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Plotting out your farm using gps?

 
Belinda Roadley
Posts: 18
Location: Southern NSW Australia
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I'm going to sound hugely clueless here, just sayin'! 😉

I've heard of folk using some sort of hand-held device while hiking that uses GPS to keep them on the hiking trail. That's all I know about that- I don't even know what these devices are called.

My question is- is there some sort of device (within an obtainable price bracket) small farmers can use to plot GPS points of their own block of land? I'm thinking that being able to do this could make certain things a lot easier:
> Mark the location of certain plantings more accurately.
> Mark habitat, i.e. where we saw a koala or rabbit den.
> Use gps plot points of the land to digitally overlay a topographic map (or visa versa; designing on a digital topographic map then having that map translated to GPS coordinates on your property). I'm thinking this could help with plotting earthworks and the like.

Is this sort of thing even possible? Because I'd totally nerd out over such capabilities. 😉😉
 
Travis Johnson
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I have wondered this same question, but have NO electronic gizmo experience, I don't even have a cell-phone, and honestly don't even want one. In that light I might not be the proper guy to answer this question, but must say I have been really happy with google maps, Web Soil Survey and another online map that allows acreages, square feet, linear measurements, etc to be made. I guess not everyone has good contour maps of their farms, but mine seems to, with contour maps right down to 2 feet, so I use the old standby methods with great success.

As we talked on another thread, multiple ways to measure contour can be made using other methods, from laser pointers on leveled tripods, cameras on tripods as Tyler Ludens suggested (thanks Tyler for that one) and Pop levels and the sort. I hesitate to buy something that would only marginally improve on what I already have, and even then I am not sure it would be much of an improvement. I would think if a GPS device could improve what I am working with, it would be prohibitively expensive. So far what I am using has never been disproved by being on the ground measuring.
 
Bernard Welm
Posts: 62
Location: Minnesota
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While it would be great to be able to pin point the locations of plantings and it is possible to do. The accuracy of hand held (consumer GPS) devices is not really conducive to "accurate" locations. The accuracy of the GPS system has a fuzz factor of 10-20 feet. This means that the locations are accurate for normal useage but not accurate for exact locations of points of interest. (see http://www.gps.gov/systems/gps/performance/accuracy/ for some more information on this).

There are ways to increase the accuracy of the GPS positioning that can be done but it does require a device that is better then your phone.

Instead what I would do (depending on your computer ability) is to get a good satellite or arial photo of your property and locate your plantings on that. A program that I use to do this is called QGIS. It is an open source GIS program. It will allow you to add multiple layers of information into one "image". As a result I have a picture of my property, the contours, soil type, and then multiple layers I created of fences, water lines, buildings, Electrical wires, gardens, roads etc. As a result I am able to keep a record of my property and use the tools built into the program to measure and plan what I am going to do in the future.
 
Will Moraes
Posts: 9
Location: Leander, TX
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I've been using printed satellite imagery for planning and to track plantings, but it's not very forgiving and tends to get cluttered.  QGIS sounds like it might work for me - thanks for the info, Bernard!
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Bernard, will the QGIS software work with images from Google Earth?

Belinda, with regard to your question - It depends Bernard is right that GPS is accurate within a margin of error that's not precise enough for some purposes.

If, for example, you're working with twenty acres, then the 10 to 20 foot margin of error might not be a problem when you're working on macro scale plotting on your land, but where you're plotting out your tree planting and your plan has them going in at five foot separations, that margin of error is much too large.

I happen to be about to move on to 20 acres of wooded land, where line of sight for trying to position things is hopeless - you can't see the trees for the forest, that sort of thing I've been looking at various smartphone apps for doing my plotting on the ground.  There are many out there to choose from, and I cannot yet speak to which work for this kind of thing.  Give me another couple of months and I'll have more to say about it, as we work to lay out our homestead.
 
Bernard Welm
Posts: 62
Location: Minnesota
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Peter,

QGIS will to an extent work with Google map images BUT you can do much better then Google Earth images. There are MANY sites out there that provide free satalite images (generally small area but that is not a problem for 10-20 acres.

I would even consider purchasing a satellite image I remember seeing some in the $10-20 range. Note you actually are just purchasing a small portion of the actual image the full image is MANY miles square.

The benefit of using a true satellite image is that it has been "orthorectified" which means it has been stretched/shrunk to make points actually fit the real world points. So basically those GPS points that you can take with your phone/GPS receiver will actually be at the right spot on the image.

I just noticed Google Earth has a new image for my property. As a result I should try and find an other free image of the property from a source that I can download that has actual location points associated with the image.
 
Marisol Dunham
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Location: Far South Coast, NSW
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*waves from Batemans Bay* We're neighbors!

Rather than a device, could you hire a land surveyor to draw you a map? Then you could lay see through paper over and draw it out.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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I was certainly under the impression that Google Earth *was* satellite imagery.  Indeed, there are "many" sources for satellite imagery - so many that it's really difficult to wade through to find useful material, especially when the sources tend to be loaded with acronyms and technical names for datasets that a want-to-be -farmer layman like myself is unfamiliar with.
 
Bella Simple
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Peter Ellis wrote:
I happen to be about to move on to 20 acres of wooded land, where line of sight for trying to position things is hopeless - you can't see the trees for the forest, that sort of thing I've been looking at various smartphone apps for doing my plotting on the ground.  There are many out there to choose from, and I cannot yet speak to which work for this kind of thing.  Give me another couple of months and I'll have more to say about it, as we work to lay out our homestead.


