Something New at the Watering Hole

woman at a wellEver since we began making well buckets in 2011, people have asked us where to buy a windlass to use with a bucket. Darren researched and pondered this a long time, finally concluding no practical windlasses exist for torpedo well buckets in drilled wells.

Years ago, people used a simple rope and bucket and all manner of windlasses to raise large buckets a few feet from a cistern or shallow hand-dug well. These generally had a hand crank and only hoisted about 15 or so feet of rope.wheel axle windlass

When technology advanced, wells were drilled to greater depths and fitted with submersible pumps. A new, slender bucket style was designed to get water from these deeper, drilled wells as an emergency backup. However, as access to electricity spread, there was no longer a great need for well buckets.

old mining windlassToday, with fuel and electricity costs soaring, natural and man made disasters and more folks going off-grid, well buckets are popular again. But, no one ever really made a windlass, not that we are aware of, for anything other than a shallow well.

Snowy wellSo, just as Darren has done for everything else around here when he couldn’t find what he needed commercially, he built one and improved upon the old style.

Finally, a modern windlass hoist for well buckets

WaterBoy Windlass Hoist

WaterBoy Windlass Hoist Kit

Instead of using a hand crank, Darren designed the windlass with it’s own lift pole and with a 24” hand wheel, making the operation more efficient and less tiresome for deeper wells. Both hands are used and the rope is wound up easier. This also keeps the rope cleaner and off the ground (less chance of contamination).

It’s much safer, too, because there is no crank that could come back and bonk someone in the head if accidentally released under load.

And, just like all Well WaterBoy Products, it’s built to last and made right here in Missouri. We’re excited about the latest addition to our growing array of products to improve the quality of life for the self-reliant – especially regarding water.

Please see our Products Page for more information.

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How to Use a Treadle Sewing Machine

Although I learned to sew on my great-grandmother’s Singer treadle machine as a child, I haven’t used a treadle since I was a teen, which was, ah, some time ago.White Family Rotary treadle

When Darren and I brought home an antique White Family Rotary treadle from a thrift store last year, I thought it would be just like great-granny’s old Singer. After we cleaned it up and doused every moving part with oil, I figured I’d hop on and be stitching away – just like that.

Well, I soon learned the White has one very distinct difference from other treadles. The top of the hand wheel is turned away from the operator to sew. Sure, the wheel will turn toward the front as in other machines, but the thread will bunch up and make an awful mess.

machine parts

Turn the top of the hand wheel away from you to begin sewing.

Treadling “backwards” took some getting used to, sort of like driving on the opposite side of the road, but now is a mindless motion.

That was lesson No. 1.

Then, since the machine had only one bobbin, I went online to eBay and bought four “vintage” bobbins in a package from the 1950s or 60s for about $2.50 each. Although they are slightly different in appearance (stamped “Japan”), they work just as well as the original bobbin.

bobbin winder

Apply a small piece of masking tape to the bobbin winder shaft if you are using modern bobbins. Reduce the stitch length to 0 or 1 to lock in stitches.

Recently, when I realized I needed many bobbins for different thread weights and colors, I ordered a bargain pack on eBay – 20 bobbins for $15 and free shipping.  These bobbins are brand-spanking new and shiny. I’m assuming China-made. In the bobbin case, they work just fine … but, the center hole is larger than the older bobbins, so they spin on the bobbin winder instead of winding on the thread.

That was lesson No. 2.

Darren solved this problem by suggesting I apply a tiny dab of masking tape to the bobbin winder shaft. His solution worked perfectly.

bobbins

The bobbin on the left is original (from about 1914). The middle bobbin was made in Japan in the 1950s or so. The bobbin on the right is modern, with a slightly larger center hole.

So, yes, you can buy new bobbins instead of the extra cost for antique or vintage bobbins. You can sew with them. However, to save trouble, I recommend finding older bobbins if you can. They are certainly worth the additional cost.

I’ve learned a few other tricks worth mentioning. If you have used an electric machine most of your life as I have, you’ve surely gotten used to modern conveniences, such as automatic forward/backward stitching to lock in your starts/stops. Old treadles stitch only forward.

So, you can make a few stitches (about 1/2 inch), and then pivot on the needle to turn the fabric 180 degrees and reverse your line of stitching back to your starting point. Then stitch forward again. This takes extra time and is awkward when sewing large pieces.

threading

Bring the thread from the spool, through the small wheel at the top of the presser-foot assembly, down to the spring (1), up to the take-up lever (2), and down to the needle (3).

An easier method of locking in your stitches is to start out with very short stitches (I set mine on 0). Stitch about half an inch and then increase the stitch length to about 4. As you near the end of your line of stitching, reduce the stitch length again to 0 or 1 for the last half an inch.

And, since there is no zigzag stitch for finishing seams, I stitch about 1/8 inch away from the seam in places where I fear the fabric could unravel over time. In places of stress or with loosely woven fabric, I’ll make a flat-fell seam, turning under the raw edges. If there is an easier solution, I’d love to hear about it.

So, even without 1,000 stitches to choose from, I absolutely love my old treadle and wouldn’t trade it for all the bobbins in China. The stitches are smooth and uniform, even when sewing through eight layers of heavy denim.

ThreadingThis is also the easiest machine to thread, oil and adjust. With my fancy electric machines, I would often scowl when it was time to rethread or wind a bobbin because it was a nuisance. No longer. Threading the machine takes just a few seconds.

I have not tried out any of the attachments yet for my machine, but will get around to it on the next snowy day. Check back soon to learn more about sewing with a treadle.

To see some of the projects completed on my treadle, click here and here. Also, be sure to see our Homestead Sewn Preps page to purchase our unique, treadle-sewn items to make life easier. Incidentally, we re-purpose quality 100-percent cotton fabric whenever possible, keeping discarded garments from landfills.

© 2013-2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™

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Think Your Public or Bottled Water is Safe?

Before hopping a northbound Greyhound to visit my daughter recently, I went online to buy her a good, long-lasting water filter to strain the fluoride, bleach, birth control pills, drugs, bug killer and other mysterious poisons from her St. Paul, Minn., drinking water. What better birthday gift, eh?Columbia River

The selection was astounding – a virtual array of filtration devices that eliminate the above-mentioned contaminants, plus a host more, including iron, hydrogen sulfide, lead, mercury, calcium carbonate, magnesium, chromium, bacteria, algae and fungi. A radiation filter even removes Iodine -131 , Radium-226, Strontium-90, Cesium-137, Uranium-238, Ionic contaminants, Hexavalent Chromium and more.

Columbia RiverI wondered, how did all this junk get in our water in the first place?

Overwhelmed, I got on the horn with Hilary Ohm, owner of Highwater Filters in Colville, Wash., who walked me through various filters and applications.

“Municipal systems test for certain things,” Hilary told me, “but they go for the low-hanging fruit, the contaminants easiest to detect. There are just a myriad of others that are not tested for, such as hexavalent chromium (remember “Erin Brockovich”?).”

Hilary explained that fluoride is actually a rat poison and dangerous at high levels, but is used in many municipal systems to prevent tooth decay. Advocates believe it’s a harmless and effective additive; those opposed doubt its safety and are concerned about potential health effects. Another controversial public-water additive is chlorine, widely used to kill bacteria.

“What is that doing to our bodies that are full of good bacteria?” Hilary asked.

Highwater Filter

This handsome unit also eliminates fluoride

I eventually picked out an attractive countertop model Hilary recommended based on my daughter’s location and needs. To my surprise, the filter arrived in Minnesota before I did, and even included additional instructions and a birthday greeting from Hilary.

Because my daughter lives in a historic 1920’s building with a kitchen sink big enough to bathe in, but no counter space, we visited Goodwill for a shelf and brackets. Everything was installed in 30 minutes.

Then it was time to relax.

With rare time for loafing, I called to chat with Hilary about water pollution. I was intrigued with her business blog, Highwater Marks, which includes her thoughts on fracking, river salinization, ocean acidification, drought, energy production and future of water.

Three Mile IslandAs it turns out, Hilary has been an environmental advocate for 30 years. As a Plattsburgh, N.Y., college student in the early 1980s, Hilary was among the throngs of hippies and activists who protested against environmental degradation. She turned down a college basketball scholarship to “save the world.”

Since 1999, Hilary has served on the board of “Citizens for a Clean Columbia” in northeastern Washington. The group worked closely with the Colville Confederated Native American tribe and State of Washington to compel a Canadian lead and zinc mining company, Teck Comingo, to be held accountable for tens of thousands of tons of toxic slag dumped into the Columbia River for almost 100 years.Hilary Ohm 1979

The coalition also demanded the Environmental Protection Agency study the slag’s effect on water, soil, fish and wildlife, recreation and local human health, among other things. The studies, funded by Teck, are now being conducted, but due to complexities have taken close to a decade to be completed.

So, it is only natural for someone with intimate knowledge of the dangers lurking in our water to now own an online water-filter business and continue to advocate for clean water.

Columbia River snow

“If you were to see the beauty of this area, you would understand,” Hilary said when I asked how she fits environmental activism into her schedule. “I think we all deserve to have clean air and water.”

Hilary explained, because of humanity’s lifestyle, it is inevitable we must deal with dangerous byproducts. Since we have to live with these materials, we need to do all we can to minimize the damages for future generations, she said.

Buying the web-based business was purely accidental, Hilary said. When her position at a Microsoft call center was outsourced several years ago, Hilary looked online for a way to support herself, yet remain in the remote area she loves. That’s when she stumbled across a water-filter business for sale.

“It fit perfectly with my passion for clean water,” Hilary said.

Hilary said losing her job was a humbling experience that motivated her to help make the change she envisions for our country – a vision that includes vibrant small businesses competing in the marketplace and pure drinking water for everyone. She believes in giving back and supports charities that provide clean water to those in need.Hilary Ohm poster

When Hilary discovered the company for sale, it sold only Swiss-made Katadyn water filter products. Under the new name of Highwater Filters, the business quickly expanded to include a wide variety of American-made water treatment products.

“We believe in supporting U.S. manufacturers who use American workers to produce their products,” Hilary said. Highwater Filters also emphasizes non-electric water treatment and explains why buying water bottled in plastic containers (which is unregulated) is not a healthy or convenient choice.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical used in some plastics, including many water bottles. Studies have shown that it can seep from plastic into food and beverages,” according to Hilary’s Highwater Filters’ blog. “Although the FDA currently considers it safe in small amounts, evidence is building that it could have negative effects on children and fetuses, even in small doses.”

In 2006, a panel of experts concluded: “BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals.”

Hilary said the FDA is continuing to study the effects of BPA, but has yet to recommend a total ban.

Even those of us with deep drilled wells aren’t guaranteed of pristine water. Arsenic is just one of the toxins common in wells.

Perhaps if we had heeded the warnings of scores of environmental activists like Hilary in the 1970s, we might not be buying expensive bottled water today.

“Our reserves of clean drinking water are dwindling,” Hilary said. “Every time clean water gets polluted with harmful chemicals, there is less. As the population grows, the demand is even greater.”

To learn more about Highwater Filters products, visit the site and Hilary’s Highwater Marks blog.

Photos of the beautiful Columbia River in northern Washington State taken by Hilary Ohm. Hilary also provided the historic photos of her early activism. She is still active today, protecting the Columbia River, among other environmental endeavors.

© 2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™

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Snow Time is Sew Time for Pocket Preps

Sometimes a big, old snowstorm can really get the creative juices flowing. Last weekend was like that here.

snow sewWe already had a mass of good oak firewood on the porch when the sleet started coming down Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, the roads were blocked with a foot of snow, so even if we wanted to go anywhere, which we didn’t, we couldn’t.

With outside temperatures in the teens, it was perfect weather for putting a few hundred miles on my antique White rotary treadle sewing machine. I was sewing up a storm, first restocking dishtowels and washcloths by cutting up an old blanket. Next, I finished a quilt and made placemats and potholders with the extra fabric squares.quilt on line

Then it was time for new ideas for my Jeans OVERhauled business. We call our new merchandise line “Pocket Preps,” concentrating on practical, durable products for everyday use. Just like my other products, we use 100-percent cotton recycled fabric whenever possible.

The first Pocket Prep item, which, incidentally, Darren sketched for me, is a denim placemat with pockets and a napkin that rolls into a compact bundle, keeping silverware clean and organized. No more will we discover, 100 miles from home, that we’ve forgotten our salad forks or soup spoons. We call this handy accessory our Pocket Meal Prep. It is ideal for the bug-out bag, camping, glamping and with your lunchbox.

pocket prep picnicThe Pocket Meal Prep mat exterior is made of upcycled jeans, lined with colorful plaid fabric and padded with 100-percent cotton jersey material.

I also make the napkins of cotton so they actually absorb moisture, unlike polyester napkins that look pretty, but are basically useless.

pocket prep roll

When you’re on the go or camping, simply untie the mat, spread it on your lap, table or the ground, and you’re ready to be served. The pockets hold silverware, toothpicks and even small condiment packets so they are always at hand. One mat (with the silverware and napkin inside) rolls up to about 12″ by 2″, depending on your utensil sizes .

Like all of my Jeans OVERhauled products, I double- and triple-stitch seams wherever stress may be applied. I guarantee my products, including my Super-Tuff firewood carriers, to hold up to the everyday rigors of life. Everything is machine washable.

quiltingAs snow continued to pile up outside, I also spent many hour restocking my other products for the homestead and garden – clothespin bags, kitchen and fireplace mitts, aprons and placemats.

You can see photos and learn more about our products here. I also love special orders. Perhaps you have an old shirt you’ld like to see in a quilt — or how about lining a Pocket Meal Prep? Send it to me. I can give it new life as a useful item for your home.

What do people without a treadle sewing machine do when it’s snowing outside? I shudder to think of it.

© 2013 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™ ♦ Pocket Preps™

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Bring Back Victory Gardens

As the U.S. government begins scaling back its Food Stamp Program, I wonder how 48 million recipients (almost 1 of every 6 Americans) are being advised to make the transition to reduced or discontinued benefits. Cuts loom ahead, too, for Social Security and other programs.canning

Is home gardening ever encouraged as a way to offset the escalating cost of, well, just about everything?

Some say it would be cruel to ask people to grow some of their own food as Americans did during the first two world wars. Literature from those eras, however, indicates people felt good about contributing, they saved money, enjoyed better health and had fun gardening with their families and communities.

We can certainly attest to all those rewards. Also, we are assured our food is organic. How did gardens (and clotheslines!) ever become symbols of poverty anyway? We consider them icons of abundance, fitness and good stewardship.

front coverOne of my favorite gardening guides is a World War II booklet put out by International Harvester Company that covers everything from cold frames to compost, pest control and root cellars.

“Get at the garden in time. Make a plan for it. Hang it on the wall. Talk about it … Make up your mind when you will plant the different things — then plant them,” the booklet advises.

Now, here’s the part I really like:

“Take care of it; it won’t take care of itself. Anything worth having is worth working for. What isn’t worth working for isn’t worth anything. A good garden will make the home more homelike.”

cold framesI found the 80-page booklet among some old cookbooks. It had obviously been referred to many times through the years, and even has a carefully mended front cover. Although the photos are tiny, Page 3 compares a bountiful garden in North Dakota to another where people have lived for years “and still no sign of growing anything to eat.”

“Grow Your Living,” the booklet warns. “It May Not Be Available for You to Buy.”

When International Harvester composed the booklet, the food stamp program was new, initiated as a temporary benefit that was discontinued two years before the war ended.

EBT snafu

We hope last week’s Electronic Benefit Transfer system debacle in Louisiana does not reveal how people will behave if they fear their benefits might cease or food becomes scarce.

During a two-hour glitch that temporarily disabled EBT card limits in several states, Walmart shoppers in two Louisiana stores filled their carts to overflowing. Some customers reportedly pulled trains of 8 to 10 carts through the store or returned for more free groceries after bringing one load home, according to online reports.school garden

When the system was restored, people abandoned their full carts in store aisles and checkout lines. One Springhill woman walked away from her $700 bill at the checkout as she had only 49 cents on her card.

Meanwhile, we wonder – what were people thinking? Did they fear the system was down for good and they needed to stockpile? (Hoarding food is never a sustainable solution.) Have people become utterly dependent on the system?

