This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Category: catch water

Mercy in the Drought

As anyone who reads our blog probably knows, we have been in an extensive drought this year (they say the worst in 50 years), starting especially October 2010. By the time we got through September of this year, we had probably had around 1/4 of rain we normally get year to date; and the groups’ catch-water containers and ponds were “running on fumes.” Back in a previous blog post about our 2008 garden, I had indicated that I had come to a point of deciding to not go to the world for water again (our water doesn’t magically appear out of faucets); and with the way things were going, at times it would start to get a little desperate — I was even starting to prepare mentally and logistically (with sand filters, etc.) for having to start to drink pond water.

The drought has been pretty devastating state-wide. Many ranchers have had to completely liquidate their cattle due to lack of water, tanks (ponds) that we’ve never seen dry before have gone dry, and hay has been scarce and expensive.

Regardless of how things occur in this world, the Lord Jehovah IS faithful, IS gracious, IS merciful. I believe we must always remember that He IS those things, regardless of our circumstances. It is only by His perfect and infinite graces, mercies and wisdom, in accordance with His perfect will and sovereignty, that He ever reveals those things to us in tangible or experimental (experiential) ways.

Throughout our time of drought this year, God has graciously granted provisions for all of us here to maintain ourselves and our animals without having to specially go to the world for water. Our personal cistern and polypropylene tank once again never ran dry, even after discovering a pretty significant leak in the floor of the cistern, where we were probably losing 500 gallons a week at one point (argh!!). When they would get low, the Lord would drop some rain on us to grant another few weeks.

It has been an interesting time of faith and trust-testing. Through it though, we are reminded daily upon Whom we depend, and look to Him daily for those, sometime weekly-provided, provisions; and through it, we find our sin and failures, which is a good thing, and is for what we pray, along with subsequent repentance.

Graces and Mercies

I also wanted to share a couple of other things that occurred along the way that I have taken, hopefully not out of vain imagination, as tokens from the Giver of provision.

We had a tough time keeping up with the orchard. We really don’t have a way of watering the trees right now directly from a water source; and so we have to haul water to them, which is difficult with 25-30 trees. We did some pond runs a couple of times, and watered some from the cistern, and at one point I finally got the who-would-have-thought-it idea of watering them using our camper grey water (Lord please forgive me for not using that water sooner and just sending it to waste). Still, with 100 degree F temperatures for month on end, and no rain, some of the trees I believe haven’t made it, although I guess we’ll know better next Spring, Lord willing.

However, one day while I was out there in the orchard, I looked, and lo, and behold, on one of the trees, there were some peaches actually growing! I was astounded, as that tree hadn’t really received even much of the manual watering. One had fallen to the ground, and here are the four I was able to harvest. And they tasted wonderfully!

Drought 2011 Peaches

Moreover, we had at one point in the Spring received a few inches of rain; and so I decided to plant our tomatoes. Well, obviously I didn’t know what was to come with the rest of Spring and Summer, in temperature and precipitation; but we did what we could to try to keep them at least alive. Through it all though, along in September one day, I looked, and lo, and behold, there was actually a little, tiny tomato that had grown! I smiled greatly, and thought of the Lord’s providence, and how He grants all of these things in accordance with His will. It was a beautiful sight to see that tomato and a beautiful thing to behold God’s providential hand:

Drought 2011 Tomato

Further, at one point, our teacher Mr. Bunker forwarded the below video on to us, as an encouragement in a weary time. Here is a picture of the beginning of that video, and I’ve drawn in an arrow pointing to right about where we are (if you click the picture, you can see a larger version):

Drought 2011 Texas Map in 2009

If you watch the video, keep an eye on where we are:


If you’ll notice, our county and the one right to our east were the last ones to go into the extreme drought. The Lord graciously and mercifully granted quenchings amidst the fire, even though we don’t deserve them.

