Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Relocating my rain barrel water pump (update #1).

I had the bright idea to relocate my rain barrel pump to my crawlspace. So far it hasn't gone as planned. The washer hoses I used to make connections wouldn't seal. I had to replace one. Then I discovered that one of the fittings on my pressure tank had cracked.
I decided to redo all of the piping. The picture below is what I came up with.
I took the pipe vertical instead of horizontal. The key thing that made this possible was a 3/4" elbow with a 1/2" pipe thread outlet. This kept my drain at the bottom. I installed the pressure relief valve further up and the PEX adapter at the top.
The picture below shows it in place in my crawlspace. Initially it worked great, but after a couple of days I noticed it dripping where the PVC pipe attached to the tank. I had to pull it out and screw it down a couple more turns. I'm hoping that will solve the issue.

Below is a picture of the old piping for reference.

Monday, April 17, 2017

I got plants in the ground -- Garden 2017

It's been nice out for the last week and a half so I started putting plants in the ground.
I hung bars of Irish Spring soap from posts to keep the deer away. The brown mat in the picture below is dried out hairy vetch. I put down seed last fall but not much of it grew. I suspect that my seed is too old.
The picture below is a bed full of bush beans. I directly planted these and so far they seem to be doing well.
I still have a lot of peppers and tomatoes that need to be transplanted. They'll probably get put in this weekend.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Relocating my rain barrel water pump.

I mounted the pump for my rain barrels to the under side of my deck last year.
Then I used the pressurized water from the pump to flush a toilet. I was fairly happy with the results. The biggest downside that I had was the noise.  The pump isn't that loud really, but what sound it does make is amplified through the deck. I figured that the solution is to move it to the crawlspace.

The first step was getting the water into the crawlspace. I didn't want to buy a massive hammer drill so I ran a pipe through one of the little ventilation windows.
PVC pipe running from the barrels to the house.
PVC pipe going through the ventilation screen. Most of the pipe is buried under an inch or two of dirt.
I put hose fittings on both ends of the PVC pipe. Inside the crawlspace I included a shutoff valve. I wasn't sure that this setup was going to work. It requires the pump to pull the water from several feet away, and it has to lift it up the pipe and through the window. The pump had to lift the water in its previous position, but it was much closer to the source.
I have the pump sitting on the floor for now.  Eventually I'd like to mount it to something more permanent. I connected a garden hose to it just to verify that it would work.
The pump was able to move the water from the barrels through the hose.
The next step was to connect the pump to the PEX tubing and pressure tank. I used the old washer machine hose that I had used previously. Sadly, it had slow leaks at both ends. I put the pump on a bucket to help deal with that.
I was able to pressurize the system to 46 psi or so. The pump is supposed to shut off at 55 psi. I got on the old Internet and looked up how to adjust the shutoff switch. It took a little playing around, but eventually I got the pump to shut off  around 53 psi. That was good enough for me.
Then I unplugged the pump, shut off the supply line, and drained the pressurized side. I need to get new washers for my supply hoses before hooking it up again. I can't have water leaking in my crawlspace.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Starting seeds for the 2017 garden

I haven't written anything in a while. There hasn't been a lot going on around the old homestead.

Anyway, I've had good luck with the Jiffy greenhouse kit in the past. So I used one again this year.
I started 3 rows of tomatoes back in January. 
They didn't take long to come up. I also started peppers on multiple occasions. Some of them didn't germinate at all. Others did, but they took forever. 
I transplanted the tomatoes to pots. When the weather is nice I put them outside in the sun.
Most of the time the plants are under lights in the garage.
The picture below is more tomatoes that I started later. I like to stagger my seed starting so I don't get all of my tomatoes at once.
The picture below is mostly peppers. It took multiple attempts, but they finally seem to be taking off.  I transplanted most of them to bigger pots today.
Peppers in the bigger pots.
Here are the peppers under lights. They're so small. I can't imagine that they will be ready to go into the ground in the middle of April. That's only a few weeks away.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Rainwater usage update & analysis

At the beginning of October I reset my flow meter to zero.  I wanted to measure exactly how much rainwater I used in one month.

The result?  I used 607.7 gallons. That was for flushing a toilet, washing cars, and watering the lawn.  I wanted to use up what I had in the barrels.  Good thing I did too, because it went below freezing in the first week of November.
My sophisticated gauge showed that my barrels were empty on November 2.  I used a shop vac to remove the inch or two of water that was left in the bottom of each barrel.  Then I disconnected the hoses from the pump and briefly ran it to get any remaining water out.

So what are the results? 

I've been saving my water bills for the last few months.  I think the results are inconclusive.  The bills range from 28 to 34 days so I can't compare total gallons used.  Thankfully the water company is kind enough to list the average daily usage.  They even include a handy-dandy graph.
My average daily water use for my August bill (July 08 to August 05) was 125 gallons.  I ran rain water to my toilet on August 13.  I expected to see a drop in water usage on the next bill.  But it hardly made a difference.  My average daily usage for my September bill (August 05 to September 08) was 123 gallons.  My usage dropped only 2 gallons per day!