End of surpluses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Stamp Program has been reworked a few times since it was created in May 1939. It was discontinued from 1943 to 1961 “since the conditions that brought the program into being—unmarketable food surpluses and widespread unemployment—no longer existed,” according to the USDA website. So, it is not unthinkable the program could disappear again.gardens

Originally, recipients bought stamps that came in two colors: orange for any food product and blue for surplus. For every dollar of orange stamps bought, the buyer received 50 cents of blue stamps for free, which were exchanged for agricultural surplus items, such as milk, eggs or cheese.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy introduced a food stamp pilot program that no longer included surplus foods. The stamps still were purchased, although the cost was incrementally reduced. The USDA maintained that stamps should continue to be sold so as not to undermine the dignity of recipients. Three years later, Congress made the Food Stamp Program permanent.compost men

The next major change came in 1977 when food stamps were no longer required to be purchased. The move to stop selling stamps disappointed many who had supported the program as a means to help the poor help themselves, not as a direct government handout.

Food Stamp budget cuts

Last month, the government announced a $4 billion food stamp budget cut that will affect everyone on the program now and for future applicants. An estimated 4 million people will be cut from the program in 2014. It is estimated that at least 1 to 3 million will be cut each consecutive year for the next decade.

FoodStamp.org posted some reconstruction solutions, which includes removing illegal immigrants from the program. Currently, children born to illegal immigrants in the United States are entitled to benefits, as are their illegal alien parents. Is it any wonder we can no longer support this program?compost man

Proposed agricultural solutions include farmers markets, donations and co-ops where recipients work for their food. FoodStamp.org says these solutions “seem barbaric to some progressives and others.”

A few quick online searches revealed little practical preparation ideas for recipients to wean themselves from the program. FoodStamp.org suggests that single, able-bodied participants find work or create a nutrition plan such as vegetarianism or a sustainable and self-reliant food lifestyle.

Another option is to combine vegetables with meat, grains, dairy, or other foods to make them last longer throughout the week. FoodStamp.org goes on to recommend ways to make vegetables more interesting, especially for children, by smothering them in dips and sauces. Or, coat celery sticks with peanut butter and decorate with raisins. Also, exchange recipes with Facebook friends.

Some of this seems silly to me, but is actually more advice than I found on the USDA’s site. To its credit, FoodStamp.org also included a short blog about gardening as a suggestion. The food stamp program now allows recipients to buy seeds. Finally — an idea for sustainability.

good gardenTeaching people to grow food

The USDA was not initially keen on promoting home gardening. When First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a vegetable garden on the White House grounds, USDA leaders worried her example would hurt industrial agriculture.

Eventually, however, the government endorsed household and community food plots and supplied gardening literature. The USDA also issued a 20-minute film to promote and train people how to plant victory gardens.

The call to plant a Victory Garden was answered by nearly 20 million Americans during World War II.  Those backyard plots produced up to 40 percent of all that was consumed. When prosperity resumed, however, many gardens were abandoned.

Today, as food prices continue to climb and more people are unable to feed their households as before, it is time to relearn those skills. As they did in Cuba when their economy collapsed, we should be planting food anywhere we can – on rooftops, in window boxes, along the sidewalk, next to the garage – anywhere there is dirt. Even without soil, a couple big jars of sprouts growing on the kitchen counter are an excellent source of nutrition.victory badge

Modern gardening experts such as Marjory Wildcraft and John Jeavons say we don’t need to plow up the whole back 40 to feed our families. Marjory laughs how she made the mistake of tilling an entire acre for her first garden and ended up with an acre of weeds. Instead, she says now, start small – and keep growing.

Perhaps it is time to bring back Victory Gardens.

garden tips

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Composting Explained in 1881 Household Cyclopedia

When I was young, my mother sent us out every evening to bury the day’s apple cores, carrot tops and hickory nut hulls in the garden. And, because we ate so much wild game, we always had animal innards, bones, skin and other scraps to get rid of. Our neighbors also gave us all the free cow manure we could pitch.sheep

It grossed me out as a kid to put all that stuff in the garden, but Mom had it right – we were imitating nature.

The “1881 Household Cyclopedia of General Information” includes much information about enriching soil. Best of all, it’s from the days before chemical fertilizers. By comparison, a 1940 textbook, “The Earth and Its People,” applauds the invention of manmade fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides for increasing food production.

old bookAccording to the 1940 text, “By practicing more intensive cultivation, by using greater quantities of fertilizers and by taking advantage of scientific discoveries, the production per acre of the leading food crops of the United States can be increased greatly.”

I prefer the older book.

The cyclopedia explains the basics of plant structure and why good soil was vital for a successful harvest, and likely meant having enough to feed a family through winter. Only a lazy farmer was not continually building up his soil. And to neglect the earth meant to have poor vegetables and crops.

“The best natural soils,” according to the book, “are those where the materials have been derived from the breaking up and decomposition, not of one stratum or layer, but of many divided minutely by air and water, and minutely blended together: and in improving soils by artificial additions, the farmer cannot do better than imitate the processes of nature.”1881 cyclopedia

Although the 813-page book was published in 1881, it contains information from farming practices in use before the Civil War, according to the authors. My mother started gardening in the 1950s; but when others were using chemicals in their gardens, she favored the old-time methods – compost and manure.

The old book applies the term “manure” indiscriminately to all substances known from experience either to enrich the soil or contribute in another way to render it more favorable to vegetation. Healing the soil, the book reports, is just like healing a body.

