Monday, July 25, 2016

The rain water pressure tank has been relocated.

Let me be perfectly clear with this post.  I am not a plumber.  I am not an expert on building codes.  I'm making this post to show what I did in my situation.  It is not intended to be a how-to guide.  Always seek qualified professionals when making home improvements.

That said, I finally got around to relocating my pressure tank to my crawlspace.  I don't know if it was absolutely necessary (again, I'm not a plumber) but I thought that getting it out of the elements was a good idea.  It's also cooler down there so it won't be subjected to the high (90+ degree) heat and temperature swings.  Also, I won't have to drain and move it in the winter.

I used the following:
I glued all of the PVC connections and used thread sealant on the brass fittings.
The pressure tank is rated to 100 psi.  The pump that I have shuts off at 55 psi.  In theory the pump should never cause enough pressure to make the tank fail.  I didn't want to take any chances.  I got a spring loaded pressure relief valve that opens at 75 psi.  The hose connection allows me to drain the pressure tank, and the other connect attaches to the existing PEX pipe I recently ran through my crawlspace.
The above picture shows the tank in its final location.  It's against the wall out of the way near my water heater. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Garden Update -- July 2016

Things are coming along in the garden.  I'm getting a lot of peppers and tomatoes.

I don't know what happened to this plant and the one next to it.  They both turned brown and gave up.

More tomatoes.


More jalapenos.

Tomatillos gone wild.

Green peppers.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Moving rain barrel water to another location

The pump I mounted under my deck has been working great.  The one downside is that the pressurized rain water is only available in my back yard.  I frequently need water in my front yard.  The solution was simple, but not easy to implement. 

I bought 100' of 1/2" Purple Reclaimed Water PEX Pipe on clearance from Home Depot 2 years ago.  I knew that someday I might need it for this reason.  I lucked out.  I paid $32 at the time.  The 100' coils have been discontinued, and the 300' ft. coils are $118. 
I attached one end of the PEX pipe to the PVC pipe under my deck.  I drilled a hole through the wall and ran the pipe into the crawlspace.  This was the difficult part.  Crawling around in 35" of space and snaking pipe around obstacles, and nailing it in place isn't easy. 
I attached the other end of the pipe to a frost proof sillcock at the front of my house.  I mounted it near my existing hose bib.  That way I could fill the rain barrels that feed my drip irrigation system when they get low.
I was tickled with delight when I turned the valve and water came rushing out.  The next step was to connect the rain barrel to the new hose bib.  I did that and immediately had a problem.  The float valve in the barrel had too much resistance and caused the pump to pulsate very badly.  (The pump comes on at 30 psi and goes off at 55 psi.)  The float valve in the picture below is rated for 1.5 gpm at 60 psi.  The pump was pulsating and shaking violently while trying to push water through it.  I was very disappointed.
My solution was to change out the float valve.  I had the one in the picture below from the rain barrel that I had next to my chicken coop.  It wasn't being used since I recently moved that barrel to my front yard.  This valve is rated at 12.5 gpm at 60 psi.  It allowed the pump to operate with out pulsating for a little while.  When the water level started to get high, the valve started to close causing back pressure which made the pump once again pulsate. 
The pump works great with sudden on/off changes in pressure.  It doesn't like gradual changes at all.  There's a solution for this.  I needed a pressure tank.  What's a pressure tank?  It's a water tank that also has a pressurized air bladder.  When a valve is opened the air pressure in the tank causes the water to flow.  As the tank empties the pressure drops and the pump turns on.  It eliminates the pulsating pump issue.

Initially I was going to get the Shurflo Accumulator Tank.  They made the pump, so why not get their tank?  It looked small, super simple to hook up, and it was only $41.  I read the reviews and saw that they only hold 10-16 oz. of water (no one was really sure of the exact amount).  That didn't seem like much of a buffer.  Luckily for me, my local Lowes had a 7-gallon pressure tank on clearance for $41.  The tag on the shelf said $88, and that's the price it was listed for at that other Lowes in the area.

The box looked pretty beat up.  When I got it out I noticed some scratches, and the manual said the pressure was set to 25 psi from the factory.  I checked it with a tire gauge and it was at 39 psi.  Someone bought this thing and returned it.  I was fine with that as long as it worked.  I put a 3/4" FPT x 3/4" FHT fitting on the tank, and attached it to my PVC pipe with a garden hose.  This is not, is not, _is not_, a permanent solution.  I'm going to move the tank into my crawlspace and plumb it in properly.  I just wanted to see if it would solve my pulsating problem.
The pressure tank worked perfectly.  I was able to fill the barrel in my front yard without the pump pulsating at all.  It never had an issue.  It would come on, fill the pressure tank, and shut off.  Then the water would trickle into the barrel with just the pressure from the pressure tank.  I'm really pleased with how it works.
My last step was to label the hose bib.  I don't want anyone to mistake it for municipal water.  It's untreated and while my rabbits and dog have been drinking it for years, it's probably not suitable for humans.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Adding more blueberries.

