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Fall Garden Kickoff

October 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Not wanting to make the same mistake as I did on my summer garden, I got off to an early start on my fall garden this week. I bought two batches from Home Depot of:

  • kolrabi
  • spinach
  • swiss chard
  • red lettuce
  • brussel sprouts

Since my thai basil from my summer garden got afflicted with some kind of disease, I also got some replace thai basil.

Everything is in the ground now and the garden plot is now completely full. As soon as the watermelons ripen and the patch is cleared out, I will have more space to plant.

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Planting labels from this week’s planting:

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This spring I started out my edible garden adventure with a 3 ft x 20 ft raised bed for my spring garden. After seeing good results with this garden, my new found enthusiasm led to the creation of my 20 ft x 40 ft summer garden plot. Given that this space was 10 times larger than my spring garden, I was certain the would the end of my lawn to edible garden conversion in the backyard. However, after seeing the watermelon patch take over half of this plot, I decided to extend my edible garden. I had already used up all the mulch from the pine tree which was cut down in my back yard. Coincidentally, the local community garden had several truckload of mulch that hadn’t being put to use. When I recently brought the community garden leader a trailer load of rabbit manure for his fall garden, he told me I could have the rest of the mulch at the community garden. Seven trailer loads later, my backyard was nearly 75% mulched giving me the ability to create at least another 20 ft x 40 ft garden plot.

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Given the plan to further expand my garden space, I also embarked on a parallel expansion of my rain harvesting by doubling the number of rain tanks. With 13 330 gallon rain tanks, I now have the capacity to harvest 4,300 gallons of rain water. Whereas, the last set of rain tanks were set on three rows of cinderblocks, the new set are now set on four rows to allow for even large compost bins.

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Rain Harvesting First Flush System – How It Works

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

several people have asked about the mechanism by which the first flush system works. Here’s an animated GIF which demos this well.

The video above demonstrates the use of the first flush system in a horizontal configuration. I am using all of my first flush systems in a vertical configuration. The diagram below shows the different configurations which are possible.

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Rain Harvesting Setup Completed: 2,300 Gallon Capacity

August 13, 2012 3 comments

My house has approximately 2,500 square feet of roof area. The gutters empty through six downspouts. I have been interested in rain harvesting for some time now and this year’s projects have significantly escalated its priority. My current watering needs consists of 30 fruit trees planted at the orchard, 5 fruit trees planted in my front yard, 40 square foot vegetable garden in my side yard, and another 200 square foot vegetable garden in my backyard.

While I am employing the use of heavy mulching at the orchard and in at my home garden, I was still interested in harvesting as much water as possible since I am interested in maximum yield from my garden and my orchard. Most importantly, since there is no water source at the orchard, I very much desire to get the trees established as soon as possible so they can begin to sustain themselves on ground water. Therefore, several months ago, I acquired seven 330 gallon IBC totes. Most large volume containers, run about $1 per gallon. So, at a price of $90 each, these were definitely much more affordable. After I setup the first one, I actually found that the IBC totes lent themselves very well to rain harvesting. The built in inflow and outflow openings really made it easy to repurpose these as rain totes with the addition of a few PVC connectors readily available from any major hardware stores.

After some research, I also found that it was really simple to get these totes connected to the gutter for rain harvesting. To accomplish this, I’ve decide to leverage some well conceived gutter filters and first flush systems which were specifically designed for rain harvesting. My previous post demonstrated the installation of the Leaf Beater and First Flush system. This post shows the completed installation of the 7 IBC totes which are the final components of my rain harvesting system.

This was the first tote that I setup. It’s hooked up to a different rain harvesting product called Clean Rain Ultra. This product combines a leaf filter, fine debris filter, and a first flush system all into a single unit. While it’s well-designed, I didn’t like the multiple moving parts which will eventually require maintenance or replacement so I only installed two of these units. My first IBC tote was also wrapped in black PVC film. This is meant to keep the sunlight from penetrating into the tote and causing algae growth in the water. This tote wrap is a prototype. I am still testing with other methods to see if there are better options. Despite only receiving about half an inch of rain thus far this month, there’s about 100 gallons of rain harvested from this downspout.

