Once Linda picked me up we started the trip to Texas. I didn't realize it until I did some research but we would be in close proximity to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. This is the only diamond mine in the US that is open to the public where you can go and dig for diamonds...real diamonds. This was something I really wanted to see so off we went...There is a 37 acre field where you can dig, sift, screen, etc to your heart's content. Every so often they plow the field to bring more diamonds to the surface.
This area was home to a massive volcano ages ago that brought the crystal beauties to the surface. You can find clear white, yellow and brown.
The diamonds aren't all that elusive either (although we didn't find any). More than 700 diamonds are found each year and someone had even found one the week before we were there. They have a gorgeous RV park and splash water park there which makes for an awesome family getaway. So if you ever get to Murfreesboro, Arkansas, be sure to go check it out.
Our next stop was Austin, Texas. I needed to do some training with another one of our teams so we joined up with them west of Austin for a few days. Last Friday we left there and went to Montgomery, TX for our annual company meeting. It's like a family reunion as we get to spend time with folks we usually only see once a year. Lots of hugs and laughs from Monday to Thursday. When we arrived, we called a local RV mobile tech because our outside shower was leaking and our inverter was not supplying power to the rig while we were traveling. We couldn't run the water pump, receptacles or anything that usually would run off the inverter. Power was going TO the inverter but wasn't going to the rig. Turns out one of the 12v breakers, under the front steps, was shot. This isn't the type of breaker as in the electrical panel but one that can usually be reset if it trips due to low load when the batteries are low. Junior replaced the outside shower and breaker but it didn't fix the problem. Turns out the solenoid that tells the battery disconnect to turn on and off was not working so the batteries were not charging. We had to stay an extra day till Junior could order the part but on Friday, around 2, we hit the road for Rockdale, TX.
While I was doing my internship at White Violet Center, you may recall that I did my project on aquaponics. One of the farms that is big into aquaponics is located in nearby Cameron, TX and had a farm tour scheduled for yesterday so we signed up. Sand Creek Farm participates in a CSA program but they have four high tunnels and in three of them they do aquaponics. They grow many vegetables outdoors in the ground but they grow a lot of specialized things indoors, where they grow super fast and virtually free from pests. He grows a whole lot of Asian greens that I had never heard of before and he said they grow really well in an aquaponic environment. Onions, that typically take 100 days to grow in the ground...he grows them in 8 weeks. The seeds are started in a vermiculite/coconut coir mixture in little net pots (bottoms have a lot of openings in them to let water in). The pots sit in cut outs in the foam board, that is floating on top of the water in the troughs. You can see the fish tank in the background behind Ben i this picture on the right. He has silver sheets of rigid insulation around the tank and on top of it to keep heat in during this cold snap that Texas is having. The basic concept of aquaponics is that the fish poop, which provides the nutrients that the plants need. The fish poo water is pumped into the troughs where the vegetables grow and the plants extract all the waste products, creating clean water that is returned to the fish tank. Cool, huh ? It's a symbiotic relationship of raising healthy fish and vegetables in a closed loop system. In our country over 60% of our fish come from China, which has sometimes had unscrupulous practices when it comes to food production. Wouldn't it be cool if we could get enough aquaponic farmers in this country so that we could provide our own sources of fish. Ben uses Perch and Tilapia in his tanks but there are many other types that can be used, depending on what temperatures you hold to have in your system. In cold climates, trout would be a good source because they are a cold water fish.
During our tour, we also got to see his cheese room, where he produces Havarti and Gouda cheese. Look at those beautiful wheels of cheese ! The cows that he milks used to be wild, free range type of cows and he would have to round them up and lasso them to bring them in to milk them. They are now accustomed to being milked so it's not a rodeo every time he needs them to come to the barn at milking time. I can't even imagine how wild a time that must have been. He also makes yogurt and had a batch in the oven when we were there. It was a really neat farm and there were 42 people on our tour. It was raining lightly while we were touring and once we got home, it really started to pour and continued through the night.
Linda eating Red Russian Kale that Ben picked out of the garden. She loved it !
As I finish up this post, we are rolling down the highway towards Waco. We should arrive in Keene around 1:30. Time enough to get set up, get some lunch and settle in for NASCAR. Tomorrow morning we start our training at home office. We're excited to learn new things and work to develop the northern region of Texas. We feel great things are just over the horizon. Nothing's gonna stop us from going full steam ahead !