Notes from Windward: #67


Mounting the Flush Tank

  June 19:

     Now that we've added more room to the chicken run by adding the roosting shed, and started thinning out our stock of roosters, the next pressing issue involves getting the ducks their own place. They're full grown and still hanging out in Vermadise, absolutely refusing to even stick their beaks out the wide open doors for a peak at the big wild world. Given the fate of their precedessors, that's entirely understandable--between coyotes and owls, there's no end of critters who are fond of having duck on their personal menu.


     We could just kick the ducks out of Vermadise so that they could start learning to track down bugs for their supper (our primary purpose in having ducks wandering around is insect control), but we're looking at this half-dozen as breeding stock. As soon as they start laying, we'll be gathering their eggs and incubating more ducks in order to build up our flock size to our usual couple of dozen. If the ducks are wandering around, the hens are going to seek secluded places to lay their eggs--rather than going on a perpetual Easter egg hunt, it's easier to keep them penned up during the laying season. Still, we want them to be happy ducks, and part of the plan there is to include Tank 2, our 1,250 gallon fish tank, in their cage. That way they can paddle around to their hearts content, and still be safe from predators.


     So far we've gotten a good ecological balance going between the floating plants and a school of goldfish, but once the ducks start to use the tank, the biological load will increase dramatically. So, before we can get the ducks out of Vermadise and into the goldfish tank, we need to get the large circular grow beds operating, and to do that we need the flush tank online.


     In this sort of system, water is pumped up from the fish tank to a holding tank, also called a flush tank because periodically the water in the tank is dumped through a series of spray heads into the gravel-filled grow tanks. From there it trickles through the gravel and flows back into the fish tank. In order for this to work, the flush tank needs to be at least a foot higher than the lip of the grow tanks, no trival matter when we're talking about a ton of water.

     The first step was to cut two parallel trenches into the bank behind the grow tanks, and each trench was fitted with what we call a "short tie." Years back they took out the railroad bed that ran along the Klickitat. After removing the rail road ties that were in prime condition, they took a huge bulldozer with a ripping blade and tore the remaining ties in half. These were then gathered in huge piles to await transport to the landfill. While that was going on, we spent many a day hauling short ties back to Windward--finally getting about 1,500 before the project ended. Since then we've put them to all sorts of uses around Windward, and stil have lots of them left to work with.


     Once the two parallel short ties were in place, we placed two full size rail road ties on top of them going the other way, and then another pair of short-ties parallel with the first set. At that point, we took a heavy-duty drill and a long auger bit, and drilled 3/4" holes down through the stacked ties. A five foot length of rebar was then driven down through the holes to pin the ties together.


     The process was repeated until the crib was high enough to elevate the flush tank above the grow beds, at which point the remaining bits of rebar were driven further into the ground so that the crib was secure and not going anywhere.


Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67