Couple of Winter time projects…

We finally got around to replacing most of the old electrical outlets, I worked upstairs in the loft and Will worked downstairs and after an hour we were done with that project. The rest of the loft – library is coming along  too, little by little. Got most of the paper bag floor done. The edges will be held down with a 3” strip of flat copper and once I get it down I’ll decide whether or not to hammer it for the visual I’m looking for.

Will’s new infra-red scope came in and is quite the piece of technology. We can use it in a number of ways; look for heat leaks from the house, spy on the large bulls at night in the field north of us (Will calls them field sausages), or maybe see if it’s rabbits or pocket gophers chewing through my DOT fencing. He attached it to an m-14 to share the photo with another gun enthusiast. Put it on the White Hot setting…and the world is a different place…what’s the first thing we do? Take videos of our cats on the WH setting. Damn some things never change.

It’s rain season and we need to get the cistern back on track collecting water before the dry season hits. The solar driven pump in the root cellar was struggling a little too much last year so we drained the cistern, and then got sidetracked during a very intense work line-up in 2017. The solar panel is made by (info coming) and the specs are (hell if I know) and attaches to the pump. Pretty pricey and reliable stuff – that I do know.

The other day I climbed down the ladder into the cistern to see if we could figure out what the problem is.

The cistern roof delivers about 1900 gallons of water and the south side of the school house delivers 1/2 of 2872  = 1436 gallons. I talked about this in the Calculating roof catchment blog.


After chipping off the crud on the pipe,





taking some measurements, running a wire from the root cellar side, I cleaned up the floor, and here’s our take on the whole deal.




The aluminum screen basket (intake) is in great shape, no clogs, no clogs in the 5’ tall 6” diameter pipe.

I asked him about the small output pipe in the root cellar to get an idea of where that outflow is in relation to where I am standing 9’ down in the cistern.

If I’m standing in the cistern and the pipe elbow going into the root cellar is shoulder high, and the root cellar outflow pipe is another foot above that – on the other side of the wall- then it would make sense that the solar pump struggles to pull the water up 6’ in a large pipe.

When the cistern is nearly full you’ve got three feet of head pressure in a 5,000 gallon + container helping that pump. When the water falls below that line you’re making that pump work hard. By the time the cistern water falls to the last two feet of depth, the pump only puts out a slow trickle.

So we reconnected the rain catchment to fill the cistern and then we’ll test my theory.

The south side of the schoolhouse rain catchment can’t be attached yet – we have to get the last course of solar arrays on for the TH, then dismantle the scaffolding before we can do that. Guess what’s next on the list? Yup the solar array. Don’t want to lose that much water potential before the dry season.

That’s the cistern house in the background. The new arbor will be just to the right of this picture 30′ x 30′ but that’s another story.

Collecting water underground is not a new technology. For more than three thousand years,  the Persians have been collecting water underground in the desert. The technology called qanat became popular 3,000 years ago and continues today. National Geographic has a wonderful video here: showing the engineering technology of qanats.


In the mean time I’ll keep mulching. I use two tools; a box cutter and a garden claw. That’s all I need to clear the weeds and drop & distribute the straw in a 2” layer. Then the rain comes and does its job.

Wouldn’t you know? After writing Fixed It! two roosters got into a scuffle, so I’m out early this morning with the medical kit to patch up whoever got the worst of it. Told ya – every chicken is an individual and how each individual works out their life is different. Kinda like humans.