Are you interested in MACHINERY?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Pint-size Plow-horses by Doug Smith

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How to Buy a Pickup for the Homestead by Jamie Svrcek

The Complete Sissy-boy's Guide to Pick-Up Trucks by Neil Shelton

The “Swiss Army Knife” of Homestead Tractors by John Molloy

Homestead Truck Turned Mobile Workshop by Tony Collela

How to Buy a VERY Used Tractor by Neil Shelton 

Classic Tractors by Mary Beth Woods



Clean Your Water With Dirt

How to Build a Sand Filter

by Ted Praast

Water… a requirement for life on earth.  The purity of water determines, to a large degree, our health as humans.  So we, in most cases, depend upon the processing of water to survive in good health.  Our cities are charged with this processing, and mostly water quality is not questioned.  In some localities, only after an outbreak of water-borne disease is detected, people are told to boil water.  Those who have wells or springs depend upon natural processes to purify their water. 

So, what is in that water?  And how is it purified?  Can we actually depend on good, healthy water coming out of that tap? 

In some cases, we can depend on it.  But not always, and much of the time municipal water supplies have chemicals many people don't really want.  The normal purification process uses these chemical means to kill off the bad bugs, with some filtration.  It's also true that normal methods such as chlorine aren't very effective against certain viruses.  So there are always trace amounts of nasties in municipal supplies, and in many cases the same is true for well water.  Usually water supplies are derived from ground water, usually aquifers.  This includes individual wells.  Think about that.  For many years, people have been dumping waste out on the ground, spraying crops, raising cattle and other livestock, and so on.  That waste will eventually find its way to the aquifers.  Almost always, we depend on natural processes to purify the waste into potable water.  Unfortunately, natural purification doesn't always work on chemicals used in farming operations such as bug sprays and so forth, not to mention companies that intentionally dump chemical waste.  Nor does the natural filtration always work on biological contaminants such as coliforms. 

Water filtration is a big business.  There are numerous types of filtration devices available.  Among these are ceramic filters, ceramics with activated carbon, carbon, micron filters, and on and on.  Probably the best of these filters are reverse osmosis, but these offer disadvantages: they are slow and removal of chemicals is questionable.  A good system would consist of reverse osmosis coupled with activated charcoal to remove most of the bad stuff.  Such a system would, in least expensive form, provide a homestead with only drinking and cooking water of high quality.  And these can be quite costly.  An effective whole house filter can cost upwards of two thousand dollars of your hard earned money. 

How about that stagnant pond, the one that grows mosquitoes and so forth?  What natural purpose can it possibly have?  Well, here's an answer.  That pond is the breeding ground not only of annoying little blood sucking creatures, but also it breeds numerous other little predators.  Those predators are the ones that actually clean up water that eventually finds its way into the aquifers.  This amalgam of life consists of various bacteria, fungi, various protozoa and rotifera, and a plethora of other small life.  These creatures feed upon other organisms, many being harmful to us. 

That standing water cannot be consumed, since it contains many very harmful critters, but we can take that water, or river or spring water, lake water, or shallow well water and filter it to make good water fit for consumption.  We pump the water through a micron filter, put it through a carbon filter for chemicals, and we can use it to take a shower.  Some we'll put through a reverse osmosis filter for drinking or cooking, and we're safe—mostly.  By this time, we've put hundreds or thousands of dollars into the filtration system. 

But there are alternatives.  We can make our own filtration systems, and we can do it for a fraction of the cost of a manufactured system, and have it be more effective than many municipal treatment facilities.  It's really quite simple. 

First, we remove the turbidity, the cloudiness caused by various debris in the supply.  This can be as simple as a few layers of cloth, or as complex as a whole house water filter.  Since a whole house filter is quite costly, we go for a few layers of coarse woven cloth, such as cheesecloth.  This will remove most of the large chunks of junk, and the rest we'll take out later.  This step may not be necessary with clear stream water, but it's a good idea anyway.  It's also possible to use the sediment filters available for RVs, though those aren't terribly cheap either. 

