Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Paul unexpectedly had the day off today, so we went shopping at Lowes for farm stuff. I got most of the rest of what I needed for the water system and all of the supplies for a portable chicken pen. That's enough to keep me busy for a while.

After shopping, I worked on the water system until the sun went down. I'm using a 800-gph bilge pump and pvc pipe to move water from the creek to a 305-gallon storage tank. At the base of the tank there is flexible pipe to take the water down the field. Periodically, there are tees with spigots so that a garden hose can be attached.

I really don't have any experience with plumbing, so I wasn't completely convinced that all of this would work until I got it hooked up tonight. The only difficulty is that the bilge pump's wires are very short, so I had to have the battery perched at the very edge of the creek. I plan to get some alligator clips to act as an extension cord. In the meantime, I tried it with jumper cables and it worked fine. It was such a rush to hear the water start flowing into the tank when I hooked up the battery. I hadn't been sure that the pump would be powerful enough to move the water all the way up the bank and to the top of the tank. I thought I might have to get a second pump and send the water up in two trips, but that turned out to be unneccessary.

The water tank has a 2" outlet, but the pipe is 3/4". I spent about half an hour looking at the different fittings at Lowes, trying to figure out the right combination to make that reduction. Finally, I found a guy who worked in the plumbing department and he was able to find what I needed. I ended up with three different kinds of plastic, and three different kinds of connection (threaded, cement, and compression), but it all works.

The flexible polyethylene pipe is a pain to work with. It comes in 100' coils, and it does not like to uncoil. I finally gave it up for the night because I think that it will be more flexible if the temperature is warmer. I'll try again tomorrow.

The best part about this watering system that I've cobbled together is that it only cost around $600 to provide running water to two acres. Half of that was the cost of the storage tank. Six months ago I had no idea how we were going to get water for livestock short of drilling a well. There was all that water going by in the creek, but I couldn't figure out how to capture it without spending far more money than we have. Luckily, I stumbled across Joel Salatin's books this winter and they taught me about bilge pumps and gravity-powered water systems (among many other things).

This autumn, we want to dig out a pond near the road where there's already a seep. Once the pond is there, I'll move the storage tank and the pipe across the field so that I can pump out of there instead of the creek.

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