Archive for July, 2011

There are times when I feel ridiculously behind the ball with how much more I still have to learn. How very “city” I still am. Other times I am impressed by how capable I am, and just how much that I can do compared to a short while ago, in terms of providing for my own needs rather than relying on service providers to meet those needs. Other times still, the two occur within a remarkably short period, hours even.

When we discovered that we had no running water my initial instinct was to pick up the phone, to check for a message from the city regarding water interruptions. Of course there is no “city”, the closest one being four hours away, and we don’t have water service, we have a well. Uh oh. For all my research and studying, I have to admit to knowing relatively little about our well, the pump, and so on- and I understand even less than that.

Shane and I stood and looked at the set-up in the basement, making serious faces at each other while I flipped through the wholly inadequate Grundfos instruction ‘manual’. Not much of a manual in my opinion. Certainly far from the crash course we need. So we called a plumber, who’s not really a full-time ‘plumber’ but the closest we have to one in these parts. Turns out he’s no longer plumbing but he recommended a guy who runs a back hoe service who “knows a lot about these things”. He came out later in the day after warning us that he doesn’t know a lot about these fancy new electronic systems. (Here’s another bit of city in me- what else is there, other than electronic systems? Are people lowering buckets into wells, or is there some kind of literal horse power version that I don’t know about?) Long story short- he couldn’t figure it out so suggested yet another guy who’s not really a plumber but kind of, who turned out to be on vacation but will send his son out when he returns to town, also not really a plumber but ‘may’ be able to help. Oh my. And we’re no closer to knowing what the heck is wrong.

If this problem had presented in the city, I would be flipping mad. I have never much cared how much a service costs me so much as I have that the job is done, and fast. I can’t imagine how I’d have reacted to being told that ‘some time in the next week, someone may be by who may know something about your problem’. I’d have also already booked us into a hotel. How is a person to survive without water? There are dishes to be done, cooking, cleaning, showering- never mind the matter of using the toilet…

I tell you what- having no well water has not slowed me down one little bit, save for the fact that I’m not building right now. But all of the ‘regular’ things that a person needs water for? No problem. We have a large cistern that is always overflowing with rainwater. It’s hooked to the shop roof, so a very little bit of rainfall goes a long way to filling the container. I hauled water yesterday in the buckets we’ve been collecting from a grocery store to use for food storage. It was pouring rain (Murphy’s law) but I have to say- I had a blast! Now if you’ve hauled water all your life, maybe the chore isn’t all that much fun but I have never had to haul water before and the novelty is fresh. I felt like a real pioneer, or as close to one as I get, and it was a ton of fun!

Once I’d filled a dozen buckets or so, I heated some for dishes and for washing up. Got some weeding done, picked a bunch of pin cherries I later used for apple/cherry crisp, cleaned the house and prepared supper. All in all it was a very productive day and I quite enjoyed myself. Far cry from the irritable mess I’d have been in the city.

One key design feature that really helps to pull us through this sort of situation, apart from the lovely rainwater collection, is the humanure system that we use. It’s one thing to be without water for washing and cooking and entirely another situation to have no toilet. (And I have to say- I’d feel utterly wasteful to be using our nice, fresh rainwater to flush our toilet.) As luck would have it, we haven’t been dependent on water for toilet facilities for quite some time. Our humanure system works well all the time, so that was a non-issue.

We do have inefficiencies in the system though, or at least a lack of redundancies, and this experience is useful to us in that we can better plan and design for our needs. One thing I’d really like to have in place is an even larger, underground storage tank for our rainwater harvest. Next year we’ll have to focus in on that, and a line running to the new house. It seems to be an instrument problem that we’re dealing with right now (possibly due to the power surges we had last week) but down the road it could be anything- including the scary possibility that the well will run dry. And even if ‘all goes well’, honestly- I’d rather use rainwater as our primary water source. Our well water is fine for most things but I won’t drink it. Too salty and iron-y. I’d rather bathe in rainwater too.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about the situation we find ourselves in. Sure we’re a long way off from being the self-sufficient pioneers we would like to be, but overall we’re not too badly off. And I, for one, am pretty happy to have left behind not only some of my woeful inexperience and dependency in the city but also my bad attitude. 🙂

some of our buckets

our lovely cistern

pin cherries

yummy crisp

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I’ve been terribly neglectful on the blog-front, I know. Busy, busy, hot, hot… you know- the life of a natural builder. Temperatures have been hitting between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius for a little over a month now, yesterday hit 40, and I admit to dragging my ass. I can get approximately half the work done in the same amount of time once temperatures reach about 25 so it’s slow going right now but it’s going.

I’m fitting lighter work in between bags. I’ve already had heat stroke a couple of times in the last week (in addition to falling off a wall- again, taking a nail through the foot, and bruising the right side of my body in an attempt to save myself from falling) so it seems a not bad idea.

Yesterday I worked on the arched nooks we built into the structure. You can see in the pictures below that I used rigid foam board (found, can’t remember where), chicken wire, and some staples. It came together relatively easily and I’ve applied the first plaster coat. I’m looking forward to seeing the finish product once we move forward with interior plaster. I think the spaces will be really neat.

arch form removed

rigid board & chicken wire

first coat plaster

now the wall needs plastering


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