By Laurel Miller, of The Sustainable Kitchen
Just down the street from my former digs in Seattle is Portage Bay Grange. One day, while walking back from the student ghetto known as the U-District, I saw what I first believed to be a mirage: bales of hay, chicken coops, and rabbit hutches (with their attendant occupants) lined up in front of an unassuming little shop I’d never noticed before. It appeared to have sprung up, mushroom-like, overnight.
Seattle is chock-a-block with urban farmers, but this was the first store I’d seen in city limits dedicated to homesteading. Inside, there’s everything from organic animal feed (the “house specialty”) and bee-keeping equipment to Weck canning jars, chicks, and emmer cultivated by a family farm in East Washington.
The happening new thing at PBG, however, is the custom-designed “duckaponics” system. Owner Kevin Scott-Vandenberge wanted a duck habitat that utilized the principles of aquaponics, so employee Brian Genung built him one. Rat-proof, and self-cleaning –watering, and -fertilizing, this ingenious waterfowl fortress is also solar-powered (admittedly, a debatable concept in Seattle).
The enclosed system works by pumping the dirty “pond” water into a tank, where the sediment settles. The water is then pumped upward, where it’s filtered through puffed clay pellets before self-watering the rooftop potager. The water then flows down, back into the pond. Bonus: the sexy waterfall effect results in playful, happy ducks, and good egg production (nesting boxes are installed in the back of the unit).