Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rube Goldberg Lives in Rural America

Living in the country for a bit brings home just what a complex web of services we take for granted in the city.

For example, late Saturday night I went to turn on a faucet, and found there was no water. OK, I know we're on a well, and sometimes the pump goes out or something. We suspect maybe a breaker has gone out on the pump. Find the breaker box. Find breaker(s) loosely labeled "Pump" (as in, there is a sticker that says "Pump" somewhere near a couple of the breakers). Feel brave, bite the bullet, and flip the breakers. Reward is the click of a relay back in the pump closet. Water flows from the tap. All is well.

Until the breaker blows again in the morning (now it's Sunday). And again. And again. And (you get the idea: it's pointless).... Helpful neighbor who actually understands pumps and such comes over to help. Concludes that it's really something wrong. Better call the Pump People on Monday morning.

In the mean time, we can hook up a hose from the irrigation system to feed back into the house system; can't drink it, but it's fine for toilets and showers and such. [Rant for later on what a waste it is for the rest of us to use potable water for such things.] In the short run, we decide that running a hose from the irrigation system into the main bathroom of the house so we can refill the toilet tank is the easiest solution. Of course, that means running the irrigation system all the time we want to use any running water. But we can try it for a bit.

Come back from dinner to find a note saying the irrigation system had to be turned off because earlier in the day when the Helpful Neighbor (see above) took down a dead tree, it seems to have broken a pipe in the irrigation system, which is now pumping water into the air and flooding another neighbor's yard. Right.

Fill enough buckets to use for flushing purposes overnight. Make sure we have water for washing hands and such. Make a note to deal with the irrigation system on Monday, too.

Monday morning, the pump guy shows up bright and early (well, that is certainly something different from city life!). He's even familiar with the property, having grown up in the neighborhood; he used to mow the lawn years ago. [Future thought, on how Grandma seems to know people all over town, even though she hasn't really lived her for ~50 years.] As he heads back to the pump house, he notices a BIG nest of "meat bees" in the ground, says he has something to handle it in the truck, and he actually does, which is cool. Fewer bees is good, because there are a LOT of them around here this summer.

He determines that the problem is that there is air in the pump, mainly because we've been drawing too much water from the system. We're not used to a well/pump system, so we've been doing things like taking back-to-back showers, which really need some time to recover from. Oops!

OK, so suitably chastened, we now have water for the house. Cousin who lives in the basement has looked at the irrigation issue. Her dad was a pipe fitter, and has taught her about the irrigation system (which is good, because she lives here all the time, and needs to take care of it, which she does, very well). She is able to patch the pipe back together (not actually broken, just pulled apart at a point where she can patch it back easily), so we have a full irrigation system again, too.

Wow. Lots of action for a weekend in the country, and all for stuff we totally take for granted back home. I now have a greater appreciation for both the level of care people have to take for their own operations here, and also for the care people take for each other.

Somewhere in the course of all this, it turns out that the flush mechanism in one of the toilets is running and wasting water (which we clearly don't want, given how precious the pumped well water is!). At last! Something I actually know how to fix. Quick stop at the hardware store (run by people who live down the street, of course, and who know Grandma when she walks in...see above) gets me a set of replacement parts, and in the next day or so, my daughter and I will fix it.

Whew! That's a lot of water issues for just a couple of days. Makes me want to go back to the fair and watch the bunnies.

No comments: