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Vol. 5, No. 2 Maysie's Farm Conservation Center, Glenmoore, PA August 2004
Community Supported Agriculture
Previous Issues

Water from Household Air
By John Karwoski

As shareholders in Maysie's CSA, we're keenly aware of the value of our natural resources, and recycling helps to reduce the depletion of those resources. Water is the most important resource by far.

Right now, after a July with over 10 inches of rain (too much of it in the span of a few days), chances are we aren't thinking about conserving water. We are far from experiencing drought conditions. But it wasn't too long ago — two years — that we faced extreme water shortages in this area. That was when I "discovered" a new source of water.

I noticed the amount of water running through our central air conditioner's condensate line and wondered "how much water flows through that in a day?" We already had a dehumidifier in our basement and used the water it collected on our potted plants, but we were interested to see how much water could be recovered from the humid summer air inside our house.

The condensate line for our unit runs across one of our basement ceiling joists into the main water waste line for the house. I simply removed it from the waste line and connected it to slightly larger tubing so it would reach my collection device — a fancy term for the 22-gallon shop vac canister I was using for this experiment.

Having learned about runaway experiments in the past, I started this on a Saturday when I was going to be around the house, so I could check on the progress from time to time and avoid a wet basement floor. In the course of 12 hours, the 22-gallon shop vac was almost filled! This was plenty of water to irrigate our garden, and because the water was condensate, we could use it for herbs and vegetables, not just annuals (a personal concern with untreated gray water).

I was comfortable enough to allow this to continue during the week while I was at work, always starting with a close-to-empty canister. If the plants didn't need a lot of water, we filled bottles, milk jugs, etc., with water for later use. Accompanying the dryness of that season was heat and humidity, so our recently replaced central air conditioner was running quite often. With this very rudimentary setup, we found we needed to collect the condensate water only 3-4 days per week. This water, along with other sources (water leftover from cooking pasta or vegetables) kept our annuals and herbs alive and well for the entire season, and we felt a bit more in tune with nature: we're not getting rain, but nature is providing the moisture, we just had to get it from the air. And since we were using energy to run the air conditioning, it was good to get more than just a cooled house in return for that energy expenditure.

If you choose to try something similar, please keep the following in mind:

  • Keep a tight-fitting cover on the vessel being used to collect the water, especially if you are doing this indoors (as we were) and you have small children or pets. Safety first!
  • Check the amount of water you are collecting often during the first couple of days to ensure you won't inadvertently overflow the container.
  • Remember: stagnant water is a breeding ground for insects, so again, keep the water covered (including the bottles and containers you use for temporary storage) and use the water soon after collecting.
  • Don't hurt yourself! Water is heavy, approximately 8.3 pounds per gallon. My almost-filled canister, close to 22 gallons, weighed nearly 180 pounds! Even with wheels, this is a lot to move, so have bottles, gallon jugs (leftover from milk) and other smaller capped/covered containers around to help. You can of course simply dip watering cans into the water, or use some type of hose or tubing to drain the vessel outside.

Perhaps the ultimate in reclaiming water for irrigation purposes is a complete gray water system, an example of which Temple University demonstrated at the 2003 Philadelphia Flower Show (click here for more information). This is quite a bit more advanced, and requires considerably more resources than some plastic tubing and a big tub. But even in non-drought situations, it helps to preserve drinking water, and it can be quite easy to do.

Wish List

Looking to get rid of any of the following items? Maysie's Farm will put them to good use! The first four needs are for our new "office," which is under construction in the old "staff room":
  • Wooden file cabinets (especially 2-drawer)
  • Small electric range/oven
  • Small porcelain sink (preferably single bowl, but large enough to fill 5 gal. buckets)
  • Sink base, under-counter cabinets, wall cabinets and a short length of countertop material
  • Picnic table(s)
  • Large outdoor canopy
  • Solar-powered walkway lights (ideally to match the two donated by Martha Thomae)
  • Straw bale chopper (for mulching large areas)
  • Good, medium sized, pto driven manure spreader
  • Tractor (our 1967 Ford is becoming downright unreliable, causes an unacceptable amount of pollution and cannot be rebuilt for less than its total value)
  • Assistance building a bio-diesel production system or a compost tea brewing system

Please contact Sam at (610) 458-8129 or if you can donate any of these items.

We'd like to say a quick "Thank You" for some of the major items that have been donated since the last Newsletter to:

  • Dee Camp and Dottie & Jim Graham for the push mowers
  • Mary Ann Byrne for the two computer
  • Roger Slusher for the riding mower
  • Phoebe Breskman for the upright freezer
  • Don and Penny Halbert for the filing cabinets and the modular "work station"
  • Steve Hacker for the picnic table and benches

Peru Market Bags

The Many Faces of Peru
(Las Muchas Caras del Peru)

by Dawn Lawless

Peru is such an interesting place; it contains many different life zones making it a biologically diverse country. I had the pleasure of revisiting this beautiful land with a group of teachers and yoga enthusiasts sponsored by the ACEER Foundation. We started our journey in Lima, the capital of Peru. This is a bustling modern city with eight million inhabitants. Because it is located near the Pacific Ocean and west of the Andes it gets only four inches of rain a year. Thanks to the Humboldt Current, Lima residents enjoy a comfortable temperature range that doesn't fluctuate too much. With the aid of a massive watering program, the city enjoys greenery and flowers year round.

