The Windmill (Part 1)

As mentioned in the previous post, Elaine bought Sonya’s old windmill with plans to install it over one of the old wells on the property to pump water for a wildlife stock tank. The windmill will need some sort of footings, so the first step in site prep was to pour 12″ diameter, 3′ deep concrete footings.

The windmill site is about 1/2 mile south of the house, out on the end of a “hogback“, a usually steep-sided ridge formed by erosion. There is of course no electricity or water at the site, so everything is loaded into the pickup – a generator, cement mixer, 1260 pounds of concrete sacks, four 5-gallon buckets of water, a 55 gallon drum containing about 40 more gallons, and assorted tools – shovels, post-hole digger, level, … . Finally, a template for locating the anchor bolts.

A truck-load o’gear

Here’s shot of the site, behind the truck. (Why behind the truck? Because I took the picture after we were done.)

The well site

It’s a pretty bumpy ride, smashing through the sage. The shot below shows what we have to navigate to get back to the road. Directly below the RAV4 the bank slopes at about 40°. Behind the RAV4 the slope is gentler, maybe 20°. I drove mosty across and somewhat down the slope. After doing it a few times it stops feeling like the truck is going to roll over.

I had help on this job from John Rohr, who helps around the ranch, mostly with Elaine’s garden and other nasty/physical jobs. I had the holes half-dug before John came up. He helped finish the holes and helped with all the mixing and pouring. Even so, it took almost five hours on a pretty hot morning.


We used 12″ sonotube and three lengths of rebar in each tube. I tried to tie the triangular arrangement but it was such a mess that I ended up welding the rebar – it was much faster and a lot more rigid. The top of the old well is centered between the footings. The “sucker rod” is free enough to move by hand (with a fair amount of effort – you’re pulling up 40′ or so of rod). A 2″ galvanized pipe runs about 100′ down the hillside (to the right in the photo) to where the stock tanks must have been.

A few days later I returned to the site to check on everything. I walked up the spine of the hogback from the direction of the main road, a path I hadn’t taken before. About 10 yards short of the footings I stumbled on some relics of the past. No idea what they are other than some sort of long-forgotten machinery. One piece has “McCormick” cast into it. If this is the same McCormick as the inventor of the mechanical thresher, that company was bought out by International Harvester in the early 1900s.

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