Rain

By October, the tanks (ponds) on the land were really starting to get low; and even our county had gone into the highest level of drought the professionals note. If the tanks were to go dry, all of our cows would have to go. But, once again, the Lord graciously and mercifully granted a revelation of His graces and mercies in bringing the rains; and for the time it rained, it came a-plenty! We received over 5 inches in around 24 hours, which caused water to run, which filled the tanks, and provided lots of water for the catch-water tanks and cisterns around the land.

Here is the near side of our cistern (the side that fills first):

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Cistern Near Side

Before looking into the far side, I had hoped that perhaps the water would have gone over the middle divider at least somewhat; but when I looked, this is what I found!

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Cistern Far Side

And then it was time to check the pond. Wow! This is one of the fullest times it’s ever been!

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Pond

What a humbling, welcome site to see water in our containment systems! We are so very grateful to the Lord!

With the rains around here comes mud, and it had been a while since we had experienced slogging around in it. And Sue got a quick reminder of what it was like, as the mud reached out and grabbed her to the ground when she was going to milk the goats (you can see a little of the food spilled). But, given the circumstances, I don’t believe she minded. 🙂

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Slopping in the Mud

And I don’t think the goats minded the water either:

Drought 2011 Oct Rain Fields

The past 12 months have been a time to reflect and never forget. May we ever remember God’s direct hand in our provisions, as He is the one who brings the rain; and we pray for His continued provisions and healing of the land. We pray He would grant us learning from these difficult times, and grow us in trust in Him. May we always be grateful, humbled and awed by His loving, condescending, gracious, merciful, and caring hand. And may these things bring us into greater obedience to Him, out of love for Him. Amen.

(Please don’t skip the following part:)

Job 36

1 Elihu also proceeded, and said,

2 Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee that I have yet to speak on God’s behalf.

3 I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.

4 For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.

5 Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom.

6 He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor.

7 He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted.

8 And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction;

9 Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.

10 He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.

11 If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.

12 But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.

13 But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.

14 They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean.

15 He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.

16 Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place, where there is no straitness; and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness.

17 But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold on thee.

18 Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.

19 Will he esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.

20 Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.

21 Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

22 Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?

23 Who hath enjoined him his way? or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?

24 Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.

25 Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off.

26 Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.

27 For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof:

28 Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.

29 Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?

30 Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea.

31 For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance.

32 With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt.

33 The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.

Job 37

1 At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.

2 Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.

3 He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.

4 After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.

5 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.

6 For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.

7 He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.

8 Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places.

9 Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.

10 By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.

11 Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:

12 And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.

13 He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.

14 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.

15 Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?

16 Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?

17 How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?

18 Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?

19 Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.

20 Shall it be told him that I speak? if a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.

21 And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passeth, and cleanseth them.

22 Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.

23 Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.

24 Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.

— David

It Was a Little Chilly Outside

So, we usually try to get a blog post out quicker than this; but this last week has been interesting. We just went through probably the coldest weather we’ve experienced since moving out here 5 1/2 years ago. It was a doozy, for us anyway. It was originally supposed to only last a couple of days, but it stretched out to three full days with temperatures between the upper single digits to lower 20s, with only on day four us hovering around the freezing mark. Also, it was breezy or windy most of the time, and we had rain right before and snow during; and with the winds, the wind chills got to below zero. After our cold weather training trip (see the “Preparation and Education” section of that link) of a few years ago, in preparation for any future trips, I obtained some extreme cold-weather clothing, like polypropylene long underwear, socks, glove inserts and balaclava, and some lined coveralls. Those polypropylene accouterments are the best, and have really helped Sue and me.

Now, while we’ve been able to figure out some of our own cold-weather clothing issues, some of our animals, and the situation we have available for them, aren’t really set up for these kinds of temperatures. We lost a goat in the cold last year; and we currently have just a few-month old chicks, which we’ve already lost 2-3 because of me exposing them to 20-degree weather — I thought because they had their feathers they were ok, but apparently not with that much cold. And so, we spent all day Monday preparing for the arctic front that was due to come in that night.

