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).
Today we take a step away from the garden to install a generator transfer switch in the house. In the three years that we have lived at Three Acre Paradise we have only lost power once for an extended period of time (around 18 ours) but in previous residences I’ve been without power for up to three weeks. We do have a grid tied solar power system here but if the grid goes down the solar system also shuts down as a safety measure. There is a way to back feed a generator to the house which works fine but it is more difficult to set up and has many other disadvantages.
A generator manual transfer switch is an less expensive alternative to a whole house generator. In the future I plan on adding a battery backup to the solar system so it can run off grid so in the meantime I don’t want to spend the money on a whole house generator. The transfer switch allows me to quickly switch selected circuits over to alternative power (portable generator or battery bank & inverter) while the rest of the house is still tied to the grid. On nice thing about this is that when grid power does come back on it will be obvious (other circuits will power on) and I can switch back very easily.
Here is the panel I bought:
After a bit of research I found that Reliance panels are rated very well and for my purposes a 10 circuit 30 amp panel is needed. When sizing a panel you have to add up all the loads you would like to run (amps) and figure out how many circuit breakers these are spread across. I could actually get by with a 20 amp panel but I needed at least 9 circuits to cover all wants. All lights in the house are LED (make this your first step – it’s cheaper to conserve) so the lighting draw is very low but spread out throughout the house and a lot of circuits.
In addition to the panel, I got a flush mount kit to make the installation look clean. Here’s Amazon links to both items:
I wanted to mount the transfer switch next to the main circuit breaker panel for ease of access. Here’s a lifepro tip: if you build a home take a TON of pictures during construction. The most important ones are when all the wall framing is up, wiring is in, but insulation has not been put in yet. This gives you an x-ray view into your walls, and as you can see here it came in very handy.
This is the view behind my main breaker panel. I can’t put the transfer switch to the left of the panel due to a doorway. To the right, I can see there is a cross brace (blue) and some studs backing an interior wall (red). I’ll have to put the panel low and deal with the wall backing when I get the hole cut.
The first thing I did was cut a large hole in an area I know is clear, from here I can reach my hand in and determine where that horizontal cross brace is (blue from above).
With that in mind, I traced an outline for the box making sure it was far enough away from the circuit panel so that I could get the flush mount kit flange installed as well.
Here’s the wall after the hole was cut. This picture is actually from a few steps later where I made notches around the outside corners for the flush mount kit as you will see in the next few steps. The studs for the inside bracing can be seen here running right down the middle.
I still wasn’t sure how good the fit would be so this is the moment of truth:
Pretty good! The knockout for the wires can be seen here and it lined up between the drywall and studs. The mounting tabs for the flush mount kit stand out just a little bit due to the boards on the back, but the studs will provide a secure place to screw the box to.
Here’s a closer look at the mounting tabs, they are out just about a quarter of an inch. I need them flush with the drywall for the best fit.
The mounting tabs are not part of the main box, rather they are an “L” bracket screwed onto the side. To move the tabs back I simply extended the holes on the brackets to allow them to slide back a little further. This was nice as it did not require any modifications to the main box.
At this point I got tired of dealing with all the wires dangling in the way so I took out the switch assembly.
To get the transfer switch wiring to the main breaker panel I had to cut through a wall stud. I got lucky as the breaker panel had a knockout in the right place, if it hadn’t then I would have had to cut a hole in the metal.
Once the hole was cut I did a test fit of the conduit and cut it to length. This flex conduit was included in the Reliance Pro/Tran2 310C kit.
The transfer switch box is now ready for mounting, I screwed it directly to the studs behind the box. It is VERY secure.
Since I moved the bracket for the flush mount kit back, the trim panel now bumps into a couple of screws on the main box. A metal nibbler took care of this.
Next step is to put the switches back in and run the wiring. Easy to say, not so easy to do.
There was no way that was going to work. I’ve run plenty of wires through conduit and I tried all the tricks. I used wire lube, tried running them one at a time, tried pulling through as a bunch. That ninety degree bend is a challenge so there’s only one way I could think of to get it done:
Yup, I took everything back apart and ran the wires before putting the whole assembly back in the wall. The ninety degree bend (elbow) on the conduit could be taken apart so I ran the wires first, then bent them and assembled all the conduit pieces. A bit of a pain in the neck but in the end this was the most difficult part of the whole process.
Now the switch is back in place and all the wires are run to the breaker panel.
Here you can see a closeup of how tight the wires are coming through the conduit. One rule when working with conduit and wiring, whatever conduit you think you need go ahead and bump it up one size. Unfortunately this one came this way so I just used what they provided.
