The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Tag: water

Food Security and Social Unrest

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In a report published yesterday (06/26/2016), a FEMA contractor reported on a simulation called “Food Chain Reaction”. The scenario was to simulate a food crisis brought about by “food price and supply swings amidst burgeoning population growth, rapid urbanization, severe weather events, and social unrest.” You may want to read the full article yourself, but that’s not really our concern here.

As Southern Agrarians, our goal is to isolate and insulate ourselves from the chaos and anarchy of a world in collapse. Growing a portion of our own food – even if it is only a small portion – gives us a base from which to ramp up our food production to the point of being relatively self sufficient. Right now, I have a rather small part of our one acre being used to produce food. Every year brings new lessons in how to be more productive: what grows well and what doesn’t, learning the best time to plant, the best plant spacing for the soil in my garden, and a hundred other things to learn.

That small garden can be easily expanded by turning lawn into garden in order to multiply the amount of food being produced. Having the tools to do that is a key part of it. I recently purchased a two-wheeled walk-behind tractor made by BCS. It is an Italian company that owns Ferrari (Ferrari used to make tractors before they focused on high-end sports cars). With the roto-tiller attachment, I can quickly turn new ground into ready-to-plant garden area. I also have several high quality hoes that allow me to efficiently maintain the garden.

There is so much more involved in becoming more self-sufficient. How do you provide water for your family, your garden, and your livestock? How do you preserve what you grow for the rest of the year when the garden is not producing? How do you feed your chickens or ducks or other livestock? Those are the kinds of questions that we try to answer here in addition to the cultural and social aspects of Southern Agrarianism.

Being self-sufficient is a very comfortable feeling in these unstable times. Make sure that you can provide for your family, no matter what the future holds.

More Information on the Simple Pump

In May of last year, I wrote a post (see original post) about the installation of a hand pump in tandem with the electric pump that supplies our household water. The folks from Simple Pump learned of the post, and pointed our some incorrect information in that post concerning their product. I invited them to provide corrected information and to describe the Simple Pump and its benefits. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to correct any wrong information concerning hand pumps – or anything else covered on The Southern Agrarian.


Mr. McGehee,

I’d like to offer you some information about the Simple Pump.

It’s clear that you did not meet a “Simple Pump system”, as we do not use any lightweight plastic pipes. Our drop pipes are Sch.120 PVC, manufactured specially for us with bell-end, screw-in joints that are much stronger than PVC’s normal glued joints. The company you spoke of was not an authorized Simple Pump dealer, and I can only conclude they put together some Simple Pump parts with other components. (We have found out about a few instances of this happening. It seems you have shown us another.)

Following are some particular points about the Simple Pump.

With respect to these points — what advantages the Simple Pump has are only in respect to a particular person’s needs and perspective. E.g. A GM truck or a Ferrari have NO advantage at all over a Ford Focus — except with respect to what a particular individual wants or needs.

Do they need to pump from a shallow or a deep well? Are they looking for something lightweight (and less expensive) to pump for a couple of hours or days? Or do they want to have backup they can depend on for weeks, months or longer?

As in any field, it’s a question of each person balancing needs and cost with capabilities, durability and usability.

Simple-Pump

ABOUT THE SUCKER RODS

The fiberglass rod is 20,000 lb tensile strength, enormously stronger than necessary, even to pump from a water level of 325 feet.

SIMPLE PUMP’S EASE OF USE

Steel rods provide strength, at the cost of much greater weight and, therefore, pumping effort — to the extent that it can be prohibitive for the average person at even a moderate depth. And when we get a little further down, various other pumps rapidly become unusable. E.g. at 200 feet, some other pumps require forty of fifty pounds of downforce on the handle. The Simple Pump requires TEN pounds.

One person’s remark:
“…lifting water from 50-75 feet, and my 6-year-old was doing it with ONE HAND!!!”

The lower pumping effort also allows the Simple Pump to pump from much further down than any other hand pump — from 325 feet water level. Even then, the effort remains moderate – only about 16 pounds.

