Before Thanksgiving we were blessed to be able to visit the Dougherty’s, a farming and homesteading family in southeastern Ohio, with whom we became acquainted when they spoke at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. Beth and Shawn are wonderful, knowledgable, and generous folk, of whom we have spoken before in this blog, and luckily for the world of farming have produced a wonderful book The Independent Farmstead. Having enthusiastically devoured this excellent tome, we were wondering if we could make a visit, since they live only about 2 1/2 hours drive away from us. We were especially interested in how they handle springs and seeps, since we have been made aware that we will depend on these for the water supply on our farm (see previous blog).
The visit surpassed our expectations, both on how welcoming they were, and in how brilliantly they have adapted multiple strategies to harvest that resource so critical to all our lives.
Below was the first thing we saw on our tour. A small spring exits the hillside and is captured in a large pipe. What Shawn and Beth have done is to drop a 55 gallon drum cut in half just below it and plumb in a spigot that feeds a hose, which supplies a lot of the water for their garden and animals close to the house.
The next fascinating invention was where the water from a seep on their hillside is collected by buried curtain drain pipe that is simply dug into the hill where there was a damp spot. It is angled into a collecting pipe and drips into a reservoir from which another buried pipe fills this small cistern from the bottom. Water is available for use from the pipe in the center, which allows sediment to collect at the bottom, resulting in pristine pure and delicious water for ducks, pigs and sheep! Brilliant!
Below are the ubiquitous storage vessels where the wondrous liquid is stored after harvesting from the earth. These are called “IBCs” (Intermediate Bulk Containers) and are used by any industry needing to transport large volumes of liquid. They are everywhere on the Dougherty’s farm and will soon be a common site on ours!
An added bonus to our visit was the interesting layer-hen “tractor” constructed of electrical metal conduit and 1×6 beams covered with plastic. This is very cheap and light so it will be easy to move around the fields giving continual access to fresh green grass, herbs and weeds and protection from predators. We are sure that some version of this will soon grace our own fields.
Finally, we helped Beth and Shawn move some cattle onto fresh pasture. this is accomplished quickly and easily using push-in posts and some electric twine.
So, pumped up with new information and enthusiasm, we came back to our farm ready to employ some of these techniques to access water for livestock and vegetables. We are very grateful to the Dougherty’s for allowing us to visit them, to spend so much time with us, and even to provide lunch harvested from their farm, complete with homemade cheese! They are real, down to earth (ever wonder where that phrase originates – obviously from describing farmers!) farmers who learned these things over many years and have developed tried and tested means to harvest both food and water from difficult terrain. We recommend their book to anyone who farms and if you are able to visit, you will find them to be gracious, generous, delightful people who will share their knowledge and time selflessly. We have gained a lot of knowledge, and we hope, some lifelong friends in the process.