Irrigation hell, and other news…

Garden hoses are stupid. If I’d invented garden hoses, they’d have female connectors on both ends, and anything that isn’t a hose would have male connectors. The reality today, though, is that garden hoses have a male connector on one end, and a female connector on the other, while practically all non-hose components have male connectors. So, if you want to connect two non-hose components with a hose, you’re screwed (or, unscrewed, as the case may be). It’d be less of an issue if they had a coupler that’d connect two male connectors, but I can’t seem to find such a thing anywhere. *sigh* Instead, I got a female connector “repair kit”, so I’m going cut off the male connector from one of my hoses to replace it with a female connector, and make a hose with female connectors on both ends, the way God should’ve intended them to be. While I’m ranting about garden hoses, WTF is the deal with garden hose connectors containing lead? Are they trying to kill us?

I admit, I’m a complete idiot when it comes to plumbing. I’m like the opposite of this XKCD comic. I can write software, I can sorta build stuff out of lumber, but when it comes to water through tubes, I know nothing. But, I’m learning, and hopefully I have all the right parts to make some kind of contraption. In my defense, what I’m doing is relatively rare, I think. Most irrigation solutions out there assume you have, you know, water. Out of a spigot. With pressure. I’m sure if I did research, I’d find someone who did exactly what I’m trying to do, but then, what’s the fun in that?

The picture you see here was my first experiment. I got a garden hose, and used a 3/4″-hose-to 1/4″-tube adapter to connect a 1/4″ soaker hose to it. I then siphoned water out of a water carrier perched on top of my car, to see if the water pressure would be enough to force water out of the soaker hose. Well, it failed, quite miserably, but I claim the experiment a success because I learned a lot. The main issue I saw was that the adapter was leaky, and most of my water (and pressure, with it) was leaking out of the adapter. The adapter was also faulty in that, the inside diameter of the 1/4″ end was too small for the soaker hose, so water also leaked from there too.

My second experiment was to use a different method for attaching the 1/4″ soaker hose to my garden hose. I used these 1/4″-to-1/4″ barbed connectors, and poked one end into the middle of my garden hose through a tiny hole I drilled in it, and the other end into the 1/4″ soaker hose. That connection worked much better than the adapter. But, I noticed two problems with this. One was that the soaker hose only released water from a few points, separated by over a foot in places. The other thing I realized was that siphoning is unreliable. I guess air bubbles somehow form or get into the hose, and stops the flow of water.

So, I figured I needed a water container that had a 3/4″ hose connector at the bottom, instead of relying on siphoning action. I was originally thinking of using my 55 gallon drum, but the threading on the lid is kinda weird, so I wasn’t sure how to get a 3/4″ hose connector onto it. So, today, I came out to Redding, hoping to find a water container that already had a 3/4″ connector at the bottom, and some kind of vent up top. I first stopped by J and J Pumps, but the smallest containers they had were over 300 gallons, and cost a little under $300. The guy I talked to suggested that I check out Tractor Supply, and there, I found a 50 gallon rain barrel on clearance for $50 (pictured right). It’s got a 3/4″ male connector at the bottom, and a hole at top, as well as a mesh-covered opening in the lid. I’ll be pumping water into the hole at the top, using a 12V water pump, out of the 7 gallon water cubes I use to haul water from town. From there, the water will be fed into my soaker hoses, attached to a garden hose as the main line, by gravity.


In other news, I woke up yesterday to the rumbling of thunder. I listening to it for a while, then jumped awake. Thunder (usually) means rain. My roof is currently not water proof. Oh no! I hastily put up a couple more 1×3 cross-pieces on the roof, and started laying down asphalt impregnated paper. Ominous dark clouds hung in the sky. The rumbling of the thunder continued incessantly, gradually approaching closer, like artillery fire of an invading army. Put up the barricades! Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough tar paper. I’d used up most of the roll wrapping up my hut for the winter. I’d finished putting up two of the 5 pieces that would’ve been required to cover the whole roof, when it started raining. I had no other option but to cover the rest of the roof with the tarp again…

Unfortunately, it didn’t rain much. Not even enough to completely moisten the ground. Dry lightning rumbled and crackled throughout the day, and by early afternoon, I could see smoke to the south, the south east, and on a ridge line to the north east. The smoke to the south was somewhat disturbing, because prevailing winds could push it my way. I could see firefighting planes circling the smoke low, only several miles away. Fortunately, the smoke in that area cleared fairly quickly, to be replaced by a thicker plume to the south east. On my way into town, I saw half a dozen fire engines heading in the opposite direction, and this morning, I passed a huge convoy of 30 or so assorted fire trucks heading that way, probably to mop up after yesterday.