At this point I’ve got the transfer switch mount completed and I’m ready to wire the breaker panel. I had to wait until I could shut the power off at the main breaker outside the house and I had to remember to shut down the solar inverters as they also provide power to the panel.
Here’s the start of the wiring, I did the only 240v circuit first and tested it before doing the others. This circuit powers the water pump for our well. This transfer switch allows for up to two 240v circuits but I only needed one. Each 240v requires two switches, this left me with eight switches for the rest of the house.
I tried to balance the remaining circuits across the legs equally (each 120v branch is a leg, combined they make a 240v circuit). This helps get maximum use from the generator. For example, we have two refrigerators so I put each on a different leg. The rest of the circuits are pretty light draw (mostly lighting) so they were just balanced across.
Here is a picture of the panel all wired up, I took the opportunity to move a few breakers around as part of this process.
The final product all buttoned up.
I chose to put the power inlet right on the panel rather than run a power inlet box outside. My reasoning is that during a storm I can use a battery bank (a couple of deep cycle batteries or golf cart batteries) with an inverter to keep some lights, tv, and refrigerator running. Once the storm passes I just run a cord outside to a generator.
Anything I would do different? No, I’m happy with how this turned out. I run an annual test of my generators (at the start of hurricane season) and this will make that easier and more accurate as I can easily put the real load in place. If battery prices come down in the next few years than maybe a triplet of Tesla Powerwalls will make this unnecessary but it will still be there for backup in case they fail.
Installing a transfer switch is not hard but unless you are a serious DIY’er like myself then I would just hire an electrician to do it. Buy the parts yourself and it shouldn’t take them more than a couple of hours.
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,
Back in February I wrote a post about building a dragon fruit support, then posted an update on their growth in June. What I didn’t show at that time is I’ve also planted a few random dragon fruit plants in the yard that are growing up palm trees instead of the supports. I thought they may really like the palm trees since the palms are fibrous and easy to grab onto with the dragon fruit air roots. This has worked well and sparked the idea for this project.
The dragon fruit in the picture above is about seven feet high, one interesting feature to note is the segment length of the last growth. The segments growing on the other supports are at most two or three feet long, the one on this palm tree is about five feet. The disadvantage of this is that the dragon fruit plant will keep climbing the tree and the fruit will be unreachable without a ladder. How about combining the palm tree with a support frame?
This project involves cutting down a palm tree and using it as an upright support for the upper frame like from the other posts. I already have two extra upper support frames built so I won’t cover that here.
The first step is to find a victim, I mean volunteer palm tree. There’s plenty of these at Three Acre Paradise, I planned on thinning the palms out over time as other trees become established. The volunteer needs to be healthy and vertical, as a bonus the one selected is in a place where I need to get some more light through for some new plants. First step is to cut off the upper section, let’s begin by cutting a notch out to control the direction of fall:
Next, start cutting on the opposite side just above the notch. I took a picture of where the cut is then continued cutting until I heard the tree creaking:
And boom! The tree fell exactly where expected. This was an easy one since the tree is very straight and there was no wind. If I wasn’t this confident I’d use some ropes to control the fall and the tractor to push it over.
I cut it a little high knowing that it wouldn’t be clean, one more quick cut and the top is straight and level.
Next is to cut an X into the trunk to set the support top in to. This was a little bit of a challenge, the palm trunk is very fibrous and can’t be knocked out like a hardwood notch. I used the saw to cut as much as possible including at an angle to loosen the remaining pieces.
Once the cuts were made I used a hammer to smash down the remaining fibers.
Next, the cross cut to form an X. Turns out I had to make all the cuts a little deeper than what was done on the first pass. Here’s the result:
Now for the test fit of the support top:
All good! The top sit pretty tight and level but it still needed to be secured better. I used the palm pieces that were cut out as wedges and drove a couple of heavy nails in to make sure it stayed put. The result is very secure, if there is rot or shrinkage over time it should still be OK as the dragon fruit will be draped over the top by then and will be weighing it down.
Here’s a close up of the scraps wedged in:
The final step, planting the dragon fruit around the base. I had four plants that were already rooted so they should grow pretty quickly. I mixed in a lot of Black Kow with the existing soil, this formula has worked well in the past.
Here’s a shot of the whole thing:
I don’t like to waste any material including trees cut down, for palms I cut the trunk into pieces to use as markers for new planting areas. The top will be left to rot in a mulch pile. To cut the trunk I use the tractor to support it off the ground:
Then cut the trunk in to various lengths, between eight inches and two feet.