QUALITY

Here is just one illustrative point about the Simple Pump. The pivot points of the handle are not just drilled holes with bolts through them. They have bronze bushings — a very tough metal. And not only that, the bronze is then impregnated with graphite to lubricate. There are many other details where the quality of manufacture is evident.
bushing

Some comments:

“This is obviously the Cadillac of the industry, and I am impressed. I recognize the value of the investment in your quality.”

“These parts look like they belong in an Indy Car engine.”

“We love the pump and know it will give us many years of quality service. As a mechanical engineer myself in aerospace, I know quality when I see it – and this is the real deal.”

TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK

Of course, there is much more I could write about. I hope these few points, above, have given you a better impression of the quality of the Simple Pump. I would invite you and your readers to examine the Simple Pump and other pumps, with these questions:

1. What is the weight of the mechanism? Can I install and maintain it myself?

2. Is the pump freeze-proof?

3. Is the pump designed to share a casing with a submersible? Or must it be installed in a dedicated well?

4. What are the high-wear pivot points made of?

5. How deep can water realistically be pumped from?

6. How much pumping effort from, say, 100 foot static?

7. Does it pump into my home’s pressure tank, giving full use of all taps and fixtures? Or just pump into a bucket?

8. What is the material of the foot valve seal? What is the expected replacement frequency? At what cost and effort?

9. What is the full cost, with shipping, of a ready-to-go system?

10. Is there a written warranty?

Regards,
Michael Linehan
SIMPLE PUMP COMPANY
www.simplepump.com


I need to point out an important factor that we haven’t covered yet, and that is the matter of volume per pump stroke. The first hand pump well that I put in (see photo below) had a 3″ pump cylinder. Each stroke would pump a large amount of water, but it was very difficult to pump. Young children could literally swing from the pump handle; it was that hard to pump. The Bison pump has a smaller diameter cylinder and can easily be pumped with one hand – but it pumps less water per stroke than the 3″ cylinder did. The Simple Pump is even easier to pump than the Bison, but with it’s 1″ pump cylinder, it pumps even less water per stroke than the Bison. The bottom line here is that the basic rules of physics apply – you don’t get something for nothing. Lots of water = lots of work, no matter how you slice it.

• You can pump it fast
• You can pump it easy
• You can pump lots of water
Pick any two. You lose the third one.

Look at your own needs, decide what works best for YOUR SITUATION, then find what best fits those needs. If very easy pumping is a big factor, and you don’t mind pumping more strokes for the same amount of water, then the Simple Pump is clearly the better choice. If the amount of effort per stroke is not a major issue for you and you’d rather pump more water with fewer (but harder) strokes, then the Bison or a traditional hand pump may be your best choice. There is no single “Best Choice” for everyone.

Bison water pump installed in tandem with an electric submersible pump on a 4 inch well

Bison water pump installed in tandem with an electric submersible pump on a 4 inch well

Traditional hand pump. This started out with a 3" pump cylinder, but I replaced it with a smaller Bison cylinder.

Traditional hand pump. This started out with a 3″ pump cylinder, but I replaced it with a smaller Bison cylinder.

Chicken Water Systems

I have tried just about every common method of supplying chickens with clean drinking water. I now have a box full of “tried it” watering systems, plus more stacked in the attic. Here are some of the things I have learned:

  • Water quality matters. If you have high mineral content in your water, your choices are limited.
  • Chickens will mess up anything they can touch. The ability of a water system to minimize that is important.
  • Water is heavy. You don’t want to have to carry a full container of water in order to resupply your chickens – at least not as a regular routine.

Each water system has its own advantages and disadvantages, so you can’t really say any one system is the best. I have found what is clearly the best choice for my situation, but yours may be quite different. We’ll start with what I have tried and found lacking.

Container Water Systems

These are anything that includes a container that must be manually refilled. They are great for temporary use when you just can’t run a pressurized water line. Water is heavy though, so you don’t want to plan on that as the norm.

You might think that bigger is better since you don’t have to fill it as often. I have container systems from 5 gallons to quart jar systems.

