Friday, May 30, 2014

Dealing with air trapped in a gravity fed drip irrigation system.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person actually using gravity fed drip irrigation.  There just isn't a whole lot of information available about it on the Internet.  What I do find all says the same thing.
  • Raise the height of your water source as much as possible to increase pressure.
  • Keep your drip lines short.
I didn't keep my drip lines short.  I'm using hundreds of feet of drip tubing.  Also, I'm real leery of raising a ~500 lbs. barrel of water real high in the air.  Theoretically it could be done, but whatever is holding would have to be real sturdy.  I want to take the chance of that kind of weight falling.

Anyway, I've noticed recently that some of my drip emitters are flowing real fast and some don't appear to drip at all.  When I pull the cap off of the emitter it gurgles and bubbles indicating that there is air trapped in the line.  I had this issue once before.  I installed a vertical tube to allow the air in the system to escape.  That worked for a while.  Then I added more raised beds, added more drip lines, and extended the lines in the existing beds.  All of that means a lot more emitters.  That single vertical line isn't sufficient for removing all of the air in the system.

My solution was to add more vertical lines at various places.   On the first two beds I ran the vertical lines off of the main trunk to allow the air to escape before entering the branch lines in the beds.  I made sure the lines were higher than my rain barrels.  That way it won't ever overflow (water always finds its own level).
Vertical line allows air to escape before going into the branch line in the bed.
Vertical line allows air to escape before going into the branch line in the bed.
On the next two beds I simply extended the branch lines and ran them vertically.  My theory here is that the air will be pushed through the line to the end and escape.
Drip irrigation line run vertically allows air to escape.
Drip irrigation line run vertically allows air to escape.
The changes I made above made a huge difference.  All of the emitters in every bed seem to work just fine.  I haven't noticed any more air trapped in the lines.  Of course the question is, "Is it better to run the vertical line at the end of the branch, or put the T in at the beginning?"  I didn't do any careful scientific experimentation to determine that, but from a purely practical point of view, extending the line is easier.  It requires fewer fittings.  It wouldn't require any at all if you planned ahead.  I only needed them because I had to couple a new line to the old. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2: Week 8

They made it.  I haven't counted lately, but I'm pretty sure I still have all 15 of my birds.  They made it to 8 weeks.  According to the hatchery I got them from they should be 5.5-6 lbs.  
I'm probably going to feel a little bad about putting these guys in the freezer.  They don't even run from me.  When I go out to check on them they swarm around my feet.  They know that I provide the food. 
They still spend a lot of time eating.  They finished off another 50 lb. bag of soy free feed this past week.  I have one more 50 lb. bag.  Hopefully it'll be enough. 
I have to fill this gallon waterer at least once a day.  The quart waterer gets filled more frequently than that.  And... They've also figured out how to use the poultry nipple waterer.  They drink a lot of water.
I don't know how long it's going to take me to process these birds.  I averaged an hour per bird last year.  I'm hoping that it doesn't take that long this time. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2: Week 7

I don't have a whole lot new to say about these birds.  They finished off the second 50 lb. bag of soy-free feed.  I'm waiting for my source to get another shipment.  In the mean time, I've been feeding them the Purina feed I bought for the layers.  That 50 lb. bag was 2/3 full and as of tonight it's empty.  I'm hoping that I can get more of the soy-free stuff tomorrow.  If not, I'll have to stop and pick up another bag of Purina. 
They're always anxious to be let out in the morning.
These birds actually seem to be more active as they've gotten older.  For a while there they were quite lazy.  They were spending their days just laying under the coop.  Now I find them out foraging several times a day.  (Maybe they don't like the Purina feed?)

7 weeks old.
Foraging in the yard.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 9

The baby rabbits are 9 weeks old and as of now we only have one left.  The other 4 have gone to their new homes.  The one that's left is going to its new home this weekend.

When we started this adventure I was worried that my daughter might have a hard time parting with them.  That hasn't been the case at all.  She's been fine with letting them go.  She's even reminded us that we have to let her do more of the talking when people are here picking them up.

I don't have any new pictures to share, so I thought I'd re-post some of the old ones.
Day 1

1 week old
2 weeks old
3 weeks old
4 weeks old
5 weeks old
6 weeks old
7 weeks old
8 weeks old
I had attempted to take a picture of a brown bunny on top of the hutch each week.  We had two brown ones and I doubt very much that I picked the same one each time.  It's also apparent from the pictures that I had varying amounts of sunlight.  And, the little guys don't hold still.  The older they got the more they hopped around.  Anyway, the pictures give you a sense of how quickly they grew. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2: Week 6

I say it every week.  These guys grow fast!  It's hard to believe that they're going to start going in the freezer in another two weeks. 

This batch of birds has been a lot less work to raise than last year's batch.  Keeping the chicken tractor stationary is a lot easier than moving it each day.
Cornish Cross at 6 weeks.
They still spend most of their time hanging out around the coop.  I have seen them venture into the yard a few times, but they don't stay there long.

