Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The joys of country living

Those of you with retentive memories may recall the domestic crisis suffered by the Transit household back in the early spring. It’s the kind of problem familiar to anyone who has ever lived in the depths of the country, though thankfully rare. Much more common for those without mains water is the heart-stopping moment when the flow of water from the well slows to a trickle and then to a mere drip or two.

Our well is uphill from the house and so relies on gravity to keep the water flowing into the upstairs storage tank which feeds our house supply. In the past, when the children were still at home and our water usage was much higher, the well would occasionally run dry, with consequences I need hardly spell out. A new and better-located well put paid to this particular problem, but there is still always the risk that air will gradually find its way into the pipe-work until the flow of water slows or even stops, as the siphon which draws water out of the well finally breaks.

Yesterday, being Monday and the day after our return from a weekend away, was wash-day and the washing-machine churned away happily, dealing with load after load. There wasn’t a hint of a problem with water supply, but unbeknownst to us the water tank was gradually being emptied and last night it finally ran dry - halfway through the dishwasher cycle!

It was far too late by then to do anything about the situation, but bright and early this morning any interested spectator would have found DH and me in the open garage adjoining the kitchen, listening anxiously as air whistled and bubbled from the drain valve in the water-pipe which runs up the side of the house to the storage tank. Finally the tiny trickle of water stopped completely and so did the bubbling and whistling.

Had the siphon finally broken or not? Was there a problem with the pipe-work or with the well itself? At least the weather was dry and sunny if we had to investigate further. DH and I looked unhappily at each other and back at the drain valve and waited…and waited… Suddenly, with an explosive and profoundly welcome swoosh, water started to run and then pour from the valve again and we were saved. Until next time…

I can promise you that DH and I never take running water for granted and we never, never waste it. 


Image via Google

59 comments:

  1. Between water coming and water going away you can count on drama out in the sticks!

    After the havoc caused by the developer's henchman this area is undergoing a reorganisation of the supply - the water coming from springs up on the mountain.
    The idea is to rationalise water use, but, as you may imagine, once bureaucracy is involved the whole thing becomes extremely long winded....

    Normally we don't have problems but every so often air gets into the pipes high up above so I now have a routine of keeping water for watering the house plants topped up overnight and turning off the tap to the animals' trough too, in case there's a problem and the tank empties overnight without me realising.
    I do recognise the relief with which you greeted the swhoosh of returning water....

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    1. Who says life in the countryside is dull? We live on a knife-edge out here, let me tell you. :-)

      I've been following the saga of your water supply for some time now and can sympathise with every fibre of my being. What with The Neighbour and then the developer our woes with our well seem extremely humdrum, but they still make us realise just how essential it is to be able to turn on the tap and get results. Like you we take precautions to p[prevent the tank being emptied inadvertently, but sometimes it just creeps up on us.

      Hey-ho, it all helps to keep us on our toes and you're so right about the sense of relief. :-)

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  2. "Another crisis averted"....
    We all take water for granted in our lives, that there will be enough, and not too much.
    Glad it didn't dry up for you for too long !!

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    1. Yes, we were lucky this time. Up here water always has the potential to become a crisis, whether it's problems with the siphon or the pipe into the house freezing in a cold snap. It's very relaxing to be on mains water in France and Scotland, I can assure you.

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  3. Can you hear me breathing a sigh of relief for you all the way from Canada? As someone who grew up on a farm with a very sketchy well, and then for many years as an adult lived in the country and had well water, I know the exact unhappy look you and your husband shared as you tried to figure out what was wrong. I'm glad it resolved itself!

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    1. Thanks for the fellow-feeling, Kristie. As it happens i too have spent most of my life getting my water from a well. As a child I lived in a small Lancashire village which only had mains water to some of the houses and ours wasn't one of them. I can still carry two full buckets of water without spilling a drop! As an adult I've lived for almost 40 years up in these Welsh hills and I doubt the mains will ever come our way. It's a good thing DH and I are resourceful. :-)

