Monday, April 28, 2014

The Genesis of a Chicken Coop

The last couple of weeks I've been working on building a chicken coop out of the scrap wood that I have around the homestead.

I have been replacing the soffits on the eaves and I have been able to repurpose some of the old plywood that has been removed.

I thought that the tiger stripe paint job would cut down on the predators or at least look pretty cool.

I used some old posts that used to be borders around the yard as legs. The top of the table used to be the door to the basement.

The exterior is made from the old soffits and I used the eave vents for ventilation in the coop. So in essence the coop has been zero cost except for time.

The top lid is hinged and will open up as will the front if needed.

I found it to be quite time consuming building on the fly without a definite plan to go off of. Cobbling together scraps of wood and trying to match one piece with the next is a slow process.

I'm really not fond of working this way because although the scrap material was free, the extra amount of time that it took to figure out a design offset the money saved on material.

I'd much prefer to spend a few hours drawing a plan and then buy the material needed and execute the job, even if it is more expensive.

Time is our most valuable asset.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pond Evolution

We've finally been able to level out the terrain around our pond and bring in some rocks. We've put in a few plants like some grasses and a couple of bulbs that will take a little while to come in.

The fish have all survived now for about two weeks. They are more adventurous now and spend more time in the shallower water. I didn't see them at all for the first few days.

I see quite a few birds using the pond as well.

The water in the pond had become crystal clear but since it rained a good bit lately it's pretty cloudy again.

It's still a work in progress but overall it has come along pretty well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pond Life

Besides our tree frog Lincoln, I've added ten goldfish to the pond yesterday. As of today they are all still alive though they stay pretty deep most of the time, out of sight.

Goldfish cost twenty-nine cents a piece at Pet Smart. So I spent $3 on fish. Not too steep of an investment I suppose.

More aquatic plants are coming in the near future.

I haven't actually seen Link since I moved him out to the pond, hopefully he's still around somewhere.

The pv powered aeration pump kicks on about 10 a.m. and stops around 4 p.m. It runs fairly strongly most of the time. It will taper off some when a cloud passes over. On an overcast day it just trickles a little. Still, I think with the aquatic plants on the daily water flow the water has ample oxygen for the fish. The water has actually cleared up quite a bit lately. I'm not sure if it's the flow of the water or the addition of the plants or a combination of both.

However, it is a natural habitat. I am not filtering the water with elaborate pumps and filters like koi pond enthusiasts do. Any detritus that falls into the water will decompose and create a fertile compost that I can later use elsewhere.

Last year we took a koi pond tour in Atlanta and saw some amazing ponds. Unfortunately, all of the ponds we saw take great amounts of inputs of energy, food, time, and mostly money. They are for all intents and purposes, swimming pools for fish. Still, they were all gracious people and the ponds do give serene and meditative elements for the owners.

 This pond was truly amazing!
He basically had a dock off of his back doorstep. Tens of thousands of gallons of water, all filtered. There isn't one speck of algae in these ponds.

I believe this pond owner was a koi breeder and does therefore earn some income from his fish. This was by far and away the most extensive pond/eathworks location on the tour. From the front of the house you would never have guessed the backyard was like a tropical rain forest.
This was one of the larger ponds we saw, not as ornate as the one above but the fish were huge. There were two more ponds above this one which was probably over eight feet deep.
Lots of ponds featured gorgeous water features. This was the sole owner I heard mention using any outputs from the fish.

He said he used the fish manure to fertilize the banana trees.
This is the elaborate filtration and pumping system for the pond. An incredible amount of time effort and money!
This tranquil looking pond was adjacent to a swimming pool.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Function Stacking

In permaculture every element should have multiple functions.

"Each element in the system should be chosen and placed so that it performs as many functions as possible. A pond can be used for irrigation, watering livestock, aquatic crop, and fire control. It is also a habitat for waterfowl, a fish farm, and a light reflector." - Mollison

In our system we have an arbor. Besides it's intrinsic function of providing a shaded sitting area, it also provides structure for the climbing kiwi vines. In keeping with the second part of Mollison's statement, the arbors placement was chosen carefully.

It's orientation is aligned exactly north to south. The arbor is located in close proximity to the pond so the pleasant sound of flowing water can be appreciated.

Utilizing the southern aspect of the arbor, it makes a great structure for mounting the solar panel that powers the dc pond aeration pump. So now the pond will not need any additional energy inputs from industrial power generation.

So the arbor performs many functions for us:

- sitting area
- kiwi vine trellis
- solar panel structural support
- birds & squirrels often utilize it
- aligned with cardinal directions
- shade
- meditative area

Solar Pump Test

I just installed a 20 watt solar panel on the arbor to power a direct current pump that I want to use to circulate water in the pond. I don't want to have to run A/C power out to the pond and since I am not raising koi, aeration isn't as critical.

I want to have the sound aspect and to also prevent the stagnation that would make mosquitoes an issue.

As the amount of current varies with the intensity of the sun, the pump's flow also will vary. When the sun is bright the pump is providing plenty of flow to suit the needs of this small water feature. Obviously it won't run a night but it should oxygenate the water enough during the day to support some very small fish.

I am still in the process of arranging the pondscape so nothing is final yet. I mainly just wanted to have the pump running now because it is warming up and mosquitoes will be looking for a place to lay eggs very soon. I'm going to add a few goldfish soon as well.

Today was a sunny day, mostly, and the pump was still working just slightly after 5 p.m. so I think the panel is in a good location, so far. I set it to local latitude so it's on about 33 degrees, due south.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Today I went again to my new favorite store, Atlantis Hydroponics. I went to get worm castings but they happened to be out.

Instead I bought a bag of seabird guano. I haven't used it before so I am not sure exactly how it will work but it shouldn't be too far removed from chicken manure.

I thought it was a little pricey at $30 for this small bag but it is diluted in water so it really goes a long way. It is pelletized and there is a small scoop inside the bag.

I mixed 5 gallons of water up with about 4 half scoops. It is suppose to be around 3 tablespoons per gallon. I think I was close to that.

Toward the bottom of the bucket of water I noticed that the concentration seemed to be getting darker, then I realized that all of the pellets had not dissolved completely. Next time I will probably crush them down first to enable better dilution.