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 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.
Once the front is realigned I’ll be putting a welded wire backing on it for additional protection to keep animals in and out.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both plants have been producing heavily and are still flowering with new 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.
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!
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:
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).
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.
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:
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.
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 🙂
EZ Life Tip 3 is a very easy one to set up and start using right away.
Keep a sharpie or other permanent marker near where you store your spices. Any time you buy a new spice write the month and year on it, now you know exactly how long you have had it and have an idea when to replace it. EZ enough?
The general recommendations for freshness is four years for whole spices and two years for ground, blends may not last as long as they are only as good as the first ingredient to lose potency. The best way to tell if it needs replacement is by color and smell.
Pigeon peas are a great fit at Three Acre Paradise, besides being an edible legume they are a fast growing perennial and can provide quick shade for more delicate plants.
Pigeon peas are a fast growing perennial legume that have many uses in a food forest or permaculture environment. Pigeon peas have been used as a protein rich food source for humans for at least 3,500 years and are popular in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They are also very drought tolerant and can provide a heavy harvest for three to five years.
Food Source: Pigeon peas are protein rich and can be used as a green vegetable pea, dried, or made into flour.
Animal Fodder: The leaves, seeds, pods and the remnants of seed processing are used to feed many kinds of livestock.
Improving Soil: Since they are a legume Pigeon peas provide nitrogen fixing for soil. This can be accomplished by simply pruning the plant and dropping the cuttings on the ground. The deep tap root helps break up hard soils and pull nutrients from deep down and the plant can provide shade and a wind break for smaller plants.
Growing Pigeon Peas
Pigeon pea plants can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 15 and can grow up to 12 feet tall. The plants deep tap root can grow to up to six feet in length which helps the plant to locate water. For the first few months after germination the growth is slow but speeds up as the plant gets established. Most Pigeon pea cultivars are a short day plant blooming when nights are long. For best results start plants directly in ground although they can be started in pots and transplanted later.
Pigeon peas are easily propagated with dried seeds. They are not very picky about planting depth or soil type.
Pigeon Peas at Three Acre Paradise
Currently there is one area where Pigeon peas are growing at Three Acre Paradise. There are two plants that have grown to about ten feet high and wide. There were several other areas where they were planted but they were damaged by animals and did not recover. Next spring I will be starting two new areas and they will be better protected against damage.
The pictures in this post are of the same plants over a several month period.
A fresh coat of paint can make a room look great but over time the smudges, nicks, and scratches can take their toll. We get a lot of compliments on our house at Three Acre Paradise, one of my secret weapons to keep the house looking good is to go around and touch up the paint blemishes a couple of times a year.
Here’s a couple of ways to make this easier. First, when you paint a room always reserve a small amount of the paint in a little container and write on the container what it is. One of the best containers to use is the ones home stores sell paint samples in.
If you don’t have any of these then you can use just about any plastic container that seals good. The one below can be bought at dollar stores, they are about a dollar for a four pack.
What makes these so convenient? You don’t have to deal with a big can of paint. You can shake these before opening so you don’t have to worry about stirring, they are easy to carry around, and they are easy to reseal. They also hold enough paint for a lot of touching up, I’ve had a few that I’ve used for the last three years and haven’t had to refill.
Second touch up tip, keep a small brush with the paint samples. Don’t cheap out on the brush, I like the Purdy brand brushes and keep a 1 1/2 inch brush for this purpose. It’s small enough to be easily cleaned and dries quickly. Keep the paints and brush together in a box so you can just grab and go.
Third, use good paint. I use Sherwin Williams but any good brand will do. Quality paint is worth it, it will take less coats to get a good finish and it will resist dirt better. Take pictures of the mixing labels so if you have to have a new batch made up you will have this for reference and write on the cans what rooms they are for.
Fourth and final tip, keep a map of the paint and codes for your home. When our house was built I created this paint map and update it as we make changes. You can click on the image to zoom in.
Touch up can be quick and easy (and painless) using these tips and will keep your home looking fresh for years to come. Got any touch up tips you’d like to share? If so, please post it as a comment below.
Two important things to know about chickens: they eat a lot, and they are messy eaters. I don’t think chickens really like to eat something until they’ve dropped it in the dirt, stepped on it, then pooped on it. Store bought feeders work very well in this sense, they are easy to spill and the chickens can drop dirt right into the feeder (or poop in it) if they choose.
There’s a bunch of DIY chicken feeder plans on the internet so I used that as a starting point. A couple of other design goals of mine were to ensure the food stays dry and have enough capacity to where I could ignore them (go on vacation) for four or five days without worrying about them. I take no credit for this design, it just seemed like the right one for my application. The feeder is made from PVC pipe (easy) and is pretty easily adaptable for any coop. I made two feeders so several birds at a time could eat.
The first step is to cut a rounded taper on a four inch PVC tee joint. This was done freehand by marking a pattern with a marker, cut it out with an oscillating tool, then using a file and sandpaper to smooth it out.