  • The 5 gallon systems should just be crossed off the list. They are just too heavy to work with, and they get dirty and have to be cleaned before they are empty.
  • The quart jar systems are great for chicks that can’t handle other systems. I have both plastic and all-glass systems. For the purpose for which they were designed, they do a great job.
  • The 1-gallion plastic systems are a good choice for a temporary arrangement. One gallon isn’t too heavy to put into position in a cage, and it lasts about long enough that it’s time to clean it when it’s time to fill it.

Weight Regulated Systems

These systems depend on the weight of water in a bowl to keep the bowl filled. There is a fairly sensitive calibration that has to be done to get it right. Too much in one direction, and the bowl will overflow. Too much in the other direction and it will empty without being refilled. These systems use the same valve system as an ordinary tire valve. In fact, the replacement valve stems are the same as you would get in an auto-parts store.

The problem with these systems is the rather delicate valve that controls it. If you have good, mineral-free water, then it should work just fine. I don’t have that, so the valve tends to get encrusted with mineral deposits and it stops working. Unfortunately, it isn’t just the replaceable valve stem that gets ruined, but the housing also. For my water, they are more trouble than they are worth. Again, if you have good mineral-free water, these may be an excellent choice.

Float Controlled Systems

These are basically water bowls with a float valve similar to the way that a toilet tank works. It maintains the water level by means of a float the opens the valve when the water level gets below a certain point. There are two disadvantages I have seen with these:

  • They have a rather large bowl area, which means lots of area for the chickens to mess up the water.
  • They tend to be a bit sensitive to the water pressure. If you supply a consistent pressure of the right amount, this is not a problem. Just make sure you have the supply working correctly.
  • The ones I have used have been cheaply made. The molded plastic floats develop leaks and stop working. The styrofoam floats have poor quality valves. That is a real deal-killer for me. The low quality that I have seen ( and I have tried several different brands) has led to me crossing these off my list.

 Drinking Cup Systems

These systems use a low pressure water supply that keeps just a tiny amount of water in the bottom of a drinking cup. The chickens activate a small plastic valve when they try to drink from the very bottom of the cup, and that adds a bit more water into the cup. Here are the reasons why I like this design best:

  • It is the cleanest system that I have found. The tiny amount of water means that there is much less opportunity for the chickens to mess up the water. There just isn’t much there for them to mess up.
  • The construction is all plastic, except for a coil spring. Despite the high mineral content in our water, these cups just keep on working.
  • The only problems I have had is with the water lines leading to the water cups. Make sure that you use black connectors with your tubing. A white connector allows enough light through so that algae can build up in that spot and gradually clog up the water line. If you have to use white connectors, add a bit of black electricians tape to block the light, and that should take care of the problem.
  • They are easy to add and move. I keep a spare line with a kink in it available so that if I need to separate a chicken, I can snap a water cup in a cage and connect that water line to it.

 

A few other related notes:

  • Chickens are unable to swallow. Notice that when they drink, they must raise their head to let the water drain down their throat. Their food works the same way. That means that when they eat and then drink, some of that food can drop into the water that they are trying to drink. It’s best not to have their water too close to the food. A little distance is a good thing.
  • Producing eggs takes a lot of water. Never let your chickens run out of water. If you see them flying over fences and other abnormal behavior to get out of their normal space, they might just be looking for water (don’t ask me how I know).
  • See also: A Water Tower for the Chickens.
  • See also: Clean Water for Chickens.

The WaterBuck Pump

waterbuck-pic
We’ve covered manually-operated water pumps several times previously, and for good reason: without a dependable source of water, nothing lives – including you and your family. You can’t have a self-reliant homestead without an absolutely reliable source of water. For some folks that may mean a sweet, clear spring; it may mean a nearby stream and a good filtration system; it may mean a cistern with an efficient rain collection system. For most of us though, the best choice is having our own well with a non-electric pump.

The WaterBuck Pump is a pump unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It doesn’t look like your grandparents’ hand pump, and it doesn’t pump like it either. When you need to pump the quantity of water that it takes to water a large garden, supply livestock, and keep your home and family supplied with lots of pure fresh water, it’s hard to imagine anything better than the WaterBuck Pump, except for maybe a windmill if you have a site suitable for one. Is it the best choice for every situation? No, of course not – but then neither is any other method of pumping water. I am very pleased with our Bison stainless steel water pump and our Dempster cast iron pump, and have no plans to ever replace them. Every situation is different and has different requirements. The WaterBuck fills a need that simply had not been effectively met before its introduction, as far as I can tell.

I have never actually seen the WaterBuck Pump, so this is not a product review – only an introduction to a new product that may be of interest to Southern homesteaders. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at the WaterBuck Pump. First of all, it is massive – 370 pounds. On one end of the scale are the medium-term water pump solutions made of PVC pipe glued together along with some metal bolts and fasteners. The WaterBuck is on the opposite end of the scale – or even off the scale.

A major factor in reliability is ease of maintenance and ease of repair should that ever be needed. I asked Darren (the developer of the WaterBuck Pump) about this: “Simple maintenance consists of greasing bearings and lubricating chain. The mechanics of my machine are much different than that used for windmills and common hand pumps. The machine has four points of mechanical advantage for ease of operation and maximum discharge. These are light, medium, heavy and heavy duty.”

Although the WaterBuck Pump is a brand new product, the developer of the pump is no newcomer to applying technology to muscle power. Their first product was the WaterBoy Well Bucket. Another unique product is their Pedal Powered PTO, scheduled for release at the end of May, 2013.

You can find more information about the WaterBuck Pump on their website.

A World Without Electricity

A series of comments following a recent post got me thinking about just how recent things like hand-pumped water and animal power are.

  1. I am 58 years old
  2. My father was born in 1914
  3. His father was born in 1877
  4. His grandfather was born in 1846

I could go on, but my point is that my father, as a child talking with his grandfather, connects me with a man who served in the Army of the Confederate States of America. Let’s look at the way life worked in just my father’s era.

  • He was born on a farm in Alabama and moved to Florida in 1920 in a covered wagon pulled by a team of mules. His father knew that covered wagons worked fine for those who settled the American West, so he simply copied the idea to move his own family farther South.
  • He was raised on a farm that had no electricity until the time he returned home from college (late 1930’s).
  • The running water the family had was furnished by a windmill. The shower was a water spigot beneath the water tank.
  • The family plowed the fields using a mule until they could afford a tractor.
  • As was commonly done in the early 20th Century, the family produced much of their own food, and would trade and buy and sell for other items they needed.

As we sit in an air-conditioned room, using a computer giving instant communications to just about anywhere in the world, it is easy to forget just how recent this is. Even though I have not yet reached the age of 60, computers were hardly known by most folks when I was in school. It was the slide rule – not the computer or even the calculator – that represented technology for most people.

What prompted this line of thought was considering how radical a shift it would be to live in a world without electricity. There are several scenarios that could result in the near-total loss of electrical power. These are not some wild science fiction plots, but very real possibilities. Low probability perhaps, but very real and very possible. How would we get from where we are now to where life would be considered “normal” without electricity?

Although the ability to survive under such conditions is not the primary reason for Southern Agrarianism, it is a nice “fringe benefit.” Living close to the land and enjoying the simplicity of older technology provides a bridge between today and an uncertain tomorrow. Southern Agrarianism is more than just a life style of simplicity with roots deep in Southern soil – it also provides a high level of preparedness for uncertain times.

Installing The Bison Pump

As we saw in the Bison Water Pump Review, this is a very well designed pump system – for use, installation, and servicing. It comes with a well-written installation manual with drawings and parts list. The Bison pump is made in America – specifically, it is made in Maine – and it shows. The workmanship is excellent and shows an attention to detail that is seldom seen in today’s “Made in China” world. The level of quality is top-notch all the way around. In a word, it is solid.

