Thursday, February 26, 2015

My New Backup Sump Pump Backup Plan!

Well as I wrote in my last post, SPRING IS COMING! (IS YOUR SUMP PUMP READY?) I ran into a bit of a conundrum with my sump pumps this past weekend.  After tearing it all apart and making two trips to the hardware store, I went to bed without a working sump pump system... and work up multiple times to go empty the sump.  When my son ventured into our room in the morning, I knew I needed to come up with a backup plan... but not just any plan...


As I said in the last post, I have a battery backup sump pump system.  Which is nice... and it lets me know when the primary pump isn't doing it's job.  But... it still relies on the same plumbing as the main system to take the water out of the house!  While there is redundancy in the pumping action, there is none in the infrastructure.  When this went down over the weekend, I had nothing... until now!

Loosely fitted together on the dining room table.

As I was carrying buckets of water up the stairs on Saturday night / Sunday morning, I thought to myself... wouldn't it be easier to just hook up a garden hose to the sump pump and let it pump the water out of the house?  Well now I can... and here's how I did it.

Last November I purchased a new sump pump, as I thought the one we had was going bad.  I don't know what the outcome was, but we didn't need it.  Now we have an extra sump pump on hand in case anything goes wrong with the primary again.  But I pulled up the spec's on it and discovered the discharge threads on it are a 1-1/2" NPT (Nation Pipe Threads - They are tapered).  This is perfect, as my system uses 1-1/2 in pipe and I can simply disconnect from the typical plumbing if I need to and hook up my adapter with the garden hose... should the need arise.



The components

The first part in the bill of material is the NPT x Spigot fitting, which I put a link to here (I got all mine at the hardware store so I could make sure they fit together... I recommend you do the same).  If you really blow the picture up, you can see that the first part is a Lasco 1-1/2" SCH 40 Male Adapter MPTxSLIP.  The next fitting is a 1-1/2x3/4" SCH 40 Reducer Coupling FTP x FTP.  Lastly, I got a threaded adapter fitting from Lowes

I put it together by smearing some primer on the mating surfaces of the PVC parts... put some teflon tape on the brass fitting (while I was waiting for the primer to dry, then smeared some PVC glue on the fittings and pressed them together.  After the glue cured, I screwed the fitting in and test fit it in my backup sump pump. 

Applying the primer...

Adding the teflon tape...

Applying PVC glue...

PVC pieces glued together and the brass fitting loosely installed...

Tightening down the brass fitting...

A quick test fit...

At the time I completed this, it was approximately 5­°F outside, so I'll be waiting till things thaw out a little bit before I truly put this one to the test... maybe I'll drop it into a rain barrel or something.  Until then, if you don't want to build your own, you can find them on Amazon here for ($10), here ($8) or here ($6.60).


Other options include buying a hose kit, like this one for $26 or buy a backup pump that already has a garden hose attachment on it, such as this one for roughly $80.  But after looking at all of these options, I'm quite pleased with mine.... and I'm fairly certain it was less than $7 (I already had the PVC primer, cement and teflon tape).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Sump Pump?

If you have a basement, there is a good chance you also have a sump pump.  You might not care about it until it stops working... and chances are really good that some day, it will!  When it does, the picture above might be somewhat similar to what your basement will look like... WET!

This weekend was an interesting weekend at the Johnson house.  We recently got a new furnace and have been having trouble with it ever since.  It moves a lot more air, so it's been kicking up all the dust in the duct work.  Therefore, we've been constantly swapping out the furnace filters... as it got clogged, the airflow dropped off - and with it the ability to keep the house warm!  In addition to that, we purchased a new thermostat... programmable for all 7 days a week.  Still getting those program settings just right.  But the item on my list that was the biggest frustration was discovered when I heard a beeping noise...

A typical battery backup sump pump kit

When we moved in to this house, we were pleased to notice a battery backup sump pump system was installed.  The nice thing about this pump is that it runs when we have power and when we don't (until the battery dies obviously).  One option on this pump is to have an alarm activate when the backup pump is running, which I have made use of. 

This weekend project got it's start on Saturday morning when I heard a beeping noise coming from the basement. I asked Amanda what it was and her response went something like this... "Oh yea, I've been hearing that noise for about a week..."  At this point I challenged myself to keep my cool and not get excited... so instead of lovingly informing her that she needs to tell me these things as soon as they happen, I decided to do that later and went into the basement to investigate.

The good news, I didn't see any standing water in the basement!  (No bad news yet)  Upon peeling up the sump cover (caulked down complements of the Radon Mitigation System) I noticed nothing wrong.  The sump pump was running, water level wasn't too high, etc.  But as I watched, I noticed the sump pump was running for a LONG LONG TIME!  Okay, time to investigate!

