The Well, Part 2

Once the well was in we had to decide what type of pump to install and where we would buy it.  I had done a bit of research on well pumps and found that solar pumps running on DC current were the way to go, especially since we planned to have a fairly large holding tank.  One of the advantages of a solar pump over the usual 110 or 220 electric pumps is obvious – once the solar panel was installed there would be no further cost to pump water.  Another advantage often not thought of is simply the fact that a solar DC pump will pump the water much slower than either a 110 or 220 pump, therefore the turbulence of the water within the water table is much less, providing cleaner water.  Furthermore, with the slow yet steady pumping, the recovery rate of the well becomes a non-issue.  This information was welcome relief for us, knowing that we could continue on with our quest for a sustainable and eco-friendly homestead.  From that point of my investigation, I turned it all over to Ray, who actually knew more about pumps and wells than I did.

During his research Ray considered several pump types and manufacturers.  It didn’t take a lot of time when he found just the one we needed from a family run company called Robison Solar Pumps.  The pump Ray chose had a brushless, direct current motor with variable voltage from 10-40 volts and three ways to pump water:

1.  Direct from the solar panel at 37 volts.

2.  With two batteries in a series to produce 24 volts.

3.  Generator with a 24 volt inverter.

This motor can also run dry and won’t burn up in the unlikely but possible event that the well runs dry.  Comparing prices and their great customer service sealed the deal.  The folks at Robison pumps were very informative and were happy to answer any questions we had over the phone.

Securing the wellAfter the pump was purchased and arrived in the mail, it was time to put the whole thing together, so that we finally had a source of water on our property.  Ray knew just what to do, thanks in part to previous experience with wells and also to the kind folks at Robinson pumps, and within an hour or so we were pumping water!  Hooray!  Since the well was out in the middle of a forest and we didn’t yet know all our neighbors, we decided to be safe and not sorry and covered the well with a metal bucket that was locked on, just to keep the honest criminals out.  We had heard of meth cookers fouling up wells by pouring the extras from their operations down untended wells, and we certainly didn’t want this to happen to us.  Unfortunately our county has a website that anyone can access to find out who pulled what permit, when, how much they paid, who is doing the work, etc..   Seems like an invasion of privacy to me, but it is what it is.

This shows the well with the locking bucket, 55 gallon barrel which we would place over the bucket for added protection, and the 1,100 gallon water tank.

This shows the well with the locking bucket, 55 gallon barrel which we would place over the bucket for added protection, and the 1,100 gallon water tank.

The next time we traveled up to the property we took along some test bottles given to us by our county’s health department to test for coliform bacteria (just to be safe), and also bottles with chemical reagents in them to test for other things like heavy metals, pesticides, etc., from a company in Chico, California called FGL Environmental Analytical Chemists.  The first test at the health department passed with flying colors – No coliform detected, which is what we expected.  However, the test results from FGL were quite unnerving.  Everything checked out quite well except the zinc, which was 25,800 ug/L.  Oh no, we thought!  Did someone already get to our well before we could lock it up!  Holy cow.  But on further investigation into where all that zinc came from, and a short conversation with one of the lab techs at FGL, it was brought up that possibly we had actually contaminated the sample ourselves!  It was the faucet!  This type of faucet was galvanized with zinc and since the test required that we not run the water but instead take the first sample of stagnant water out of the faucet, the water had been sitting in contact with the newly installed zinc galvanized faucet for over a week!  FGL was gracious enough to run another test for us just on the zinc, and sure enough, when we ran the water for a few minutes and actually got the water from the well, it came back almost clear of zinc!  This was a valuable lesson learned.

We were so happy to finally have water on site to flush our toilet and take showers with, instead of having to haul it from home.  However, we decided to stick with bottled drinking water for a while, just to give the galvanized zinc finish on the faucet time to mellow out a bit.

Was This Suicide?

We arrived home from our long holiday weekend of working on our property up in the mountains to see an absolutely horrible sight.  It was heart wrenching, absolutely awful.  I don’t think the poor little dears knew what happened to them.  They were scattered all over our kitchen floor, their poor little bodies here and there.  Some actually had crawled several feet to their untimely death.  Was this actually suicide?

Poor little creatures - they must have escaped their home and wriggled to their death on our kitchen floor!
Poor little creatures – they must have escaped their home and wriggled to their death on our kitchen floor!

I’m talking about the worms from our worm farm, of course!

