Friday, May 27, 2016

Adding a float switch to a Shurflow 4008-171-E65 pump

About a year ago I got a Shurflow 4008 RV pump to move water out of my rain barrels.  I've used it on and off since then.  I ran into a few issues.  The first is that I ran out of water frequently.  I'm hoping that I have alleviated that problem by adding more barrels.  The other, and bigger issue is that the pump doesn't shut off when the barrel is empty.  It just continues to run and get very hot.  I needed to add a float switch to keep this from happening.
The float switch opens and closes a circuit depending on the angle of the float.  When the barrel is empty the pump will shut off.

I started by putting 3/16" quick disconnects on two wires of the float switch. I had to order the male disconnects from Amazon.  The female ones came from Auto Zone.
One end of the pump had two wires going into with with female disconnects. 
I filled a barrel with water and put the float in it.  I had to play around with the location of the weight.
Then I connected the male disconnect on the float switch to the female disconnect on the pump.  The female disconnect on the switch connected to the pump.
 Below is a picture of it all hooked up.
I plugged in the pump and drained the barrel.  When it was nearly empty the pump shut off.
I did have to play with the weight and the length of the cable a little bit to get things just right.  I don't want the pump to shut off when there's still plenty of water in the barrel, and I don't want it to run when there's no water left to draw.

The final step was to drill a hole in the lid, insert a grommet, and run the 10' cord through it. 
I put the lid on one of the newly installed barrels.  Now I just need to get the pump out there in a more permanent location.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I added more rain barrels.

I have quite a few rain barrels already.  I have enough to capture and store 590 gallons of water.  That isn't enough though.  I've had to get creative and find ways to fill the barrels from my house water when they are low.

Anyway, last year I put a short barrel under my deck to hold additional.  It fills from the barrels under the downspouts.  (All of my barrels are plumbed together with drip irrigation tubing.)  I decided that it was time to add more barrels under my deck.

I started by removing and inspecting the original barre.  To my surprise, the chain on the float valve was very rusty.  I thought it was going to last longer.  I picked up some new zinc coated chain from Home Depot.  The chain cutting guy recommended it.  Hopefully it lasts longer.

Old vs. New.

New chain installed.
I contacted the guy I got barrels from before and he no longer had any.  I checked craigslist and found some in a town 45 minutes away.  That wasn't as convenient as the local guy, but what can you do?
I picked up five 50-gallon short orange barrels.  The first step was to drill a hole in the bottom of each one and install a 1/2" Uniseal bulkhead fitting.  I used a 1-1/4" hole saw to get a nice clean hole.
 I installed 1/2" PVC pipe through the Uniseal. 

Barrels ready for installation.
I had to level the dirt under the deck and place 12" patio stone so the barrels would be off of the ground and the pipes would extend from in under them. 
I had an extra float valve, so I installed it on the barrel on the opposite end.  This one will fill from the top.  The barrel on the other end fills closer to the bottom.  I figure two inputs into these barrels will fill them faster.  That's the theory anyway...

Float valve from the inside.
The next step was to add 3/4"x3/4"x1/2" tee fittings to the PVC pipe coming out of each barrel.  I only have 1/2" pipe going into each barrel, but I wanted to tie them together with 3/4" pipe to reduce bottlenecks when pulling water from the barrels.  I don't know if that was necessary or not, but it seemed like a good idea. (I'll just throw out the reminder here, that I'm no expert with this stuff.  I'm making it up as I go along.)
The last step was to cut 3/4" PVC pipe to connect the tee fittings.
The last fitting on the end barrel was a 3/4"x1/2" elbow.  A tee fitting wouldn't have worked there.  On the other end I have a hose fitting and a Y-valve. 
Now I just need to open the valve and hope that nothing leaks!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Garden Update -- May 2016

It's May already, and the garden is doing well.
All of the raised beds.
The spinach is taking off, and the peppers are doing well.
More spinach, and of course the oregano that I can't get rid of.
This is kale left over from last year.  I don't even remember when I put it in.
Tomatoes and lettuce.
More tomatoes.
I'm going to have a lot of tomatoes this year.  I guess I didn't realize how many seeds I had started.  I still have more in the garage that I need to get into the ground. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The plants are in the ground.

