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Ram Pump Victory…Water in Abundance!

Well it has been a long and winding road but a few days ago it happened…After much tweaking of valves, sealing of drive pipe from stream head and getting air blocks out of delivery pipe, our Ram pump finally kicked in! And as it did so, with one bang and then another and another, like an old car engine stuttering awake, I yelled “Go on keep going…YYYYEEESSSS!!”

It has been steadily pumping water up about 150ft ever since. I was amazed to find that our 10,000 litre tank was full after only one night. I rigged up an overflow pipe that is now providing us with water for all the plants and I am already hatching plans to use this water to create ponds down the terraces…

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It is such a simple thing but this ram pump really is amazing. A 350 year old piece of cast iron technology utilizing a fall of water, a couple of valves and an air chamber that is literally guaranteed forever! You can check it out at greenandcarter.com

When we bought the quinta I was determined that we would be as fossil fuel free as possible and, with no water above the buildings, getting water up from the valley was a big infrastructural challenge.

It was our dear friend Glyn who told me about ram pumps and the company that had been making them since 1774 I was immediately intrigued. Then last year, on a trip to the UK, we visited the Green & Carter headquarters in an old manor house tucked away down windy country lanes in deepest Somerset. There a tall English gent called Charles, whose family had bought the company that invented the ram many moons ago, proudly showed us letters dating back to the 1700´s (including a request for a ram pump to be sent to America written by Thomas Jefferson) and rams on his property that had been running for over 200 years, with only the periodic changing of rubber valves.

I was hooked and arrived back in Portugal ready to figure out which model of ram we would need to do the job. Luckily, after receiving my calculations, Charles informed me that the smallest ram should do the job and all 40 kilos of it finally arrived in December. Once the rain stopped I recruited the expertise of our friend Dick to build a concrete foundation and catch pit for which we had to lug blocks, sand and cement down and around the valley…a labour of love indeed and in the end definitely worth it!

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I am so happy to have this pump on the quinta, everyday I have to go and take a walk around the valley to see and hear it still in action. There is something about the fact that it is the water pumping itself that is magical to me. So I heartily recommend this inspiring piece of pre-industrial technology that if widely known and used could contribute considerably to weaning us of fossil fuel dependence. I already have some of the local villagers intrigued and I am sure they will be coming over to check it out soon…

So thank you everyone who contributed to the success of the Mizarela Waterworks including Rich & Iain (who helped clear and dig out the ancient irrigation channel), master builder Dick, and Charles for all his patient and helpful email correspondence.

Pete

Hello Everyone, this is Cynthia writing. I’m sneaking about and adding something to Pete’s post while he is in the other room! This ram pump story would not be complete without letting you all know how hard Pete worked to get this pump up and running. He had no experience in any of this and over the last months was the constant that kept the whole process moving. From endless emails back and forth with Charles, to going to the hardware store for the gazillionth time, to the many trips he made down the levada to where the pump is to either check on it, measure something, or just sit with it and try to figure out how in the heck he was going to get this thing running.

So CONGRATS Pete and THANK YOU! As I take my longish hot showers, wash dishes without trying to spare every bit of water I totally appreciate your efforts and admire your perseverence.

For all of you reading this that have no experience in these kinds of things and think that getting your own quinta would be too much…Well IT IS TOO MUCH and it’s COMPLETELY DOABLE! The constant thump, thump, thump of our ram pump is living, breathing, pumping testament to this!

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6 Comments

  1. Jan Langford says:

    Well done – what an achievement.

  2. Lisa & Martin says:

    Well done..Pete, fantastic cant wait to come see!!! I love the sound of it too…like the heart beat of the land.

  3. I am impressed, congrats, now if you’ll excuse me, i’m off to check out more about this amazing machine.

  4. Derek says:

    Hello Pete and Cynthia,
    It is too bad we missed paths this February, i have a keen interest in everything related to stream ecology and water pumps (even invented my own), and i would have loved to sit around the fire talking up your plans for the ram pump, water storage and water system.
    As it turns out we made our purchase in Sandomil (about 20km N. east of you guys), 1.4 hectare with the river Alva 90m down hill from our property.
    We are keen on getting on with all the practical parts of building a small dry-stone founded cob house, and drawing up the permiculture plans.
    Ill try to keep in touch,…Im very interested in the photos of your schist house build, and of course its always interesting to see others ideas for permiculture,…maybe you could post a drawing of your ideas for the awakened life project.
    Cheers,
    Derek

  5. Joao says:

    Pete,
    What an achievement indeed. I am sure you remember me saying that my uncle gave me ram pump. Although in our case, just down the road from you it is a little more ambitious. At least now I can pick your brains for advise on how to get ours going.
    I will have to open it up, it is so old I remember playing around it when I was young! Never imagined I would be thinking of reviving it until my old uncle Antonio who’s a plumber told me he’d give it to me. Even then I thought he was a bit mad. Then I spoke to you and you told me about your plans to use one, now you’ve done it! Let’s hope we get ours thumping down the road from you soon.
    peace
    Joao

  6. Dear Mr. Pete Bampton,

    Thanks for your words about this fantastic machine.

    Is very pleasure to Servindus and GreenandCarter to received very good news about this equipment.

    Best Regards,

    Manuel Poças

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