When I started blogging in 2014, the loose theme of my blog was “Creative Problem Solving.” Since then, the topics about which I have written have strayed a bit in several directions, but at my foundation I am a problem solver.
Sometimes the problems are human or relationship-centric, but back in the beginning, I used to write a lot more about physical, technical and more engineering focused challenges, and how I overcame them.
Today’s post is a throwback to some of the earlier “hey how’d ya fix it?” stories from four years ago. I hope you enjoy it.
In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge opines:
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
As someone with a degree in English and theatre, I feel qualified to give you my interpretation of the verse. The specific passage, describes a point in an eighteenth-century ocean voyage where the decisions of the captain (the mariner) has left the ship and its crew in warm, and windless waters under cloudless skies. Although it sounds pleasant enough they find themselves exposed to the sun with no access to fresh water.
They are literally dying of thirst surrounded by water.
Of course, the water which surrounds them is completely undrinkable sea water. Since this poem was published in 1798, the second half of the stanza above had become a common phrase to be used anytime someone finds themselves unable to access a bountiful resource which lies right before them.
Last fall, I agreed to become the president of our neighborhood homeowners association (HOA) for the calendar year 2018. Our HOA is not one of those persnickety collection of in-your-face rule enforcers who walk around looking for holiday wreath violations. Ours is actually just the opposite – we spend the majority of our annual budget on security, and the rest pretty much goes to parties, and a bit of landscaping.
I was assured at the outset the job was not difficult, and it would take very little of my time.
For the first few months this was true. In late spring, a property-line issue arose that ended up involving reviewing survey maps, consulting lawyers, unscheduled board meetings, plus more than few letters and strong opinions. After a couple of months of wrangling, the issue was resolved, but managing it was no fun at all.
Around the same time, another question arose, but this one was much less arduous.
Our HOA owns and maintains a lake in the middle of the neighborhood. There are several houses right on the lake, but for those who do not live on the lake, the HOA maintains two small pieces of land for lake access.
A resident who lives across the street from these two little plots has been kind enough to maintain them for years, but in discussing it with her I learned there is a problem. The landscaping work has been limited because there is no irrigation.
Readers of mine from the south will understand the need for irrigation, but for my northern readers, here is what you need to know:
In Charlotte, NC, if you don’t have irrigation… everything dies.
The kind caretaker had asked the owner of the property adjacent to the HOA land to get a quote for extending his irrigation system onto the HOA land. This was a fine idea, but there were two problems:
- The cost was going to be north of $2,500 – a sum way out of budget
- If the previously mentioned property-line issue taught me anything, it was this: the HOA should be eliminating tie-ups with private property owners, not creating them.
Being an inherently logical person, it also seemed absurd that we should be paying anything at all to water a tiny piece of land… RIGHT NEXT TO A LAKE WE OWN!
I set about looking for a solution to this irksome irrigation issue. The land isn’t large, about 1/16 of an acre, but investing in anything like flowering shrubs or perennials would be a lost cause until sprinklers of some kind were installed.
I found a cute little solar-powered “drip irrigation” unit, and it was only $50. The online reviews were a bit spotty, but I ordered it anyway. It arrived a few days later and I set about testing it on a little bed of lettuce I had been watering by hand.
Within three days it was clear… this was a little toy, not nearly up to the task at hand.
I did a little more research using the following as my criteria:
- It had to be able to pull water from the lake
- It had to be solar powered
- It had to have some sort of timing mechanism
So after a little online shopping I found this little gem:
I scrutinized all the specs and decided it just might do the trick. I ordered it and waited. About a week later it arrived and I began experimenting.
At first, I was disappointed. The pump didn’t generate nearly enough pressure to drive the six sprinkler heads I decided would be necessary, but I didn’t give up.
I kept looking at options. Drip irrigation was too little, and the more I looked at the sprinkler heads I was considering, the more I realized they were probably overkill. I discovered something called a “micro sprayer” which looked like it would be perfect.
In my spare time, over several weeks I built out all the circuits in a cedar box that would be mounted on a guard rail post along the edge of the property.
I experimented with different micro sprayers until I found a combination capable of providing proper irrigation, all within the capability of the pump.
Over the past week I began installing the system and today I turned it on for the first time… and what do you know, it works!
- The solar panel charges the battery every time the sun shines
- The charge controller manages power between the panel the battery and the pump
- The timer controls when the system runs
- The whole system is basically invisible to passers by
- Power from the sun, water from the lake – the entire system is off the grid and self-sustaining
Oh, and when it was all added up, it cost less than $400.
I still have some details to finish up on site and a few hoses to bury, but I am very pleased with the results. Of course, my timing could be better. The weather is finally cooler and we’ve been getting some rain. Soon I will have to drain the system for winter.
Water, water everywhere? Yes, and now we’re drinking all we want.
Copyright © 2018 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved