Grasping for Water

New pond on the mountain last year, waiting for rain

We’re back on Joel’s book – Folks, This Ain’t Normal – today. So glad you could join in. ๐Ÿ™‚

“If we made a list of resources Americans take for granted, the top spot would go to water.”

Here at Polyface, we’re always looking for ways to capture more water. We build ponds on the mountain and gravity feed the water through pipes down to the animals.

Our dream is to set up a rain collection system that would gather water from all of the roof tops here on the farm. Hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps one day.

We always pump water out of the ponds for watering the garden during droughts and all of our water during processing days gets collected and pumped onto the fields for a little irrigation and fertilizer.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts on water? Do you have a rain barrel? A pond?

The water pressure from the gravity feed from the mountain ponds

Imagine for just a moment that every drop of water you use today had to be carried by hand in a bucket. Would that cut down on your use?


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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.
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14 Responses to Grasping for Water

  1. John Wells says:

    Hi Sheri… I live in the SW Texas desert in an off grid experiment called the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory (The Field Lab for short). I rely on capturing rainwater for all my needs here. Our historical average is 9 – 11 inches of rain per year…last year we only had 4″. I pump water out of a draw when it runs and catch water off my roof. I just completed a large greenhouse building that has a roof area that provides 1500 gallons per inch of rain. I store all the water in large opaque plastic tanks – total storage capacity at TFL is 22,000 gallons. I’m praying for a little more rain this year – I will need 6 – 8″ to fill it all up. BTW – I loved Joel’s latest book…here’s to being abnormally normal. Cheers!

  2. Even in the wet PNW we have started our rain collection system with two barrels. It should be a larger system but we are not sure where to keep so many blue barrels on our urban farm. Most of the year we worry about too much water but even Seattle has seasons when the water makes the news because the reservoirs get low.

    I know it is popular on urban farms to get rid of the lawn. I keep as much lawn as I can because it is valuable to me as compost fodder and as a way to keep mud and dirt off of the dogs feet and therefore off of my floors. Even so, we do not water the lawn even in the heat of summer. It always comes back and we do not have animals who are dependent on the lawn for feed. My biggest water issue is the water from laundry. That is a whole lot of water. I bet that if I could find a stealth way to recycle laundry water I could wash my car with it and keep the front lawn green in summer. I have not let myself think much about toilet water, there isnโ€™t much I can physically do about that (pipes sunk into a cement foundation, more $$ than I have to change that) or about shower water (short of being old enough to realize that I do not need to wash my hair every day)

    I love that you use this blog to invite me to think.

  3. Brenda Scott says:

    We have 3 ponds on our property & one spot that used to be a pond. But since they were man made (before we bought the place), they might technically be illegal. We have hilly land & I’d love to collect the rain at the top of the hill to water the stuff below (our ponds are all at the bottom of the property). Unfortunately, to add ponds or water collection systems like this, we need permits. We are planning to start collecting from the rooftops, we just haven’t done it yet. Do you guys make use of grey water? That’s an interesting idea, too! We technically don’t have water rights & can only water our livestock & grow a 1/2 acre garden from our well (and we have 30 acres), so water collection will be very important if we plan to do much with our property at all! (We are still new here & learning!!). Thanks for the post!

  4. Mellisa says:

    I am happy to say that this year I am installing both a hoop house over a small new seciton of garden as well as rain barrels. I only have one barrel right now but I will be adding 3 more before the season is under way. One I am going to fill from my downspout. I live in a suburban area and water is expensive so I am hoping to offset my water costs by at least 50%. I’m shooting for 100% but if I can’t get that I will settle for 50%. I thank Joel for my movement in a sustainable direction (chickens for eggs, larger gardens, 4 season harvesting). It all started with ‘Food Inc.’ and I have learned so much about the food I eat in the last several months thanks to Joel! What I have learned has sent me on a whole new life adventure! Now if I could only figure out how to get a farm . . . .

