You know, it felt like it was less than a week ago since I did my last update, but I suppose in actuality it's been closer to 2 weeks. We've been getting some cold nights and a mix of sunny days and rainy days, which is good for both my solar power system and my rainwater system. Ideally I'd have sunshine every day and a little rain each night, but I'm pretty sure I don't have any control over the weather yet.
So! First of all, I've got a picture of my compost pile with a new bin built next to it.
The new bin is for storing cover material. The roof on top is supposed to help keep the material dry so that it doesn't freeze in winter. Of course, it's not going to stay too dry with just a busted up pallet on top, so I'll have to toss something else up there. Right now, though, at least I've got my cover material all together.
Next we've got a picture of Barney on a new couch that I built out of some extra lumber. The old bench looked cuter, but it was a little too shallow. It was awkward to lay on, and I discovered that's what I was doing most of the time, so I decided to build this one. It's a few inches deeper and a few inches longer, and it's much for lounging-friendly. The "seat cushion" is actually a bunch of old blankets and comforters wrapped in a sheet, and the "back cushions" are just regular bed pillows.
I also have a piece of plywood that hooks over one of the bottom steps on the ladder that serves as a support for a pillow on the side - makes it quite comfortable to lounge on now, I must say. The whole thing does feel a bit more "intrusive." I'm thinking that if I round the corners off, it'll help somewhat. For right now, though, it works.
But okay, back to the rainwater system!
So here we see the "deck" that I built over that big old hole. The system has had a few additional touches here, too. First of all, the water no longer does directly into the tank, but first runs through a metal screen (yes, that's a kitchen strainer) to help keep pine needles out. Also, the "first flush" diverter is hooked up. Right now I'm just using a 2½ gallon jug attached to the bottom. Once that jug fills, water accumulates up the pipe and comes out the next pipe, which leads to the cistern. After every big rain I'll need to empty that jug. That way, the first few gallons of water (which rinses the bird poop and dust off of the roof) will be collected in the jug instead of in my cistern.
Now I just need a way to get the water OUT.
So here's the pump I built! The first picture shows the piston shaft and the pump housing sitting next to each other on the straw bales. Next is a close-up of the water outlet with the piston all the way down, and the last one shows a close-up of the piston.
I got all of the ideas for this pump off of a YouTube video from a place called "Agua Yaku," I think. They used a similar design to make well pumps in Bolivia in 2008 for less than $50. I didn't have to draw water from a deep well, just a little cistern, so I was able to make mine smaller and cheaper.
The piston is made from a carriage bolt shoved through a hole in the bottom of a 3/4" PVC cap. A washer and nut keep it in place, then another nut and washer is added a little further up. There, an assembly is made from a 3/4" PVC coupling cut in half, a 3/4" PVC nipple, and a 1½" foam ring cut from a sandal. Notches are cut into one end of the PVC coupling - the end closest to the cap. After that, another washer and nut are added, then a smaller, 1" foam ring (with washers on either side) and finally 2 more nuts. The part around the PVC coupling assembly isn't tight - it's allowed to slide up and down the carriage bolt. That's kinda how it all works.
The cap is fixed on the bottom of a pipe, and the whole thing is shoved into a 1½" diameter pipe. This big pipe has a one-way valve at the end and a tee at the top. As the second picture shows, I put a reducer and a threaded nipple coming out of the tee so that I can hook a hose up to it and pump the water directly into my indoor holding tank under my sink.
I'm sure this is all really confusing written out like this, so I've also recorded a video of it.
I'm sure that does nothing to help explain how to make it, but at least it shows the thing in action. The Agua Yaku people did a much better job of explaining how to build it, and I'd recommend checking their video out if you want to make your own: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHkEPx0hj