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  4. My goodness, Perpetua, I can just picture the two of you waiting in anticipation to hear the whoosh! I'm glad it wasn't necessary to engage in repair work right now. I think you have enough "on your plate" at the moment, but it definitely give one pause to wonder if this means a larger problem is coming. Our municipal water is managed from a large natural well. We happen to live in an area that has been part of natural springs dating back to the Gabrieleno Indians and the Mission Days. The water is very good, but I don't take it for granted either. I try very hard to be resourceful and yet I do sometimes wonder about the future. It will probably affect us one day as a more expensive commodity, more than extreme scarcity, but it's not limitless. Thanks for the Otis Redding...I didn't know that song. :-) Hope you're doing well as you move forward with surgery and that DH is still responding well, too. ox (breathe lighter)

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    1. Yes, it was a touch-and-go moment until the siphon decided it wasn't broken after all, Debra. I'm glad to say that what happened isn 't likely to be a harbinger of worse to come. Now that the air has been thoroughly cleared from the pipe, it will probably be years before enough seeps in to cause us a problem again.

      The problems of water supply in a densely-populated desert area like Southern California are quite different in type and magnitude and I don't envy your water companies. I too can foresee a time when we will all have to be much more careful in our use of water if there is to be enough to go round qat a price we can afford. Our well water is of course free at the moment, but even that may not always be the case.

      The song was new to me too when I did a Google search for songs about water. I've always liked Otis Redding and thought others might enjoy this. As for DH and me - we're both doing well, thanks.

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  5. Oh, I can imagine your relief -- from living with my parents, who had an artesian well! Oh the problems when the well ran dry! One year my husband returned to France after a long cold winter. After after the very long drive he eagerly turned on the electricity and went to fill the kettle (after turning on the water!) and there was a sudden loud noise from underneath the kitchen sink and water exploded from the water meter -- the water residue from the summer before had frozen in the winter and oops! Fortunately, the farmer's wife next door had a 'way with words' and the water people were there in half an hour to fix it! She also very kindly showed us where her outdoor water spout was and welcomed us to use it whenever we needed...

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    1. I think one has to have lived with the vagaries of a well-water supply to understand fully. :-) Back in the summer of 1976 (heatwave and drought) the old well was dry from May to September, which made life very difficult.

      I sympathise with the affair of the frozen water meter. We have an external water=meter now, but DH still turns off the water inside when we leave at the end of the summer and has thoroughly lagged every length of pipe he can reach. So far, so good, but I think winters are milder in Normandy than in the Lot. I'm glad you have lovely farmer neighbours like us. We think ourselves very lucky.

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  6. Yikes. We often walk past signs on a high path warning us that we're passing a water supply - the implications for us are clear!

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    1. Yes, there are some very vulnerable water supplies in the hills of Scotland, sometimes piped directly from streams. We're lucky in that our pipe is well buried, so can't be damaged by walkers or vehicles, thank goodness.

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  7. You've reminded me how much I take a reliable supply of water for granted. Thank you.

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    1. I think we all do when we're on mains, and even with a well, we can still rely on it almost all the time. It's why I support WaterAid.

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  8. We also had an "empty tap" last night. My poor hubby had to get out of bed and don his trainers to go out to turn on our emergency supply so I could wash my face.

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    1. You too? It's such a nuisance and I'm glad you have an emergency supply to fall back on. We don't and I wish we did.

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  9. Yikes! If it ain't one thing it's another, in the P-in-T household!! Glad you got the flow back OK.

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    1. You've said i! It doesn't happen very often, but still often enough for us to know just what to do about it. At least the well hadn't run dry, for which I am devoutly thankful. :-)

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  10. I can't imagine having to rely on a well for water but guess its what you get used to. It does make you realise how we take the provision of water for granted. Here's hoping you don't have any more problems.
    Patricia x

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    1. Everything's fine again until the next time, thanks. You do indeed get used to it and to coping with the occasional crisis. I've spent nearly two-thirds of my 67 years relying on a well-water supply and it has two great advantages. The water tastes wonderful and it's free. :-)

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  11. As others have already remarked Perpetua, we do take continuously available running water for granted until suddenly we don't have it. However, being on mains supply is not always better than your situation, especially when living close to the borders of two other counties, meaning that water in your village is supplied by one company, off the major mains pipe belonging to another company. And do the two companies talk to each other when they plan maintenance work???? With our past experience of working together, you will know to where I am referring :-)

    Very glad to know that all is working well again for you & DH. My continued best wishes & prayers for DHs recovery to full health & a successful outcome to your forthcoming eye op.

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    1. I know exactly where you're referring to, Ricky, and can so easily imagine your past frustration as you coped with the vagaries of separate water companies. At least in the days before water privatisation there was a broader view and better planning. The other big problem nowadays is our ageing mains system which is leading to rather a lot of bursts and temporary breaks in supply. I hope you don't get those in Prague.

      DH is improving steadily, thanks, and is very much back into the swing of things now. As for me, I'm refusing even to think about my op until it's time to leave for the hospital. :-)

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  12. A fascinating insight into the ways of living with well-water, Perpetua, and I'm glad there was not a bigger crisis to fix. Australia is a very dry continent, and even with mains water a few years ago we had a long drought in the city, and water restrictions became more and more severe. I grew up with tank water, supplied from what rained on the roof. I remember one year when it ran dry, and we had to purchase water from a brackish local lagoon. Most unpleasant!

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    1. Oh, so am I, Patricia! I'm getting a bit old for carrying five-gallon containers of water from friends' house. :-) I can imagine that water supply will become an increasing problem in Australia as the population grows, especially given its tendency to prolonged droughts. Some parts of the UK suffer water restrictions in very dry weather, but of course our droughts don't last very long. I think it would be a very good idea if DH and I saved rainwater as an emergency supply.

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  13. You can’t really afford to take any amenities for granted when you live in the depths of the country. we have mains water, but no gas and not always electricity. But this is the 21st century!

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    1. Indeed you can't. We have an LPG tank for cooking and heating and solar-voltaic panels for basic electricity (but only in daylight of course) but rely entirely on the well for water. I guess we need to invest in more water butts.

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    1. Thanks, Chicken, and welcome to my blog. Your comment has made my day. :-)

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  15. I empathise with your water situation! As a child I lived in the country with only a rain-water tank for water ... during a hot dry summer we had to cart water in milk cans from the nearby river. Thankfully I now have a well for water supply and [hopefully] it won't run dry! We don't miss what we take for granted until it is no longer.

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    1. I've never had to rely on collected rainwater like you and Patricia (3 comments up) but as a child my sisters and I had to carry water in buckets from a nearby shared well to supply the house until finally the mains arrived when I was a teenager. Having our own well-water piped directly into the house is a big step up from that and 99% of the time it's problem-free. The other 1% can get a bit fraught, though. :-)

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  16. Phewph! That was a close call. A salutary tale for those of us who live in cities, turn on taps and clean water gushes out. Thank you for sharing, and really glad it is sorted out.

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    1. It was indeed close, but thankfully everything's back to normal today. We really don't notice that it's a well supply except for the very low water pressure, which is probably the most frustrating thing about it. It seems to take ages to fill the kettle or the washing-up bowl, but they say patience is a virtue. :-)

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  17. We are on well water, Perpetua, so, I know from whence you speak. Glad the trickle started up again and hope it continues for a long while. Great song to accompany your post.

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    1. Gosh, well water so close to the city, Penny! That does surprise me. You certainly qualify as a country girl in that case. :-) Yes, thankfully the water is trickling merrily into and out of the tank as usual. Glad you enjoyed the song.

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  18. If all else fails, strike the rock with a stick - well it worked for Moses, I believe. We have our own borehole which can also be a bit temperamental, so I know exactly what you're saying. Glad the trickle flowed.

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    1. That had me chortling, Molly. :-) I'm interested to hear that your borehole can be temperamental too, as i always thought they were much more reliable than wells. We've sometimes thought of having a borehole sunk, but the cost is off-putting, so we're sticking with our well., as long as it keeps trickling - with help.

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    2. We previously relied on a well in our neighbour's field and then had a borehole sunk in our own garden in 1995, thinking it would be everything wonderful. With the first whoosh of water there was a strong smell of sulphur (rotten eggs). The man said that it would probably clear if we pumped continuously for several days. It didn't! It still hasn't. We have two filters which it passes through. We have to go up into the attic to clean the water tanks out four or five times during the year - they get a yuccy slimey white jelly-like substance on the top of the water (very off-putting). The pump works on electricity. Sometimes the trip (or power) goes off and you don't realise until the tank is empty. But saying all that - yes, it is good as a whole and I too am very grateful for water.

