Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Tag: preparedness (Page 2 of 3)

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.



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


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.


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.

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.”


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?

Michael Linehan

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.

The Six Item Grocery List

This past Saturday, our family had our 58th annual family reunion. The last remaining member of “The First Generation” (my father’s siblings) is my Aunt Evelyn. One thing she mentioned really caught my attention. She said that there were only six things that her mother bought from the grocery store:

  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Coffee
  • Rice

Everything else needed to sustain their family of mother, father, and ten children came from their farm in Newberry, Florida.

The WaterBuck Pump

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.

Carol Deppe’s Seed List

I have written previously about Carol Deppe‘s books – The Resilient Gardener and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. She has a new seed list of varieties she has developed on her own. She is located in the Pacific Northwest, so I suspect that her seeds would probably not be the best choice for those of us down here in Dixie; however, you really need to read the seed descriptions so you can learn her thought process for selecting and developing the varieties in her garden. It also demonstrates the focus she has on matching local conditions to the varieties you select. Let me take this opportunity to again highly recommend both of her books. They should be in the library of anyone interested in growing and developing their own food.

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's and Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving

Seeds – Hope for The Future

Survival Blog featured a great quote today about seeds:

“For thousands of years storing seeds has been an essential part of the survival preparations made by millions of prudent people fearing attack. Seeds are hopes for future food and the defeat of famine, that lethal follower of disaster. Among the most impressive sounds I ever heard were faint, distant, rattles of small stones heard on a quiet, black, freezing night in 1944. An air raid was expected before dawn. I was standing on one of the bare hills outside Kunming, China, trying to pinpoint the sources of lights that Japanese agents had used just before previous air raids to guide attacking planes to Kunming. Puzzled by sounds of cautious digging at about 2:00 AM I asked my interpreter if he knew what was going on. He told me that farmers walked most of the night to make sure that no one was following them, and were burying sealed jars of seeds in secret places, far enough from homes so that probably no one would hear them digging. My interpreter did not need to tell me that if the advancing Japanese troops succeeded in taking Kunming they would ruthlessly strip the surrounding countryside of all food they could find. Then these prudent farmers would have seeds and hope in a starving land.”
– Cresson H. Kearny, Nuclear War Survival Skills

Seminole Pumpkin Experiments

Experimentation is the key to successful gardening. What grows in your area? What part of your area is best for a specific variety? Because variety-X will grow in your USDA Plant Hardiness zone, does that mean that it will grow in your county? in your own garden? in different places in your yard?

On June 28, I planted some Seminole Pumpkin seeds in soil blocks. One week later, they were well-sprouted and had roots extending from the blocks. They were ready to plant. That is about the fastest seed-to-transplant time I have seen.

My objective is to be able to grow Seminole Pumpkin in marginal areas where my primary crops won’t grow. Seminole Pumpkin is a spreading vine that takes up a lot of room. On the other hand, it has some characteristics that make it an ideal plant for gardening when it counts – when you depend on what you can grow to feed your family 1:

  • The fruit can be picked and stored without refrigeration for almost a full year.
  • It was a mainstay of the Florida Indians and early settlers.
  • It will spread over the ground, cover fences, and climb trees.
  • Needs to be fertilized only at planting and requires no protection from insects.
  • Is excellent baked, steamed, or made into a pie.
  • The young fruit is delicious boiled and mashed.
  • The male flowers can be dipped in batter and fried as fritters.
  • It produces continually and roots at the nodes.

For this test, I planted groups of three plants in three different areas. They will be given a single dose of fertilizer and then water as needed. My goal is to find a place that I could plant Seminole Pumpkin and let it take over a large part of otherwise-unproductive land. Since this is an excellent subsistence crop that requires a large area, the ideal would be for it to grow over what is now bare areas and lawn grass.

This is quite late in the year to start Seminole Pumpkin, but it will suffice for this experiment. If this is successful, I will be planting them in the Spring.

