Duck island: more dirt

On Saturday I added some more dirt to the floating island in our pond. It was floating a bit too high out of the water, and not looking as nice as it could be with a fairly hollow bowl inside, which also made it more difficult for the ducklings to navigate, as shown in the most recent Flock Friday post. So more dirt solved those issues.

Here’s a wheelbarrow of dirt; I added about two of these to the island:

Wheelbarrow of dirt

Rather than detaching the island from its anchor, I used a mucky bucket to transport several loads of dirt from the wheelbarrow to the island:

Bucket of dirt

I waded in the pond with the bucket (here it’s empty, floating on the surface):

David in pond with bucket

Some new dirt on the island:

New dirt on island

Me wading in the pond again, this time with a full bucket of dirt; it still floated, so easy enough to move, though the top of the bucket was just above the water level, so I was careful to avoid getting water inside:

David in pond with bucket of dirt

A picture Jenn took of me in the pond:

David in pond

That’ll do:

New dirt on island

The island with new dirt, floating at a better level:

New dirt on island

That evening, the ducks enjoyed re-exploring the island:

Ducks on island

It rained overnight, resulting in puddles on the island, settling of the dirt, and floating a bit lower from the weight of the water, but it’s still floating:

Puddles on island

Puddles on island

It’ll dry out again once the rain stops.

Duck island installation via cams

Yesterday I posted about installing the new floating duck island. Today, some additional pictures of that process, as captured by the two cameras that watch the pond.

To start, here’s me easing the cart and island down the bank into the pond, as seen by the cam near the duck house:

Island down the bank into the pond

Island down the bank into the pond

Another angle, from the pond deck cam:

Island into the pond

Island off the cart:

Island off the cart

Adding the two extra buoyancy buckets:

Adding extra buoyancy buckets

Moving it to by the duck house:

Moving it to by the duck house

Removing the upturned boat:

Removing the upturned boat

Removing the upturned boat

A wheelbarrow of dirt (look next to the datestamp):

Wheelbarrow of dirt

Adding dirt:

Adding dirt

Adding grasses:

Adding grasses

Digging up grasses next to the duck house (it was encroaching a bit too close, so I wanted to remove some anyway):

Digging up grasses

Wading in the pond again to plant the grasses in the dirt:

Planting grasses

Anchoring the island:


Ducks investigating the island from a safe distance, an hour after I was done:

Ducks beyond island

Ducks near the island this morning; I haven’t seen any go onto it yet, but at least they aren’t totally avoiding it:

Ducks near island

While on morning rounds, I propped up the old boat with a couple of logs:

Propped up boat

The thought is that they could use it as an additional shelter, e.g. for laying eggs:

Propped up boat

Here it is from across the pond. It isn’t super attractive, though has a certain aged rustic charm. I might move it elsewhere, but that’ll do for now:

Propped up boat

Some more pictures of the island:





A glimpse of ducks on the bank at the back of the pond:


Duck island installation!

Having completed construction on my duck island project last weekend, today I installed it in the pond.

I started by gathering up some tools, the two extra buoyancy buckets, and an empty bucket, and pulled it out of the workshop (remember, it was already sitting on my cart):

Duck island pulled out of workshop

I also attached a couple of bungee cords to the cart, to make sure it wouldn’t slide around too much:


I added a couple of eye rings to attach the anchor cord:


Then I dragged it all to the pond, the long way around the veggie garden (as it was too wide to fit down the most direct path). I took a breather halfway there:


Near the edge of the pond:

At pond

I then put on my waders, and lowered it — cart and all — down the bank and into the water:

Into the water

You can also see the anchor cord in that picture, a plastic-wrapped wire with spring clips on the ends (actually a dog tie-out cord, that I bought for this purpose). I also added a short piece of pool noodle to the cord, so it’d float if unhooked, though I later decided it was ugly and removed it; I can re-add it if and when I need to unhook it.

As I got deeper, it floated off the cart:

Off the cart

Floating high out of the water, just as expected:


I then inserted those two extra buoyancy buckets under the island, and used the empty bucket to add some water to the island to test weighing it down a bit.