(I need to see if I have any pictures that show the before plumbing of this thing)

The original plumber, in my humble opinion, did a... watch the language... they did a lousy job.  The check valve that was installed, maybe I can throw in a picture of that sometime... but it was lousy as well.  (That's some bad news)

Anyway, I took apart part of the system and pulled the pumps out of the sump (the hole in the basement that fills up with water, where the pumps sit).  The first thing I noticed was that there was a black plastic check valve installed between the plumbing and the main sump pump, same with the backup.  Only problem, the main one was broken in half and the backup, well it cracked fairly easily when I took the system apart.  The best part about this though, was that the guy who put everything together made sure you couldn't take it apart without cutting some pipes! 


With the system taken apart, I recognized the need to make a trip to the hardware store.  I made a quick sketch of what I wanted to build, to replace the old setup, and headed off... I wish I had remembered (written down) the pipe size!  After ariving home with everything I needed, I installed a nice new bronze check valve just upstream of where the water leaves the house, just to make sure no water sneaks back into the house.  Then I realized I screwed up and didn't have the right parts... 
Back to the hardware store... later that night, at 8:30 pm, I realized I still didn't have the right parts...
At this point I had a problem.  The hardware store would be closed before I could get there, my sump pump wasn't plumbed to pump water out of the house... and the sump was slowly filling with water. 

...and the sump was slowly filling with water. 

I set my alarm to wake me up a few times during the night and carried water out of the basement by bucket.  The next morning I knew I needed a backup backup plan (coming soon)!  After church, we stopped by the hardware store and I picked up the rest of the goods needed to finish off the project.  Within a few hours everything was back up and running and Ive been sleeping soundly since.

With all that said...

Every spring we get a lot of rain and there is a lot of flooding.  We have yet to loose power for anything more than a few minutes (so much for the generator transfer switch I installed) and we have never really put our system to the test... but all mechanical things break at some point.  Maybe you should go take a look at your sump pump system and get an idea for how it works while nothing is going wrong... that way when the power goes out and it's storming outside and your sump pump works, you already know what's going on, one step ahead of the ball!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CHOP RITE TWO #22, A Review

Chop-rite Two Screw Down Meat Chopper


Why is he talking about a meat grinder?


The other day I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts and that day the topics were based on people calling in and asking questions.  Well this day a nice (he seemed nice over the phone at least) guy called in and wanted to know about a good hand crank meat grinder for making/grinding his own (I believe) chicken sausage.  I thought Jack did a good job answering the question and one of his recommendations was for a Chop Rite Two meat grinder.  I though to myself "Hey, I have one of those!" and then did a search for a review of one on the internet...  I didn't find any.  Seriously?  Somewhere on the world wide web there had to be a product review of a Chop Rite Two #22 Meat Grinder!  Okay, so they talk about them on some forums and a few stores have reviews... but I have yet to find another blog that has done a full blown review... Until now!

Still in the box


My first deer was ground using a food grinder.  What would cause me to do that?  I'm glad you asked!  The first hand crank meat grinder I purchased from from Cabela's.  I figured that since it had their brand name on it, it was good stuff.  I couldn't have been more disappointed!  We were late going on vacation as we sat at the table while we wrapped up the grinding...

After that, I went to Lehman's website to see what the Amish use (a good sign of quality) and found the Choprite brand (now Choprite Two).  They carry great products, but their prices are terrible... so I looked for somebody else who would sell me one.  I found the list of distributors and called around and found one that sold me one for a much better price.  I never did get the free jerky seasoning they advertise... but if you ever happen to order from them, let them know where you heard of them!

Since then I've wondered about companies like LEM Products, whether they make a better grinder for the price, and such.  But as of yet, nobody has offered to send me one to compare other brands to this one, so I can't give you and information on that.



So while a picture of the box is nice, what you should really care about is what's inside!

Almost everything I need to grind burger.
What you can see in this picture is all of the components that make up the Choprite Two #22 Hand Crank Meat Grinder (you can also see the manufacturers parts list here).  You might note the custom Osage Orange handle (upper left) that I added to my grinder crank, the stainless steel (coated with anti-seize) bolts, nuts and washers (left) for bolting the grinder down to the painted board (right) that I c-clamp down to the kitchen table or counter top when I do my grinding.

At this point I'll spare you some reading and put up some in depth pictures of the different parts...

Feed screw.  The cutter sits over the square part of the feed screw.

The crank end of the feed screw (with the washer shown).

The crank (with custom made handle)

These next few pictures show how the crank attaches to the feed screw, such that it cannot be pulled off unless you rotate the crank backwards...

