Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

The past few weeks have brought some winter-like weather to our area, as it has to so many other areas around the US.

Ice Cabbage - Jan 2014

Ice Cabbage – Jan 2014

This is the first year that I haven’t set up the hoops on the garden to cover the vegetable. So far, so good.

We have had more freezing rain and ice than normal, but the veggies seem to be doing alright. I try to water them 36 hours before the big even, whether it is freezing temperatures or freezing rain. That give the plant enough time to use the water to protect itself.

Ice Kale Jan - 2014

Ice Kale Jan – 2014

These photos show some pretty chilly veggies, but they have come through it all relatively unscathed.

How is your winter garden (or summer) garden doing?

Sincerely, Emily

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It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is rather a vast landscape and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.
Thornton Wilder

While the river of life glides along smoothly, it remains the same river; only the landscape on either bank seems to change.
Max Muller


What lovely sentiments. Serendipity Farm is perched on a hillside that flows down into the Tamar river. Where we live, the river is salt water but further inland it’s freshwater. The locals in Sidmouth call themselves “The River Rats” and I guess Steve and I have a few more years to go before we get to swim with that esteemed pack but for now we don’t mind having to wear our water wings and tread water alongside. The first thing that I see when the sun comes up outside my kitchen window is the river. It’s become an integral part of Serendipity Farm life.

One of the small tributaries that flow together to form our river

One of the small tributaries that flow together to form our river

The river always has “just one more” picture left in it…I could photograph the river all day and still come up with more. The tides here are rapid and regular and you could set your watch by them. The river swirls and near the banks it forms little whirlpools that unhappy kayakers spend ages trying to get out of. The river has a sense of humour.

Swans on the river

Swans on the river

When we walk the dogs in the morning we are reminded constantly of just how lucky we are to be living in our neck of the woods. The river has become part of us now and we have developed a deep respect for it’s ebb and flow.


Early evening river shot


Rivers…. hmmmm. All I (Sincerely, Emily) can say is that It is drier than dry here in South Texas. While there are some rivers flowing, they are very very low, most have dried up. But, not so long ago (4 years) our front and back yards were a river. When it rains here, Texas-style, it can come down inches at a time. The dry earth cannot soak it up and it runs off very fast. Things can get exciting around here.

River in our backyard (Sept 2009)

River in our backyard (Sept 2009)


I (Alexandra) love “wild” water– not white water, but rivers and steams in nature. One of my life’s biggest thrills was stepping into the Mississippi. Last week I swam in the Youghigheny (Yak-a-gainy) in southwestern Pennsylvania with my buddies Holly and “Corndog.”

Holly and Skye at the Youghiopyle River

youghiogheny falls

Skye at Brady's Run Dog Park

Are there any rivers in your area?

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Wind makes the sand ring
by the gray churning water.
Remnants of the storm

Driftwood at the shore
blown across the lake on
Sandy’s ragged edge

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Is this really true?  Pinch me? Am I really writing here with all these other wonderful contributors? What an honor.

My husband and I have been living north of San Antonio on the edge of the Hill Country for almost four years. When I arrived here I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do. When we left Palm Springs, CA I had a business beading and selling jewelry. I did a market every Thursday night in downtown Palm Springs and on weekends would travel around doing other shows usually in the LA and San Diego areas, but I would go as far as Tucson and San Francisco at times. Initially, I thought I would continue along the path of beading. Beading definitely took a back seat once the garden was in and my perspective on things was changing fast.

Mooakite Necklace

I laugh as I think of all the changes I have gone through to get to where I am now. I was a high school exchange student in Tasmania. I went to college and have a degree in Art and Interior Design. I worked in that field for a while. I then started taking flying lessons. At the same time I started working part-time at the flight school as a receptionist and secretary. That soon turned into a full-time job and I continued on with flight lessons working my way up to holding my commercial license and also flight instructing. I met my husband at that airport. He was flying and maintaining vintage airplanes at the air museum next door. My husband and I then moved to Kenya for a year. He flew tourists around Mt Kenya in an open cockpit bi-plane (think Out of Africa, complete with leather headset playing the music from the movie, leather jacket and white silk scarf) and I helped run the business from the ground and occasionally flew for fun. When we returned to the states we headed out to Palm Springs, CA for ten years, and now we find ourselves in Texas.

Within the first year in Texas, we put in a large vegetable garden with raised beds and my mom showed me how to make no-knead bread. That was one of the turning points for so many things for me.

Cheddar Cheese

I realize that nothing happens overnight, although there are times I wish it did. There are also set backs along this path and I realize that I can change some of those things, but others are in the hands of Mother Nature. As I look back on the past few years I see that I really have accomplished a lot. We have 1300 gallons of rain water collection set up and after this year of drought I realize I really need to increase that by A LOT if I want to continue to grow more of the food we eat. I have increased the amount of vegetable growing space and increased other flower and herb gardens with plans to do more. I have learned many new things from making soap and pasta to making hard cheese and I look forward to learning more things like making lotions.  Recently I have taken a few classes to be able to read knitting and crochet patterns and have take some sewing classes to brush up on reading those patterns too. Right now I am in the middle of a personal challenge to knit scarves for the 2012 Special Olympics Scarf Project.  I love herbs. I love growing them, cooking with them and learning about them.


I can remember when I was a little girl and making gifts. I am sure there was a macaroni necklace in there somewhere, but I have progressed a bit from that. Even though I am not beading full-time anymore, I still find time for some beading and other creative and crafting things like sewing, making cards, crafting, knitting; some of which I will share during REAL Holidays at NDiN as I make my holiday gifts this year. I always seem to have a long list of things to do or try. I look forward to sharing some of those things with you as I learn along the way. The holidays will be here before we know it.