Here’s another view of the curve, it doesn’t have to be perfect, this is just to keep the food dry and allow the chicken to stick their head in. The bottom of the PVC tee will be blocked off and the food will drop in from the top.
The plastic plug I made for the bottom was cut from a bucket lid, it will be held in place with a PVC reducer. It’s not shown in this post but I ended up drilling small holes in the bottom cap to allow food dust to fall through. If you don’t do that it can get a little messy over time with food dust buildup.
Here’s the plastic cap placed into the bottom of the PVC tee, it should be a pretty snug fit.
I press fit the PVC reducer to hold the plastic bottom in place. None of the feeder parts had to be glued. Once installed the feeder will be resting on this bottom part so everything will be fine just press fit together, it also allows you to make changes later which I had to do.
Here’s the bottom cap from the chickens point of view. As mentioned before, one of my revisions was to drill small holes in here to allow food dust to drop out.
Here’s a top view looking down into the PVC tee towards the bottom.
Next we are going to make a funnel, this is for the food that will drop into the bottom part we just made. This funnel will control the amount of food that is available to the chicken and may have to be modified for your feed type. I use pellet food, if you use crumbles then a smaller funnel may work better so the food doesn’t free flow too easily.
I initially used a two inch funnel. This was later changed to an inch and a half, the two inch allowed too much food into the lower area and the chickens managed to scatter it around the outside of the feeder. You want just enough dropping in so they can get to it but not so much that they can fling it around.
For a two inch funnel you need a PVC three inch to two inch adapter and a short piece of two inch pipe. To figure the pipe length just place the reducer into the top of the lower assembly and measure from the feeder bottom to the PVC reducer. Once the small pipe is cut, cut out a notch in it like the picture below ( I started with a one inch cut). This will all make sense in a minute.
Place the short piece of PVC into the reducer like shown below:
The drop the whole thing into the feeder bottom assembly:
And this is what it should look like from the chickens point of view:
Now you need to test the funnel assembly with your food type. Fill the top of the PVC tee with the type of chicken feed you use.
From the chicken point of view, the food should be available but not spilling out too much. I’d err on the side of not much food rather than too much, as long as the chicken can reach in and get a piece from the funnel that is good enough. The food does not have to spill out, the chicken will makethat happen.
My current funnel is smaller than this original one, I changed the reducer and short pipe to an inch and a half (from two inches).
With the hard part over, now all you need to do is cut an upright pipe to the height you want (mine are about forty inches) and put some sort of cap on. I used a threaded coupling to make filling easy and to keep water and bugs out.
There’s dozens of ways to mount these and you could also put a bend near the top so you can fill them from outside the coop. I went with inside coop feeding to ensure water stays out of the food.
The mounts I made were two boards in a L shape with a cutout for the pipe. The bottom mount also has a lower lip to support the feeders and I used pipe strap to secure the feeders to the mounts. Here’s the boards for the mounts after cutting and staining.
I painted the outside of the feeders green but left the inside unpainted. Here’s how they look after mounting, you can see part of the automatic watering system to the left. I’ll cover that feature in a future post.
Here’s a list of materials required (not including the mounts):
4″ PVC tee
4″ to 3″ PVC adapter (holds bottom in)
Plastic piece for bottom, I cut mine from a bucket lid
3″ to 2″ PVC reducer for funnel (later changed to 3″ to 1.5″ reducer)
short piece of 2″ PVC pipe for funnel (later changed to 1.5″ PVC pipe)
4″ PVC for upright, whatever length you want
4″ PVC threaded coupling for top
4″ threaded cap for top
I’d suggest test fitting it all together while in the store to make sure you have the right parts. I’ve had these in place now for about a year and they are working great (after the few small modifications).
If you are a regular here at Three Acre Paradise you may notice I’ve removed the “Whats Growing Here” list, this is being replaced with these every other Thursday posts. This will make it a lot easier for me to keep up with the constant changes here. You can view all of the new “Growing Here” posts directly from the menu at the top of the screen. One other change is that all the images I use will be directly from the plants growing here at the time of the post. With that said, here’s all about Comfrey.
Comfrey is an easy to care for perennial plant and is classified as a herb. Comfrey can grow quite tall and prolific, for that reason there are several varieties bred as to not take over your garden area. The main uses for Comfrey is as a medicinal plant and to improve soil but it can also be used as a feed supplement for animals.
The most popular varieties of Comfrey are True Comfrey, Bocking 4, and Bocking 14.
True Comfrey can propagate through seed and can quickly take over a garden area. I don’t have any personal experience with this but from what I have read it is very difficult to control and get rid of.
The Bocking 4 variety has sterile seeds so it will not spread nearly as rapid as the True Comfrey. This variety is most popular as feed for animals.
Bocking 14 is the variety currently growing at Three Acre Paradise. This variety also has sterile seeds and is the most popular for home gardeners. The remainder of this post will refer to the Bocking 14 variety only.
