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Singing Gardener: Meet Jim Anderson from Alberta

Learn about his farm and his cattle nose pump business

Previous Singing Gardener columns have often included what’s going on in someone’s garden. Well today, a story begins shortly that comes straight from the farm where we find Jim Anderson of Rimbey, Alberta. It results from my article about dowsing, divining and witching for water. Matter of fact, the subject of witching attracted a number of responses, so more on that subject shall follow in future.

I sent a congratulatory “Happy First” musical measure of yodelling notes to a friend named Mickey on occasion of his first anniversary at the helm of his new business. Mickey wrote back: I ran your “rudl dee doo yi hoh” through spell checker and I got “rude dee doo yam hoe!” Thanks Ted for knowing I am out there. While I did notice his search included a couple of garden-related words, (yam and hoe) let it be known that I haven’t yet grown “yams” but do have a “hoe.”

About now I need a burst of energy so have taken a few sips of my beverage companion. It happens to be a tablespoonful of 100 per cent raw, unpasteurized organic coconut vinegar with the mother intact, stirred into a glassful of cool water and tastes quite acceptable. It’s kind of pricey though, compared to raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar that is still my preference and more economical.

Before our feature subject gets underway, let me imagine sitting at the meal table and meandering a bit in thought. I visualize a roast of beef circled with steamed parsnips (see my closing tag about parsnips) and onions served with mashed potatoes drenched in homemade gravy and mushrooms. A tumbler of unsweetened cranberry juice sits nearby (good for the urinary tract you know). What a great imagination I have. Then I hear a snap of the fingers and my thoughts quickly return to the present moment and the host says, “Hey Ted, are you still with us? Let’s pray the prayer of thanksgiving first and then dig in.” To that I say amen, with a wave of my welcome hat to all.

Let’s meet Jim Anderson

This story began with an email from Jim Anderson, following which he and yours truly shared several emails and telephone conversations. I am including a good portion of our written and spoken dialogue.

“Hi Ted. It was fun to read your article in Jan. 8, 2019 Grainews about water dowsing. In our business, Frostfree Nosepumps Ltd., we encourage our potential customers to first look for high water table, or find an underground stream as their source of water. The question that follows is, ‘how do I find that?’ Then I ask them if they know of any well witchers in their area. Hardly does anyone know of anybody who can find water that way, and I am one of the 90 per cent that can’t, but wish I could.” Jim says he’s “wondered for a long time if it is a skill that can be taught.”

He continued: “The first Frostfree Nosepump well that we did was in 1999 by a gentleman who was successful at witching that location for us. He told us how deep to the water, which direction the stream flowed, and that if he was younger he could have mapped the streams in the whole quarter section.” Jim had tried witching as pointed out previous, but it wouldn’t work for him. What a surprise when Jim discovered the following. “When I held his wrist, and the two of us walked together, it would work! He used a steel crowbar balancing at his side from his fingers. As soon as he arrived, he began talking about the quality of steel in the crowbar that was made from the axle of a Model T Ford.” Jim described what happened next. “Out in the field, he carried it around balancing it by his side, supported only by his fingertips. At one point, it tipped, and where it touched the ground, he said, ‘right here!’ He stood over that spot again, balancing the crowbar and it started to bob up and down. He counted the bobbing, and when it stopped, he announced — You have good water at 20 feet.”

Jim continued, “A few days later, we bored that spot, and at 21 feet the water started flowing in the hole. We cased it with a 24-inch-diameter, 23-foot-long culvert. The first Frostfree Nosepump that was developed was put on top, and we are still using that well to this day. We use it during the summer. We use it during the winter and we can use it free of cost. The depth into the ground and the diameter of the casing that we take to that depth is what provides us with geothermal heat at no cost. As it is a nose pump, the cows use their nose to pump their own water, again at no cost. We have found that we require insulation inside the culvert and around the culvert, on the ground under a cement pad to contain the heat during very cold temperatures. This unit has been in place for 20 years — the best investment we have ever made. For a cost of $2,400 in 1999, it has paid for itself countless times. We don’t need a power source, sun, wind, batteries, solar panels, wind turbines etc., which means no electrical components to fail. Not all wells require witching. It is difficult to find someone as talented as the gentleman referred to above, who has since passed. If you know you have a high water table, you can usually just drill a well and locate water close to the surface alongside a dugout. One of our most common installations is alongside a dugout, where water is trenched to a large-diameter casing, creating a ‘wet well’ on which a Frostfree Nose­pump (or multiple pumps) are installed. This watering system is completely sustainable.”

More from down on the Andreson farm

Jim and his wife Jackie live on a farm south of Rimbey, Alberta where Jim was born and raised. His parents moved to the property in 1946 where they established a new home. Jim and Jackie’s son Brendon and his family acquired the farm in 2012 on which Brendon currently has a 130-head Red Angus Simmental-Cross commercial cow herd that’s raised primarily on a forage-based farm. Brendon uses rotational grazing during the summer months and does as much swath grazing in the winter months as possible. Jim still helps out on the farm when needed. He and wife Jackie are in partnership with their older son Jeff promoting their interest at running the business operated from the farm known as Frostfree Nosepumps Ltd. As with any livestock operation, they know water is often the limiting factor and most important nutrient when it comes to grazing. Jim’s had a lot of “down on the farm” experience and added this detail. “Some of our land was impossible to graze because of having no access to water, but most years we could get two cuts of alfalfa hay or silage. The summer of 1999 was a dry year — there was little rainfall to raise a second cut, and yet there was adequate regrowth for grazing. We decided to pursue power so that we could put a traditional pressure system in place, but the costs were prohibitive. I began to ponder the opportunity for a shallow well, but where to find water was the big question. Currently we have nine wells drilled by licensed water well drillers with multiple FFNPs on each of them, most of them witched with water in them. We then just mount an FFNP on top. With these, we can water livestock anywhere without depending on an energy source. We use geothermal heat and cow power, and we can survive severe winter temperatures too!”

Jim wishes there was a directory of water well witchers across the country and feels they tend to be quiet about their skills and hard to find. He says, “it is a surefire way to generate conversation although not all wells require witching. It is difficult to find someone as talented as the gentleman referred to earlier.” Farmers and anyone wishing to learn more about the Frostfree Nosepump are welcome to contact Jim Anderson or Jeff Anderson via the following: Jim (cell) 1-403-783-0827 or Jeff at 1-866-843-6744. Email [email protected].

As a footnote to this story, let it be known that Jim’s wife Jackie has always had a garden for their own use. Since leaving the farm she now has two raised garden beds on which are grown vegetables. Best dates according to the moon for starting tomatoes, peppers, leafy greens, vine crops, and other annuals including flowers in the greenhouse, a warm cold frame or indoors are April 10 to April 19  with secondary best dates from April 6 to April 9, 2019.

Watch for names of tomato seed winners in April 9 issue of Grainews!

About the author

Columnist

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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