In this second part of the spring 2020 food forest walk through we take a look at the back yard and what is growing there. Here you will also see some ideas I’ve put to use such as using logs as path borders and my yard trash cans (mulch bins) that second as a climbing support.
I’m going to start doing walk throughs twice a year, one in spring and another in the fall. In each video I’ll highlight what is new and what has signifigantly changed and also include other completed projects. I’m hoping to have a new garden area created by this fall. Stay safe everyone!
We’ve had rain every day for the past couple of weeks and this has resulted in a mosquito invasion. It’s the worst I can remember since we have been here, it’s so bad that I haven’t been able to go out in the yard at all. About a week ago I took some measures to control this and the yard is now a happy place again.
In this video I’ll show the tools I used to combat the mosquito outbreak. Three of the tools are for the yard and two are personal protection. These are all things that are working, for example here’s a pile of dead mosquitoes from the mosquito magnet:
It’s nice to get back to almost normal, there’s still daily rain and a lot of the yard is a mud pit but at least I can get out there and work. Here’s the video:
I’ve put referral links on the YouTube page but here they are again for reference. Any time you shop Amazon and start from a referral link it helps me out a lot!
Once the property dries out I’ll start working on the infrastructure project (explained in this post). I’ve already had some fill dirt placed to raise the new garden area but it is also too wet to work with. In the meantime there’s been a lot of new stuff planted so I’ll do a property walk through to show some of these new additions. Until then, stay dry!
I’m constantly watching videos related to homesteading and raising food in Florida. There’s so much to learn and I’m always adding to my lists of things to do and plants or trees I’d like to add. Rarely do I subscribe to a particular blogger but these three caught my interest for very different reason. Check them out, especially if you are in the south! In no particular order:
Pete Kanaris – Green Dreams Florida
Pete creates professional level videos from food forests and gardens all over the place. He also runs a company (Green Dreams Florida) that specializes in edible landscaping. If you want to see variety and some of the best food forests around check out his channel.
I actually found Rob’s page through Pete. Rob is doing something unique – he’s living for a year completely on food he forages or grows himself in Orlando, Fl. It’s interesting to see how much work it is to feed a single person this way. Once the one year challenge is up who knows what he will do next but you can always look back through his video library to see how he survived the challenge.
Donto & Amy – Food Foresters
This couple does a little of everything. What I really like about their channel is they show it all – challenges, successes, failures, and a lot of personality thrown in. I see them working with a lot of the same problems I deal with such as flooding, bugs, and weeds to name a few. They grow vegetables, fruit trees, raise livestock and even show processing and cooking their harvests. This is what I’d call the down to earth realities of homesteading with constant updates.
If you have any favorite southern homesteading YouTuber bloggers feel free to make a comment below. I also have a few worldwide ones I follow but not as closely as a lot of their methods don’t apply here in the subtropics.
Another two weeks has passed since I planted the clover around the property and there still hasn’t been any significant growth. This may change over the coming weeks due to the rainy season starting, if it does then I’ll make sure to show it here. In the meantime, I’ve started another major project.
I’m calling this one the infrastructure project, it is basically putting all the plumbing and electrical wiring underground around the property to support future plans. I’m trying to do this in one shot as much as possible so the planning stage is very critical. I’ve created a map of where I think everything needs to go:
The first step was to lay out the locations for things such as the new garden area and the potting shed, then mark the plumbing and electrical connections based on these. Second, I placed markers all around the property for the remaining connections. There was some changes from this original design so I will have to make an updated map. Next, I measured the distanced for each item so I know how much pipe, connectors, and wire to buy. This is where I am at now.
Once the items are purchased I’ll call in for a utility locate, this is where the power and cable company come in and mark the locations of their wires. I don’t have to worry about existing pipes since I am on well and septic and I know where they are located. Once this is done I’ll rent a trencher for a weekend and get everything underground. The final step will be hooking it all up.
Here’s a video walk through of where I am at now:
I’ll spend a couple of weeks double checking everything and getting the house connections ready, Stay tuned!
Welcome to part three of the chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. Part one of the build focused on building the foundation for the coop, part two was the main framing. This post is about finishing touches and moving the coop into place, I’ll have some follow up posts in the future with the feeders and watering system (and a chicken run when I get around to building it).
