Ideas and Light Bulbs


Float Valve

Automatic Float Valve

Today, I just finished a new project the idea for which I had in the back of my mind but was not actively pursuing. I have to say it is not really my idea at all as I am kinda “borrowing” it but in my defence, I am the one doing the planning, material buying and construction.

I was wandering around the Tractor Supply Store in Dripping Springs having gone there to buy fish food. I have mentioned in previous blogs that I feed the very much cheaper catfish food to the Koi in my ponds and they seem to do very well on it at least judging by the size of the fish and many are 15 years or more old. A 50 lb bag is about $16 and will last me about three weeks. Compare that to Koi food and  I come out the winner by far.

I don’t know what it is about that particular store. I think that in a previous life, I was a farmer or a rancher as I really like wandering around the place which really caters to anyone who works the land. I was born in the English countryside and spent most of my younger life exploring the woods and generally getting up close and personal with Mother Nature so maybe that accounts for my love of the great outdoors. I see all kinds of wonderful gadgets in the store and wonder if I need this or that. Truth is, I don’t really need any of it but like I said, the sight of it all stirs my hidden country boy side. In the end, I have to make do with garden stuff in the way of funny signs, windmills, flower-pot holders in the shape of animals, you get the picture. I run into all kinds of interesting people who always have a kind word or a jovial greeting. I even ran into one of my friends from a previous era when we both played on the same soccer team. He was complaining that people don’t have any money as his horse business is really struggling and the cost of food keeps going up. I have known this guy for more than 30 years. He got his legs shot up pretty bad in Korea and I was surprised that he was ever able to play soccer. Just the way he overcame that obstacle, he will surely overcome his current one.  I guess its tough all the way around when times are hard and the economy is tight.

In my wandering around the store, I came across a stack of automatic waterers that are designed to use on cattle troughs. They consist of a housing and a float connected to a water hose, actually pretty simple in design. I remembered that one of the owners of a pond on the Tour had rigged his pond up to automatically stay topped up and the light bulbswent off as my mind began planning how I could utilize them in my ponds.

My Garden Sign

My Garden Sign

I added one of them to my cart which already had fish food, dog and cat food, garden ornaments and now the automatic waterer. Honestly, I gotta stop going to that place as I always come out with far more than I went in for. I wandered up to the register pushing my goodies in front of me and as I reached the check out counter, the young cashier was staring at her screen with a look of sheer disbelief on her face. Her manager came over to see what the problem was and he started to chuckle at what he saw. I took a look and  saw that the screen  contorting and rolling into all kinds of gyrations, not stopping on any one single screen. While the Manager and the young lady were conferring on what to do, a young man, one of the high school summer employee wandered over, took one look and pressed the Enter button. Instantly everything stopped rotating and the correct screen came up. Everyone applauded him  as he modestly explained that the Enter button was stuck which caused the problem. Thank goodness for the modern generation of kids with enough computer “know-how” to correct the problem. I guess all of the texting and video games does pay off after all.

Welcome sign-Horse

Welcome sign-Horse

I digress,  back to the story and the light bulbs. I knew that to hook the system up would require plumbing which I am pretty good at especially as most of my work is done using PVC pipe and fittings.  After almost 20 years of pond building and maintenance, I have had lot’s of practice figuring things out and then making things work. The end result may not always look pretty especially when they are “add-ons” as I can’t usually hide them but they got the job done.  My next step was to plan out exactly what I was going to do and the parts I would need to put the project together. Of course, we all know about the best laid plans of mice and men…” That’s the beauty of PVC as it is so simple to glue stuff together and if I make a mistake, I can usually fix it with a hacksaw, more fittings and more glue. Talking about glue and the cleanser used to prepare the connection, the cleanser is blue and the glue is orange. Somehow, I always end up with some of it on my hands and it’s hell to get off. The down side of using PVC…

