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No Water. The Well’s Gone Dry! We’re All Gonna Die! Or Maybe Not.

29 Sep

At this time of year I sometimes think back to our early years here, soon after we had bought our house.

It started one weekend afternoon when S-S turned on the kitchen tap. The usual flow of expected water soon turned to a trickle, then a dribble, then nothing.

The Pump that Whirrs and Slushes and Gurgles

The Pump that Whirrs and Slushes and Gurgles

Civilized and educated people that we are we immediately knew that something was wrong. Education is such a marvelous analysis platform. Immediately we leapt to civilized problem analysis: the well’s gone dry; the pump is broken, there is a leak somewhere in the system; it’s the Second Coming. Our panic was only mild. Well, maybe a bit more. Oh the humanity: no water; the money to fix it; something’s broken; the money to fix it; we can’t flush the toilet; the money to fix it! I already had visions of building an illegal outhouse. Comfort and sanitation before thirst.

After an hour or so we entered “problem solving” mode. Who might know how to fix it. Well Uncle G used to have a cottage, let’s ask him. Uncle G says, “Maybe you should check under the house.” Our pipes are all in the crawl space under the house, so down under I go. S-S asks “Why are you going down there?” I wisely reply, “I dunno, Uncle G said to.”  After a half hour squirming around in dust dirt and spiders I find nothing. We need a Plan B.

Plan B is calling Mr. L, a local handyman we know but he costs. Mr. L will come out right away so he is the choice. Well Mr. L always comes along with “the wife.” It was about three years before we actually found out “the wife’s” name. While S-S and “the wife” talked about country wife stuff Mr. L and I went back under the house. After an interminable 15 seconds Mr. L asks, “What’s that?” “That” was an electrical line. Since Mr. L is also and electrician we have to check out “that.” Personally, I thought, “what has an electric wire got to do with water flow?”

The Pump Switch with Instructions for City Morons

The Pump Switch with New Instructions for City Morons

The Pump Switch Sneaking a Peek From Behind the Ironing Board

The Pump Switch Sneaking a Peek From Behind the Ironing Board

Back in the house we trace the line to the laundry room right above where we first saw the line. Hmmm. An ironing board is resting against the wall. Hmmm. S-S is not a fan of ironing so the ironing board has never been moved. Behind the ironing board a “Swiffer” and its long handle has slipped.  Hmmm. Mr. L moves the ironing board, then the Swiffer. Underneath the Swiffer is a wall toggle switch. “What’s that?” asks Mr. L. I, in my profound wisdom, say, “I dunno.” Boldly, fearlessly, Mr. L flicks the switch. We hear the pump begin to whirr and slush and fill up. We have a pump switch, Lordy, Lordy! More importantly we have water. We have a switch we knew nothing about. So as tip to those of you who buy a new house, check behind the ironing board. And watch out for wobbly Swiffers.

Victoriously we return to “the wife” times two who promptly roll their eyes wondering why it took us so long to fix. Laughs all round. Mr. L only charged us $30, giving me the city moron discount.

But we have a pump switch. Switch on, switch off, switch on, switch off, switch on, switch off …



It’s Elementary: Hot Water and Civilization

11 May

Civilization is founded on hot water from hot water tanks. Cold water is a characteristic of  lesser cultures. Yes I know that such a comment in a post-colonial world is politically incorrect but cold water sucks, or freezes, or chills. Cold, very cold, libido-deadening showers make wimps of us all.

Elementary. The lower element.

Elementary. The lower element.

Recently our electric hot water tank tank totally conked out. The bottom element had departed into some alternate universe a long time ago and far, far away. We somehow managed to survive on half a 60-gallon tank for several months. Why, you ask, would we live in this less than civilized state? The short, and the long, answer is I couldn’t get the stupid bottom element out. Corrosion remained supreme. Water remained lukewarm. Body odours bloomed like the bouquet of a septic tank. This last is, however, useful for clearing out long lines at the supermarket checkout.

Sludge From The Bottom Of The Water Tank

Sludge From The Bottom Of The Water Tank

Decision time: new tank or repair old. Mr. C, our local furnace repair man, whom we trust, by the way, gave us an estimate of  $1100 plus tax to replace. S-S in her most beguiling way whined for an alternative. Fortunately, Mr. C, gentleman that he is – or he just wanted to get out of the bouquet of our closely confined presence – installed a new thermostat and let me borrow his professional, manly, steroid-sized wrench. The satisfying grinding and crunching as the element now loosened from its corroded base was a sound that only a guy can appreciate. Such a virile sound, such a testosterone sound. Also, scoops of sludge debris from the tank bottom were not the thrill of  a treasure hunt but necessary.

Dreams of steaming hot water ran through my head: showers, hot tubs. Thoughts of a mere $120 dollar bill adding to the masculinity, the potency of finally conquering obstinate corrosion and scooping at a lesser price. We would become civilized once more and only a little impoverished. A new element installed, the water tank refilled, I relaxed listening to the humming, burbling and gurgling of  frigid aquifer-water becoming  a soothing balm. Then S-S told me to quit daydreaming, get off my duff and take a shower, stat! How short the victory! How long the supermarket lineups again! Civilization has its costs.

Of Snow Fences and Sore Thumbs

29 Oct
Hammer Meets Thumb

Hammer Meets Thumb

Ah, the joy of preparing for winter, the snow, the storms, the -40°C temperatures, sunset at 4:00 pm. I so look forward to it all. Yeah right! Mexico here we come, some time in the distant future. So distant future. Sooo long in the future.