Longhorns

Before I get into the other animals, I have a little story. Two and a half weeks before the cold front, we found our most traditional-looking, original breed Longhorn cow, Amistosa, laying down on the left-over hay on our upper field, where we have been putting their hay bales, and not getting up. The next morning she was still there, and when I brought out range cubes to see if she would come and get some, given she’s a range-cube hog, she didn’t get up; and then I figured something was wrong. Soon after, she did stand up, but was very evidently hurt in her left front leg, as she almost fell forward into the ground just trying to stand up. We watched her limp around, and saw she was at least able to move, but then found her 60-70 yards away laying down again, this time on the outside of the berm that makes up our pond. I was able to get her to stand up, and then again later that night, with the help of several of the guys. We tried to get her to move with the herd as they were heading toward our upper field again, so that she would be with the herd and nearer us, thus hopefully providing her protection from critters, and away from the pond so she wouldn’t stumble in and drown. I wanted to keep watching her that evening, and instead of finding her with the herd, she had headed the other direction, and was in a grove of trees. I brought her some range cubes, and left them, and came back later, only to find her not there. I looked around, and she had moved to a little bit more of a secluded place, between a large juniper tree and some over-growth. And she had laid down again. I tried getting her up, and even with the guys again, but she wouldn’t stand up. Well, I figured she knew best where to place herself (as part of her God-granted and sovereignly-directed instinct); and so, we started bringing her hay and water.

After several days of this, with her only switching her body from side to side at various times of the day, I decided to see if the vet would come out to look at her. Like I said, she is probably our best looking cow as far as Longhorn traits, and it was very possible she was pregnant. He did come out, tried to get her to stand up, examined her, etc. To make a long story short, he decided she probably needed some better mineral nourishment, given the grass on the land was eaten down, that she was indeed about four months pregnant, and that it was most likely she wasn’t going to get up again, as typically they don’t. He also suggested some feed, and just suggested we try to keep her going, if we wanted. With that information, I had to decide if we were going to put more money into her, or just butcher her, and then basically lose the calf too. Given there was hope, I decided to keep going.

And so, we bought the feed, fed her with that, and continued with the hay and water and cleaning up after her. We also bought some loose minerals in case the rest of the herd was suffering from lack of minerals, but apparently they were generally ok, as they really didn’t spend much time eating the minerals (all of which I believe goes to show the hardiness of the original-breed Longhorns, even with very little native food).

Fast-forward to Sabbath day, 15 days after the last time she walked, and 3 days before the arctic front was due. I had previously asked some of our Longhorn experts (who figured she was just injured and not suffering from malnutrition), and I had asked our local feed-store guys if they had heard of our situation before, and they had but indicated 99% of the time they don’t get up. Well, I figured then that I needed to start trying every time I was around her to get her up, because the longer she stayed down, the worse she was going to get. That midday, I tried to get her up, and she stood up! I thanked the Lord, and called for Sue, who was pretty excited and thankful when she saw her. I coaxed Ami to walk to get the food, and she did, but she was very wobbly, and soon laid down again, although her left leg didn’t seem to be giving her trouble. I also got her up again that evening; and then next day, after giving her a taste of the food, and taking it about five feet away, she decided to get up on her own, and go to the food! Thanks to God again!

Step forward to that Monday before the storm. I was trying to think of ways we were going to be able to protect her from the wind and cold, but before I really had to put a plan into action, she was gone! I found her in some other thickets a little ways away, laying down; and when I went to try to find her with some food that night, she ended up finding me. At this point, she was sort of on her own now as far as the weather; and so we prayed for the best.

Again, to shorten things, the next day in the snow, I found her across the property standing; and I think by the next day, she was on the front field at the hay bale eating with the rest of the cows.

Here she is after the storm, waiting for some feed:

Longhorn Cow Amistosa Standing After Laying Down for Over Two Weeks

And so, we are most thankful to the Lord for granting her healing, that we didn’t lose her or the calf, and that the Lord granted her to be mobile before the freezing weather. God is most gracious and merciful.

Arctic Weather Around the Farm

Now, God IS most gracious and merciful, regardless of what happens; and it’s more evidence of His graces and mercies when He reveals those attributes in some form of grace and mercy He extends us. And He granted many during this storm.

