Sunday, July 26, 2009

Say Hi to my Peeps

Here are my latest chicks – they are a “breeder’s selection” of Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas, and Plymouth Rock. The Ameraucanas are known for laying eggs with blue or green shells. Buff Orpingtons are a fluffy yellow feathered chicken that originated in England in the late 19th century. They will be mature in about 3 months. They are all laying hens, though I think there are a few roosters included in the batch. This picture is from their arrival day, June 24.

Here follows a big boring bit about water wells.
I’ve spent 5 days without water here. On Thursday I was about to do another load of laundry, when I heard a foreboding noise coming from the washer’s input – the high screechy whine of an empty faucet. I’ve been through this before, though only in the winter, and then it meant that the water lines were frozen. So I did the backcheck of the water system: checked all the outputs first to make sure they were not running and draining the well. All was OK. Then I checked the valves on the systems, everything was fine.
The system runs from the well pump to a pressure tank, which acts like the bag on the bagpipe—the pump fills the pressure tank, the pressure tank takes over and supplies the water until it runs out and the pump is called to refill it. The pressure tank seemed fine, I tapped it and it gave a satisfying “tonk” which indicated it was full of water. I uncapped the switch on the tank (which has been known in the past to become encrusted with dirt and malfunction, situated as it is near the floor), and used a wooden shim to flip the contacts on the pressure switch. Green sparks flew out, which was good as it meant the electricity was running properly. So everything checked out OK in the system. That meant that the problem was with the pump which is 300 feet underground, or with the communication between the pump and the pressure tank. Or that the well was dry.
That last possibility had me worried, so much that I didn’t sleep Thursday night. We are in a drought here, plus there is coalbed methane exploration all around us, and we all have heard stories from Oklahoma and other states about the perils of methane exploration and the destruction of the water tables, so the possibility of a dry well seemed real. However, I reasoned that a drought would gradually dry up a well, and this well has been active for at least 30 years, some of which were no doubt during other droughts, and my water had dried up from full force to nothing in one hour. So I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that the problem was mechanical. It costs about $10,000 to dig a well, and I didn’t want to contemplate that possibility.

Fortunately I have several rainbarrels around the house. Usually I use the rainwater to water the garden, but I was glad to have it this time to provide water for the dogs, for the chickens, and for washing. I also found out that I am able to wash my hair in as little as one litre of water. I would never have known this otherwise, believe me, as I never go camping. I made a trip to the grocery store and bought a couple of big bottles of filtered water for my coffee. I haven’t had to drink manufactured water since I moved here, and let me say that even though it is osmotically filtered, I could taste the chlorine.
I really love my well water because it is naturally filtered through layers of limestone, and does not come from central municipal systems. City water contains among other things, hormones from contraceptives, cleaning agents (all that toilet and shower cleaner goes right into the water systems), various drugs, even waste from mortuaries, cemetaries and hospitals.) Enough to make you gag when you think about it! So I was eager to get my well working again.

Today, the fourth day after the water stopped, my well man Mr Papley came and after performing diagnostics and asking me what I had tried, determined that the circuitboard in the pumpsaver was fried. The pumpsaver is a little electronic unit that sits beside the electrical panel. Both the pump and the pressure tank are wired into it. The pump sends a signal to the pumpsaver when it detects low water levels, and the pumpsaver throws a switch that prevents the pump from working for about 30 minutes, whereupon it tries to pump again. If it again detects insufficient water, the pumpsaver again throws the switch and makes the pump wait. This saves the wellpump from working a dry well, because as you may know, running a pump without water will burn it out. So the problem was the circuitboard, which had burned out instead of the pump – a much easier fix!
I also learned that once a year you are supposed to fill your pressure tank with 35 lbs of air. First you turn off the pump, close the output valves, then remove all the water from the line by opening whichever valve most easily empties it. Then hook up an air compressor to the tank’s input and fill it to 35 lbs. Doing this prevents the tank from accumulating water which destroys or impairs the tank’s bladder. You also have the opportunity to check and see if your pressure tank is capable of holding pressure – if it fails to keep 35 lbs it means the bladder in the pressure tank is gone. Live and learn!

Here is my garden. I built these two raised beds this spring. I first laid down feed bags right on top of the grass. Then I filled the frames with pure composted llama and horse manure from the barn. The composted manure does not hold water but drains rapidly, and at first I was afraid that it would need some peat or potting soil added to maintain moisture. But I had already transplanted everything and it was too late to add soil or peat moss to the mix, so I just waited. Although I watered the garden diligently, the plants didn’t really take hold until we got a really good rainstorm, and now everything has set and is growing well, although because of the unusually cold June it's all set back by about a month. I’m doing companion planting, and have planted things pretty compactly, and I have to say there is very little weeding required, and the square beds seem to need less watering than if they were longer and narrower.
One bed has the classic squash, beans, corn, sunflower combo. The other bed has parsnips, beets, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, dill, onion and tomatoes. Next year I will divide up that bed. I intend to make at least two more next year—at least I have enough space to play around with them!
PS For some reason, all my dogs LOVE to eat sunflower leaves. They seek them out and defoliate. Have any of you found that your dogs love sunflower leaves?

We spend so much of our teenhood and twenties wanting to lose fat, and then when we do in our fifties, we find out that the fat is what was holding our skin up.