Deep Well Hand Pump is Setting New Records

Deep well hand pump demoThe performance of our innovative deep-well hand pump is not just breaking records, but is setting new ones.

What is so impressive about this new manual well pump is that an average man in his 50’s pumped 17.5 gallons in one minute.  That’s more water in 1 minute than a 12-foot diameter windmill can pump (at peak performance and same application with same size cylinder) and what a common deep-well hand pump can – combined.

millThe maximum gpm for a 12’ windmill operating a 4” cylinder with 80’ of head is 13.8. The maximum for a common deep-well hand pump at same application with a 3” cylinder is 3 gpm. That’s a combined total of 16.8 gallons in one minute. The average man using the WaterBuck Pump beat the windmill by more than 3 1/2 gallons. At shallower applications with the use of the same size cylinder or larger cylinders, up to three times as much water can be yielded in the same amount of time with the same operator.

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Our next goal is to fit the WaterBuck Pump with a lower-watt solar drive motor, making it the most unique, efficient primary and manual backup water supply system anywhere.

 

The WaterBuck’s capacity can easily be doubled by being equipped with twin 6″ or 8”cylinders, and two pump levers opposite each other for irrigating a few acres of farmland. For more information please see WaterBuck Pump.

Homegrown Idea for Planting Tiny Seeds

Sowing tiny seeds like turnips, rutabagas, onions, leeks and herbs can be difficult. For instance, the seeds usually come out of the packet too quickly without enough space between the seeds. Also, heavy rains can wash the seeds into a pile before they’ve sprouted. And, tiny sprouts dry out quickly.amaranth seeds

Fortunately, there is a simple, quick technique for ensuring your veggies are properly spaced in the garden.

The next time you’re at a store that sells seedlings, ask if you can have a few of the empty plastic seedling trays. They are discarded by the millions each season. The trays with openings about 3 inches square (or round) work well for this project. Smaller openings don’t hold enough soil and larger openings use up a lot of potting mix.

To begin, cut or tear 2 inch strips of fabric long enough to reach the bottom of the tray opening, yet leaving about a 1 inch tab on each side (the same as those plastic tabs for getting batteries out of clock radios easily). This fabric strip will be used to lift out the soil and seedlings in one block like a piece of cake, only better for you.Discarded seedling tray

Next, fill the compartment with moist potting soil. Root crops can be planted in the multi-block or cluster method, allowing more plants to be grown in a small space. The fruits will not get as large as if grown singly to maturity, but they can be enjoyed as babies or eaten gradually to thin them.

Planting in clusters works well with bulb, root and stem-type vegetables. Depending on the size of your tray compartments and the vegetable you’re planting, place about 3-5 seeds in each cell. Remember that beet, Swiss chard and New Zealand spinach seeds are already a cluster of seeds per pod. One or two seeds per cell are sufficient. Leafy crops can also be started in trays, but should be thinned when transplanted. Cover the seeds with soil as usual. Label your trays with good tape or sticks and permanent marker, not pencil. (Trust me. You won’t remember what you planted if you don’t label them immediately.)

Water lightly and place in a warm, sunlit area. Some seeds will sprout in just a few days.

When the seedlings have one or two true leaves, begin hardening them off by exposing them to outside conditions for gradually extended periods daily. After about a week of this, they’re ready to move to the garden. This step can be eliminated in warm climates. If planting spinach, transplant it in the garden soon after sprouting. Spinach doesn’t like to have its roots disturbed.

Test the condition of your soil by gently lifting the fabric tabs on one cell. The entire cube, or cylinder, should come out easily and retain all or most of the soil. If necessary, allow the soil to dry out a bit. Or, lightly water it. This step will depend on the potting mix you used.Soil cube

Ideally, you will want to transplant your seedlings in the evening with rain sprinkles in the forecast. Plant your crop one compartment at a time. Make a hole just large enough for the root ball. The seedlings should be planted at the same depth they grew in the tray. Do not touch the plant stems, and do not plant them too deep, which can allow diseases to develop.

The fabric strip can be peeled off of the soil blocks and saved. Or, if they’re made of a natural material, simply compost the strips. It doesn’t hurt to just leave the fabric attached to the soil cube, either, if it’s biodegradable.

Microwaved Water Tomato Experiment Results

After seeing conflicting accounts of whether microwaved food retains nutrients, I decided to try a semi-scientific experiment here with tomato plants and five water sources. The results, so far, have surprised me.water tomato test

 

I understand my test does not meet scientific standards. This project was simply to satisfy my curiosity about water and its effect on living things. After reading “The Secret Life of Plants,” I am even more convinced that we are not so different than vegetation rooted in the ground.

On March 7 I filled five glass jars with unfiltered water from our well, our rain barrel, tap water from a nearby town, a cattle pond and our well water microwaved for 4 minutes. Because some of the water was icy (the pond water even had ice chunks in it), I put all the bottles in the living room to reach the same temperature overnight.

Since I do not have a microwave, I brought a bottle of our well water to our local library to microwave, not to the boiling point. (Funny, but our librarian didn’t even question my odd request.)