I am very excited to be here at Not Dabbling in Normal. I will be posting here every other Saturday, and if you have the time, stop by my blog Sincerely, Emily to see what else I am up to.

Sincerely, Emily

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I’m elated to be joining the Not Dabbling in Normal group as a new contributor (look for me every other Saturday). I’m writing from the Southwest—a remote Texas town (population 49) where I have been homesteading on 5 acres for the past decade.

In my former life I was a botanist and graphic designer. My husband and I gave up the big city to live our dream of a sustainable, organic, rural life complete with animals, honeybees, a large garden and this old house. I suspect this may be your dream, too? I’ll be sharing the intertwining of joys and challenges that such an adventure brings!

Our area

Where the hill country meets the desert

For starters, there are only 4.4 people per square mile in my county, and it’s a 3-4 hour round trip drive to a grocery store, bookstore, Starbucks, or hospital–if that gives you some perspective of the ‘not normal-ness’ around here. We live without television (by choice), radio and cell phone signals do not reach us. DSL is a lifeline that thankfully keeps me connected to friends all over the world!

Not only do we live on the edge of a desert, we are in what is known as a ‘food desert’. This means that 100% of the population here has low (read: no) access to healthy food, according to the USDA. (You can explore food deserts on this nifty interactive map).

Even though many of the locals are descendants of the original farming pioneers, those skills were lost somewhere along the way as life ‘modernized’ to BPA-lined canned goods, frozen dinners, and fast food. We tried unsuccessfully for many years to get a farmers market started—to be sure there’s a desire for one, but unfortunately not enough growers are interested. And for several years after that we organized free monthly community workshops on organic gardening and homesteading, empowering people to produce their own wholesome food. A group of us still trade surplus.

Our garden last year

Our garden last year

During our long growing season (roughly 230 days) we have been able to produce most of what we eat (with the exception of grains) in our vegetarian diet. We’re used to going out in our garden and picking what we need for the next meal—you can’t get much more local than that! But after experiencing the worst drought on record this year—during which our well went dry for six months and our garden died—by necessity we’ve had to seek out (more distant than we would like) farmers markets to get by. Over the coming months, I’ll be looking forward to sharing some healthy, vegetarian cooking ideas with you.

Our eggs

Rainbow selection of our eggs

Bartosz the Buff Laced Poland

Bartosz the Buff Laced Poland

Our main source of protein is eggs. We sell eggs locally as a CSA.­­­ I am crazy about chickens and specialize in raising rare and unusual breeds. They make such wonderful pets.  Currently we have about 80 birds (all have names!)

We just finished building our breeding facility out of 90% recycled materials. I look forward to telling you more about these lovable creatures and giving you a tour of their nifty abode! I’ll be able to give you some tips along the way for creating your own poultry housing, especially on predator-proofing and passive solar considerations.

Oriole painting detail

Oriole painting detail

Besides the egg business, you’ll find me teaching guitar, dabbling in photography and creating all sorts of things–paintings, quilts, and jewelry. I invite you to look for my creations on Etsy, follow my gardening adventures on Folia, and read more about my homesteading life on the flowerweaver.

Until next time, keep dabbling!


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Emily’s Question: I’d like to hear different folks’ approaches to clean drinking water. Filters? Hand pumps? Windmills? Rely on city water? Distillation? how are you pumping it, if applicable?

Nita’s Answer: We use a hydraulic ram to pump spring water at our farm. A hydraulic ram uses water power for pumping and no electricity is required. Simple, old technology and still works great in today’s modern world.

Our ram pumps water from one of our springs to a holding tank and then the water is gravity flow to the house. We don’t have pressure, but that problem is solved by using a bigger delivery pipe for the discharge.

Rams differ, but the brand we use is able to lift the water 10 feet for every foot of head from the spring to the ram. In our area the springs are in deep V shaped canyons and the flat, arable land is on the ridge tops, making a ram an ideal set-up for our geographic area.

Our spring that we use for drinking/stock water is located 1/4 mile away and we need to lift the water 125 vertical feet over that 1/4 mile stretch. The ram continously runs into a large holding tank and there are two delivery pipes, one drains from the bottom of the tank for household use, and a stand pipe (for the overflow)runs to a stock tank in the barnyard. We pay attention to the overflow, and if it has quit, it means we have been using a large volume of water at the house (laundry, showers, etc.) or the ram has quit for some reason. Needless, to say I am hardwired to listen for that trickle of water in the water trough! No one wants to stroll down to the spring if they don’t need to 😉 The overflow/stock tank system makes us accountable for the water we use, if we watered the stock from the bottom of the tank, we potentially could use up all our stored water and never have an inkling that the ram had stopped until the tank was empty.

Using a ram allows us to have water at all times without electricity, the only drawback is during low water times, we have to really meter the water out. Normally we need 6″ of rain to recharge the spring fully in late fall or early winter.

Rams also would work well for irrigation with an open water source like a creek, providing there is a sufficient drop in elevation in the stream to provide the lift you need.

Many people here, have went to wells, but the aquifer is dropping which is probably not going to change. And when the power goes out, which is quite frequently, they are without water, when most have springs nearby.

Not workable in all situations but if you have a similar stream or spring, a hydraulic ram is worth thinking about.

Here is a link to an older blog post with a short video of our ram in action.

Kathie’s Answer: For the last 10 years, I’ve lived with underground wells pumped with electric pumps.  When the electricity goes out we don’t have water – we’re working on making that solar/wind powered.  We have the water tested once a year to be on the safe side.  We have hard water, but we’ve gotten used to that.  I know everyone can’t have a well or a spring depending on location.  I’ve heard great things about the Berkeley Water Filters and if I ever don’t live on a well, that’s what I’d be buying.

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