Water wells, septic systems, electricity supplies and food storage – these are four of the biggest things you need to deal with directly if you’re a hands-on person leading a hands-on rural life. And success is often based on specific bits of know-how. Here are some of the most valuable tips I’ve learned over the last 30 years of providing the essentials of life for my own rural household. Most of these tips I’ve learned the hard way, so perhaps I can save you some trouble. I’d be surprised if many of these ideas weren’t new to you:
Hands-On Rural Life Skill#1: Maintaining a Household Water Supply
If you get your water from a well, lake or other private supply, here are a some technical tips that will help you succeed:
IS YOUR WELL WEAK? Chronic shortages of household water from a weak well can be completely eliminated with something called “the trickle system”. Configure a submersible pump to switch ON only when water is available in the well. This pump delivers water to a storage tank, turning itself OFF automatically for a time when the well runs dry or when the storage tank is full. A second pump delivers water from this storage tank to your house whenever you turn a tap on. Even a very weak well can delivering only half a gallon of water per minute can produce 600 to 700 gallons of water a day with this system. It’s life changing for anyone living with a weak well. It all comes down to simple electronic controls that shut the well pump off when the well runs dry, and a water level switch the prevents the holding tank from overflowing.
- CHOOSING A NEW WELL PUMP?: 1/2 HP submersible pump is the best for most households. Any bigger and the pump will cycle ON and OFF to much. Don’t use a 3/4 HP model. Jet pumps are popular, but they’re noisier, they use more electricity for a given volume of water pumped, and jet pumps can lose their prime if the water supply dries up. Submersibles are best.
DOES YOUR WATER SMELL LIKE ROTTEN EGGS? Sulphur water that smells like rotten eggs can be made odourless by injecting hydrogen peroxide into the incoming water stream, then running the treated water through a whole-house carbon filter or a water softener. The hydrogen peroxide system works like magic, even with very rotten smelling water.
Hands-On Rural Life Skill#2: Maintaining a Septic System
Everyone who relies on a septic system to handle waste water faces two things that people on municipal sewage systems never have to deal with. First, septic systems need regular pumpouts of the tank to keep working properly. And second, there’s an ever-present danger that the entire septic system could plug up at any time as it gets older. You never know when you might faca a huge expense or disruptive mess. Here are ways around the potential for catastrophic septic failure.
- IS YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM DYING?Make your leaching pipes and bed maintainable by installing access ports on the ends of each run of leaching bed pipe. Pressure washing the insides of the leaching pipes can completely revive a failed septic system. Your septic system can continue working forever if you maintain the leaching pipes – an operation that’s almost never done.
- BI-ANNUAL POMPOUS REALLY ARE WORTH IT: Have a septic tank pump out done every two years. Don’t forget this.
- EASIER SEPTIC TANK ACCESS: Install access hatches to make pump outs fast and easy. It’s more likely you’ll call in the septic guy if it doesn’t mean you need to dig for hours to get down to the tank. My favourite option for concrete tanks involves pouring your own concrete risers and using patio slabs as lids.
Hands-On Rural Life Skill#3: Maintaining an Electricity Supply
Electricity means more in the country than it does in the city because private water systems rely on electricity to operate. This is why a growing number of people are preparing themselves to provide their own power in case of blackouts. Here’s what I’ve learned about generators:
CONNECTING A GENERATOR TO YOUR HOUSE: The simplest legal way to connect a portable generator to your house is with something called a Generlink. It lets you connect a cable to the electrical meter base, automatically isolating generator power from the grid.
CHOOSING A GENERATOR: A 3500 watt portable gas-powered generator is a good minimum size for operating lights, a water pump, a fridge and a small cooking device.
- STARTING A RELUCTANT GENERATOR: If your gasoline generator won’t start after a long time in storage, remove the air cleaner and squirt a tablespoon of gasoline into the carburetor before trying to start again. No need to take your carb off, just inject a little gas and pull the starter cord. I keep big veterinary syringes on hand for jobs like this, and fuel injection often works when nothing else does.
- DON’T FORGET THE MOTOR OIL: Besides a stock of fuel, keep a couple of gallons of motor oil on hand for your generator. Most need an oil change every 24 to 100 hours or 1 to 4 days of running time.
Hands-On Rural Life Skill#4: Food Production & Storage
- ELECTRICITY-FREE FOOD DRYING REALLY WORKS: A DIY solar food dryer made with an open drying frame works faster and better than the more common box-style solar food dryer.
- STORE ROOT CROPS IN A NOT-SO-GREAT BASEMENT: A clean garbage can filled with a dry “sand can” let you keep potatoes, carrots, beets and other root crops for many months. This approach works especially well when your basement is too dry and causes stored root crops to dry out and shrivel up. I’ve kept beets for 18 months in a sand can as an experiment. When I pulled them out they were still a little crunchy and completely edible with no rot.
Want to Learn More About . . .
- Water Wells
- Septic Systems
- Build a Solar Generator
- Build a Solar Food Dryer
Get the Rural Self-Reliance four-course combo pack . . .
Developing your rural self-reliance skills isn’t something that everyone can do, but if you’re ambitious and interested in saving money and gaining a big sense of satisfaction, check out the Rural Self-Reliance video ecourse combo pack. On special this spring for 60% off the price of each course separately, this $29CDN (about $22USD) collection comes with a 100% money-back guarantee. It goes into details about all the things mentioned above, plus a lot more. Plans, videos and detailed instructions included.
Thanks for taking a look!
Steve Maxwell [email protected]