H2O Woes

Water can be a blessingimage or a curse. Yes, we need it to sustain health and life, that’s a given. But at that very moment when the flow just stops in the bathroom tap leaving you with a rabid mouth full of toothpaste foam, anything that makes its way through those suds will be a curse, and a creative one, guaranteed.

Some people are plagued by rodents, some people are plagued by scabies or nits. We seem to be plagued by water-related woes and it’s getting to be annoying.

We’ve lived hear for 20 months, and in that time we’ve replaced the water pump 3 times. Even in the driest weather our drilled well never runs dry. We do more laundry than a house of 10, we run gallons and gallons every day to water goats and horses and chickens and the assortment of other resident thirsty critters. We irrigate the garden, we bathe a LOT. Still, the water keeps on coming.

What doesn’t keep on going is the technology. Getting water moved from the well to the tap seems to be more difficult than putting lipstick on a llama. It’s a struggle to make it happen and once it’s there you’d better take a picture quick. Carrying water buckets from the little barn to the big barn through waist deep snow is no longer the hardest part. Getting water in the buckets in the first place, that’s the challenge.

Early in the winter freezing gave the troublemaking jet pump a break. We thought we had our lines well insulated, run from top to bottom with electric heater cables. We were sure we’d have water in any weather. Sub-zero temps quickly flipped a chilly bird to our in-barn water supply, however, forcing me to tear off layers of insulation and duct tape and start from scratch. It wasn’t so bad in the little barn, While messy, the re-wrapping project was fairly straightforward. The big barn was a different story… the insulation had actually gotten wet and frozen to the pipe. It took me several days armed with a knife, a space heater, a heat gun, and a pair of pliers to free the encapsulated water line, replace the broken heater cable, bust part of the floor from the barn so the line could drain at a better angle, and then re-wrap the works. Working in the basement of a barn that’s collected a century and a half of cobwebs is anything but my idea of a good time, I focused hard on the job at hand so I wouldn’t notice the spider bodys floating in fuzzy oblivion around my head.

After all that, the line remained frozen.

imageWhen we moved in, both barns were equipped with automatic waterers. I can only think that old Ralph Neily must have run alcohol through the lines in the winter, because how he kept them from freezing otherwise is beyond me. This place was set up as a dairy farm, but perhaps White Russians  straight from the teat were the real moneymaker for Ralph.

Last year we bought a hydrant and hummed and hawed over the best place to install it. We never came to a decision, so it’s still lying next to the house waiting to be put to use. Last year we also thought it might be smart to pull the foot valve up from the well and see if a problem there might be responsible for our intermittent pressure. The to-do list was long. It didn’t happen.

We are never completely stuck. We have great neighbours we can turn to if need be, and we have two fast flowing brooks on the property that never freeze or run dry. With so many water guzzling animals, however, the logistics of either option are more than challenging. The horses will pick hay from the manure barrow but they  don’t seem keen on dipping their lips in the stream. The goats are terrified to get their feet wet, and I have yet to find rubber boots that stay put on cloven hooves. I continue to carry buckets to them over and over, but while those buckets are slowly filling, nobody seems to be topping up my patience.

I suppose the answer in all of this is a new to-do list, and the items at the top will include the hydrant and the foot valve. Until the ground is soft enough to deal with those tasks we will have to continue taking baths that get cold by the time they fill half way, and spacing our laundry and dish washing so they never occur at the same time.

We do have running water at the moment, and it’s potable, safe and plentiful, if slow. I suppose the difficulty of simply getting it on demand could be seen as a “first world problem”, but when a farm depends on it in copious amounts one might forgive me for feeling it’s a little more serious.

I wonder if Evian has ever sponsored a farm? Might be something to look into. In the meantime I’d better go try to fill some buckets. Again.





One thought on “H2O Woes

  1. Having been there myself for more cold winters than I care to recall, I can definitely vouch for the hydrant. We’d probably never have got one had a fire not destroyed our original barn and forced us to rebuild a new one, but we did seize the opportunity to install both electricity and a hydrant during the new construction. Burying the lines below the frost line required excavation and there were some pretty hairy moments going in, but for long years afterward we had running water in the barn and (trumpets and drums) we could use heated buckets. After all the back breaking difficulties that went before, this all seemed as close to heaven as one could possibly get. Take care of your back and do install that hydrant.

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