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level 10,000 ultra-purist wooden, bamboo, glass, or ceramic pipes discussion thread

 
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This is coming out of discussions about how you handle the minutiae of indoor plumbing and Paul's idea of the extra-pure "level-10,000" toxin-free land.

Also: https://permies.com/t/121863/Cedar-plank-drain-land-reclamation#980250 .  I Just wanted to link this related post in...in the meaningless drivel section. It talks about pipes of wood for drainage and town-level water transport, some of which have survived for decades or more without rotting.  

I posted on there and I'm putting it here too:

Crazy idea--what if you wanted to use wood for indoor plumbing for hot showers? accepting that it wouldn't last for long, and assuming you're not pressurizing the hot water...has this been done?
bamboo?
wood with ceramic interior?
semi-pipes (just a U-shaped cross-section shaped thing, that carries water like an aqueduct without actually enclosing it?

(Let's assume that someone is a die-hard and has the patience for the amount of work this would take and just really doesn't want copper or plastic of any sort...someone like, oh, Paul, in the 10,000-level part of the land...)

Then I read in the plumping forum here about municipal pipes of wood and bamboo in New York City that had lasted for a decades...

I also have Fukuoka's voice in my head these days, having just reread and finished the whole of One Straw Revolution.  I keep thinking, Can't this be simpler? do I really need what I think I need out of this part of my life (pipes, favors, convenience) or is that really just an illusion?

Maybe the "wooden bucket" really is a better idea in a lot of situations if I'm honest with myself?

Also, I need to get up to speed on knowing what the specific purposes of plumbing are.  Breaking this down into functions:

Heated:
hot water for washing dishes
hot water for washing hands
hot water for bathing/showering (this is especially important for my partner)
heat for my body for health (also very important--doesn't need to be hot water necessarily, but something like a hot water bottle that won't burn me but has high thermal storage capacity and some flexibility--a bean bag is OK but water bottles keep their heat a lot longer)

Cool:
Transferring water from underground to your home, a storage or pressurized pipe indoors where it's kept above freezing year-round (in cold climate this is the only option in the winter, it seems, well or if you win the land lottery a spring that's reliable--if there's a spring then getting the water from the spring requires an underground pipe below the frost line or a short enough path and continuous flow through or something)
Transferring water from there to washing dishes, washing hands, washing bodies (hot water temperature regulation), and washing clothes

Am I leaving anything out?  
(Sewage and septic are a separate topic, I'm assuming optimistically that I can do a willow feeder compost toilet)


 
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If I really wanted to do something like you are discussing I would use ceramic pipes, you could make them in the right size and with the right bends and connections for your specific set up, the only issue I can see would be hot water, where they would be a horrible heat sink, probably not good for short runs of hot water like hand washing.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks, Skandi!  I hadn't even thought about the thermal mass factor. There's always _something_.

One solution for that could be to stack functions (lightly)--use that pipe for hanging things to dry? as a radiant heat source for comfort before and after showering? as a way to keep the cat in one place and out of trouble?  as a way to accidentally off the cat with no witnesses?  

It's making me aware of the value of not having to move water too far.  

What if you could drill you well inside your house?  I'm guessing there's a really good reason for not doing this, as I've never heard of it, but I can't immediately think of it.  Is it far too much humidity indoors??
[Edited to add: someone on This Old House website, responding to a question about a dug well found indoors an 1700's house, basically said "just have a water test and use it and cover the top so it no one falls in.":
"You don't mention if the well is in use. If it is not do as Ed21 mentioned or check the local extension office. There are strict regulations regarding how you abandon a well including what you have to do to fill it safely. If it is in use, many dug wells are still used, then a water test would be proper, and a concrete lid could be installed but it would need to be done in such a way to allow access to any existing foot valve or pump.

Jack"

I suppose the question is that usually the dowsed place that has the best water is not the place that's suitable for building a European-style home that a colonist would build.  But if you're building an earth-integrated house/wofati maybe that changes things??]



