Deck Garden Drip Irrigation System Update and Season Change

It appears that the long hot Texas Summer is finally drawing to a close and it’s time to consider what I’m going to do with my deck garden and rain drip irrigation system for Fall.  If I can find some tomatoes I’ll plant those.  My deck container planter boxes really aren’t large enough to effectively grow leafy plants.  Looking back on what I’ve learned, I’m also formulating a new, larger plan for next year’s deck container garden and drip irrigation system.

Survival of Drip Irrigation System Tomatoes

Deck Garden Tomatoes Struggling in Texas Heat even with Drip Irrigation
Drip Irrigated Deck Garden Tomatoes

While my tomato plants did manage to survive the brutal Summer, they didn’t perform very well at all.  Based on my research, it just didn’t ever get cool enough at night for the tomato plants, which are in the nightshade family, to produce very much fruit.  This is the second year of attempting to make this work up on the deck and my efforts to cool the planter boxes and plants, even with extra water from the drip irrigation system, just didn’t produce enough cooling for the plants to thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drip Irrigation System Attracts Ants

Drip Irrigation System Water attracts insects
Ants Hunting Water from Container Garden Drip Irrigation System

It was horribly dry in Texas this Summer and every critter out there was looking for food and water.  Even the ants, which I seldom have a problem with, came looking for water in unusual places – the drip irrigation system for my deck container garden.  Not to mention the very hungry birds that robbed my tomato plants every day – despite the watchful gaze of my wire’s worthless cats that hang out on the deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking Your Drip Irrigation System Planter Box

Even Drip Irrigation Can't Save Some Plants from Texas Heat
Hot Dry Texas Summer

The tomato plants were about all that survived.  I occasionally had some weeds sprout in the drip irrigation system planter boxes but even those didn’t stand much of a chance in the heat.  It was so hot that the sun actually took my drip irrigation system and baked my very good potting soil into a hard clay right in the planter boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headed to Cooler Lands

Shadier Location for a New Deck Container Garden
New Deck Garden Location

My next step in moving my deck container garden forward is to move it off of the deck and down to ground level right off the end of the deck.  I’ve noticed that the ground temperatures are about 20 degrees cooler than the surface temperature on the deck.  The plants should also benefit (or suffer) from a little more shade provided by the house and the deck. This should also be more efficient for my drip irrigation system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainwater Collection and my Drip Irrigation System

Rainwater Collection Storage Under the Deck
Rainwater Collection Tank Location

In conjunction with moving the deck container garden to ground level, I’m also going to implement a very basic rainwater collection system to provide water for my house foundation and drip irrigation system.  My Dad installed a professional grade rainwater collection system at his house because he has concerns about his well possibly running dry in the extended Texas drought.  I’m having some issues as well – not with drinking water because we’re on a water system – but with my house foundation drying out and the house moving enough to crack the sheet rock inside my house and make huge gaps in the planks of my wood flooring.  It is common practice in some areas of Texas to water your foundation to prevent this problem.  I have a problem with paying for water to do this, especially during the horrible drouth we’re having so I’m going to attempt to implement a simple rainwater collection system to provide water for my foundation as well as my drip irrigation system.  Yeah, there are a ton of opportunities and issues to figure out – not the least of which is “will it ever rain again?”.  My plan is to implement the rainwater collection and drip irrigation system in four phases, each with a 1000 gallon tank underneath my deck.  In this picture, you can see two downspouts that collect approximately 30% of my roof run off and they are readily available where I want to install the tank – should be simple, right?

 

 

Keeping the Dogs Cool(er)

Air Conditioner Drain Pool to Cool the Dogs
Drip Irrigation System Dog Pool

My Dad made an interesting  comment one day about the volume of water that runs out of his air conditioning drain.  He claimed to empty a 3 gallon bucket 4 or 5 times per day.  I was tired of seeing my wife drain and fill the dog swimming pool with expensive city water and came up with a handy little idea.  I ran a bit of extra PVC to extend my air conditioner drain and moved the dog water pool.  I don’t get near the 15 gallons per day that my Dad does but it’s enough to keep 3 to 4 inches of very cool water in the pool for the dogs to stay cool.  They like it and I like it too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deck Garden Drip Irrigation System Summary

It’s been a long hot Summer in Texas and the deck container garden didn’t fare very well.  Some plants failed completely, some were ignored and some managed to survive.  Even increasing the amounts of water from the drip irrigation system didn’t seem to make a very big difference – you just can’t fight the heat.  So, the next phase will move down to ground level in a attempt to find cooler areas and I’ll begin the process of collecting rainwater to supply the drip irrigation system.