I uncovered the worm farm tray and carefully sifted through the bedding to see if I could determine what had happened.  I knew they had enough food.  After all, the pamphlet that came with our Worm Farm 360 even said they could be left alone for several weeks at a time, and I had just fed them a handful of food just a few days before we left.  When I raked through the material, I could find nothing out of the ordinary and it certainly didn’t smell bad, but there were some errant delicata squash seeds trying to grow.  I found out from doing a bit of research that the fact these seeds were growing was actually a good sign because seeds won’t generally germinate unless the soil is at least 60 degrees, nor will they germinate if the soil is too hot. So that means the temperature must have been okay. Was the bedding too dry?  It hardly seems that could be the case because I also watered down the newspaper covering the bedding material before we left.  Ah ha!  Was that it?  Did I water them too much?  We think that may have actually been the case.  Ray and I surmised that because the worms had crawled out of the bedding material, they were trying to get away from something, which was probably too much water.  Kind of like the earthworms that crawl out of your lawn during a rainstorm.  The instructional booklet that came with the worm farm said to keep a wet newspaper on top, but to only water the bedding material if it actually got too dry.  So I think I drowned them, or at least they would have drowned if they hadn’t crawled out.  But then when they crawled out to the kitchen floor they dried up – like jerky.  Poor little darlings. I had actually murdered them with my own ignorance!

Delicata squash seeds growing in the bedding for the worms.  This is actually a good sign!

Delicata squash seeds growing in the bedding for the worms. This is actually a good sign!

In hindsight, I think there may have been two good outcomes from this carnage:  Our cat (shadow) was probably amused and maybe even had fun with a few of the wriggly strangers in our absence 😉 , and secondly (of course, more importantly) I learned not to water the bedding so much at one time. As luck would have it, not all of the wrigglers escaped and died and quite a few actually remained in the bedding, so I decided to carry on and add a new tray today.  I surmised that in this way if one tray is too wet (or dry) they can crawl to the other one and I may be absolved of this sad crime.  Hopefully I won’t be seeing a mass exodus of biblical proportions like this ever again!

This is the new tray being added to the worm farm.  First went vegetable and fruit scraps, then moist coir, then moist newspaper scraps.  Hope the worms like their new home addition!

This is the new tray being added to the worm farm. First went vegetable and fruit scraps, then moist coir, then moist newspaper scraps. That’s also a used paper coffee filter on the top. Hope the worms like their new home addition!

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” – Leonardo da Vinci

1.  A place to stay during work weekends.     Check

2.  A place to store our tools and gadgets.     Check

3.  A septic tank to dump our waste.              Check

Now onto our next project.  We needed a well.  We had been bringing up our cooking and showering water in four 6 gallon containers every time we went up to the property to work.  24 gallons doesn’t go very far and so we were limited to extremely short showers while staying in the trailer.  We also brought up bottled water and tea to drink.  In addition we brought up uncounted (umpteen million, I think) gallons of water in gallon-sized jugs for flushing water, emergency back-up water and also to put out the final coals when we burned brush piles.  These originally had acid or chlorine in them which we used for our swimming pool in the valley, but since the plastic was very sturdy we used them to bring up water.

That little white post in the middle of the picture is where we decided to put our well

That little white post in the middle of the picture is where we decided to put our well

We got estimates from several well drillers around the area, which were ultimately within a couple of hundred dollars of each other, and settled on one guy partly because of his vivacious personality.  I mean to tell you – this guy was a real hoot! On the day of drilling we were so excited!  It seemed like it took forever for them to get set up, but eventually the drilling actually started.  We stayed and watched for a while, but the drilling equipment was really loud and we realized this wasn’t going to be a very quick process.  We also had to go back to our valley home long before the drilling was completed because Ray had to work the following day.

Here is the drilling rig all set up and ready to go!

Here is the drilling rig all set up and ready to go!

The next evening Ray got a call from the well driller.  Apparently he had gotten “into the bottle”, passed out on our property while the drilling rig was still going and evidently made a mess with the bentonite (that is the stuff that lines the well).  He explained to Ray, rather sheepishly, that he would give us a “deep discount” because of the mess he had made.   True to his word, he knocked about one-third of his estimate off the bill.  Of course we waited until we saw exactly how much of a “mess” he had made with the bentonite before we paid him, but to be honest, it wasn’t really all that bad!  Besides, later we were able to scoop up the majority of bentonite into a wheelbarrow and line our driveway with it.  So, let’s see here:  free driveway material and a new well for only two thirds of the estimated cost?  OH YEAH!  Things were looking up!

After Ray and I poured the concrete pad (to get final approval from the county) we had our well and no longer had to haul water from our home in the valley!

