Senda Verde Permaculture Eco Center

Monday, 22 February 2010

Mesoamerican Permaculture with Juan Rojas

Juan Rojas speaks about permaculture in Central America

Juan was born in Sonsonate, El Salvador in 1958. He studied permaculture with permaculture founder, Bill Mollison in Austrailia during time in exile from El Salvador. Juan returned to his country after peace accords of 1992 to help rebuild the country utilizing his skills with permaculture design. He teaches permaculture courses throughout Mesoamerica.

Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute

In this excellent podcast Juan Rojas speaks about his work in the Campesino a Campesino (Farmer to Farmer) movement and the impact that Permaculture is having in Central America.

More info
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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Geoff Lawton explains the power of permaculture

Geoff Lawton talking the talk and walking the walk

Crossing the Line with Geoff Lawton and Nadia Abu Yahia Lawton
Geoff Lawton is an internationally renowned permaculture educator, consultant and practitioner. Nadia Abu Yahia Lawton travels with Geoff for aid project and permaculture consulting work and assists in teaching permaculture design courses.

More info on Geoff

Thanks to Sustainable World Radio for this excellent podcast and the archieves which Im slowly working through, excellent work.
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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The environmental movement has been hijacked

Peter Taylor from Ethos UK sketches in the background leading to Climategate

Peter Taylor from Ethos UK joins us to talk about The Corporatization of the Environmental Movement, The Fraud of Cap and Trade, Al Gore, the Computer Models Predicting Global Warming and his experience of how Greenpeace and other Environmental Organizations have been hijacked. Peter provides the ecological science background for the Ethos team. He has extensive experience of research and policy analysis across a wide field of environmental issues, having advised governments, the European Commission, and UN organizations. He has made a significant contribution to international treaties on ocean protection and the development of the precautionary principle. Recent work has included consultancy to UK government agencies and non-government organizations on renewable energy policy and rural issues he sits on the National Advisory Group for the Community Renewables Initiative, a joint Countryside Agency and DTI program.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Allan Savory gifts us holistic management with animals

Allan Savory is the pioneer of Holistic Management, a decision making framework that has had exceptional success stories in the areas of range and livestock management. In this interview, Allan lays out the basics of Holistic Management, how he discovered it, and how it works. This is part one of a two part series.

Allan Savory is the pioneer of Holistic Management

Allan is also the founder of Holistic Management International. Please visit their website to learn more.

In part two of our interview with Allan Savory, we discuss the process of developing a holisticgoal, the role of monitoring in Holistic Management, and the scientific evidence that supports the claims of Holistic management.

I conclude with a brief summary of the work Agricultural Innovations is doing with Holistic Management International, and some other general comments about the podcast.

More info from the Holistic Management website

Allan Savory is the pioneer of Holistic Management International

Thanks to Frank at Agroinnovations for another excellent interview, keep up the great work.
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Composting to rebuild soil and get closer to zero waste

Composting is easy and we all need to start

This page is primarily designed for those looking to start gardens on dead soil in new subdivisions, but the techniques are universal and will work for fields killed by industrial/chemical Agriculture, or just to improve your yields if you are looking to shift from Miracle Grow Gardening to Organic. Feed the Soil, not the Plant! Thanks to Emily for the idea to put this together.

I live in a new Subdivison. Besides good insulation and resale values, I also got a denuded yard with no topsoil. I am no different than hundreds of thousands of households out there. Growing things organically on what starts as essentially subsoil takes some doing, but it is very possible. Here are some of the things I learned in the past 3 years getting my gardens to produce 500#’s + on 500 sq ft in Zone 5 on what what started as soil that not even weeds grew on.

The micro organisms in the soil are alive, feed them..

First off the main difference between “Topsoil” and “Subsoil” revolves around two critical aspects: Organic Matter and the Soil Ecosystem. Organic Matter creates air channels and holds water between rains, but most importantly it supplies the raw materials that the Soil Ecosystem (bacteria, fungus, nematodes, protozoa, worms, etc) use to make nutrients accessible -be it from minerals or dead plant debris- to plants. Subsoil is essentially dead -Organic Matter levels below 1% and virtually no soil life to speak of. Luckily it often has rich levels of minerals and trace nutrients, so all is not lost. To make Top Soil from the Subsoil (or dead denuded soils post industrial Ag) you will need to restore both Organic Matter and foster a thriving soil ecosystem.