The October bill is where things got interesting.  It ran from September 08 to October 07.  My daily average usage for it was 100 gallons.  That was a big drop.  I have no explanation as to why.  My most recent bill (October 07 to November 07) average usage was 119 gallons.  That was with the toilet back on the house water for the last 5 days of that billing cycle. 

I don't know what to make of these results.  I was expecting to see fairly significant (5-10 or more gallons per day) drops in my water usage, and I only saw that during one month.  It hardly made a difference in the other months.  I can say that my bills would have been higher without the rainwater.  I'll certainly keeping an eye on this next year.  It'll be interesting to compare those graphs year-to-year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hurricane Matthew and how we went for almost 48 hours without power.

Hurricane Matthew dumped a lot of rain on North Carolina last weekend.  We got around 8" here in Raleigh.  It wasn't a fun experience, but compared to the devastation in Haiti and even other parts of our state still deluged with flood waters, we didn't have much to complain about.  We were without power for roughly 46 hours.  Thankfully we were fairly prepared (it's the Boy Scout motto).

We knew that the hurricane was coming, but we had no idea how bad it was going to be.  I filled both vehicles with gas earlier in the week, and tested the chainsaw.  The rain and wind started Saturday morning.  I had my counter top ice machine going and was adding ice to the chest freezer.  We were pretty much stuck inside at that point.  All we could do was wait.
The creek on my property during the hurricane, and the day after.
The power went out around 2:30 in the afternoon.  I was naive and was holding out hope that it wouldn't be out for very long.  I was wrong.  It didn't come back on until Monday at 12:30.

Saturday night I got out my MSR Pocket Rocket backpacking stove and some freeze dried Mountain House meals for dinner.  (I only buy the buckets of Mountain House when Amazon has them on a daily deal for $48 or less.)
For light in the kitchen I used a 5ft. Luminoodle LED rope light and an LED lantern.  The Luminoodle has a USB connection and connects to any USB power source.  Speaking of USB power sources, I have multiple USB batteries.  The main one I used is a 20,000mAh Limefuel battery bank.  The other is a RAVpower 6000 mAh travel router.  Those two batteries kept our phones charged and powered the Luminoodle for hours.

I used a Schumacher car battery jump starter to keep my living room lit.  It has a 200 watt inverter.  I plugged three lamps in and the room was as bright as usual.  I had Cree LED bulbs in the lamps, so they hardly drew any power.

We kept ourselves entertained by playing card games and reading books.

One of the other really useful things we had were LED motion lights.  I keep these throughout the house all the time.  They really came in handy with the power out.  I have two types.  

The Eteckcity lights to the right are generally very nice.  They plug into the wall and stay charged.  When the power goes out you can remove them from the wall and use them like a flashlight.  The biggest drawback I found (and it's a big one) is that the batteries in them die in just a few hours.  They didn't last very long at all once the power was out.  

The lights that actually worked better in this situation where the AA battery powered Mr. Beams lights.  They are a little annoying during normal use because I have to take the batteries out every 2-3 weeks and recharge them.  But unlike the Eteckcity lights they lasted the entire time we were without power.

There's one other really useful item that I couldn't have done without.  My 32 oz. thermos!  I used my Coleman stove to make coffee with an old fashioned percolator coffee pot.  We drank our usual amount of morning coffee and the rest went into the thermos.  That kept it hot all day!  There was no need to fire up the stove again for more coffee later in the day.  I just got it from the thermos.

So what didn't work so great? 

There were a few things that didn't go very well.  We had difficulty keeping the refrigerator and chest freezer cold. We kept both closed as much as possible to keep the cold in.  We were able to keep an eye on the temperatures by using a wireless indoor/outdoor thermometer and remote wireless thermometers.  I normally keep one of the remote units outside and the other in the garage.  It made more sense to put them in the freezers once the power went out.

Anyway...  We knew the temperatures were rising in both.  The freezer in the kitchen eventually got above 32*, but the one in the garage only got to 30*.  I lucked out and was able to run it for a little while Sunday afternoon.  I hooked up an 800w inverter to the battery of my car.  It wouldn't start the freezer Sunday morning, or Sunday night, but somehow it worked when I tried in the afternoon.  The freezer only draws 100w or so when it's running.  The problem is the huge spike in power when it first starts.  It draws more than 800 watts which caused the inverter to fault.  Like I said, I lucked out and it worked once.  I don't know why, but it isn't reliable for running the freezer.  It did however run the counter top ice maker like a champ.  I made several pounds of ice during the day.  I'm not sure how helpful it was, but I did it anyway.  And since I had the car running to make ice, I plugged in my USB batteries and the Schumacher jump pack and charged them.

In the end we did end up losing a lot of food.  On the bright side though, our kitchen fridge hasn't been this clean in a long time!  It looks brand new.

So what did I learn?

I learned that I was fairly prepared, but not enough.  I'm going to look at generators and I'm sure I'll have one before next year's hurricane season.  I don't want anything huge.  I just need a 2000w unit that can run the fridge and freezer every couple of hours to keep them cold.  Otherwise I don't think there's a whole lot that I would do differently. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Garden Update -- October 2016

I didn't post a garden update last month.  I don't have a lot going on.  We had a bad thunderstorm come through.  I lost a lot of tomatoes and all of my cucumbers to wind.  I basically just have a few pepper plants left.