Preparing for Hurricane Dorian

Pre Dorian preparation

Hurricane Dorian is projected to take a northern turn away from Melbourne, however just a slight wobble could put it very close or even over us. I’ve made a decision to go ahead with my pre-storm checklist and get the house ready for any possibility. Running through this exercise will also allow me to see if anything on the list needs to be added or updated (it does). I’ll post an updated list in the future with the changes.

Here’s a video walk through of what it looks like once we are prepped. If there was a threat that we were going to take a direct hit I’d do a few more things such as securing all loose items in the yard and putting up the last remaining shutters. I consider this stage of prep is good for anything up to a category 2 storm.

I’ll post a follow up in a few days, hopefully there’s not much to show.

Mosquito Control

Mosquito magnet

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:

Pile of dead mosquitoes

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!

Mosquito Magnet
Spartan Mosquito Eradicators
Insect Fogger
Fog Juice
Coleman 100 Max
Thermacell

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!

Clover Update – Week 2

It’s been two weeks since I planted the test areas for  white clover and there hasn’t been much activity. I think the main problem has been lack of rain, we got a downpour about a week after planting then nothing else since then. One wetter area has started sprouting and I’ll be planting another test area that should do better.

I’ll check in again in two more weeks although there isn’t any rain in the forecast. I think a better strategy might be to plant, cover with mulch, then water. I try not to water any more than necessary (anything) so the plants get deeper roots and don’t become dependent on it.

I’m really liking posting videos, it is so much easier and quicker. I do have a backlog of project pictures but moving forward I’ll be combining the formats as much as possible.

Keep on planting!

Planting a Clover Lawn

One goal at Three Acre Paradise is to reduce the required maintenance and part of accomplishing that is to eliminate lawn care as much as possible. I’m working towards replacing as much grass as possible while still having the yard look nice. One alternative to grass that I have read about is to use clover as a lawn. Clover has a nice look, it makes it’s own nitrogen (no fertilizing needed) and it also a nitrogen fixer for the yard. Sounds like a great thing!

As an experiment I’m planting clover in some problem areas, as it grows I’ll be posting the progress here along with my thoughts on it. Here’s a short video highlighting these areas:

I’ve gotten a little behind on blogging and have a large backlog of pictures and projects to document. While I do plan on getting these posted I’m also going to move more towards using video instead of lengthy text and pictures. Video is quick and easy so I can be more timely, editing individual pictures and writing posts takes a lot more time. I’ll still continue to document them here and put links to the videos but if you want to get intant notifications please subscribe to my youtube channel.

Upcoming project posts:

  • Aquaponic fish feeder protection
  • Outside seed starting rack
  • Aquaponic trellis
  • Fence realignment
  • DIY plant ID tags

Stay tuned!

My Last Post

Last fence post installed

Well I finally did it. All fence posts are in, the last post was placed yesterday. What a relief! The next step is to put up the fencing.

Got a spare 7 1/2 minutes? In this video I take a walk along the fence line so you can see what it looks like and how many posts were placed (hint: around 150).

In other news, WordPress has decided to make some changes to the site without my input. When I fired up the web site the whole theme was different, not that it was bad but certainly not what was originally set up. I reverted back to the original format and all seems well now.

Next up, what I’m planting this spring. Stay tuned!

2019 Plans and Update

Aquaponics update

2019 has come in with a roar, it’s already February! Last year spring caught me off guard and I’m determined to not let that happen again, the last frost date for this area is February 20th so it is approaching fast. My spring task list to have completed in the next few weeks is get the vegetable garden planted, trim all trees, and get everything into the ground as possible (potted trees).

The web site move was a much bigger deal than expected and is still not completed. Turns out a lot of things were lost (photo descriptions, feature pictures, metadata) so I’ve been trying to get all that fixed.

What’s the plan for the coming year? The fencing is the biggest thing to get completed. I’m about 2/3 of the way done putting posts in, once that is done the actual field fence goes up, the two top wires go on (like barbed wire without barbs), then I have to realign the front rail fencing to line up with the new stuff.

Field fencing rear

Once the front is realigned I’ll be putting a welded wire backing on it for additional protection to keep animals in and out.

