Grit Blogs > Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

Spring Project: Gravity-fed Watering System

A photo of Nebraska DaveHey folks! Glad you could come back and sit a spell. I always enjoy seeing you. I've been busy this last week with spring projects. Things are starting to bloom around the Urban Ranch. I planted tulip, daffodil, and crocus last fall and they certainly have not disappointed me. I'm not sure what the official name for these tulips are but I call them "Tulips of fire." They are absolutely the best tulips that I have ever had on the ranch.

Tulips of fire

Daffodils in competition with tulips

The daffodils certainly were in competition with the tulips. I had a double row of about 60 or 70 of these guys. Their bloom cycle is winding down and I actually dead headed their little shriveled blooms today. They did put on quite the display for the neighborhood for a couple weeks. I want to interplant day lilies in this flower bed to keep the area alive as the daffodils die down in early summer.

Grandson Bradley jamming on mandolin

Hey how did that picture get in there? Oh well that's just my grandson jamming on the mandolin. He doesn't know how to do much other than make noise now, but who knows maybe someday. He sure got the hang of holding and strumming the strings quick.

Lifting the horse tank

Here's one of those summer projects that I am working on. I finally got ambitious this week and got started. It's a 1200 gallon horse tank that I want to use as a gravity feed watering system for my raised garden beds. It seems that I'm gone a lot for a week or ten days at a time and to keep the garden alive I need to have a watering system in place.

Piece of concrete found while digging in the backyard

The first thing that has to happen is of course the foundation to set the tank on. When digging in any urban ranch backyard one never knows what can be unearthed. Here you see a big chunk of concrete that apparently was used for something at one time or another and just buried in the backyard to get rid of it. Nice!!

A tree root that's also in the way of my digging

There's another hazard when digging in the urban backyard. One must be careful to clearly determine what exactly has been found before chopping it out. Buried utilities run through yards without a whole lot of logic. One day while working on another project last year I chopped through what I thought was root and suddenly my cable TV didn't work any more. So now I'm very cautious about digging in the yard. Anyway this is clearly a tree root, and I got the axe and made short order of the pesky thing.

Tamping the dirt

The next thing after the digging the trench is to pack the dirt as solid as possible. I use an 8-inch square tamper that weighs about 8 or 10 pounds.

Setting the anchor block

Next comes what I call setting the anchor block. Every thing has to be straight and level off the anchor block. This is the most important block of the foundation.

Leveling the block

The block has to be level both on the length of the block and on the width of the block. This first level of the foundation is the most time consuming of the entire project. If this level is not done right the whole project will turn out wrong. Especially since water will be in the tank and we all know that water will seek out a level surface.

First four foundation blocks

There's the first four blocks of what I think will be three high. This process took about three hours with the root chopping and clearing the buried treasures that I found and about three aspirin. There was even a golf ball about a foot and a half down in the dirt. You got me how it got there. I don't even golf. It's a pretty good start for the first day.

Testing the tank on the first blocks

I just rolled the tank up on the blocks to see how it was coming along. Only the front four blocks are finished. I still have to circle the entire rim of the tank with a block base. The center part will be filled with packed down dirt to support the tons of water in the tank.

Well that's about it for this week. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week. Oh wait one last thing.

Hot cap for tomatoes and taking a break

I finished my PCV pipe and trash bag hot cap. It turned out pretty good. I know there are way more inexpensive ways to hot cap tomatoes, but when I get an idea in my head I just got to try it out. Of course there's always time to take a break and drink coffee and think about the next project for the living poor man's patio. Well it's not quite so living right now, but it will be.

See ya next time and leave a comment. I do love to hear about what you think.

nebraska dave
5/5/2010 10:10:22 AM

Pam, my Grandson is indeed a curious little boy. He wanted to know what was in the case I had next to my desk. I took the mandolin out of the case and showed him how to strum the strings and he took over from there. I couldn’t pass up a picture of that. I really enjoyed your last post with the collage of pictures of your farm. You have a watering system that makes mine look pretty puny that’s for sure. Mine comes not from a water shortage issue but from being away on trips for up to 10 days at a time. Last year I had automatic watering from the faucet from the house, but if the hose should break it would run until I came home which would not be a good thing. With this system the worst case would be to run the tank dry. So it’s more a safety thing and of course the challenge to just build it and make it work. I do like that too. So hopefully I’ll have it up and running by June. It might not look real pretty by then but hopefully it will be functional. I would like to eventually get fish in the tank for the summer. I am not going to try to Winter them over. It would require a tank heater and I don’t want to heat 1200 gallons of water all Winter when it gets down below zero. I’d rather just catch fish from the local pond in the Spring and return them to the pond in the fall. It would give me a chance to clean the tank for the next year.