I moved it over to near the duck house, and hitched the anchor cord to it temporarily:

Hitched to the duck house

Then I got out of the waders, and went and got a small wheelbarrow load of dirt:

Wheelbarrow of dirt

Then a second larger load of dirt:

More dirt

It was then floating lower with the weight of the dirt; just about the desired level:

Floating lower with dirt

Next, I dug up some of the grasses that grow like weeds next to the pond, and tossed them onto the island, with a larger one in the center:


The island could be a little lower, but I wanted to err on the side of a bit higher, to allow for the dirt to get saturated. I might add more later, once I see how it stabilizes.

Then back into the waders and into the pond, where I poked the grasses into the dirt:


The grasses are pretty dormant at present, and some may not survive the transplant, but hopefully some will. They’re pretty hardy. I can always add more later.

That done, I moved the island to the desired position, near the center of the pond, and anchored it by stringing the anchor wire through a couple of cinderblocks, that are sitting on some spare pond liner (to protect the pond floor):


Here are some more pictures of the island in position:


Pond and island

Pond and island

Pond and island

Pond and island

It’ll probably take the ducks a few days to get used to it there. Hopefully it won’t freak them out as much as the upturned boat did (which I have moved to the pond bank for now). It looks like it fits much more than that did.

My waders seems to have sprung a leak around my knee; I could feel cold water seeping in, and the leg of my work overalls and sock was wet. I guess I need to try to patch it, or buy a new one:

Wet leg

That concludes the duck island project, at least for now. It may get tweaks over time. I hope the ducks like it, once they get used to it being there. It was a fun little project, started almost on a whim, and mostly using materials I already had on hand.

Duck island completed construction

Yesterday I did the finishing construction touches on my pond island project: adding some bracing, the pond liner to hold the dirt, and some bumpers.

I started by added some bracing boards to help prevent the pond liner from sagging under the weight of the dirt. The liner is pretty stiff, and will be supported by the water, but a bit of extra support can’t hurt:

Added bracing boards

Another reason for that was to prevent the buoyancy buckets from pushing up into the liner:

Bucket strap

Plus I attached a pipe strap to support the buckets, to keep them off the ground during transport to the pond; again, the water will support them once in the pond:

Bucket strap

Here’s the last look at the island structure before adding the liner:


Next I added the pond liner, using some scraps I had on hand. (Other than the buoyancy buckets and pipes, all of the materials for this project are things I already had spare; I always order extras when getting lumber etc for projects.)

There wasn’t a piece big enough to cover the whole island, so I added two overlapping pieces. Here’s the first, temporarily weighed down with heavy buckets to help position and shape it:

Adding pond liner

The liner is attached to the frame using screws and washers:

Screw and washers

Here’s the whole island with both pieces of liner installed:

Pond liner

(The liner is wet because it was sitting on the driveway while constructing the rest.)

I didn’t bother trimming the liner on the angles, I just tucked it behind the lower platforms, which helps fill the gap between the frame and platform, too:

Liner tucked

Lastly, I slit pool noodles and added them as bumpers on the lower platforms, to prevent damage to the pond if the island floats free and hits a side:

Pool noodle bumper

I will anchor it when installing it, but doesn’t hurt to be cautious. The noodles might provide some buoyancy benefit, though will probably become waterlogged over time.

Like the liner, the noodles are attached with screws and washers (small and larger washers on each):

Screw and washers

That completes the construction of the island! 🎉


The next step will be to take it to the pond. It’s already on the cart, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get it there. I may need Jenn’s help in getting it from the cart into the water without damaging anything. Though one interesting notion could be to take the cart into the pond, and float it off. Either way, I’ll be wading in the pond.

I’ll be very interested to see at what level it floats. Once it is, I’ll try adding water to weigh it down, if it doesn’t all leak out between the two liner layers, then add dirt and grasses. I’ll also position it and anchor it to some cinderblocks on the pond floor.

The next update should be super exciting; stay tuned!