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This second tote is hooked up to the downspout with the least rain output. That plus the leaf clogging I recently found, resulted in this tote only capturing about 10 gallons thus far this month.

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I was originally hesitant about harvesting rain off the downspout at the front of my house. However, after calculating that it was fed by the most roof area. I decided to install a third IBC tote on my front porch. The totes are 48 inches by 40 inches so they do manage to fit into most spaces. So far this month alone, this tote has harvested about 250 gallons of rain.

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The fourth tote was also installed in the front of my house, next to the garage. This tote has harvested about 100 gallons of rain this month.

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This remaining three IBC totes were installed in my west sideyard. This sideyard is only about 6 feet wide. I have a small, 4 feet by 20 feet garden in this sideyard since it gets full afternoon sun. My two A/C units are also installed in this sideyard, leaving about a 6 feet by 12 feet of remaining space in this sideyard. Since this space is not very usable, I decided the install the remaining three IBC totes in this dead space. These three totes are hooked up in serial so that the water only feeds into one tank but then will equilibriate through all three totes via hydrostatic pressure. I am experimenting with having two downspouts feed simultaneously to these three totes. This month alone, these totes have harvested a little over 100 gallons so far this month.

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So far this month, with a little less than half inch of rain, approximately 550 gallons of rain have been harvested. This about matches my expectations since 1 inch of rain translates to 0.60 gallons of rain per square feet, I would expect a maximum of 1,500 gallons of rain per inch of rainfall received.

Each of the totes has been setup on three rows of cinderblocks in a U shape arrangement. Four pieces of 2 x 10 pressure treated lumber cut to four feet are laid across the cinderblocks to form a platform for the totes. Water weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon. So when full, these totes will weigh close to 2,700 pounds. So far, this platform base setup appears to be more than adequate to support this weight. The cinderblock are 8 inches in height so the three stacked rows of cinderblocks raises the tanks by another 24 inches to provide additional lift for water pressure. In addition, this is also intended to create a 24 inch high x 32 inch deep and 32 inch wide space underneath the totes which I am currently using as compost bins. With my meat rabbit operation, I have a constant supply of rabbit manure. This is dumped underneath the totes and aged prior to use in the garden.

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First Flush Rain Harvesting Setup

August 2, 2012 Leave a comment

My interest in rain harvesting arose out of my efforts to solve my irrigation problem at the orchard. The orchard lot does not have city water service hooked up. City water service is at the street and would necessitate the installation of a meter plus trenching some 200-plus feet to get the water to the orchard. I’ve had to deal with meter installation before so I know that City of Atlanta charges an outrageous $2,000 meter installation fee just for to put in a meter. That plus the installation of underground lines to get the water from the street to the orchard would probably cost close to $5,000 when it’s all said and done.

I then entertained the idea of getting a well dug. That also looked like it would be a costly proposition. Even worse, drilling companies don’t offer a guarantee that they will hit water. So if the first attempt fails, you still get charged for it and then you will get charge more for them to attempt another spot. Not to mention, a well would then also require electric service and that also did not exist on the lot and would need to be run from the street to the orchard, as well.

Due to the costs associated with the above two options, I began thinking about rain harvesting. After some thought, I determined that this option was not only the cheapest but was also the most-aligned with my pursuit for self-sufficiency. The orchard is about 1.5 miles from my house so I would either have to build a structure at the orchard to collect rain run-off from or I would have to do the collection at my house and then transport it to the orchard. I decided to start with the latter, since I needed water at my house for my garden anyways.

My house’s total roof area is approximately 2,500 square feet. Each square feet of surface area results in 0.60 gallons of rain water collection for every one inch of rainfall. This translates to a total of 1,500 gallons of rain for every one inch of rainfall if I harvest rain off of every gutter downspout:

2,500 square feet x 0.60 gallons/square feet/inch of rain = 1,500 gallons/inch of rain

Atlanta’s monthly rainfall averages about 4 inches, which means I can capture a whopping 6,000 gallons of water every month. This would provide plenty of water to satisfy all my irrigation requirements at my home and at the orchard during dry spells and all with just a one time expense of getting my rain harvesting setup implemented.

