Bernie Farmer

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since Jul 14, 2017
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Recent posts by Bernie Farmer

Wasn't sure which forum to ask this question in but found other ram pump threads here so ...

My property consists of almost 6 acres split roughly in half diagonally by a creek. The creek is variable in its rate of flow depending on rainfall and us keeping our dam from leaking. There is a a rise of about 35 feet from the south creek bank to the southwest fence line with the north side of the creek relatively flat with only about a 9 foot rise from creek to north fence where the house is located.

The creek has banks ranging from 10 to 14 feet high which makes it at the very bottom of the property. And this is our challenge. It has very little vertical fall to it. Enough that it will move a leaf downstream but not enough that I would ever consider setting up a water wheel.

We have two smaller rain catchment tanks, one at 550 gal and the other at 225 gal. If we get enough rainfall, the tanks stay relatively full and we are fine. However, if we have years like this one where we didn't get any water for over 4 months and only 1/3 of our spring rains, we are hurting.

But we have the creek which holds water year round if the dam isn't leaking, with a slow flow. And  I know how to build a Ram pump. But how do I create an intake area that will give me enough drop to make it work? Could I run a pipe to a bucket with an outflow at a higher level maybe in series to gain the needed height? Or somehow build a catchment pool to one side that is slightly elevated to the level of the creek?

I know, I'm kind of asking for the impossible here but if anyone can figure out how to make the forces of nature work for me, it's going to be someone in permaculture.
5 months ago
For 20 years I grew 75% of our food, raised goats and chickens, foraged, canned, learned every skill I could for homesteading while living on an urban lot. Over all those years it seemed that having more land would just give me more space to grow more of our food, have a few more animals, get away from the endless neighborhood dramas, etc ... I couldn't wait to move to the country.

Now that I have almost 6 acres in the country I find I'm simply overwhelmed by it all and I just don't get it. I'm not trying to plow up the whole lot and garden endlessly or add ten new varieties of animals so I'm baffled at why I feel so overwhelmed by it all now. Is this a normal thing for new-ish landowners? (we bought the place 2 years ago July)

I am, now, taking care of my mom who has alzheimers which is a challenge but before I had children and special needs foster children, so that comittment to dependents hasn't really changed. We're also renovating an old house ... but we were doing that in town too.

I've tried making lists, setting schedules, focusing on one project at a time and I end up with my brain buzzing, feeling like I've done nothing, accomplished nothing, and worried about the future.

This farm is supposed to be our place of peace and I'm finding it anything but peaceful.

Help. Please.
7 months ago
@chriskott Hay bales ... What a brilliant idea ... much simpler than lugging concrete bags or fiddling with metal sheeting, etc. I'll take pics and post them as we build it.

The beauty of where our land is, is that even though we have folks down stream from us, they probably won't notice anything from our now full time creek. Where it leaves our property, it runs under a road and joins a year-round stream on the other side and then runs along the side of a cattle pasture and into a ravine down a mile or so.

On the other hand our upstream neighbor might notice but hasn't said anything. Since he took a trackho and completely reshaped over 100' of the creek banks/beds without consulting the flood commission (read "no permit" ... "heavy fines") I doubt he will say anything either. But where we have our dam and are planning on the other ones, I haven't noticed much rise in his portion of the creek at all.

As for planting things to take advantage of the localized water ... hmmm, not sure yet. The creek is literally right through the middle of our woodlands and we planned to leave it mostly as a wildlife corridor but clearly if we have changed the local water levels it will benefit our food forest. We have black walnut trees on the creek which we were able to tap for syrup this year, but I don't want tons of black walnut because they are too hard to clean the nut meat from. We found a few blackberry bushes just off the creek so we created a thicket with some thornless varieties in the same area.
7 months ago
I'm not sure this is the correct forum for this questions but I wasn't sure where else to put it. I need someone to explain something that is happening on my land and I have no idea who to ask or what to look up so I thought maybe someone here would have an idea/knowledge/experience to share.

We bought a small acreage with a creek which ran seasonally. Within 10 days of any rain storm it was dry again except for some ponding in a couple of places. We put in a shallow water damn, 8 inches high or so with a spillway to insure we didn't block flow downstream (although during dry times there was no flow at all) and when it rains water flows like the damn isn't there at all. Since we put the damn in we now have a permanent creek. As a matter of fact we haven't had rain for 80 days and yet our creek is still full and flowing over the damn at a trickle.