As of the last post the coop has taken shape and has been moved outside as it got too tall for the workshop. The focus now is on features and trim work. In this picture, you can see a few trim boards installed and a couple of others cut and ready for staining. The trim is simply 1×4 lumber (and a few 1×6 pieces) screwed over the stapled edges of the welded wire. For future repairs of any part of the coop it shouldn’t be too hard as most boards are screwed into place.
Inside the coop house I’ve put a divider board in to separate the chicken area from the storage area. The storage will be used for coop supplies and for the water tank for the automatic watering. This view is from the storage side which is approximately two feet deep and four feet wide.
Here is the view from the chicken side. The opening this picture is taken from is the clean out doors, the nesting boxes are on the right, and the chicken entry door is partly visible in the back.
In both previous openings you can see the lip at the top and bottom, these are for the doors to fit flush against. This will help keep rain out of the coop and give the doors something to support against. I also added some welded wire between the hen house and open area of the coop, this is to prevent the chickens from trying to roost up there and potentially get stuck. The same opening to the storage side is blocked off with wood.
The coop is being installed in the shade of some large trees so heat should not be an issue.
Next, here is the coop with trim installed. The small opening at the bottom will be a slide up automated door for the chickens to access their run during the day, more detail on that later.
Now for the nesting box. I didn’t have a real good plan for this so it was designed as I went, one thing I’d do different next time is make the opening a lot bigger. By the time it was built I lost a lot of interior space so it went from a three nest design down to two. The first thing was to build some sides, these were made from thick plywood and attached directly to the coop.
I then added some 2×2’s around the bottom to support the floor.
Then the floor was cut and test fit prior to staining and mounting.
With the nesting box floor in place, I made it so the back could be opened for cleaning. This took some trial and error but here is the result.
Here’s the back flipped open. Note all hardware I used is heavy galvanized, no zinc coated stuff for this coop.
All is going good so far, next is the top. This turned out to be pretty challenging, I wanted to be able to flip it open and latch it up out of the way but that didn’t work out. Weatherproofing took priority so the end result is it can be held up most of the way or easily removed, but it is not hinged. I may modify this at a later time to make it easier to use.
Here is the top piece after being cut and stained. Note the grooves line up with the siding, the little details count!
Here’s another view, you can see it is difficult to make it weatherproof and easy to use. To make it so the top could flip up all the way would require it to be attached to the outside but I prefer it goes up into the coop so water won’t enter.
I put a trim board above the nesting box roof to further keep water out and for aesthetics. The latch to hold the top on was also added at this point. Note all hasps on the coop are twist to lock and if needed I could add something through the lock hole if raccoons became a problem. So far they haven’t.
A shot inside the nesting box showing how the back is secured (opens for cleaning).
Here is the nesting box with the top on and secured.
You may have noticed in a couple of the other pictures that the side door is on. This was built with a 2×4 along the back edge then 2×2’s on the other 3 sides. Some shelf bracket angle pieces (galvanized) in the corners help keep it square.
The hen house clean-out doors and storage doors were made from the pieces that were cut out, that way the grooves in the wood lined right up. Here is the hen house doors mounted and partially stained.
These doors have a piece of 1×4 on the inside as a hinge backer and one door has one in the middle for support. Here you can see the middle piece clearly.
With the door opened you can see both backings.
This is the coop clean-out doors wide open, it makes things a little more clear. At the top and bottom of the doors you can see how they fall into the lip on the coop to help seal. When closed, the doors are flush against the coop sides and blend right in.
This picture was taken before the nesting box was completed so you can see it in progress as well (right side).
This inside shot is after the nesting box was completed, you can see there was a lot of space lost due to the sides and roof of the nesting box structure. Bigger next time!
Doors on, nesting box build, main door ready. We are almost ready to move the coop!
I mentioned earlier about a sliding door on the back of the coop, here is an inside shot of it. For now I can raise or lower it from the outside using a rope, in a future project this will be automated to open at dawn and close at dusk. The door will probably have to be changed quite a bit as it does not slide up and down too easily.
Now, how to move the coop. As usual, I tackled this problem when the time came so there was no real plan until then. The coop is way too large and unwieldy to pick up with just pallet forks on the tractor so the next best idea is to make a dolly.
I used some tires from Harbor Freight, the axles are just threaded rod, and these were attached with some angle iron drilled out. The dolly frame is a hodge podge of 4×4 lumber but it served it’s purpose well. I picked up the other end with the tractor and very slowly drove it to the new location.
To retain better control, the heavy side was the one lifted by the tractor.
When the coop was straddled over the foundation, a little push from the tractor put it right in place. I used some concrete anchors and angle brackets to bolt it down, unfortunately there’s no pictures of those steps. Here’s what it looked like right after the move.
You can see a few chips in the foundation from maneuvering the coop into place but none of them are too bad. This makes a good case for putting dye into the concrete, if that were done there wouldn’t be any need for touch up. All concrete projects I do now have the coloring put right in the mix.
Next step is to shingle the roof. I waited until after the move to do this to avoid damaging the roof and also reduce the total weight during the move. The shingles match the ones on our house, these are leftovers from when it was built.
Shingled installed, just need to do the ridge.
The chickens were already placed in the coop but I noticed at night they all gathered at the hen house door. The interior of the coop is very dark so as an experiment I put a small light in there, that worked as the birds went inside.
For a more permanent solution, I added a solar powered led light. Here is a link to the one I used, I cut off all but one light from the string so the battery would last longer. The solar panel was mounted by the coop door which faces west.
Mounting the panel was simple as it already had a bracket attached, a few wire clamps hold it in place.
Wires were stapled along the interior:
A final wire clamp holds the lamp in place. This has been running for a year and a half now with no problem.
In the future I’ll add a more elaborate solar power system to power an interior light, wireless video camera, door for the run, and water monitor but for now this works well.
Here is a picture inside the coop with bedding in place, note the retaining board added to the front to hold the shavings from falling out. That board is removable to make cleaning easier.
From this angle you can see how the retaining board and coop doors all line up when closed. The coop doors help hold the board in place, there is a beveled board attached on the inside to keep it from falling out.
Hangars for food and water were added to use until the permanent feeders and watering were set up, happy birds!
So there you have it – the coop is fully operational. On this last picture you can see the small rake hanging on the back, this is used for cleaning and herding the chickens around.
Most of the things I’d do different are around the foundation, it would be bigger (taller) and the whole thing would be on higher ground. It has held up well including through some of the worst flooding this area has seen but I’d feel better if it was about six inches higher up. The nesting boxes are smaller than planned but has not caused any problems for our current eight birds.
If I were to do it again, and I probably will make another coop someday, it will be made from concrete. I’d build it as a building that could be re-purposed later or divided up for multiple bird types. This coop cost around $1,500 to make, the one I’d like to have would easily be triple that. That’s a project for five years out, this coop will easily last that long and maybe ten years or more. At a year and a half old now there’s very little sign of wear.
If you are reading this and are in the Brevard County, Florida area please check our Facebook page for upcoming events. We host seed and plant exchanges at Three Acre Paradise a few times a year and also have other types of meetup events here.
Welcome to part two of the chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. In case you missed it, here is a link to part one where I built the foundation. This post focuses on the main framing of the coop. The third and final build post will be about finishing touches, then in the future I’ll have posts on the automated watering system and the custom built feeders.
If you find any part of this useful and grab some tips from the build I’d like to hear about it. I’m not one of those people who can plan every detail ahead of time so a lot of this is figure it out as you go but I did have an overall idea in mind. The size of the coop is for up to eight birds comfortably although it could hold more once a run is attached (future project).
Building outside in Florida can be a pain due to the heat and mosquitoes, I’m fortunate to have a workshop large enough to start the coop build inside. The final location is about 200 feet from the shop so it also saved a lot of time not having to drag tools back and forth.
Here’s the start, a batch of 2×4 pressure treated lumber ready to go.
The coop dimensions are twelve feet wide, six feet deep and six feet high. This made purchasing easy, I bought mostly twelve foot boards and cut them in half where needed. Here’s the first batch cut and coated with a redwood colored stain:
No I didn’t have a fancy plan but did have a rough idea on paper. To help avoid errors, I put blue painters tape on the floor to indicate where the uprights will go on the frame.
The base consists of two 2×4’s put together in an L shape. I used coated screws for most assembly, this gives more strength and allows for changes (corrections) as needed. The reason for the L shape is that the bottom board needs to be flat to be bolted to the concrete base and the vertical board provides supports for the uprights.