Here are some of the things we did in trying to keep the animals going. But even though we did these things, the outcome was of course always in God’s hands:

  • The pure Longhorns are a tough breed, and I figured we didn’t have to do too much with them, except make sure they had hay and hopefully water. And so, we put bales out before and during cold for that; and each day I would go down to our pond to try to sledge-hammer through the ice. Here’s a picture of how thick it was one day:

    Frozen Pond Ice Thickness

    One night, several of the Longhorns and calves spent the night on the hay area where the bales usually are, which is an open field; and one of our group’s milk cows did too. Well, with the below-zero wind-chill temperatures, she didn’t fare well, and they sadly ended up having to shoot and field dress her to get some meat off of her before she died, while the Longhorns, even the calves, although shivering, had gotten up and walked away. Again, I believe it just shows the hardiness of the pure Longhorn breed.

  • The pigs we brought a little extra food, and we’d haul out warm water for them to drink. They were often thirsty when I got out there with the water. And they seemed to make it fine.
  • For the dogs, we moved their kennel under the barn overhang in front of the camper; and they seemed to fare very well, and didn’t seem to be really cold at any time:

    Border Collies Brodey and Nessa in Kennel Under Barn Lean-to

  • Our big chickens didn’t even come out of their coup the first day, so we just kept them in the whole time, bringing food and water. However, we have chicks we’re raising right now (which in retrospect was not such a great idea to be doing during the Winter). They are in our mini chicken tractor, which Sue had the great idea to cover with clear plastic, which is what we do when the weather is somewhat normal:

    Clear Plastic Over Mini Chicken Tractor

    For the dangerously cold days and nights, we now bring the covered mini tractor into the barn; and during the days we set up a homemade fat lamp to burn in their little open yard area. Here’s a picture of that, which, with the moisture from probably their breath, turns it into a quite warm sauna bath in there:

    Fat Lamp in Mini Chicken Tractor

    We have also had a broody chicken sitting on eggs in the barn for who-knows how many weeks now (we put some new eggs under her a week and half or so ago), and she seems to have not been phased by the cold:

    Broody Chicken in the Barn

  • After spending the first day front-first into the North winds, Gigi, our goose, started hanging out in the barn; and so, we then just closed her in there. It was cold in there too, as evidenced by her water in the barn being frozen; however, with those down-comforters geese wear, she had no problems:

    Gigi the Goose's Water Frozen in the Barn

  • For the goats this time, we had started to feed them a little more feed a few weeks previously, to generally help with colder weather; and during this cold snap, we kept them fed two to three times a day as needed; and for the most part, except to let them out a little at the “heat” of the day (when it was 18 degrees!), we kept them boxed in their sheds. We had replaced all of the hay in their sheds before the cold came, and we also put blankets in the sheds. During the frozen days, we would bring out warm water a couple of times a day; but I noticed with the goats, the first thing they always wanted in the morning was food (whereas the pigs wanted the water). There was some shivering, but thankfully they all made it through. Here are the goats and sheds after the storm:

    Goats and Goat Sheds After Arctic Storm

    We hope to one day have a place in the barn set up to bring animals in as needed for this type of weather.

One thing that didn’t go so well for us was the roof-washer parts of our catch water system from the barn that feeds the cistern. With the rain that fell, and the quick freezing temperatures, and me not being quicker on the draw, the water in the roof-washer pipes froze, and split them all apart. Here are some pictures:

Upper Part of Catch-water System Roof Washer Cracked from Being Frozen
Lower Part of Catch-water System Roof Washer Cracked from Being Frozen

One of our other roof washers expanded and popped connectors out, but it survived it seems because they weren’t all glued. I think I may try a similar strategy when I put together the new roof washer pipes next time, Lord willing.