The objective was to have, in a single well:

  • A conventional electric pump that was immune to the pitting and holes that result from having sulfur in the water. Last year, after only a few years in place, the bottom section of galvanized drop pipe had to be replaced due to at least 13 holes in the pipe.
  • A hand pump to function as a backup in case electricity was not available. The hand pump needed to be very sturdy and able to function for many years without the need of servicing or parts replacement.

This project consisted of pulling the existing submersible electric pump and its galvanized drop pipe and replacing it with the following:

  • At the bottom – the submersible electric pump.
  • Just above the pump – a 5′ section of stainless steel pipe.
  • Above the stainless steel pipe – the Bison in-line pump cylinder.
  • Between the Bison pump and the surface – 1 1/4″ Schedule 120 drop pipe with 3/8″ stainless steel sucker rod.
  • At ground level – the Bison pump head.

This project was done by:

Trentham Well Drilling
2150 W Lime St
Deland, FL 32720
Phone 386-775-3571

The cylinder and pistor that does the pumping

Rick Trentham holding the Bison pump cylinder. The design uses external rods to hold it together, making it a very strong and easy-to-service pump.

The Bison pump head

Underside view of the Bison pump head. (The small white object is a piece of packing material.)

Drop pipe sections are supplied with the sucker rod inside and caps on each end.

Assembling the Bison pump cylinder to the stainless steel pipe that goes down to the submersible electric pump. The blue rope is supplied by Bison Pumps as a safety line.

Assembling the sucker rod to the Bison pump cylinder.

Tightening the drop pipe to the Bison pump cylinder.

The joint between the Bison pump cylinder and the drop pipe below it is taped.

A Tee-tool is used to pull the sucker rod up so that it can be attached to the next section of sucker rod. The wooden paddle tool, supplied by Bison Pumps, holds the assembly in place at the top of the well casing.

Joining two sections of sucker rod and drop pipe together.

Pipe joint compound is applied to each section of drop pipe.

Vise-Grips are used to hold the sucker rod in place while working on it.

The Bison pump head is assembled to the top section of drop pipe.

Wire being fed through Bison pump head.

The finished Bison pump – electric submersible in use, and ready to go as a hand pump if needed.

Bison Water Pump Review

Bison water pump installed in tandem with an electric submersible pump on a 4 inch well

For more information on the Simple Pump, see the July 7, 2013 post.

When we decided to add manual pumping capability to our electric pump well, it came down to two alternatives – the Simple Pump or the Bison Pump. Both are designed for different uses, so one is not necessarily “better” than the other. They are, however, very different. We chose the Bison pump. Before we discuss the Bison pump, let’s look at the Simple pump.

The well and pump company that we use – Trentham Well Drilling in Orange City, Florida – has installed a number of Simple pumps over the years and has had very good results with them. The Simple pump is significantly cheaper than the Bison pump. The Simple pump is also designed to be fairly easy to install by a reasonably skilled homeowner with a helper rather than needing to be installed using professional equipment. The Simple pump might be a good choice if you want to have a complete system stored away in case it is needed in the future. The video instructions on the Simple Pump web site show how to install it. The drop pipe is lightweight plastic and the sucker rod is thin fiberglass that can easily flex to make assembly easy. That is great if you have to install it yourself without the tools of a professional pump company. The same light weight and component flexibility that make it easy to install also mean that it clearly lacks the solid design and construction of the Bison Pump. (See updated information in the Comments following this post.)

Where the Simple Pump is light weight and easy to work with, the Bison Pump is solid and very heavy duty. Everything about it is top quality and it is obvious that they spared no expense in making this the best hand pump available. The workmanship is flawless – welds are smooth and solid; machined parts are finished to a nice polish; moving parts work very smoothly. The material for the main pump body and the pump cylinder is solid stainless steel; the valve at the spout is brass (or bronze); the sucker rod is solid stainless steel; the drop pipe is Schedule 120 PVC. There is nothing that can rust, corrode, or deteriorate. For a hand pump installation that should last a lifetime, the Bison Pump is the hands-down winner. This is the kind of solid made-in-America craftsmanship that this country used to be famous for.

