Notes from Windward: #62

Solar Powered Irrigation

     Most folks say that the three most important factors that determine the value of a piece of real estate are "location, location, and location." That may be true in the city, or west of the mountains, but here on the eastern side, which is to say the dry side, the three most important factors weighing in on the value of a parcel of land are " water, water and water."

     Windward is located at the point where the rainy forest of western Washington transitions into the high, dry desert of the eastern part of the state. For those who know their trees, the transitional nature of our land is evidenced by the sight of Douglas fir, a wet forest tree, growing side by side with Ponderosa pine, a dry land tree.

     The strata below our feet here was formed by successive volcanic eruptions which laid down many layers of basalt rock. In between the layers of basalt, there are layers of dirt and lose rock that accumulated during the interval between eruptions, and it's one of those interim layers that's about 100 feet down that provides our potable water supply.

     While that strata has so far proven adequate to supply our potable water needs, growing vegetables and raising animals requires a good deal more water, and you can imagine how much laundry water twenty people can go through during the height of summer.

     Instead of trying to draw ever greater amounts from our deep rock wells, we've started to tap a dug well that was installed some fifty years ago along the edge of the creek bed that runs along our eastern boundary. It's open to the surface and possible contamination so it's not rated as potable, but it's certainly good enough to water the sheep, tend the potatoes and wash clothes.

     In the past, we've been using our water tanker to pull up 300 gallons at a time from the dug well, and then to pump that water into caches near where it's needed. In the near future, we're looking forward to putting in a non-potable water system that will greatly expand Windward's use of water.

     The key to our solar irrigation system is about a half mile of three inch schedule 80 water pipe that I was able to pick up at auction. In the spring (this spring if funds allow, next spring if not), we'll bring in the track hoe that dug the deep ditch for the electrical extension we did a few years back, and have him dig a two foot deep trench from the dug well up to the highest point on our property, a distance of about 1,500 feet.

     Once the main water trunk is in, we'll install a second 3,000 gallon holding tank just like the one we use to store our potable water supply.      Then we'll install our Solar Jack pump in the dug well, and use it to pump a gallon a minute from the dug well, up the hill to fill the storage tank. A gallon a minute may not sound like much, but there are a lot of minutes in a long July day.

     Given the elevation of the holding tank compared to the pasture, we'll have about eighty pounds of water pressure delivered to really big irrigation heads distributed throughout the pasture. The pasture is fine by itself for May and June, but this system will insure that our gardens get all the water they need, and that our sheep will be able to enjoy top quality browse right on through the dry season.

     One of the key principles of sustainability involves making the most of what you have, and since July and August have lots of sunshine, we'll be looking to use what's plentiful to provide that which is not.

Solar Powered Induction Foundry

What we're going to do

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