Sunday, May 31, 2015

A water pump for rain barrels

I like rain barrels.  I've written about several projects that I've done with them.  One of the issues that I have had is moving the water.  All of my rain barrels are plumbed together.  I can transfer water between them by turning valves and letting gravity do the rest.  This takes a long time.  I'm also only able to transfer water down hill.  The 5 barrels I have in my front yard are at the same level, but my barrels in the back yard are lower.

I decided that it was finally time to get a pump.  I've looked at several types but finally decided on an RV pump.  It's the Shurflow 4008-171-E65.  I decided on this pump for a few reasons.  It has a pressure switch built in and shuts off automatically when it reaches 55 PSI.  The other big reason is that it can be run dry.  It can suck a barrel empty and not be harmed.  It's also thermally protected and shuts itself off if it gets too hot. 

There are a few downsides.  It didn't come with a plug.  I had to pick up an appliance cord at Home Depot.  Also, there's no ON/OFF switch.  I haven't found that to be a big deal, but I thought I'd mention it.
Below are the supplies I needed to get the thing ready to go.  A power cord, 1/2 PVC pipe fittings to go from pipe threads to hose threads, and a strainer to catch debris that might otherwise enter the pump.
Wiring the connections was pretty straight forward. 
The pump has male pipe threads.  I couldn't find a 1/2" FPT to MHT fitting so I had to make one from a 1/2" FPT to slip fitting and a slip to MHT fitting.  Normally I don't glue my fittings, but I did for this since it is under pressure.
The next step was to connect to one of the rain barrels in the back yard. 
I ran a hose from the output of the pump to one of the barrels in the front yard using a brass FHTxFHT fitting.
Success!  The pump moved water from the back yard to the front yard.
Next I connected the output of the pump to the manifold on the hose bib at the back of the house.  I turned off the house water.  The house water is 80 PSI.  I'm no expert, but I don't want that kind of pressure running through the pump backwards.  I can't imagine that would be good.

With this setup I was able to verify that the pump does shutoff when high enough pressure is reached.  It's supposed to shut off at 55 PSI, but my gauge looked like it was closer to 48 PSI.  Who knows, maybe the gauge isn't right.  I'm not going to worry about it. 
I connected the input side of the pump to the nearest rain barrel.
I turned the valve on manifold for the sprinkler.  It worked.  I'm able to water my grass with rain water!
I think this is just the beginning.  I have a lot of ideas for projects involving this pump.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Growing grass and improving soil without chemicals.

Long ago I started an experiment that I called "composting in place."  I have poor soil in my back yard and lots of shade.  That along with chickens leads to great difficulty growing grass.

I picked the spot in the picture below for this experiment.  It's low, well shaded, has hard packed soil, and sparse grass. 
March 30, 2013
I started by piling leaves there.  Lots of leaves.  The leaves were more than a foot deep, probably closer to 18 inches.  Then every so often I would throw in some oats.  The chickens would go in to eat the oats and turn over the leaves.  (Chickens love oats.) 
December 21, 2013
Occasionally during the summer months I would bag my grass clippings and dump them in there too.  Then I'd add oats and the chickens would turn in the grass clippings while looking for the oats.  My back yard is sloped.  Heavy rains would cause the partially composted material to go pile up at the edge.  I'd periodically have to get the rake out and move it back. 

July 26, 2014
I tried throwing some seeds down last fall, but they didn't do well.  I'm guess that there wasn't enough sun or that maybe it was still too hot.
September 25, 2014
By December (a year later) the entire area was covered with really great compost.  There were worms all through it.  I put a fence around the area to keep the chickens out.  They had done their job. 
December 31, 2014
In March, after the frost, I put down grass seed and some clover.  I watered the area twice a day.
April 3, 2015
March was a good time to start grass since it was still cool and the leaves weren't in on the trees yet.  This area actually got sunlight.  By April this area had more green than I had ever seen there.
April 18, 2015
By the middle of May everything had really taken off.  By this time the leaves were on the trees causing the yard to be shaded most of the day.  I managed to get this picture during a window when there was sun there.
May 14, 2015
The grass got so tall that I had to mow it!  I'm really happy with how it has turned out.  It's the best looking grass in the yard.
May 23, 2015
I still haven't taken down the fence.  I'm not sure when I'll do that.  I know as soon as I do the chickens will be in there tearing it up.  I might wait until there is snow on the ground. 