What if you could have your shower right next to the elevated, _non-pressurized_ (see? I did good, Erica and Ernie!), hot water tank?
What if the steam from overflow from the tank being heated (or overflow pipe from thermal mass barrel--if you do the Geoff Lawton thing and the "tank" is just a barrel of water as thermal mass and a copper tube spirals through it for the water you're going to heat and use) could heat the shower stall/bathroom?
I love having running water on demand, having been on my share of dish duties at my community, but we could also make it work if we could get water heated up in a tub for dish washing.  
I've found hauling water around rather unpleasant because of how it sloshes around and is unwieldy, but I could approach it with a new attitude and see it as a very dynamic form of exercise.  The water carriers in West Africa I saw were so poised and strong and graceful.
How did indigenous people here handle winter water needs?
 
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From my research [citation needed] wooden pipes need to stay wet. So that would not work for drains.
I like the idea of ceramic pipes… but they can break – and I don't like that.

Overall… I think I will stay with Polyethylene and [copper or stainless steel or a nickel alloy – not a mix].
There is enough plastic here to recycle … I don't think we are running out of it any time soon. Just needs an extruder…
 
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I have several hand dug wells around my houses. One is located just outside the house and has an old cast iron pipe that leads inside which hand a hand pump in the sink so water could be pumped into the house.

There is nothing wrong with using an old hand dug well, with a few precautions.

1. A hand dug well is going to seriously impact resale value. Few people will put up with a hand dug well no matter how good it produces.

2. They have to be tested. Unlike a drilled well that is sealed from surface run-off, a hand dug well gets all its water from surface run-off so it is more prone to contamination.

3. The modern home goes through a lot more water than the old ones that hand to lug it. Years ago a well that had a recovery of 5 gallons per day was good enough. A modern household of a family of four today consumes around 150 gallons per day. That can be mitigated, but water usage is pretty high now.

4. They are known for going dry in a drought.

I use one of my hand dug wells, but for emergency purposes. Just in case, I boil the water before consuming, but mostly use it for toilet water. I really like having it available though...just in case.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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OK...I've got an idea here.  I call it. . .the wellfati.  

It's half well, half wofati: wellfati.  A wofati-like building with the well drilled inside it, smaller than a real wofati, and buildable even if your well site isn't ideal for a house site.

It's uphill of your wofati, and gravity favors your trip down to the home.  

It's warm enough in winter from annualized thermal inertia that it isn't going to freeze, all the way to its top, including the air inside it (mostly anyway).  It can be made with less attention to detail than a real wofati.  Maybe a Sepp Holzer-style animal shed is more apt a description.  I'm imagining it doesn't need to be truly sealed from moisture from above or below, since it will have nothing too sensitive inside--a layer of bark mulch can be sufficient vapor and rain barrier.  The whole thing can be temporary, needing a re-roofing every ten years.  Compromise on labor-saving efficiency but not on quality.

When you want water you can go and get it in buckets and bring it in.  This is a little easier and less thermal load than bringing blocks of ice into your house in winter (as Erica was postulating on a thread).  It's easier to walk downslope with the heavy load to your home than upslope.

If you really want a gravity-fed pipe to fill up a tank indoors, you can set up a temporary, low-tech wooden pipe, pump into it and gravity-feed into your home indoor tank, then put that temporary pipe in a place where it will dry out thoroughly and can't mold.  Or it could just be a half-pipe, letter-U-shaped half pipe like an aqueduct, open to the sun, and then the sun can dry and sterilize it after use, just leave it out till a sunny day.  If it's snowing when you're collecting your water, that's just more clean water in your water supply.


Now, the question arises, can a wofati-like structure keep warm enough without any heat from cooking (you're not cooking breakfast in your well)? if the annualized thermal inertia of the walls and roof of this wellfati heats the huge shaft of air in the well (dug well, mind you, not drilled, since this is the level-10,000, hand tools scenario, and it's supposed to let a bucket get down the borehole), will that be enough heat , or little enough heat loss, to keep the surface of the water from freezing down there?  I think the water itself will get geothermal heat enough to stay warm beneath its surface...but I am imagining that cold air will drop down the shaft every time you open the door of your wellfati and then you'll get a nasty crust of ice on top.  Or might.  So just in case, your bucket will have to have some spikes on its bottom to poke through the ice...

