Thursday, June 27, 2013

Busy time on the farm - fixing the basic utilities

I was reminded by a reader that I hadn't posted an update in a while.  Things are actually really good right now; but it's been busy, so much so that I haven't had much time to write updates

There is a lot of maintenance on this farm that was deferred.  What I mean by that is that lots of things never got fixed when they were broken, and what was fixed was often fixed in ways that I really don't like.  I'll talk about specifics in a later blog post, but the basic idea is that there's a lot of stuff that is broken, and some of the stuff is pretty important. 
 I was working by the pumphouse (the little grey building in the picture below) and noticed that the pump was running almost continuously.  In fact, it was running continuously.  So I spent an hour or so shutting off water to this or that part of the farm, and determined that I had a pretty big water leak somewhere in the ground between the pump house and barns.  I found a wet spot over where I thought that the water line ran, and dug it up and found two water lines, and one had two big leaks in it.  I also noticed that the water line wasn't buried deeply enough, and that the type of pipe used for the water line was not what I would have picked for a buried water supply line.  Whomever had done it had chosen black irrigation pipe, which is cheaper and thinner than water supply line.

So I cut out the part of the line that had failed, and patched it, and then thought about it for a while after I turned the water back on.  The pump was running less than it was, but it was still running.  This means that I have other water leaks on that same run of pipe. 

Well water is free, and that's fine, but continuous operation will burn out the pump much sooner than it should, and there's always the risk that with holes in the pipe other stuff will get into it.  So I bit the bullet and called a location company in.
Chris came out at 7:30 the next morning, and I spent most of the day with him, tracing pipes and drains and power supply lines all over the property.  His equipment was also able to determine the depth of the line being traced, and as a result, I found that most of the buried power lines were waaaay too shallow.  Dangerously close to the surface.  Water lines also were typically buried too shallow, and there were buried power lines in places I did not suspect.  At the end of the day I had a pretty good idea of where all the utilities were, and where all of the drains went. 
Finding a power line across the back yard

Crossing utilities market out

one thing that I found out is that I had Lots of places where things crossed.  in the picture above, the green line is a drain from the milking parlor, and the two red lines are buried power lines to a couple of pumps that are involved in the manure lagoon.  The drain was 30" down, the power lines were 5' down.    This sort of crossover makes things more complicated but I'm pretty glad I did the locate -- I have had no problems cutting or damaging things as I work. 
Water supply lines run to nursery barn
What I've been doing over the last week is replacing all of the existing water lines with the proper pipe at the proper depth, and installing frost-proof hydrants everywhere where I might want water.  I'm installing 9 hydrants around the barns (which sounds like a lot, but the barns are arranged on 5 acres, and this allows me to have water within 100 feet of anywhere -- so I can use a single hose and get water, and some of these hydrants will be used as the supply for automatic watering systems.   When I'm done I'll have water everywhere I need it, and I won't have to haul water anywhere in the winter and I'll never have to string more than a single hose anywhere. 

Total I'm installing or replacing 1500' of water line, 12 hydrants and 2 water cutoff valves.   To get the water line where it needs to go there will be lots of fittings; total project cost in parts about $2500.  I'm digging the holes with my little trackhoe.  One of the most useful farm/construction tools ever invented.   

After I finish this project I'll be digging up and reburying the power supply lines inside conduit at the code-indicated depth.  Some of the power lines were only 8" below the surface of the grass, which is crazy. 

1 comment:

ellie k said...

Thank you for the posts, it was very interesting and sad to see what shortcut people use to save a few dollars and some extra work but these shortcuts can cause another person their life. This farm will be so efficient when you get it how it works for you. Of course a farm is never done.