Field fencing side yard

Another recent change is with the aquaponics system. The floating raft bed was changed to a media bed since these have seemed to perform a lot better,

Changing aquaponic bed

The change was pretty easy since this was how it was originally set up. The bell siphon was already made and I had the media put in do the whole process only took about an hour.

Aquaponics media bed

Speaking of the aquaponic system, it is performing much better now. I’m not sure why but maybe it’s due to the cooler weather or it just needed a year to get better established.

Aquaponics and Swiss Chard

A Roma Tomato plant that was placed in has done exceptionally well, it took a long time to get started but really took off in the last month or so. If I had planned better I would have put some support in for it. In the photo below you can also see some celery getting started. Celery has always done well in this system.

Aquaponic and Roma Tomato

I’ve changed my mind a bit about the aquaponic system, I wasn’t impressed originally but it does seem to have become more productive. I’ll redo some testing and challenges this year and see if the results are improved.

Another recent success is with the Pigeon Pea plants. I’ve been harvesting these for the last few weeks and they just keep producing.

Pigeon Pea plants

There are two plants in this picture and they have different colored peas, one is green and the other is brown. The brown ones take a little longer to ripen and get a little longer but they are otherwise very similar.

Brown Pigeon Peas

Both plants have been producing heavily and are still flowering with new peas.

Green Pigeon Peas

My big goals for 2019 are to get the fencing done then get all underground plumbing and electrical in place for future projects. If I get more than that done then great, the new garden area would be next.

Next week I’ll post a list of new plants I’m trying out this year, and the first seed and plant exchange for this year has already been posted. If you are local and would like to attend please see our Facebook page for details.

Move Complete! (almost)

The move to a new web hosting platform has been completed, unfortunately a few things got changed through the process. All blog post featured photos were removed and the ability to zoom photos by clicking on them has been lost. This is easily fixed but requires me to go back through the old posts and update them. What fun 🙂

Why we moved – the site was originally hosted on wordpress.com which is a great place to get a blog started. Unfortunately to do any real customization you have to upgrade to their business plan, and even then they really restrict what you can do. This has some good, it is a very controlled environment and helps avoid making mistakes. They also take care of a lot of the site security. Once your first year is up there is no more discount, they wanted $300 to renew for another year. That’s waaaay too much for a hobby blog.

I moved the site to siteground.com and paid for 3 years of hosting up front at a total of $140, around $47 per year. Much better! It was more work getting things worked out but I also have a lot more flexibility such as file access (FTP), email, and I can pretty much do anything with WordPress.

Later this week I’ll post a property update and get back on track with regular posts. I’ll also be going back and fixing the earlier posts as time allows. Good stuff coming up!

Big Dog Alpha MP Mower Warning

Big Dog Alpha MP mower

Mowing Three Acre Paradise can be a challenge, there are over 400 trees here so a zero turn mower is the logical choice. When shopping for a mower in 2015 I came across the Big Dog brand at a local dealer, these are manufactured by the same company that makes Hustler mowers which have a good reputation. Many of the parts are interchangeable so I don’t know if the Hustler brand has this same problem.

Like many zero turn mowers, this one is steered using two levers which you push forward or pull back. One lever controls the right drive wheel and the other controls the left. These mowers are fairly fast and are able to turn without moving forward, that’s where they get the name zero turn. For steering around a lot of trees this is a great design.

The problem I had recently is that one of the control arms came disconnected from the pump that controls the drive wheel. This happened as I was approaching a tree, when I went to steer there was no response and I hit the tree straight on (I was only a few feet from it so there was no time to do anything else).  Here’s a picture of the part that came unattached:

Big Dog Alpha MP drive lever warning

The problem I have with this is two fold. First, the only thing holding this on was an E clip which vibrated itself out or maybe got pushed out by some debris. In my opinion this should have been held on more securely with something like a washer and split pin (cotter pin).

Big Dog Alpha MP fastener

The second issue I have with this is that the pump did not return to the neutral position. When the arm disconnected, there should have been a spring that brought the lever on the pump back to center.

Here’s the arm reconnected with an E clip. Sometime in the future I’ll remove the arm again and drill a hole in it so I can add a split pin.