They still eat like crazy.  I bought 100 lbs. of soy-free organic feed two weeks ago.  I'm going to need more real soon.  It took them one week to finish the first 50 lb. bag and they're getting close to the bottom of the second bag.
They go through a lot of water as well.  I have a 5-gallon bucket feeding poultry nipples in the tractor along with another poultry nipple waterer on the coop.  In addition to those I keep a 1-quart waterer in the tractor and a 1-gallon waterer next to it.  Believe it or not, I have to fill the 5-gallon bucket and the two stand alone waterers every day (the waterer on the coop is attached to a 60-gallon rain barrel so I don't bother with it).  I don't know if they're drinking that much water or spilling it, or if it's evaporating, but it's going somewhere. 
Well, like I said above, in another two weeks these guys will be graduating to the freezer!  I'm not looking forward to that, but it's part of the process.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 8

Happy 8 week birthday baby rabbits!  Now it's time for you to move out. 
All of the rabbits have been claimed.  They'll start going to their new homes over the next week or two.
 The momma rabbit still makes them look small.  She was actually that size when we got her.
I don't have much else to say about the baby rabbits.  They sure are cute, and they're a lot of fun to watch.  I'm going to miss them when they are gone.  That's OK though.  The two we have will make more. 

8 weeks old.
We had the rabbits in the yard the other day and captured some video.  The dog sure enjoyed watching them.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Using rain barrels for drip irrigation when there's no rain.

I've written about rain barrels multiple times in the past.  I think they're great!  I can't think of another resource that's as free and easy to get.  The water literally just falls from the sky.  You just have to catch it.  (The only other thing that might come close is leaves.  They fall to the ground in abundance, but you have to gather, mulch/shred, and pile them in order to make decent compost.)

One of the drawbacks to rain barrels is that you're dependent on the weather.  The frequency and amount of rain you get can be quite sporadic.  The best way to deal with this is to have a sufficiently large storage capacity to provide enough water between rain storms.  I currently have enough rain barrels to store 590 gallons of water, and not all of it is available where I need it.  It isn't nearly enough water for my needs.

I have 4 barrels feeding the drip irrigation system for my raised beds.  I haven't done any rigorous testing or note taking, but I think it takes about 4-5 days to empty them. 

So the obvious question becomes, "How do I continue to water my gardens once the barrels are empty?"

Until a few days ago I was manually turning on the hose and filling the barrel directly connected to the drip irrigation line.  I shut off the valve that connects it to the other barrels (I only wanted to fill one barrel, not four.)  Manually filling the barrel is a nuisance.  I had to keep an eye on it to make sure it didn't overflow. 
I needed a better solution.  Luckily I already had it.  One of my overflow barrels has a float valve in it.  And since we got rid of the ducks I don't need nearly as much water in the back yard.  It just made sense to move the barrel to the front yard.
Overflow rain barrel.

I moved the barrel from the back yard to the front yard.  I attached a Y-valve to the hose bib and used a short piece of hose with female couplings on both ends to connect it to the barrel that was already there (that barrel is connected to 3 barrels on the other side of the house).

I attached the drip irrigation line to the new barrel.
I attached the hose to the float valve on the barrel with PVC fittings.
I actually glued the PVC pipe and fittings together since I have high pressure water going through them.  I generally don't bother since I normally work with low pressure water.

I put the hose on a timer and have it set to come on 4 times a day for 20 minutes each time.  I didn't see the need to keep the water on all the time.  Although I suppose it wouldn't hurt. 
Here's a view inside the barrel.  The water is quite low.
Here's a view of the water filling the barrel.
Here it is full.  The water rose enough to shut off the float valve.
The next time it rains the rest of the barrels will fill.  Then I can simply shut off the hose, open the valves connecting the barrels and irrigate with rain water.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Backyard Broilers -- Round 2: Week 5

The birds are a week older and they're still doing just fine.  Initially I ordered 50 birds and kept 15 for myself.  The rest were split up among 4 other families.  I've heard from two of those families that they've lost birds (3 in total).  I haven't had any problems so far. 
I decided to move the tractor closer to the coop.  That puts it closer to the shed which is where I keep the food. 
The broilers are quite lazy.  They don't journey into the yard anymore.  I prop up the tractor in the morning and they rush out to swarm the feeder.  Then they spend the rest of the day laying under the coop.

They've gotten big fast.  They wobble around when they walk.  It's kind of funny to watch. 
They get picked on by the layers.  I started feeding the broilers soy-free organic feed last week.  Well, the layers won't eat their feed any more.  They just strut right up to the feeder and force the broilers out of the way.  Eventually they leave and the broilers go back to eating.  Silly birds...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Baby Rabbits -- Week 7

There's only one more week to go until they are ready to leave momma for their new homes!
They just get more and more adorable.
You'd think we'd perfected cloning.  He looks just like his dad.
I'm ready for my closeup.

Snuggle time with momma.
7 weeks old.