Monday, September 27, 2010

Water carrying car: Update

Yesterday, Sunday, I hauled two 200 L tankfuls of water from the ditch using my car. Today, Monday, the forecast changed from cloud to rain in the space of an hour.

Now, it's raining 21 mm per hour which equals about 200 L every three minutes, and the garden is pretty much waterlogged.

I'd like to spit at Fate, but it would only add unwanted moisture.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Water carrying car

I haven't posted for a while because it hasn't rained more than three times in nearly two months. This has meant that every spare moment I've had, I've been either laboriously watering my acres or trying to make my acres more absorbent by digging holes and filling them with compost. After the compost ran out, I've been scavenging material to make four new piles of compost for later.

While my garden has been gradually drying out and dying off, I've become a little disgusted by how much water is available in our neighbourhood, without any of it being available to me. Although my feijoa and figs put forth a good deal of fruit this year, none of it swelled to edible size due to lack of water. But when I go down from our promontory and amongst the fields, I can see running water everywhere and hear it babbling amongst countless irrigation ditches and rivulets.

You aren't really anyone in the country
until you get a lorry tank

So I looked for ways to get this water to run uphill. First I asked the village headman if I could take some water from the lakes or ditches. He told me not to take from the lakes, but to make free with the ditches (a distinction I don't fully understand, but it's really all the same to me). Then I got a 200 L 'lorry tank' as they're called, and a Nakatomi PSP-70NS Portable Submersible Pump (220 W). I already owned a 300 W inverter and various bits of hose. I phoned my friendly Honda dealer to check whether my plans would break our car, but he assured me they wouldn't. He did advise against using the cigarette lighter as a power source for anything with large output. Notwithstanding the Honda man's assurances, the missus saw fit to add the warning, "If you make the car unusable, I'll kill you".

I drove my Chevy to the levy, and the levy was wet. Rather gingerly, I set everything up and began pumping operations. I must admit, I did half expect to suffer electric shocks and burns and to witness the utter destruction of my car in a fiery and watery apocalypse. However, all in all it went rather well.

A hose can be more dangerous than an anaconda

I did make a number of elementary mistakes at first. When you run a hose from a ditch up into a tank placed in a car, the hose has very little weight. However, when you start pumping water through the hose, it suddenly becomes heavy, and gravity works on it in dramatic fashion. The hose slides downwards as fast as a snake, while the end of the hose flips out the top of the tank and flails about inside the car spraying water all over the upholstery at an alarming rate. The second time, I tried tying the hose to the opening rim of the tank, but the end of the hose still flew out like an angry cobra and started spraying everything, me included. Finally, I tied a small dumbbell to a length of string so that the head of the hose was fixed firmly, pointing downwards into the tank. As the water level in the tank was nearing the 200 L mark and I was congratulating myself on a very well-managed pumping operation, I suddenly became aware that I had forgotten to close the spigot on the tank, and was in fact pumping a large amount of dirty water straight into the upholstery. It took about 30 minutes of bailing and mopping to get all the water out of the back of the car in the end.

Gurgle gurgle

I did in fact ignore the advice about using the cigarette lighter, and at about the 150 L mark, the pump stopped with an electronic "peep" from somewhere. When I pulled the hose out of the tank to discover where the problem might be, the pump started up again, soaking the front of my shirt completely. Then it stopped. I took the plug out of the cigarette lighter socket and found it too hot to touch, so I decided henceforward not to risk this attractively easy option again, and to use the alligator clips on the battery instead.


The car handled fine with 200 L of water in it, although it sat quite low in the back. Emptying 200 L of water into various parts of the garden at one go feels like very luxurious behaviour, and the ground took it up with an audible hissing noise. I put gallons on the figs, the feijoa and the jaboticaba. I also soaked the ground cover in the hope that it will recover a bit before the cold comes on. The new compost piles (just dead leaves and chicken manure) also got a good dousing, because I want to be sure of huge amounts of compost to soak up the large volumes of water that my new tackle has brought within reach. They should heat up and break down pretty quickly now.

Wetting the figs

This really does seem to be a satisfactory arrangement, and I expect it will help to get the garden established such that it can ultimately withstand the summer droughts without too much stress. I don't think it's particularly 'eco', but if it ultimately reduces watering from the tap and makes the garden productive, then it's an improvement. If I can only remember to close the spigot when I'm pumping...