A home made compost bin from recycled materials, inside and out

Organic Matter

Here at our home we have trucked (ok, trailered) in literally TONS of organic matter. If you want to build soil, you have to find the raw materials. Here is a short list of things I have scrounged here on the fringes of Suburbia:

* Coffee Grounds from local Coffee Shop
* Resturuant Waste
* Woodchips and Compost from the Municipal Yard
* Straw Bales from garden shops and local farmers
* Leaves from ALL my neighbors
* Grass Clippings and other yard waste

The thing to remember is that the soil isn’t picky, in fact a diverse mix is better than one particular source. But SOMETHING is better than nothing. Some of the above list should be composted first-notably any animal manures, and kitchen and resturaunt wastes. The others can be applied to the soil as mulches to feed the soil from the top down, as nature intended. More on that in a bit. Wood chips are for my numerous paths which I rebuild annually -the bottom 25% of each path decomposes nicely providing me with almost a yard of compsot annually -with very little work and no bins!

When we started our gardens, just three years ago, I double dug the beds ala John Jeavons’ Biodynamic techniques. This was necessary as the soil was horribly compacted from the Heavy Equipment used in the home construction. As I went to turn the “top” soil back in, I added compost in with the original soil in a 1:1 ratio. This took ALOT of compost-more than I had, but our Village has a compost pile the size of a small house. This also innoculated the soil with a living batch of decomposers to get things going-more about this later as well. I also mixed in a few bags of grass clippings to give the critters something to munch on. Careful to mix it well -large clods of grass will spoil in the soil due to lack of air. Once this was mixed in I planted the gardens, but as the soil was still pretty dead it wasn’t a great year. As my compost batches finished (I turned them very aggressively to speed it up to about 2 months) I side dressed the rows 1″ thick with the compost.

After the growing season, I added chopped leaves (run them over with a power mower with a bag on) and composted manures/kitchen wastes in a thick 4-6″ blanket for the winter. By May the next year, this was about 50% composted and I turned it in with a single pass with a garden fork and then topdressed with whatever compost I had ready from the fall piles -even if it was only 75% done, it goes on. After seedlings are up, more straw mulch between the row to feed the soil. Rinse and Repeat!

Soil Ecosystem

The truly depression thing about my subsoil was it was dead. There was almost no life in it at all. Topsoil is a living thing- actually it is hundreds of trillions of livings things, but you get the picture . It (they?) needs air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. A compacted soil effectively removes the first two, and as I already discussed, without organic matter you don’t have the third. To fight compaction, I double dug the beds to aerate them down 18″ which opens the soil to air and water passages. Adding the organic matter gets food into the cycle. But you still really don’t have many critters at this point. Given time, simply having air, water, and food will be enough to attract a thriving soil system, but we are a frenetic society and have issues even waiting for a You Tube movie to start let alone giving our soil 2-3 years to begin to wake up.

So to speed things up: innoculate the soil. If you noticed above, I added compost… alot. In fact I added about 3″ of compost per sq ft per year for 3 years now. That is about a cubic yard of compost annually per 100sq ft. That may seem excessive, and I have toned it down now as it served its purpose. See, compost is alive. That is not some Earthy Granola Get-in-touch-with-your-Mother talk …it is literally true. When your compost heats up it is due to the metabolic heat from bacteria reaching critical mass. In the cooler sections of the pile are billions of protozoa, fungi, and thousands and thousands of larger critters like pill bugs, worms, millipededs, etc that are all doing their part to decompose your kitchen and yard wastes. When you load your finished pile into your barrow and trundle it into your beds, all those buggers come with and they will continue to decompose the wastes of your garden soil and multiply in the process. Congratulations! Your soil is now alive! Now lets keep it that way:

The dying roots of your garden plants each season supply some of this food, but continual mulching will help even more. Nature feeds the top of the soil, and immediately under your mulch the soil will be alive with the Front Line decomposers that take some sustenance, and in turn break down the material further to allow even more and varied critters to further complete the work. In time the material will be completely broken down and distributed through the top 6-12″ of the soil by worms and other animals. This is how all the leaves in the forest are gone by the time the next season’s Fall approaches. The previous year’s leaves have fed the soil, which in turn fed the trees and allowed them to make more leaves… which in turn feed the soil. Perfect and Beautiful. Since we harvest much of the surplus of our gardens we must insure we add back those nutrients in the form of compost or mulches.