Besides being great border pieces, they also become home for insects and plants. In this picture they are around a newly planted Jamaican cherry:
I’ve got high hopes for this batch of dragon fruit, besides the palm trunk the location is similarly shaded like the other grouping that is growing well. I’ll post updates of all of them in a couple of months and hopefully there is some flowering by then.
The chain saw I use is a battery powered on by Echo, model CCS-58V4AH. Most of my lawn tools are the battery powered Echo series, they work great except for the pruning saw extension (it’s not recommended for the battery powered model but I tried anyways). I was able to make all the cuts shown in this post on a single battery charge although I do have a second battery for backup.
Next week I’ll show a neat way to propagate plants using a cloner. I’m always open to suggestions for future posts, if you have any ideas or want more detail on anything I’ve done please let me know. Until next time, keep on 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!
This week I’m featuring three completely unrelated topics plus a bonus! The rain has finally eased up a bit although we still get an occasional shower but it’s nothing like the previous weeks, good thing so the fence installation could go on schedule.
The fence coordination required me to be around, I had to schedule it around work so it was a good thing everything went smooth. The installation company did a good job, I had confidence in them since they included a lifetime warranty. This part of the fence is just across the front of the property and goes forty feet back per side, the remainder will be a wildlife field fence.
The installation included concrete at every post, that was a pleasant surprise. I went with the vinyl rail fence as it should last a long time, the lifetime warranty reflects their confidence in it. The gate across the driveway is aluminum, future plans include adding electric gate controllers (next year) and decorative columns (who knows when).
It would have been nice to carry this around the whole property but that is cost prohibitive, also it really doesn’t offer any animal control so the front will have a secondary fence behind it to keep our dogs in. I’m not worried about deer getting across this as they tend to come in through the back where it is more wooded.
Next topic – Dragon fruit (Pitahaya). Back in February I posted about the Dragon fruit holders that were built and installed in November 2017. It has been right around 7 months since they were planted and most of the plants are around 6-7 feet in length now and growing at about a foot per month. They are just at the point of going over the frame so it is starting to look nice and filled in.
Once these branches grow over the support by about two feet it will be time to start pruning, this will encourage branching and new growth. As pieces are removed they can also be planted to get more plants started, I figure each support can handle six to eight plants. I’ve started using old cut up jean strips to support the branches, this helps prevent damage as it spreads the contact across a larger area.
Now for the grow bag update, this is from the EarthBox vs Grow Bag Challenge. Once it was evident the EarthBoxes were way ahead of the grow bags and there was no catching up I decided to double the amount of water the grow bags were receiving. That turned out to not really matter as the sky also decided to open up for a couple of weeks so there has been plenty of water. Here is the EarthBox as it stands today:
A lot of fruit has set in and I’ve harvested a few peppers from the plant on the right. Here’s the state of the grow bags:
They are growing, but still far behind the EarthBox ones. In fact, they are still way behind where the EarthBox ones were a month ago. What about the tomato planted in 100% cow manure?
It’s still the worst of the bunch. I really thought this one would do better.
Now for a bonus, I’ve been looking for good summer greens that grow well in the hot Florida weather. I’ve got a few that are working pretty good but this one has really stood out. It is growing in an EarthBox, in fact it is growing so well it has smothered the other plants that were in there. I have harvested it multiple times, it makes a great leaf vegetable for salads and is also good cooked like spinach.
This is New Zealand Spinach. The plant you see has been cut down, harvested, and abused and it is still growing like crazy, it’s about 4-5 feet in diameter. This is one plant. If you are looking for a very productive hot summer leaf vegetable then give this one a try.
This coming week may be interesting, I’ve had a land clearing company get in touch with me and say they can bring several hundred cubic yards of tree chippings (for free!). This will be a huge leap forward in getting the soil built up, if it happens I’ll post some pictures next week.
One last quick note, if you are in the Brevard County, FL area I’ve started a local homesteading group, this will include at least a quarterly seed and plant exchange meetup. The details can be found at the link, I hope to see some people who follow the blog there!
Space Coast Gardening and Homesteading
Melbourne, FL 3Members
This meetup is for people who want to become more self sufficient by reducing their dependency on commercial resources. The primary focus is on growing and raising our own foo…
It’s raining here! Unfortunately it seems like we are either in a drought or flood, there hasn’t been any significant rain in a while and now it looks like a tropical depression has parked itself right over the state. Hurricane season is right around the corner. The good news for me, I finished the filter build and it has been tested prior to the beginning of this deluge.
