Category Archives: Construction

Let ‘er Drip

April 17, 2018

Last summer, as most of you know, we carried water around in buckets to water the plants. Afecobrochure-map-update-compressed few times each summer, we got help from a dozen 5-8 year olds.

One hot August day, we gave each of the kids a yogurt container, showed them where the drip line was and then asked them to scoop from the bucket and water the parched fruit trees.

One of the younger students filled her yogurt tub, wandered out to the middle of the orchard, and dumped her water on a dandelion.

I made no response, either verbally or physically. It took me a minute to realize that, to her, that plant needed water and watering plants was her mission.

Well, we have come a long way since then and we are close to having our gravity fed drip irrigation system in place, the final component of our water conservation project. We will be using and evaluating three different drip systems. Congratulations to Luke and Dylan for their fine brochure describing the entire water conservation project.

Volunteers have been researching everything from bolt strength to bending bamboo to head meg-w-driver-sm-wp_20180306_002pressure for a given tank height. Perhaps the most physically challenging task to date has been driving 10-foot steel U posts with a 40-pound manual driver.

Sat, May 5, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, May 20, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Jun 2, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Jun 17, 2-4, Work Party

Most everything has been a new learning experience. We had some money in our budget to hire consultants but we were not able to find anyone experienced. Surely, there is another garden nearby where they are growing food with just rainwater and without any electricity?

max-ruth-at-aspar-water-barrel-20180415_161453_hdrVolunteers did a fabulous job of noticing used materials: recycled cistern, recycled water barrels, recycled bamboo, recycled wood for bracing. (Ken found 6×6 lumber and ripped it for us!)

The whole system should be up and watering by the time the dry season is upon us. Our plan is to have an open house in early August.

And, we are excited that the kids are coming back this summer to help water. Will they remember where the drip line is?

Ruth

FECO Water Conservation Grant – Step Three – Ollas and Perforated Pipe

March 19, 2018

Our efforts this year center on water conservation and we are attempting three different methods to deliver water to plants: gravity fed drip irrigation (coming soon), ollas, and deep perforated pipe. All of these methods will save water but they all will also minimize the time and physical effort it takes to water the plants.

Irrigating with ollas offers the following water conservation benefits:180318-sm-sue-olla-_20180318_0622

  • Less evaporation
  • Less runoff
  • Plant roots more directly targeted
  • Less over-watering
  • Promotion of deep roots
  • More consistent soil moisture

Ollas (also referred to as pitcher irrigation) are used in nearly all parts of the world and have been in use for at least two thousand years. (Research by Siyal)

Ollas are often handmade. The clay pots are porous because they are unglazed. The release of water by the pot into the soil is very low tech! When the water content in the soil decreases due to absorption by the roots and/or evaporation into the air, more water passes from the pot into the soil. The dampness of the soil stays more or less constant at all times; a huge benefit for the health of many vegetable plants.

Potters can increase the porosity of the pot by adding other materials to the clay and also by firing the clay at temperatures below 1000 Celsius.

(Note: Using liquid fertilizers in the irrigation water may cause salt build-up and clog the small pores. Hard water can cause the same problem.)

Our pots originated in Mexico and are made with Tecate clay, found in an area 25 miles wide that stretches from the Northern Baja border South 60 miles.

We have finer soil at FECO so water dispersion might tend to be more horizontal than if you had sandy soil. We loosened the soil well when we installed the ollas to eliminate air pockets.

Olla irrigation is reported to be most efficient for crops with fibrous root systems like squash, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, and chilies.

Sun, Apr 15, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, May 20, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Jun 2, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Jun 17, 2-4, Work Party

We also buried perforated bamboo pipes around dylan-and-pipe-wp_20180316_002the blueberries and up through the center of our new vertical garden.

We drilled a hole through each node but not through the bottom node. Then we drilled holes along one side of the pipe, for pipes buried next to a blueberry plant. Each bamboo pipe holds about 1/2 gallon of water. We buried the pipe vertical about two feet down and added a mesh screen at the opening to keep out debris.

Our hope is for the blueberry roots to reach down deep toward the water so the plant is more drought-tolerant in the summer. Perforated pipes are especially suitable for shrubs.

Our next challenge is the first part of the gravity fed drip irrigation system – the installation of 40 gallon reservoirs at each food bank garden bed.

Please consider joining us at the April work party or contact us if you can help on another date.

Ruth

garden-w-soil-and-pipe-20180319_190702_hdrother resources:

David Bainbridge, in his book Gardening With Less Water (2015), and
http://www.globalbuckets.org/p/olla-irrigation-clay-pot-system.html

FECO Water Conservation Grant – Step Two – Treadle Pump

February 7, 2018

For three summers we have filled and lifted 5 gallon buckets to water the plants. That’s fine if you 180203-nancy-pumping-sm-wp_20180202_003have a strong back and a lot of time. Currently, we are working on a setup to move the water from the cisterns around the orchard using less effort and time.

Last week, Nancy pumped 350 gallons from the older cisterns to the new one. She treadled or, should I say, she stepped.

For months I have been looking for a treadle pump because it is the preferred method for many farmers all over Africa and Asia. I searched one lead then another but there was not a treadle pump to be bought in the U.S. One U.S non-profit treadle pump developer insisted that it was against their policy to sell in the U.S.

Unless I was willing to buy from IndiaMart, these pumps were just not available. We thought we were going to have one welded for us. Then one day I got an email from an engineer friend who knew I was looking. He wrote, “There’s one on Amazon.”

“Amazon!” What? Amazon? You have to be kidding.

I clicked the link and there it was. On sale for $129. Down from $340 and, free shipping. The thing weighs 50 pounds shipped! This could not be real. The manufacturer called it a stepping pump. Who would ever search for that phrase. No one calls it a stepping pump. There are so many citations of their value and how they work and, in every instance, they are known as treadle pumps (http://www.appropedia.org/Treadle_pump_design_optimization).

Mike’s response, “This is the seduction of Amazon.”

Sat, Feb 17, 1-3, Pruning Class
Sun, Feb 18, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Mar 18, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Apr 15, 2-4, Work Party

One click to purchase. We got the last one. The screen then came back up to report, “currently unavailable”.

We chewed our fingernails until the day it arrived. Nancy figured it was all some kind of scam … to good to be true.

But, we got the treadle pump … uh … er … I mean stepping pump. It works. It won awards and I can see why. Nancy pumped with little effort, all the while checking her email.

Sign up now to take a turn on the new pump! (wifi not included.)

Ruth

P.S. R.A. Lambert and R.D. Faulkner did a research study on the efficient use of human energy for micro-scale irrigation. Their conclusion was that a sustainable hydraulic output (raising a given volume of water in a certain amount of time) of up to 50 Watts can be achieved with either with foot or hand operated pumps. However, for a given heart rate, foot operated pumps result in an increase in power output of 75-80%. (Journal of Agricultural Engineering Research, Volume 48, January–April 1991, Pages 171-183)