New garden cart

I got myself a handy homestead addition: another garden cart. I often have need of another cart, e.g. when my main one is occupied, as it has been with tools for the bee shed project, so I finally decided to get one.

One criterion was I wanted a cart that was similar to my main one, but a bit smaller, specifically for situations like taking tools to a project elsewhere around the homestead grounds, like the bee shed, the shop steps, various garden plumbing projects, etc.

So I chose a cart that is 34×18 inches, and to be different, got it in yellow (which isn’t available on Amazon anymore as I write this).

Some assembly required, as usual:

Cart components

The assembled cart:

Assembled cart

I also got a removable liner for it, to prevent small components from falling out:

Cart liner

I then transferred the tools I’m using for the bee shed to the new cart; perfect size:


For comparison, here are some pictures of the two carts; as you can see, the new one is quite a bit smaller than my older one:

Two carts

Two carts

Two carts

My green cart is one of my favorite pieces of equipment, that I use weekly for everything from hauling tools to chicken food and recycling (which I haven’t been able to do while occupied with tools). I’m sure the new yellow cart will be a valuable addition.

Converting the fountain into a garden, part 1

One of the features of our homestead is a fountain with a flower-girl statue, that was added by a previous owner.

Here’s a GIF of the fountain from 2014:

Fountain GIF

However, we rarely ran the fountain, as it tended to spray water outside the pool, and leaked, so we had to keep topping it up. Plus, after a few years the electrical supply became unreliable, popping the GFCI increasingly frequently. And without running the fountain, the pool became a breeding ground of mosquitos and such.

So, we decided to replace the pool with a garden.

Here’s the pump in the base of the fountain, which I’ve disconnected:


I had the idea of using the fountain tube to water plants in the middle basin of the fountain, so I temporarily connected a hose to check that that would be feasible:


Yep; here’s a GIF of the fountain working from that hose:

Fountain GIF

That basin has a drain hole, so it won’t fill up with water when we put soil and plants there (the drain is still plugged in that GIF).

So, after checking that, the next step was to add a new tap for irrigation tubing to the fountain. I could have connected to the existing tap next to the fountain, but I wanted to have the tubing enter the fountain from the back, where it wouldn’t be visible from the house or deck. The garden to the right of the fountain doesn’t already have a tap, so I wanted to add one.

I knew from a previous plumbing project that there is a pipe under that garden. Here’s a picture from 2015 of an overly complex piping system I added for the flowerbeds (the tap on the left is to attach a water timer and short hose to the nearby female port, enabling timed watering, with a bypass valve too). The pipe at the top goes under the garden next to the fountain:

Flowerbed plumbing

Here’s that location now; you can see the short white hose, though there isn’t a timer connected currently:

Flowerbed plumbing

When I dug down in the garden next to the fountain, I found the pipe in the expected location:


I turned off the garden water supply, then cut the pipe (a little water drained out):

Cut pipe

Then I added a tap:

Added tap

The next day (allowing time for the adhesive to cure) I turned the water back on, checked for leaks, then filled the hole:

Filled hole

The next step was to drill a hole through the base of the fountain wall, so I could have the irrigation tubing tidily go through the wall rather than over it. To do that, I previously purchased a rather large 1 inch by 16 inch masonry drill bit:

1 inch by 16 inch drill bit

Here’s the drill bit in my driver:

Drill bit in driver

Though after a while I switched to a dedicated drill. It took over an hour to get through the concrete-filled block of the wall:



The hole:


Then I added an irrigation pipe from the new tap through the hole:

Irrigation pipe

Inside the fountain pool, I added a T-junction to the irrigation pipe, with one fork going to the fountain tubing, the other for sprinkler emitters for the bottom level:

Irrigation pipe

That done, I brought several loads of scoria to add at the bottom as a drainage layer:

Dumping scoria



We inherited a large pile of scoria over near the beehives; still lots left:


Then I did a couple loads of soil:


Starting the soil layer:

Soil layer

Soil layer

That’s all I had time and energy for. I will probably finish adding the soil next weekend, weather permitting.

It was quite a workout; don’t need a gym when you have a homestead!