The Bison pump is not cheap (pricing information here). It is a piece of equipment that is built to last a lifetime, made from the best materials available, and designed and built by folks who truly know what they’re doing. There are some things in life where it makes sense to cut corners to save money. Bison does not cut any corners making their pumps, and when it comes to providing your family with a dependable source of clean drinking water, you shouldn’t cut corners either.

In the next post, we’ll cover the installation process for the Bison pump.

The spout is not just a pipe where the water comes out. It is a solid brass (or maybe bronze) valve with a washered screw-on cap to keep bugs out. Bison didn't miss anything in designing this system.

If water is needed farther away, a standard garden hose fitting screws directly to the spout of the Bison Pump.

Notice the hinge assembly on the Bison. Solid, machined stainless steel throughout.

The cap through which the rod extends holds the full pressure of the electric pump. It can be tightened to stop water from weeping through it, but I tend to keep it a bit loose.

A bucket hangs nicely from the integrated bucket hook on the spout.

Shown here is the well cap portion of the Bison pump. It is solidly secured to the well casing with four heavy screws. The water outlet to the right feeds into the normal house water system, while the electric cable for the submersible pump feeds straight down to the left of the pump.

A glass of cool fresh water from the Bison pump.

The bison is very smooth and easy to pump and produces a fairly constant flow of water.


This review was based on Bison Deep Well Hand Pump serial number 02214, date 03/26/2012. Installation was done by Trentham Well Drilling, Inc., in Orange City, Florida (phone 386-775-3571).

I understand that there is some federal law that requires a disclaimer for reviews like this, so here it is: I have no financial interest in Bison Pumps, in Trentham Well Drilling, or any pump company, for that matter, nor have I been compensated in any way for anything written here. This entire system was paid for out of my own pocket – every penny of it.

Clean Water for Chickens

Chickens seem to prefer drinking the nastiest water they can find. It is our job to make sure they only have fresh clean water. From my own reading, experience, and talking with others, the best way to do this (unless you are supplying them directly from your own drinking water) is to add hydrogen peroxide to the water tank. Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is a powerful oxidizer that kills (literally by burning) any organic matter in the water. Keep in mind that, ideally, by the time the water gets to the chickens, the hydrogen peroxide will have broken down into water by releasing the extra atom of Oxygen. Our objective is to have clean water – and only clean water – for the chickens. We aren’t trying to feed them hydrogen peroxide.

When using hydrogen peroxide, it is extremely important that it be properly diluted – contact with high concentrations can be quite dangerous, and if it is too low, it will be less than effective. When handling concentrated hydrogen peroxide, you need to be very careful – eye protection and rubber gloves would be a good idea.

The 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide can be found at most health food stores. It needs to be kept refrigerated and away from light. Again, read the warnings and handling instructions carefully.

The recommended concentration is 8 ounces of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide per 1,000 gallons of water. For my 35 gallon tank, I use 1 1/2 teaspoons in 30 gallons of water (I don’t fill the tank all the way to the top). I have since switched to a metric graduated cylinder to measure, so that comes out to 7.097 ml of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide.

Resources:
Hydrogen Peroxide in Agriculture
Water line cleaners
A Secret Ingredient for your Water Trough

ECHO Demonstration Farm

We recently visited the ECHO Demonstration Farm in Fort Myers, Florida. ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) is a great resource for those wanting to learn how to grow food in difficult conditions. This trip was focused on a missionary project in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I am vice-president of Gather The Fragments Bible Mission Church, Inc. – my wife and I provide logistical support for missionaries working to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a remote part of a very remote country – Sierra Leone. This trip to ECHO was with one of those missionaries so that she could learn more about how to improve the agriculture in that area.

ECHO publishes some excellent books. “Amaranth to Zai Holes – Ideas for Growing Food Under Difficult Conditions” is one of my favorites. While it covers problems that we in The South usually don’t face (iguanas, elephants, and monkeys are not typical garden pests here in The South), it is filled with great ideas that we can use here.

