All’s well that ends well

Take a quick look at the photo below and try and guess what we did this week. You would be wrong if you guessed that we prepared chocolate fondue, but if you guessed that we drilled a water well you would be correct. I have written before about the wonderful domestic water supply we have here at the Farm, a spring we have relied on for nearly twenty years. It was just two weeks ago that Joanna was in the kitchen and asked … does the pump sound funny to you? Whenever I hear questions phrased in just that way (is it going to rain, is that ice on the road, is it broken, will it cost much, is it leaking, do we need a new one) I know, immediately, the answer is yes. I ran to the basement to check the pressure gauge on the water pump. It wavered at 40 psi. It was set to cut out at 50. I waited. And watched. And waited a bit more. The needle shuddered but didn’t move. This was not good since the pump won’t shut down until signaled by the switch to do so. We ran the risk of damaging the pump so I cut the power. It was Saturday afternoon. Of course it was Saturday afternoon, why would something like this happen during normal business hours? I put in a call to our plumber. He answered and I proceeded to describe the problem. As if issuing instructions to a passenger who had taken control of an aircraft after the pilot had become incapacitated he calmly directed me to adjust the pressure switch to lower its cut out pressure. I did so and plugged the pump in, it refused to cut out, it wasn’t able to build pressure. The pump and pressure tank were relatively new, was it possible that one or the other had failed? Steve’s diagnosis followed quickly, he did not hesitate, with little emotion he announced, sounds as if you have a hole in the pipe. The walled impoundment which surrounds a spring is called a spring house, ours is ancient and is formed from carefully set field stone. At the level of the ground these walls are extended with brick to form walls which prevent runoff from entering the spring during periods of heavy rain. The supply pipe from the house runs through the foundation, travels about 50 feet, and enters the spring house about three feet down. We have known for some time that this galvanized pipe was corroding and that it was seriously artherosclerotic but that could not account for our current difficulty. There was little doubt that there was a hole in the pipe and we could not build pressure because of it. You might wonder why installing a new pipe was not an option. I have equated the way in which the pipe enters the spring house with the way in which a needle might pierce a balloon and then quickly seal to keep air from escaping … once that initial seal is formed a new one cannot be counted upon to reform when the old pipe (the needle) is removed and a new one is inserted. Once the wall of a spring house has been compromised it can rarely be put right. So, what were our options? We do have a drilled well which provides good water to the livestock, but this is out by the barn and 500 feet from the house and too far to get water, under good pressure, to the second floor. The only real option was to drill a well in February and with the ground frozen solid. We called two drilling companies and two excavators and put our plumber on standby. This past Monday the drillers came. It took the better part of six hours to drill, case, and cap a 150 foot well. The excavator came Tuesday morning and cut a trench to the house. He expressed concern over the 6-8″ of snow which was expected overnight and the single digit temperatures which would follow. To establish a water feed in those conditions, and then leave it exposed in an open trench, would be disastrous so we called the plumber who agreed to come out and connect the casing to the house. The excavator agreed to return, later in the day, to back fill the trench before dark. And so it was. On Wednesday the plumber braved 8″ of freshly fallen snow and icy roads to get to us and by early afternoon we had silty water running to the house. Silty, yes, but at seven gallons every minute, and in essentially limitless supply, I am pleased. It’ll take another few days for the silt to clear but we have water once again and if I never have to haul 5-gallon buckets of water to the upstairs bathroom again … it’ll be too soon.


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