“In an agricultural point of view, the subject of manures is of the first magnitude,” the book states. “To correct what is hurtful to vegetation in the different soils, and to restore what is lost by exhausting crops, are operations in agriculture which may be compared to the curing of diseases in the animal body, or supplying the waste occasioned by labor.”

horsesLike other household hint books on the era, the Cyclopedia is compiled of 10,000 submissions by farmers and home gardeners on topics from 80 topics from agriculture to wine-making. The book states the following conclusions may be regarded as scientifically sustained, as well as confirmed by practical experience:

Organic Manures

1. Fresh human urine yields nitrogen in greater abundance to vegetation than any other material of easy acquisition. The urine of animals is valuable for the same purpose, but not equally so. Still, none should be wasted.

2. The mixed excrements of man and animals yield (if carefully preserved from further decomposition), not only nitrogen, but other invaluable saline and earthy matters that have been already extracted in food from the soil.

(NOTE: A 1972 Mother Earth News story by Elizabeth Allyn details how to compost and use human excrement. Allyn writes, “We rake the privy’s contents down the slope, cover the peaks with the rest, and sprinkle it all again with ashes and earth. About once a year we load the plateau of compost on the spreader and take it out to the fields or haul it by cart to the garden where it’s used as top dressing. It’s only work … the material smells like sweet earth.”)

3. Animal substances such as urine, flesh, and blood decompose rapidly and are fitted to operate immediately and powerfully on vegetation.

4. Dry animal substances (horn, hair, or woolen rags) decompose slowly and (weight for weight) contain a greater quantity of organized as well as unorganized materials. Their influence may be manifested for several seasons.

5. Finely crushed bones, acting like horns in so far as their animal matter is concerned, may ameliorate the soil by their earthy matter for a long period (even if the jelly they contain has been injuriously removed by the size maker), permanently improving the soil condition and adding to the natural capabilities of the land.

Using animal manures

“Dung is the mother of good crops,” the book states, adding that the best plan for cheaply and easily gathering a large quantity for a clay-land farm is to feed grass to livestock during summer.Devon bull

Livestock manure varies in sustenance by the animals’ diets. The book recommends not letting early springtime weeds go to waste as they pop up in fencerows or alongside buildings. Cut those nutritious weeds and feed them to your animals. You’ll be rewarded for your labor.

“In a word, the dung of animals fed upon green clover, may justly be reckoned the richest of all dung. It may, from the circumstances of the season, be rapidly prepared, and may be applied to the ground at a very early period, much earlier than any other sort of dung can be used with advantage.”

Also, the practice of soiling or feeding horses or cattle in the barn or farmyard is eminently calculated to increase the quantity and abundance of manure on every farm. In the 1800s, feeding horses in the summer months on green clover and ryegrass was a common practice in grain districts where farm labor was available.

“The utility of the practice does not need the support of argument, for it is not only economical to the farmer, but saves much fatigue to the poor animal; besides, the quantity of dung thereby gathered is considerable.”

Keep your water source clean

Positioning and management of the pile is also important to obtain the best quality compost in shortest amount of time.

“When driven out of the fold-yard, the dung should be laid up in a regular heap or pile not exceeding six quarters, or four feet and a half in height; and care should be taken not to put either horse or cart upon it, which is easily avoided by backing the cart to the pile, and laying the dung compactly together with a grape or fork.”

In other words, don’t smash the manure pile. Also cover the outer edges of the pile with dirt to keep in moisture and prevent wind and sun from depleting nutrients. A small quantity of earth scattered on the top is also beneficial.

“Dung, when managed in this manner, generally ferments very rapidly; but if it is discovered to be in a backward state, a complete turn over about the 1st of May when the weather becomes warm will quicken the process.” The better the manure is “shaken asunder,” the sooner it will become usable compost.

When starting the pile, select a secluded spot not exposed to wind or where water pools. The pile should also be downhill from and at least 100 feet from water sources to keep from polluting your freshwater.old manure pit

To save trouble later, start the pile in the garden or field where it is to be used. It is also most convenient to have the manure pile near the homestead.

“There it is always under the farmer’s eye, and a greater quantity can be moved in a shorter time than when the situation is more distant. Besides, in wet weather (and this is generally the time chosen for such an operation), the roads are not only cut up by driving to a distance, but the field on which the heap is made may be poached and injured considerably.”

More resources

Read this 1972 article in Mother Earth News story to learn more about composting human excrement. To learn more old-time homesteading skills, you can view a free online version of the Household Cyclopedia here.our garden

The best modern-day instruction on making compost we have seen, by far, is Marjory Wildcraft’s “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series. Among dozens of other topics, she goes well beyond explaining how to use rabbit droppings. She also shows how to raise and butcher them, completing the cycle.

 

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How To Measure Your Well and Static Water Level

First WaterBoyCheck your static water level

The easiest way to check your static (resting) water level is to tie a small weight (such as a metal nut) to a string, and lower it into the well. First, flip off the electric breaker, and remove the well cap, which is usually held by 3 bolts.

For the most accurate reading, turn off the pump for at least two hours before checking the level. Lower the weight into the well, and then mark the string with tape, a knot, or marker when the weight reaches the water level.  You will hear the weight hit the water (a bloop sound), and you will feel a slight slack in the string tension.

Your static water level will be higher than the depth of the drilled well.  For instance, our well is drilled to 245′, but the water comes up to 80′ from the surface.

Once you know the static water level, that will give you an idea what type of pump to put in.  And, just in case, a well bucket is a sure way to get water in a long-term emergency. Buckets work at any depth without electricity.