Three plants with marker. These were planted in a semi-shaded area between a dogwood tree and an azalea. This is in the front yard in an area that has never been cultivated. The soil is generally moist and organic with lots of competing roots. pH level is probably acid, but has not been tested.

Three plants surrounded by a protective fence. These are planted in an area that previously housed chickens and was actively gardened up until about 8 years ago when nematode infestation made it unusable. The fence protects them from chickens since they still occasionally fly over the fence into this area. The soil is very loose sand.

Three plants with a marker at the edge of a garden area that currently has pineapple, banana, aloe, sweet potato, and New Zealand spinach. This is a newly gardened area that was covered with a mixture of mushroom compost and top soil. It is mostly a low-maintenance test area to see how plants do with only minimal care.


PDF Doc – “The Sturdy Seminole Pumpkin Provides Much Food with Little Effort”, by Julia F. Morton; Pages 137-142; Florida State Horticultural Society, 1975.


  1. Florida State Horticultural Society, 1975, page137.

How Long Will Canned Foods Last?

How long will canned foods last? A very long time, according to this article that was printed in FDA Consumer magazine. The original article is no longer available as a current web page, but the archive of the entire article can be found here.

The Canning Process:Old Preservation Technique Goes Modern

by Dale Blumenthal

The steamboat Bertrand was heavily laden with provisions when it set out on the Missouri River in 1865, destined for the gold mining camps in Fort Benton, Mont. The boat snagged and swamped under the weight, sinking to the bottom of the river. It was found a century later, under 30 feet of silt a little north of Omaha, Neb.

Among the canned food items retrieved from the Bertrand in 1968 were brandied peaches, oysters, plum tomatoes, honey, and mixed vegetables. In 1974, chemists at the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) analyzed the products for bacterial contamination and nutrient value. Although the food had lost its fresh smell and appearance, the NFPA chemists detected no microbial growth and determined that the foods were as safe to eat as they had been when canned more than 100 years earlier.

The nutrient values varied depending upon the product and nutrient. NFPA chemists Janet Dudek and Edgar Elkins report that significant amounts of vitamins C and A were lost. But protein levels remained high, and all calcium values “were comparable to today’s products.”

NFPA chemists also analyzed a 40-year-old can of corn found in the basement of a home in California. Again, the canning process had kept the corn safe from contaminants and from much nutrient loss. In addition, Dudek says, the kernels looked and smelled like recently canned corn.

The canning process is a product of the Napoleonic wars. Malnutrition was rampant among the 18th century French armed forces. As Napoleon prepared for his Russian campaign, he searched for a new and better means of preserving food for his troops and offered a prize of 12,000 francs to anyone who could find one. Nicolas Appert, a Parisian candy maker, was awarded the prize in 1809.

Although the causes of food spoilage were unknown at the time, Appert was an astute experimenter and observer. For instance, after noting that storing wine in airtight bottles kept it from spoiling, he filled widemouth glass bottles with food, carefully corked them, and heated them in boiling water.

The durable tin can–and the use of pottery and other metals–followed shortly afterwards, a notion of Englishman Peter Durand. Soon, these “tinned” foods were used to feed the British army and navy.

21 Billion Cans a Year

Canned foods are more than a relic dug from the past. They make up 12 percent of grocery sales in the United States. More than 1,500 food products are canned–including many that aren’t available fresh in most areas, such as elderberry, guava, mango, and about 75 different juice drinks. Consumers can buy at least 130 different canned vegetable products–from artichokes and asparagus to turnips and zucchini. More than a dozen kinds of beef are canned, including beef burgers and chopped, corned and barbecued beef.

According to a recent study cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NFPA, canned foods provide the same nutritional value as fresh grocery produce and their frozen counterparts when prepared for the table. NFPA researchers compared six vegetables in three forms: home-cooked fresh, warmed canned, and prepared frozen.