Here’s the base of the frame assembled:
A close up of a frame corner shows the L shape in more detail, plus the way the joint meets for more strength:
I’m not a carpenter so I’m sure there’s better ways to do this but it seems pretty strong. With the base now assembled I squared it up and screwed a board across the top to keep it in place while assembly continues. The frame is also kept above the floor with some scrap wood to keep it level.
When building the coop I had no idea I’d be blogging this later so there are some steps that don’t have many pictures so I’ll describe what the next steps were best I can. For the corner uprights I used a 2×4 with a 2×2 attached to it to give an L shape. I Screwed each corner upright into place (they held without assistance since they were pretty vertical). I then use clamps to carefully attach the top boards one at a time until I had all of them up. Once they were up, I worked on squaring each corner and tightening up with more screws.
In the above picture you can see the closest corner has been squared and braced. The clamps hold the top boards in place:
With this shot of the bottom bracing you can get a good idea how the uprights look. The 2×4 is flat to the front of the coop and the 2×2 is to the side.
Once the basic rectangle was braced and tightened I added all vertical uprights. These are just 2×4’s, the tape on the floor helps me make sure everything is in the right place. Measure twice, cut once. You can see some additional bracing in place to keep everything squared.
Next, I added framing for the coop floor (hen house). Another advantage of building in the shop – I could work at night.
With the floor framing in place, I put in the last uprights. These don’t go all the way to the top since there will be access doors and a nesting box for the hen house. I also put the wire cloth in the lower section now since it will be harder to get to once the hen house floor is in place.
Heavy plywood (3/4″) was used for the hen house floor. I left the top of this natural, the floor will be glued down so this will protect the wood.
Once again, a couple of steps were done with no pictures. I used commercial grade linoleum flooring squares, these are easy to cut and glue down. Once the floor was dried the openings for the nesting box, clean out door, storage door, and hen opening were braced and support was put in for a divider.
Here’s a closeup of the nesting box bracing. 2×4’s were used and a Kreg jig made for strong joints. If you are considering a project like this I highly recommend the Kreg, it’s a big time and headache saver. Here’s an Amazon link to the one I use.
Here’s a picture from inside the coop, this is the opening the chickens will use to get into the hen house. I used the Kreg here again, see how the 2×4’s are attached flush with the other framing. To the right you can see the framing for the divider, the left side is the hen house and the right will be for the water tank and storage.
A closer look at the hen door framing and how it is flush with the other frame boards.
The welded wire I used has one inch holes, I could not find a good deal locally so ended up getting it from Amazon. Here is a link to what I used. The spacing on my uprights is two feet so this was made easy by buying welded wire the right width from the start. The wire was stapled to the outside of the uprights then trimmed to fit into the backside of the top and bottom. I’ll be putting trim boards over the outside to make it look nicer, again since everything is screwed together it will be easy to replace any future damage.
Siding for the hen house is a grooved exterior plywood that I bought at Home Depot. This was easy to cut and attach with all the bracing that was placed around every opening. When I cut each opening I was careful to do it in one piece and kept the scrap, these will be just right for making the doors. With this picture you can see the results so far, plus I’ve added some trim boards by the main door. Looks good!
Nothing fancy as far as attaching the siding, just a bunch of screws and it just buts up against the top rail. The coop is nice and strong now so no need for the original temporary bracing. This opening is for the nesting box.
Here you can see the back and end opening. The end (to the right) is access to clean out the hen house, the back (left) is for the storage and water tank. Note I left an edge of framing exposed at the top and bottom of each opening. This is to give the doors something to brace against when closed and will also keep rain and wind out.
Looking from the inside, this is the hen house. The opening to the coop is to the left (hen access), nesting box to the back, and clean out opening to the right.
Well, that’s pretty much it for what I can do inside the workshop. The next step is roof framing and If I did that inside then it would be stuck in there since my garage door would be in the way. The coop is light enough to be moved with furniture dollies so I put it in the driveway and leveled it up.
The first step for the roof framing is the ridge board. If this is done straight then the rest should fall in place nicely.
The inspectors stopped by to check on progress and offer their advice.
With inspections complete, the rafters went on next. To make the rafters I used trial and error to make one good one then just copied it thirteen more times.
Each rafter is secured with an extra metal bracket. I want this thing to be hurricane proof if possible.
Even the ridge board has extra bracing.
Fast forward a few steps again, now we have roof sheathing installed, fascia boards, and most of the trim boards installed. You can see a few untreated trim boards leaning on the side, I used pressure treated wood for these too.
It looks like it is getting close but there’s still a lot to do! The roof is now covered with peel and stick and all trim boards are on. This is a good place to take a break, next post I’ll cover the finishing touches and moving the coop into place.
Again, if you have any questions or want more construction details let me know,
If you are considering getting chickens – do it! They are everything we were hoping for, and more. Chickens are smart, easy to care for, they can learn some tricks and have a lot of benefits like producing eggs, reducing the insect population, and prepping garden beds. Let’s see your dog do that! One of the most important things for keeping your chickens is the coop, don’t cheap out on this. The store bought kits are usually junk, the wood and hardware won’t last more than a single season and they are not nearly secure enough to keep predators out.
The next series of posts will show our chicken coop build at Three Acre Paradise. I’ve broken this into several segments to provide more detail, pictures, and commentary including what I would do different if I were to do it again.
When I build something such as this I don’t usually start with a fixed plan but rather an idea of what the finished project will look like and provide. This coop was based on lessons learned from an earlier one, I’ll highlight the differences at the end of the build. This one is designed for up to eight chickens (which it currently houses). It will be mounted in a permanent location (the previous was portable, sort of), will have storage for supplies, and have high capacity feeders with automatic watering. The location is southeast of the house, that is in the back left side (see the end of the Upcoming Projects post for a visual location).
The dimension for this coop are 6’W x 12’L x 6’H (six feet wide by twelve feet long and six feet high). The previous coop was 4’W x 12’W x 4’H, I quickly learned that having more headroom inside makes it a LOT easier to clean and maintain.
The pad area was prepped with some fill dirt to raise it above the surrounding area and packed down real good. The coop will have a concrete base around the perimeter, then a drain field inside topped with gravel, weed block and sand. In these first pictures you can see where I measured out the perimeter area to set up the form boards for the concrete pour.
The coop frame will be built from 2×4 lumber and will rest directly on the concrete. To protect the frame from standing water and also have some leeway for error I made the base six inches wide but sloped the sides to shed water.
The next picture shows the form set up. The form boards are just under ten inches high, with the dirt dug down below the overall height will be right at about a foot. Half of this will be below ground and half will be above, this is the first layer of predator protection. Future plans include adding a pavers around the coop to make it even harder for any animals to try digging underneath.
Once the basic form was set up i added a drain pipe, then put a ring of rebar into the form. The rebar won’t prevent the concrete from cracking but if it does the rebar will keep it from separating. The drain pipe is shown here:
Although the form doesn’t look that big, it required 30 bags of concrete!
The concrete mixer made quick work of this. I don’t have any in progress pictures since once started I didn’t want to stop but the pour only took about an hour. The mixer was a great Craigslist find a few years ago, total investment after repairs was only around $350.
Here’s the form after the concrete was poured. After it set up for about an hour I went back and rounded the inside and outside edge to help it shed water.
Next step is to build the internal drain. This was accomplished by making a PVC assembly and drilling a lot of holes.
Here’s the completed drain frame:
And the drain frame placed into the concrete base:
Here’s a closeup of the drain attached to the exit pipe:
Then the drain was covered with gravel. The drain sits pretty high above the surrounding area and was put to the test with Hurricane Irma in 2017 (about six months after the build completion). We had some of the worst flooding in recent history and water never pooled inside the coop, although if the water had been any higher this would not have been the case.
Before adding the weedblock and sand I painted the concrete. I used a redwood color since this was the same color as I would use for the coop frame.
This final picture in this series shows the process of adding the weedblock and sand.
When I built this coop we had 5 chickens, for that amount it worked great. On Christmas Eve in 2017 all five were killed by a neighbors dog that got loose so we had to start over. We now have eight birds in there and for some reason they are a lot more destructive than the previous batch (maybe because we don’t let them free range as much). They have managed to dig down and tear up the edges of the weedblock. The previous birds never did much digging, this new batch has a fascination with making sand piles.
