[FPSPACE] Report from Mars Base Zero

LARRY KLAES ljk4 at msn.com
Thu Oct 14 20:04:29 EDT 2004

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Ray Collins<mailto:rc at isecco.org> 
To: Meeting_notices at isecco.org<mailto:Meeting_notices at isecco.org> 
Sent: Sunday, October 10, 2004 11:37 PM
Subject: Week 3 Closure Update

Wow, time is just flying by.  Certainly is hard to believe
that I've been closed up in here for 3 weeks already.

This last week was one spent primarily on non-ISECCo stuff.
 I did not do any more than keep up with the chores. 
Perhaps I should go into just what the chores are, since we
will be inviting others to live inside next fall:

1. Most important: harvest the food.  Since we are running
this as an experiment there is slightly more involved that
going out and pulling carrots or digging potatoes; we want a
complete record too.  So when I dig a potato plant I record
the number and weight of each potato and the weight of the
left overs (stalk and everything that is routed to the
compost pile).

2.  Cook and prepare the food, which some might not think is
a part of the Mars Base Zero chores, but it is usually
slightly more involved than most cooking because there are
usually a few extra preparation steps (like washing the
dirt-covered potatoes).

3.  Dealing with wastes.  These come in three general forms.
 The easiest is the compost bucket.  This is where I throw
carrot tops, potato stalks, etc. after they have been
weighted.  When the bucket is full (about once a week,
though it would have been more often except I cut most of
the tops off the potatoes in square B all at once) I haul it
over to square A (the bucket is kept by the table for handy
use) and pour it on the compost pile.  Then I put a thin
layer of dirt over it, and lightly water so it will
decompose.  With solid human waste I had been sterilizing it
so it could be decomposed and then put directly on the
garden, but it was very odorous.  Two years ago when we did
our last closure (for a week) I sterilized it after it had
decomposed, which was not smelly at all.  When someone
(thanks, Ralph!) wondered why I was sterilize it before
composting I decided it was too smelly to sterilize it
before, and went back to using a bucket.  After each use a
little dirt keeps it smelling, well, maybe not fine but it
certainly doesn't stink.  After decomposition (a year for
us; our ecosystem is pretty cool and it slows decomposition)
we'll sterilize it.  The third waste is urine, which gets
sterilized right away.  This, too, is a little smelly, but
since it gets put in a hole dug in the garden (after
diluting 10:1 with water) it needs to be sterile [note: most
urine *is* sterile, but we will have many people living in
here, so we need to be careful because there are a couple of
diseases that can be transmitted through urine].  Both feces
and urine are being weighed/measured during this testing period.

4.  [I think it is taking longer to do this than to write
than to actually do!]  Watering.  Although I don't water
quite every day, especially this last week since the water
was in short supply (Frankie didn't make it over to give me
water last weekend because she wasn't feeling very good), I
do on a regular basis...every other day at a minimum. 
[Note: this week Frankie didn't manage to get me water
either, so I asked Kraig to do it.]  Watering also keeps the
dust down, which (among other things) I have a problem with
because it is giving me a persistent cough.

5.  Plowing.  About once a week I plow the areas where I've
harvested potatoes.  This will allow us to plant next spring
with a minimum of work.

6.  Logging data.  About every second or third day I'll log
the data I've generated (foods eaten; water used; wastes
produced, all of which is written in a notebook) into the
computer, and more intermittently I'll update the web site
with the data.

7.  Dishes, etc.  Dishes I do as needed, which isn't very
often because with this diet few things stick very hard and
the dishes can be wiped clean quite easily (how much gets
left on a salad plate?!  Also quite a bit of my food I eat
straight from the garden, like turnips or carrots--no plate
needed).  I have not had to weed very much because the crop
area was fairly clean when I started, and with the short
daylight and cool soil temperatures (50 degrees F) weeks
aren't growing very fast--nor is anything else, alas--next
year when we want to run on into the winter we are going to
keep the crops a lot warmer, like 70 degrees, than I'm doing
now.  Now I keep the temperature comfortable in the loft,
and don't worry about what it is downstairs (as long as it
is above freezing).  Then there is the occasional
maintenance item (like when the furnace thermostatic
controller went down and the heater pump didn't come on) but
these are pretty infrequent.

       ****     ****     ****     ****     ****

Foods are holding up pretty well.  I finished digging all
the potatoes in square B this week, and have dug about 1/3
of the potatoes in square D [the last square with potatoes].
 I am getting low on onions; I have divided the remaining
area in 2 equal portions, one for this week and one for the
following week.  Carrots are a bit low, but holding out.  I
have a lot of turnip plants left, but many do not have bulbs
so I may be running out of those before too long. 
Everything else is holding out very well.

As I go into week four I'm well settled in and, in some
ways, not looking foreword to coming out and going back to
work!  But it is approaching, though not imminent: I
estimate 12-18 days.  Unless, of course, my wife has major
problems with her pregnancy!

Through the dirt, to the Stars!
Ray C.
Mars Base Zero inhabitant

ps more questions from week 3 at:

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