A Step in Self Reliance — Installment One

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I wouldn’t trouble my readers with another episode in my saga of plumbing woes except that this one led to a major step in self-reliance.

Back in January I again found myself without water from my ever-flowing spring, which was very perplexing since I knew I hadn’t been doing any digging around the water line, and since nothing broke during last winter’s sub-zero temperatures I was sure freezing weather wasn’t the cause. Possibly an animal had knocked it loose or pulled it apart somewhere, but this was not an encouraging thought.

Dreading the thought of a mid-winter trudge through the woods and up the steep ridge, I resigned myself to hauling water for the time being. One day, though, I did hike up to the spring and found it in need of some cleaning but confirmed that the water was in fact leaving the spring and getting lost somewhere between there and where the line goes underground a couple hundred feet from my house. That stretch includes quite a bit of barely-accessible, steep terrain, where the water line is lying in the stream most of the way.

Soon there was a heavy snowfall, then rain, and the ground was saturated. As I learned during my last water crisis, my holding tank is cracked so that water runs in during wet and rainy conditions. (What would I do without the cracks in my holding tank?) So up until early March I was able to manage quite well between conserving water, hauling it from the stream, and using whatever was available from the tank. Just to be on the safe side I used bottled water for drinking, but I suspect the water that seeps in is actually cleaner than the spring water, since it’s filtered through the ground, while the spring flows into a crude basin that contains dirt and sometimes critters like crayfish.

A couple of times I needed to go to a neighbor’s to take a shower, but there were days when I could take a shower at home or even do a load of laundry. Most of the time, though, I had to turn the pump on and off when I wanted running water, since it wouldn’t get the pressure up to the cutoff point.

Finally my water supply ran out, so one day I headed into the woods to see what I could find. My first attempt was rather discouraging, so I asked for help from the neighbor who originally connected my line to this spring and who also gets water from it. He lives about 40 minutes away and only has a hunting cabin here, so he had to make a special trip to help me. One day he showed up unannounced to say he was going up to check it out, while I was busy in the house. After an hour or two he returned saying only that he had cleaned out the spring and the water was getting to his house. So I was going to have to solve this on my own!

Several times I considered calling on another neighbor — an octogenarian — who had offered to help me, but I felt I should do as much as possible on my own. So one day I headed out with my pipe clamps and screwdriver, a walking stick, and pruners and a machete to clear away the brush. I started at the bottom of the slope, since I didn’t relish bushwhacking my way through the woods to the stream, then climbing over the wet rocks.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go far before I saw it—two separated pipe ends with water pouring out of one! I had to tug hard on the lower section to make it meet the other; then a struggle ensued to fit the water-spouting line onto the connector. After much effort and a good drenching I failed to make it stay, and decided maybe I needed the neighbor’s help after all. I called it quits for the day, but next day I thought of a better approach and returned for one more try. Success at last!

Back at the house, I found my holding tank full to overflowing. My delight at this was tempered only by the realization that I needed to prime the pump and didn’t know how to do it. So I had to call on my octogenarian neighbor to help me with that. It turned out to be a simple matter of removing the gauge next to the pressure tank and pouring a gallon or so of water in the hole. But when the now-functioning pump unleashed a welcome flow of water into the house, an even greater problem presented itself!

For the final episode in my water saga, watch for A Step in Self-Reliance — Installment Two.