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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last things last.

I'm fond of tub baths, and Beloved likes showers, but tonight I bathed in a basin, in front of the wood stove.

Not that I mind that, it's what we used to do; we were migrant workers and drove round to our jobs in the Northwest woods in a GMC pulling an old trailer that we got for 150. It had a wood stove too, come to think of it.

Anyway, a basin bath was my only option tonight, and that was our own fault.

The piping in a house this old, with no more retrofitting than it has had, is vulnerable to cold. In cold snaps, we generally get away with running the taps lightly and putting a 100 watt incandescent bulb (turned on) under the pump in the wellhouse.

That cuts it down to about 16F, but we have had three mornings in a row of about 7 or 8 degrees above zero.

Now, that's not a record for here, but if we had thought about this instead of paying attention to the weather reports, which kept predicting lows of around 20, we'd have turned off the pump and the hot water heater and opened the drain cock on the line in the pump house (which is lower than almost all of the water system).

But did we remember to do that in time? N-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, we did not.

So the water system is DOWN.

And how damaged, we do not yet know. Liquid water, as everyone should know, expands eleven percent when it solidifies. It's how you get cracks in granite.

Whenever this scenario plays out in our household, you can bet it does so in thousands of others around us, meaning that the plumbers might get to us in a month, if we are lucky!

But we have options, and we're putting them into play.

The ducks, geese and chickens must have water, and as they don't have heated waterers, in the mornings we go to the bridge over the creek and let down the two buckets on our homemade yoke one by one, and dip them in the water and bring this up to the pens and dump it into empty drinking buckets.

The buckets will freeze before long, so we also fill some buckets and set them in the living room, for use later in the day and in the evenings. These also stand by for jobs like flushing.

For ourselves we generally have a ten gallon or so supply, which we can supplement by taking empty milk jugs to town with us when we have business there, and filling them at Last Son's place.

If all else fails there is the hand pump -- which can be primed from the creek if necessary, but we'd rather not, so the last gallon on hand would be for the pump. Not that the creek is dirty, as creeks go, but there are horses upstream ...

For that matter, the well that has the hand pump on it is a bit too close to the chicken run, and for kitchen use should be boiled. So we think of it as a backup/irrigation well. Last things last.


  1. yep yep, my friend out in dexter may be suffering the same problem with pipes. i hope it's not as bad as it could be and that all warms up soon. fwiw, just be glad you aren't here in utah.. at 9.30am on thursday morn i walked to the bus station (~1 mi) it was -8F. in fact, it's -8 right now at 11pm! :)

  2. I remember frozen pipes. Now I'm retired and live alone in my lovely little house with great plumbing and a wonderful woodstove. Still I think I miss the time of frozen pipes.

  3. So sorry to hear that.
    I think as of now we shouldn't trust the weather reports anymore.
    Stay warm!

  4. Anonymous12:43 PM

    You said you insulated the floor. I hope you also insulated the pipes under the house because they get the waste heat from the house.

    You could wrap the pump head and pipe in heat tape that comes on with a thermostat. Then there is the 2 pipe system that uses a pump to circulate the water and a side arm heater. But yes, it all costs but the insurance is much cheaper than the problem. Lisa

  5. They are insulated -- but the three days in a row at 8F was a bit much for the (also insulated) pumphouse, where I should have eschewed the light bulb in favor of a little heater we have, that has a thermostat.

    In a day or so we will try the pump and see how we are. It has been above freezing today, but the great heaps of ice in the poultry yard haven't shrunk much.

  6. Oh, no - we haven't had a pipe freeze since the hot water return from bathroom to kitchen did years ago, right above the Christmas tree. I have photos of the ceiling being held up with sheets of plywood and 4x4's until I could get the tree dismantled. We ended up abandoning that line, and putting a small water heater under the kitchen counter.

    Our minus 15 night was enough to freeze up our bathtub drain though, so we've been showering standing in a basin to make it easier to bale out the tub. Finally thawed out yesterday.


Stony Run Farm: Life on One Acre

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