I would LOVE to hear an update on how you get on with things! The tree thing is exactly why I got the GPS idea in my head.

Thanks so much for the info, Bernard! Never heard of QGIS. It looks full-on, possibly beyond my ability to figure out, but I'll certainly give it a go. My main question would be whether regional Australia has the satellite imagery and data needed to make that kind of software shine. I know Australia is always lightyears behind the US when it comes to technology. -_-

HI MARISOL! I'm tempted to factor hiring professionals into the cost of purchasing my land. I've got my eye on services like what Darren Doherty's mob provides. They take care of mapping as well as the actual earthworks, from what I can see. It depends how easy/cost-effective/non-disastrous it would be for a newbie to pick up.
 
Bella Simple
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Aaaaand I just realised if I post from my computer rather than my phone, it uses my old username! OP here. My bad.
 
Peter Ellis
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Bella Simple wrote:Aaaaand I just realised if I post from my computer rather than my phone, it uses my old username! OP here. My bad.


chuckle.  Computers! They find ways to sabotage us!
 
Bernard Welm
Posts: 62
Location: Minnesota
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Peter

Yes Google Earth is satellite imagery but without a api connection you do not any gps points/locations with it. As a result it can be harder to locate stuff on it
 
Peter Ellis
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I've downloaded QGIS.  Maybe if you're a Python programmer it's a simple, user friendly interface. As a lay person trying to understand how this might be helpful - I cannot so much as identify how I would open a satellite image with this program. It's buried in technical jargon, both in terms of the instructions being aimed at people very familiar with computer programming (when it starts explaining how you address limits n what it will display with Linux command line instructions, it's not exactly a casual user program) and in terms of the language regarding the mapdata itself (all in acronyms with no explanations of what they mean).

At this point, I'm at a complete loss, there's no apparent way for me to get into this program and start trying to familiarize myself with its tools, because first I need courses in both the language of this program and the whole world of satellite imagery and mapping.  I'm glad its something you find helpful and are able to utilize, Bernard, but its anything but simple or intuitive.

I would love to have a tool that would allow me to work with satellite imagery and layer on the various elements of my design, as you describe being able to do with QGIS.  I just can't see a path, looking at this software, for getting there.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Peter Ellis wrote:I would love to have a tool that would allow me to work with satellite imagery and layer on the various elements of my design


I use GoogleEarth for that kind of thing...

google-earth-layering.png
[Thumbnail for google-earth-layering.png]
 
Josh Kunkel
Posts: 19
Location: Central Texas
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Grant Schultz at Versaland offers training in advanced farm scale GPS: GPS at Versaland

While I haven't taken this training (It's on my wish list!) I have worked with Grant as his customer and highly recommend him as a solution collaborator for farm scale Permaculture.
 
Bernard Welm
Posts: 62
Location: Minnesota
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I have to agree with you that QGIS is not very user friendly. I am able to work with it quite well as I took a year of GIS classes in university. It is also why I said it depended on comfort with computer stuff.

For a scaled down viewer (and I think it can do a little point creation) take a look at arcexplorer made by ESRI
http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/explorer-desktop

This is a viewer product made by a leading his tool maker. Note I have not actually used in 5+ years.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
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I use this site all the time for my farm related stuff. It is NOT Google Maps, but uses Google Maps to derive the information I need. I am pretty dumb at this stuff, so I like something that is easy to use. I highly recommend it.

webpage

 
André Troylilas
Posts: 134
Location: North of France
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Pretty good, thanks.
I'm still searching for a website that could help me in getting the contours.
 
C Jones
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I have been looking into similar stuff for my 10 acres recently too.  One thing I found, for those of us in the US, is a Google Earth-ified version of the USGS shaded topo maps - so combining the 3D elevation data (and layering / plotting / etc tools) of Google Earth with the contours and shading etc of the USGS maps.

http://www.gelib.com/store/shaded-usgs-topographic-maps.html ; - pic attached - of course a static image doesn't do it justice when it's interactive 3D.  The square on the right is my 10-acre lot (gives you an idea of the scale I'm zoomed to).  And of course it's just a click to toggle to the satellite imagery, etc.

Cost me $7 (for a pretty large area, maybe couple thousand square miles, not sure) but I think it's worth that to me.....at least on the large scale.  Smaller scale, finer details, I am still looking for something to evaluate the exact low/high spots, water paths, etc.  This was the highest-detail USGS map they had - I think it's 1;24,000 scale.

Might look into that QGIS. 
I think the data I want is there in GE, just not sure how to utilize it.  What I want is a "pour water at a point and watch where it goes" feature!

Thinking about ways to make a physical model too....clay maybe?



3d-usgs-topo.jpg
[Thumbnail for 3d-usgs-topo.jpg]
 
André Troylilas
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Location: North of France
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Not bad!
I've been playing with http://contourmapcreator.urgr8.ch/.
 
C Jones
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That's a really great site, Andre!  Saves me from figuring out how to draw the contours myself.

For those looking for ideas, the "similar threads" box at the bottom of this page (on desktop anyway) has links to some other good discussions.  Then those all have "similar threads" and so do those... and pretty soon you're swimming in great ideas!
 
2017 Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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