Measure your well casing

To determine the inside diameter of your well and the size of bucket you’ll need, flip off the electric breaker and then remove the cap, which is usually held by 3 bolts. A simple hand wrench will do.

flashlight in a well

 

You will see wires and the water pipe, either PVC or iron. Shine a light into the well.

well with a liner

 

 

 

 

If your well has a  4″ liner, you will see it down about 3 feet into the well. The photo shows a well with a liner, which looks like a shiny ring on the photo. This well also has a pit-less adapter and a strap to hold up the well liner.  The pump must be removed from this well before a bucket can be used.

 

measure you well

Measure the inside diameter of the well pipe. It will be anywhere from 4-8 inches.

A 6-inch well without a liner can use a 4-inch or smaller bucket, although we recommend the largest size because it holds more water. If you have a 4″ liner, you will need the 3-inch slim-line bucket.

To use a WaterBoy Well Bucket

  • In drilled wells, have the pump and drop pipe removed if one is installed.
  • Measure the static water level as explained above.
  • To avoid contaminating the well or water drawn from the well, do not rest the bucket bottom on the ground before or during use. Keep hands away from the water discharge area and do not allow the rope to pick up soil during use.
  • The bucket can be sanitized with a weak bleach/water solution before use.
  • Attach the well bucket securely to a strong braided (not twisted) polypropylene rope or wire cable more than long enough to reach the water (at least 10 feet longer than the static water level, plus about 20 extra feet at the surface for tying off, looping through a pulley, etc.). If raising the bucket by hand, use 1/2” inch rope or larger. If using a windlass, a smaller diameter rope or wire cable can be used.

WaterBoy bucket rope

  • Secure the end of the rope to a stationary object such as a tripod or post so it is not accidentally dropped down the well.
  • It is easiest to lower and raise the bucket with a pulley system with a sturdy tripod, although not necessary. A windlass is best for deep wells.

WaterBoy bucket and tripod

  • Slowly lower the bucket into the well (Do not let unit freefall) until reaching the water. Lower the bucket about 5 feet into the water. The bucket will fill automatically as it is submerged, and then seal as it is raised.
  • Retrieve the bucket slowly by hoisting it up by hand, pulley, windlass or whatever method was employed. Do not jerk up the well bucket.
  • Once at the surface, position the bucket over a clean container. Grasp the handle and pull up on the thumb-lever. When the bucket is empty, release the thumb-lever. The bottom seal will then close and the bucket is ready to be lowered into the well again. Repeat as necessary.
  • Drain all water from the bucket before storing in a clean, dry area.

Using a WaterBoy Well Bucket

 

 

 

 

bucket instructions

 

 

 

 

 

WaterBoy bucket instructions

© 2013 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™

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Living with Radiated Rainwater

Here in the Ozarks, we are expanding our growing areas, relearning old-time skills, acquiring hand tools and building human-powered devices while we still can. But, preparing for radioactive rain? We hadn’t thought of that.ocean water

While global warming seemed a fairytale to many 25 years ago, I boycotted Styrofoam, aerosol sprays, pesticides, paper towels and household chemicals after reading “The End of Nature” by Bill McKibben and Al Gore’s “Earth in the Balance.” Just one little human, I hoped to help Earth live a few more centuries.

I skimmed over forewarnings of nuclear mishaps, atomic bombs and radiation contamination though. I thought if it ever came to that, life on this planet would cease, so what was the point?

But now that an incalculable mess of radioactive elements is rolling across the Pacific Ocean, I want to know more. It’s real, it’s lethal and it isn’t going to just disappear.

Australian environmentalist Dr. Helen Caldicott said in a recent news article she knew “the world would never be the same again” after the March 2011 tsunami crashed into the Fukushima, Japan nuclear complex.

“No nuclear reactor can withstand being drowned in a massive wave of water without catastrophic consequences,” she said. Caldicott has opposed nuclear power, depleted uranium munitions, nuclear weapons proliferation and war for decades. Her books include “Nuclear Madness” (1978) and “Nuclear Power is not the Answer” (2006).

She warned us this could happen.

water over rocksRemember how horrifying acid rain seemed 30 years ago? On its way to earth, rain picked up sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from industrial emissions, killing 300-year-old cedars in the Northeast. Dead fish floated in lakes. Birds fell from the sky. In Europe, poisoned rainfall eroded noses from marble statues.

Instead of nourishing and revitalizing life, rain became something to fear.

We don’t hear much about acid rain anymore. Perhaps it’s because we actually made headway in cleaning up our act, reducing U.S. emissions by as much as 67 percent from 1995 to 2011, according to a Sept. 12 Mother Jones.com article by Henry Grabar.

Now, rain is scary again – more terrifying than ever.

The radiation contaminating the Pacific is not a West Coast problem or economic crisis or even a temporary one. Our globe is a closed system. All the water here now is all that has ever been here. The water I washed our clothes in today passed through a pterodactyl 200 million years ago.

This isn’t a new concept. I learned that in grade school in the 1960s. Water evaporates from our puddles, ponds and oceans, accumulates in our atmosphere and falls again to the earth, replenishing rain barrels, rivers and aquifers. It goes up, it comes down, and on and on it goes.

Three-fourths of the Earth is covered with water, but less than 1 percent of that is accessible, fresh water. Two percent is frozen and most of the rest is salty. Picture this – If all of the Earth’s water fit into a gallon jug, only one tablespoon of that is water we can drink.

water not drinkableWhile in Vietnam, I didn’t even have to ask whether the water was safe to drink. The answer was firmly mounted above the sink in my luxurious hotel room:

“Water is not drinkable.”