About a month before starting this experiment, we tested our well water for nitrates, lead, pesticides, etc. No contaminants were found.

On March 8 I filled five pots with an equal amount of potting soil taken from the same bag. This is not something I normally buy, but wanted to ensure the soil was as identical as soil can be. My normal seed-starting mixture of our compost and garden soil would’ve been too variable for this experiment.

Meanwhile, I soaked 20 heirloom Golden Jubilee tomato seeds in our well water for about 2 hours before planting 4 seeds each in the pots. By the way, this is an absolutely delicious variety of tomatoes with large, golden fruit.

If I were to conduct this test again, I’d have soaked the seeds in their respective water sources. I realize now how important that first taste of water is to seeds. I’m already considering a test with bean seeds, which I think will show more dramatic results in less time.

Next, I watered each pot with an equal amount of water and kept the pots together on a tray, giving them the same temperature, light and amount of water throughout the test.

March 18On March 11, the seeds began sprouting. There was no noticeable difference in any of the pots.

By March 18, differences were becoming apparent. The seedlings in the microwaved water barely changed since sprouting, while all the others were gaining in height and stoutness. Even the city tap water was keeping pace with the three leaders. I noticed that although the microwaved water pot had the smallest seedlings and received the same amount of water as the other pots, its soil always dries out sooner. It’s as if the seedlings are starving for water or nutrition. The seedlings also are slightly yellow compared to those in the other four pots.

March 25By March 20, the seedlings in the well, pond and rainwater pots were large enough to transplant to larger pots, but I had to wait 10 more days for the city and microwaved pots to get their first set of leaves. The well water is tallest, with the pond and rainwater next and identical in appearance, followed by the city tap and microwaved water.

On March 31, I selected the largest seedling from each pot to transplant into a larger pot. Again, I used identical pots and amounts of soil. They seedling heights ranged from well water at 3 1/2”, rainwater 3”, pond 3”, city tap 2 1/2” and microwave 2”. Besides the height difference, the best well, rain and pond-watered plants are more vigorous, bushy and green. The city tap water plant is starting to lag noticeably behind the three leaders.

March 31By April 4, the growth difference between the five pots is obvious. I intend to keep the test going until harvest time when the tomatoes will face the ultimate test – taste. I admit I am not eager to try the microwave-watered tomato. For the sake of science, however, I will.

So far, the vigor of the well-watered plant quickly emerging as the leader surprised me, which is actually good news for us, in a way. It is troubling, though, that the pond and rainwater are not doing as well as I predicted. I thought murky pond water that smells like frogs, leaves and cattle would be healthiest. I also predicted rainwater would be in a close second. While both are in good condition, they are not the leaders I predicted.

April 4I am merely speculating here, but perhaps there are too many toxins now in our environment. Is runoff or acid rain affecting these water sources? Maybe because the well water goes through a natural filtration process before it reaches the plants it is better for them. These are things I hadn’t considered before this test.

But, as I said, this is by no means “scientific,” just my homespun attempt at seeing how plants react to water that has been microwaved. Stay tuned for updates as the season progresses.

Also, if anyone has any recommendations for better testing methods, please let me know. I am always eager to learn all I can about our natural world, especially plants.

UPDATE 4/6/2014:  On my next test I will microwave all of the waters to compare them to water that hasn’t been microwaved.  This time I’ll use beans, which sprout and grow much more quickly. I also will soak the beans in their respective water sources before planting. Stay tuned.

Tomato water

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Building a Mortarless Rock Wall for Strawberries

road graderThe rumble and racket of the county road grader every spring gets my heart pounding. I know in its wake will be a fresh batch of pumpkin-sized rocks scattered all up and down the roadsides.

Raised garden beds

Missourians warn not to pick up the rocks — they multiply.

As soon as the grader passes, I’m out there with my rock-toting wagon selecting those with smooth, flat tops and blocky, stocky shapes perfect for my next gardening project. This spring, it’s an expansion of our strawberry bed.

Surrounded by so many plastic and chipboard building materials today, what a pleasure to beautify a garden with natural Missouri Ozarks stone. When we built our first raised bed garden with rocks four years ago, it was simply because we unearthed so many rocks that we had to do something with them.

Cornerstone

That large cornerstone on the right measures 3′ by 2′.

Growing up in rock-less Wisconsin, I’d always admired rock walls I’d seen elsewhere. I was even intimidated about building one since I had no experience in it. My husband had no such apprehension. In fact, I came home one day and discovered he’d already placed the largest cornerstone – a monster measuring 3 feet by 2 feet, 20 inches tall – by himself.

And thus began our first mortarless masonry project.

As it turns out, working with natural rock is much easier than I feared. Darren staked out a square area and ran string as a guide to keep the rocks in line. Then we placed the absolute largest rocks on the corners and started lining up the remaining large rocks as the base.

Incidentally, be sure to wear heavy boots and leather gloves. Squishing your fingers between two rocks, even small stones, is amazingly painful. As you gather rocks for your project, remember that snakes like spending time under rocks, particularly in early spring. I woke three startled snakes this week.

Strawberry bed construction

Instead of a string line, I used a board to line up the strawberry bed rocks.