Medicinal: The Comfrey leaf has a long and well documented history of healing wounds and broken bones. Yes, that’s right, when applied to the skin externally it is said to be able to speed up the healing of broken bones. I don’t personally have experience with that but I have used it in two other occasions. The first time was a puncture wound, this was on a knuckle and wouldn’t stop bleeding. It wasn’t deep enough to warrant a medical visit and the wound was clean, I applied a Comfrey leaf to it and the bleeding stopped within about three minutes.
The second time was about a week ago, I got stepped into a red ant mound and ended up with around 5 stings on my ankle. I took a Comfrey leaf, rolled it between my hands to release it’s juices, then used my sock to hold it in place over the stings. After about a half hour I replaced the leaf with a freash one and left that in place for about an hour. The Comfrey removed all evidence of being stung. Typically it would swell up, fill with puss, and itch for a few days, in this case it was done and over with.
Comfrey contains allantoin which is known to aid granulation and cell formation. This is where a lot of its healing power comes from. Comfrey is also used to make creams, oils, and tinctures but should not be taken internally.
Animal Fodder: Comfrey is a fast growing plant that is high in protein and makes an excellent food source for chickens, cows, goats, and pigs. It is best to plant the Comfrey away from where the animals feed and take the leaves to them so they do not decimate the crop.
Building Soil: Comfrey has long tap roots that can bring up minerals from deep in the ground. Some of the ways to use Comfrey are in a chop and drop manner, left to grow around fruit trees, or you can make a compost tea from the leaves. Comfrey is high in potassium which banana plants need in abundance when fruiting, I’m going to plant some around my banana circles this year.
Comfrey is hardy from zones 4 – 9, and will grow in full or partial sun. Comfrey may be started in a pot but for best results should be relocated in the ground as soon as possible due to the deep root system. Comfrey can be grown in hard, compact soils and will help break these up. Plants can get large and should be spaced two feet apart. Comfrey will go dormant in the winter and re-emerge once the weather warms up. Comfrey generally does not have any problems with pests or disease. Soil should be neutral to acidic, range of 6.0 – 7.0 is ideal.
The Bocking 14 variety does not produce viable seeds so propagation is done with root or stem cuttings. It is very easy, just dig up the plant and cut the root into little pieces and plant them. When using small root cuttings it may take two years for the plant to really take off, a transplanted stem will do the same in just one year. If you till an area where Comfrey is growing it will chop the roots into little pieces and you will end up with more plants, the best way to remove it from an area is to pull the plants up whole.
Comfrey at Three Acre Paradise
There are currently three very small patches of Comfrey at Three Acre Paradise (photos in this post), I have recently placed an order for more of the Bocking 14 variety. These will be placed around some of the banana plants to see if it helps with fruit production. I’m also considering planting some True Comfrey in the back of the property that is reserved for wildlife, it can grow unrestrained there and may be beneficial to the local animal population.
EZ Life Tips will be posted every other week on Thursdays (or Friday in case of holidays), these tips include money saving ideas and things you can do to make everyday life just a little bit better. Alternate Thursdays will be plant focused posts that go in depth on things that are growing at Three Acre Paradise, other posts will continue as usual.
This first tip is a bit specific, it only applies to iPhone users but if anyone who has an Android phone knows of a similar functionality please let me know. I’ve been inundated with telemarketing calls lately, it’s gotten so bad that I don’t answer my phone unless I recognize the caller. Sound familiar? Blocking these calls does no good, telemarketers are spoofing random numbers. Spoofing is making the call look like it came from a number that it did not (see this FCC link for more information). In fact, they may even be using your number to call other people! I’ve had more than one person call me and tell me to stop calling them, I try to explain to them what spoofing is but they don’t want to hear it and hang up.
Can you do anything about this? Well you can’t block the phone numbers since they can spoof new ones but you can prevent unknown numbers from ringing your iPhone. They can still call and leave messages but at least you won’t be disturbed. How can you accomplish this? By enabling Do Not Disturb mode.
To turn this on, go to your Settings then to the Do Not Disturb option (click each picture for full size view):
Next, turn on Do Not Disturb. Also turn on the Allow Calls From option and select Favorites.
Now this will make it so all unknown numbers will not ring your phone but calls from anyone in your favorites can get through. Unfortunately this also blocks ALL texts from making an alert but we can get around this. First, scroll down further and set Auto-Reply To to No One.
Now, to enable a person to be able to text (and alert) you, go edit that Contact and go to the section called Text Tone.
Turn the Emergency Bypass for this contact on and save it. When they text you the alert will now sound even when the Do Not Disturb is turned on.
There you have it! When any of the people in your favorites calls you your phone will ring or vibrate, all other calls will remain silent. Anyone with the Emergency Bypass will be able to text you and you will get the alert, all others will remain silent. It really doesn’t take very long to set this all up, for me there’s only about a dozen people I had to add to favorites and edit their contact info.
I hope this makes someone’s life a little easier. See you with another tip in two weeks!