But we still have lots of bugs in that water.  How to get rid of them?  Those bugs can be bad news, and in this world there are lots of them.  The days are gone when you could walk up to a spring coming out of a mountain and simply drink the water.  Now, well, you understand.  Most waterways now contain such critters as coliforms of the fecal types, well known is E. Coli and relatives, along with cryptosporidia and giardia lambdia (beaver fever) and other less known nasty relatives, along with various viruses.  These little fellows, though they are small, account for a large percentage of gastroenteritis and cryptosporidiosis, diseases that can be quite debilitating. 

Remember that pond scum?  Well, the bottom of that pond is loaded with little people that prey on just such nasty critters.  That's the natural remedy for removal of harmful little bugs.  So what we can do is to create a perfect environment for the predators by making a place with slowly seeping water, well oxygenated, and quiet enough to keep the critters in there.  Theoretically, then, we can use natural functions to make the unnatural high concentrations of bad things go away. 

It's called a slow sand filter.  While it is a simple and relatively inexpensive means to purify water from biological contaminants, it is also quite effective: more effective in fact than most of the house filters you can buy.  For instance, viruses range from approximately 10 to 1400 nanometers, or 10 to 1400 millionths of a millimeter, pretty small.  The better house filters will be micron filters, or one millionth of a meter, which is much larger than the virus.  House filters would therefore be ineffective against viruses.  The slow sand filter, however, keeps the water draining slowly through a layer of biological predators whose livelihood is based on their ability to eat such creatures as viruses, sporidia, giardia, and a host of other fellows we don't want to drink.  This layer of predators is called the schmutzdecke. 

A Tale of Two Cities

In 1892, an outbreak of cholera occurred in Germany.  Two cities involved in the study of the outbreak were Hamburg and Altona.  Both cities used the River Elbe as their water source.  Hamburg had 8605 deaths (1344 per 100,000), and Altona recorded 328 deaths.  A large percentage of the Altona deaths were attributed to infections that occurred in Hamburg.  So what was the difference?  The water in Hamburg was taken directly from the Elbe (yuck, even then) while the water used in Altona was processed through a slow sand filter.  Does that convince everyone? 

The World Health Organization has endorsed the slow sand filter as the most practical method for providing potable water for “third world countries.”  But the more interesting thing is that besides the Altona story, slow sand filters have been used in major population centers worldwide, such as London and Washington D.C. While these are no longer in use, the reason is not because they don't work, it's because they are too slow and require a large space.  Other methods are now used, such as high pressure filtration and chemical treatment.  There is, however, renewed interest in slow sand filters in smaller municipalities due to the much lower cost in both construction and maintenance. 

Since most of us don't really like to have those strange chemicals in our water, there must be other ways.  Most municipal supplies use chlorine, a highly toxic chemical, for bug killing, and also will add fluorides in one form or another, presumably to protect teeth (questionable).  We need to rid our water of these, along with heavy metals and insecticides.  This mandates an addition to the biological filter, that being an activated carbon filter. 

Carbon filters will remove the majority of nasty chemicals from your water. Activated carbon granules are relatively inexpensive, and a home-brew filter can be constructed using PVC.

So, you can take the water from nearly any source within reason and put it through a plant of your own construction, and have better water than virtually any municipal supply.  And you can do this for less than a couple hundred bucks.  “But wait, there's more!”  If you are really an environmentalist, and truly wish to make your footprint small, you can use slow sand filtration for your sewage too!  By using a slow sand filter for gray water, you'll remove most pathogens from your household waste water, making the water entirely safe for watering your garden (no viruses or other critters back into the earth to nourish your garden), and you could reasonably use another to process your black water, separately, making the water nearly potable, believe it or not.  Any test your county could run on either your potable water or waste water would pass.  The powers probably wouldn't let you do black water, though, so we'll just call that a passing thought. 

  Continued on page 2   >


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