Placing the first rock row is relatively easy without too much repositioning involved. Since we were building a garden, I also put several layers of newspaper under each rock to keep down the grass. Plus, earthworms love newspaper.

The second row takes more time as you begin fitting the pieces snugly. I enjoy this stage, though, as it’s like assembling a puzzle. Small wedge-shaped rocks come in handy to keep the rocks level and steady. Also, place the rocks so they lean slightly inward. This will keep pressure on the form and prevent your wall from tipping over onto the lawn.

Rock wall

Stack the rocks like bricks and leaning slightly in toward center.

Stack the rocks like bricks with the center of rocks overlapping the joints beneath them. Place the rocks in the same position as they were formed over millions of years, not with the layers running vertically. If you notice any cavities that could potentially fill with water, turn them so the hole faces downward. Otherwise they could split in winter or become a mosquito hatchery in summer.

I save the smoothest flat rocks for the top layer. What better place to sit with a cup of tea after a day in the yard? This also gives the project a finished look.

Our first raised bed measures 16 feet by 33 feet. In four years of freezing and thawing, no rocks have dislodged. By their very nature, dry rocks walls are somewhat flexible and able to tolerate frost heaving without tumbling over.

We chinked the inside of the first finished bed with red clay, partly because there was a big pile of it in the yard, but we also thought clay would keep the garden soil from filtering out. As it turns out, the clay was not necessary. Although it did no harm, it was extra work without benefit.

Compost pile

A giant compost bin in winter

After putting down a layer of leaves and newspaper, we filled the bed with soil we harvested from our woods one wheelbarrow at a time. The very first season, we had a bountiful crop of potatoes, squash, greens and more. At the end of the growing season, the bed becomes a giant compost pile of leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Throughout winter we empty the woodstove ashes around the bottom to control weeds.

Our latest project, the expanded strawberry bed measures 8 by 13 feet and, now that we know what we’re doing, could have been completed in just a few days if not for the weather. I didn’t mind the cold, but rocks were perpetually buried in snow. Instead of a string as a guide, I used an old board.

Finished strawberry bed

The rocks in the center of the completed bed are stepping stones and will settle as time goes on.

I work with rocks I can handle myself and do not split or shape them. For our purposes here, I don’t need to be fancy, just sturdy. Personally, though, I think completely natural rocks are beautiful. My only tool is a small metal wagon for hauling.

If you’re interested in building something more elaborate than a garden bed, two excellent reference books include Reader’s Digest’s “Back to Basics”, 1981, (a must for any homesteader) and “Building with Stone” by Charles McRaven, 1980.

Other Mother Earth News articles include this one from 1981 by Sharon and Lewis Watson, Stone Masonry by John Vivian in 1984 and another by Vivian in 1991, and a 1970 article by Ken Kern.

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Performance of the WaterBuck Pump

Inventor of the WaterBuck PumpA few months ago, we at Well WaterBoy Products made some changes to our first WaterBuck Pump model. We installed a stronger sucker rod system adequate for the torque created by our pump – ¾” fiberglass rod.  We also redesigned the pump lever to increase torque for efficiency and installed a new pump cylinder.

Before we made these changes, the performance of the WaterBuck was quite impressive for a deep well hand pump considering the static depth and size of cylinder being operated. (80’ of head, 4” cylinder, 2” column of water)

After the leathers were broken in on the first cylinder, Darren was able to pump 7 gallons during a 30-second sprint and 13+ gallons in one full minute. A 64-year-old-grandmother pumped 7 gpm.  In each of these tests, a 5’ pump lever was being used. Another test result by 2 young women pumping together non-stop yielded 55 gallons in 5 minutes and 45 seconds with a 4’ lever.

Deep Well WaterBuck PumpNow that the pump seals are close to being broken in, today we decided to make another 30-second sprint, with the enhanced mechanics and a 4’ pump lever. Nine gallons from a deep well pump by a man in his 50s is not bad!  Next, we set up the barrel and discharge pipe to record the time for Darren alone to fill a 55-gallon barrel non-stop. After 6 minutes and 45 seconds the barrel was full.

On April 17 we performed another test, a  60 second sprint

What is so impressive about this new manual well pump is that an average man in his 50’s pumped 17.5 gallons in one minute.  That’s more water in 1 minute than a 12-foot diameter windmill can pump (at peak performance and same application with same size cylinder) and what a common deep-well hand pump can – combined.

The maximum gpm for a 12’ windmill operating a 4” cylinder with 80’ of head is 13.8. The maximum for a common deep-well hand pump at same application with a 3” cylinder is 3 gpm. That’s a combined total of 16.8 gallons in one minute. The average man using the WaterBuck Pump beat the windmill by more than 3 1/2 gallons.

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Just think about those results. It’s great to not have to wait for the wind or sun or use fuel or depend on electricity to get a lot of water needed from a deep well quickly and efficiently.

At shallower applications with the use of larger cylinders, up to three times as much water can be yielded in the same amount of time with the same operators. With the use of smaller cylinders, much greater depths can be achieved — much greater than what was ever thought possible under human power, and as much water as a windmill can produce a minute, if not a little more.