Category Archives: sustainability

Catching Water: Day 1

Day 1 was a huge success with the cistern installed and set in concrete, the piping ready to be finished off next weekend, as well as sealing the lid on. It took us about 5 hours, 10 volunteers, and 20 bags of concrete mix. I am very very happy with the project, all the help, and the new addition to the yard. Though now that I have a cistern in the backyard, it will certainly not rain for months and months. One can hope.

Mari and Jonathan digging out the overflow basin for the cistern.

Riley working on the inflow piping.
(You made Rudy proud!)

See how much Jeremy likes carrying 80 pound bags of concrete?

Catlow prepping the forms for us to pour in the concrete.

Sun is setting and we haven’t started mixing concrete yet.

Mixing concrete by hand is oh-so-fun.

We placed the cistern (no longer a culvert) in the cement before we had as much as we needed because it was setting up too quickly. So we hand dumped it from the top of the cistern (trying not to splatter too much), and then Catlow had the exciting job of climbing down via a carabiner-strapped ladder and rock climbing webbing in order to bend over and smooth the surface inside. He’s a good sport.

One might say I was “supervising” at this point.

To be continued in one week…


Catching Water: Sneak preview.

Today is the first day of two water catchment tank workshops in my backyard. Mostly we will mix cement and set a 7 foot tall, 4 foot diameter metal culvert on its end in the cement. With some pipes mixed in for fun. For a diagram of what we are going to do, look at this older post, and for more information about improving our water resources, local watershed management, all here in Tucson, Watershed Management Group knows a thing or two. Here are the parts, pieces, and place.

Culvert, soon to be cistern.

What 1 ton of cement mix looks like next to 3 inch ABS pipes.

Location, location, location. In this case, right under the newly installed gutters seems to make sense.

Winter gardening and chicken talk.

Pathways, river rocks, fire rings, and veggies.


Lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and paths.

“Hey Hayduke, make sure no one’s coming will ya?”

“Coast is allll clear Cracker.”

“It’s hard out there for a hen. Can hardly find time to lay an egg. Hey you Araucanas! Need some inspiration – check this out!”

Catching Water: Preview.

In about one week, with the help and guidance of Watershed Management Group, we will be installing a ~540 gallon water cistern at the northeast corner of the house. The purpose is the capture the run-off from the east side of the house during the monsoon seasons (and any other time it might happen to rain, but let’s face it, it barely rains ever). Then with the stored water I will be able to water plants, trees, veggies, and keep the chickens thirst satiated. Pseudo-famous water catching local gurus like Brad Lancaster will say that this water is free, but he is wrong. I know. I just spent all day running all over town making numerous purchases for this catchment tank, including the 7 foot long, 4 foot diameter culvert that will be used on its end as a cistern, and it is anything but free. Though that is not to say it is not worth it. I have ogled other peoples’ catchment tanks in the neighborhood with salavating lips, and googly-eyes ever since I closed on this house. For some people it is speedy cars, and others fall for sex appeal in passers-by – but for me, it is hot bikes and large catchment tanks that cause me to strain my neck while looking them up and down. I know, but it’s hard out there for an urban farmer…

Well to give you all an idea of what we will be installing come next weekend, here is a diagram I shamelessly stole from a local business website that also installs these cisterns. This is pretty much what we will be doing over the course of two Sunday afternoons in November, minus the hard work, sweat equity, and moments of confusion and cursing. Have no fear, I will be sure to post real pictures of the installation process once it takes place. Meanwhile, have sweet sweet dreams of your own water catching fantasies…

Patagonia, Arizona.

This weekend, Mari, Megan, and I went down to the Native Seeds farm in Patagonia, Arizona (south of Tucson near the Mexico border). It was the fall harvest “festival” which basically means that we are supposed to feel good about helping to harvest the corn and stomp the beans, and Native Seeds gets to feel good about us giving them free labor. But since Mari used to work there and my brother, Chris still does, we thought it would be nice to go down and spend the morning shucking corn and brushing ear wigs from our shoulders to be rewarded by an unknown quality of potluck lunch. Also, we happen to think that Native Seeds is a pretty vital organization in the face of mono-culture crops and genetically modified seeds with all sorts of craziness and undetermined dangers. On top of all of that, it was a perfect reason to squeeze into my beat-up, sometimes running, and always dirty pickup truck and take an hour long cruise south through the Sonoran Desert to a 60 acre farm with a perfect view of Mt. Wrightson in the Santa Rita mountain range. It was a good opportunity to give my brother a hard time and throw dried up, mice eaten, corn cobs at each other while talking about how we were clearly the best volunteers at the Native Seeds harvest festival.

The “indispensable” gator at the farm.

Seed collection system.

Post fetish #1.

A critical mass of gourds.

Post fetish #2, with Mt. Wrightson in the back left.

Sowing seeds.

Sunday we planted three beds of vegetables for our winter garden. Everything from broccoli to kale to lettuce and carrots. I have high hopes for this planting for a couple of reasons. The first is that with the help of Chris, Megan, and Jonathan we dug two completely new veggie beds that are no longer under the looming shade of the large Chilean mesquite tree in my backyard (which incidentally is fabulous for the summer beds). Last year the veggies definitely suffered from too much shade and not enough warmth, so hopefully this will be the solution. Also, I was able to add some lush, dark beautiful compost to all these beds. Between the large amounts of food scraps, weeds, shredded documents from the office, and the occasional load of food scraps from the local co-op, not to mention the chickens own special fertilizer and their help digging around in the compost, this was by far the best concoction of natural, home-made compost I have ever been a part of.

Supposedly the seeds I planted on Sunday will grow into food that one day this fall and winter we will cook, fry, steam, and eat. I have seen this work before. I have been a part of it and even responsible for it, but I never cease to be awed at the magic that takes place under that dark warm soil, only to poke its head out and eventually make its way to my mouth. There is always a bit of a question mark hanging in the air after such acts of believing. And really in the end, there is so much that has nothing to do with me. Very strange indeed. But satisfying. Really damn satisfying. Especially when it works.

Rainy sunset from the porch last week.

%d bloggers like this: