Posted in 1 Garden, 2 Home

Installing a Garden Tub


Under the grape arbor is a nice private place for a summer tub – so we cleaned out a 2′ x 6′ x 2′ horse trough we had stored, brushed out the rust, and painted it with rust-proof gray paint.  It looks nearly new!

Because it was old, though, I wanted to make sure that the seams and any rust-weakened spots wouldn’t be stressed when the tub was filled with water and the weight of two people, as it might be on an uneven surface, so I took extreme care to level the site and make sure all the bricks were well-supported.  (The shadows in this photo cast funny angles, but the bricks were leveled each to within 1/32″ of an inch of each other and across their span.)

01 block foundation

Each block was checked for areas where it might span an inch or two without much support (as seen in the one on the left).  Each then had a handful of small stones and sand shoved under any of those edges.

02 block cu 03 block cu filled

Next, we laid one layer of cardboard over the bricks to cushion the metal from rough edges.

04 cardboard

Then, holding the cardboard square and neat, we set the tank in place and filled her up… but that wasn’t enough.

06 me in tub side 

07 tub n plants

Container plantings of catnip and comfrey brought us the greenery to make this humble item beautiful as well as refreshing on a hot day!  But that’s not all….

Next we’ll install a solar water heater between the open rafters above, plumb it from the kitchen line in the wall right there, and give ourselves hot water for winter tubbing – as well as solar hot water straight into the kitchen!  Save us money, save a mountainside and all that pollution.  Yeah!

We’ll post about it, of course.

And probably plan a workshop for its installation. Will teach participants how to take a pressure tank out of almost any “old” water heater (destined for the landfill or, at best, recycling – though a pressure tank has SO much more value than that), clean it up and prepare it for an insulated box, build the box, orient it properly, plumb it, and use the solar hot water (better have a pressure valve – they can actually get that hot).  We’ll have this one to demonstrate, another one to take apart and prepare, and we’ll install this one and do at least some of the plumbing and demonstrate the rest.  Will probably take a half day.  When would be best for you?

Write if you’re interested, and we’ll try to schedule it for the greatest number of people’s convenience.


Posted in 1 Garden, 2 Home

Hiding the Water Harvesting Tank

The only place for the water harvesting tank was right by the back door, near where we like to sit every afternoon and evening on warm days – and I have an aversion to plastic in my view!


So we decided to cover it to blend in with the granite hill that borders this yard.

After roughly leveling the area, wetting it and tamping it down, we placed the tank, replacing softer earth at the corners with strong stones.  (See above.)

Next, we wrapped the tank with 1/4″ hardware cloth, fastened with scrap wire and attached to the wall with screws, then used trowels to cover the form with mortar mix.


I would have loved to have used adobe instead and foregone the use of concrete (high energy footprint), but the hillside is pale gray granite, very similar in color to dried mortar mix, so it was a natural.

On top of the aluminum frame, we slid scrap plywood and wedged small cans under the hardware cloth near the center to lift it so rainwater will shed and not pool on top.


Below is the first coat of mortar mix.  You’ll notice we redesigned the water inlet from the gutter, so that it doesn’t cross in front of the window (better feng shui).  All the downspout/input materials were found at the hardware store.  You’ll notice an overflow fairly high on the corner – not ideal, but workable.  It empties into a swale carved into the stone hill and paved with more stones to travel neatly around the tank.


The finish plan:  when the mix has begun to set, we’ll use chunks of granite stone to impress the mix with the texture of the stone you see on the hill right behind the tank.  Then we’ll slice a few “cracks” to match those on the hill.


Watch for a workshop soon to finish the tank.  Photos will be posted.