Another idea is to place a second roof/round pointy hat inside the wellfati right over the well's top, so cold air has to be directed out away from the top of the well.  And then flow out through some pipe to the outdoors.  Ernie and Erica talk about envisioning hot air rising as if it were water upside down...and thinking of cold air sinking is therefore reversed again so it moves like rain falling.  So I think as long as any cold air that manages to leak into the wellfati has a path away from the well shaft it will address this issue.

This doesn't handle the issue of pumping within the well, which is the next question...and I guess making a spring terrace is a more legitimate solution to the whole problem.  But supposing it's not an option for some reason, let's go back to the wellfati: can a wooden pump be created?  can a bucket on a pulley be optimized?  (I'm imagining a huge huge bucket, and a ratcheted pull setup, so it's like a rowing machine exercise equipment thing.  You pull, release, pull, release, out in the cold winter air, each stroke getting the bucket up only a few feet, until you've gotten a really good workout, sliding your butt on the snow or maybe using a little wooden cart.  When the huge huge bucket gets to the top it catches on a lip and automatically tips over into the funnel into the wood pipe.

This pipe dream (he he, couldn't resist) is really fun to play with in a theoretical context.   It's helping me think outside the box.  

By the way, I ran across a youtube channel by someone named John Plants or something, "primitive technology," which included things like making a kiln from river clay and then firing a vase that could hold water...very impressive what could be done with the simplest resources.

 
Travis Johnson
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Oh no, it will not freeze. Your well could not be 6 inches in diameter of course, but if it was a well of normal size which is about 4 feet, it will not freeze. The amount of "warm" air rising, which is a constant 57 degrees here in Maine, is enough to keep the well water from freezing. In fact I used the same principal with my sheep stock tanks to keep their water from freezing in the winter.

Here we can buy "well tiles" which are 4 feet in diameter, and four feet high, which you keep stacking on top of one another to make the well, but with them you can put a cap on it, with a manhole cover. That is nice just for liability sake, quite a few people, and many hunters have fallen down old wells when the wooden covers over them rotted. Just off the top of my head I can think of about 12 hand dug wells that are kind of sketchy if you do not know where to step.

Buy yeah, for sure, your idea of a welfati would work.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Congrats, Joshua, you just invented...the well, first invented ca 10 trillion BCE.  wofati-ing it is probably completely unnecessary.

But I did read something about a heated well house somewhere on here I think...

The main function for the heated well house was to prevent pipes from freezing, yes? and this setup doesn't have real pipes in any significant sense, but so it's redudant.  I'm assuming early wells never froze...will have to do a web search about that.  The geothermal temperature probably outweighs the impact of the cold air in the shaft, and the roof thing on top is pretty standard.  

Edited to add:

from a quick web search--
First of all, a well is typically drilled or bored very deep and does not freeze because of its depth below ground. Even in shallow wells, the water level is below the frost line. The frost line is the depth below ground that is susceptible to freezing. This frost line depth will vary from northern states to southern states. A typical frost line depth is 32-48 inches. Therefore, the water supply pipe from the well to the house should be buried below the frost line.

There are two popular types of well pumps used. The first type is the deep well pump. This pump is actually located near the bottom of the well and it pushes the water from the well into the house. Since it is located a couple of feet off the bottom of the well, it has a tendency to collect sand and silt, which can clog the pump. For this reason, the pump does require regular maintenance.

The second type of well pump is a jet pump, which pulls the water from the well and is located either in the house or basement. This pump needs to be kept in an area where the temperature stays above 40 degrees in order to prevent the water in the pump and water lines from freezing. If this pump is located in an area subject to temperatures dropping below 32 degrees, the pump typically is housed in an insulated enclosure. The pump motor itself generates a bit of heat to help prevent the pump from freezing, which is maintained - if it is inside an enclosure. Also, the water lines need to be insulated with pipe insulation to prevent freezing. Insulation sleeves can be purchased at most hardware stores.
(https://www.rotorooter.com/plumbing-basics/frequently-asked-questions/outdoor-plumbing/how-do-i-prevent-a-well-from-freezing/)

[This raises concerns--if the pump's heat is from electricity, that's not going to be avaiable in level 10,000.  If it's not housed in a wellfati then it needs to be a suction pump in the house ("jet pump") and that, well, sucks.  It will need a complete seal.  No wood pipes for you, sucker.  So there's that.  But if it is in the wellfati it may be able to be kept above 40 degrees.  (does it need to be if it's a mechanical pump? just lifting the water up to the top of the well and then gravity-feeding downhill? probably OK for the water to be subjected to freezing temperatures for a few seconds while going through a pump or a few minutes while sitting in a bucket before pouring into the bobsled ride down to the house.]