Machu Picchu

Next, we flew to Puerto Maldonado, a much smaller city on the outskirts of the Amazon Rainforest. Here the rainfall and temperature are drastically different. We had a lovely visit to the local market to learn about the traditional crops, such as cassava, and medicinal plants before we took a boat to Reserva Amazonica. Before docking we observed several caiman on the shores of the hotel's property. Our rooms were comfortable huts, with no hot water or electricity. Night hikes proved to be exciting as we got to see spiders, frogs, caterpillars, bats, and black caiman...including a live catch by our guide!

Day hikes, including one to ATI (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research's new building), provided several opportunities to see a variety of primates such as the red howler, capuchins, and pygmy marmosets. ATI has a new display called "Madre de Dios: A River of Change" which was designed and constructed in part by both the National Geographic Society and ACEER. The exhibit is composed of nine stations and provides an orientation to the site and region. Visitors are allowed to walk on a satellite image of the area. This has proved to be very eye opening to local students who have a hard time grasping how extensive the Amazon region is. The map also shows an area that has been devastated by gold mining. We also saw a huge variety of birds such as parrots, macaws, oropendolas, hoatzins, and toucans. We also saw iguanas, turtles, capybara, and agoutis.

We were taken on a medicinal plant walk and shown a raised bed demonstration garden that is fertilized with compost. This is in sharp contrast to the slash and burn agriculture that is practiced by many indigenous tribes. In this form of agriculture a small plot of land is burned to the ground, allowing the nutrient-poor soil to gain nutrients from the ash. Crops can be grown only a few years before the soil becomes infertile once again. The family must then move on and find a new area to start this destructive process all over again. ACEER hopes to teach indigenous peoples more sustainable forms of agriculture. In fact, some of the money from the ¡AMIGOS! Program goes toward community service projects, which may involve setting up agricultural projects such as chicken farming or demonstration gardens.

Our group experienced a traditional cleansing ceremony by a kind shaman named Antonio. The bath was made up of many crushed aromatic leaves and flower petals. This spiritual experience was very moving.

Our group was excited to visit a local school. This school had recently been destroyed by a fallen tree and the ten students were in a more temporary structure. They sang songs and danced for us. They also took turns telling local stories. We reciprocated by donating books, singing the best we could, and telling a story. For more information on sponsoring a school, please visit Monies also go towards environmental education teacher training programs and community service projects.

Quechua Children

We changed gears completely as we flew to Cusco, the old Inca capital. Flying over the snow-capped mountains I noticed incredible green lakes and pockets of land miraculously inhabited by the Quechua people. The Quechua are descendants of the Incas. Many still live in traditional clothes, comprised of bright reds and yellows, and still lead their traditional lives of spinning and weaving wool and growing potatoes (over 3000 varieties) and corn. Their fields are plowed with animals and they also use animals to fertilize the fields. Crop rotation is also practiced. In the Quechua culture women are highly regarded. Everyone works hard and everyone loves to smile and laugh. They are truly happy people. Their faces are amazing — deep, dark and expressive.

We experienced what the locals call soroche, due to the high altitude (over 13,000 feet). Rest and some cocoa tea helped us get over the effects of the quick ascent. We stayed in the Sacred Valley, visiting many ruins and sacred places. Local artists followed us wherever we went attempting to sell us their goods at inexpensive prices. We quickly learned to do the exchange rate in our heads.

The train to Machu Picchu slowly made its way along the Ollantaytambo River. It ended where a landslide two months ago destroyed some buildings and killed eleven people. The incredible Pueblo Hotel, where we were staying, also had some damage from the mudslide. Many varieties of hummingbirds were easy to spot. Also on the hotel grounds were two spectacled bears, endangered species worth protecting.

The climate here is different than both the rainforest and Cusco. At times we were in scarves and gloves. Layering proved to be the most effective way to dress on this trip.

A bus took us up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Countless switchbacks later, we arrived at the world-famous site, found by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Words cannot describe how spiritual and spectacular this place is. Each turn brought another incredible view. Flutes played in the background. Birds of prey occasionally soared overhead, and small herds of llamas scurried about. Our most challenging hike was to the top of Huayna Picchu, which overlooks the Machu Picchu ruins. The hike took less than an hour, but was very steep and required crawling through some very narrow crevasses between boulders.

Peru has many faces, in both its lands and its people. I hope you can join me next summer for another exciting journey to this ancient place. Visit for trip information. Kacharpari! ("Goodbye" in Quechua)

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