With the plans stored away in my head, I was ready to start but again, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Although the idea of an automatic topping up system sounds really good, it does carry an element of risk to it. The idea is to hook the system up to the city water or rather to one of the faucets that I have already in my back yard. City water that is untreated is death to the fish in the pond and probably to any other form of life, like the turtles, that enjoy living with the Koi and Goldfish. Probably why everyone drinks bottled water…

I learned the hard way on that as the first pond I built almost 20 years ago, I made the mistake of topping it up with city water. The next morning, all of the fish except one were floating sideways when I came out to check. The one that survived is still swimming strongly around and is the oldest fish in the pond. I don’t know what his secret is but whatever it is, it worked for him as he not only survived the chlorine but later on, also a heron that visited and decided to go fishing.

Boot Sign

Boot Sign

I knew exactly what I needed which was an in-line filter with hose connection but I couldn’t find anywhere local that sold those type of inline filters. Next step was to get online and do a Google search for filters that treat the city water and get rid of the heavy metals and chlorine and I managed to find a company that supplies just what I wanted.  Ten minutes and $80 later, I had them purchased and just had to wait for them to be delivered before continuing with the project.  I ordered two of them so that I had a replacement when the time comes. The filter is good for a year or about 10,000 gallons of water whichever comes first. Now how am I going to know when I have used 10,000 gallons?Can’t go by the water bill as that is inclusive of all of the water I use.  Lets see, I top up almost every day adding about 30 gallons of water. In a week lets call that 200 gallons so over a year, I will use about 10,000 gallons. Perfect. Better write the date somewhere so I know to change out the filter in a years time. Hope I can remember where I wrote that date down…

The filters only took a week and arrived yesterday. I hoped that I would have everything that I needed to do the job but invariably, there is always that one little thing that sends me back to my favorite stores, Lowe’s and Home Depot. Truth is, I don’t need much of an excuse to pay a visit to either or both of them. Eagerly, I started the project. I love putting things together especially if I planned it as well. Things went pretty much as I had planned with a few adjustments here and there which is no more than I expected. The faucet is on one side of the big pond and the skimmer box is way over on the other side about 20 feet away.  I had to route the pvc pipe through one of the bog gardens to reach the filter box. The vegetation is very heavy and it was no mean task to get it where I needed it without damaging the plants. I had to  lay the pipe on top of the ground and when the vegetation dies down in the winter, I will bury it so it will not look like a patch job.

In Line Filter

In Line Filter

I installed the filter by connecting it to the faucet end making it easy to replace when the time comes. Thinking about it,  I will also probably have to shut the system down in the winter or it may freeze but that is a separate issue and it’s only July. Lots of time to think about that problem.

At the other end inside the skimmer box, the automatic float unit fitted in the box perfectly with just enough space to get it in. I had to do some work on the brackets to make them longer to reach the level of the pond water as they were set up for a tank which can be filled almost to the brim. I forgot to mention that we had almost 3 inches of rain a couple of days ago and the ponds are as high as they can get so the timing of the installation was perfect. With the pipe all glued together and one last check of all of the joints and fittings to make sure they were tight, it was time for a trial run.

I was not expecting any problems but experience has shown me never to be too cocky as I have had pipes burst or blow the fitting off. I turned on the water and held my breath and sure enough, everything worked just as it was planned. The float activated the need to top up and that is exactly what happened. It ran for fifteen minutes before it found its level and then shut off perfectly. Yeah Success. I would like to think so but in the back of my mind is that little element of doubt that something, lily pads, dead fish, leaves, broken branches, something may prevent the valve from closing and we will have running water all over the place. I guess time will tell. At least even if the valves do leak and waste a bunch of water, the only cost will be to my wallet as the in line filter should prevent the Koi from sustaining fatal injuries.

There is a problem with completing a successful project especially with two more ponds that could use the same system as I am now thinking about doing the same thing  to the other two skimmer boxes to keep those topped up also. The mind is whirring and the light bulbs are popping. I know there has to be a way…

The float in the box

The float in the box

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