 

Guide describing the "urban garden" area. The farm is divided into different environments, and the urban garden area is build on a concrete slab.

The chickens coop in the back supplies manure, which is made into a tea, which is drip irrigated on the plants.

Wooden pallets used to build a platform that holds plastic bags of soil for plants to grow in.

Poles forming a pyramid for plants to climb on.

Extremely shallow planting. A plastic pool liner was used, along with a piece of old carpeting to grow crops in. Hay and other materials provide shade for the roots and reduce evaporation.

More shallow garden experiments. All of these are right on top of a concrete slab.

Plants growing in concrete blocks.

Sweet potatoes being grown in a stack of old tires filled with soil.

Tall poles (about 12' tall) were used to support climbing plants such as pole beans and cucumbers. The cord wrapped around gives the plants something to hold onto. The poles were supported with guy wires.

Biogas generator. This system uses manure to generate, capture, and store methane gas. The gas is stored in a truck inner tube. It is used to run a stove and lantern in this arrangement.

This is a dug well that has two pumps in it. The one being demonstrated here uses a hand crank that pulls pistons on a rope through a PVC pipe to pump the water.

This is a treadle powered pump that supplies the garden area to the left.

Huge sunflowers being grown here. These are the "Mammoth" variety.

Rice paddy demonstration. This is the traditional flood technique. Part of the reason this technique is used is to raise eels that are a delicacy in some parts of the world.

This is a newer, more efficient method of growing rice. The fields are not flooded, and other crops are planted between rice crops.

These ducks are part of a food producing ecosystem that includes micro-organisms that feed on the duck manure, and tilapia that feeds on organisms a bit higher on the food chain. The end result is meat from the fish, and eggs and meat from the ducks.

Plants being readied for their place at the ECHO farm.

A Water Tower for the Chickens

One of the earliest lessons that anyone learns when they start keeping chickens is that water is heavy. Lugging around gallons of water for the chickens is not a fun thing to do, and the older we get, the clearer that lesson becomes. The solution is to have the water piped directly to the chickens.

I have tried just about every possible method of delivering water to my chickens, so I now have a box filled with waterers that I no longer use. Someone who uses city water has more possibilities, but our well water has so much mineral content that anything that uses a regulator or metal valves will last only months before it is completely useless.

In order to get a consistent supply of low pressure water, I decided that a gravity feed system is what I need. I also wanted a system that keeps the water as clean as possible and has enough pressure and volume to supply water to several places – not just a single chicken coop.

The tower was mostly built on its side. Having a flat concrete slab to work on helped keep things relatively square.

The parts were clamped into place, then pilot holes were drilled. The tower was assembled with stainless steel lag bolts.

With the main frame of the tower completed, we moved it into place near the chickens. We made sure it was far enough away from trees so it wouldn't be damaged by falling branches during a storm.

The valve section is just slip-fit into the pipe so that it can be removed if needed. The bronze water spigot is where a hose is connected using a double-female connector to pump water into the tank.

The tank is a 35 gallon sprayer tank from Tractor Supply. It turned out to be perfect for the project.

The main water line is buried with screw plugs placed every 10' (indicated by the posts of the chain link fence just a few feet back). This gives flexibility in where chicken coops are located in the future.

The end of the main water pipe has a stub so that more can be added to the end by cutting and adding a coupling. Since this photo was taken, I have replaced the end cap with a gate valve. When it is time to fill the tank, I open the valve to flush out the main supply line and empty the tank before refilling it.

View showing the roof and two sides. At this point, the back and the front door have not yet been added. The roof is hinged at the back and slopes toward the front. (If it sloped to the back, it would be pouring onto the 'chicken nursery' behind it.)

To get more use from the tower, cattle panels were attached to the sides, and pole beans and cucumbers were planted around the sides and front.

The cattle panel trellis was attached to the top 2x4 using stainless steel wire.

The completed tower, fully enclosed. It is important to keep the sun off of the tank to keep the water cool and to discourage the growth of algae in the tank.

When filling the tank, the front door is propped open with a stick.