Welcome to Painted Hand Farm

Painted Hand Farm is a 20 acre Civil War era farm located in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. We raise meat goats, veal calves, turkeys and organic vegetables using humane and sustainable agricultural practices.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Farming with Free Stuff...well, amost free

Welcome to the latest installment of Farming with Free Stuff. However, I must clarify that the final resource is free--WATER. As a citizen of planet Earth, I feel that the next battle ground will be waged not over religion, oil or borders, but over water. Our fresh water supplies are already shrinking and the fight for this life-sustaining resource has already begun. As every farmer will tell you, water is a critical resource necessary for their operation--be it animal or plant-based. Right now, farmers in the Ojai Valley are facing water rate hikes that threaten their livelihoods. While we are fortunate to have our own water source on the farm, it's not without cost. The electric bill increases significantly when we are pumping maximum water at the hottest part of the summer. Although the ultimate goal it to take our water system completely off the grid and operate it on either solar or wind power, for now we're tackling the low-hanging fruit with some good ol' fashion ingenuity.After installing gutters on our barn roof, we purchased a 150-gallon Rubbermaid stock tank and plumbed it with a ball valve. No matter how close we got the tank to the fence, it seemed that young critters alway found a way behind the tank so we had to stack some rocks around the valve for protection. All the rain from the backside of the barn roof now drains into the holding tank at the barn. When the valve is open, the water flows through a collapsible irrigation hose to a secondary holding tank--a BIG advantage of living on top of a hill.The advantage of using this type of carrier hose as opposed to regular old irrigation hose is it can handle more water and you can run over it with vehicles and tractors without damaging it. It takes 3/10th of an inch of rain to fill the 150-gallon tank. The secondary tank is an old fish box leftover from Ralph's days as a commercial seafood harvester. It's made out of recycled plastic, has a lid and holds approximately 350-gallons. It was already plumbed for water since it also served as our hippie hot tub for a couple years when we lived in California. From the fish box, a regular old hose gets water to lightweight 50-gallon Rubbermaid livestock tanks that are easy to carry between the browse paddocks. Additionally, we also invested $60 in 500-feet of irrigation hose that reaches to nearly all of our outermost paddocks. While that system has provided a significant amount of water for livestock, it only utilizes half of the barn roof. We've been tossing around ideas of how to capture and store water from the front half. Since the front half has more surface area, it will provide more water. Also, there are two gutter systems, so there is the option for two different collection systems. Normally, the water just runs out on to the ground, but the other day Ralph rigged up this simple water capturing system using some feed tubs and a peice of molding. He was so impressed with the usefulness of having a water supply in front of the barn, he got to work building a real water collection system. So I wasn't surprised today when I heard the sounds of power tools hard at work. With a simple $4.99 spigot and a free plastic drum, Ralph was hard at work. His goal was to set the collection barrel high enough off the ground so a 5-gallon bucket would fit below the spigot. A few salvaged cinder blocks from Betty Orner's greenhouse solved that issue. The second challenge required more thought--how to install the spigot without cutting the entire top off the barrel. He did this by drilling a hole just a hair smaller than the diameter of the threaded end on the spigot. Using a propane torch, he heated the plastic on the buck just enough to soften it so he could screw in the spigot making his own counter threads. Then he unscrewed the spigot, cooled down the plastic and re-inserted the spigot using some silicon sealant. The final step was to cut a hole in the top of the barrel just large enough to insert a downspout collar. Viola' Another water collection system for the farm.

1 comment:

  1. You know that if you ever want to trade Ralph in for a newer model that I'll take him off your hands!