What A Day! or OMG!

This could only happen in California.

Ray and I are always checking out Craigslist to see if there is anything we need for our future homestead at a discounted price.  When we saw that someone was selling water storage tanks for more than half the price we would pay for new, Ray called the seller right away, and made arrangements to pick them up the next day.  The tanks were located several miles down the road from our future homestead, so we figured it would be easy to get the tanks into the truck, one at a time, and take up to our property.

We use the tanks to store rainwater collected off  the metal toolshed roof and also the metal outhouse roof, which during the summer, waters our orchard automatically with zero pressure, battery run timers.  If you would like to see our system, click HERE.

The next afternoon we set off with cash to meet the seller.   It takes about 1-1/2 hours to get from our current home in the valley up to our future homestead and we arrived about four o’clock in the afternoon at the bottom of the road to meet the seller, then followed him up the hill to his property. When we drove through his gate, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a HUGE marijuana field.


Smack Dab!

The seller and his girlfriend explained that they had just bought the tanks the previous month, because their well had gone dry and were getting water trucked in, but now they were harvesting and no longer needed the tanks. He went on to say that they were harvesting a bit early because they didn’t trust their landlord, who seemed a bit shady and scary to them.

Oh.     Okay.

Right in front of us were the tanks, pretty brand spankin new.  In fact, the insides still smelled like new plastic and the purchase tags were still on the outside of the tank. The larger tank was 1,100 gallons – just like the other three that we already have on the future homestead.  The other was 550 gallons.  We had just paid about $650 for a 1,100 gallon tank a few months ago, and this guy was asking only $400… for both.  Cash (of course).

Ummmm Hummmm.

Just then a helicopter flew overhead very slow and very low.

All we could think of was that these guys were going to get busted RIGHT NOW and we would get caught in the middle!  They might think we were buyers!!!

“Well no, officer….  you see, we were just here to buy water tanks”.

The seller could see our nervousness and laughed, saying that they fly over several times a day, but that he was perfectly legal according to California laws, and that we shouldn’t worry.

R i i i i i i ght.

We handed him the $400 and loaded up the smaller tank so fast it would have made your head spin.  We left quickly (the truck engine was still running) explaining that we would be back within the hour for the second tank. It only took about twenty minutes to get up to our property.  We unloaded the small tank, grabbed some ramps we had to make it easier to roll the large tank into the back of the truck (we actually bought them to load the quad into the back of the truck, but have found them handy for a number of other reasons), and then took the ladder rack off the truck so the larger tank would fit in sideways. Within thirty-five minutes we were driving back up the road to get the other tank.

An 1,100 gallon water storage tank fits nicely into the back of our F150 truck - without the ladder rack.

An 1,100 gallon water storage tank fits nicely into the back of our F150 truck – without the ladder rack.  Of course, you MUST strap it down or it can blow out.  Go ahead – ask me how I know!

When we got about 100 feet from the gate going into the seller’s property, we saw that the road was blocked by two cars full of the roughest looking guys you have ever seen.  They ignored us at first, then reluctantly moved their cars so we could get by.  We waved and thanked them but avoided eye contact.  When we got to the seller’s gate, however, we could see that it was closed, chained and padlocked!  Oh no – had we been scammed?!  We already gave the guy the cash (nervousness can make you stupid), but we didn’t get the bigger, more expensive tank! On top of that, there were two pit bulls and two German shepherds circling our truck.

Just wait – this gets better!

That’s when things really started to get sticky.  Ray got out of the truck (the pit bulls started  wagging their tails) and walked through the gate, into the property.  Afterall, we wanted our water tank!  He was able to catch the attention of the seller’s girlfriend, who came over and explained she had locked the gate because the guys down the road (the ones we saw in the cars) were scaring her.  She was afraid they might try to take her “crop” and she was there by herself.

Unfortunately, she didn’t have a key to the gate, but said her boyfriend would be back soon with the key. That’s okay, we said.  We’ll wait.  A few minutes later, one of the cars that had blocked the road pulled up, and inside was a woman along with three of the thugs we had seen about 10 minutes earlier.  The woman got out of the car, introduced herself as the “landlord” and explained that the seller and his girlfriend were renting the land from her.  She questioned who we were and when we told her we were buying the water tanks, she seemed satisfied with our answer and left with her carload of thugs.  A few minutes later the seller came back and unlocked the gate.