We did, however, cover the cistern spigots with blankets, which allowed us to retrieve water from the cistern, even with the temperatures being what they were. These spigots also face South, into the Sun, out of the North wind:

Cistern Valves Covered with Blankets

For our camper, we have a small propane heater, which, for times like this, just sort of takes the edge off, although we often saw our breath; and at night, we’d basically wear our outdoor clothes to bed under the comforters, which actually was quite warm. And William, our cat, spent most of his time inside with us. 🙂

One of the things we’ve learned to do for situations like this: the condensation in the camper eventually freezes the door latch, and so we spray it with cooking oil spray (I assume just about any oil would work), and that has helped keep the latch from sticking.

Here are some other pictures of the scene:

Barn Lean-to After Arctic Storm
Field After Arctic Storm

Well, that about sums it up. All in all, it was a rough one, and we worked pretty much non-stop each of the cold days, and not all of the community folk’s animals made it. However, we are very grateful though to the Lord for His continued provisions, and His many continued graces and mercies, and for His help through this difficult time of weather.

— David

Storing Rain IV Addendum

I thought I’d add a few things we’re continuing to learn about the cistern project:

– The concrete guys should have used a vibrating device that is commonly used when pouring concrete walls for our cistern when it was poured. They tried going around with a hammer tapping the walls to help the concrete settle, but in some places it didn’t work; and with “misses” when using the sealer, there are leaks. And so I’m having to pump water back and forth between the two sides of the cistern to empty one side at a time so as to patch it. Sadly, as indicated in our Storing Rain Update post, we have more water than will be held by just one side. We’re hoping to offload some of it to people here in the community who need it, and the rest we’ll attempt to get to our pond.

– Even with the “kickers” in place, cross braces, and the forms nailed together, the weight of the concrete still was pushing outward to the point of even breaking the form studs across the long way (I believe they were 2x6s, and they were breaking across the 6″ (5 1/2″) side). For information to the people pouring the concrete, there needs to be extra bracing across the entire siding of the structure and especially at the joints.

– I should have painted the inside of the plywood used for the siding of the cistern’s cover with mold-resistant paint before putting it up because, unlike the treated wood used for the framing of the structure (at least so far from what I can tell), mold was indeed growing on it. I tried spraying it with bleach water, but that wasn’t enough; and so I went back with pure bleach, and that seemed to do the trick. After, I had to get into the cistern to do the painting, which required I bring in a folding chair to stand on while painting. While it’s probably not ideal that I have to swim around in our water, I did get to cool off, and it did allow me to kill a black widow that had made its home in there. 🙂

— David

Storing Rain Update

After several months of drought and near 100 degree temperatures every day, the Lord in His wisdom opened up the heavens over the last several days, and needless to say we got drenched. God graciously granted probably some 6-7 inches.

Well, that kind of rain does wonders for ponds and catch-water tanks. Not only is our 2500 gallon black tank now full, but here are pictures of the first and second sides of the barn cistern:


Those represent probably some 11,000 to 12,000 gallons, which mostly came in during these rains.

Here are pictures of our pond as well:


And of course, Gary now gets to do some “goose things”:


We are most grateful once again for the Lord’s provisions, and His mercies in the weather.

Not only are we grateful for His temporal mercies, but for His spiritual ones as well. Psalms 29:10 starts with this: “The LORD sitteth upon the flood…” John Gill says this refers to “Noah’s flood; which is always designed by the word here used, the Lord sat and judged the old world for its wickedness, and brought a flood upon them, and destroyed them; and then he abated it, sent a wind to assuage the waters, stopped up the windows of heaven, and the fountains of the great deep, and restrained rain from heaven; and he now sits upon the confidence of waters in the heavens, at the time of a thunder storm, which threatens with an overflowing flood; and he remembers his covenant, and restrains them from destroying the earth any more: and he sits upon the floods of ungodly men, and stops their rage and fury, and suffers them not to proceed to overwhelm his people and interest; and so the floods of afflictions of every kind, and the floods of Satan’s temptations, and of errors and heresies, are at his control, and he permits them to go so far, and no farther.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

— David

Storing Rain IV

Every time a roof line is erected around here, part of the thought process going into and coming out of building that roof line is where the water “caught” by it will go, because that water falling from the sky and “intercepted” by a roof line is a water provision from God, for which we are thankful. After two droughts in three years here, catching and storing as much as possible has seemed to become imperative.

