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100-year-old way to filter rainwater


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Old 06-01-2012, 05:09 AM   #1
Waterboy
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Default 100-year-old way to filter rainwater

At the Ozarks Sustainability Festival on May 20, we talked with many folks who shared memories of rain barrels, cisterns and drawing well water with a bucket as a child, usually on grandpa and grandma’s farm. Some said they’d never like to have to rely again on those old methods of getting water. But, at least they knew how it was done. It seems we have lost much practical knowledge in the last 50 or so years because we thought we no longer needed it.

My 1909 book of household discoveries reveals how to make homemade water filters, another lost art. The instructions are quite basic as everyone had a rain barrel back then and presumably knew how to clean the water. Now, more than 100 years later, I am thankful the authors had the foresight to preserve their knowledge for us, and pointed out that rainwater collected in barrels from a roof is a necessity in some locations, but also is “often more wholesome for drinking purposes than hard water.”

The “wholesome” observation applies to plants, too. I noticed during our recent 6-week dry spell here in the Ozarks that I was only able to keep my garden plants alive with the water hose. Then, after a 2-hour shower this morning, the plants miraculously came to life – vibrant, green and THRIVING.

The old household book says the following instructions yield a cheap and easy way to make a filter just as good as a patent filter costing 10 times as much:

“Take a new vinegar barrel or an oak tub that has never been used, either a full cask or half size. Stand it on end raised on brick or stone from the ground. Insert a faucet near the bottom. Make a tight false bottom 3 or 4 inches from the bottom of the cask. Perforate this with small gimlet holes, and cover it with a piece of clean white canvas.

“Place on this false bottom a layer of clean pebbles 3 or 4 inches in thickness; next, a layer of clean washed sand and gravel; then coarsely granulated charcoal about the size of small peas. Charcoal made from hard marble is the best.

“After putting in a half bushel or so, pound it down firmly. Then put in more until the tub is filled within 1 foot of the top. Add a 3-inch layer of pebbles; and throw over the top a piece of canvas as a strainer. This canvas strainer can be removed and washed occasionally and the cask can be dumped out, pebbles cleansed and charcoal renewed every spring and fall, or once a year may be sufficient.

“This filter may be set in the cellar and used only for drinking water. Or it may be used in time of drought for filtering stagnant water, which would otherwise be unpalatable, for the use of stock. This also makes a good cider filter for the purpose of making vinegar. The cider should first be passed through cheese cloth to remove all coarser particles.

“Or a small cheap filter may be made from a flower pot. A fine sponge may be inserted in the hole and the pot filled about as directed for the above filter. It may be placed in the top of a jar, which will receive the filtered water.

“Or a valuable substitute for charcoal in the above filters is sponge iron obtained by burning finely divided iron ore with charcoal. This can be obtained in the locality of iron mines or smelting furnaces. This is much more powerful than charcoal, and is said to completely purify contaminated water.”

I’d like to say we’ve built such a filter, but the truth is that we have a Berkey on the kitchen counter. Still, I’m hanging onto this old book. I have a feeling we’re going to need it.



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Old 06-01-2012, 01:27 PM   #2
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By the way, here is a pdf of the book in its entirety.

http://ia700404.us.archive.org/16/items/cu31924089480218/cu31924089480218.pdf



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Old 06-01-2012, 02:53 PM   #3
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Thank you! I'm really enjoying this book of yours. And this filter is much like the project I have planned using a 55 gallon drum. I'm working on making charcoal, and instead of canvas I'd planned a layer of quilt batting - but I like the idea of using canvas, too.

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Old 06-04-2012, 10:47 PM   #4
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Wow.. that it a LONG book! lol.. I was thinking about printing it out, but at over 1000 pages.. err.. I may have to just read and retain what I can before the lights go out!

That... or... print parts that I need, OR... just print a little bit each night at work.

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Old 06-08-2012, 01:52 AM   #5
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Am I missing something? Unless we're talking acid rain I thought rain water was suppose to be highly pure. Well unless your under a nuclear cloud.

Are you guys worrying about contamination from your roofs and gutters?

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Old 06-13-2012, 03:51 PM   #6
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Bahram,

Sorry, I did not see your question earlier about rainwater's purity. Rainwater is not suitable for drinking because of many contaminants, such as dirt, bugs, partially decomposed vegetation and whatnot that is not filtered out through the soil. Rainwater is excellent, however, for washing clothes and watering plants because it is soft water and loaded with minerals. The 1909 book recommends not drinking rainwater if you live near a town because of soot and coal dust that settles on rooftops and gets into the rain barrel. Gather some rainwater up in a glass bowl and let it settle. You'll see many particles in there that you probably would not want to drink. And that's just what you can see.

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Old 06-13-2012, 03:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d_saum View Post
Wow.. that it a LONG book! lol.. I was thinking about printing it out, but at over 1000 pages.. err.. I may have to just read and retain what I can before the lights go out!

That... or... print parts that I need, OR... just print a little bit each night at work.
The last third of the book is a cookbook, which is interesting, but you probably only would want to print the helpful hints section of the book. The cookbook starts on page 789.
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Old 06-13-2012, 06:04 PM   #8
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Great link thanks! I bookmarked to read later..
I put up a link to sand filters somewhere too.. Who knows where it is now.. it is basically the same as yours but more modern set up.. They have found that this type of filter will even remove cryptosporidium and giarrida from water they work that well.

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Old 06-20-2012, 06:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waterboy View Post
By the way, here is a pdf of the book in its entirety.

http://ia700404.us.archive.org/16/items/cu31924089480218/cu31924089480218.pdf
Thanks for the link and post good info. Bahram, what Waterboy said about rain water is correct. Think of it as the rainwater washing the air, whatever is in the air ends up in the rainwater.
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Old 06-20-2012, 09:27 PM   #10
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eBay has a few as does Amazon - starting prices $49 and up.




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