pam_6
5/4/2010 11:49:28 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave, First, that cutie pie playing the mandolin is sure to be a star! I love your water system ideas. The tulips are just beautiful. Living in East central Georgia we experience a long hot summer that usually has a long dry spell. We have to come up with some inventive ideas for watering here also. Good luck with it all. Have a great day. Gafarmwoman Pam Life on a Southern Farm


nebraska dave
5/1/2010 6:20:05 AM

Shannon, thanks for stopping by and your encouraging words. My Dad was a handy guy. I am just a little handy. You are seeing something that has taken years of brain power to bring out into the world. It takes a while for me formulate a plan, but when it comes I have it mostly figured out. I hope all is well with you and your gardening experiences this year. Mine are right on track. Around the middle of this month is when the good stuff goes in the ground. Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Cucumbers, and Dill Weed. I just love the smell of Dill Weed. Mom used to plant Dill Weed in the garden and it’s the one thing I remember about those gardening days. I really didn’t like to work the garden back then but I did like the garden smells. I’m not sure yet if I’ll do any pickling. It’s an easy thing to do these days with all the supplies found at the local big box store.


nebraska dave
4/30/2010 11:26:08 PM

Cindy, the watering system is coming together. I need a few more blocks to complete the foundation. Then I have to figure out a way to anchor the above ground blocks in place until the 4 tons of water hold them down. I haven’t quite figured that out yet but I’m working on it. I have thought about the catching rain water. I ran the figures and it would be significant amount of water from my roof lines but just dealing with it after it gets into the rain barrels would be ever so high maintenance. I have shelved that idea for the time being. I will come back to that one later. The daffodils are done for the year. The tulips are fading fast but the Iris are fully budded out and will begin to bloom I expect this next week. After the Iris I’ll have Peonies blooming at the end of May which will be the end of the flowering for in ground flowers. Next week will begin the working on containers for the Poor Man’s Living Patio. I’m going to have Impatiens and Begonias again. They were great last year. The Gladiolas were Ok too. I will try some different things but don’t know what yet. The frost looks to be over for this area, but could rear its ugly head anytime until May 15th so I’m still cautious about frost sensitive plants. I am surprised that we haven’t had a frost for some time. I’m pretty confident that we will get nicked one more time before the real growing season starts. I hope your nursery job is going well. I know it’s a busy time of the year.


s.m.r. saia
4/30/2010 6:12:16 AM

Wow, that is COOL! I can't wait to see how that works. You are right handy.


nebraska dave
4/29/2010 11:21:34 PM

MW, I have many projects around the urban ranch so I try to do at least a couple hours work every day. It doesn’t always work out but I try to get as much done as possible. The tulips were the best buy last fall at Lowe’s. I didn’t really know what I got until they started blooming this Spring. I hope they last many more years. The horse trough started life as a swimming pool for my youngest daughter who now is 25. Since we have a great community city pool near our house and a summer pass is reasonable I am not using it for my grandson. It was high maintenance with leaves, sticks, rocks, and what ever else that could be thrown into the pool. So I decided to use it as a gravity feed garden watering storage container. Oh I’m sure about the talents and creativity. I just look through a lot of magazines for ideas. I will eventually see something that births an idea that I have been looking for. This particular project has been bouncing around in my mind for about three years. This just happens to be the year it comes out into the real world. I’m glad I decided to blog too. It’s my first attempt at a really public blog. I’m still working on the logistics of getting the right stuff in the right place, but hopefully I’ll be getting it right real soon. I think I chose the best place to get started cause Grit is such a friendly place.