It should go without saying that spraying and “-cide” on the garden -plants or soil- will take you back to Step #1 in a very real way and is to be avoided like the plague. A Dairy Farmer would never take a shotgun to his herd and hope to stay in business. We are all ranchers, it is just that the Vegetable Garden’s herds live underground!

3 years ago I had to water my “soil” to even be able to get a sharpened spade into it, and ended up using a pickaxe (literally) to break it up. Now I can stick a 2×2″ stake in 6″ by hand when I string my pea trellis and I expect fertility gains for at least 3-5 more years. Nature wants healthy soil, and has a gazillion tools to help create it. All you have to do is rebuild a suitable environment, and either wait for the magic, or help it along with compost. Re-Building our soils is perhaps one of the most important legacies we can leave to future generations. Be the Change!

Good luck and Great Gardening!

Thanks to one straw for the post and

Monday, 8 February 2010

The revolution will not be on TV

Bill Mollison spoke of this, back in the days, are we there yet? one can only hope.

House offered in return for looking after the land

We have 5.5 hectares (organic already 20 years) close to Montemor-O-Novo, Alentejo.
The land consists of olive, fruit trees and arable land.
Basically we are looking for someone willing to farm/maintain the place - for which we offer a lovely equipped house in exchange for vegs/fruit/oil for our household needs. We are open to suggestions from prospective interest.

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Saturday, 6 February 2010

Super Market Secrets... wake up and start your veggie patch today

This two part documentary should make everyone think again about their weekly food shop.

Supermarket Secrets - Dispatches part 1

How and what we eat has radically changed over the past few decades with the all-consuming rise of the supermarket. But what price are we paying for the homogenised, cheap and convenient food that supermarkets specialise in? In a two-part programme, journalist Jane Moore investigates how supermarkets have affected the food on our plates and reveals the tell-tale signs that the food we buy may not have been grown in the way we think. Using a combination of undercover filming and scientific analysis, Supermarket Secrets investigates whether the food on supermarket shelves is really as good as it looks, whether prices are as good as they seem and what happens behind the scenes in the production of supermarket food. This documentry is in two parts. This first part deals with Factory Farming, chickens, and general quality of supermarket food. The second part deals with Cows milk, food standards, food waste, pesticides, food globalization, and loss of quality of our produce. A very important watch for everyone, gives you facts about the meat and food you eat. After watching you will have more of an understanding of the rational behind Vegetarian, Vegan, Organic, and grass-root eating practices

Supermarket Secrets - Dispatches part 2

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Friday, 5 February 2010

The Seed Monopolies, game set and match for Monsanto...

”Essentially the same thing is happening in agriculture that happened in 1913 with the Federal Reserve. Thomas Jefferson gave us a stark warning during his era….”The central banks & the corporations that grow up around them are more dangerous than any standing army”.

I’ve got a new company slogan for Monsanto, “PROFESSIONAL THIEVES & LIARS”

By: S.D. Fields
The warning signs have been around for years, so have the predictions. When I was a kid I remember a conversation between my dad and two neighbors. It was spring planting season during the mid 1970’s and we were standing along the road visiting. The focus of these men was the PVPA label on the bags of soybean seed. One remarked “You wait, one of these days those bastards will end up stealing this from us!” At the time and for several years to follow I had no clue what they where talking about; but I do now.

The PVPA was not a totally welcome event. Our genetic infrastructure had been loaned to private industry to enhance & market under their label. The fears were soothed by the exemption from infringement of “farmers’ right to save seed”.

Fast forward twenty five years. The ignorance of Congress to foresee the future when designing a reward system for plant breeders has been exploited. The introduction of biotechnology brought about an entirely new set of language. What was once referred to as enhancement by the “Plant Variety and Protection Act, (PVPA) is now called intellectual property. The checks and balances established and honored by the PVPA has been deleted by the use of patent law. Added expense and “no seed saving” restrictions also followed. The public was furious, along with farmers and seed companies alike.

Farmers were slow to warm up to this new concept. Yield drag, arrogant company reps, a confusing document to sign and an added $5.00 per unit technology fee (a fee which has increased substantially many times since) were common complaints. The added expense was soothed by a promise it would go away when the development investment was recouped. This turned out to be a predatory lie. The only reason the concept took off was purely coincidental.