“Levels of 13 minerals, eight vitamins, and fiber in the foods were similar,” says Dudek. In fact, in some cases the canned product contained high levels of some vitamins that in fresh produce are destroyed by light or exposure to air.

The Canning Process

Food-spoiling bacteria, yeasts and molds are naturally present in foods. To grow, these microorganisms need moisture, a low-acid environment (acid prevents bacterial growth), nutrients, and an appropriate (usually room) temperature.

Dennis Dignan, Ph.D., chief of FDA’s food processing section, explains that foods are preserved from food spoilage by controlling one or more of the above factors. For instance, frozen foods are stored at temperatures too low for microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts and molds) to grow. When foods are dried, sufficient moisture is not available to promote growth.

It is the preservation process that distinguishes canned from other packaged foods. During canning, the food is placed in an airtight (hermetically sealed) container and heated to destroy microorganisms. The hermetic seal is essential to ensure that microorganisms do not contaminate the product after it is sterilized through heating, says Dignan. Properly canned foods can be stored unrefrigerated indefinitely without fear of their spoiling or becoming toxic.

Cooking With The Sun

In the previous post, I ordered a Global Sun Oven with Dehydrating and Preparedness Package. Today, we cooked our first full meal with it. We had previously cooked some beans that we had just picked from the garden, and they turned out very well. Once Laura was confident that it would work, she prepared a full dinner using the Sun Oven. Tonight’s supper was meat loaf and a rice dish – cooked by the sun.

The rice dish was cooked in the pot that was part of the package, and the meat loaf was cooked in a loaf pan that we already had but was identical to those provided as part of the package. Both worked just fine. We started cooking at 3:30 and took them out of the oven at 5:00. With this being our first real meal with the Sun Oven, I can’t say that the results were better or worse than using a conventional oven. What I can say is that it works. Plain and simple – it works.

One thing we noticed is that the food is not as hot as food just removed from a conventional oven. That’s pretty obvious, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind until we sat down to eat. The lesson in that is that you need to be ready to eat as soon as you remove the food from the oven. If you normally wait for the food to cool down a bit, you’ll want to plan things a bit differently.

Meat loaf and rice dishes cooking in the Sun Oven

Removing the fully cooked food from the Sun Oven

Supper cooked by the Sun

One more little detail to mention. The instructions tell you to cook a pot of vinegar and then use it to wipe down the inside of the Sun Oven before using it. What I didn’t know is that vinegar is quite an effective herbicide. The patch of dead grass at the top of the first photo is what happens when you clean it over grass and then just dump it out. When you dump your used vinegar from cleaning, dump it on some weeds – not on your grass.

Cooking With The Sun – On Order

I have been interested in solar ovens for quite a while. After wanting to build one and realizing that I’m never going to find the time to build a really sturdy solar oven, I decided to go ahead and buy one. I had been reading about the Sun Oven brand for a while and decided that, for what I wanted, that was what I would order. The reviews gave it high ratings for what was important to me – high quality, long lasting, rugged construction, and efficient operation. What prompted me to “pull the trigger” was the group buy program that the company recently started; that results in a discount of $117.30. The discount applies to their “Sun Oven with Dehydrating and Preparedness Package”. Here is the link to that package.

I applied to the program using the Southern Agrarian as the organization name, and received their discount code. In the “Coupon Code” field, enter SOUTFL and click the “update” button. The discount will appear as shown. This code is good through June 15, 2012. Here is how the order looks when the discount code is applied:

Please feel free to use the Discount Code for Southern Agrarian if you’d like to get one for yourself. There are plenty of reviews on line, so look them over before deciding. As soon as I receive mine (it was shipped today) and use it some, I’ll post a review here.

The Sun Oven web site has some good videos and other information about the product and how it is used. You’ll find more good information by doing a search of “Sun Oven” or “solar ovens” or “solar cooking”.

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.

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