Weeding and mowing

Yesterday I spent the day doing landscaping stuff.

I started by spraying Roundup weed killer around much of the property. To be clear, only on paths and non-food gardens — the veggie garden is weeded by hand. With 5 acres, and much of it landscaped, it just isn’t feasible to control the weeds without a spray, especially at this time of the year when I can practically watch them grow.

Roundup is nasty stuff, so I always wear gloves, boots, overalls, long-sleeve shirt, and hat. This time, I added a new hat that includes flaps on the back and front for extra protection from the spray and sun:

David with cover hat

(Paladin cameo in the closet.)

Here’s me spraying around the flowerbeds:

David spraying

And by the front door:

David spraying

After lunch, I pulled a bunch of weeds in the kitchen and front lawns, which I try to keep weed-free (and don’t spray to avoid killing the grass). This weeder is an excellent tool for this; you just poke it in the ground over the weed, then tilt it and the weed pops out:


Root and all:


Here’s me pulling weeds on the front lawn:

David pulling weeds

Lots of weeds that have been pulled; I just left them there and mowed them, since the mower has a mulcher, though I know it would have been better to remove them to reduce risk of re-seeding:


Next, I mowed the lawns, starting with the two small lawns with which I use the walk-behind mower — the kitchen lawn and dog run:

David mowing

Then I mowed the rest of the lawns with the zero-turn riding mower:

David mowing

All of that takes several hours — a great opportunity to listen to lots of podcasts.

Aerial mowing

Yesterday I mowed the lawns and field.  Just for fun, I flew my drone while doing so, and got some photos and video.

Here’s drone picture of me on my zero-turn riding mower, having just completed the back lawn (just a boring circular pattern). My beard is doing a fun three-way split from the wind:

Drone picture of David on mower

An animated GIF from the drone video of me on the mower:

GIF of David on mower

A top-down aerial shot of the flowerbeds partway through mowing:

Aerial shot of flowerbeds and mower

Another GIF, showing a much sped-up mowing of part of the flowerbeds:

GIF of mowing flowerbeds

Wading in the pond to clean the fountain pump

Yesterday I received replacement chest waders (my old ones had a hole), and used them to clean and start the fountain pump in our pond.

I had previously had the waterfall running, but it tends to lose water, dropping the level of the pond. Normally I offset that with a hose topping up the pond, but the garden water is off for the winter, so I can’t do that.

So we also have a fountain pump in the pond. We typically use the fountain when the waterfall is off, to provide some aeration, and help prevent the pond from freezing in winter.

Here’s me wearing the waders by the edge of the pond (with the chicken coop in the background):

David wearing waders

Me in the pond, cleaning the pump:

Cleaning pump

The pump, lifted partially out of the pots it normally sits within (to prevent it from falling over):

The pump

The pump started, and repositioned a bit closer to the duck house:

Pump started

The pump operating; someday I may add a nozzle for a more decorative fountain, but for now it is just a bubbler for aeration:

The pump operating

Looking at the duck house from inside the pond. You can see that the water level has dropped so much that the end of the ramp is out of the water. I wish I had made it a bit longer, though the ducks don’t have too much difficulty in climbing onto it:

Duck house

Just for fun, I waded out to the deeper end of the pond. It’s hard to tell from this camera angle, but here I’m about 20 feet from the far edge:

David near the deep end

This shows the depth at that point, about 2.5 feet. The bottom is fairly steep; it gets deeper further back. It was very cold, too!

David near the deep end

Walking in the pond; the ducks were rather confused by my strange behavior:

David walking in the pond

The pump and ducks:

The pump and ducks

Stay tuned for more pictures of the ducks taken from the pond on Flock Friday!

Cat update for week ending April 20

It’s that time of the week again!

Three cats arrive for dinner:

Three cats arrive

They often travel in groups, though can be independent too. I sometimes see one run ahead, then wait for another to catch up. Cats get a reputation for being solitary creatures, but they are really social ones, on their own terms.