But maybe this has usefulness off-thread-topic, if you do want to keep pipes from freezing but have them above-ground where they can be easily accessed or for some reason can't sink/bury them in a mound.  As long as there's at least a trickle going through them they shouldn't freeze up...you could have your indoor cistern on constant refill...if you go away for a few days have an overflow valve somehow, like those gravy seprators, to take the bottom water off first maybe...?



Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:OK...I've got an idea here.  I call it. . .the wellfati.  

It's half well, half wofati: wellfati.  A wofati-like building with the well drilled inside it, smaller than a real wofati, and buildable even if your well site isn't ideal for a house site.

It's uphill of your wofati, and gravity favors your trip down to the home.  

It's warm enough in winter from annualized thermal inertia that it isn't going to freeze, all the way to its top, including the air inside it (mostly anyway).  It can be made with less attention to detail than a real wofati.  Maybe a Sepp Holzer-style animal shed is more apt a description.  I'm imagining it doesn't need to be truly sealed from moisture from above or below, since it will have nothing too sensitive inside--a layer of bark mulch can be sufficient vapor and rain barrier.  The whole thing can be temporary, needing a re-roofing every ten years.  Compromise on labor-saving efficiency but not on quality.

When you want water you can go and get it in buckets and bring it in.  This is a little easier and less thermal load than bringing blocks of ice into your house in winter (as Erica was postulating on a thread).  It's easier to walk downslope with the heavy load to your home than upslope.

If you really want a gravity-fed pipe to fill up a tank indoors, you can set up a temporary, low-tech wooden pipe, pump into it and gravity-feed into your home indoor tank, then put that temporary pipe in a place where it will dry out thoroughly and can't mold.  Or it could just be a half-pipe, letter-U-shaped half pipe like an aqueduct, open to the sun, and then the sun can dry and sterilize it after use, just leave it out till a sunny day.  If it's snowing when you're collecting your water, that's just more clean water in your water supply.


Now, the question arises, can a wofati-like structure keep warm enough without any heat from cooking (you're not cooking breakfast in your well)? if the annualized thermal inertia of the walls and roof of this wellfati heats the huge shaft of air in the well (dug well, mind you, not drilled, since this is the level-10,000, hand tools scenario, and it's supposed to let a bucket get down the borehole), will that be enough heat , or little enough heat loss, to keep the surface of the water from freezing down there?  I think the water itself will get geothermal heat enough to stay warm beneath its surface...but I am imagining that cold air will drop down the shaft every time you open the door of your wellfati and then you'll get a nasty crust of ice on top.  Or might.  So just in case, your bucket will have to have some spikes on its bottom to poke through the ice...

Another idea is to place a second roof/round pointy hat inside the wellfati right over the well's top, so cold air has to be directed out away from the top of the well.  And then flow out through some pipe to the outdoors.  Ernie and Erica talk about envisioning hot air rising as if it were water upside down...and thinking of cold air sinking is therefore reversed again so it moves like rain falling.  So I think as long as any cold air that manages to leak into the wellfati has a path away from the well shaft it will address this issue.

This doesn't handle the issue of pumping within the well, which is the next question...and I guess making a spring terrace is a more legitimate solution to the whole problem.  But supposing it's not an option for some reason, let's go back to the wellfati: can a wooden pump be created?  can a bucket on a pulley be optimized?  (I'm imagining a huge huge bucket, and a ratcheted pull setup, so it's like a rowing machine exercise equipment thing.  You pull, release, pull, release, out in the cold winter air, each stroke getting the bucket up only a few feet, until you've gotten a really good workout, sliding your butt on the snow or maybe using a little wooden cart.  When the huge huge bucket gets to the top it catches on a lip and automatically tips over into the funnel into the wood pipe.

This pipe dream (he he, couldn't resist) is really fun to play with in a theoretical context.   It's helping me think outside the box.  