I looked at the calendar the other day and noticed that it was April 18.  That's well past our usual last frost date.  I hadn't noticed this sooner because I kept seeing 39-40* low temperatures in the forecast.  Maybe I worry too much, but when I see temps in the 30's I fear that it might drop lower than expected and kill my plants.

Anyway, the point is, I've moved my plants from the containers to the raised beds.
Every stake sticking up is a tomato.
More tomatoes.
Still more tomatoes.
Peppers.  I don't know if they are hot or sweet.
Peppers in the front and tomatillos in the back.

Friday, April 8, 2016

We lost all of our chickens.

Something killed all of our chickens.  My father-in-law was staying with us this week.  On Wednesday he went out and found one of the chickens dead and decapitated near the coop.  The rest of the birds were gone.  He went into the woods behind the house to look for them, and found nothing.

I went out later to investigate.  There were feathers everywhere.  They were all over inside the coop.  Due to my travel schedule I hadn't been locking the coop at night.  That allowed something to get it.
Outside of the coop I noticed a number of little mounds.  Upon closer inspection I found 4 missing chickens.  Something killed the birds and then took the time to bury them.
The first buried bird I discovered.
It's hard to see, but there are two buried birds here.  The one on the right is only visible because I moved leaves before taking the picture.
Here are three of the birds uncovered.
There was a pile of red feathers nearby, but the Rhode Island Red bird was nowhere to be found.
I didn't closely examine every bird, but it looks like they were bitten in their necks and shaken.  They had puncture wounds on their necks but were otherwise fine.  They weren't eaten or torn open or anything.
I had a total of 8 birds.  One was found uncovered by the coop and 4 more were buried by the coop.  Three were unaccounted for.  After lunch I found two more.  They had been buried elsewhere in the yard. 
This bird had been completely covered.  The picture was taken after I removed mulch.
There was a bird under this pile.  It was well covered.

Here's the bird that was buried under the leaves in the picture above.
I am very puzzled by this situation, and have 3 nagging questions.
  1. I have a fenced in yard.  How did the predator get into and out of my yard?
  2. What happened to the 8th chicken? 
  3. Why were the birds buried?  And what kind of predator buries its prey?
I don't know that I'll ever get answers to those questions.  I've been all over the woods with my son and dog and we didn't find any evidence of the last chicken.  If it escaped it didn't stay close.  It was the smallest bird so maybe it got carried away and the other birds were too heavy to take.  Who knows.  All I know is that we are going to take a break from chickens for a little while. 

I have to say though, the yard just isn't the same without them.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

An update on the garden progress.

I'm not having much luck with seeds this year.  I thought I had lost some of my transplanted seedlings a few weeks ago.  I don't remember if I lost any, but I did have several survive.  Some have done so well that they had to be potted up again.
Now the bad news.  The plants in the above picture are all that I have.  I think I counted 6 tomatoes, 3 tomatillos, and 6 pepper plants.  I normally have more than that going by now.

I've been trying to start more seeds, but I haven't had any luck.  Every week or so I put more seeds in some peat pods.  I don't know what went wrong but the pods have gotten all slimy.  Some are even green with a moss or algae.  I probably had too much water in there, or too much heat, or both.  I haven't had this happen before. 

I have some peppers in the pods below that are trying to hang on, but they aren't looking so great.  The tomatoes I've planted have failed to germinate. 
Since the peat pods weren't working so well I thought I'd try bigger pots with plain old soil.  Nothing has happened with those yet either.  Maybe I don't have enough patience, or maybe my seeds have gone bad.  I didn't order any new ones this year.  I'm using whatever I had left over from the last few years.  That could be the issue.  I'm going to throw out whatever I don't use by the end of this year and start over with fresh stuff next year.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Whoops! Maybe I started my seeds too soon.

I started seeds on January 31.  That might have been too soon.  I had several seedlings appear so I transplanted them to bigger containers. 
The tomatillos were transplanted first, maybe a week ago.  I transplanted  two peppers yesterday.  They fell over almost immediately.  It got down to 38* in my garage last night.  I guess they weren't ready for that.