The reason I bring that up is it involves one thing I would do different. If building again, I would make everything deeper and higher. I’d build the initial mound higher and make the concrete deeper and taller. More is better, maybe have the concrete go down a foot and up eight inches for a total of twenty inches instead of the twelve. This would ensure that it drains well but also allow me to have a lot more sand (deeper).
In summary, here’s the things I would do different:
Make initial mound higher
Concrete would be deeper and taller
Have multiple drain outlets (currently has one)
Use larger drain pipe (3/4″ used, switch to 1″)
Use concrete coloring mix instead of painting
Overall I am happy with the way this turned out and there hasn’t been any real problems, making these few changes would just make it that much better. I hope this information is useful for anyone looking to build a coop, the next post will cover the main framing. Happy planting!
Last week I mentioned how well the Dragon Fruit was growing, this week I want to add another great plant to the list. In addition, I’ve started clearing the fence line for the remainder of the property. This will help with the three main goals I had this year: level and fill, fence the whole property, put in the electrical and irrigation infrastructure.
Pigeon Peas (wiki) are a perennial legume that fit in well with food forests (and permaculture) environments. They are heavy producers once established and will continue to re-seed to keep the population going. There’s a lot of benefits to this plant – they are a good food source, beneficial to the soil, can provide shade and wind break, and can be used for animal food.
When I first started planting these over a year ago they had a really slow start. The plants only grew to about a foot tall then seemed to stop, much like these pictures of some more recently planted ones.
They did provide a few pea pods, maybe 3-4 per plant. After the pods dried up and dropped, the plants really took off.
The plant on the left is about four feet tall, the one on the right about seven feet. I’ve read they can get to 12 feet tall, these seem on their way and are bushing out quite nicely. Once they start providing a new crop of peas I’ll post an update. Also, you can see some of the land leveling going on around this planting area.
This week I’ve started clearing the west property line for the wildlife fence (see Upcoming Projects). This is going to be a bit challenging, it is pretty overgrown bit in addition I don’t want to clear beyond my property line.
There is actually an old fence in there, mostly barbed wire that has fallen apart but also a chain link section the neighbors put up years ago. Even though the old fence is useless as far as fences go, it is serving a couple of purposes. First, my property survey has these identified so I can tell where the property line is (it’s not right where the fence is, the fence wavers across the property line). Second, since I am technically repairing the fence there is no permit needed so I save a few dollars and don’t have to deal with the county.
I never really paid much attention to the property line on the survey, it turns out the chain link fence is actually well on my side. I’m an easy going guy so I’ll work with the neighbor on replacing or moving this, the challenge is that the house next door is for sale and currently vacant. It was bought by a house flipper so I doubt he cares to put any money or time into this, maybe by the time I’m ready to put the new fence up the new owner will be living there.
In the picture above you can see my orange marker on the south end, my property is on the left and the neighbor on the right. On this side I’ve got about a foot, the north end is a foot and a half. I’m putting more solid and visible pipe in as I go so it is clear where the line is:
In this picture my property is to the left and neighbor to the right. The chain link fence is heavily damaged so something needs to be done anyways, also I’d like it to be taller to match the fence I’m putting up. We’ll see where this ends up.
Here’s a neon green lizard I spotted while clearing:
I though that was pretty cool.
I got the front section cleared out without too much trouble, the back is a lot longer and has some challenges. The one that will slow me down the most – poison ivy. When I bought the property and started clearing in 2013 I had never really been exposed to poison ivy. The result? A few months of downtime due to spending a day pulling it out of trees. Here’s a picture of my leg at the time:
Ouch – I can still remember what a tough few months of recovery that was. I got both legs and arms pretty bad but luckily nothing on my chest or face. If you are working around poison ivy get some of this – Mean Green Power Hand Scrub – it’s the same as a lot of the very expensive washes and works great at a tiny fraction of the cost. Use it to wash your hands and body parts after any potential exposure and it will wash the oils off. I wish I had found it sooner, it took weeks of research. Also, I eventually threw out all clothing that had potentially been in contact or was washed with contaminated clothing.
Back to the clearing, here’s how the front looks where I ran a string line and pushed back the old fencing (my property on the right):
And here’s the beginning of the back clearing. I haven’t gotten very far, this will probably take a few weeks or even months. There’s a lot of poison ivy, although I though I had eliminated it from Three Acre Paradise it has heavily grown along the untamed jungle along the border. I’m using a long pair of needle nose pliers and a trash bag to pull Poison Ivy first, then coming back through with some loppers to find the old posts.