7 thoughts on “Irrigation hell, and other news…

  1. Yeah plumbing is no fun at all.

    I bet you could roof your hut with corrugated galvanized panels for about $100.

    8 – 6′ 26″ panels @$11ea
    1 – 10′ ridge cap @$11ea
    some nails (nail on the high side of the corrugation of course.)

    Just a thought… beats midnight tarpings.

  2. All things that I have ever seen that are supposed to work with garden hoses have a female fitting, so that you can attach the male end of the garden hose to it. If a garden hose had two female ends on it, you would not be able to attach one hose to another. I am assuming you are using things not designed for garden hoses or in ways not intended by the maker, and they might not even be the right thread.

    Fittings with two female ends are available, or you can use a washing machine hose, or buy two female to pipe fitting parts and put a pipe between them.

    “WTF is the deal with garden hose connectors containing lead? Are they trying to kill us?”

    Garden hose connectors contain brass. Brass has tiny amounts of lead in it. Most brass fittings contain lead. This lead is not likely to get into the water that you drink. Lead gets an oxidation layer on it that prevents any more lead from leaching into the water. That being said, it is better to not have the lead, but I would not worry about these fittings. BUT, you are using a GARDEN hose. Not intended to be used for drinking. There is likely lead in the environment naturally, so teh assumption is that the small amount of lead will have no effect on the environment. Heck, how many of your bullets do you collect so they do not get into the environment?. No real harm there.

    The excessive fear of lead (some fear is appropriate) has caused lots of problems. For example, to prevent chinese toys from leaching lead into kids brains, they outlawed lead containing products from being sold for kids. SO…. it is illegal to sell ATV’s and small motorcycles to kids because they have lead-acid batteries and much of the metal contains small amounts of lead. The kids now wear T-Shirts saying “I Promise not to eat my motorcycle”. Also, all electronics are going away from lead tinning (solder), and are often going pure tin, which causes all kinds of reliability issues with Tin Whiskers etc. The intent is to prevent waste electronic components from putting lead in the environment, but most electronics end up in the landfill, and could easily end up in recycling if we wanted. So….more failed electronics means more manufacturing, which means more lead in the environment. Unintended consequences and all that.

    Well, that was a long post… In conclusion, no, they are not trying to kill us.

    Bob L

    • Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m trying to do something non-standard. For instance, I want to use the same hose for getting water out of my water container, as well as for pumping water in to it. I think hose makers assume water only flows one way through a hose. I’m also doing things like putting in a spigot between two hoses, and the spigot has male connectors on both ends (I got one with a female thread, but it didn’t have an o-ring, so it didn’t seal properly when connected to a hose, which, understandably isn’t what they’re meant for).

      As for lead, I used to collect lead pellets from my dad’s air gun range and melt them to make things when I was a kid, so I’ve probably already been exposed to more lead than most people (and hey, I ended up ok… mostly). I was just surprised that hoses intended for use in gardens, which grow food, would contain lead. I don’t know if plants absorb lead, but it seemed plausible that the lead would accumulate in fruit and vegetables. But maybe that’s not really an issue…

    • Simple, there would be couplers with two male ends. In fact, in my ideal world, hoses would be sold with such a coupler, so the user can choose whether to have a female or male end.

  3. I hate to break it to ya man but they are set up like that to help water flow. If water were flowing into a pipe and it had to hit the ridge of another it causes turbulence and the water will not flow properly. That’s why the end is a male and it fits into a female sprayer, etc. Its all about reducing resistance just like with electric wire.

    Don’t worry, I couldn’t do the google stuff!

    I love your blog. I’m building a cabin on 4 acres in Kentucky and it is hell. Your hut looks so much easier. But I’m having a hard time convincing the wife to move there. So tell me what is like to be free!


  4. I was playing around with similar concepts for watering plants on my apartment balcony; trying to use a water reservoir connected to an irrigation system.

    My solution for the resivoir was to attach a garden faucet to an orginary 5 gallon bucket. I just cut a hole, and use two pieces of pvc pipe fitting. You can see it here:

    The piece on the outside is just a male-female, and there’s another small pvc ring which threads on to the male end inside the bucket. Two metal washers spread out the presure a bit, and I used a piece of rubber gasket ( the kind that comes in a small square piece) on the inside to seal it. From there you can thread pretty much anything onto the outside.

    This would probably work on any container you could cut a hole in, such as a large 55 gallon plastic drum.

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