Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Deep Freeze: Farmhouse Fallout

This morning Garth and I were up early, as is customary these days - 4:30 or so - and I noticed that the pressure from the tap was low on both the hot and the cold. Nothing in the house was running, like a toilet or shower, that would have caused that. It has been VERY cold here for weeks and we don't have much snow cover, so Garth suspected that the buried line from the well to the pressure tank had frozen. He switched the well pump off at the breaker so that the motor wouldn't die trying to pull water that it couldn't have, and put a heater on in the basement. 

There had been ground hog invasion down there during the late summer. They dug under the porch and hollowed out an area of the foundation, pushing a lot of new rocks and dirt up around the pressure tank. One of the upsides of summer is that there is no reason to go to the basement. We wouldn't have known they had burrowed in if they hadn't also happened upon a decade old empty bag of dogfood and begun making a raucous. My mother-in-law, Dorothy, first heard it - a loud plastic rustle, too loud to be a mouse or even a large rat. I later saw the red bag lurch to the base of the stairs making the same telltale sound. Groundhog, surely. Garth bravely went to investigate and found the basement as I described it. Their having exposed the pipe from the well to the pressure tank had no doubt contributed to the freeze. Garth and I considered the pros and the cons of our situation over the next few hours.

Con - The well pipe is frozen. We don't know if that heater will solve it.

Pro - At least we have a stream where we can fetch water.

Con - There is 4 inches of ice over the surface.

Pro - We have an axe, a few buckets, and Garth is a strapping and motivated man.

Con - It's -12 out.

Pro - Yeah, but now we will really be pioneers!

Con - It's still -12 out. 

Pro - We have a Berkey water filter, so drinking stream water will be A-okay. 

Con - I am cloth diapering and this is going to get messier than it already is.

Pro - It's meant to get up to 34 here in four days.

Con - That's four days away and it might not be warm enough to thaw the water line. 

This went on. 

I went outside to get more wood as the light crept into the cobalt world. There were turkeys gobbling and hens clucking in the distance. What? Why now? Two deer were standing and looking at me on the porch from Don's field. That's when I heard Garth say, 'Did you hear that!?' from the basement. It's bad when you can discern your husband's voice from the basement while you stand on the front porch. This farm house wasn't insulated well now, was it? The turkeys' calls were consuming the silence, and so I had to step inside to hear more from Garth. He had flipped the breaker again and the hydrogen peroxide pump spontaneously began cycling. The hand-dug, 15' well for the farmhouse is sulfurous and pumping hydrogen peroxide into the pressure tank dissipates the odor. It works some of the time. Anyway, this meant we had water flowing from the well again. The heat had worked its magic!

I've had moments when I've wished everything in my life were different, and today it was so nice when everything remained the same. 

Just think; if those ground hogs hadn't excavated that pipe, we couldn't have delivered the heat where it was most needed. We'll thank them later. Maybe I'll buy some new dog food and hurl it down the stairs. 

I still don't know why those turkeys were talking so loudly. I guess sometimes it's just as well not to know what the animals are up to. 

- Alanna