Thus begins the new year and my consistent journal documentation of the joint effort of the Saginaw Valley State University Department of Sociology, the Houghton-Jones Community Center, and the Good Neighbors Mission to explore new ways to provide affordable, healthful food to urban residents. It has been roughly two months since the four hydroponic systems were first installed at the two community centers, I have just returned from Christmas break, and the new year brings the real beginning of the project.
The last time I saw the plants, on December 11th, most of them were sprouting nicely while a few remained hidden in their rock-wool incubators. The sprouts only had to suffer a few stumbling points in their infancy. The ph levels in all four systems was noticably high, up to 7.8, and in correcting this I underestimated the potency of the ph-down solution, dropping the acidity levels in the Houghton-Jones systems to just above 3. In correcting this catastrophe, the parts-per-million was elevated from around 250 to over 600. Thus far, that does not appear to have had any adverse effects on our future fruits and vegitables. Additionally, while I was adding solution to all four systems, I unplugged the base chord from the outlet, which reset our kilowat-hours meter. This is minor, as we had recorded the total kw-hours before unplugging the meter, but it is something to be cautious of during future solution remixing. The final impediment to the program is the tragic death of our ph meter, which produced its last accurate readings in early December before displaying symptoms of old age and deterioration. Until we obtain a successor, we will use ph tape to record the acidity levels. This is equally as accurate, though less precise. For our purposes, it will suffice to know that the ph level is between 6 and 7.
We are submitting a proposal to present the findings of this research at a conference at Penn State in May of this year. I will be at La Universidad de Guadalajara Autonomo during the conferece, so should our proposal be accepted, Dr. Thomas will be presenting solo.
I have christened each hydroponic system with a more personable name than "system 1" or "system 4." At the Houghton Jones center reside Puck (Robin Goodfellow) and the Growinator. Stationed in the Good Neighbors Mission are Norman Bourlaug and Captain Planet. I am making laminated name-plates for each system, though we will not be smashing any bubbly over them to avoid intoxicating the plants. It is my hope that naming the systems in this manner will encourage community embracement of, perhaps even affection for, the systems. When I was in elementary school, my freinds and I all named our bikes, and I found that endowing one's property with a supposed personality inspires a person to care for it more earnestly.
We will be holding at least two workshops in Saginaw to provide the community members with training to use and maintain their hydroponic gardens. These workshops will address the large systems installed in the community buildings as well as potential smaller gardens that individuals may create for their homes. It is our hope that these workshops will initiate a higher level of community involvement.
I will be traveling into Saginaw to see how the plants are progressing this week. Until then, eat healthily and stay green.