One of the eternal questions we constantly bandy about is the question of water for our homestead.
Our well is 610 feet deep with a static level of about 450 feet. Our well pump is electric. If we lose power, we lose water. Since we live on the prairie, surface water is nonexistent.
For years, we’ve investigated affordable options for homestead water without much success. Solar and wind options far exceed our budget. (A few years ago we were quoted about $18,000 for a windmill of sufficient height, size, and strength to power our well — and I don’t doubt the accuracy of that quote.)
Several years ago we purchased a 1500-gallon above-ground water tank, but thus far have not installed it. One of our winter projects is to built a heavily-insulated “cool room” in the barn and install the tank hooked up to filtered roof runoff. This would provide abundant water for household use.
But what about livestock? What about the garden? Well, we may have found the answer.
We had our pond installed immediately adjacent to the garden on purpose. Its location is convenient not just to plants, but to the livestock as well. However the question of getting water out of the pond and into a stock tank (for the livestock) or to the vegetables remained to be seen.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. We had a trench dug for a project (a neighbor with a backhoe kindly did the job).
Then came days and days and days of rain — the kind of heavy relentless downpour that leaves little checkdams of pine needles from the rivulets of water cascading down the road.
Unsurprisingly, the trench filled with water, which refused to drain out of our hard clay soil. We were tasked with removing water from a trench 30 feet long, one foot wide, and 18 inches deep.
Ah, but Don had a new secret weapon: a bilge pump.
A bilge pump, as you doubtless know, is designed to remove yucky water from the bottom-most levels of ships. It’s designed to handle all kinds of junk: sediment, contaminants, etc. A few months ago Don realized a bilge pump would probably work to draw water out of the pond for whatever purpose (garden, livestock) we needed.
But we never had the opportunity to test it — until yesterday, when he realized the bilge pump might work to pump out the trench.
This particular model of bilge pump was astoundingly inexpensive — $28.50. But how well did it work? And how hard was it to use?
First, Don screwed the pump to a small platform, then he got PVC connectors to attach to the inflow and outflow valves of the pump.
He dropped the pipe into the trench, and started pumping.
It — worked — beautifully. Astoundingly well. Fast, efficient, and easy. With every downward push of the lever, it shot out about a quart of water.
About halfway done:
Between us, it took us about 20 minutes to pump the trench almost completely empty.
The information on this Chinese-made product promised:
Well, they were right. I have seldom seen a product work so well. It more than exceeded our expectations.
The only “difficulty” was having the pump on the ground, since we had to kneel on the platform to operate it. We’ll also have to be careful about leaving the pump outdoors since we’re not sure how well the rubber gasket will handle extremes of temperature.
We’re going to test the pump next spring and see how it works pumping water out of the pond, through a used pressure tank we salvaged, and into the garden’s drip irrigation system. To do this, Don will build a platform and install the pump at waist level, and add an additional length to the handle for greater leverage. The pump’s specifications indicate this shouldn’t be a problem:
One of the reasons we’re so delighted by this pump is because it’s manual. In most of our prepping endeavors, we are trying to make sure everything stays low-tech and hand-operated (and, if possible, inexpensive).
Slowly, little by little, we’re solving our water issues in affordable ways. This bilge pump is a valuable piece of the puzzle.