Along with the barn the Lord graciously allowed us came a pretty big roof line, which translates into a pretty big water “catch” when it rains. And so, we began to plan a catch-water system for the barn, which wasn’t quite simple.

You see, the barn’s roof line theoretically (square feet X .62 per inch of rain) would fill the 2500 gallon black container from our first catch-water roof line in just about one inch of rain, and we are supposed to get around 26 inches per year average. Well, this would mean lining up a whole bunch of black tanks, or finding other means.

We looked at larger tanks, 10,000 gallons or more, and the cost of delivery of them goes way up because they are considered wide loads in transport. And so, I decided we would look into building a water cistern. With it, I was hoping to 1) hold nearly 20,000 gallons; 2) that it would be above ground so that the water would flow out by gravity and not need any electricity for pumping; and 3) that it would last a long time. And so, when we hired the crew to do the root cellar, we hired them to do the cistern as well.

The concrete contractor decided to implement steel reinforced concrete for the walls a foot in width that would connect to a previously poured slab. I also thought it might be a good idea to put a wall in the middle to split the cistern into two sections so that if we ever needed to empty the cistern (for cleaning or otherwise), the worst we would have to do would be to drain only one side. I included in the plans at the bottom of the structure one exit spout in the first section and two in the second section, plus the overflow spout at the top of the second section. Instead of a pipe in between the two sections, the contractor decided to just lower the middle partition an inch and a half to allow for flow from the first section to the second section that way.

And here is the process. They put sand and sand bags below the bottom slab to help against shifting:

And they poured:

And worked the concrete:


Here is the finished slab:

After the slab was poured, they began to set up the wall forms:


Remembering their root cellar troubles, they built cross-hatch bracing to support the internal form structure:

Here are the outside walls before the “kicker” braces are in place:

And here is how they braced the internal and external walls to each other:

In my design for being able to hold a certain amount of water, I decided to increase the height of the walls so as to accommodate the water storage requirements with using as little of a square area footprint on the ground as possible. Sadly, this ended up necessitating the extra expense of a concrete pump truck in the pouring of the walls. But, here it is in action:


And here is a finished wall:

With the concrete poured, some sort of covering was needed to keep bugs out and hide the caught water from the sun (which, when mixed with minerals from dirt and the like, forms algae). Instead of just putting a flat covering on it (like a pool cover), I decided to put a roof line on it to be able to catch that water and funnel it into the cistern as well. Here are a couple of pictures of it:


And now with one side of the cistern ready, it was time to install the piping directing the water from the roof into the cistern. Here is a general picture of that:

As before mentioned with our shed roof catch-water system, it is often good to install a roof washer, which filters the first several gallons of water coming off of the roof, which are likely to be dirty or have other organic material in them, so as little of that ends up in the water container:

I used metal straps screwed into the purlins or girts (the internal horizontal and vertical steel beams) of the barn to support the piping, thusly attaching it to something more sound than just the barn siding:

Here is a final filter which catches any larger items the roof washer didn’t get. For this I use aluminum window screening:

And here once again are the Lord’s provisions:

Once the cistern was poured, the contractor came and coated the inside of the cistern’s walls and floor with a potable concrete sealer. He used BASF’s Thoroseal. He missed a few spots, and I have since had to go in a re-coat the walls in places with more of the Thoroseal; but it appears that the sealer works well, and the leaks are slowly disappearing, with none of which we are aware at this time.

I had held off piping in the other side of the barn because of these leaks, but in the past couple of days I’ve been able to completely finish the second side of the cistern’s covering and roof and was able to install the piping for the second side of the barn:


Once again, we are very grateful to God for allowing us this cistern and His water provisions, both spiritual and temporal. May we not be leaky containers, but by His mercies be able to hold His graces and blessings as new containers (Matt 9:17; John Gill’s commentary on this verse).

— David

Storing Rain

After our previous attempts at drilling a well with no success, having water on the land became a focus of primary importance. We had been buying water from purifying stations, but that obviously wasn’t a long-term solution.

