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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Home the Land Built: Week 10

I’m waiting for rain.  Is that a good thing?
Yes, our Sahara-like lawn needs it.  Excavator Steve finally shoveled, bulldozed and dragged the final water-shedding grade around House the Land Built.  After Linda and I spread grass, oats and fertilizer, we rolled straw-weaved mats to hold the precious seed and prevent (hopefully) the deep gullies from reappearing.     We hurried to beat the rain.  Finally the green and yellow on my phone’s radar became a blanket beneath the stars, yet all it gave was a low growl.  Heavy clouds but no rain.
Lawn aside, it’s our steadily depleting cistern that’s really got me gazing west all the time.  I’m excited to announce that the rainwater harvest system is finally in place!!!  What would we do without Excavator Steve?  He not only trenched in the PVC pipe that will carry the roof-harvested rainwater to the cistern’s underground inlet, but he designed and built an overflow outlet as well.  His 70 foot buried PVC pipe runs gently downhill from the top of the cistern toward our future garden, allowing excess rainwater to escape without digging another gully in our lawn.  According to my calculations, our 5400 gallon concrete cistern should overflow during nearly every summer rain. 
Each inch of rain equals a thousand gallons for us.    So that one inch should last us 33 days at our average household consumption of 30 gallons per day.  Thank you composting toilet for saving us so much water!    An average summer provides 4 inches of rain each month, of which 3 inches (3000 gallons) will need to be diverted down to our garden.    We needed to store 5400 gallons (180 days worth) to get us through the long winter, our desert season here in Minnesota.  Worst case scenario, drought of the century, I pay the milk truck guy $200 to haul us 5000 gallons of water from City of Plainview. 
And thank you in advance to our three newly-installed Clean Rain Downspout Diverters.  Their job is to say  “you shall not pass”  to the dirtiest of water.  They catch the rainwater falling out of the gutter, discard the first 50 gallons (dust, pigeon-poop, whatever collects on the roof) then screens the remaining water before falling into the cistern’s PVC pipe inlet.  While the cistern water would be fine as-is for bathing and dishwashing (certainly far cleaner than any lake we’ve ever swam in), we’ve installed two additional filters to assure perfectly safe drinking water.  The final filter, our Big Berkey, not only eliminates every possible gut-bomb of a creature, but Atrazine as well (heard about frogs changing genders?)  and a host of other nasty chemicals. 
But this is all theory.  I’m still waiting for our cistern’s first raindrops.  Is that a good thing? 
I’m reminded of my dream last night:  an owl tearing the breast feathers out of a small hawk while hawk beat owl’s hungry face with his wings.  Is that a good thing?
I’m not sure.  Yet, like waiting for rain, I am sure its engaging.  And that is exactly what we asked Locus Architect Paul to do for us: design us a house that enables the Connection.  Engage us with the Land.  Our neighbors.  You.  What could be more engaging, more connecting, than watching the sky, the one big sky which embraces us all?    
I gaze out the yoga loft windows.   Today’s grey veil prevents the sun’s rays from heating our solar hot water collector, yet leaks just enough to energize the photovoltaic solar panels, topping off the batteries with electricity.  All so engaging.  Yet now, the rainwater harvest system draws my gaze over the solar panels, over the Ireland-green prairie, over Lonny and Sandy’s fields to the horizon.  There, on that far western rim, live my hopes, my imagination:  a rolling darkness, a sudden violent flash then that blissful sound.  A single splat.  Then the drumming.  The running.  The gushing.  Water!  Water!  Water!  Soon, very soon I hope.
Rainwater harvest:  the last alternative system to be installed.  Yes, it can be annoying and inconvenient.  So too off-grid electric, solar hot water, composting toilet, masonry heater.  Yet I’m beginning to wonder if “convenient” isn’t the opposite of “connecting”.    Seems that the grid---be it electricity, water or waste---has been quietly, conveniently, disconnecting me from so much that really matters.
No more!  I’m waiting for rain.  That’s a good thing.

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