The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tanks for the water: part two


Although the cisterns are not collecting rain water, they are mostly ready to do so. We don’t have gutters on the house, yet – I’m waiting on the installers. Based on the bid I received for seamless gutters, it’s actually cheaper for me to let them install them than to buy and put up gutters myself. So, as soon as they schedule their crew to come do the job, we’ll have the house guttered. In the photo, you can see that I painted the fascia. This is the color that the whole house will be painted eventually.

I’ll detail later the construction of roof washers and screen filter that I’ll construct. The roof washers will divert the first several gallons of water coming off of the roof whenever it rains. The intention is to let the first bit of rain wash dirt and debris off of the roof so that it won’t end up in the cistern. The water will run through a screen before entering the cistern in order to keep leaves and things that get past the roof washers from being in the harvested water. The water should be clean enough for general household use, bathing, washing dishes, and laundry. All cooking and drinking water will be run through a ceramic filter first.

After we had the three tanks set in place, I rented a drill with a 3” concrete bore bit. With my dad’s help, I drilled a hole about two and half inches off of the bottom of each tank. The septic tanks are only set up with inlets and outlets near the top of the end walls. With the holes lower, I was able to connect the tanks to one another so that they will fill and empty as one tank rather than three individual tanks.

The three inch hole was a little over 1/2 inch larger than the exterior diameter of 2 inch PVC. So, I used some 1/4 inch Plexiglas and silicone caulk to seal these outlets. I used an 8 inch piece of 2 inch PVC (actually electrical conduit, but it’s the same thing as used for water, only a different color) threaded on both ends. The threaded fittings on each end tightened against the Plexiglas and sealed the holes around the pipe.

When I plumbed the tanks together, I put in ball valves on each tank so that I can isolate each tank separately for cleaning whenever deemed necessary in the future. I also plumbed in a drain line. I put all of these valves next to one another so that I will be able to access them easily. The tanks are in the hillside in front of the house, and there will be dirt completely covering them. On the down hill side, I will terrace the slope with beds for flowers or whatever so that it won’t be too steep. In one of the terraces I will have an access to the valves, about 36” deep inside a plastic barrel I cut the ends out of for this purpose.

I took the two inch line from the tank outlets and ran it into the crawl space of the house. I also teed off of it for a 3/4 inch line which I also ran into the house. The 3/4 inch line will supply the water to the pressure pump and the 2 inch line will be for installing a pitcher pump in the house and to provide the opportunity for additional pitcher pumps later on if necessary.

Since I was concerned that if we received a heavy rain during which water might flow into the cisterns faster than the 2 inch line connecting them together could keep up with (leading the first tank to reach full and need to overflow before the other two tanks), I connected the tanks together with 4 inch pipes at the level of the inlets on the side near the house. This ties the tanks together at that level and then serves as the overflow which will be run to the pond.

I used my loader tractor to push dirt around and onto the cisterns once I had them plumbed together. I still have to manually move some of the dirt since I don’t want to take the tractor on top of the tanks. In order to get them covered properly, I’m going to need some more dirt, which I have on the east side of the house. I’ll have to relocate a few things that are in the way before I can begin to move that dirt in order to finalize the landscaping around the cistern and generally in front of the house.

After more research, I decided not to put a coating on the inside of the tanks. It could potentially lead to more problems than plain concrete would. I cleaned the interior walls as well as I could, and I think they’re ready for water.

1 comment:

Ann from kY said...

We live in N.KY and have a cistern. I think if you don't put a coating-something like Throughseal (spelled wrong) your water is going to really taste bad. It might have something to do with the concrete from the tanks being acidic?
anyhow, when we first moved in, our water tasted horrible and you could see a film floating on it. we did through seal the inside of the cistern and that helped. I think after it cures it helps that out a lot. we use a Berkey water filter for our drinking water and we like it. it will remove the ash taste from the water that gets in when you catch rainwater when you are burning a woodstove at the same time. Home looks amazing!! God Bless, Ann from KY