But stuff has to be done in the meantime. Brute has to hibernate for the winter. The garden has to be turned over. The well-head covered. Leaves raked for ground cover over water lines. Along with the leaves comes the snow fence.

This year the snow fence is a true work of art. Straight, tall, an orange splash of colour to catch the inevitable drifts to insulate the ground. All the tools that are required are orange plastic snow fence, steel posts, plastic ties, step stool or ladder, miniature sledge hammer, and the motivation to just get up and do it. Fortunately I have the last in abundance. She’s my motivational speaker, S-S. The sequence usually runs something like this: “When are you going to do the snowfence?”, to “Are you going to do the snowfence?”, to “Do the snowfence!” My pleas that it is too cold, that I have a cold, that I am too old don’t seem to work. So the work gets done. Two steps up on the ladder I get vertigo; my vision goes blurry, hammer hits my thumb. S-S turns a deaf ear to my pain. She calls it whining. “Just do it!”

The Snowfence and Me

The Snowfence and Me

The job gets done. I can stand proud before my winter masterpiece. Master of my domain. I knew all along that I could do it. I wallow in my virile accomplishment. S-S makes me a nice hot cup of cocoa with little marshmallows and kisses the boo-boo on my thumb. I tell her my arm and shoulder are sore. She says that I can go and have a nap. Life is good again.

Winterizing To Dos

22 Oct

It finally stopped raining and the wind has stopped howling. I was able to get on the roof and clean out the eaves. They had a netting over them but there was a lot of smelly, decomposing sludge in them. The screening will have to be replaced next year. At least they are now clear and can drain.

Laid bags of leaves over the line from the well just to make sure that there are no underground problems in that area. Put a bucket over the well head itself to protect it from meandering deer and to provide a minimal climate control which will be important come the freeze and thaw cycle next spring. Water in its many forms seems to be a consistent theme in my life, especially during these colder seasons.

More small herds of deer are crossing the garden more frequently. Deer scat everywhere. Who needs fertilizer?

No pics this post unless you want to see pics of bags of leaves and deer poop pellets.

To Do List for The Coming Two Weeks

13 Oct

The snow has gone, as expected. The weather, at least for the next few days, is going to be dry and pleasant. As long as it’s not too windy or wet, things will go along fine. The following is a list, in no particular order of priority, of what I have to do. The weather will determine what and when. Some of the chores will be familiar to city folk:

  • Pruning branches overhanging the roof or brushing up against the side of the house.
  • Cutting down and cutting up trees and branches knocked down by the recent snow and wind.  Cut them into firewood.
  • Cover the septic field and water lines, and put up snow fence.
  • Mulch mow the lawn and winterize the mower.
  • Check the eaves and downspouts.
  • Clean and store the deck and garden furniture.
  • Clean and store the BBQ.
  • Store the canoe.
  • Turn over and mulch the veggie garden.

White Tailed Deer Doing Its Business on the Lawn

The list may not seem extensive or onerous to many but in the country this is basically do it yourself when the weather is right. It means climbing ladders, into trees and onto the roof, powering up the chain saw, and getting down into the dirt. When all is done the house will be snug for the winter.

One nice thing about this time of the year is that there are no bugs. So far we have been lucky in not having any rodents invade the house for shelter. Deer are passing through. There is plenty of deer scat scattered around the grass and mixed in with the leaves; gloves are mandatory! Next year there will be tufts of extra thick and healthy grass to show where the lawn was used as a latrine.

One good effect of the recent storms has been on the beach. It is now wide and sandy where once it was rocks and cobbles. The seasonal timing might be off but it looks good. The water is lower as the south winds have pushed the water back into the lake’s north basin.

The Town Is Slowly Shutting Down

10 Oct

Gimli Harbour Looking Towards the Yacht Club

Commercial Fishing Boats, Gimli Harbour

On the Hard at Silver Harbour

Took a trip into Gimli  today. The town has really slowed down since Thanksgiving. With the weather most people have shut up their cottages for the winter. The marina was a ghost of itself yacht-wise. Dean Thorkelson of Lake Agassiz Marine  had his crane at the end of the pier hauling out some of the Gimli Yacht Club sailboats. Haulout time is now getting short. Pretty well all of the power boats are out of the main basin. All that’s left are the small fishing boats. They will be out as long as there is water. Come the ice many of them shift will be to ice fishing. The yacht scene is similar in Silver Harbour, row upon row of boats. I feel sad at such scenes. The boats are out of their element, stranded on the hard. Most will not be in the water until May or June next year. The season is so short. I remember a few years ago taking the ferry from Tswassen to Vancouver Island on New Year’s Day and seeing sailboats cruising in the straits. I thought, “How idyllic.” Back home the ice on the lake was six feet thick.

Gimli Beach. Getting Ready to Make Dikes

The  beach, of course, is deserted. The town has started to prepare for any potential flooding by piling up mounds of sand ready to create berms in the low areas. October and November are the season for major storms. The wind and rain will howl down out of the east and north-east often for days at a time. Lake water will pile up in the south basin. Shoreline erosion will be possible for many. Fortunately our house has a natural, elevated shoreline. Still it has to be watched. Then the freeze-up will happen. It will be cold but more still and peaceful. More on that another time.

Of course, one of the benefits of the slowdown is that finding a parking spot is much easier. Another is that walking on the sidewalk is easier too. Some of the stores are changing from their summer hours. Not too many are shutting down though. I must admit that I miss some of the hustle and bustle of the summer. Old habits?