The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Measuring areas on a map

PlanimeterHave you ever wondered how large a certain pasture area was so that you'd know how many pounds of clover to seed?  Or perhaps you'd like to estimate how many cubic yards of compost it would take to smother your vegetable garden in a layer one inch thick?

Pacing off the boundaries of these areas can get complicated, especially if they're irregularly shaped or have trees or buildings in the way.  Enter Google Planimeter.

This fun tool layers on top of Google Maps.  You mark the boundaries of your area using as many points as you feel are necessary, and the website spits out the size of the plot in square meters, hectares, square kilometers, square feet, acres, and square miles.

I quickly learned that I'd been estimating our homestead area incorrectly.  Instead of encompassing two acres, our current garden and orchard are more like...0.57 acres.  Add on another quarter acre currently fenced in as pasture, and our entire cultivated land comes to less than an acre.  Who knew you could spend so much time (and grow so much) in so little space?

Of course, the tool doesn't take hills into account, so if you are farming on uneven terrain, it will underestimate areas slightly.  Yet another reason to move to the mountains --- you get more acres of growing area per square mile of earth.  I wonder if we get taxed on real acres or horizontal acres?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I really like this post. I once asked that same question about horizontal v vertical acres when I was planning a spec of land for a Geography class at Emory and Henry. Fun!
Comment by Maggie Sat Dec 31 09:41:15 2011
Thanks for this info ... I had no idea it was out there and I will definitely be making use of it. I hope you and Mark have a happy New Year's Eve and a VERY happy new year!
Comment by Debbi Sat Dec 31 11:55:34 2011
I think I clicked off too soon, but maybe not. Thanks for this info, and I hope you and Mark have a great new year's eve and a wonderful new year.
Comment by Debbi Sat Dec 31 11:56:51 2011

Maggie --- It's an interesting distinction, and one people don't think about much. I can see how horizontal acreage makes sense --- it measures the amount of land that gets sunlight.

Debbi --- I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Have a great holiday!

Comment by anna Sat Dec 31 12:38:56 2011
When I was in school and asked Dr. Ed Davis that question, I think he responded that it is not factored in, but because the ups always are evened out with the downs and north slopes with south slopes, it evens out in the end. That is my rusty memory of what he said at least.
Comment by Maggie Sat Dec 31 19:45:04 2011
Thanks for posting this. I have been trying to figure out the acreage of a very nonlinear pasture. I checked this tool by measuring the outline of our house and got within 10%. I think it is tough to be more accurate than that with the map shadows but that's still pretty darn close.
Comment by Lisa Sat Dec 31 19:54:45 2011
Lisa --- I'll take 90% accuracy over my stumbling paced calculations any day. :-) You've got a good point about the shadows, though --- could use some improvements.
Comment by anna Sun Jan 1 10:34:49 2012
There is the same tool for your Android devices called "Planimeter - GPS area measure"
Comment by Anonymous Fri Jan 6 14:42:46 2012
I don't even have a cell phone, but I'm sure others will find that helpful. :-)
Comment by anna Fri Jan 6 17:46:52 2012

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