Lubricant... everything I seen recommends Silicone Spray.  I've had problems with the grinder plate rusting when I tried other options.

Installing the feed screw into the body...

Cutting knife installed...

Grinder plate installed...

In the picture above, observe the clocking pin at the top how it is aligned with a pin in the body. This prevents the grinder plate from spinning while you crank away... MAKE SURE THESE LINE UP!!!

The ring is snugged down...

Ready to bolt down and grind!


Once you have the grinder bolted down to something solid... WAIT A MINUTE!  IF you really want this baby to shine, there are a few things you need to think about before you get started.

TEMPERATURE:  Any grinder will work better when the meat is on the verge of being frozen.  I also will put the whole meat grinder in the freezer for an hour before I start grinding... I don't know if it makes too much of a difference, but it's not a lot of extra effort for a potential improvement in function.

SIZE:  If you feed the entire backstrap into the grinder, it will work... but it would do it much more easily if you cubed the meat into 2" cubes first!  (I would never grind a backstrap by the way)

CONTAINERS:  You probably don't want your burger to come out of the grinder and fall on the floor or your kitchen table.  It's much easier if you can put a bucket under the discharge side of the grinder to catch the ground meat.  Cleanliness is godliness here... but don't worry, you like your burgers well done anyway, right?

NOW... where were we?  Oh yes, bolted down.  Once it's bolted down and the meat is cubed and cold, just start pushing meat into the hopper on top and start cranking the handle.  I typically run my meat through the grinder once, then add in some small cubes of beef fat to my venison burger and run it through one more time.  I like 20-25% beef fat in my burger.

I don't have much more to say... so without further ado...


Just to clear the water, let me tell you what I don't like about this product.  First of all, it's expensive.  I think I found mine for about $230.  Second, it requires you to do all the work... it's hand crank operated, which is also a plus.  Lastly, and most certainly my biggest gripe... the handle on this thing stinks!  Seriously, those are my only complaints... but let me expand on that last one for a moment.

When you are bearing down on this thing (which you shouldn't have to do if the blade/cutting plate are sharp!), you need to have a nice handle to hold onto.  You want a nice handle even if you're not bearing down, actually.  I happen to wear a large, sometimes extra large, glove size.  When I grasped onto the plastic handle that comes on this thing, I didn't have room to wrap all my fingers around the handle... very similar to holding a pocket pistol if you enjoy shooting pistols.  It's just not comfortable to let my pinky finger hang out there in the wind.  If I scrunched up on the other end of the handle, when the crank came around, it would pinch my hand... something had to change!

~Something had to change~


 My father has a nice workshop and does wood working in it.  He happens to have an old shopsmith that works as a lathe.  He also had some scrap Osage Orange limbs in a bucket... perfect!  I'll spare you the details and leave you with this... I made a new handle.

A home made handle

The old handle was held on by a pin that was pushed through the hole and then peened over.  This new handle is held on by a bolt with a washer at the head and between the crank and the handle.  Before I could install it, the hole was first tapped, using a tap and die set... I don't remember what size bolt.  Once in place, I used some blue loctite to make sure the bolt stayed in place... not too loose, not too tight.  Too loose and it will wallow out the hole... to tight and the handle won't spin on the bolt.

 ~Once I made this single change, I have been very pleased!~



I wanted a manual meat grinder because that's how I roll.  I like to minimize what can go wrong, and if the power is out, I still want to be able to grind up my meat!  This grinder has been used to butcher about 6 deer so far and multiple pork shoulders to make breakfast sausage.  (Feel free to share recipes if you have one you like!)  I got this thinking that my grand kids might someday use this to process their own meat and all indications say they will be able to do this.  This grinder is made of cast iron, except for the knife and cutting plate... and my custom made handle that I'm very proud of, if you can't tell.  It also has a FDA approved, food grade coating on it that makes cleanup a breeze (relatively speaking)... just don't chip it (I have yet to do that btw).

If you were looking for a life time investment in a meat grinder, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to you.  I know for sure that this is a bomb proof meat grinder!  With a little TLC and sharpening of the grinder plate/knife every now and then, you'll have a grinder that you will be passed on to the next generation for years to come!

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I have now begun the application to have my property assigned a FARM Number!  I'm not sure what all doors this opens up, but I know it opens at least one... research EQUIP Grants and see what you can find!


I now officially live on a farm!  I know that might not be exciting to some people, but I'm proud of it!  I might not have animals or a big tractor, but I've got to start somewhere!  Now I can apply for my Polenator Habbitat grant and start things moving... I might even be able to get a discount at Tractor Supply!  (That's yet to be determined)