Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Solar Bird Bath Fountain

Sunday was a gorgeous day. We worked in the herb garden- Chuck moved some peach trees from the herb bed to the front yard. The peach trees are actually volunteers from the compost bin 2 or three years ago. We doubt that we will get good peaches from them, since peaches are grafted and don't reproduce true from seed. But even if the peaches are little peach shaped rocks in the summer, we will still have the blossoms to enjoy in the spring. There are buds on the trees right now- I feel like I should remove them so the tree can put its energy into root growth, but I hate to pick off buds. Maybe I will let them bloom and then take them off the tree.

We cut back the sage plant, and transplanted a bronze fennel to the herb bed. The fennel had been beside the stream for about 5 years- it was extremely happy there, but really was too tall a plant for the spot- it blocked the view of the waterfall. I hope the transplanting doesn't kill it- swallowtail butterfly caterpillars love the fennel, and each summer they swarm it.

While Chuck was clearing out the herb bed, I built a solar powered bird bath. I have wanted a running water bird bath for ages. Large birds manage to bathe in the pond, but the smaller birds have to make do with the creek. Since the creek is artificial, and only has water in it when we turn it on, water isn't as accessible to them as I would like.

I purchased a solar fountain pump from Golden Gadgets for $29.95 plus shipping. I should have checked eBay first, Golden Gadgets had them listed there starting at $19.95, and shipping was cheaper than on his website. The pump will lift water 16 inches, and has a flow capacity of 180 liter/hour. It came with aquarium tubing, and an assortment of different fountain heads.

I used a cobalt blue ceramic strawberry jar as the fountain, seen in the picture below on its side. It has 4 openings, the bottom 3 have a common center, with a hole for drainage. The top pot is has no drainage. It cost $15.00 last year. For the bird bath, I used a large plastic pot saucer, $4.95. In the picture below, the saucer has the bottom saucer from a black pot turned upside down in it, to conceal the pump, and to raise the fountain up enough so the pump can fit underneath. I also used some river rocks to line the saucer, making areas that are shallow enough for the smaller birds to bathe and drink without fear of drowning. The river rocks and the black pot saucer were here at the house, from other projects.

The first thing I did was thread the aquarium plastic through the hole in the bottom of the strawberry jar.

Then I threaded the black saucer onto the tubing, and attached the tubing to the pump. The hardest part was flipping the construction back over and getting the pump under the black saucer.

Then I covered the bottom with rocks.

Several years ago we had bought some tables to cover with stone tiles- the tile cracked on one of the. We decided to use the table base as the base for the bird bath- we didn't want it directly on the ground because there are some feral cats who hang around the yard, and I didn't want to provide a buffet. We sank the legs into the center of the herb bed.

I planted a white sweet alyssum plant in the center pot. After we put the bird bath on the table base, I connected the solar panel- it simply plugged in. As soon as it was plugged in, we could hear the pump working- a very faint whirring. As we filled it with water, it began to work. We had to adjust the depth of the legs to make it level, since at first the water was flowing right out into the garden. The water didn't leap out of the pots, it is a very gentle flow, no splashing.

Now for the bad news- as soon as I took this picture, (the water is flowing- you just can't see it!) Chuck said "What do you suppose will happen if I do this?". He jumped in front of the panel, putting it in shadow. The pump stopped working. When he moved away, it did not start up again. We are not sure why. Chuck plans to work on it to see what the problem is, but we have had a couple of very rainy, gloomy days, and he hasn't gotten to it yet. The forecast Thursday and Friday is for sun so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

In the garden, carrots, spinach, and scallions are up. Here is the spinach,
and the garlic.
And look what else is growing in the garden! Looks like we will need to shorten her tie-out. Last year we caught her playing in the potato bin- that cinder block structure to her right. It's 4 blocks high!

1 comment:

Whozat said...

I love the fountain. Of course, you know me and cobalt!