After some research, I finalized my rain harvesting setup to use the following:

I purchased the downspout filter and first flush diverter from www.rainharvest.com which happens to be located in about half hour from Atlanta in Cummings, Georgia.  Having a local resource really helped because it allowed me to go to their location and see all the products firsthand and get all my question answered.  The PVC pipe and parts was purchased from local Home Depot and Lowe’s stores.  Lastly, the 330 gallon IBC totes were purchased locally from an ad on Craigslist.

Once all the parts were obtained, I started on my first downspout conversion.  This is what the downspout looked like prior to the conversion.

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I began first by removing the existing aluminum downspout.

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Then it was time to install the Leaf Eater.

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A top view of the Leaf Eater downspout filter.  It comes with a PVC adapter which allows the output end of the filter to join with a 4 inch PVC pipe.

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The original downspout elbow is put back in place to route rain water from the gutter to the Leaf Eater.

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The Leaf Eater is then installed flush under the downspout elbow with the use of screws.

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Once the Leaf Eater is secured, it will also keep the downspout elbow in place.

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I then installed the PVC adapter which came with the Leaf Eater to the bottom output of the Leaf Eater.

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Next, I unpacked the contents of the First Flush Diverter kit.

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From the kit, I began with the 4 inch PVC tee connector and the floating ball seat.

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The floating ball seat is placed in one of the horizontal ends of the 4 inch PVC tee connector.

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Then a 4.5 inch segment of a 4 inch PVC pipe is cut.

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The 4.5 inch 4 inch PVC pipe is then inserted into the horizontal end opening opposite of the one already containing the floating ball seat.

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The assembly is then slid onto the bottom output end of the Leaf Eater.

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The floating ball seat must in the bottom end opening of the 4 inch tee connector.

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Due to the location of this particular downspout, the downspout bracket which came with the First Flush Diverter kit is not suitable.  Instead, I purchased a 3 inch – 4 inch tie from Home Depot.

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The tee connector is temporarily removed and the tie strap is nailed into place.
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The tee connector is put back in place and the tie strap is tightened to suspend the tee connector in place.

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Measurement is then taken from the inside of the bottom end of the tee connector to the bottom edge of the trim behind the downspout.

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The measured out to be 75 inches.

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A 4 inch PVC is then cut to provide a segment that is 72 inches, 3 inches shorter than the previous measurement.

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Before the PVC pipe section is inserted into the tee connector, I verified that the floating ball seat is still in the tee connector and has not fallen out.

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The 4″ diameter PVC pipe is then inserted into the bottom opening of the tee connector.   This PVC pipe segment will serve as the reservoir for the first flush system.

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A 4 inch diameter 90 degree PVC elbow is then fitted to the bottom of the 4 inch diameter PVC pipe.

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The place where the 90 degree elbow begins its bend is noted so that another tie strap can be nailed into the trim.   This bottom tie strap will hold the 4 inch diameter PVC pipe in place.  The 72 inch 4 inch diameter PVC pipe which serves as the reservoir for the first flush system will hold 4 gallons of water when full.  Water weighs about 8.35 pounds per gallon, so this segment of PVC pipe will weigh over 33 pounds when full so this bottom tie strap is needed to support this weight.

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With the bottom tie strap in place the 90 degree elbow put back into place and the tie strap is tightened around it.

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So far, all PVC connections have been dry fitted without adhesive.  However, adhesive must be used in the final connection of the 90 degree PVC elbow to the first flush drain assembly.  Without adhesive, this assembly will blow open from the weight of the water in the first flush reservoir.   As before, a 4.5 inch section of the 4 inch diameter PVC pipe is cut.  This section is used to coupled the 90 degree PVC elbow to the first flush drain assembly.  Adhesive must be applied to both ends of this coupling section.

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Once the adhesive has set, the first flush drain assembly is opened by twisting counter-clockwise.  Once opened, the floating ball of the first flush assembly is inserted.

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The first flush drain assembly cover is screwed back in place and the drain nozzle is opened by twisting the nozzle counter-clockwise.

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A debris filter is inserted to prevent clogging of the first flush drain nozzle.

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A washer is also placed into the nozzle.  A total of eight washers are provided in the kit.  The washers have drain holes of various sizes.  These washer are used to control the rate of drain from the first flush reservoir.  I chose to use the washer with the smallest hole.