The chemical event farmers relied on was called” Pursuit”. Its effectiveness wore out almost overnight; weeds became immune, and farmers were thirsty for something to work with. Seed companies took potshots in the media against this new marketing behavior. The use of our genetic infrastructure to deliver a patented chemical event was more than competitors could handle.

The developer of this technology was a company named Monsanto. Almost overnight all was quiet from the seed community. Monsanto said, ”Hey be quiet, come over here. We’ll license this technology to you, and keep farmers from saving seed. You’ll get rich!’

Seed companies were now willing to prostitute themselves because of greed. They completely ignored the past behavior of their new friends and the possibility of becoming victims was completely off the radar.

There was still unfinished business in the arena of legal authority. The people wouldn’t allow legislation to get past them. Monsanto’s buddies, Pioneer Hi-Bred International aided in orchestrating an opinion from the Supreme Court.

Opposing arguments were made by a completely untalented attorney by the name of Bruce Johnson. The case completely lacked merit; the arguments deviated way away from the alleged particulars and the Justices were lost. Not wanting to admit their confusion, they agreed to vote on their opinion, as opposed to referring the issue to Congress to be resolved.

Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion on behalf of the Justices. And, why not?

Although Thomas was a former corporate attorney for Monsanto (1977-79) when appointed to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush, the lawsuit singled out only Pioneer Hi-Bred. Thomas claimed no need to remove himself even though he clearly was in a unique position to have intimate knowledge of his former employer’s agenda and knowing full well any decision or opinion he rendered would have a direct impact on Monsanto’s conduct and would be conducive to their long term goal of monopolizing the seed industry. As a result, an overly broad opinion was written, clearly benefiting companies such as Monsanto and thus, creating law as opposed to ruling upon the validity of law; the genetic gold rush was on.

Seed companies raced to our Land Grant Universities and pulled nearly a century of public funded research off the shelves, committing a fraud by patenting something they neither developed nor owned. This event halted all free flow of germ-plasms. No more complete genetic diversification for the public good. Individual companies only had a few parent lines to work with now and any exchange was kept hush.

Monsanto’s predatory licensing targeted seed cleaners specifically. Not wanting their no.1 competitor to have access was an important goal. Initially most lost a significant portion of their customer base and many more lost their families income completely. By eliminating this industry and hi-jacking our genetic infrastructure, no new seed companies could enjoy the same humble beginnings as today’s consolidated giants.

Just as important was the goal of being in a position to bypass the wealth of the land from the seed cleaner’s respective communities, to their own corporate banks. In today’s money the average seed cleaner has the ability to pump over $13,000/per hour into the economy. Those numbers are expected to climb to $15,000/per hour, or more, in coming seasons. Combine these numbers with the thousands of cleaners forced out of business and it is easy to identify with how a community becomes depressed.

This same predatory behavior put competing seed companies in jeopardy also. They had to discontinue their non-gmo lines, give up their customer records and report any seed cleaner activity in their area. But those agreements were so expensive many seed companies couldn’t cross the financial threshold and became consumed in a leveraged takeover.

Farmers often opted not to sign these documents only to learn many times, their signatures had been forged later as was documented in the Center for Food Safety report, “Monsanto vs US Farmers” in 2005. Today’s user agreement is activated when they open a bag; the full text of the contract more than 30 pages long is not available for viewing at the time of purchase. The contract calls for an electronic signature whereby the farmer accepts responsibility for pollen drift and essentially forfeits their Constitutional rights and exposes complete indiscriminate access to land and any USDA and personal individual financial records. Essentially everyone has to get naked in front of this new beast.

Organizations & associations that claim to represent the public also lost their credibility because of well placed moles that interfered with potential policy & action. This commonly occurs within the upper commands. The Soybean Assn. lobbied very hard against new policy in Ill Farm Bureau. This policy called for the PVPA to be the exclusive statute governing all germ plasm propagation. But the real battle occurred from the paid staff of IFB. Once the policy was adopted, the national level was to pick it up & run. This is where the real dead end occurred. Too many with their fingers in the corporate money jar.