By the way, I ran across a youtube channel by someone named John Plants or something, "primitive technology," which included things like making a kiln from river clay and then firing a vase that could hold water...very impressive what could be done with the simplest resources.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks, I thought as much when I thought this through a bit more and updated my post.  But there are more questions...since things are so different with low-tech vs. modern tech problems.  This is helping me get up to speed without just knowing the modern-tech lense on things.


Travis Johnson wrote:Oh no, it will not freeze. Your well could not be 6 inches in diameter of course, but if it was a well of normal size which is about 4 feet, it will not freeze. The amount of "warm" air rising, which is a constant 57 degrees here in Maine, is enough to keep the well water from freezing. In fact I used the same principal with my sheep stock tanks to keep their water from freezing in the winter.

Here we can buy "well tiles" which are 4 feet in diameter, and four feet high, which you keep stacking on top of one another to make the well, but with them you can put a cap on it, with a manhole cover. That is nice just for liability sake, quite a few people, and many hunters have fallen down old wells when the wooden covers over them rotted. Just off the top of my head I can think of about 12 hand dug wells that are kind of sketchy if you do not know where to step.

Buy yeah, for sure, your idea of a welfati would work.

 
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> purpose of plumbing...[from OP]

So we don't fall horribly ill or die from our own common bad habits. Beginning to end, the plumbing code revolves around keeping water clean for a safe environment. That's it. Personal convenience, fun, profit, comfort, luxury, inspectors driving contractors crazy - that's all allowed but not required. Clean water is IT.


Regards,
Rufus
 
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My main question regarding purist pipes is - how are sections connected to each other?  What non-toxic, natural adhesives can be used on wood, glass, or ceramic?

 
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At least with a wooden bucket or keg, I think they are sealed by the liquid causing the wood fibers to expand to form a pressure seal.

For a pipe though, that may not work that well.  Since both pieces of pipe would be expanding.  

Let's say though, that the pipe is lengths of hollow cedar "pipe".  They taper so that the end of one fits into the end of the next.  They are fit together dry and a metal band is wrapped around the bell end of the pipe (that's the socket end in the US, probably something different in the UK).  As the pipe is filled with water and the wood expands, the band would keep the socket from expanding and voila, a seal.

I'd be a bit worried about bacterial growth in a wooden pipe.  It shouldn't get much oxygen if it's filled with water, but if the wood is porous, would oxygen get to the pipe ID through the wall of the pipe?
 
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Let me tell you all a story: My friend in Nova Scotia would visit her grandmother every summer. They had barrels and buckets that caught the rainwater off the roof for most uses - hand-washing, clothes washing etc. They went down the hill to the well for fresh drinking water. They had a bucket on a rope, and they had to flick the rope *just* right to get it to tip into the water rather than just floating on top. If an amateur like me tried it, I got no water and just stirred up the sand. Time passes, as does grandmother. Friend is now living in the house year round and says, 'forget this', has a well dug and indoor plumbing installed.
Considering this well simply had a box around it, I suspect Joshua's 'wofati well cover' would be more than enough, but if you want the water to still be clean when it gets to the house, something open will collect dirt and bird droppings. Intestines raised on clean water are less able to cope with bad stuff than people who used to lose 75% of their offspring before the age of 5. From my reading about how maple cutting boards can test safer than plastic, it would be an interesting study as to the bacteria load in wooden pipes. I know that the little I've read about aquaponics systems, you're actually looking for a layer of "healthy slime" on the pipes that turns bad stuff into plant food, so it's good to remember that not all bacteria or other microbes are "bad". In fact there's at least some evidence that North Americans would benefit from more exposure to microorganisms.
I suspect that having a good look at older Japanese homes (in the 1970's I visited some with very primitive plumbing) would give some good ideas.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:If I really wanted to do something like you are discussing I would use ceramic pipes, you could make them in the right size and with the right bends and connections for your specific set up, the only issue I can see would be hot water, where they would be a horrible heat sink, probably not good for short runs of hot water like hand washing.