  5. Anthony says:

    Joel mentions this in the book, but in some parts of the country, rainwater is not ours. We live in a state where that is the case. We cannot set up barrels or any collection system for precipitation. We aren’t allowed chickens either. It’s quite annoying, but just one more obstacle to sustainability – and just part of living in suburbia.

  6. Joe Bergfeld says:

    I just got a copy of Folks this Ain’t Normal last week and I’m desperately trying to catch up with your discussion. One thing Joel has taught me is being aware of your resources. Sheri is right, if we had to carry buckets everyday we would let the faucet run a little less with brushing our teeth, showering, frequency of the washing machine, etc. I have put rain barrels around my house. In a downpour the rain that runs off the house can fill a 55GL drum in about 15 minutes. That’s staggering!
    Another form of water conversation is using mulch. Mulch will store up water and slowly release it. I’m going to use more of this in my garden this year after watching the documentary, Back to Eden. It confirmed what I already knew. As Joel says, if more people would put in ponds and lakes we wouldn’t have flooding problems. I agree. Great topic!

  7. Annie Kate says:

    We live right beside a little river, but even that dried up last fall. Even so, if we’re careful with mulch we rarely need to water our huge gardens. But I’m hoping to collect the water off the barn roof. Water off the house roof has some shingle bits in it, and I’m sure they are not good to put anywhere into the food chain.

  8. Nita says:

    Unfortunately it’s illegal to build ponds here. We dryland garden like the old timers did, and use a hydraulic ram for our domestic water. In our location rams make sense because the water is in the canyons and the flat, arable land is on the ridge tops. Our summers are dry with no rain, but with high stocking density our pastures do well despite our annual 3 month drought.

    Ponds would really make a difference in the wildlife diversity too I think. My wish is that the powers that be will actually start listening to Joel and other common sense thinkers BEFORE they make it illegal to build ponds, gather rainwater or keep hens!

  9. Tracey Anne says:

    Our family of five live in the back blocks of a small rural community in New Zealand. We do not have reticulated water so all water comes from roof top catchment. This means 5 minute showers ( not so easy with 3 teenagers), water conserving washing machines and toilets and remembering to turn taps off etc. It,s not so bad in winter but in summer we have long dry periods with very little rain, so water conservation is of the utmost importance otherwise we run the risk of having to purchase a truck of water, which is not very green at all.
    Our water supply is gravity fed, we do not want to install any pressure pumps, any leaks in the system would otherwise drain the catchment tanks.
    Closer towards the city our neighbors are on a reticulated supply , but we don,t want that as they “treat” the city supply with chlorine and add fluoride for healthy teeth. I,ll stick to rain water catchment thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Laura says:

    Dairy farmer in Ontario, in the process of converting a ‘confinement dairy’ in to grass based. Eagerly making changes to water collection and consumption. Keep up the good work! Every gift i give this year will be this book.

  11. Joe Hernandez says:

    Will be moving late spring onto a small farm. The entire north border is a popular trout stream that always runs. Taking water will be a permit issue but doable, within limits. I plan to collect water for the gardens, crops and stock from the roofs of 3 large barns. Building a 1/4 acre pond is in the plans, fed by the stream. I too believe, that my grandchildren will regard water with the same importance that we now place on oil. Nothing can be producd without it. Yet such a valuable commodity can be had for “free” if you work at it and understand that value. I hope to teach them that value.

  12. Tracey says:

    Just the thought of carrying by hand in a bucket all the water we use makes me want to cut back. Every drop counts.

  13. I’m curious about how Polyface creates and designs it’s reservoirs. Do they use a natural product like Bentonite clay (Well Drillers favourite mined from the Dakotas) to seal off the bottom from perculation loss or some artificial means like plastic or rubber liner.

    Just curious, because Bentonite would be the most environmental and cheapest way to go.

    Thanks again, Kevin

  14. Michelle says:

    It’s not to hard for me to imagine having to carry all the water you use in one day – my grandmother had to do that for her cooking water. She lived on a farm where the well water was not potable, so everyday she had to walk with two buckets to the local spring of drinkable water – 1/4 of a mile each direction. This was up until her death in the 1950s. We really take access to clean water for granted in this country.