Honestly, we are kind of baffled by how this happened. How can an 8 inch damn create a permanent creek from one that was only seasonal before?

Second oddity ... we can literally see the line of moisture in the soil rising up the creek bank as time passes. There is a line where the soil is wet below and dry above and it has been climbing ever since the creek began retaining water. Is that normal? Are we raising the water table by capturing water and holding it? Is that even possible?
8 months ago
Oh, thanks for all the replies.

A few answers -
1. We are using a pump to move the water to the house from a storage tank where it is collected via gravity from roof. So we have a pressure tank as well.

2. The spring water vs rainwater ... it isn't that we inherently distrust the rainwater but rather that it is stored in a tank that we have to keep above ground and have no way to keep out bird droppings and fine dust. The rainwater is fine ... the storage of it isn't ... at least not for showers and washing dishes and brushing teeth. I mean, we could drop a chlorine tab in every once in a while but I'd rather not. The spring water comes from an artesian well that we've been collecting water from for over 20 years now. It is tested annually and is amazing. Like it's been through multiple taste tests and wins every single time. It has no sediment from it, no hard water particulates, etc ... The well has been running for over 125 years. We don't buy it pre-bottled. We take our own containers and fill them. It's like a community well. The original owners of the land made it a clause that the well was to remain open and free for all to use in perpetuity.

Thanks for the links. I'm now wondering if I could set up a sand filter for pretreatment before it goes in the storage tank that would abate the bird droppings and dirt issues eliminating the need for further treatment. Hmmm...
8 months ago
Okay then ...

to answer some questions raised -
1. we intend for this to not only have greywater but also combine with rainwater. I'm not sure of the volume of greywater we will have but there will be 4 adults living in the home and possible 2 more depending on circumstances. I had no delusions that the greywater alone would fill the moat. Reading that our greywater addition to the moat will be so small makes me feel like that this is a doable situation for not contaminating any native waterways and for providing moisture for plantings that I don't have to worry about weird stuff being absorbed through the soil.

2. Smell or no smell seems to be a moot point given that the percentage of greywater will be less than 10% of the whole volume of water and we are leaning towards a "pre-moat" area of gravel and reeds to help filter food debris, etc and oxygenate the water.

3. Length and width - Length is pretty set given the space we have. It is 120' from the house to the road, then turn the corner and it's 90' to the drive, 105' to the rainwater wash, and another 80' to the creek. Width and depth are variable at present. Thinking about 4-5 feet wide (difficult for most people to jump in a single bound especially with a steep berm on the other side) and perhaps 3 feet deep. But we've been considering adding fish to the mix after the first 120' run using a net or screen partition to keep them where we want them so we will have to look into what would be appropriate for the type of fish we want to keep.

4. Earthworks - honestly everything we do on our acreage is WORK in capital letters and frankly digging a moat around the edge where there are no trees or roots to contend with and where we can get an excavator in with ease seems much easier than digging a big round pond elsewhere and then contending with the dirt relocation. With the moat we can essentially scrape the dirt out and mound it on one side over a pile of branches and logs, cover with compost, and plant plants.

5. Dumping the water/water absorption ... We'd really like it to be pond-ish if possible, meaning that we would want water in it most of the year if not all year. We have a creek that was seasonal when we bought the place. within 10 days of a rain it was dry again. Fall and winter last year it didn't have enough to even be mud. Then we build a low-water dam... with a continual spill-way on it and it hasn't been dry since. We don't really understand how our two layers of concrete sacks less than a foot high actually created this phenomanom but somehow it did and we aren't arguing with the results. Anywho, the moat, we invision will have a gradual spill to it so that it doesn't flood, in theory, and will add a small trickle to the creek as well at times, maybe. It does get dry and hot here in summer and dry in winter.