Never mind the media. Soybean Digest, Agri-News, CBS, NBC & others. Everyplace you turn,advertising dollars are being blown putting a spin on how great Monsanto has been for agriculture. Fantastic PR claims confuse everyone but those of us that know better. Their feed the word campaign is nothing more than a chemical event being consumed by the masses. Recently claims have surfaced linking GMOs to organ failure in livestock. If this were to be proven in humans, wouldn’t this this be the ultimate in population control?
Essentially the same thing is happening in agriculture that happened in 1913 with the Federal Reserve. Thomas Jefferson gave us a stark warning during his era….”The central banks & the corporations that grow up around them are more dangerous than any standing army”.

I’ve got a new company slogan for Monsanto: “PROFESSIONAL THIEVES & LIARS”

Thanks to the PPJ Gazette
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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Homemade Hydraulic Ram Pump

This is a pump I made with off the shelf plumbing parts, a few nuts and bolts, a coil spring and some inner tube and only a little soldering. The design was adapted from a larger steel pump in a book, and uses 'rule of thumb' calculations.

If you have a water supply (spring, brook or river) below the point where you need the water, and the source is higher than the lowest part of the property, then a hydraulic ram pump may be the solution. Hydraulic ram pumps are powered by a portion of the water running through it. If the cost of a commercial pump puts you off, or the water volume is too little to operate the pump, you can make one to suit your conditions at very little cost.

There are two excellent books published by Intermediate Technology on making your own ram pump. One is "Hydraulic Ram Pumps: A Guide to Ram Pump Water Supply Systems" by T.D. Jeffrey, T.H. Thomas, A.V. Smith, and P.B. Glover. The other is "A Manual on the Hydraulic Ram for Pumping Water" by S. B. Watt. I would recommend you get both; they do complement each other. They also explain how to design and build the whole system. The pumps featured in the books do require welding and threading equipment, and the smallest pump has a 2" diameter body which requires a fair amount of water to operate. However, the principle also works on a smaller scale, and I have made a pump from standard brass 28 mm compression fittings, with 28mm, 22 mm and 15 mm pipe (all readily available) and with soldering equipment. It is not scientifically worked out, but it works and is about as efficient as a commercial pump, and it takes the elbow grease out of pumping by hand or the expense and complications of an electric pump.

I don't know what the maximum lift would be with a pump this size, but in a test with my own it pumped water approximately 15 - 20 feet up with a drive head of about 5 - 6 feet. Even in such a small pump the pressure is enormous, and I believe it could pump water much higher. This pump also works on relatively small volumes of water. Even the smallest commercial pump requires large volumes of water to power it, making a ram pump unsuitable for many situations, where this smaller pump would still be able to operate. I have even operated the pump on about 25 gallons a day during a dry summer by running it intermittently from a holding tank. However, the pump only delivers about one 10th of the volume, wasting the rest, so I only ended up with about two gallons out of that tank. It also required manually opening and closing the stop cock or some complicated automated system. Self-siphoning may be a possibility I have not yet tested, but the tight pipe bends may hinder the flow too much.

I built this pump nearly 12 years ago, and did not take pictures during the build. Due to limited material choice, some parts have corroded, and some of the information is based on memory, so the instructions are a little incomplete, but hopefully there is enough information to build your own. A lot of the measurements for this pump were indeed rule of thumb - "that looks about right", and it worked. Of course, your thumb may differ in size from mine, but you get the idea.....

A typical situation where a ram pump may be used

momentum building
shock wave pushes water into delivery pipe as impulse valve shuts

Water enters the ram from the thick drive pipe and runs out of the impulse valve, which is held open by a spring (or weight in larger pumps). As the momentum increases, the pressure of the water will drag the impulse valve shut. This creates a shock wave inside the ram body, pushing water past the delivery valve (a non-return valve). As the pressure subsides the impulse valve opens and the cycle begins again. This takes place more than 100 times a minute, depending on the head pressure and tuning of the impulse valve, and each pulse pushes up a small quantity of water through the thinner delivery pipe. The air chamber cushions the flow. The tiny snifter valve below the chamber allows a small quantity of air into the air chamber with every pulse to replace air lost into the deliver pipe. A small squirt of water will come out on the recoil.
Building the pump