Big Dog Alpha MP control arm reattached

Why such a big deal? When I mow there are plenty of other places where this could have come out a lot worse. I could have ended up in the pond and caused a lot of damage to the mower, in the street while a car or truck was driving by and been hit (the road I mow by has a 45 MPH speed limit), or by the bike path when a bicycle or pedestrian was nearby. A lot of people mow in similar areas so this is not unique. As it is, the only real damage was to the front of the mower:

Big Dog Alpha MP tree damage

Keep in mind this is a 2015 model, not some 10-15 year old worn out mower. It currently has just under 124 hours of use.

Big Dog Alpha MP danger

If you are considering purchasing a Big Dog Alpha MP then I’d suggest you look at this to see if the design has been changed (and Hustler mowers). It’s a simple thing but could have really bad consequences.

Now, back to our usual programming. Stay tuned for an update on activities at Three Acre Paradise 🙂

Whats up?

You know what takes a lot of time for little return? Editing old blog posts. I’ve spent a lot of time optimizing old posts based to improve search results and make them more pleasing to read. One example of the changes I’ve been making, all pictures will be able to be clicked to get high res versions. I haven’t finished updating all the previous posts yet but should be done in the next few weeks. None of the written content is being changed, just picture information and some housekeeping to reduce the size of things.

In the meantime, there’s a lot happening here. In this post I’ll highlight some of the things going on and in future posts I’ll dig into the projects with more detail.

Aquaponic System #2

Aquaponic system parts

What? I know if you’ve been following this blog you may be asking why would I build a second system when the first one has not produces as good as other gardening methods. The answer is simple, it was free. This shows the value of letting everyone you know that you are interested in things like this, a friend got in touch with me and asked if I wanted the system (thanks Kim!).

Whats my plans for this? I haven’t completely decided yet but here’s one idea. I may add the fish tank and one more media bed to my current system, this would expant the plant beds and I’d use the second fish tank to raise coy (existing tank is tilapia). The other beds would be used as wicking beds and tied into the pond to see how good this works. Anyone else have other ideas?

Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit

This dragon fruit bunch is doing fantastic. The other ones are doing OK but not nearly as good as this one. This is the growth after just one year, I haven’t seen any flowers yet but I’m hoping this happens soon.

Dragon fruit buds

It may be hard to see in the picture but there are little buds appearing all over the dragon fruit at the top. There are also some buds starting on the lower parts so within a few months this will be much thicker with branches. All this and I’ve already harvested some sections off for propagation!

Chaya

Chaya plant

Just like the dragon fruit, I’ve got Chaya growing all over the place and some of it is doing great. This plant is about six to seven feet tall and has been harvested heavily for eating and propagation. I’ll be doing a more detailed post on Chaya in the near future.

Duckweed

Duckweed in aquaponics

I converted my aquaponics raft bed to grow duckweed and it is also doing well. I use this as fish food for the aquaponics system and the pond. There were a few slight modification I had to make to the bed for this.

Aquaponics fill pipe

Duckweed likes very still water so I extended the fill pipe to go under the water. Previously it dripped into the bed and made a lot of water disturbance.

Aquaponics drainpipe modification

The drain pipe also had to be changed so the duckweed doesn’t just flow out of the tank. I created an inverted “U” for the drain and drilled a couple of small holes hear the top. The water now enters from about two inches below the water line but the small holes keep it from turning into a siphon.

New Planting Area

Mulch bed plant area

Ever notice how great things grow in a mulch bed? I have two macro bins (citrus bins) that I use for mulch and compost and there is always something trying to grow in them. Now I have a third mulch area but this one is on the ground. I toss all kinds of things in here just to see how it does but to get things started there is some daikon radish in there now. I call it my commando garden and it will be interesting to watch.

Pigeon Peas

Large pigeon pea plants

I’ve highlighted the pigeon pea plants before, they now have flowers and will be fruiting soon. This is pretty exciting as these things are huge! Last year I got maybe a dozed pea pods, this year there will probably be hundreds, if not thousands. Bring on the recipes! This plant is about ten feet high and fifteen feet wide.

What Else?

The house water here is on a well and we have had some problems with it, I’ve been rebuilding and improving the filtration system and that will be the subject of an upcoming post. After that is done, I’ll be starting the fence for the rest of the property.

Beginning this week there will be a post done every Thursday and I’ll be alternating between highlighting a plant growing here and some tips I’ve found to make life easier. These should be a lot of fun and these will be in addition to the regular posts. The plant highlights will also link to the “Whats Growing Here” informational pages but will have more detail specific to the actual plants on site.

