Am I an Aquapon? ~ The Tinkerer

Am I an Aquapon? ~ The Tinkerer

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

ConstructionDo your parents tell stories of how when you were little, you all sat down to watch a television show on Friday night only to find that you’d taken apart the TV?

If that’s you, then you might be an aquapon.

My dad tells this story of how I decided to become an engineer.

I was four, and we had planned to build a bookshelf together the next day. I spent all night in my bed mentally designing the bookshelf, then woke up at 2 am because I couldn’t wait any longer. Hammering quietly, I still managed to wake up my parents. My dad said blearily, “I’ll bet you’ll be an engineer one day. Now go back to sleep.”

“Do not look for answers now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now, and some distant day you may be able to live along into the answers.” – Rilke

Jeremiah with LoriAround that same time – my aunt tells me – I was at her house. I wanted to come inside after playing but did not want to take off my muddy shoes. When she sat down next to me – partially trying to justify myself and partly out of true curiosity – I asked one of the most important and profound questions of my life: “What is dirt?” I never let it go, either, and it’s led me to some fascinating places and wonderful discoveries.

Based on conversations with the fellow aquapons I meet, I’m not alone in this. We’re the type of people that grab onto questions like honey badgers and don’t let them go till we’ve followed them as far as they go. We have to, because designing an aquaponics system is challenging.

90 percent of people that design their own aquaponics systems quit before they’re finished.1  Those of us who don’t belong in a special category. Like Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now, we have to find out for ourselves.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” ~Albert Einstein

For many aquapons – like many tinkerers – a new idea is like a Christmas present. We can’t wait to get up in the morning and try it out, or put it into practice.

We have to know – can this thing really work? Can you really grow plants with fish? How much of my own food can I raise? 

Some of the projects I’ve engaged in over the years include:

  • Designing my own biochar and back-country camping stoves
  • Designing a custom venting system to make the world’s most efficient pellet stove about 4% more efficient, and running it on switchgrass.
  • 100_2153Removing and re-supporting structural walls in my house, including cutting one open with the world’s most fun tool (10″ concrete saw)
  • Experimenting with plant guilds
  • Designing a chicken tractor and raccoon-proof electric fence 
  • Building a lightweight trailer to haul canoes behind my Corolla
  • Building a computer using Linux
  • Designing an Arduino-based aquaponics controller

Many aquapons think of themselves as preppers, and many of us are. I’ll talk about this next time, but on the whole I think we’re more tinkerers than preppers. Sure, we worry about hard times ahead and the trends we see around us, like most people do. But think about it – prepping gives us a really convenient excuse to try out all kinds of interesting ideas and build all kinds of stupendous contraptions.

Because at the end of the day, aquapons are tinkerers at heart.

1 Building a pre-designed model like the Zero-to-Hero system is somewhat different.

Besides aquaponics, what projects have you tinkered with?