Starting with this post I’ll be updating the format a little, I’m going to put a section at the bottom of each post with information and links to any items used within the article. I think this may be better than just having links throughout, if you want to help support this site please check out any Amazon links provided as I am on their referral program. I’ll link to other sites as well but I’m only affiliated with Amazon at this time.
On to the filter build, there’s a lot of plans on the internet for different types of filters but the basic idea is to capture and eventually remove large solids from the water flow. One of the most common is called a swirl filter, this is where the water is swirled to create a vortex to trap solids. My design started with this in mind but changed a little bit as that didn’t seem to trap enough, I wanted as close to 100% removal as possible with little maintenance.
The first step was to build a stand for the filter to sit on. While not very exciting of a build, it may help someone out so I’ll cover it here. I measured the height of the fish tank and filter tank to figure out the height of the stand so your requirements will probably be different, but basically the top of the filter is just below the top height of the tank (using gravity flow for the water). Next step, cut the legs and shelf supports using 2×4 lumber:
For aesthetics and strength, I routed the legs so the shelves would be recessed into them. This also helps keep everything square.
Nailed together shelf supports:
Attached plywood to shelves:
Screw shelves to legs:
At this point I tested the height and made sure it was level in the location it was going to be installed. The pavers aren’t perfectly level so I figured how to orient the stand to be level and not wobble on the ground. Turns out I had to cut all the legs down by about an inch. You can see I also cut a hole in the middle, this is for the filter drain.
The final step was to paint it so it has a fighting chance against the elements. I had plenty of leftover exterior green paint left so that became the color of choice.
For the filter I had a 15 gallon tank that had previously been used as part of the water system for the house, a lot of designs use 5 gallon buckets but that just seemed too small. This tank had an opening on the top already but it was too small to work with so I cut around a ridge to make a larger opening but also tried to leave as much material as possible for strength.
Here it is with the cut off part removed:
Next I cut a hole in the bottom for the drain. I went off center to avoid a plastic seam.
“MADE IN U.S.A” – awesome. Bulkhead installed. I’ll put a link to the one I used at the end of this post.
The drain is just a PVC quarter turn valve from Lowes:
The aquaponic system doesn’t have any leaks and I want to keep it that way. Before going any further, a leak test:
Next step is to cut holes for the inlet and outlet pipes. The inlet (from the fish tank) is slightly higher than the output (to the media beds) to allow for the gravity flow through the system.
Uniseals installed. These are the most common types of seals used in home built aquaponic systems and for good reason, they work. Even if you have to go through a curved surface like this filter or a bucket they handle it with no problem.
Don’t let anyone fool you, pushing the pipe through the Uniseal is not easy. I’ve found it helpful to bevel the pipe edge slightly and use some soap as the directions recommend. Once you get the pipes through they do a great job though and they are quick and easy to install.
Here’s what the pipes look like inside the filter. The water coming in is to the left, it is directed near the bottom at an angle to start a swirl, then exits out the top.
Here’s how it looks from the side:
This design did work but the lighter particles still remained suspended and were getting through. One thing that I tried was to reduce the suction of the output flow by adding a pipe with holes. The idea was that this would break up the flow into more but smaller drains.
This did help, but the lighter solids were still not settling into the tank, instead they would eventually find their way out. I tried adding some screening to this pipe but it would clog up in a few hours. I added some plastic fencing rolled up near the top of the filter to break up the circulation but that only helped slightly. The final solution? I filled the filter about 3/4 of the way with lava rock. Bingo! This works great.
I know the swirl has been stopped but the results speak for themselves. The picture above is what the rock looked like after about a week of running, the debris at the top is actually algae growing but the water exiting is crystal clear. I left the additional filters in the media beds so I could see how much was getting through and with this setup it is very little.
Now the very last problem to solve was that there was algae growing in the filter since I had left the top open. This was solved by cutting the bottom off of a large nursery pot of about the same diameter and holding it down with a bungy cored. Maybe in the future I’ll come up with something more elegant but for now this works.
The filter has been in place for about three weeks so far and the water seems to be a lot cleaner. I have flushed the filter out weekly but it could probably go for a month or more between cleanings. One reason I’ve had to clean it more often is that raccoons have discovered the automatic fish feeder and have dumped the entire contents into the fish tank twice so far so that is something that will have to addressed right away.