We drove in to the property where our large tank was and discovered that there was still at least a foot of water in it.  Water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, so you can imagine that there was no way we were going to be able to move this tank until it was empty.  The seller appologized (he though it was already empty) got a sump pump and started pumping out the tank, while we stood around and chit-chatted.  I did learn a little bit about his “crop”.  What was especially interesting was the fact that he said he had about 50 plants (looked like a lot more than that to me), which required approximately 1,400-1,600 gallons of water per week.

PER WEEK!  No wonder his well went dry!

At our home in the valley, we are only allowed to use water outside two times a week, along with quite a few other restrictions, and this guy is using at least 1,400 gallons of water PER WEEK on a marijuana crop! At our valley home our water is on a meter and we pay for every drop. But this guy could use as much water as his well would pump.  We have been reading reports about how some commercial marijuana growers are diverting creeks and streams for their crops, which is causing serious environmental disasters here in California. It wasn’t such a problem several years ago, but now that we are in a serious drought, the problem of illegal growers killing fish populations by draining and polluting streams and lakes is coming to the forefront.  Unfortunately, these lakes and streams are also where our drinking water supply comes from.

Don’t misunderstand – I am not totally against using marijuana as a medicinal herb if you really need it.  But, I believe these big commercial grows are wrong.  Just sayin’ 😉

So, as we were finally getting the big tank loaded up, the seller tells us how they think their landlord is trying to “bump them off” so she could have their crop, and that they had been hearing strange noises at night.  They pointed out five trailers that had been left on the property by the previous “farmers”, full of clothes, food, etc., and wondered if they had left in such a hurry they couldn’t take their belongings.

Well… who do you think shows up just then?  The landlord! The seller met her out of hearing range, but it was evident that they were not happy with each other.  Luckily the thugs stayed in the car.  In the meantime, his girlfriend quietly retreated into their trailer.  Ray and I put our heads down and tried to pay attention to our own business, rolling the tank onto it’s side so the last of the water was poured out, and positioning the tank where it could be rolled up into the truck.  Just then, the girlfriend came out of their trailer with an AK-47 strapped across her shoulder, and started walking through the “farm” as if she were guarding a prison gate!

Seriously!  Cross my heart, this is a true story!

We were no longer nervous at this point, we were just plain scared.  What had we gotten ourselves into?  It was time to go. The tank wasn’t completely empty, but we muscled that sucker into the back of the truck anyway! Ray and the seller shook hands, we hopped into the truck and pulled out of the “farm” onto the driveway, afraid that the road would be blocked again.  It wasn’t. Whew!  I don’t think I actually took a breath until we got to the end of the road and turned onto the highway to get up to our future homestead!

Water Storage System

Here is the smaller tank – 550 gallons. It was in excellent, almost new, condition.

Will we ever do that again?  HECK NO!

Storage System for Rainwater Collection

We placed the 550 gallon tank above an 1,100 gallon tank, so it can refill the lower tank, for a total of 1,650 gallons of water to irrigate the orchard.  That’s not counting an 1,100 gallon rainwater collection tank behind our tool shed and another 1,100 gallon tank behind the outhouse.

But we did get some nice water storage tanks for $400! 😀

We now have four 1,100 gallon tanks, one 550 gallon tank and another 325 gallon tank for a total of 5,275 gallons of water storage space!  This should be plenty of water to get the orchard through our arid California summers.  We will also provide a map of our property and placement of our tanks with our local CalFire office, just in case they need it to fight a wildfire on our property.

So, what do you think – are we crazy or not!

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Water Storage Tank

Where we live here in California, we have been experiencing a terrible drought.  During our rainy months of December, January and most of February we were dry, dry, dry.  The weather was beautiful – in the 60’s and 70’s – so at first no one was complaining.  Then the news reports began to show the level of our reservoirs, and let me tell you, it’s not pretty.  It’s actually kinda scary! On our way up to our future homestead, we pass over one of California’s major reservoirs and recently got some sad pictures:

Lake Oroville during drought

This whole area should be full of water, not a little creek down at the bottom!  There are many exposed items of interest that haven’t seen the light of day for years!  Below is a picture of a wall built by the Chinese during California’s gold rush days.  The park rangers have also had to patrol areas where Native American artifacts have been exposed because ignorant (the nicest word I could think of) people have been vandalizing and stealing them! Chinese Wall at Lake Oroville

Our biggest concern is that our well will dry up this year.  The likelihood of this happening is pretty good because of the drought and the fact that the neighbor to our south has been farming a crop that takes a lot of water these last two years.  Last year his generator ran pretty much nonstop to pump water out of his well, which is directly below ours, to irrigate said crops!  Of course, there really isn’t anything we can do about this (at least I don’t think there is) except prepare for the worst!

