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Windmill Erected The Old-Fashioned Way
Robert Peterson put up his 33-ft. tall windmill by hand with no crane or other lift needed.
  “I brought the windmill home in pieces in the back of my pickup,” he says. “I had a well company drill the well but, with the help of friends, I did the rest.”
  Peterson had attended a workshop on windmill technology that is held once a year at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He figured a windmill would be ideal for pumping water to his garden and fruit trees at his home in El Paso, Texas.
  “We bought the tower from a local company, Burdick and Burdick, and the pump and pipe from American Windmills, a small company in California owned by Ellen Sattler,” says Peterson. “She provided technical assistance by phone and guided me on the well.”
  After digging 4-ft. deep holes for corner posts, Peterson brought in friends and neighbors with wrenches and screwdrivers.
  “My wife and I invited folks over for a windmill building party,” he says. “ We set all the parts out on the ground like a big erector set; however, it doesn’t go together easily that way. It needs some muscle power to pull the holes together.”
  The common way to put up a windmill is to build it on the ground and then tip it or lift it into place using a crane. Peterson and friends started with the corner posts and set up the first level, complete with steps.
  “We laid planks for a work floor across the top of the first section and built the next, moving the planks when we finished,” he says.
  As they got closer to the top, there was less room for helpers, and they still had to lift the 8-ft. (measured by the diameter of the circle of blades) mill into place.
  “We rigged up a gin pole at the top of the tower, secured with chains and a pulley on one end,” recalls Peterson. “We used a pickup truck to pull the mill up, while one person with a rope on the mill pulled it away from the tower as it rose into place.”
  Peterson then installed the tail after assembling it on the ground. Like the mill, it was lifted into place.
  “The last thing was to add a very fine motor oil,” says Peterson. “While it has to be changed every year, it’s still a big improvement over having to grease the gears.”
  Later on, when he needed to replace a part in the mill, he devised a lifting hoist patterned after one he had seen used for lifting ornamental windmills. He has since used it for pulling sucker rod.
  “I built mine heavier and stronger,” says Peterson. “It is a T-shaped steel post bracketed to the stub tower just above the top platform.”
  The post extends above the sails with pulleys on either end of the top bar. A cable runs from a winch attached to a concrete ground anchor through a pulley at one end and through a hole in the post to the second pulley and down to the mill.
  “You need one person on the winch, one on the ground with a rope to guide it and one person on the tower,” says Peterson. “It’s easier than the gin pole, much neater and much safer.”
  Peterson admits that doing it the old-fashioned way by hand is slower and entailed more work, but had its own benefits. Not the least of which was painting it.
  “We gave it its own logo based on the Philadelphia Phillies,” says Peterson. “We sketched out a template by hand on cardboard and spray painted it on the tail.”
  Peterson also painted the sails and the 2000-gal. water tank erected near the windmill. The windmill looks like a giant sunflower and the tank like a Holstein cow.
  The entire project ran about $3,000. That included the mill, tower, 60 ft. of downhole pipe and storage tank. Drilling the well was extra.
  The Petersons held a tank-raising party to put it in place. They built a rock wall box, and he and his sons hauled in sand to fill it. Partygoers set railroad ties in place and raised the tank on top of them, about 3 ft. above ground level.
  “I wish I would have raised it higher for better pressure,” he says. “However we have a nice steady flow through hundreds of feet of hose.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Robert D. Peterson, Gift Planning Director, University Advancement, P.O. Box 3590, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003 (ph 575 646-4358; toll free 800 342-6678; peterson@ad.nmsu.edu).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6