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Wild Bobwhite Quail Release #3

The wild bobwhite quail have been in the surrogator for 5 weeks and it is time to release them and start a new surrogator cycle. As I mentioned earlier, this is the first batch of wild quail that were started at one week of age instead of one day of age. Thus, they are six week old, one week older than the previous batches of wild bobwhite quail, and should fly and survive much better. This is the third cycle raising wild bobwhite quail in a surrogator and I have yet to find any surviving birds. It’s somewhat disappointing to go out each week and not find any survivors. All the people that I’ve talked with who are also raising wild bobwhite quail tell me that they are there – I just haven’t found any yet. That said, I haven’t done any early morning call counts to listen for birds calling to covey up. I’ve also been missing my dog and her talented nose as she’s been away at “summer camp” learning hand signals and blind retrieves. Nevertheless, I persevere on my long term strategy and do my best to ignore the small, tactical absences.

W.L. Moody’s book, “On Bobwhites“, is a great read by a noted author on wild bobwhite quail.

Wild Quail Visitor Pawprint

A funny thing happened on the way out to the surrogator location. As I was walking up the road which was muddy from a recent rain, I came across a large paw print from what I guessed was a large mountain lion that had been reported in the area for several years. I took a photo with my iPhone beside it as a measurement of relative size. Needless to say, it’s a large paw print!

 

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Wild Quail Visitor Entry Attempt

When I arrived at the Surrogator, I was surprised to find that a very valiant attempt had been made to get the birds! There was a sizable hole that had been dug underneath the surrogator and virtually every bunjee cord I have to keep the water and propane tanks in place was chewed through.

Wild Bobwhite Quail Attack Attempt

In addition to the chewed cords and hole underneath the surrogator, it was covered in muddy paw prints. It is evident that whatever animal (we’re calling it a mountain lion for now) attempted to get into the surrogator spent quite a bit of time in it’s efforts. Thankfully, I have a game camera at the quail surrogator that will have captured all of this activity.

As you can see from the wild bobwhite quail release video, the six week old quail chicks are much better feathered and fly much more strongly than previous batches. Hopefully, this will translate into a higher survival rate.

Newly Release Wild Bobwhite Quail

This is a closeup photo of a six week old wild quail chick just after release. They can’t fly very far and then tend to covey up very quickly when released. The only disadvantage I’ve been able to come up with in using a surrogator to raise wild quail is that they don’t have parents to teach them how to recognize and then evade predators.

Quail Hunting in Texas

This wild bobwhite quail chick did me the huge favor of helping me promote my other website – Bird Hunting in Texas – where I chronicle some of my quail, duck and goose hunting adventures. That leads me to a common question I receive – “will I hunt these wild quail?” The answer is “I’m not sure but certainly not for at least a few years.” Here’s why. The ranch where we’re restoring the wild bobwhite quail is approximately 180 acres. Wildlife biologists have told me that, even with ideal habitat, a stocking rate of one wild quail per acre is about as good as can be expected. Based on that, and an approximate average covey size of 20 birds, I doubt we’ll ever have more than about 9 coveys of 20 birds. While that might be sufficient for one or two hunts, it certainly doesn’t make a quail hunting paradise on par with some of the larger South Texas and West Texas ranches where wild bobwhite quail flourish. Mostly, I’m looking forward to having a place where the birds reach some sort of natural population size and that I can work my bird hunting dog and enjoy some time outdoors with my family.

Bobwhite Quail Surrogator Aftermath

Finally, this is the aftermath of a wild quail surrogator. It never ceases to amaze me how those little bitty birds can so efficiently turn 50 plus pounds of feed into this pile of stinky manure!

I have one more release cycle to chronicle this year as I’m still able to get a batch wild quail chicks – more on that next time.

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Water Purification Kit

Clean water is essential to survival and a water purification kit is the best way to get clean, drinkable water.  Unclean water can lead to bacterial or viral infestation which then leads to diaharrea which then leads to dehydration which then creates a viscious cycle repeating itself as you seek more water.  There are a variety of different methods for cleaning water – from boiling it to treating it to filtering it.

 

Sawyer Water Purification Kit

Sawyer Water Purification Kit

There was one key aspect missing from my basic survival kit – a water purification kit. There are numerous options and approaches. From simple chlorine tablets to very complex and expensive filtration and distillation systems. I chose a middle of the road model from Sawyer.

I particularly like this unit for my survival kit because it can process four liters at a time, it is small enough to be easily portable, it is easy to clean by back flushing and it is good of millions of uses.
It will be especially useful for the tea and coffee I stored earlier.

Problems with Water Purification Kits

There are some problems with water purification kits.  The most obvious problem with filter based kits is the need for either replacement filters or a method for cleaning the water filter.  This water purification kit has a reverse operation method that flushes the filter quite a few times prior to needing to replace the water filter.
Another problem with water purification kits is the taste of the water.  Filtered water has a distinctly different taste than what most of us are used to.  Since that’s the case, I highly recommend that you include some condiments in your survival kit list.  Clean water is absolutely a required part of any survival situation.  I highly recommend that you add a water purification kit to your survival kit list.

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