A couple of weeks ago, our storm door finally opened!  Yay!  We have actually had a few rainy days!  Since we had planned to eventually place a water storage tank behind our new outhouse, to collect water from the metal outhouse roof, down the gutter and into the storage tank, and our other two tanks were finally full (finally!), we decided now was as good a time as ever!

We checked around for prices and, of course, the price had gone up everywhere! Apparently a lot of people have had the same idea. I understand the principals of supply and demand, but that is just so unfair!  When we found the most reasonably priced tank nearby at 1,100 gallons, we loaded it up on our truck (they fit perfectly in our F150 pickup) and headed up to our future homestead. Installing a Water Storage Tank

The first thing we had to do was clear an area behind the outhouse to place the tank.  We measured the footprint of the tank to determine how big of an area that needed to be cleared and leveled. The area was full of decaying wood, small bushes, poison oak and little critters.  Of course, two days later I found a few spots of poison oak on my arm, just above the area protected by my glove!  Grrrrrrr.  Right now is the worst time to get exposed to the nasty stuff because as the poison oak is just starting to sprout new leaves, the resins are flowing quite freely in the vine!  One think I have noticed over the years, however, is that lavender essential oil takes out some of the itch.  Luckily I only got a few spots this time.

orange and black salamanderWe found several critters when we moved a decaying stump to clear this area, and the first was this little salamander.  Salamanders live in cool, moist areas.  I am not sure what type of salamander this is, but judging by it’s coloration and from what I have read on the internet, this one might have some poison in it’s skin as a defense mechanism. We spotted a total of five of these little critters and relocated them to a safer place.

Another critter that we found in A millipede in forest duffabundance were millipedes!  We must have found at least two dozen of them in this small area!  We also saved the millipedes as we found them because they are wonderful composters of all the leafy duff found on the forest floor.  Even though they look big (some are easily 6 inches long) and scary, the millipede is perfectly safe to pick up with a bare hand – unlike a centipede!

Saving Rainwater in a TankOnce the area was cleared of duff, downed wood, bushes, poison oak, millipedes and salamanders, we needed to get the base leveled.  We dug dirt from the back and threw to the front and added just a bit extra to the lower front half, because we knew that the weight of water in the tank would squash down the freshly fluffed up dirt.

After just a few hours of preparation, we were able to roll to tank into position.  These plastic water storage tanks are surprising light and easy to handle!  Just tip on it’s side and roll wherever you need them to be!

Water Storage Tank for collecting rainwater

We haven’t attached a rain gutter system to our outhouse yet, so right now the new tank can’t collect rainwater.  But, since another storm was on it’s way, we decided to pump the water from the middle tank, which collects rainwater from the tool shed roof, into this new water tank.  That way, we can collect more rainwater in the middle tank.  Pumping the water took just a few hours.

So, we now have three 1,100 gallon water storage tanks:  One right next to our fruit and nut orchard, another behind our tool shed, and the third (the one we just installed) behind the outhouse.  We have a spot to put a fourth tank, near the orchard and above the first orchard tank, but that may have to wait until this next fall.  These water storage tanks provide water for our fruit and nut orchard through a gravity fed automatic watering system, which is necessary because we don’t live there yet and can’t be there to water the trees as often as necessary.  If you would like to read about how we set up our gravity fed automatic watering system, you can click here and here.

The morning after we set up this new tank, as we were preparing to leave, it started to rain!  Cool. 🙂

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Our Gravity Flow Water System – Part 2

We had the basics of our gravity flow watering system set up and the 1,100 gallon water storage tank was already full.  We needed another tank!  Since the first one was installed behind the tool shed, we figured we would use that one as our main “gathering” tank.  We siphon the water from that first tank when it was full to the second tank that we would put closer to the garden.  The second tank would be our “delivery” tank and would be the one the timers and watering lines would be connected to.