The ceramic pipes that go from my downspouts to the house cistern are 100 years old and still function. The cistern was filled in when all the houses were hooked up to city water many years ago. (Currently it’s illegal here to use rainwater in the house.) The water came out below ground into the basement and I assume had a hand pump up in the kitchen. Those were metal. If I had the ability to still use the cistern, the shower would be right there where the cistern enters the house. For myself, I couldn’t be at level 10,000 because I like the idea of hooking copper pipes up to an RMH system. But if I had to use wood, it would be inside the house used in conjunction with the existing ceramics outside. My house pipes are all exposed and would be easy to replace every few decades. Heating the water would have to use a solar heat exchanger outside. So my question would be, can you use ebony wood heating the water in a solar heater, in lieu of black painted pipes? Or would a dark ceramic work better? Just a random thought. It would be interesting to test it.
 
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Wood pipe are wrapped in steel or packed in clay in the ground.  So holding the pipe together is part of the problem.  Disease source potential if not handled nearly perfectly.  Glass and clay would likely have o-ring seals.  Probably glass lined stainless steel pipe would be the best bet in spite of its huge embodied energy.

 
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> good slime

All pipes, even copper supply pipes, develop "biofilm" aka slime. Clean it off with chemicals, it's back in a couple months. Good? Bad? It's there, been there always. I don't know any published analysis, but seems like there must be some somewhere - maybe some grad student's dissertation or corporate white paper. Seems to be benign... Except when legionaire's bacteria becomes too high a percentage.


Rufus
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks for the stories and replies.

To clarify my notion, I'm thinking the "pipe" is set up very temporarily, then exposed to sunlight (switch the angle) and then taken down afterward.  (Maybe V-letter-shaped is better than U-letter-shaped for the ease of crafting it and sunning it, but I like the idea of curves for water rather than hard lines.) . You set up the pipe as you walk up the hill; each tube rests on top of the one below:

-------------
              ------------
              Y             -------------
                             Y             Y

(The Y-things are forked sticks that prop up the pipes.

These aren't really pipes, just aquaducty things.

yes, it's basically painting a big target on there for birds to poop on, and even in subzero temperatures I'm sure their targeting instincts will override survival and drive them to take aim.  So maybe it'll need a little roofing when in operation.  And then when sunning it to dry out and sterilize it, the sun angle being low in the sky in winter helps.

After you fill up your indoor elevated cistern you'd take the whole thing down.

Now how many days am I going to be willing to do that before I am bored off my ass?  I don't know.  I'm just brainstorming here.  But I think I'd feel grateful to have the daily exercise, simplicity, time outdoors, and the pleasure of watching the water spill down its waterway.

It could be a social activity.  Water carrying pairs.

The "protect ourselves from our bad habits" thing is really clarifying.  I guess there's no protecting ourselves from our biggest bad habits as a species, ultimately--instead we have to change them.  Then the question becomes "how to change the habit"?

Since this is still theoretical 10,000-level, I'm not too concerned about how realistic it is, we're theorizing.  But some positive aspects of the idea come to mind too:

--probably no one's going to steal these bamboo pipes or half-pipes or wood thingies,  they're not even copper
--they can be made with hand tools--augur and clamps
--they are natural...and it's not rational but that just feels so much better to me, with water especially
--you could paint them with decorative paintings, blue waves of water and water dragons
--you could use them for other purposes sometimes perhaps
--you could use weirdly grained wood to make flow-form-type eddies in the currents of the water and stuff.  Sepp Holzer is into that stuff, I understand, Victor Schauberg (sp.) wrote about this (I found it really hard to read the technical and design aspects of that book, and I think he said well water was dead water anyway...).  Whether or not you believe in subtle energies, the aesthetics of it are feelable as a visceral sense of serenity and beauty and calm in watching water move.  It is why people have those water fountains in their offices, even my college roommate who never expressed interest in feng shui had one, it's why people go to the beach.
--as I think about it I love it more and more, I really want to design this for maximizing beauty, and put some stones in the water too to get it to splash around, and make some eddies.  I feel like a kid playing in the bathtub again!
--I suppose you could just pour the water down the hill and hope that some of it gets into your house, but having water-carrying half-pipes seems like a much more functional middle ground.  

I'd love to hear more about the "good slime" and more thoughts on maximizing pleasure and beauty in this idea.

 
Mike Haasl
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Posts: 5514
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Might this be of help?
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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