I like blueberries.  I think I have 10 blueberry bushes around the house, but I never seem to have enough of them.  I have several varieties, so they produce at different times.  I get berries for a longer period of time, but not a lot of them at any one time. 

Anyway, I got on craigslist and found someone selling blueberry plants for $4.  I thought that was a steal so I agreed to buy 5.

Before I got the plants I had to prepare the area.
I started by removing the lousy clay soil that I have.  I did this by digging a long trench.

I filled the bottom of the trench with rotting wood.

Then I covered the rotting wood with rabbit manure and garden soil.  Then I lightly spread some of the clay soil that I removed on top.

I planted 3 plants in this area and put down cypress mulch to help retain water.

I had two Irripans so I put them on two of the plants.  They'll help with water and reduce weeds that would compete with the small blueberry plants.

The plant in the center did not get an Irripan.  Finally, I'll be able to directly compare the results of a plants with Irripans to one without.

The other two plants went in the beds by my patio.  It'll probably be 2-3 years before these plants start producing.  They're all the same variety, so at least they'll produce at the same time.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Keep debris out of rain barrels -- Take #2

I've had problems with keeping debris and pollen out of my rain barrels.  The regular window screen is sufficient for keeping out leaves and larger debris, but the grit from the roof and seeds and whatever else comes off of the trees is small and gets through.  To mitigate this I tried to use mosquito netting.  That made things better, but it was not 100% successful.
Over time the netting has faded, gotten kind of brittle, and torn.
This particular barrel gets a lot of debris.  It accumulates over the drain holes and dries there.  That makes it harder for the water to get in during the next rain.
So what is my new solution?  I found pond filter material on Amazon.  I don't know anything about ponds, but I guess this stuff is some kind of filter for them.  I ordered some in with the hope that it might work for rain barrels.
The role is 6 feet long and 16 inches wide.
 I started by tracing the lid of the barrel onto the filter material.
The lids are 16" around which makes this material the perfect size.
I used scissors to cut out the material and then I placed on the top of the barrel.
I screwed on the retaining ring which held the pond filter material in place perfectly.
I pressure washed these barrels in the spring after I thought the pollen was done, but there's still pollen in several of them.  I'm going to have to pressure wash them again the next time they are empty.  Anyway, I'm really hoping that this pond filter material will keep more of the pollen out.

I took the picture below after it rained.  This barrel has both the pond filter and the mosquito netting.  It appears to have worked well.  The debris isn't clogging the drain holes.
I didn't use mosquito netting on this barrel.  A lot of the debris worked its way down into the filter.  I don't know how easy that's going to be to clean.  I'm hoping that I can just hose it out from the other side.  That's a project for another day.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I relocated one of my rain barrels.

Long ago I put a rain barrel near my chicken coop so they'd have water.  I came to the conclusion that it wasn't necessary.  The main reason being that I no longer have any chickens.  The other reason was that it was easy to just connect the long line of drip irrigation tubing from the house directly to the chicken waterer and not have the extra barrel sitting there. 

It made much more sense to move that barrel to the front of my house to increase the capacity of the drip irrigation system for my raised bed gardens.
Putting it in place was pretty simple.  I stacked 4x8x16" concrete blocks just like I had for the other barrels.  I attached the new barrel to the old barrels using an old garden hose with female adapters on both ends.  This additional capacity should let me get a few more days of irrigation before falling back to using house water.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Garden Update -- June 2016

It's June already.  Time for an update.
Everything is really taking off.
Tomatoes and lettuce. 
More tomatoes.  I've had to tie up quite a few of them already.
Tomatoes of various sizes.  Kale in the middle of the bed, and cucumbers at the back.
This kale is out of control.  The tomatoes are doing well.
The tomatillos are big and out of control.  The peppers, lettuce and tomatoes are coming along.
I managed to pick all of the spinach that was in this bed.  The peppers here are already producing (see below).
This spinach has bolted.  I think I might let it go to seed.
I picked this much spinach on at least two occasions.
Sweet peppers!  They're early this year.  I think it was September before I got any last year.
Jalapeno peppers.
I didn't spend a lot of time planning the layout of the garden this year.  We mostly eat peppers and tomatoes, so those were the seeds that I started.  I have tomatoes of all different sizes.  To make things more interesting I dumped all of my various tomato seeds into one packet.  I'm not even sure what types of tomatoes that I'm going to get.  I just know that I'm going to have a lot of them!