Showing posts with label water use. Show all posts
Showing posts with label water use. Show all posts

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Building a laundry/bath house with old tyres, eco bricks and mud/cement - part one; planning

We need a real the moment our kitchen is cobbled together from bits of unused furniture (my bench space is an old massage table) and a sink unit I was given. My partner's brother was given an old modular kitchen (from the 70's, so it will have some interesting colour combinations) which he is storing for us, but we can't put it in the humpy until we have a floor to put it on, which involves moving the current bathroom out.
The current bathroom has a floor made from an metal old window shade (one of those industrial metal grid things) with sheets of aluminium screwed onto it and lino over the top. This all has to come out (as well as the bath) and a new tire and ply floor go in. This means that we need a new bathroom away from the humpy while we build.

This is the current floor, you can see the metal frame around the lino. Not pretty, but it works.

The bathroom floor (please ignore the dirty shower curtain) 

The plan is to build a laundry/bath house up the slope from the vegetable growing area so that all that lovely (nutrient rich) water can use gravity to find it's way back to the Hugelkultur vegetable beds, instead of being carried out in buckets which is how I do it at the moment. Eventually there will be a shower in the house also (for those cold winter nights), but until then we will have the bath house. I want to have a go at building with old tyres and my eco bricks, because we have plenty of them around and because they create a negative carbon footprint when reused for building.

My plan so far is very simple;

 As usual my madness is being fueled by Youtube and internet research;

The plan is to use a small excavator (hired for the occasion) to dig the foundation out (amongst other things), put the strip footing (tires and mud) and the four corner poles in. Then we will put up the pole frame and the roof. After that comes the corrugated iron outer walls, the floor and the bath put in (complete with outlet to drain to the vegetable garden). The first layer of eco bricks will go in around then too, but we will have to keep chipping away at the inner walls as eco bricks become available (we only make one or two per week). Getting water into the laundry for washing is easy; we will tap into the pipe running from the header tank up the hill to the humpy, and let gravity do it's thing. Getting water for the shower is another story as the fall is not great enough to gravity feed water to an overhead shower. That is a problem for part two.

Next comes getting the shower operational and putting up a new clothes line. Look out for part two.


Saturday, 23 November 2013

A new tank water level indicator

Today we (and I use the term loosely) put in a water level indicator on the new header tank. I wasn't much help as I damaged my knee putting the header tank in and am currently wearing a very fashionable leg brace. My partner found an indicator kit online, it's Australian made and owned and uses about 50% recycled items. He is so impressed with it that he is going to stock them at work (Rural Energy Supplies).

This is what came in the kit, along with some clear, easy to read instructions; fishing line, a sinker and a fishing line guide thingy.

Then the instructions are pored over by all involved.

The basic idea is to take a coke bottle and a milk bottle; seal the coke bottle up so it's air tight and fill the milk bottle with sand and water.

The coke bottle is properly sealed up with silicone

The milk bottle is filled up with sand

The sand-filled bottle is then topped up with water

Fishing line (supplied) is then passed through the little guide thingy (supplied) and one end of the fishing line is passed through a pre-drilled hole in the top of the tank. As our hole in the top of the tank was on the opposite side of the tank to the inspection hole we had to spend a long time swearing and cursing while trying to hook the fishing line inside the tank with a piece of bamboo.

The fishing line end inside the tank was then passed through the handle of the milk bottle and tied to the coke bottle float. The milk bottle was then lowered into the bottom of the tank.

The coke bottle float in the tank

Finally the sinker was tied to the outside end of the fishing line so it hangs at the current level of the water in the tank. To avoid frustration it is really important to remember/write down/tell someone what the measurement is when measuring the water level inside the tank so it can be transferred to the outside of the tank.

Measuring the current water level

The final result.

Now I can check the water level of the tank as I walk home from work, instead of climbing the ladder, unscrewing the inspection hatch and looking in, or smacking the side of the tank; I am very impressed.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Upgrading water storage capacity

It hasn't rained for a while here and the big (22000 litre) header tank is empty. We still have two 4000 litre tanks full, but things are getting desperate. A lot of our neighbors are already buying water, so I consider us lucky to still have as much as we do. The header tank being empty means we have had to go back to bringing all water into the humpy in a bucket; bath water (3 buckets a day), washing up water (1 bucket a day),clothes washing water (12 buckets a week) and then carry them out again to put onto the garden. I had forgotten how convenient it is to have a tap in the house. My partner has been avoiding putting the new header tank in for some time, but a week of carrying his own water in and out of the house convinced him to take action.

As the header tank is empty, we thought we would take advantage of the opportunity to replace it with the 27000 litre tank we bought (second hand) from a neighbor a few months ago. The old header tank (22000 litres) is destined to be moved down to the humpy to provide western shelter to the living area and to take full advantage of the harvesting capacity of the roof. The actual process of juggling tanks was long, drawn out and frustrating;

The green tank is the old header tank (22000 litres) and the black one is the new tank (27000 litres).

The first order of business was to move the old tank out of the way. We tied a strap around the top of it (after all the pipes were disconnected) and pulled it over with the car.

The figure of eight knot my partner used to be sure we could get the strapping untied again after the job.

Ready to be tipped over

The tank tipped over and ready to be rolled away to it's new home.

After much maneuvering we managed to get the new tank into position; now to tip it over onto it's base. 

The old tank rolling away towards the humpy (causing much ado with attendant swearing, running and flapping of hands). We stopped it with a conveniently placed tree.

The second attempt at flipping the tank over onto it's base. There were many more. Eventually I had to drive the car while my partner levered the thing upright with brute strength (which I greatly admired).

Upright at last, still with the rope attached'

The tank was then towed, via a rope around the base, back to the tank pad of sand the old one had been sitting on.

My handy partner then attached all the attendant pipes and we were ready to pump up the 4000 litres from the house tanks.

We have water in the header tank again. It should last us another month (at the rate of 1000 litres per week).
A storm is threatening as I type, but as yet there is no rain.

While we were fiddling around with the tank I had the opportunity to watch cicadas metamorphosis from an underground dwelling beetle-like being into a flying insect. I got photos in between exciting tank chases and tank tipping exercises.

At this point she was just emerging, wet and raw from the shell of her old body.

A side view
Another one, fully emerged and waiting to dry.

They will be noisy in the bush by December; thousands of cicadas calling for a mate, hundreds of birds feeding young off the bounty of a cicada hatching and one or two hawks, goannas and kookaburras feeding off the baby birds. What a rich ecosystem we live in, even when it's dry.

Is it dry in your area? How do you cope with the shortage of water?

Monday, 7 October 2013

Dry days of spring and Hugelkultur update number two

The hot, dry, windy months of spring are here. I am using lots of water on the garden and there is no rain in sight to refill the tanks. I water the garden with the water from the washing (about 160 litres a week) and from the chook and sheep water buckets when I refill them (about 30 litres); I also use about 20 litres a day straight from the tank to water the seedlings and potted plants. I am happy to be re-using the water from the washing and animal waters but I think I need to start putting a plug in the bath when we shower too, so I can scoop it out and water more. This drying wind really affects the vegetables.
In an effort to save my seedlings and tender plants, I have been covering the seedling hardening off area with old sheets to conserve water and provide a little shade. 

My seedling raising area.

Happy seedlings in pie trays to give them time to soak up the sprinkle I give them every day.

In the Hugelkultur beds everything is growing well. I still only water these beds once a week with the washing water (about 80 litres). This bed badly needs re-mulching to further conserve water (that is my goal for this week).

I know it looks dry, but the soil under the plants stays reasonably damp.

In the hugelkultur beds I have......


Roma tomato, just little fruit at present.


brocolli, just starting to bud.

And good old silver beet.

The trailer bed has broad beans and some really late snow peas; so I covered it to provide some protection from wind and sun. We might get lucky and get a crop.

The heirloom lettuce in the trailer bed is going well and we eat off it every day.

We are looking forward to beetroot soon, but in the meantime the leaves are added to stir fry and salad (when my partner isn't looking)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Hugelkultur update

The Hugelkultur beds (stages one and two) have been in for a month now, so I thought it was time for an update.

The beds themselves look great; there has been minimal sinking and the soil below the mulch layer is moist despite only having been watered twice and rained on several times. So the moisture holding capabilities of this gardening method are proving to be exceptional.
The seeds of beans, peas, tomato, lettuce and cucumber have failed to come up so far, that could be the age of the seeds though. The seeds of grain amaranth and fenugreek that were strewn over the beds as a green manure crop (and to clear them from the seed packet container) have sprouted extensively so there will be a carpet of green on the beds within the next month, which should help to hold the soil together and prevent too much erosion if we get the wild spring storms common to our area.

You can't tell from this distance..but things are stirring in there

One tiny plant coming up....possibly a tomato

I also bought some seedling in from our local nursery; broccoli, cabbage, zucchini , tomato and lettuce. I planted these out in the Hugelkultur beds too and so far they are doing Ok.
Zuchini in the Hugelkultur beds
Cabbage in the Hugelkultur beds

I have also had some success with planting in the trailer bed; with everything I have planted in there growing wildly.

Strawberries are going well in the old trailer bed

The broad beans are trying to make up for a slow start by growing really fast

Some late calendula is growing well, destined to be ointment one day

 So that is the extent of my garden at the moment.
Work continues on stage three of the Hugelkultur bed and on the half tank herb bed; both of which are still at the 'collect a heap of old wood' stage. I try to collect at least one wheelbarrow full of wood every day I have at home, but have been sadly lax lately. The beds will be built, even if it takes until next school holidays.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Thinking about water use

I was just reading a post from one of the blogs I follow,

It's all about water harvesting and daily water use. It started me thinking about how we use and conserve our water. So I thought I would share the broad details of our water harvesting and use here in the humpy.

When we moved here we had one 1000litre tank which harvested water from the roof of the humpy (about 6 x 9m then). There is no mains water here, if you want it, you have to get it yourself. We have gradually increased our storage to 5000 litres on the humpy (in the form of two tanks) which are pumped to the top of the ridge into a 22000 litre 'header tank' which gravity feeds back to the humpy.

The drinking water tank; 2500L

The 'pump up' tank; 2500L. The pump is that thing under the tin in the front.

The green one in the front is the header tank. The black tank is the new one (yet to be installed)

This provides all our water needs; washing, drinking, garden and animals. I did a quick calculation and discovered that we use about 143 litres a day, including the garden. These are the figures I used;

Water use
Litres per week
Showering  (15 L x 24 showers)
Animal watering
Garden watering
Clothes washing
Drinking and cooking
Washing up

Of course in dry weather our usage goes up as the garden uses more and the animal water needs refilling more often, I would add another 100L per week to the tally for dry weather use.

Because we have had good rain over the last five years it doesn't seem as important to conserve water at the moment, but the one thing you can count on in the bush is that there will be drought (and fire and flood and locust plague). With this in mind, we recently bought a larger header tank (27000L) and plan to move the old one down to the humpy so we can harvest every drop that falls on our roof. With all that storage and at current usage, we should be able to survive for a year without rain.

How do you rate your water usage?
What do you do to conserve water?

I can always use more ideas?