So we went online to check out prices and found that Tractor Supply was the cheapest in the area for what we wanted, and once an area near the orchard was prepared, we went down to our local Tractor supply and bought another 1,100 gallon water storage tank.  Again, it fit easily into the back of the truck.  We tied that tank down to the truck with lots of rope and straps, then set out on our merry way up to the property.

Unfortunately, it was a very windy day.  Instead of hearing the ropes and tie-downs sing to us, as was our experience with the first tank, this time it was scary.  We took the back roads and kept away from the highway, just in case.  An empty tank is surprisingly lightweight in spite of it’s large size, and the wind was catching the tank and blowing it to and fro.  We stopped and checked our ropes after a few miles and everything seemed to be okay, so we cautiously continued on our way.  Then a huge gust of wind hit the truck and the tank and, as quick as a wink, the tank tore through the ropes and went sailing across the road.  We took the back roads because the traffic was usually light, but as luck would have it a car was coming from the opposite direction just as the tank went free and was nearly hit.  I could see the whites of that poor guy’s eyes!  We stopped the truck and looked around to see if the guy was okay. He had pulled over to the side (probably to check his underwear) but then suddenly took off.  We were expecting to at least apologize, but he didn’t give us the chance.  So, if you are out there and recognize yourself —  we are so sorry for probably giving you the scare of your life!

The tank itself was scratched up a bit, but really was not harmed at all.  It took a bit of doing, but we got it back up on the truck and this time used twice as much rope and tie-downs and bungees and come-alongs and whatever else we could find!  Luckily we made it up to the future homestead without any more incidents.

The second tank near the orchard, which is fed water from the first tank behind the tool shed.

The second tank near the orchard, which is fed water from the first tank behind the tool shed.

Once the tank was set, we needed to figure out a system to get the water from the tank to the trees.  Ray devised two manifold systems from PVC pipes and fittings.  The manifold  was fed water from the tank by a short hose and then the manifold divided up the water into 5 or 6 separate hoses that each went to a tree.  This worked great.  But now we had to find a timer turn on the whole system when we weren’t there.  Believe it or not, with all the new hype on rainwater systems and such, it’s hard to find a timer that will work with little to no pressure!  Seriously, look at most of the timers you can find at your local box stores or even online – most require at least 10 pounds of pressure.  You don’t get 10 pounds of pressure from rain barrels or most rainwater systems.  To get water pressure from rainwater, you need to elevate the storage tank.  For each foot of height you get 0.43 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure.  So to be able to get the required 10 psi, we would have to raise our water storage tank about 22 feet.  That is why most municipal water storage towers are so tall.

The hose from the tank delivers water to a manifold Ray devised from PVC pipes and fittings, which divides the water into 5 smaller hoses, each leading to a tree.

The hose from the tank delivers water to a manifold Ray devised from PVC pipes and fittings, which divides the water into 5 smaller hoses, each leading to a tree.

Luckily, while doing his research on the internet, Ray discovered a water timer that works on 0 pressure!  He bought two of the Gilmour zero pressure battery timer at Drip Works (please see note below)  and we have been very pleased.  Now our irrigation system is complete and the orchard is watered whether we are there or not.  Isn’t convenience wonderful!    Posted at Small Footprint Fridays

This shows two of the Gilmour zero water pressure battery timers on the tank by the orchard.  When the timer turns on, the water flows down the hose, to the manifold, then is delivered to each tree individually.  Cool!

This shows two of the Gilmour zero water pressure battery timers on the tank by the orchard. When the timer turns on, the water flows down the hose, to the manifold, then is delivered to each tree individually. Cool!

NOTE:  I got a heads-up today that my link to Drip Works for the no pressure timer no longer works.  On further investigation, I found out why….. unfortunately, Drip Works no longer sells these no pressure timers!  Why?  Because Gilmour no longer makes them! 🙁   🙁 

NOTE:  Hooray!  DripWorks now has the Toro Zero Pressure Battery Operated Timer.  It isn’t digital like the old Gilmour one (which might actually be a good thing) but costs about the same!  You can use it on rain barrels and such because it does not need water pressure to open the gate valve – the battery does that!  Yes!  Here is the link:   http://www.dripworks.com/category/s?keyword=TOZPT           This will bring you directly to the dripworks page that sells this Toro ZPT (zero pressure timer).  At the time of this writing – September 12, 2013 – the cost is $35.95.

