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.


15 thoughts on “All’s well that ends well

  1. What a rotten time of year to have this happen. Of course. I’m just glad you’re all through it by now and grateful that it was as easy as it was to fix. I have a neighbor/friend that has had to dig three new wells since they’ve lived on their property. They finally have trouble-free running water. For the few times we’ve had a burst pipe or other, it’s all the stress a family can handle. Good on you for making a beautiful documentary of the woes. And I sympathize with Joanna re:peonies and more. I think it will all work out, just not the way she’d originally planned! Those peonies are tough buggers.

    • Thanks T … your words helped to smooth some edges which are still a bit rough and exposed. Joanna thanks you for your positive vibes as well. And we agree … there’s nothing quite like the stress of a water ‘situation.’ We think we did pretty well though! There’s an amusing postscript to the story. Just this morning, as I was getting ready for work, I discovered a puddle of water at the bottom of the stairs and a bigger puddle in the basement! My first thought was that something had burst in the cold; turns out that BOTH supply lines to the washer decided to fail over night! What are the odds? [Actually we think they failed due to the higher pressure of our new water setup.] They were both drip-drip-dripping into the second floor laundry room … through the floor … down the wall to the first floor hallway … through the floor, and into the basement! Argh! We think the property is trying to tell us something. What say you? Time to leave?

      • What a rotten turn of events! I am SO sorry and can imagine by now you’ve been through yet more troubles. You know, the property adjacent to ours is for sale … it overlooks our field … you could live vicariously through our farm! Truly, though, older properties run into this type of maintenance and it is something that is less of a nuisance if you’re either younger, or have plenty of helpers, or, or , or … I don’t know what. It really does require energy and maybe you and Joanna would like to put that energy into other endeavors … but when spring comes, you will be seduced again. Springtime on the farm, with the lambs and the flowers … and warmer breezes. Let me know how it all turns out. T

        • Thanks for your kind understanding. Joanna did two large loads of laundry, back-to-back, for the first time in twenty years here at the farm. Yes, the well is working, but all the bills have yet to be paid! Thankfully the front yard is covered in more than a foot of snow so we cannot see the damaged gardens. Yes, older homes are a chore, but when does it ever let up such that one can enjoy them? Is the property next to yours listed? If so, tell me more via regular email – we’re still, very much, looking. D PS: See my response to your most recent post.

  2. I can feel your pain! It had to fail on a weekend in winter! But the picture immediately reminded me of chocolate – seems Maurice had the same idea! I once saw a “chocolate fountain” in a hotel, only operating on Sundays to provide chocolate sauce for pancakes. This fountain had different levels or stories – very similar to the items shown in your image.

  3. This is a GREAT image and even greater news! It does indeed, look like a fountain of melted chocolate! Wonder if the workers ever had their work captured on “film” like that! You were lucky that all the trades worked efficiently and expeditiously to get things done before the snow and freezing temps. I thought of you every time I flushed my toilet, took a shower and washed my dishes!

    • Words cannot describe the relief of not having to worry about it any longer. Flushing, showers, dishes, and laundry … all can be done without a care. Running water is certainly a convenience. The front yard looks like a bomb hit it and poor Joanna is lamenting the disruption to her Peonies and Irises which all sat in the path of destruction. Parts of two of her gardens lay directly in the path that ran between the well and the point where the water was to pass into the house. I’m not sure how much of a favor the excavator actually did her when he offered to ‘remove’ some of the Peonies. This involved taking large scoops of frozen earth and setting them aside … each must weight several hundred pounds … I’m not sure what he thinks we’re going to do with them. Anyway, she tried her best to be understanding … this was just one of those things … but it was tough to watch, as I’m sure you can imagine. The well was drilled to 150 feet … it’s a long story … but we’ve only got 80 feet of functioning well at the moment. So, it’s not over yet – not by a long shot. If I don’t come down with pneumonia for having spent most of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday out-of-doors with what I hope was the flu … I’ll be surprised.

  4. There is beauty in everything I suppose but I can relate well to your difficulty. When we moved to Southern Hr. first in 1966 after resettling from Red Island we, too, had a well. Two, actually. The first proved to be no good; too cloudy and too many biologicals in it. The second worked better but the bedrock was only around 18″ under ground so, frequently in the winter, the line would freeze and subsequently ruin the impeller in the pump. Of course that would happen in only the worst weather since it was caused by it. I am glad to see that your power of persuasion, along with the skill and determination of the driller and plumber seem to be giving a good outcome. Hopefully this water feed will prove to be a good one … and hopefully the cold weather will break soon. We are expecting a break next week for a while. Cold still, -17 tomorrow morning at 4 when I get up to bring Son#1 to the bus to Long Hr. Oh, and Josephine, Lesley and I are just heading out for afternoon coffee. Thanks to you I expect I’ll be having something with chocolate in it πŸ™‚

      • There is. As I see it you’ve seen the worse of it by now. At this point you’ve now got a brand new supply with no legacy issues so just keep the water flowing to flush it out and go figure out just how you’ll foot the bill on the meantime. Perhaps Elke can offer advice on the pump πŸ™‚

  5. What an exciting and adventurous week you both had … it also sounds quite expensive. I had no idea that you couldn’t lay a new pipe in situations like this … does that mean that the spring is now redundant? Spring water sounded so fabulous πŸ™‚

    • Joanna and I both mourn the loss of the spring. Perhaps, sometime down-the-road, we’ll see about punching a pipe through its wall in the hopes of, at least, providing our drinking water. That would not have been possible under these winter conditions. As it is we take satisfaction that all of our water is coming from within rocks deep beneath us and on our own property, rather than coming to us from some treated, municipal, supply. And, yes, doing this kind of work is pretty pricey … not something you want to do for the fun-of-it … but we were in a tight spot. Two weeks without running water was quite enough … I think my arms are a bit longer for hauling all the buckets needed to keep the toilets functioning! D

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