I’ve got a few new plant additions for Three Acre Paradise this week, I’ll try to get them planted and some pictures up by next week. The list of things growing here on the blog is getting pretty outdated so I need to give it some attention, I’m also tying to add pictures to the actual plants growing here to every page.
Upcoming fun stuff – using a plant cloner, Aerogarden vs Burpee Seed Starting kit, generator hookup panel installation, and chicken coop build. I’d like to make two posts a week but there just isn’t time, at some point I’ll be more organized and faster at this so then it will be a possibility. Until then, keep on planting!
When I started Three Acre Paradise one of the ideas was to host events (such as a plant and seed exchange) on the property that would encourage others to work towards similar goals of self sufficiency. Why do this? If we leave it up to corporate farms then we will lose many varieties of vegetables and herbs in favor of those that are easily harvested and store well for shipping. A lot of the best tasting and most nutritious fruits are not machine friendly or preserved easily so we are stuck with growing our own or settling for what the grocery stores will stock. We are also becoming overly dependent on the distribution system, a minor breakdown of any part could cause mass disruption (such as a trucking strike or exorbitant fuel prices). I’m not a doomsday prepper but I see a lot of value in staying connected with one of our most important needs, the fuel that feeds us.
Plant and Seed Exchange
The original plan was to start holding events in 2019 but recently I have met several people who said they wish there was something happening now. In May I started a meetup group for homesteading, the first event was to be a plant and seed exchange to be held here on the property July 1. The attendance turned out to be higher than I originally anticipated, we had a total of around 12 people show up (I expected half that) and had a good variety of plants.
Besides the various potted plants, I set up a table for seedlings and seeds along with supplies for taking them home such as envelopes and markers (seeds aren’t visible here).
What’s the point if you can’t sample some of the goods? Since I grow a lot of peppers there was plenty to share. Nobody was brave enough to try them here but a lot got taken home.
If you are in the Brevard County, Florida area the next exchange will be in September. A date hasn’t been set yet but you can join the meetup group here.
Dragon Fruit Update
The dragon fruit which I originally wrote about here is doing fantastic. Keep in mind these were planted from cuttings around 9 months ago, they have reached the top of the frame and are starting to branch out. The top of the frame is just about six feet tall so the most aggressive plant has grown at about a foot a month, the others are just behind it. I do have a second frame that is doing good, just not as good as this one. The main two differences seem to be that this one is partially shaded and the soil a little dryer.
Here’s another picture of the top where you can see the plants are branching out:
I’d say this has been the fastest growing perennial plant on the property, I do have another one that has exploded in size (Pigeon Pea) but I’ll save that for a future post. The Dragon Fruit has not fruited yet, hopefully this will happen within the next few months.
Fabulous Iced Tea
OK, now for a product pitch. If you made it this far you may as well continue! One of my goals is to stop eating out so much. We love eating from the land but old habits die hard. There’s also the challenge of my job, it requires a lot of travel so I’m on the road and don’t have any alternative but to eat at restaurants.
That being said, I still like to eat breakfast out every morning. Maybe it’s because we don’t have fresh eggs (chickens aren’t laying yet, the last batch got killed last year by dogs). Maybe I don’t like to clean up a mess, more likely it’s a combination of things. One thing I did figure out, since I’m not a coffee drinker I need my morning caffeine in another form which is iced tea. I’ve made iced tea at home but it just never seems to be as good as the tea from the local diner, at least until now.
Yes, it is expensive but so is eating out. There’s several advantages to this over my old method of a tea ball into a pot of water. The tea strainer has tiny holes so the leaves do not leave it (pun intended). It also holds the leaves underwater so they all get to be part of the brewing. The glass is high quality, you can pour boiling hot water right into it. The strainer is easy to remove with it’s chain and hook. The bottom has a nice no slip silicon cushion and the top has a similar one with an opening for the spout.
My formula – 1 tablespoon of black tea leaves, add boiling water to just over the top of the strainer. Let sit for 20 minutes, remove strainer and fill with water to the FORLIFE logo. Add a spoonful of sugar and stir, since it’s still hot it will dissolve quickly. Pour over ice, put remainder in fridge. Viola! I have tea for the day and it tastes great.