After Ray and I poured the concrete pad (to get final approval from the county) we had our well and no longer had to haul water from our home in the valley! Can I hear a hallelujah!

Shared at:  The HomeAcre Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Home and Garden Thursday, The Homesteading Hippy Hop

 

Tool Shed II

After an entire spring and summer, smashed fingers, sore muscles, and a few forest fires that came very close (too close for comfort, really), we had our tool shed built.  Ray was happy about the fact that he didn’t have to haul his tools here and there anymore.  He was also like a kid in a candy store because he reasoned that he should buy some new tools to keep in the tool shed so that he could leave his old ones at our valley ;-)home!  That made sense…………right?

Then the winter came and we had to take our trailer back to where we rent space to store it in our hometown.  If we didn’t travel with our trailer in the winter, we would have just left it up in the mountains.  But we like to camp in Mendocino and FortBragg on the California coastline in the winter, and there would be no guarantee that we would be able to retrieve our trailer through mud and snow on our property in the winter.  Besides, the previous winter saw several snowstorms of at least 6-8 inches, and we weren’t sure our fair weather trailer roof could support that kind of weight. So our happy weekend base camp had to go to storage for the winter.

This is a picture of Fort Bragg in the winter.  We love to go then because we can avoid all the crowds, but also watch the whales migrate while standing on the beautiful bluffs!

This is a picture of Fort Bragg in the winter. We love to go then because we can avoid all the crowds, but also watch the whales migrate while standing on the beautiful bluffs!

But, we had the shed!  It was warm and dry – well, not really warm – but it was dry!  To make it warm we bought a Mr. Buddy Heater.  It uses propane but can be used in enclosed spaces because it has sensors that turn it off when there is low oxygen or if it tips over.  So, with the queen blow-up mattress our son Matthew bought for us, we made our tool shed into a makeshift cottage!

That worked out really well during our weekends that winter.  We were able to work all day long, even in the pouring rain (which is when we burn our brush piles), and yet have a nice dry and warm place to eat our meals and sleep.  Ray even attached a solar panel to the top of the broken Ponderosa Pine, snaked the wire down into the shed, attaching it to a series of batteries.  That way we could watch TV and keep a small refrigerator running!  We were snug as two bugs in a rug!  It worked out so well, in fact, that we decided to build bunk beds for a permanent sleeping arrangement in the shed. That way, when we had our trailer up, we could use the shed as our “guest house”.

The tool shed turned into a comfy little cottage the first winter it was built.

The tool shed turned into a comfy little cottage the first winter it was built.

But wait!  There’s More!  We decided that if we wanted to have guests in the guest house, we would need to put up some insulation and inside walls.  And then my daughter-in-law’s father, Ron, had some metal shelving he didn’t need anymore and gave it to us for our shed.  Now we were complete.  Hold on, not finished yet!  We thought it would be nice to have some lights that would turn on with a light switch.  Ray, being my resident handyman (seriously, folks, he can do anything) set up two overhead lights; one inside and one for the outside porch.  These run off the solar panel with energy stored in the batteries.  Our weekend retreat (Ahem….. tool shed) was complete!

  • Our First Sleeping Arrangement Our First Sleeping Arrangement When we took the trailer home for the winter, we used the tool shed as our base camp instead of a tent. It was a lot warmer and drier. I didn't have to worry about a bear or mountain lion bothering us because we built that shed like a fortress! It was a very cozy and comforting arrangement.
  • Putting up Interior Walls Putting up Interior Walls Following that first winter we decided we would insulate the tool shed and put up walls. Not only would this keep the shed warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, it would discourage spiders from making nests in all of the nooks and crannies! I know we really need them, but did I tell you how much I hate spiders?
  • Making Bunk Beds Making Bunk Beds After one winter sleeping on a blow-up bed, we decided we would build bunk beds because they take up less space and are a lot more comfortable than blow-ups. This way, we could have guests spend the night and have their own little cottage, so to speak.
  • Metal Shelves Metal Shelves Our daughter-in-law's father, Ron, had some extra metal shelving he didn't need, so he gave it all to us. It sure worked out nice in the shed! Thanks, Ron!
  • Installing a Solar Panel Installing a Solar Panel The Ponderosa Pine that broke just as we were beginning to build our shed came in handy afterall! Ray used his chainsaw to cut the top at a certain angle and also a shelf, then installed a solar panel. It gets sun almost all day - even in the winter! The solar panel is hooked up to a series of 3 batteries which run two lights, a TV and a small refrigerator - of course not all at the same time.

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