Duck island tweak

Only a little time to work on the duck island project yesterday (Weekend Wednesday). I spent about a third of the time planning the previously-mentioned upper platform, about a third changing my mind about the position of the pipes, obviating that platform, and a third moving the pipes. Read on for details.

Last time I wrote about the buoyancy of the island, and adding the ring of 4 inch pipes inside the frame as part of that. The plan was to add the dirt-containing pond liner over the top of the pipes, then build a third platform level on top of that. So I started by laying out some scraps of wood to prototype the platform:

Platform prototype

Another angle:

Platform prototype

But on further reflection, I thought that the position of the pipes was suboptimal… or not optimal for submarine buoyancy. As mentioned last time, I wanted the water level to be about halfway up the pipes, which seems a waste of the buoyancy potential of them… and with the expected weight of the island and dirt, I need every bit of buoyancy.

So I decided that the ring of pipes should be below the 2x4s, not above, i.e. underneath the island instead of within the surrounding frame. Which also means I probably won’t need the upper platform I’d just prototyped; the dirt can just go to the edge of the frame, as I’d originally envisioned.

Having decided that, I unscrewed the metal hanger straps and carefully removed the pipes:

Removed pipes

I then lifted the island onto an edge, so I could access the bottom:

Island on edge

Then mounted the pipes underneath:

Pipes underneath island

A closer view:


A pipe strap:

Pipe strap

I also mounted a couple of the buckets, attaching them with heavy-duty fence staples:


Maybe the last view of underneath the island, with the pipes and a couple of buckets:


I didn’t attach the other two buckets, as they would get in the way of the cart. I can just tuck the buckets under there while installing; they’ll be contained by the wood and pipes.

Back down on to the cart:


A closeup of a bucket and the pipes below the frame; the bucket will be lower down later; it’s just resting against the pipe for now:

Bucket and pipe

The current state of the island:

Back down on cart

So not as much progress as I’d hoped, but that’s fine; this was a worthwhile tweak.

Next time, hopefully, I’ll add the pond liner. But before that, I’m thinking I’ll add a few 1×2 strips to help support the liner, to prevent sagging.

Duck island buoyancy

On Sunday I did some more work on the duck island project, focusing on the buoyancy aspects. It’s a bit of a guess on how much I’ll need to make it float at an appropriate level, but I figure more is better; having it sink would be not ideal, and if it floats too high, I can always pile on more dirt, or remove some of the buoyancy.

There are two components to making it float: four 5-gallon buckets, and a ring of 4-inch pipes.

Here is a bucket, with a bead of silicone around the rim to help seal the lid:


As you can see, the lid also has a rubber seal, and clamps on to the bucket.

A stack of four sealed buckets:


Next I moved the island onto my cart, up the right way; this is the first time it’s been upright. Placing it on the cart makes it easier to work with, and it’ll be ready to transport to the pond:

On cart

Another component of the buoyancy is a ring of 4-inch ABS DWV pipes. The sizing worked out perfectly; the pipes came in 2-foot lengths, and I didn’t need to cut any of them to make them fit:


I put some pool noodles inside the pipes; I don’t know if that’ll help at all, but can’t hurt.

I sealed the pipes with ABS adhesive:


Then I attached the pipes to the frame with pipe hanger straps:

Pipes and hangers

My ideal water level would be about halfway up the frame, at around the midpoint of the pipes, so the middle platform (where the tools are in the above picture) would be just under water. We’ll see if that eventuates!

Here’s a closer look at a strap:


Once again, Pepper the shop cat was supervising my work (or really just waiting for me to go away so she could get to her food):



Here’s the current state of the island:


Next up, I will add the pond liner to contain the dirt, and a third platform level above the pipes.

Duck island progress

Yesterday I made some more progress on the duck island project. See my previous post for an introduction.

