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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

standing sideways

I spent another weekend in the bowels of the earth.

Having determined that the leak must be underground, I crawled around mapping the system and found that the line from the original pumphouse -- all galvanized pipe, all sixty years old -- runs along the back, outside of the original house -- before the add-ons. Meaning much of the system is buried in the earth beneath foundations and crawl spaces, one of which is inaccessible from anywhere, except maybe by tunneling into it.

I hoped I would find a leak at one of the three garden-hose standpipes, but digging turned up nothing at first. However, we ran the pump experimentally for a few minutes and discovered that a puddle was slowly forming in the hole farthest from the wellhouse -- the front of the house, nearest the street. Aha!

Gathering my tools, and a battery powered lamp, I crawled into a space we know as the "crypt" because it has four walls and one entrance and is about eight feet square by sixteen inches high. Using a geology hammer and a trowel, I slogged out about four square feet of clay, and uncovered a mare's nest of pipes and tubing next to the outside foundation. The clay was phenomenal -- you could model with it. I would push it off the hammer with my glove, then off my glove with the hammer, then off the hammer with my glove -- back and forth -- there ith a clay that thticketh, and thith wath definithely ith.

We ran the pump for another ten seconds and discovered the leak at last -- underneath the concrete foundation wall itself!

I have a set of pipe wrenches, twelve, fourteen and eighteen inches long, which I must have gotten from my dad sometime in the distant past, and which served me well in my former life. I have lost a lot of strength to both old age and my hormone regimen, though, and just lifting the biggest one makes my eyes pop. But I was able -- just -- to turn the standpipe by standing sideways on the outside wall of the foundation for leverage, dropping to the ground as the pipe turned. I then climbed back in the hole and turned the horizontal pipe under the foundation until it came loose from the tee, and replaced it with the spigot from the standpipe.

The water system is now back online.

Except!

The new piping installed by the expensive plumber at the hot water heater is leaking at the join.

Hmm. Ok, cold water only for now -- so what else is new?

:::

Beloved found me slumped by the fire, caked in mud.

"How are you doing?"

"Nhhhhhnh."

"I was afraid of that... umm, there was a call while you were underneath. The group that did the town hall last year. They want you to be on some committee tonight."


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