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Building Unity Farm - Emergency Preparedness

Posted Jun 20 2013 6:00am

In the month of June, we've had 10 inches of rain at Unity Farm (to view our weather station data click here ).

Although our paddocks, pastures, and trails are normally dry, we've accumulated water in ways that impacts our ability to care for the animals.  The picture above shows one of our paddocks after a deluge of rain.   A manure pile that is under water is a bad thing.

What did we do?   I purchased a 1/2 horsepower submersible sump pump  and attached 1 1/4 inch sump pump hose to maximize outgoing water flow - a garden hose would have been too limiting.     Sump pump hose is sold in 25 foot segments because sump pumps are designed to go from basements to outdoors over a short distance.   In our case, we needed to pump 40,000 gallons of water into  a dense forest that would easily absorb the flow and return it to our water table.   I used 1 1/4 barbed couplings and hose clamps to link together 150 feet of sump pump hose.  

I built a cage of 23 gauge hardware cloth and submerged the pump inside the cage to ensure floating debris did not clog the pump.

The end result was a water flow of about 4000 gallons an hour from paddock to forest.   After 12 hours of pumping, the paddock was transformed from a lake to puddle.  

After mastering this technique, we're now ready for any flood related emergency.

Too much water is one challenge, but what about too little?   We have a well that consistently produces 8 gallons per minute of clear, chemically perfect water.  However, the well depends upon electricity.    If we lose power due to a storm, we have 50 gallons stored in the basement which will serve the needs of the household.   But, what about the animals?

To ensure we can keep all the animals of Unity Farm hydrated, warm, and safe, the farm has a 20 kilowatt generator and four propane tanks.   The entire barn, heating system, food storage, water supply, and internet connection can run off grid for a few weeks.   The pump system I described above is powered from the chicken coop, which is also backed up by the generator.

Last year, we replaced all the well equipment which had reached end of life.   In addition to water flows to the barns and paddocks, we do have drip irrigation keeping all our fruit trees and produce plantings moist.    Just as we're ready for floods, we're also ready for droughts.

Finally, we have a fully stocked root cellar with about a year of food kept at 60 degrees, so if there is a very significant man-made or natural disaster, we should be self sufficient.

Every day at Unity Farm is a learning experience.  Thus far, our emergencies have been few, but we're prepared for whatever may come.

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