I call this composting in place idea successful, but it takes a long time.  Based on the pictures it took 17 months.  I probably starting piling leaves in that spot prior to the December 21 photo.  I wasn't in a hurry though, so I'm not going to complain.  I'm quite happy with the results.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Broody chicken

We had a chicken go broody last Saturday.  She planted herself in the nesting box and I haven't seen her come out since.  My kids said that they've seen her come out a few times for food and water, but she doesn't stay out long.

Last year we got a broody chicken and 5 chicks from a neighbor.  We lost all of the chicks to hawks.  I contacted her again and asked about getting chicks to put under this bird.  She suggested that we just let her hatch fertilized eggs.  That sounded like a good idea to me.  I went picked up a dozen fertilized eggs tonight.  Then I removed the bird from the nest box, put the eggs in, and sat the bird on top of them.  Now I just have wait 3 weeks for them to hatch.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015 Garden Update.

Spring flew by.  June is almost here.  So what better time than now to post some pictures of the garden?
Here it is!  I don't have nearly as many things in containers this year.
May 14
Lettuce and some kale that's hanging on from last fall. 
May 14

These tomatoes are the ones I started first and they are the biggest.  The oregano is taking off as well. 
May 14.
I have cucumbers in this bed.  The peas in the bed behind it are well on their way to climbing to the top of the trellis. 
May 14
I need to take some more pictures these are already 10 days old.  Most of the plants are even bigger now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Boy Scouts and water guns.

A few weeks ago the Boy Scouts put out a blog post clarifying their position on water guns. They say that it is only permissible to shoot water guns at targets, and not people. News sites and social media have gone crazy about it. (It's been pointed out already, but this has been their policy for several years.)

So why am I writing about this? Because for 27 of the 38 years I've been on this planet, I've been an active member of the Boy Scouts of America.  I've seen some awful comments written as a result of the recent news regarding this old policy.  Just look at the comments section of the original blog post. People have said they won't be involved in scouts and won't permit their sons to be in either.  I've seen comments calling Scouts 'sissies' and worse.

The policy on the surface does appear to be silly.  I get that.  But, it doesn't matter.  In the 27 years that I've been in scouts I can't remember a single activity that involved water guns.  None.  I've gone camping, hiking, and backpacking.  I've gone swimming, canoeing, and whitewater rafting.  I've gone caving, climbing, and repelling.  I've done archery, rifle, and shotgun shooting.  I could go on, but I won't.  There are plenty of fun and even dangerous activities to do in scouts.  Water guns are a non-issue.  They aren't part of the program.
Rock climbing at Philmont.
COPE course at Camp Powhatan.
Backpacking on the Appalachian trail.

It's easy to be an armchair critic. It's easy to sit in an air conditioned room behind a computer screen and complain about a policy that is only seen in a headline.  That's easy to do when you don't know much of anything about the organization that you're criticizing.  I'd like to see a lot of these people come out and see what Boy Scouts do.  What?  They don't know how to put up a tent?  They don't know how to start a fire?  They don't know how to cook without electricity?  They can't navigate with a map and compass?  That's OK, I know 11 & 12-year-olds that can help them with all of that.

I know that there are adults out there that can do those things even though they've never been in scouts.  And I know that there are troops that don't do a lot of camping.  Those are the units that need leaders to volunteer to provide those activities.  Instead we have people criticizing the BSA in blog comments and yanking their kids out of scouts because they aren't allowed to shoot water guns at each other.  Doing nothing is easy.  Stepping up, setting an example, and providing opportunities to young men, that's hard.  Maybe that's why more people aren't doing it. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I need a new greenhouse.

I got rid of my greenhouse the other day. It was in pretty sad shape.  Snow and ice caused it to collapse back in 2014.  I did what I could to fix it and it made it through last year.  Then we got more snow this year and it was pretty much done.
It had a large hole in the corner which caused to not hold heat.
On top of all of that, the zippers on the door were shot. 
So... The greenhouse went away.  I'm hoping to get another one at some point.  I want something with some structure that can withstand some snow.  I'd also like something with roof vents to release the heat and not cook the plants.  I started seeds this year without using the greenhouse at all, so maybe I can get by without one. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

2015 Baby Bunnies - Week 8

The baby rabbits turned 8 weeks old last Saturday.  (I'm really late with posting this.)  One of them has found a new home already and another one goes tomorrow.

Now we just need to find homes for the last 3...