This site is supported by referral links, by clicking on a link you help me out even if you don’t buy the product linked to. I appreciate any and all clicks! Hey, click this one for fun!
I’ve got some more good comparisons coming in future posts, many of these are around seed starting. Since they are just being started I’m not showing anything yet, I’d rather make the first post about each once there’s some results to show. In addition, I’ll be posting a series about my chicken coop build and improvements, it’s still a work in progress as I want to add a run and garden near it but the main coop is pretty complete. I’m always open to new ideas, if you have a suggestion for a comparison let me know.
If you are in the Brevard County or central Florida area consider joining the meetup. If you aren’t interested in exchanging through a group and would like to just trade one on one get in touch. Keep on sharing!
When we moved into the house in 2015 one of the first yard projects was to dig a pond. This served two purposes, the first being the aesthetics of having our own private pond to enjoy and the other is that it supplied a lot of dirt for building up low areas of the property.
With a 60 foot diameter the pond was calculated to be about 25,000 gallons. For a water source I had an artesian well installed, this is a deep well that has natural pressure and is pretty commonly used in Florida for irrigation. This well provided enough pressure for a fountain and helped maintain the water level of the pond since there was continuous loss through ground seepage and evaporation. The loss was pretty minimal but the fountain also provided aeration to help support the fish. Neighbors supplied Tilapia, Brim, and Bass from their ponds and by the end of 2015 we were in business.
Fast forward to early 2017 just as spring was arriving and heating up the water. I went out one morning and saw a few dead fish floating up. By the end of the next day there were several hundred floaters with no signs of life in the pond. I spent the day cleaning up and trying to figure out what went wrong and after discussions with several people the most likely cause was oxygen starvation. The water level had dropped pretty low (I would manually add water when we were in a dry spell), the water was warming up causing organic matter to start breaking down, plus there probably wasn’t enough aeration to begin with (well water may have little or no dissolved oxygen).
This was a good time to implement a few ideas I had been thinking about. I would dig the pond deeper to help keep it cooler plus add more water volume for the fish, add additional aeration, and figure some way to keep the water level constant. A big part of the solution was to add a remote sump, that would allow me to add these additional features without a bunch of ugly pipes and pumps exposed near the pond.
I’d add a second pipe to the sump area to run additional wires and hoses for things like the fountain and aerator hose. With a plan in place, it was time to get down to business. The easy part was digging the pond deeper which also provided more fill dirt to use around the yard. The next step was to build a concrete bulkhead, this is where the pipes for the sump and accessories would enter into the pond. Previously I had just run a pipe straight into the pond but that was ugly, may as well do it better this time.
Forming a bulkhead from scratch seemed pretty complicated so I just started with a concrete block cut down. I found a bunch of 2 1/2 inch electrical conduit on clearance at the local Home Depot so that would be the size used, otherwise I would have gone with 3 inch. To get started with the concrete I just placed the pipes face down on a piece of plywood (with their appropriate ends attached and taped up to protect them).
I made them slightly different lengths so the connections wouldn’t be exactly lined up, it also served as a reminder to keep checking which I am working with later since they serve different purposes. Here’s another shot of the setup:
Once the concrete was poured and hardened, I built a form for the front part to give it a slope and a lip on the bottom. The purpose of the lip is so I can fan off any debris that gets there without worrying about undermining the bulkhead (protects the dirt underneath). No scientific method went into the angle as the bank slope varies. 45 degree seemed good enough and it ended up working well.
During the concrete pour I inserted some wire to add strength. Note I tried to build the form to be easily disassembled after the concrete set, that didn’t quite work as designed so some of it had to be cut to be removed.
The result after removing the form:
It came out very nice and strong after letting it cure for a few days. A view of the back:
One last thing to mention, the connectors are different on the pond facing part of the bulkhead. One of the openings is threaded, that is so I can connect a pipe or hose so when filling the pond so the water doesn’t just flow right out of the opening. If it did, it could cause erosion or undermining of the bulkhead. Instead, I’ve made a distribution pipe that can be screwed in to spread the water out, much like a sprinkler. The other connection is not threaded since it is just for accessory lines.
The next step for the pond was to build, plumb, and install the sump along with the bulkhead, these will be the topics of the next few posts.