Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Water Blessings

Two days before Christmas and we have water in the house and barn again! Our pioneer days are over for the moment. As proof it is never so cold here, when the temperatures plummeted into the single digits for a week, the pump house froze and no amount of warmth from the portable heater could thaw the lines to the outside. It's a funny thing having electricity and no water, but a preferable arrangement than the other way around. I could see the water that wasn't coming out of the faucets!

In the middle of the freeze, our planned vacation south arrived, as did our farm sitters from their cozy winter digs in California. We discussed the horrors of possible broken pipes when things thawed, and they decided it was more thoughtful to leave sleeping dogs lie, pipes in this case, until we returned. It was easier and less stressful to haul water from the creek for the toilets and run up to the cabin for showers and dish washing because, thankfully, that pump house had only frozen for a day before we figured out how to warm it up.

It's great having house sitters who are friends and neighbors, especially when things aren't working as they do normally. On reflection there is always something out of the ordinary on a farm, and luckily Karen and Allen are a flexible pair. Karen has bigger fears of our animals dying than the inconvenience of no water. No tragedy there.

So, when we returned home we were pleasantly surprised to discover Allen had improved our water hauling system...and, thankfully for Karen, no animals had died! Ever the creative sort, Allen realized the torrential rains that hit after our departure, combined with our leaky gutters, produced enough water to fill strategically placed 5-gallon buckets with enough water for all the animals in pastures and the toilets at the house. No more red wagon trips to the creek!

We didn't turn the water on right away. We had to steel ourselves to the possibility of multiple broken pipes spraying inside and out. The first challenge was to get the pump running. The second was to have enough people around with walkie-talkies that we could shut the thing down immediately if there was a geyser in the house.

The pump was primed. We waited for the pipes to fill and the pressure to return. It went smoothly, but the pressure was low. Nothing in the house was leaking. I circled the outside of the house and could hear water running furiously. It was coming from under the deck. How the heck do you get under there?! Not easily, but we were lucky. Farmer Greg could reach the pipe enough to cap it off. Who needed a faucet there anyway, until next summer at least?! We felt like we had survived a natural disaster since we were two days from Christmas and plumbers were scarce.

The next task was to cut down a tree off the back forty and install it in the living room. As Annie was holding our Charlie Brown example of holiday greenery in its stand and farmer-professor Greg was tightening the screws, she thought she could hear spraying water. Uh-oh. She left the professor to manage the tree on his own as she sprinted towards the watery sound coming from the glassed-in porch at the end of the room. A hard spray was shooting out of the wall.

Again we were lucky. This 'sun room' had been set up for plants, with a counter sink and floor drain. The only thing truly soaked were the area rugs left piled in a corner. Most of the water had escaped outside. We had avoided Murphy a second time! Of course, this pipe also proved to be impossible to reach and was thus unceremoniously capped.

Summer is a better time to deal with plumbing repairs. Today we found our holiday spirit, put up the house lights, decorated the tree, and wished for snow in the middle of a rain shower. We were back to too much water outside falling from the skies, but this was as it should be. "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the farm, the water was flowing, even out at the barn..."

Photo: The fireplace gets lit once a year and this was its time ...otherwise, we use the wood stove to heat the place!

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