If you ask the typical person today where they get their water, they’d say the tap. I’d bet though most of those people never really consider from where THAT water comes. Well, when you have no water on your land, and you need some (because generally a person does 😉 ), you need to consider ways to have it available.

On land that is not hooked up to a paid water supply, there are typically 3 ways of getting water: ground (well), surface (ponds, streams, etc.) and rain (it is also possible to get water out of the moisture in the air, but the amount of water from that is quite a bit less from some of these other ways, and often times require electricity). Many country folk might typically think of well water or pond (tank, in Texas-talk) water as sources for themselves and animals, but many don’t consider “rain harvesting” as an option. What they probably forget is that possibly their well and surely their tank are filled from the results of rain falling, and the land area that feeds their well or tank is basically a large catch-water system with the water table or tank being the storage facility.

We decided that eventually, Lord willing, we would like to have all 3 sources of water, mostly because of the importance of water. And so, the first water supply on which we concentrated was putting up a catch-water system.

In concept, it’s actually very simple. You need a flat surface to “catch” the rain water, and then some way of diverting it into a storage unit. Since we had no buildings available with roof lines and weren’t at the point of being ready to build something with one yet, we decided to just put up a very simple shed roof that would feed an above-ground water container, which we chose to be a black (to keep the sun out so algae and the like won’t grow easily thus avoiding chemical treatments) 2500 gallon polypropylene tank (which apparently holds up well against the sun’s deteriorating rays).

Here are some pictures of our shed roof catch-water system:


On these notice the down spout. When rain hasn’t fallen for any length of time, dirt and other potential contaminants collect on the roof. When it begins to rain, those contaminants are carried along with the first amounts of water coming off of the roof. And so, this down spout is called a “first-flush diverter”, and it is for catching that first amount of water. There is a racket ball in the tube which, as the tube fills with water, floats up and then wedges against the reducer at the top, thus stopping any more water from going into the tube. From then on, the water coming off of the roof bypasses the down spout heading for the black tank.




At first we had a nozzle on the output end of the tank that was a typical external water faucet, but it only allowed a small amount of flow coming through it; and so we installed a 3/4″ valve that essentially lets the water straight through to the garden hose.

And there is our water, graciously and mercifully granted according to God’s providence!

From there we add a 1/2 teaspoon of bleach (to kill bacteria; I read somewhere that it needs to be Clorox, but other Web sites don’t indicate that: use at your own rish) to our 6-gallon water containers (the typical dose is 1/2 teaspoon for 5 gallons) for the water that is to be used in our camper’s water system (for brushing our teeth, etc.), and from there we filter the water through our British Berkefeld Berkey water purifier for drinking. The bleach treatment is probably not needed, especially since we have a Berkey and everything could be filtered through it first. Still though, the Clorox method can be used to purify water if another filtration system is not available. Of course there are other ways to purify water, like boiling, or making your own activated charcoal filter, etc. that would be considered more long-term solutions (ones that don’t require perpetual maintenance).

The Lord has continued to be very gracious with our catch-water. Since it was installed and began to be filled, it has never been empty.

One thing we have learned, and is the type of thing we had hoped to learn moving out here, is a greater appreciation for God’s providence. In this case, every time we go to fill up containers out of our catch-water, we try to say a “Thank you” to the Lord for allowing us that provision of the water.

And sometimes, and we try to learn to do this more, we try to focus on the spiritual aspect of the type (or shadow) that many (if not all) of the temporal things around us point to. While we need water temporily to survive or we’ll die, the Lord Jesus says He gives water that gives everlasting life (John 4:13-14), and ONLY He can give it (John 14:6), and He does so according to His will (John 1:11-13; Eph 1:5,11), and if He doesn’t we will remain spiritually dead (Eph 2:5).

We are grateful to the Lord for His spiritual provisions of Himself and His giving of spiritual life to sinners (those He has come to save: 1 Tim 1:15), and we thank Him for His temporal provisions of the harvested rain water and the means of storage He has graciously allowed us.

— David