In a Vietnamese market, I watched as a woman lowered a plastic one-gallon container on a rope to retrieve water to rinse lettuce to sell. Shallow, open wells will eventually no longer be safe to use.

woman at the well

The United States has one of the safest drinking water systems in the world, according to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, Americans dump 1 billion tons of chemical pesticides on our land annually, according to a 2012 Environmental Protection Agency report. We pour costly poisons on our lawns and then buy outrageously expensive bottled water to drink.

As disturbing as that fact is, the news of 270,000 tons of contaminated water coming from Japan in the past 30 months (and still being released at 300 tons per day) is cataclysmically more alarming.

As we all hear more about radioactive elements and inert noble gases released into our air and water, people have begun calling to ask if radioactive particles can be filtered naturally from water. We sell well buckets and manual pumps. I can only imagine the calls water filter suppliers are receiving.

“There is no safe amount of radiation exposure. Every little bit is added to our burden,” Highwater Filters owner Hilary Ohm said when I called to ask about radiation filters. “Any reduction will help.”

Our unsophisticated human senses cannot detect radiation around us. It cannot be felt, seen, tasted or heard, but it is there, accumulating in our bodies until it eventually makes us ill, generally in the form of cancer.waterglass

Ohm, too, has protested against the use of nuclear power since the 1970s and became friends with Caldicott after hearing her speech “If You Love this Planet,” the recording of which was censored by the U.S. Justice Department as foreign propaganda.

“We have to make nukes and fossil fuels things of the past,” Ohm said. “More people need to be aware of what is happening. At least we can pressure the government to shut down our nuclear power plants.”

Ohm cited as an example the nearly 40-year-old nuclear reactor at Indian Point, New York. The facilities are only designed with a 40-year lifespan, and appear poised for a 20-year permit extension. she said.

“If that one has a meltdown, it has the potential to affect millions of people,” Ohm said. Other aged reactors are spread across the country and world.

Admittedly, the outlook is grim. Still, as survivalists, we refuse to just give up or pretend it isn’t happening, although it will require preparations we hadn’t anticipated.

We have known since we were youngsters that eventually mankind would strip the world of its resources (some say by 2050) and lifestyles must change. We actually hoped we would live long enough to see the transformation and looked forward to a simpler way of life – one without cars, chaos, oil and electricity.

No longer would economic slavery claim 12 hours of our day, leaving little for family or relaxation, only enough to sleep until the cycle begins again. Ironically, the pursuit of luxuries that only abundant electricity could provide is what led us to this calamity of worldwide proportion.

In time, radiation decays – the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been rebuilt. Yet, 200 dangerous elements are being released now, much more than from those two horrendous bombs ― including cesium, tritium and iodine 131 and possibly plutonium, which can remain radioactive anywhere from a few seconds to tens of thousands of years.

Some beaches have reopened in Japan, although attracting only a fraction of tourists as in pre-tsunami years. Fishermen are at work again, bringing in smaller loads and being paid drastically less than before. Some Japanese fishermen, according to the Japan Times, have taken to trolling for tsunami debris (bicycles, appliances and building materials) instead of tuna.

There are things we can do, too, as we adjust to our altered environment. The following information is taken from the SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman and deals with radiation contamination after a nuclear blast, although many of the same principles apply to the current radiation threat:

Food – Root vegetables with edible tubers growing underground are safest, such as carrots, potatoes and turnips. Wash them well and peel before cooking. Smooth-skinned fruits and vegetables are next safest. Plants with crinkly foliage are the hardest to decontaminate and should be avoided. Animals that live underground (rabbits, badgers, voles) have less exposure to radiation than those that live on the surface. Wear gloves when handling carcasses and leave at least 1/8” of meat on the bone as most radiation is retained in the skeleton. Muscle and fat are the safest part of the meat. Discard all internal organs. Fish and aquatic animals will have a higher contamination than land animals from the same area. Birds will be particularly heavily contaminated and should not be eaten.

Water – Avoid water from lakes, pools, ponds and other static surface water. Filter all water and boil it before drinking. The following sources are the least contaminated (in order of least risk):

  1. Underground wells and springs
  2. Water in underground pipes and containers
  3. Snow taken from deep below the surface
  4. Fast-flowing rivers

hand pumpAgain, the above recommendations concern radioactive fallout after a nuclear explosion. However, time and distance from the source are still the best defense. Now it may be more important than ever to have a drilled well for your drinking water and a reliable way to access that water.

Filters – TRAP (Total Radioisotope Aqua Purifier) filters, which use ion exchange and zeolite to remove radioactive particles from drinking water, are effective, especially when combined with reverse osmosis methods. Distilling and reverse osmosis both are reported to be effective.

Obviously, these recommendations only help humans, the ones who created these enormous problems in the first place.

As of January this year, there are 437 nuclear reactors worldwide, according to the European Nuclear Society. How many are on fault lines or coasts? Can they withstand tsunami, earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters? Just how many Fukushima disasters will it take to eradicate all life?  Those who protested the building of nuclear power plants in the 1960s and 70s knew we had something to fear, didn’t they?

I realize it is too late for such questions now, but shouldn’t we have been more careful with our one tablespoon of water? Or did we simply plan to post signs by our sinks to warn us “Water is not drinkable?”

Or, just maybe, we can learn from our experience with acid rain of 40 years ago. We don’t have to live like this.

© 2013 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™

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‘Beyond Off-Grid’ Film Promotes Self-Reliance for a Lifetime

calamity

True freedom means not relying on the government or anyone else when disaster strikes, even if life never returns to normal.

Missouri filmmaker Sophek “Sean” Tounn is on the last leg of a three-year undertaking to help others think beyond preparing for a single-event disaster, and instead develop self-reliant skills to last a lifetime.