Our Gravity Flow Water System – Part 1

Now that we had an orchard we had to figure out a way to water the trees.  Since we are striving to be as sustainable as possible, we decided to collect rainwater during the fall and winter and store it in large water storage tanks for spring and summer irrigation.  The metal roof of the tool shed was an ideal rainwater collector, all we needed to install were the rain gutters and a large storage tank.  The gutters were the easy part.  We bought everything at our local box store and installed them, including the leaf guards, in one weekend.

This is the tool shed before we set it up to collect rainwater.

This is the tool shed before we set it up to collect rainwater.

The hard part was constructing a pad for the water storage tank.  We knew we wanted to put it behind the tool shed, which meant digging a level area large enough and deep enough for the tank to sit below the level of the gutters.  This was necessary to ensure gravity flow of the rainwater from the metal roof top, into the gutters, then the down-spouts and into the top of the water storage tank.Once we had the area dug to our satisfaction (and to the specifications of width and height listed for the tank we wanted to buy), we framed up an area large enough to hold the tank, along with three sides to hold the dirt away from the tank, and poured concrete in three separate pours.  After the concrete was poured Ray installed landscaping timbers as retaining walls on the two sides exactly the same way he did when we built the spot for the trailer (see here).  We used concrete blocks for the back wall simply because this was the wall that would have to hold back most of the dirt.

This was the tool shed after the gutters were installed.  We also installed leafguards on the gutter to filter out the leaves and pine needles.

This was the tool shed after the gutters were installed. We also installed leafguards on the gutter to filter out the leaves and pine needles.

Once the pad was completed we bought an 1,100 gallon water storage tank at an irrigation supply store.  Thank goodness this tank size fit exactly into the back of our F-150 pick-up truck, so we were able to haul it up to the property without much trouble and without having to pay a delivery fee.  We had tied the whole thing down pretty securely in the back of the truck and while we were driving down the highway those ropes and tie-downs were singing to us in the wind!  It was a happy song as they resonated, thrunged and whistled all the way up to our future homestead, and Ray and I laughed almost the whole way.

  • Pouring a Concrete Pad Pouring a Concrete Pad After we dug away what seemed like a mountainside (just kidding) we framed out an area just a little larger than the tank (we checked the specs first!) and began to pour a concrete pad upon which the tank would sit.
  • Retaining Wall Retaining Wall We had to start building the retaining wall on this side ASAP because a rainstorm made the hillside a bit unstable and we were getting a lot of mud on the concrete. Ray built this retaining wall the same way he build the retaining wall for the trailer site.
  • Concrete Blocks Concrete Blocks We decided to place concrete blocks along the back side of the wall because this wall would have to bear the weight of snow and mud, keeping it away from the tank area. We placed rebar in the concrete pad which extended up both courses of concrete blocks, just to ensure those blocks don't break free or slide. Once the blocks were set we filled them with concrete.
  • The Second Retaining Wall The Second Retaining Wall Getting ready to install the second retaining wall.
  • Done Done All done and ready for the water storage tank!
  • Bringing in the Tank Bringing in the Tank Luckily, this 1,100 gallon water storage tank fit almost exactly into the back of our F150 pick-up! With numerous tie-downs, lots of rope and some come-alongs, we were able to haul it up ourselves and avoided the delivery fee.
  • Ready for Rain Ready for Rain The tank fit perfectly! Now all we needed was some rain!

Once the tank was placed in it’s new home and everything was set up, it only took a few rainstorms to fill up the entire tank!  In fact, after a month we had to remove the down-spouts and put the lid on the tank as it was completely full and gushing over!  It was very obvious that after this tank was full, we needed another tank!

Here is our system all ready to go.  The rain slides down the metal roof, into the gutters, down the down-spouts and into the water storage tank!  It only took a few rainstorms to fill up this 1,100 gallon tank!

Here is our system all ready to go. The rain slides down the metal roof, into the gutters, down the down-spouts and into the water storage tank! It only took a few rainstorms to fill up this 1,100 gallon tank!

But Wait, There’s More! So stay tuned but sit tight!  That story is coming up in my next post!


UPDATE:   For Gravity Flow Water System Part 2, Click HERE






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Gravity Flow Irrigation

This is a bigger picture of the “workings” of our water collection system.





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