Let it rain … please, and thank you

Those that prognosticate the weather are calling for precipitation. They say it will begin as snow, transition to sleet, and then end as rain … lots of it apparently. It will be messy and uncomfortable to be sure but I welcome both the mess and the discomfort. Our agricultural water supply flows from a drilled well at the barn while our domestic water is drawn from a shallow lens which rides above the underlying aquifer. Although we have never been certain whether this latter supply is sourced from the adjacent aquifer or from mountain springs there has never been any doubt that, whatever its source, this water is precious to us. Like many, I never thought about water and where it came from when I was growing up; I knew that cold came out of the right faucet and that hot came from the left and that seemed well enough. Given that my parent’s home was served by a municipal supply I do not believe we were ever without, even on the rare occasion we would lose power. Water just was. I know better now that water is a privilege, not a right, and that it doesn’t just happen. It is something we think about, here on the farm, every day. Neither we, nor all of the living things with which we share our ground, can do without it for very long. I make these observations because the weather promises to be wet over the next few days; and on those same days I’ve got to get to work, butcher turkeys, do chores morning and evening, and both friends and family will be traveling the roads to celebrate the coming Holiday. But I would not stop the rain. I would not stop it because it has been dry in our part of the world for the last little bit and I have been watching the level of our water supply drop, slowly, steadily, inexorably, since September. We are fortunate that the immediate source of our water collects in a spring house conveniently situated in a natural swale surrounded by Birch, Chestnut, and Walnut trees. I have written about this place before and mentioned that if you peer into the reservoir you will see salamanders and newts darting to and fro, kicking up clouds of dusty sediment as they scuttle along the silty accumulations of years. We were told, by previous owners of the farm, that back in the day folks took to putting a Trout or two down into the water in spring time. They’d allow these to feed and to fatten. In addition to providing a succulent feast come autumn we suppose these beasts were also Canaries in the Coal Mine and would act as valuable indicators of water quality as well. I check the level of our reserve several times each week. The pipe to the house is set six inches from the silty bottom and the water level is currently six inches above the pipe.  A sink full of dishes may drop the level an inch while a load of laundry or a shower may use twice that amount;  so, you see how our supply is limited. Although water in the spring house is recharged within an hour or so the reserve will never rise above the level of the surrounding water table which is dependent upon rain. So you see, I welcome the coming storm. I welcome it gladly. If you do not live with nature or close to it, if you are not dependent upon it in a very immediate and intimate way, you may think that rain is necessary only as an end to the successful production of food crops. While that is certainly true, there is ever so much more to our dependence upon rain in good measure. I don’t mean to come across as some sort of elitist but it seems to me that if you have grown accustomed to turning a faucet and expecting water you are less likely to appreciate its scarcity and its value. If you have, by chance, experienced water rationing in your part of the world perhaps you know of what I speak. As I write I note that many locations far west of here are, and have been, experiencing severe drought conditions. As I look out my window I see snow falling from a very dark and foreboding sky. I am delighted … and very grateful indeed … let it rain.

12 thoughts on “Let it rain … please, and thank you

  1. What an informative post David, and I can picture you in my mind checking that water level. I have been a few places in my life where water was indeed precious and a rare commodity, it has always left me grateful for living in a watery part of the world, with the lush green foliage which comes from plentiful rain. It has been a very dry autumn here too, and I was fascinated by your drought map of the USA … I’m off to see if I can find something similar for Europe 🙂

    • Thanks, as always Seonaid. You are indeed lucky to live in a part of the world which, in your beautiful pictures, always seems to be green and thriving. In fact, you are lucky to enjoy both wonderful inland terrains and a beautiful seaside as well. I suppose there are unique features of this part of the world that I call home; perhaps I’ve begun to take them for granted? Anyway … thanks for checking in and for taking the time to write. D