Having bought some 4 inch ABS DWV (Drain/Waste/Vent) pipes and 45° elbows from Home Depot, I dry-fitted them within the frame. I’ll need to trim a couple to make them fit, but they should help add some buoyancy to the island:

Pipes added

Here’s a closer view of the pipes, plus a bucket that I’ll optionally use if I need more buoyancy (as I probably will):


If needed, I’ll add two or four such buckets spaced around the island, sealing their lids closed with silicone. I should be able to add them after installation, once I see how well it floats. (The lid doesn’t match the bucket as Home Depot didn’t have the black ones I wanted, and only had orange lids, but they fit the green buckets; I’ll face the lids towards the center of the island, so they won’t be visible.)

Pepper was supervising me:


Next I used scraps of wood and clamps to measure the boards for the platforms:

Planning platforms

There are two levels of platforms; one should (hopefully) be right about at the water level, the second lower than that, as ducks find it easier to swim up then put their feet down to step higher. The lower ones weren’t in my original design, but I think will be a good addition.

I lifted the island to lean it on the shop door, so I could attach the platform boards; this is our first look at the top of the island, too:

Leaning on the shop door

Here are the water-level platforms, made from 1×2 boards, attached with finish nails:

Adding platforms

A closer look:

Adding platforms

Back down on the floor (and upside-down again), adding the lower platforms:

Adding platforms

I know they aren’t super tidy; I didn’t bother cutting the boards at angles, or trimming with a nice clean line, since the ends won’t be visible when underwater.

Here’s a closer look at the two platform levels, and the pipe:

Adding platforms

That’s it for now. Next time, I will trim the pipes and stick them together (I forgot to pick up the proper adhesive for ABS pipes from Home Depot, so ordered some from Amazon).

I will attach the pipes with some metal hanger straps, and add the pond liner that will contain the island dirt. I’ll probably also add a third platform level above the pipes to help hold them in place, hide the edge of the liner, and make another step for the ducks to jump to before reaching the dirt.

Then it’ll be time for installation! We’ll see how far I get next time. Stay tuned!

Duck island thoughts, design, starting

Our ducks spend a lot of time on the banks of our pond, or swimming around the pond. Being in the pond is safer for them at night, being less accessible to predators.

I have added several upturned pots in the pond as mini islands for them to rest on, as additional options, but there aren’t enough for everyone.

So I recently had the idea of using an old dinghy (that we inherited with the property) as an island.

Here’s the old boat:

Old boat

I dragged it to the pond:

Boat on pond

Then waded in the pond, flipped it over, and pushed out most of the air (the boat has a big hole in the bow), to make a larger island, wedged on top of one of the pots:

Boat island

However, that isn’t ideal either, as (a) the ducks seem to be freaked out by it, not wanting to go near it, (b) it’s kinda ugly, and (c) it doesn’t seem great for roosting or nesting.

So I decided to build a wooden island, with a thin layer of dirt and grasses, contained by some spare pond liner. And to make it a bit more island-like, I thought I’d make it an octagonal shape.

The first step was to sketch various sizes to determine a good size; big enough to be useful, but not too big, and considering materials (cutting 8 foot boards into various lengths efficiently). I sketched it in the excellent Linea Sketch iPad app:


I decided that an octagon 6 feet across would be ideal, with some platforms around water level to make it easier to get on and off. Here is the design I came up with:


Here is a GIF time-lapse of my drawing (a fun new feature of Linea Sketch):


I surveyed the wood I had on hand, and started to construct it:

Wood and table saw

The edges are 6×1 boards, screwed into blocks; here I’m laying out the pieces:

Laying out edges

Below the edges are 8’ 2×4 boards to help hold the shape and support it, with bits sticking out beyond the edges for the water-level platforms (this is upside-down):


That’s where I’m at currently. On Sunday I’ll add the platforms.

My original concept was to add legs, so this would sit on the pond floor to support the weight of the wood and dirt. But I’m now planning to make it a floating island. Floating would have the advantages of rising and falling with the pond water level (which can vary about 10 inches throughout the year), and perhaps be movable for maintenance. But it also has some complexity of getting it to float at the right level, and anchoring it in position.

So I need to figure out how to add sufficient buoyancy. There are complex formulas for that, but that’s beyond me, so I’ll probably just add a bunch of foam pool noodles, and/or closed pipes, and hope for the best. If anyone has any advice on this, I’d welcome it!