There are almost too many great places in the bay area to explore, many of them really close to home. The northern California coast is only one of two places in the world that redwood forests exist, and they are in our own backyard.
With this in mind, I insisted on a family day hike to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park outside of Felton. On Saturday morning, we were all packed up and out the door before 9AM. Short ride over the hill and we were parked and readied for the jaunt to Cable Car Beach.
The San Lorenzo river runs right through the park, and the beach really is a beach, with sand and all, though it's on a river and entirely shaded. We hung out there for well over an hour playing in the sand, climbing the cliff that faces the river, hopping over Eagle Creek that dumps into the San Lorenzo there, and generally having a swell time. Yep, even the dog came along despite his arthritis.
Harold is still a bit small to handle it all on his own, so we had the small-kid backpack to give him a lift. I believe that at just under 3 miles (4.8 km) roundtrip, this very well may have been our longest hike yet that we've all gone on. And at the end of the day, it was fun, we all agreed, which just makes me want to make a tradition of going out to local, beautiful places to explore!
I have the rainwater catchment system all set up and eager to receive the free bounty from the skies this winter. But wait, is it really winter? This time of year, we should be getting at least a drizzle now and then. But we've been dry for months now. So my new h2o catch and store system is just sitting there, waiting for the moisture to show up.
I still have a couple hundred gallons in the tank, leftover from the storm we had in, when was it, November? I've been using it here and there to irrigate what crops we do have growing in our winter garden. But it's getting used up, and the storms are just not coming in to replenish my supply.
Indeed, it's been so long that I wanted to make sure the system still works. So I put the hose into the cistern to start dumping some water into the system, and a few seconds later, the float floated, the pump fired up, and the water was making its way quickly to the tank. Nice. Now, let's use it for real!
Here is my latest installment of my new toy, our rain water catchment system.
Late last week, I scrambled to get the line from the supply pipe connected to the water tank, because there was a good, wet storm forecasted to hit our area. What did we get out of it, or better asked, how much roof runoff water did we collect? From this one storm, we got over two hundred gallons. The tank was nearly half full.
Here is a picture of it after a milder rainstorm came through a couple of days before.
The brackish appearance of the water is a result of two things. One, the inside of the tank is a bit dark, a bit green due to the color of the material. Second, there was a lot of pollen that the rain washed off of everything during that rain spell, and it collected in the tank, and especially on the sides of the tank. But if you look closely, you can actually see the bottom of the tank, which the white hose is resting on.
On Saturday night, the majority of the precipitation occurred, and I, with all the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning, was going outside to see how things were going with the system. At first, the pump was doing a very good job, running smoothly and quietly, and at the other end, water was gushing forth into the tank as expected. After a little while, upon a subsequent inspection, I noticed that the water was just trickling out of the hose, despite the pump running as usual.
Thinking that the inlet to the pump was getting clogged by leaves and debris, I opened the manhole cover of the cistern and saw that the water level was nearly at the top of the small tank, and the pump was working away. I rolled up my sleeves, unplugged the pump, got down on my knees, and tried to reach into that black water to see if I could unclog the inlet. But the water was too deep and I couldn't reach all the way down.
What I tried next was at the other end of the line. The hose is connected to the supply pipe near the tank via a brass hose bib, the standard kind that you use to attach a garden hose to and with which you can turn the water on or off. I turned the valve nearly all the way off then all the way on, then backed off just a bit, again, hoping that if there was something stuck at this end, the movement of the valve action would break it free. Immediately after trying this, I could hear the water flow increase, gushing into the tank. Checking it visually, I confirmed that the water was flowing back at its normal level, as only a half horsepower pump can do.
But again, a few minutes later, the flow reduced to an even smaller trickle. So again, I worked the handle of the hose bib and again, the flow rate was restored. If were to rain all night, I couldn't conceivably stand there, babysitting the constriction that is the hose bib. In order to prevent this from happening until I could fix it properly, I removed the hose bib and decided that any water the pump would send for the rest of the night would be spewed out onto the walk and the lawn. This seemed to have done the trick. The cistern drained and the water flow continued to remain at nominal levels.
By the time I figured out the problem and instituted the emergency workaround, the storm was breaking up and the rain had stopped. The next morning, I was the proud owner of nearly 250 gallons of reclaimed rain water. Now to figure out how to permanently hook the tank up to the supply...
You can see from the image above that the water tank has been placed into its final spot, where it will live to collect and retain rain water in the coming wet months.
The octagon retaining wall was built and placed, leveled and smoothed out. Today, I made a trip to South Bay Materials and picked up a half yard of pea gravel with my utility trailer. Here's a picture of what that looks like.
It took a little less than seven wheelbarrow trips to get the gravel to the site, and once it was there, it was an easy job to distribute it and level it out. Here is what looked like.
Then, I tipped the tank on its side and rolled it into place.
The final bit of this project will be to find the right fittings to get the supply pipe connected to the tank's inlet port. But if we get rain before I get around to this final step, it will be easy enough to fit a garden hose to the supply then stick the other end of it into the tank so that water will begin to be captured.
Almost there! And with the threat of a storm coming this weekend, we may be capturing water real soon now!
The water tank arrived at the house safely the other day. There's a picture of it above, next to the house. Earlier today, I pulled it out to clean it up and rinse out the inside.
The image below shows the octagon frame that the tank will sit inside. My idea is that the tank needs to be raised just a bit so that I can water the garden via a gravity feed. So the guy at the pump shop where I bought the tank had an idea to build a frame that will contain pea gravel, then the tank can sit on top of that. It will be sturdy, flat and relatively level. I don't have to worry about the frame needing to support any weight since the pressure of the full tank will be directed straight down, not down and out. The frame will only need to contain the pea gravel.
In order to make that frame, I had to find out what the formula is for determining the length of the sides of a regular octagon if I have the diameter from the middle of opposite sides. Googling around, I found a formula I could work with and determined a length. Rita had the good idea to double check my work with a mechanical engineer friend, who came up with a) a simpler way to do the calculation, and b) an answer that was almost half of what I came up with. Good thing I checked!
I rounded up to lessen the waste of the cuts of wood, but didn't use my brain when making the cuts. I took 360 degrees and divided by eight (angles), which gave me 45 degrees. Well, if you have a couple of 45's, you get a 90 degree joint. I remedied that blunder by pulling out the table saw, setting the angle of the blade to 22.5 degrees (roughly) and removing some material that slightly shortened the outside length. Then things started fitting much more as I had expected.
A couple of screws at each joint brought it all together. Now to go calculate how much pea gravel I need (area of an octagon, anyone?).