  2. Sadly, a single rainfall, however intense, will do little to affect the water table. A few mm of rain will, at best give you double that or so in terms of height, depending on the soil factors. You need sustaned precipitation – something that is unlikely. I well remember using wells. On Red Island we had one with “gravity feed” to the house. Hot water for the bath came from a boiler on the stove. When we moved to Southern Harbour we dug first one (water no good to drink; too much bacteria content), then another (all clean) well. Dad lined the top part with concrete to keep it clean and water from the surrounding soil did a good job of keeping it full. We had an electric impeller-driven pump and it worked well… until January or so each year when (a) we’d lose the power for a few hours or (b) get a nasty frost in either case the water line would freeze for the rest of the year (bedrock was only 0.5 m or so below ground; above frost line). Each day, from then until May I would go to the well house, unlock the door and open it then toss down bucket after bucket, raise it up, fill 5-gallon buckets and drag it in. Two five gallon buckets in the kitchen for drinking and washing dishes. Then drag the water up the stairs and fill the bathtub. That water was mainly for flushing the toilet. As for washing ourselves it went like this (and I’m paraphrasing Dolly Parton): Fill the kettle and get some water from the bath. Fill the sink basin in the bathroom with warm water. Get the soap and face-cloth. Wash “down” as far as possible. Wash “up” as far as possible. Then make sure the bathroom door was closed and wash possible 🙂

    • You are correct about our reserve. I’d say we got two inches of rain the other day which resulted in an increase in the reservoir of about half that. I think the ground was pretty saturated before the precipitation so what fell contributed fairly directly to our supply. It takes several days of really good and steady rain to fill the thing. I found the description of your experiences with water during your youth fascinating and fun to read. We have a dug well by the barn and, in the days before our generator, there were several occasions when we too drew water with five-gallon buckets. Not fun! Not fun at all. I was always afraid of falling down the well … and it is large enough such that that was a distinct possibility! But hauling it up stairs! Not fair … tough work to be sure. Thanks very much for the recollections I will share them with Joanna. D

      • All in all it left me a bit more appreciative of things that work. And much cleaner than my buddies whenever we went camping since I was the only one used to washing up with a pan if water.

        • Fascinating stories, Maurice! I admit I grew up in a city and thus was not very appreciative of water. But I learned the method you describe quickly when we renovated our bathroom years ago. Nothing would have been more pleasant than a long, hot shower after a day of dragging around and cutting heavy tiles, immersed in dust. But since the bathroom’s water supply was shut off we needed to use the kitchen sink instead. And amazingly, you could get clean. Washing (long) hair was the utmost challenge given a non-flexible faucet. The picture of the glass of water is fascinating, Dave – perfectly conveying the post’s message.

  3. You’re near the end of your water supply! Thank goodness for the rain, snow, whatever is wet and is falling there! I recall limiting water use in rationing and by my father’s order when I was growing up. We had a deep, hand-dug well that never went dry, but neighbors’ wells did. He never allowed us to “waste water”. He pronounced “waste water” as if it were a cardinal sin. And I believe it just might be. I can appreciate his concern now. As a girl, I would have loved to fill the tub with water and bubbles … 🙂

    Enjoy the rain.

    • When I was a kid I can remember taking a bath with Mr. Bubble and filling the tube to nearly overflowing … shame on me. I just finished afternoon chores and checked the water level in the spring house and all the rain, snow, and sleet only raised our water table by about an inch … but I’m happy for it … perhaps Joanna and I may both take showers in the same 24 hours period. Thanks also for your reflection on the images of the reflections. I cannot remember now why I might have taken that image but I’m glad I did, it seemed the perfect accompaniment to the sentiment of the post. Thanks for checking in today. Joanna and I are doing are very best to stay far clear of the malls and of any place of commerce … we’re spending a very quiet day at home by the stoves. D

      • When the water table gets that low, it takes an enormous amount of rain to make a difference. As the farmers of my childhood used to say, “There is no bottom moisture”. I still think of it that way. I hope you will continue to get rain. A shower would be nice every week or so 😉

  4. I know what you mean about the lack of rain. My hydrangeas, and the one at Sarah’s house, were so dry that the leaves shriveled up much earlier in the fall than usual. The exposed earth in the garden beds are also parched.
    We got a good drink here. Another something to be thankful for ! 🙂 Hope you had a lovely day!

  5. At least you’re able to look on the bright side of the inevitable snow, rain and ice that are sure to come. It helps to have a good attitude. Hope your Thanksgiving was a success!

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