence” over the last few years has certainly not been for this reason.  Plenty of interesting stuff has in fact been happening, but in my rush to “pivot” from a free-ranging, Aquaponic system designer and builder to a fully-fledged member of the White Monopoly Capital, polo-playing, wine-quaffing set in the Cape Winelands of South Africa, I just didn’t find the time to put any of my thoughts down on paper (or computer).

The pivot will now also extend to this blog, so for the couple of loyal followers who are here solely for the Aquaponics, I am afraid this will probably disappoint you.  I am going to package the extensive Aquaponic Section and archive it for any die-hards and embark on a brand new direction.

Enjoy the ride.



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


Permaculture 101 – Sheet Mulching

In my previous post I mentioned that I would be spending some time on the concept of Permaculture (PC).   A normal person would slowly introduce the concept, the basic principles and other background information before dealing with specific details, Not being normal I intend, after a simple definition of PC, to plunge directly into sheet mulching.

Firstly, what is PC?

The aim of PC is to design ecologically sound, economically prosperous human communities.  It is guided by a set of ethics; caring for the Earth, caring for people and reinvesting the surplus that this care will create.  (Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to Home Scale Permacuture, Toby Hemenway. ISBN 978-1-60358-029-8)

One of the first tasks in building an ecologically sound (and productive) garden is to build the soil.  I was immediately attracted to the concept of sheet mulching because it was irrelevant what the current condition of your garden is, whether it be sandy, clay soil or even a water-sucking lawn, sheet mulching was guaranteed to work because the soil was built upwards from scratch.

Briefly sheet-mulching entails building a raised bed of compostable material into which one can immediately start planting.  Planned and implemented correctly, it will immediately start breaking down and composting, retain water on an impressive scale and last for many years.  Even when it starts becoming less productive, one just adds compostable material on top to start all over again.

Anyway, here is Sheet Mulching – The Synaptoman way.

The best advice I can give here is to start small.  My first attempt at sheet mulching (SM) was an area of about 4m x 3m and it took a hard day’s slog and plenty of material to complete the job.   You will need the following;

  • Enough cardboard or newspaper to cover the area.
  • Manure (cow manure works the best)
  • Organic material (straw, grass cuttings, bark, almost anything)
  • Weed free compost
  • Mulch

I bought 12 large bags of pine bark chips which would act as my organic material and my mulch, 10 bags of mushroom compost and a pickup load of cow manure and got cracking.

 We had to fetch the manure ourselves, here’s a very rare shot of Brat Deluxe doing some work for a change.

After the manure episode he deserted me and I built the SM bed single-handedly, although I shouldn’t be too harsh on him as he looks after my garden while I’m out “hunting and gathering”, including watering the rapidly expanding fruit orchard, which in his own words is, “no joke”.

First Step is to spread a fine layer of manure over the area.

Water thoroughly and then pack cardboard or newspaper over the area.  This will kill all grass or weeds by depriving them of sunlight.  At every step from now on, water thoroughly.

After this goes the manure.  Aim for about an inch (25mm)

Then we start packing layers of organic material (in my case, the wood chips).  The deeper the better but I managed about 6 inches (150mm).

After that comes the compost. About 1 inch (25mm)

Followed by a final layer of mulch (more wood chips)

It is very important that you water at every stage.  It is absolutely amazing how much water this solid pile of material holds.  It acts as a sponge and I estimate that I added between 500-700L of water to this pile without a drop seeping out of the sides.

Now we wait a few weeks (or the whole of our Winter here in South Africa) and then start planting.

Wish me luck.

*Breaking News*

I have started testing a Forum for Synaptoman where subscribers and regular readers can discuss subjects dealt with in this blog.  I have a rough site working and am busy conducting tests after which I will open it up to subscribers to this blog first and thereafter the general public.  I hope to have this ready by next week and would appreciate any suggestions for Categories.  So far I have Categories with the following headings;

  • Aquaponics (obviously)
  • Permaculture
  • Sustainable Living
  • Alternative Energy

I am also looking for some volunteers to moderate individual categories.  I think it is going to be immensely popular and a lot of fun to have a small focused community where folk with similar interests can throw ideas around outside of the madness that the Internet has become.

Enough for now


Synaptoman runs the Knysna

Here’s to you Andy.  Yep, without the laugh-a-minute local attorney, Andy Cox, Synaptoman wouldn’t have stood a chance in todays running of the Knysna Half Marathon.  Not that Andy was even there.

Here’s a shot of Andy giving a chop-stick demonstration recently

No, without Andy, the self-styled ITB guru, I would probably have been crippled for a week.  Also, training helps but Synaptoman doesn’t train.  Never have and never will.  This year was even more extreme, and I can honestly say that I never ran even 100m in preparation for this brilliant race, run through the beautiful Knysna forests over 21km.

But I digress, back to ITB.  More commonly known as Runners Knee, I have suffered from this ailment for years, and it effectively put a stop to a rather successful track and field career in my earlier years.

Andy also suffers from ITB, and at Comrades this year (no I didn’t run) he suggested strapping up both legs with insulation tape exactly 4 fingers above the knee. So there I was this morning at the start, with my two skinny legs strapped up like those thin poles that the road-builders plant at the side of the road to show levels. I certainly attracted some curious stares from many of the 4000 plus runners tackling the Half, but I persevered and wow, what a difference !!

With a cut-off time of 3 hours, I cruised in at 2 hours and 35 minutes to earn my 7th medal in this race (I had been disqualified once, but that is a different story).

So here’s to you Andy, cheers.

Oh, and the Child Bride ran a very credible 2 hours something. She also helped out doing bar duty at registration the night before.

Here’s a picture of her and Mike (aka Captain Courageous)

And finally, a shot of the medal and the tape. Now for some champagne.



Thank you, one and all

Thank you so much for your support over the last 14 months since the inception of Synaptoman and also for your votes in the 2008 SA Blog Awards. It was a huge honour to have been declared a Runner Up in the Best Green Blog category. Congratulations to the winners and well done to the organisers.

A special word of thanks Joel and his team at Backyard Aquaponics and my Aquaponic mates in Australia and the rest of the world who voted like crazy. Aquaponics might currently be regarded as “Geek Gardening”, but as Global Warming really shows it’s effects, Aquaponics may just be the future of agriculture.

A very thankful