Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Rain Water Storage System

Last year I posted in the blog about my well pump motor going out. I told how the water table had gone down 30' in the first twelve years since it was put in, and how it had gone down 235' in the last eight years. I had the pump lowered 200' more but the well is only 630' deep. If the water table keeps dropping at the rate it is, I will have water only seven and a half more years. Of course the water table could rise back some and my fears would be for naught. With this drought I feel I should plan for the worst, and I am.

I got lucky, years ago, on a welding job and was able to get a 5,000 gallon fiberglass water tank for free. I installed it for rain water collection, but the tank was so tall that it had to be put in a 4' deep hole in the ground so the gutters would drain into it. What I didn't realize was it would keep me from adding onto the system because of its height. In February I was able to sell the tank to a man for the price I could buy two new 2,500 gallon, plastic tanks. In the meantime I located a granite company that had eight new 3,000 gallon plastic tanks they had bought but then decided to sell because the economy went bad and they were worried that business would decline. Lucky me, as they were selling them for less than half price. Although I bought all eight of them, four equaled the price I sold the other tank for. Now that I know it's going to really happen I thought I would post the process of getting the new system up and running.

I have read extensively on rain water collection so was able to get the other system set up without too much problem. I already have the gutters and the roof washer, but because this system will also be plumbed to the house, there is much more to do. There will be a new water house to contain the pressure pump, pressure tank, and a filter system. The water for the garden will come off after the pressure tank but before the filter system. One of my customers is in the water filtration business and has agreed to help me with that end of it. I will be doing all the work myself, with the chief helping of course. Lyn is always hands on with all the big projects we do here but she is a tiny thing and I always worry about her getting hurt. It hasn't happened yet, other than a mashed finger here or a bruise there. I have worked in all kinds of construction for 35 years and know what to look out for but she might not. When I tell her it's time for her to get back and let me take care of it she knows it's time to get back and let me take care of it. Although these tanks are not heavy, at about 440#, they don't have handles or lifting cleats, so are really hard to load, move and set up. Thank goodness I have a lot of really good friends. So let's start with removing the old tank.

Big Andy and Steve were the unlucky ones this time. We pulled it out of the hole it was in with the gin poles on my welding truck and was able to lay it down on the back of my trailer.

We laid a piece of carpet over the back edge of the trailer and pushed it onto the trailer. That wasn't too bad.

We put two by fours angled in from the sides to make a V shape so as to cradle the tank. As the weight of the tank went up the back of the trailer, the back of my little Toyota truck started rising. It stayed on the ground, but just barely.

Does it look like the tank made it out from under the carport roof? It lacked two inches. We had to let the air out of the trailer tires to pull out with out tearing off the gutters. Then we aired the tires up again.

After the 5,000 gallon tank was removed we started to prepare for the placement of the new tanks. Remember what I said about having some good friends. Well, I mean some really good friends. Here's Billy with his Bobcat working to fill in the hole and grade the ground to as near level as he can get it.

I shot the site with a sight level so we could walk out with a tape measure and see how much more Billy had to take off. As long as it ended up a little low it would be OK. It would just take a little more sand to level it. I used sand as it is considered to be self-compressing. In other words, you don't need to tamp it, just wet it down after leveling.

Next post I'll show the plumbing of the first tank. It will be the most difficult as it is the one first in line off the gutters. I did also want to show these rain barrels that I found while researching tanks. They are made in Burnet and you can buy right from the company. They come in several colors and look quite nice.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Night at the Ponds

Sunday night was Night at the Ponds at Hill Country Water Gardens. We go every year. They have expanded to almost double its previous size. The new area was just as well landscaped as the original. There was plenty for the early birds to look at around the parking area as there was beautiful beds everywhere.

When the gates opened at 7:00 there was already a large crowd and a long line. They had free wine from several different Texas wineries. I could hear the band as I walked in. They had a nice sound and the singer was very good. It's Austin so you would expect that.

I noticed that they had doubled their water lily ponds. There were many new varieties of lilies but the pond plant that caught my eye was a miniature lotus. It would just be perfect for smaller ponds and trough ponds. My pictures of the blooms didn't turn out very well. I so wished they had as it was a dark color of pink with a bright yellow seed pod in the center. Quite stunning and about the size of a hard ball. The leaves are about 8" in diameter. Not so big as to overwhelm a small pond.

Examples of different pond set ups and possibilities were everywhere.

A train set up had been incorporated into a new pond in the expanded area. The kids really loved it.

Most of the ponds are more natural looking but a new pond had been built of interest to the more formal crowd. It wasn't my cup of tea but I thought it was quite stunning none the less.

Although there was a 20% discount on everything, I took one look at the check out and decided not to even try. I did make a list of some new plants that I wanted. I hate standing in lines and putting out new plants really should wait till fall. Over all, a really enjoyable evening, walking through the plants, along the trails and around the ponds. Ya'll should try it next year.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Little prizes

This post is about two weeks old but I was having some problems with Blogger and posting pictures. Not being real computer savvy it took a while to figure it out.

This is the time of year, here, that you start finding the little prizes in your garden that you have worked so hard for. Sometimes it takes looking through the leaves to find them and sometimes they are right out in the open. The beets are all canned and Lyn is constantly picking and canning green beans. We are eating fresh carrots and radishes but there is a lot more. Here's the more.

