Archives for 2015

The Truth about Garden Hoses

We’ve been talking about getting prepared for emergencies. We started with the most obvious need – water. So, if you haven’t been with us, look back through December 2014 and January 2015 to see how the Richens picked out a barrel safe for drinking water and a hand pump for each of the families on our Christmas list.

IMG_1867Here we are in February and have you filled your barrel? No? I hope at least that you have decided to buy one and are setting it up. As we set up ours, we found a flat place out of the sun and not destined to be under a lot of debris after an earthquake, or under water when the creek rises. In our yard, that place was the north side of the house, near the water spigot and also near the side porch.

And now, my well-prepared friends, it’s time for us to fill our drinking water barrel and test the system. Just turn on the spigot and there you go, right?

Not so right. While searching for our barrels and the water pumps, I discovered the Cancerous Garden Hose Controversy. It turns out that garden hoses are made with some chemicals you don’t want your family drinking. Lead is the most obvious problem. It comes out of garden hoses in rates up to 18 times higher than the federal drinking standard. Moreover, there are other chemicals in your garden hoses that cause cancer, including some we recently worked to take out of children’s toys.*¹

IMG_1869What? You say. “My garden hose has dangerous chemicals?”

This is not evidence of a conspiracy. Garden hose manufacturers are expecting you to drink water inside your house and water the lawn outside. The safety police haven’t told them that people may be filling barrels with water to drink in case of an emergency. And no one in authority has come to the conclusion that lead in garden water might not be great for your soil.

Soil studies exist, showing a possible negative effect, but you know what’s been happening with climate change studies, right? Study, re-study, write definitive papers and then engage in debate with each other where money is mightier than reason*². Thus, we can guess that lead in your garden soil is at least two years from debate, so we hose users might as well change what we can change, eh?

And that means we find a type of hose NOT made with lead. It turns out that there are manufacturers of drinking-water-safe hoses. More costly, but safe. rubber or polyurethane hoses are the go-to material.

A little online research gives us opportunities to buy these types of hoses and have them shipped to us. Brand names advertised as drinking water safe can be found at the following stores and websites: Amazon, Sears, Home Depot, and many other places. Go look out there because this is not an exhaustive list.

So, yeah! for the makers of safe-to-drink hoses!

I hoped to find such hoses in Portland, Oregon, where I live, so I called several hardware stores. I got some clerks for whom “Huh?” is the go-to answer, but still, I almost always got passed to the person who knows. Both of my local hardware stores, Beaumont Hardware on N.E. 43nd and Fremont Street*³ and Park Rose Hardware on N.E 120th and Sandy Boulevard both carried rubber and polyurethane hoses. Beaumont Hardware carries the Element brand in 25 foot ($13) and 50 foot lengths ($27). A good price.

Park Rose Hardware carries the Contractor’s Choice brand of polyurethane hose. There were rubber hoses at Park Rose Hardware as well, but the ones they carried were designed to use with hot water, and store indoors. So, rubber of this type is not exactly what we’re looking for.

IMG_1868Contractor’s Choice, a Eugene, Oregon company makes a polyurethane hose called Gatorhyde (Tough as its Name) The 25 foot length cost almost $30 and has a limited lifetime warranty. The 50 foot Gatorhyde costs $ 40.

At my hardware store, the lady who knows hoses told me this was the hose she would buy because it is light, yet tough and easy-handling. The hose remains flexible above 165 degrees and below zero.

Moreover,*4 the hose ends are not brass, but nickel plate. That means gone is another source of lead. (Brass is copper plus zinc with lead. The lead leaches out into your water.)

So, I bought the Gatorhyde version and brought it home, happy as a well-fed gator.

Those of you who have been following this blog on disaster readiness, may wonder if I paid for five hoses for my five families. Nope. Too close to the Christmas purchase of five barrels and five steel hand pumps. I bought one. This hose will make the rounds of the five houses in short order, filling five barrels and then it will be stored in our garage until time to empty and refill the barrels with fresh water.

How often will you refill, you ask?

Well, guess what. Mold free water is the subject of another blog. Coming soon at

Rae: Always Asking

OH! My stars?

*1 Other not so drinkable chemicals in hoses include cadmium and the phthalate DEHP at 4 times higher than federal drinking water standards (see for the study by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor Michigan, and for further discussion.)

*2 “Money is mightier than reason?” You ask. And I respond, “When did you stop paying attention to reality?”

*3 Yes, Portland, Oregon has a Fremont Street named after this explorer and politician who had nothing to do with Oregon. Naming choice of the developer? Not sure. There is a process for changing street names in Portland, thank goodness.

*4 Moreover? Bet you haven’t seen that word since you took your one and only class in British- Literature. Evidently, the word Moreover was alive and well in Arkansas in the 20th century, because it was a favorite of my mother. As in “Moreover, Sharon Rae, if your room isn’t clean by six o’clock . . . “   You get the meaning.

The Great Disaster Kit collection – Buying a Pump for your Water Barrel

Buying a Pump for your Water Barrel.

Onward in our quest to outfit the family in case of water problems in Portland (like the e-coli scare of last year) or in case the Pacific Subduction Zone decides to make a move on us.

As you may have read in our previous installment, Family Ready for the Big One?, we bought our water barrel from Alberto at Myers Containers.

Next, we needed a pump to siphon the water out of the barrel when disaster arose. Woody and I have a mechanical pump of the old farm-home type. We’ve set it up in a barrel pond at our home. The grandkids and I enjoy playing with it on a sunny day, but its pipe is bigger than the opening in the plastic water barrel. Besides, for our family Christmas, we needed five pumps for our five families. Farm pump in rain barrel 2IMG_1851

Myers Containers doesn’t sell pumps, but when it came time to buy one, Alberto brought in his colleague, George, who had studied the pump situation. I asked him about the pumps I had seen online. They were plastic versions of the old pump handle seen in the farms of our grandmothers.

George told us he had once ordered a pump of the type I described from the mid-western company that I had found online.

“What you don’t want is to rely on something with plastic parts in an emergency. I had that type and within two weeks it broke.”

So, what do we want?

“Pick up a metal pump that works on the wheel mechanism instead of the siphon being created by the rise of the handle. I think you can get one at a really good hardware store, and it will save you the cost of shipping.”

We went to True Value’s Parkrose Hardware at N.E. 106th and Sandy Boulevard. And there we found exactly what George described to us. water pump closeup,IMG_1856The price was the same as the online order for plastic, about $65. We were going to save time and big shipping costs. Plus, because we ordered five, Parkrose Hardware gave us a discount. We got the Ironton Rotary Hand Pump, item # 37903. It is made with a cast iron casing and three sections, totaling 38 inches of telescoping suction pipe. The impeller (the rotary thing) is made of carbonized resin. I expect to have this pump in action for a long time.

It turns out that the wheel mechanism gives you a continuous flow of about a quart every three cranks. The flow can be controlled by speeding up or slowing down. That’s an improvement over the farm pump that delivers a whooshing splash after a good deal of priming each time you use it.

Thus, I won’t be breaking my arm to get at the water I’m storing in our Big Blue barrel. Here is a photo of Iron Ton, being tested in the water pump demo,IMG_1861kitchen sink. (Did you think I’d test it in the driveway at today’s 36 degrees?)

And here is our Big Blue in his new home on the north side of the house. We decided against storing in the garage because we have not yet cleaned a nice place for him there. Maybe next summer when we empty and refill him, he’ll have indoor shelter.20141214_124326

Next? Guess what? It matters what hose you use to put water in the barrel. Who knew there’d be so much to learn in this quest for an emergency kit?

Tooon In.