Porcini waiting for breakfast, with a smile on her face:

Waiting for breakfast

Four cats inside, enjoying the heating pads:

Four cats inside

A couple of cats looking out the back door (which they only use as an emergency exit):

Looking out the back door



The alien orange cat arrives, with a cat peeking out the door of the shelter:

Orange cat

They exchange words at the entrance of the shelter, before the orange cat departs:

Orange cat encounter

Hey look, more snuggles:


Pansy in the back of the shop, reaching for food:

Pansy reaching for food

A cat watches as a deer walks past; there were several in the field, too:


One cat eating, looking back at another cat arriving:

Arriving cat

Me mowing the field near the cat house. No cats home at the time, unsurprisingly:


Pepper walking over floor joists of the duck house (I did leave a clear path next to it, which she usually uses):

Pepper walking over floor joists

Can we have too many snuggles? I think not:


Scratching; I did recently give the cats a flea treatment in their food, though only one or two of them ate it; it’s hard to ensure they all get a dose, so all I can do is put it out and hope it helps:


Bee inspection: second treatments and mowing

The varroa mite treatments that we started last week are a three-week process, so we inspected and treated the beehives again this weekend.

Here’s Jenn using the smoker:

We had used a “liquid smoke” spray the last couple of times, due to wildfire danger, but it really didn’t work as well as real smoke… and we’ve had lots of rain recently, so aren’t so worried about wildfires at present. (Of course, we’re always very careful not to put the hot smoker on dry grass, etc.)

In the following picture, you can see the mite treatments at the top: the small black rectangles on the corners. In the foreground you can see bees enjoying pollen patties, one of the two feeding options, as mentioned before:

A shot of us working on the hives, from the camera I recently set up by the hives:

It was fascinating to see bright orange pollen on the bees:

Here’s a closer look at a bee with full pollen sacs:

The grass in front of the hives was getting quite long, so we decided to mow it. I don’t have any problem mowing behind the hives without a bee suit, but mowing right in their flight path seems a bit more risky, so I decided to take advantage of wearing the bee suit for the inspection to do that mowing:

I didn’t notice too much interest in me, but Jenn said she saw some bees following me, so the suit was probably a wise precaution, especially having been stung last week (which was uncomfortable for a few days, but almost back to normal now).

Here’s a shot from further away:

Much tidier:

Turning on garden water

During the winter months, I turn off the water supply to the gardens, to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting. Once the overnight temperatures are safely above freezing, I turn them on again, which I did yesterday.

This year, I didn’t have any burst pipes… but I did have one broken tap to repair, that was probably kicked by a landscaper or deer:

An easy repair:

I could then turn on the water. For the east side, I have a valve box that I installed last year, that lets me individually control the water to the chicken coops, veggie garden & shop, and pond/gazebo areas (plus an underground tap that I used over winter to refill the chicken water):

For the west side, there’s another valve box. The boxes tend to fill with dirt, which is fine as it protects them from freezing, but has to be dug out a bit:

I then added water timers to the various garden beds. Large areas typically have automatic timers like this:

Here’s the repaired tap again, with a manual timer attached. We use these manual timers for lower-priority irrigation areas:

I then started filling the fountain. Here’s the frog that lives in the center of the fountain:

The fountain nearly full. We plan to remove the flower girl statue part of the fountain at some point:

I also scooped leaves out of the small pond at the end of the stream. That took a while; it was pretty much chock full of them. Here, you can see the pump:

Then I turned on the pump, and the stream started circulating. So nice to have that running water again, and I’m sure the cats will enjoy it too:

Finally, I mowed all of the lawns and the field:

Mowing selfie:

A busy day of garden maintenance!

Mower & beehive

It’s raining today, and the canopy is rather out of commission, so I spent some time today replacing the blade drive belt on the big zero-turn mower, and assembling one of the two beehives.

The belt had become derailed and damaged while cutting really long grass on the field — we’d left it a bit longer than we’d liked for the first mow, due to the lack of sunny days recently. So I needed to remove the damaged belt, and feed in a replacement. Not a trivial operation, but I’ve done it a few times before; takes about an hour.

(I also cleaned off the mower, of course.)

Next, I started assembling one of the beehives. I didn’t have time to finish, but I got the two brood boxes and the honey super done. Some other day I’ll finish off the frames and roof, and set up the second box.