6. The purpose of the moat - We had a two-fold purpose in mind. One is to increase the water on the property ... for instance we can build as many ponds as we like so this would just be a different form of a pond. And Two, lol, is not actually about the moat at all but rather the need for the dirt we would remove from the pond. The neighbor to our north is ... how to say this nicely ... an idiot who literally cleared his entire property of trees and filled in all his ponds and sprays his wheat with roundup before harvest and kills any living creature that dares walk across his land ... Naturally we want a barrier between us. On the east is a gravel road. In the summer the dust from the road settles in the grasses and trees and we don't get much infiltration into our property at all but in the winter, when the county mows down all the tall grass for fire prevention, the road dust is insane, Plus the noise from traffic at given times of the day is atrocious. So we wanted to build a berm and then put a fence on top of the berm to abate noise and dust and creepy neighbors. We can only build a 7' fence which isn't tall enough for our landscape but a 7' fence atop a berm would greatly increase our privacy and address our noise issues. I guess there's a 3rd purpose too, to deal with the greywater from the house. It's got to go somewhere.

7. Wildlife issues - I suppose a moat and berm system would work well for some predators but we're not that bothered by wild critters. We have tons of them and figure they were here first. Keeping them out of my chickens is my only goal. I plant extra garden because I know I will lose some. Our goats along with our LGD's are safe by themselves and we fence them up during birthing to protect the babes so that's not really an issue. Our biggest predator is the mountain lion and it would have to be a damn big moat to keep one out. We walk the perimeter every day and keep a look out for tracks. We mainly have raccoons and opossums and deer. We did have a bobcat but they take smaller things like rabbits and our LGD's are about 3x the size of a bobcat so no worries there. Owls and hawks and eagles and peregrins would only increase their population from a moat. Those that fish will have a supply and the water will attract other small critters that they prey on so perhaps a moat like we're discussing would keep them away from our chickens.

All in all this is looking more do-able and less crazy the more I think on it and read other's posts and thoughts on it.

Thanks for chiming in.
8 months ago
Ok. So reading all the replies so far and perusing the web site offered ... one, this won't have toilet use in it so it's not really a septic field with multiple aerated ponds needed. But, I think, I need perhaps an initial sediment filter as it runs out of the house to catch gunk then a settling pond filled with gravel and reeds and then it could flow into the long "moat" also filled with reeds and other plants where it mixes with rainwater and can be reabsorbed slowly back into the ground or used to water trees, lawn, etc ...

So is it feasible to build a sediment sand filter to remove hair, skin flakes, bits of food waste that might be in this greywater? Would that even work on gravity? And would it help to remove some of the soaps that will be in the water as well?

Also what makes the best plants/reeds for this type of system? Cat tails? River cane? water hyacinth(summer only)?

Thanks for the help!
8 months ago
I'm beginning to think I have jumped off the deep end here but ... we want to build a moat around the outside edge of our property to handle our greywater. Essentially it would be just like a pond but longer and narrower. We were thinking we could maybe use the dirt from it to build huglekulture berms on the farm side of the moat to help with noise reduction from a noisy gravel road and plant reed and cane and other water plants in the moat/along the berm to help with remediation of the water as it flows through. We have a creek on our property and the moat would run over 400 feet through filtering plants, etc before entering the creek. Or maybe we could have a secondary catchment pond to catch the run-off from the moat and then go to the creek?

I don't want to hurt the environment, obviously, but I also don't want a septic pit in the middle of usable land nor a huge catchment pond that I have to keep animals out of. The moat would run along the north and east of our property and dump into a wash area from the road and then into the creek as it leaves our land. The berm would then form a "wall" along the two exposed sides of the farm that we could plant on and/or build a solid fence on top of to control noise and privacy.

Any thoughts? Anyone done anything similar?
8 months ago
So we have a setup for rainwater catchment that works well and we're going to add a larger tank this spring. We are currently plumbing the house to use this water for everything except toilets (composting) and drinking/cooking (free spring water from an artesian well). I've been using the water to water my critters without issues for over a year now but I'd rather be safe than sorry and put in some kind of whole house filter. My aged mother with alzheimer's lives with us so I can't have her drinking shower water without something in place. Any ideas? What does everyone else use? We'll have 3 bathrooms and the kitchen sink (possibly dishwasher) and washing machine.

I've found a few at home improvement stores but none of them filter everything and most are point of use filters that come with their own tiny faucet ... which doesn't work for what we want. I suppose we could use one of them and just filter into a separate holding tank and then use from that but it would add another step in the system that has the potential to fail  and need maintenance, etc ... I would prefer one that can just go before or after the filter and run water normally.

Thanks.
8 months ago
I'm a writer. I have a novella and several short stories published. I've taken a break at the moment while we're building our house (at least from fiction writing) but plan to get back to work by next fall.
9 months ago
art