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If you give a mouse a cookie

August 29th, 2011 by Joyce · 1 Comment

  he’s going to ask for a glass of milk

If you give us a clogged condensate line coming from our air conditioner last Sunday night just after we send C&D to bed, we’ll realize that we can’t really unplug it.  So, we use a hacksaw and cut it open.  We could just add a union and a cleanout and call the job done, but we decide that since we’re poking around in our 120*F attic, we can divert the primary condensate line to a rain barrel (condensate barrel, in this case) and send our secondary overflow to a spot over the kitchen window, where we can see it if there is a problem.IMGP1399

These are the lines coming out of our balcony ceiling.  We will have to patch a bit of the hole in our ceiling later—Matt didn’t have the right drill bit.  The open pipe is the one for the secondary line.  The PVC piping travels across the balconyIMGP1397

down to a corner a little bit out of the way, where we have an old Coca-Cola syrup container.IMGP1396

The container—a big plastic barrel–collects water that can be used to irrigate C&D’s fruit trees, over the balcony IMGP1392

and down, downIMGP1394

into the patio, where it ends in a little spigot even C&D can reach.IMGP1395

Since we were going to be tinkering, anyhow, Matt realized we could also take the water and get it flowing through some skinny irrigation tubingIMGP1390

which we could send down alongside the gutterIMGP1402

and around our foundation to a bird bath by the front door, where it wraps around the pedestalIMGP1414

and pops up to drip, drip, drip into the birdbath.  We will have to work to make this a more permanent setup, but it works for now.  We chose the location because we have a good view of the area from our upstairs.  C&D have a particularly good view from their favorite window.IMGP1408

I found the concrete bird bath in a trash pile near my house one day; I also found the square of granite in the same pile.  The granite is a weight for a patio umbrella.  It is also an attractive bird bath-leveler.  My neighbor didn’t mean to actually send these things to the landfill; she knew that if she put those things out on her curb somebody would come along and take what they wanted.  I put out things in front of my house, too, for the same reason.

Because we don’t know when to stop, the next day, when it was only 107*F instead of 109*F, Matt and I bought a bunch of Texas natives to add to our front yard to support our neighborhood birds and bees and butterflies and lizards.  We are watering like crazy this week.  But the animals are thirsty and hungry this year; it’s too hot and too dry.  Some of the plants we bought have medicinal, craft,  and food value for humans, too.  Come over sometime and I will show you.

Matt, Carmen, and David did most of the engineering for our condensate barrel project.  Now they want rain barrels to catch rain water, too.  David would like to design a rain collection and irrigation system like this: IMGP1374

In the picture you see the water falling off the roof and into a collection system of some sort.  There is piping to take the water to the front of the house, and to the back.  In the piping there are valves to control the flow.

(In the picture you also see someone’s math work.  C&D are learning to tell time, count money, work with fractions, do simple multiplication, and adding two- and three-digit numbers.  I think Carmen likes subtraction because she likes hoping that she will end up with a negative number.) 

Impressed by the physics of the water moving through the pipes and barrel, and tickled by the idea of irrigation, David has been experimenting with the remaining tubing using a bucket to serve as a kid-sized rain barrel.IMGP1389A piece of spare tubing is inserted into the bottom of the bucket.  The water flows down the stairs to a spotIMGP1379where David can experiment with the valves and connectors, and remaining pieces of PVC.  (I like how in these pictures I can see that David has taken his shoes off so they do not get wet, but he has forgotten to take off his socks.  We do a lot of laundry in this house.  Yes, we’re thinking about a greywater system from the washing machine next.  The machine is very efficient, but think of all those dirty socks!)IMGP1380<IMGP1384It is very hard and thoughtful work, all this planning, all this experimenting.  When we are working with the tubing we are too busy to even look at the camera.

We are all happy about our little project:  we have a system that is more complex, but at the same time we can more easily observe and maintain it; we are directing our A/C condensate to specifically beneficial locations (fruit trees, birdbath); we have done a favor for our our soil and plants as they will receive pure water from the air conditioner’s evaporator coils, not the chlorinated city water; our neighborhood bees and birds will have access to fresh water; when those flying friends come C&D will be able to observe nature from their favorite upstairs window; C&D are learning about the physics of water; and we learned a lot about collecting water, and caring for it as a resource.

Over the weekend while David continued to study the water moving through the tubing, Carmen got restless.  She decided to make brownies.  She read the directionsIMGP1417and added extra ingredients like nuts and coconut to prevent the brownies from being too rich.IMGP1416

We cooked our browies in muffin tins so we could eat some, and freeze the rest for later.  They are delicious. 

When David finally got tired of working outside, and Carmen got tired of baking, C&D starting making projects out of paper.  C&D have access to plenty of recycled paper, and have made everything from doll clothes to pretend fishing poles from it.  This weekend David made a steam engine, and glued it on a piece of paper so he could drag it along.IMGP1421He tried to put aquarium gravel in the center car—I think it is a coal car—but it collapsed a bit.  That’s okay—we can pretend.  Or perhaps make some out of paper.  We probably have enough to spare.      IMGP1419 Earlier in the week Carmen made a scene out of an old Whole Foods bag and the very end of  a green mesh produce bag (the kind used for selling bags of limes or potatoes, for instance).  There is a bunny with green grass and a tree.  The bunny and tree are reinforced by the stiffer bag handles.IMGP1378

Sweet people, you’re such fun.

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