Burpees Ambrosia has been my favorite cantaloupe for 28 yrs. but I have been trying others the last few years as Ambrosia just doesn't do well for me here. I really gave it a good try but have only gotten a few in some years and none other years. This year I'm trying Stutz from Seeds of Change. It may well be the winner. There are three cantaloupes in this picture.

Watermelons have been about the same as the cantaloupes. Crimson sweet was an excellent performer where we used to live and had a great taste. For some reason it just will not perform here. This year I am trying Dakota Rose. It doesn't look all that good for the watermelons as I could only find five.

Our standard for cucumbers for too long to remember is the Armenian cucumber. It is for eating raw and is almost a cantaloupe it is so sweet. The skin is very thin and tender. It is also the most heat resistant of any cuke that I know of, setting fruit all through the summer.
I would love to try different types of potatoes and have ordered from several sources. No matter what you tell the people on the phone at the suppliers, they will not send the starts to you in time to plant here, they send them when it is time to plant there. Of course that would be way to late to plant here. So-o-o, I just buy the potatoes that McIntyres Nursery sells and plant those. They do pretty good most years and really good some years. This year looks like a really good year. We've been spooning a few taters already. That's what older folks call it. It's where you dig around some of your plants and harvest a few potatoes to eat before your ready to harvest the whole crop. I don't use a spoon though, just my hands. I plant my potatoes on top of the ground and cover with leaves or grass clippings so they are real easy to harvest.

Corn is another one that has come with mixed results but Burpee's Early often has worked the best for us. I don't get the name, it is early but after the pollen has fallen off the heads there will be no more corn. So, I don't know about the often part but we do get several stalks with four ears on a stalk. Not all ears will fill out though. We do get quite a few big ears but I think we could still do better. I like this corn though because it is short and fits raised beds well.

The Bell peppers are really putting on. These are California Wonders.

And the tomatoes, definitely some surprises here. I didn't even take any pictures of my Big Beef as they are doing that poorly. Normally this tomato is the best for me. I started growing them after Texas Gardener magazine recommended it as the best they had tried. It has been great the last few years but I think there is a problem with these. I will write about it later. I always plant Yellow Pear and Sweet Olive tomatoes. Just a couple though. Any more and I wouldn't know what to do with all the little tomatoes. There is over a hundred on one of the Yellow Pears right now.

The big surprise for me is the regular, old, normal, Roma tomatoes. They always do well for us, but not this well. There are over fifty tomatoes on each plant and I have already picked quite a few. Now I wish I had bought more instead of the Big Beefs. They taste wonderful, and being a sauce tomato, they have few seeds and lots of meat. I'm trying to eat all I can before Lyn gets set up to make sauce.

This next tomato is one I am very excited about and yet, it doesn't even have a name. While visiting Italy, a good friend of my sisters, Mary, asked about the tomato sauce that a little restaurant used. They said it was made with their families tomatoes and that was why it was so good. She told the lady she had a gardening friend and the lady gave her some seeds to bring to me. I received them a little late so the plants aren't as big as my others but they are catching up fast. There are only three little fruit on them now and they are interesting to say the least. They have deep creases and a long naval line on the bottom, and seem to be shaping up to be rather flat in shape. Usually this denotes a large tomato, but we will just have to wait and see. This is another case of gardeners anxiety that I talk about from time to time. It's a wonder more of us don't have breakdowns.


We have dug our first beets. The rest will be dug in just a few days. I love pickled beets. My Mom would put up just a few jars every year. No one ate them but her and me. It was certainly a delight to see them out at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lyn has had to figure the beet canning out on her own as we never found a recipe book when Mom passed away. I was lucky to marry a woman who loves to cook, that takes it very seriously, and just can't stand it if something doesn't taste just perfect. Lyn doesn't like them but experimented by putting up one jar at a time of slightly different changes till I thought it was perfect. She couldn't hardly stand to watch me do the taste test. I was sucking on them and slurping them around in my mouth, slowly chewing to get all the taste out of them. She just couldn't watch. She stayed with it till they taste just perfect, the way Mom's used to taste. We put boiled eggs in the extra juice to have beet juice pickled eggs. U-u-u-m-m-m, good. Yeah, I know what your thinking. Man, I'm a lucky guy.

I usually grow only one bed of beets and that puts up no more than ten quarts of beets. Detroit Reds have always done the best for me. Chiogga is one I will try next year in a small plot to test. I don't want to take up space from my main performers though.I tend to horde them to make sure they last all year and still have a couple of jars to give away to friends that like them.

It must be dry

Every time it get's really dry the snakes start showing up in the pond. We've already had several water snakes in the pond and have lost a couple of really beautiful koa. I guess when you have some of the only water around you have to expect it, but it really makes me mad to lose koa that are starting to get into the large size. I usually borrow a snake grabber stick from the feed store to catch and relocate them to some place a long way from my ponds. The snake stick was already borrowed when the snake was here and it was able to get his meal and take his ill gotten booty and leave. I know it will be back and I am ready now. I built my own snake stick and it is much better than the other one.

Lyn has already used it to catch a juvenile Blotched Water snake so it is already worth the time it took to build it.

On another note, I am having a heck of a time loading and moving pictures on blogger. I have several long posts with lots of pictures but have been unable to get them done. Is anyone else having this problem?