See you on Thursday!

Poison Ivy

I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately about poison ivy, not sure if it is a coincidence but in the last two months or so there has been a huge amount of growth of it here at Three Acre Paradise. I’ve got a history with poison ivy, not a good one so I thought it would be a good time to share my story and what I had to do about it. I’ve talked about it before but wanted to get more in depth this time.

Carl Meets Poison Ivy

When we bought Three Acre Paradise it was anything but that, more like a jungle consisting of palm trees, oaks, a few pines, and mostly brazilian pepper trees. If you aren’t familiar with brazilian pepper trees, they are an invasive species in Florida that will quickly take over a property and smother out all the native vegetation. They are also related to poison ivy. Some people are highly allergic to them, luckily I am not but if you burn them the smoke can cause severe respiratory problems.

Original Land

I set out to clear the property by myself, hiring a company to do this would be costly and it would be difficult to make sure they only cleared the nuisance trees. For some reason I grew up having never been exposed to poison ivy even though I spent a lot of my early years climbing around in the woods.

I started in the front of the property where there is some tall palm trees, these were full of vines which I pulled out by hand. Little did I know at the time, a lot of these vines were poison ivy. These were thick and up to 100 feet long once pulled out. One of the worst things about poison ivy is that it takes a while to have an effect. Later that evening it started kicking in and kept getting worse over the next week.

Here’s some pictures of my legs when it was bad:

Poison ivy on leg

Side view:

Poison ivy on leg side view

Back side of other leg:

Poison ivy on leg (2)

You can see where the vines came in direct contact with my skin.

It was strange that it kept getting worse, I ended up going to the doctor and they prescribed me some steroids (prednisone) but that was just as bad and I had to wean myself off of it. Hot water helped the immediate pain, I was told that is not a good thing to do but it sure felt good. It took a while to realize it but a lot of my clothes and some towels and sheets may have had some of the oil on them (urushiol). Once contaminated, it is very difficult to get rid of so I ended up throwing out a lot of clothes. This was probably the single biggest thing that stopped it from getting worse.

The Cure

I tried every poison ivy remedy on the market. The best thing I found was Zanfel, this is a scrub to wash off the urushoil. It’s expensive though, $30+ for one ounce. After a lot of research I found out it is the same thing as Mean Green Power Hand Scrub, which costs around 33 cents per ounce. That’s a much better deal!

Mean Grren power hand scrub

Here’s my advice if you have to deal with poison ivy. If it’s a small amount, use some  long needle nose pliers to grab it by the root and put it in a trash bag or throw it somewhere that it won’t come in contact with anyone. The pliers in the link are just an example, if there is a Harbor Freight store near you then they probably have them for a lot less. For large amounts of poison ivy I use a herbacide such as Roundup. Yes, I know this is the evil stuff but in this case I call it justified. Let it die and dry out then use a tool like a dirt rake to pull the vines out.

A lot of people recommend wearing long clothing to help avoid contact. I agree with this (as well as a pair of gloves) but some days it’s just too hot for that.

When you are finished with your poison ivy task, take a shower and use the Mean Green on any part of your body that may have been in contact, typically arms and legs. Get the Mean Green now, before you wish you had it! I can’t say enough times how much this stuff has helped. I haven’t had a single outbreak since using this. Wash the clothes you were wearing by themselves and throw some Fels Naptha soap, regular laundry detergent won’t cut it (just slice off a little bit and throw it in).

Fels Naptha

Be careful with any tools that may have some in contact with poison ivy. Once I recovered I hired a helper who was immune to it to pull the rest of it out, that doesn’t stop the urushiol from being spread. He had used a power cord for a saw, I wound that up around my arm and sure enough ended up with a second outbreak. If the tools can be washed you could use some Mean Green or Fels Naptha on them. Most of the tools I use get a lot of use throughout the yard (dirt) so I think that just wears off the oils over time.

Sunday Funday

On another note, this Sunday is the second Plant and Seed Exchange being held at Three Acre Paradise. The first one was pretty successful with about a dozen people showing up, I think there will be quite a few more people this time. I’ll show some pictures in the next post as well as some property updates. Until then, stay safe! (from poison ivy)