* approx. 1 meter of 28 mm copper pipe for body and pressure chamber
* 22 mm copper pipe for supply pipe
* 15 mm copper pipe for delivery pipe
* connectors as needed
* two 28 mm compression 'T's
* one 28 mm compression elbow
* one 28 mm solder blank end - optional
* one 15 mm ball valve
* one 28 mm to 15 mm reducer - solder type
* one 28 mm to 22 mm reducer - solder type
* flat piece copper for valves (pipe cut open and hammered flat on metal surface)
* small bore pipe to form guide for impulse valve
* inner tube for delivery and snifter valves and mounting shock absorbers
* rubber and copper disk (psst! don't tell Her Madge - a coin) for impulse valve
* tiny nut and bolt cut from earth connector of light switch for snifter valve flap
* two nuts and bolts for the impulse and the delivery valve - brass or s/s
* a steel spring removed from a cabinet ball and spring closure (brass would be better if found) for the impulse valve
* 1/2 tea strainer (wire globe type) clipped to tank outlet
* approx 1 ft of 22 mm i/d reinforced automotive rubber pipe as shock absorbing section in supply pipe
* two hose clamps for above
* one 20 gallon tank as buffer and filter at spring
* one 22 mm tank connector
* two exhaust pipe brackets to hold pump body to base
* section of steel I-beam for base, or similar
* concrete to hold pump base
* solder, flux

Note on fittings - these compression fittings are typical for the UK, and are somewhat different from those available in other countries. Your fitting may look different, but should still work. It is important to use threaded fittings, as the rubber gaskets in the pump body would be damaged when assembling a pump made with solder fittings. Threaded fittings also allow access to the inside of the pump in case of debris entering it, or to replace worn gaskets. Although I used joint tape, it is probably not necessary, as a slight seepage is of no consequence in the pump setting, and the amount of water lost miniscule.

You may be able to obtain the short length of pipe and fittings for the body from a plumber doing a remodeling job. If you buy new materials, shop around. I have bought the fittings at an agricultural iron mongers for about one third the price a builder's merchant charged! The most difficult thing to obtain is the right size brass nuts, bolts, and spring. DIY shops have very little choice - if you get the right length bolt, it may be too thin.

You may be able to scavenge them from some old electrical equipment, as did I, if only I could remember what from. Make sure it is solid brass as any plating will soon wear off. Valve gaskets can be cut from inner tube, preferably car tube, as it makes flatter gaskets. Avoid seams. The spring for the impulse valve came from a cabinet ball snap closure. It was just the right size and tension, but made of galvanized wire, which did not last long. You may be able to make one from s/s or brass wire. This is the part which needs some experimentation.

Delivery and Snifter Valve Assembly

delivery valve disk and solder support

Cut a disk of sheet copper (a piece of opened up pipe, hammered flat) to fit inside the approx. 2 1/2 inch section of 28 mm pipe. Drill one hole in the center to take a small bolt, and holes all around to allow as much water through as possible, but not so many to weaken the disk. Leave a solid edge for the gasket to overlap enough to prevent leakage. File the holes clean with a round needle file and rub surface with abrasive paper to prevent sharp edges and to ensure the gasket makes good contact. Solder the disk into the pipe about 1/2 inch below the edge. Rest the disk on a piece of 15 mm pipe cut to the hight of the disk position. Keep it to the center and avoid excess solder, or you will solder this pipe to the disk too.

Drill a 1 mm diameter hole about halfway down the pipe, and clean the edges. Drill another hole about 1/4 inch below, making it the size of a tiny bolt. Cut a small flap of inner tube to cover the 1 mm hole and extend beyond the bolt hole, and cut a small hole in the rubber for the bolt. Attach the rubber flap with the bolt and nut. If you can't find a tiny brass nut and bolt, you can improvise with the small grub screw and the threaded counterpart of the earth terminal of a redundant plastic electrical socket. The threaded brass block should be sawn in half to reduce drag.

cutting of brass terminal block to make nut for snifter valve

Cut a disk of inner tube to fit snuggly inside the pipe, but not touching the pipe, as the flap must be able to move freely. Cut a small hole in the center and bolt it on top of the metal valve disk with a small washer between the gasket and the nut.