cindy murphy
4/29/2010 11:15:29 PM

Cool beans, Dave - I'm looking forward to seeing how your watering system will work when it's completed. Our addition to our current watering system, (aka a spiget and hoses) is a rain barrel I made from a food-grade 55 gallon plastic barrel. We got it up just in time - right before a rain. I soon discovered (Hubs had already told me so) how quickly a 55 gallon barrel fills with water. It seems 10 of these barrels would not be enough to water the gardens; kinda puts in it all in perspective how much water we use....and we don't even water that much because I make sure I plant things that'll tolerate drought conditions. Love the daffodils - one of my favorite flowers. Shannon picked a bunch a couple of days ago so we could at least enjoy them inside; we had a few nights of heavy frosts here this week. Cute grandson - I bet he keeps you busy!


nebraska dave
4/29/2010 10:34:54 PM

MW, I have many projects around the urban ranch so I try to do at least a couple hours work every day. It doesn’t always work out but I try to get as much done as possible. The tulips were the best buy last fall at Lowe’s. I didn’t really know what I got until they started blooming this Spring. I hope they last many more years. The horse trough started life as a swimming pool for my youngest daughter who now is 25. Since we have a great community city pool near our house and a summer pass is reasonable I am not using it for my grandson. It was high maintenance with leaves, sticks, rocks, and what ever else that could be thrown into the pool. So I decided to use it as a gravity feed garden watering storage container. Oh I’m sure about the talents and creativity. I just look through a lot of magazines for ideas. I will eventually see something that births an idea that I have been looking for. This particular project has been bouncing around in my mind for about three years. This just happens to be the year it comes out into the real world. I’m glad I decided to blog too. It’s my first attempt at a really public blog. I’m still working on the logistics of getting the right stuff in the right place, but hopefully I’ll be getting it right real soon. I think I chose the best place to get started cause Grit is such a friendly place.


nebraska dave
4/29/2010 4:54:49 PM

Hank, thanks for the encouraging remarks. I’m not sure where the story telling skills came from. I just like to hear a good story and maybe it just rubbed off from some of the folks that I listen to. The best of all story tellers is Garrison Keiller and his Prairie Home Companion show. Oh man I loved that radio show. A close second was the Red Green Show out of Canada. The state fair always has story tellers which I never miss. The action shots come from an Easy Share Kodak camera set on a tripod. The shots are kind of staged and I use the timed delay of 10 seconds. Once I get the camera set and everything in place I hit the button and have 10 seconds to scamper over to the work site and look like I’m really at work. They turn out pretty well most of the time. Earth filled blocks make for a great foundation. I have the total foundation completed as of today. I’ll be posting another post soon about the watering system. I have to patch a few holes in the tank as it hasn’t had water in it for about 12 years. It will give me a chance to hone my welding skills. Just cause I love on an urban ranch doesn’t mean I can’t have some big ranch toys. Well their not quite as big as the big ranch toys but work for the urban ranch. Thanks for stopping and leaving a comment.


mountain woman
4/29/2010 4:03:01 PM

Wow, Dave are you ever busy and with such amazing projects too. I love the idea of using the horse trough for your watering project. I love your flowers and they are especially beautiful to me as we got buried under 2 feet of snow yesterday. Your grandson is adorable as well. As always, I'm so impressed by your talents and your creativity. You are inspiring and I'm sure glad you decided to blog :-)


hank will_2
4/29/2010 1:59:26 PM

Dave - I love your projects and your excellent story-telling skills. How the heck do you get all of those action photos? I'm pretty interested in seeing how your water system turns out ... I need to rig up something along the same lines using a solar pump to pull water from a spring box and put it in a storage tank that can then gravity to the garden and a couple of animal waterers. I would have tried to make a foundation of Osage Orange posts -- I am sold on the earth-filled concrete blocks now. I totally dig the flowers too. Thanks, Hank


nebraska dave
4/29/2010 1:36:37 PM

Heather, thanks for stopping by. I sure hope that the watering system turns out like I have it pictured in my mind. Some how things have a way of not quite looking the same when they hit the real world. It’s a work in progress for sure. I’ve just about got the base completed. There’s a little repair to the tank. I have to plug a couple leaks. Then I can start with the filling of water to see just how level it ended up being. That’s my greatest concern. Water will seek a level surface. If I can parallel gravity, then I’m home free. Well almost home free. I can begin to build the water pipe network. I’ll be giving updates as things progress. I hope all you animals are well and growing as they should.


heather
4/29/2010 1:04:27 PM

Love the tulips! So beautiful. Can't wait to see how the water system works out for you.