Citing Hurricane Sandy as an example, Tounn said the modern way of living is not beneficial to health or longevity. Many people have become too dependent on the government or others to help them survive a calamity.

sean tounn

Sean filming Darren with the WaterBuck Pump here in May

“This film is about living in such a way that we’re less dependent on outside entities,” Tounn said.

A 150-page booklet, “Henry and the Great Society,” spurred Tounn’s interest in survival, homesteading, permaculture and off-grid living about eight years ago when he came upon the fictional tale of a family’s happy life destroyed after connecting to the grid and becoming consumers – unhappy, unhealthy, debt-ridden, overworked and dependent.

Never forgetting what he had read years earlier, Tounn contacted agrarian author Michael Bunker about the possibility of a film that would include aspects of Bunker’s book, “Surviving Off Off-Grid: Decolonizing the Industrial Mind.” Bunker was skeptical at first because he is approached often by producers who are simply looking for material. When Bunker realized Tounn was sincerely interested in the lifestyle, he agreed to participate in the project.

michael bunker

Agrarian author Michael Bunker

Last year, Tounn began rounding up and filming specialists in a range of homesteading topics all across America for “Beyond Off-Grid,” a documentary to inspire people to become self-sustaining. The film is comprised of five major sections – family, food, history, natural building and water.

 

rick austin

Survivalist Gardener Rick Austin

“People think of water as an unlimited resource, but they don’t realize how it is controlled by only about 10 major corporations,” Tounn said on a recent Preparedness Radio Network Secrets of a Survivalist program with host Rick Austin, author of the “Secret Garden of Survival.” Austin is featured in the documentary as an off-grid, permaculture expert, who is now in his third season of forest gardening.

To be truly free, Tounn said, people must live completely independent of the grid – including the food grid, electrical grid and water grid.

Although Austin grew up in the country with an apple orchard and has gardened most of his life, he didn’t have all the skills he needed when he embarked on an off-grid lifestyle in the Appalachian Mountains. Austin said he began researching how ancient societies survived without electricity and refrigeration, relatively modern amenities.

rick austin

Rick Austin with his bees

“They did it for thousands of years,” Austin said of living without refrigeration. Austin said he is actively acquiring the skills to live off-grid comfortably and for a lifetime.

Also on the radio program with Tounn, “Beyond Off-Grid” executive producer Jason Matyas, founder of True Food Solutions, said he believes the United States is in a slow economic collapse that could accelerate at any time. Unemployment is more likely at about 25 percent overall, and 40 percent in areas such as Detroit, instead of the meager 10 percent reported officially.

“Government policies are only making it worse,” Matyas said of the unemployment crisis.

Matyas said that unless people are growing their own food and establishing networks now with their neighbors to buy locally and in bulk, they may become nameless victims in a catastrophe. It does not matter how much gold you have if you can’t grow your own food, he said.

“If you opt for convenience over the work it takes to be self-reliant, you will forever be a slave to the system,” Austin added, explaining how some have questioned why he spends time gardening and canning produce.

wranglerstar

Cody Crone at his off-grid home

Others in the film include Cody Crone, who lives with his family off-grid in the Pacific Northwest. Crone, also known as Wranglerstar on YouTube. Crone said he has taken a holistic approach to beekeeping, forsaking the protective suit and smoke, and has never been stung.

scott howard

Scott Howard of Earthen Hand

Another participant is Scott Howard, CEO of Earthen Hand Natural Building, a company specializing in building homes of rammed earth, cobb or adobe gathered near the construction site rather than hauling in expensive, prefabricated materials. Even people who have no construction experience can sculpt their own home, Howard said in an online video clip.

paul wheaton

Permaculture expert Paul Wheaton

In another clip, permaculture expert Paul Wheaton of Permies.com, a large online forum site, said people are getting sick from high-tech solutions instead of using the low-tech remedies provided in nature.

Author Marjory Wildcraft, a former financial consultant who has traveled the world to speak to survivors of modern economic collapse, will explain, among other things, how to build self-reliant communities and embrace the lifestyle.

“Many people turn towards prepping and self-reliance out of concern for possible collapse,” Wildcraft said. “But really, this is a lifestyle that is ultimately the wisest choice for humanity. I’ve found greater and greater satisfaction and joy the more I let go of dependencies on the system.”

Bunker, who has authored several survival-related books, said most “preppers” store a supply of food and buy a generator with the mindset of “making it through to the end” of a calamity. Their idea is that life will eventually return to normal, he said.

That line of thinking is consumer-based rather than production-based, Bunker said, explaining the huge difference between prepping for an event and practicing a lifestyle of production.

When Darren was filmed here in May, he related how many people also overlook the need to have a reliable way to get fresh water without any source of electricity.

“People will spend thousands of dollars on a micro-grid system to run their whole house,” Darren said, “but will spend as little as possible for a manual water pump. Yet, water is critically more important than convenience and gadgets.”

The film is set to be released at the end of the year or early 2014 depending on funding. Presenting it to the public is a mission fulfilled for Tounn.

“I just want people to know, the old-path way might be hard at first, but look toward the future — the future of your children, your community, your country,” Tounn said. “A stronger bond with family and more a peaceful way of life are reasons enough to explore this way of living.”

To learn more about the film, see video segments or to donate to the project, visit www.beyondoffgrid.com. To see more photos, visit our earlier blog. Also, you can read my first blog on Mother Earth News about this exciting project. Donate $30 or more to help complete the film on time, and you’ll get a copy of the DVD in the mail.

© 2013 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™

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