Impulse Valve Assembly

This one is more tricky to make, and will need some experimenting and improvising with available materials. I will describe the one I made, but there are many ways of doing it. The main principle is a rigid disk with a rubber surface (for good contact) on a guided support which allows the disk to travel in a straight line. The disk is held away from the opening with a spring or weights, which should not prevent the shock wave from slamming the valve shut. The valve disk should be smaller than the inside diameter of the valve body to allow water to pass around it to exit from the outlet holes which need to be big enough to allow the water to pass through with as little resistance as possible to build up momentum. In practice this is a compromise between the disk size and the outlet holes. If the outlet holes are too big, then the disk would have to be correspondingly big to cover the holes in the shut position, thereby allowing little water to pass around the disk when open. The area of the holes should be about equal to the area of the space around the disk, taking into account a small area where the disk overlaps the outlet plate to ensure a tight seal.

Impulse valve assembly and top plate

Cut a section of 28 mm pipe to about 2 - 3 inch length. Make a flat piece of copper to cover the top which overlaps the edge to give a sufficient mounting surface for the valve stem guide. Shape is not important, though square is probably easier, unless you already happen to have a suitable round disk.

Drill a large enough hole in the center to allow the spring to pass through without catching the edge, and drill more smaller holes around this big one, using the above thumb formula. I am not sure why I did not make a larger hole instead. The reason may have been drill size. I suppose, one large hole should work as well, as long as it is a smaller than the valve disk to allow the sealing overlap. Make sure the holes and surface are smooth. Solder a frame to the top of the plate to hold a piece of tube just big enough to allow the bolt to pass through and guide it in a straight line. I happen to have had some thin copper tube scavenged from a gas installation of an old caravan.

There were two diameters, one fitted snuggly inside the other. The inner was just big enough for the bolt (taking into account that the thread will be filed off the bolt inside the guide tube), but did not have enough substance to split it into four extended legs to support it above the plate, but the larger tube served that purpose. I then soldered the legs to the top plate. The guide tube should also be small enough for the spring to but against it, and not slip inside. The height should allow for the spring to be in the relaxed position with the valve disk about the same distance below the top plate in the open position as the space around the disk. It should also allow room for compression of the spring when the valve shuts, i.e. the spring should also be long enough to allow this compression without the bunched up wires crowding the small space between the guide and the top of the plate, which would happen with a short and tightly coiled spring.

To assemble the valve drop a copper or brass disk onto the bolt head followed by a rubber disk, a washer and a nut to secure the disks. Measure the length of the spring and the guide tube and file the thread off the bolt for this length to prevent snagging, and leave thread on the last section for the nut and counter nut. Drop the spring onto the bolt and feed the bolt from inside the valve body through the center hole and the guide tube and secure the bolt in place with the nut and counter nut.
Assembling and Installing the Pump

Assembling is very easy, just follow the diagram. One point to watch out for is the location of the snifter valve. When inserting the deliver valve assembly between the elbow and 'T' make sure the snifter valve is on the opposite side of the delivery pipe exit to prevent the air being lost up the delivery pipe. The top of the pressure chamber can be capped with a blank end or simply hammered flat, bent over like a toothpaste tube, and sealed with solder run into the joint.

It is critical that there is enough water to power the pump, as any reduced flow would simply trickle out of the open impulse valve without causing the shock wave to slam it shut. The pipes need to be filled and no air should enter the pipe. It is also important that no debris enters the pump as it can easily jam the valve open. Some kind of intake tank is advisable, and a filter at the tank exit. I used a 25 gallon plastic tank and clipped one half of a s/s fine wire mesh tea strainer (the wire globe type with sprung handle) over the tank connector nut - just happened to be perfect fit.

The water also came from a covered spring with very little debris entering it. The drive pipe needs to be as straight as possible, with any bends kept very gradual. Stop cocks must not hinder the flow, therefore a ball valve would be best suited. The jolt of the valve slamming shut creates a fair amount of pressure in the pipe, and it needs to have some shock absorbing section of strong reinforced rubber hose in the upper section. The pump body must be fixed to a base rigidly, but with some cushioning.

I clamped the pump to a section of 'I' beam which is embedded in concrete, and used exhaust pipe clamps, cushioned with some inner tube wrapped around the pump body. There is a stop cock on both pipes entering and leaving the pump. For the longer delivery pipe Medium Density Polyethylene is best suited for longer sections, and can easily be joined at or near the stop cock with a copper to MDPE adapter.

Thanks to Judy of the Woods for this excellent post. For more photos of this DIY ram pump check out the Flickr page

The Truth WareHouse