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Last week I posted my views on homesteading, prepping, and self sufficiency which are all goals for Three Acre Paradise. While those are all part of the big plan, there’s also some other things that are very important when working towards these. Low maintenance, aesthetics, and convenience are all key items. I like to build things so they don’t require a lot of work to maintain, otherwise I’d be spending my time with weekly chores rather than enjoying the property and working on new projects. They must fit in and be pleasing to look at to help create a relaxing and low stress environment. That’s what Paradise is all about.
Here is an overhead view of the property as it is today. The house, pond, and workshop are in the middle, the main road at the bottom and driveway leads up to the house and shop. The red border indicates the property line. The width of the property is about 230 feet, the depth is 550 feet.
The top priority right now is to get the property fenced. I’ve had a lot of trouble with deer eating just about everything from the smallest plants to the larger fruit trees. They have chewed down vegetation, scraped bark off trees, and trampled through sensitive gardens. Secondary, the fence will keep our small animals in and others out. We have three small dogs and a flock of chickens that all seem attracted to the woody areas where predators like to hide. We’ve also had the neighbors dogs over feasting on the chickens, fencing should cure these problems. The first step is to fence the front and put up a gate, that has been contracted out and should be done in the next few weeks. The yellow lines show the approximate area for the this:
Here’s what it looks like along the road. I’ve made sure the area is clear and level so the fence company shouldn’t run into any problems.
The fence along the front will be a three board split rail made of vinyl, similar to this:
The gate will be aluminum and eventually automated. Since the split rail does not keep smaller animals in or out I’ll have to put another layer of fencing behind it. This will be the same or similar to what is used on the remainder of the property. The only part that will remain un-fenced is a section along the back where there is a utility easement.
The easement will allow animals (such as the deer) to easily pass between properties such as they do today and hopefully will keep them from thinking they have to jump over the fence. There’s already a good collection of wildflowers growing in that area, I’ll probably add seed for some other beneficial plants. I can’t put any trees back there in case the city has to dig to access the buried water main. Here’s what that area looks like today:
The dirt mound is a raised and cleared path for the future fence, the utility easement is to the right. Since the neighbors yard behind me is fully fenced this access path is pretty important. The fencing that will be used will be a field fence such as this:
Once the fencing is complete the focus will be on a new garden area. Here is where it will be on the property:
The garden will be approximately 40-50 feet per side. There will be a pergola running down the middle with supports to help with plants that like to be trellised. The garden area will also be fenced so there will be two layers of protection from larger animals. An electric wire will help discourage the smaller ones from climbing in. Here is what that area looks like today, it has already been cleared and prepped:
Next project will be a potting house on the pathway to the garden (PH on this drawing):
This will be a work area for planting seeds and storing gardening supplies. I’m also thinking of adding a sitting area on the side facing the pond just as an area to relax. This area has also been prepped:
Once the garden has been moved the old garden location will become a carport. I’ll have a concrete slab put down and a metal carport cover put in. This will have two parking places for whatever extra vehicles we have at the time (CP on drawing):
We could also use the carport area for parties and gatherings, it’s nice to have some additional shaded area due to the sun and unpredictable rains. This is what the garden looks like today, it has a shade cover and everything is planted in containers:
Yup that’s a lot so far, but the biggest stuff is done at this point. Timeline for these is by the end of 2020 but hopefully sooner. After these I’d like to build a fire pit and picnic area with paths leading to them (FP and PA):
One more overhead to go, this one is pretty all inclusive. What I’ve added here is the current chicken coop on the left about mid way down, current aquaponic system behind the shop (AP), and a bunch of poorly drawn squiggly lines. Those lines are the approximate edge of the grass to natural areas. Basically, there will be grass parallel to the driveway, around the house, and partially around the pond. Everything outside that region will be gardens, food forest, walking paths, and other small coops or structures. The grass along the driveway will provide parking for when we have a lot of guests over.
There are a few other things to be built but I haven’t pinpointed the locations yet, this includes a quail area, tractor shed, mulch bins, and aquaponic expansion.
Some of the other projects that are planned are expansion of the solar power system, battery backup, antenna tower, shop storage, aquaponic improvements, seedling start experiments, growing microgreens, and more growth comparisons (EarthBox, aquaponic, grow bags, raised beds, in ground, others).
For more fun, I’ve got some ideas for a “live off the land challenge” where I consume only what the property produces for a day, three days, and eventually a week. Planning for these are still in the works but I’ll post a timeline soon.
Stay tuned for next post in a couple of days, a six week check into the Aquaponic vs Earthbox challenge!