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The drain nozzle is put back in place.

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Another 4.5 inch segment of 4 inch diameter PVC pipe is cut to couple and adapt the 4 inch first flush diverter opening to  a 2 inch PVC pipe which will drain to the IBC tote.

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Marjory Wildcraft Presentation

June 24, 2012 Leave a comment

I was just perusing Marjory Wildcraft’s website (http://backyardfoodproduction.com) last week while doing research for my orchard and backyard garden. Today, I stumbled upon these videos of her 40 minute presentation about preparing for rising food prices.

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Eden Movie

April 21, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the things I have truly enjoyed as a side product of my meat rabbit operation is all the like-minded people who come to me to purchase foundation stock.  Today, Gary from Gainesville came to pick up his 2 bucks and 6 does.  As we talked about his reasons for getting into raising meat rabbits, he discusses with me his interest in growing his own food on his 5.5 acre lot.  Since I have similar interest, we talked at length about what we were doing and what we have learned. During our conversation, Gary mentioned to me an approach to gardening shown in a movie called Back to Eden.

When I got home, I looked up Back to Eden and was excited to find out that it was a movie which has been made publicly available online. I began watching it and immediately what I saw made so much sense that I knew I had just stumbled upon the true solution to my orchard watering dilemma.  This was reaffirmed when the gardener who is the focus of the movie stated that he has never watered his orchard since its inception 31 years ago through droughts in an area with gets 15 to 18 inches of rain a year.  When I bought my orchard lot, I ruled out growing vegetables due to the lack of municipal water supply.  Based on what was shown in the movie, I now believe that I can grow not only trees at the orchard but vegetables as well without artificial supply of water.  The information was so refreshing and logical that I placed an order for the DVD.

Throughout the movie, the clips of Paul Gautschi’s orchard showed trees whose limbs were arched downwards.  This seemed very convenient as it placed the fruits at a height which facilitated the picking.  In addition, with this arrangement and fruit which dropped would not have far to go before they reached the ground and would be much more likely to be undamaged.  The DVD has bonus contents not shown in the movie, including a how-to on pruning fruit trees.   I am very excited to see how this is done so I can apply the information to my own orchard.

If you have not seen this amazing movie, I highly recommend it.   The approach used is not mainstream but instead mimics what occurs naturally in nature and the results speak volume about the soundness of the logic behind it.  I have learned through experience that truth is blindly clear and amazingly simple.  This was no different.  I was so impressed that I looked for other information on Paul Gautschi and found the following videos on Youtube which also contain a wealth of information.

Thank you Gary for introducing me to this amazing movie.

 

 

 

 

Orchard Watering Solutions

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the challenges I knew I would face with the orchard lot that I purchased was the lack of municipal water.  Getting water service would not be very difficult but would not be cheap.  Meter installation by itself is $2,000.  Then I would have to pay for trench and line installation to bring the water from the street to the orchard which will probably run another $2,000 at least.  When I made the decision to purchase the lot, I made up my mind to abandon municipal water in order to stay true to my efforts to become self-sustainable.  My plan was to haul water from my house for the first year or two until the fruit trees were established enough to draw ground water on their own.  I also thought about possibly building a shed at the orchard to provide a surface for rain harvesting.

Since I have my hands full at the moment, building a shed is out of the question.  So I started to look at solutions available for watering trees efficiently.  The first one I found was a tree watering bag from TreeGator.  I have seen this used for the trees lining city streets.  Further research led me to Tree IV Root Feeder from SayeGrow.  This solution seemed superior on multiple counts:

  • Efficiency: Water is fed directly into the ground rather than released onto the ground surface and possibly leading to waste from runoff.
  • Aesthetics: The root feeder is driven into the ground so nothing is visible.
  • Transport: Since a bucket is used to supply the water, the same bucket can be used to transport the water to its destination.  The product is designed with this in mind and plugs are sold to allow for transport of water in the same bucket as the one that the water will be dispensed from.

I placed an order for 10 of their Build Your Own System and Reservoir Plug.  After these arrived, I purchased 10 buckets and lids from Lowe’s and made the final product myself with the use of a 1 3/16 Forstner Bit.  The process was extremely simple.