Category Archives: Uncategorized

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)

FECO Water Conservation Grant – Step One

January 21, 201820171231_sm-the-lift-3-step-two-all-161258_hdr

Our newest cistern is in place, poised to capture 1,000 gallons of water every winter. A volunteer found it used on Craig’s List and donated it to FECO.

On the last day of 2017, nine volunteers worked 2.5 hours to set a bamboo structure in place and to build and attach a 6′ x 10′ roof over the bamboo.

171219-sm-jeff-bamboo-wp_20171209_002The bamboo structure had been preassembled by Jeff. He called it advanced fort building. We had previously cut the bamboo from the yard of Judy Scheinuk, a member of the Seattle Tree Fruit Society. She was delighted to have her bamboo thinned.

The roof is located to the side of the cistern and serves a dual purpose; it not only captures water for the cistern but also keeps organic materials (waiting to be composted) dry so microbial decomposition is minimized.

By early summer, we should have all three cisterns full, even though the new cistern missed the fall rain. Nancy did some number crunching, with the knowledge that we catch more rain each winter than can fit the in two older cisterns. She figures we can play catch-up by stealing 500 gallons from the two older cisterns and transfering that water now to the new one.final-sm-crop-plumbing-wp_20180105_001

But, how to transfer the water? Stay tuned for Step 2 – installation of our new treadle pump.

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

FECO is the recent recipient of a third City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Matching Grant, related to water conservation and experimental watering methods. We need to volunteers to work 300 hours and the City will match with $10,000 toward our expenses.

We have three goals for the water conservation grant: 1) to use less or no City water, 2) to improve our system so we spend less time watering, and 3) make watering an easier task physically.

Ruth

Good Soil Biology – The Perfect Recipe For Plants

December 19, 2017sm-171119-big-nema-400x-worm-bin-tc_7

It’s time to honor our important volunteers who live in the soil – the nematodes, protozoa, microarthropods, fungi and bacteria. All these fellows work tirelessly underground, decomposing organic matter and pooping out the nutrients in the form that plants can use.

In fact, organic matter is the only food we have supplied for the orchard trees and shrubs over the last six years. And, now that we are using the thermal compost process (see Nov. 2017 blog), we will be regularly cooking up tasty treats our plants enjoy.

rc-plant-succession-slide-elaine-ingham-life-in-the-soil-oxford-keynote-2014Plants put out sugars in their root zones to attract the critters they most desire. Early succession plants, like weeds, desire soil with more bacteria (see Ingham slide). Late succession plants, such as deciduous and conifer trees, prefer fungal dominated soils.

When we make our compost, the types of inputs we use will determine whether the compost will also be bacterial or fungal dominated.

How do we test the characteristics of our compost? We can put the finished product under the microscope and actually count how many bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes we have and then convert the counts to biomass.

Sun, Dec 31, 2-4, Roof Work Party
Sun, Jan 21, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Feb 17, 1-3, Pruning Class

Dr Elaine Ingham offers very accessible online classes in soil biology, making compost, compost tea the-soil-food-web-nrcs142p2_049822and using microscopes to test soil life. She discounts classes at various times of the year. If you take these classes, you will learn how to be a good land steward (see Ingham’s soil food web slide).

You won’t remember but, when seed plants arrived over 360 million years ago, good soil biology was already in place. Plants know what they need from the soil and how to get it. We can all play a part to improve soil quality by minimizing soil compaction and avoiding use of inorganic fertilizers. The importance of soil is the subject of this recent article from the New York Times.

Ruth