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    3. Oh wow, Molly, that doesn't sound wonderful. Our well water is high in manganese, as is most ground source water in North Powys, and turns the inside of the kettle black, but at least it doesn't smell and the water tastes fine. Perhaps we should stick to our well after all.....

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  19. I do feel for you, Perpetua. Thank goodness the problem solved itself this time! We are responsible for the water supplies of many of our scattered neighbours on the estate, and I can confidently say that the biggest headaches for our hard-working clerk of works are almost inevitably caused by problems with water. Our own spring has been supplying the castle for over 6 centuries, as far as I know - but I never take it for granted...!

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    1. Thanks, DB. With not only a castle but almost an entire estate to keep supplied with water from springs and other natural sources, you must know intimately the problems that can occur. Mostly, of course, everything works as it should, but with frost or drought or mechanical failure always a potential threat in their turn, life is never dull or totally predictable. :-)

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  20. I'll swap for the sewage pipe that gets blocked at my house, If you like :-) I'm glad that the well is well again.

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    1. Oh, we have one of those too, MM, though it has only blocked once in recent years - very spectacularly. :-) I don't envy you repeated blockages. Isn't life complicated sometimes?

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  21. Dear Perpetua, thanks so much for the soul song. I'd never heard it before and the music makes me want to move my body to a beat that's like my own heart.

    As to water: I grew up on a farm and we had a cistern. We pumped all our water into buckets and carried them into the house for washing dishes and clothes and for drinking and cooking.

    When the water in the well got low, we'd know it because tiny eel-like creatures--iotas really--swam in the buckets. Then Mom called the water company and a man would come out in a vehicle that was tank shaped and he'd empty the water into the well until the next time it ran low.

    Mom used to say that she never worried about our immune systems after we'd grown up drining that water with all those "microbes" in it! Peace.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Dee. It was new to me too, though I've liked Otis Redding for many years.

      It sounds like a lot of us who grew up in the country in the first half of the 20th century had this kind of local water supply, both in the UK and US. At least anything that lived in our well water wasn't visible to the naked eye and as your mother used to say, it gives you wonderful resistance to many microbes. We used to say that to our children too. :-)

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  22. I spent a summer as a student in a place with a very sketchy water supply and I was mighty glad to get back to a piped water supply. Needless to say I really don't take my ready access to water for granted. So glad things resolved themselves for you :)

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    1. So am I, Annie. I'm too old to be carrying water. :-) We can go years together with the water coming merrily, if rather slowly, through the pipe and then something like this happens to remind us to be careful.

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  23. I love this video too! I think you have a great sense of humor to add this.

    Lack of water is not laughing matter. I'm afraid I am very spoiled. I never have to worry about having a water supply. I would not like that at all if I suddenly had to haul water or even depend on a well. I hope things continue to flow...

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    1. We obviously share a sense of humour, Sally, and I find it makes almost any problem easier to cope with if one can find something funny in it, even the water pipe running dry. Luckily DH and I are used to dealing with this after nearly 40 years here, and we're not alone as all our neighbours up in the hills here rely on their own water supply from well or borehole and we can always find help if we really need it.

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  24. What a relief! I'm pleased you didn't have to go through my recent experience of being almost three weeks without water!

    Just catching up with blogs Perpetua, and hope you and your husband are doing well. Glad to see you have a rescheduled date for your op. xx

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    1. Not half as pleased as we are, Ayak.:-) We've had long periods without water on two or three occasions in the past, once (in 1976) for literally months because of severe drought and a couple of times for a week or two because of frozen pipes in prolonged cold weather.

      It's good to see you safely back after your trip and yes, things are going much better for us, thanks.

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  25. I did think of Ayak when I stared to read this post P. Glad it is sorted. When we lived in Mankinholes, although we had a septic tank and were not on mains water, our supply was from a spring in the hills, and our water board ( made up of the 14 householders in the village) met regularly to discuss pipe maintenance and holding tank clearance. ( We also drank a considerable amount of wine at these so called board meetings ). Mains water, here in France, gets turned off periodically, and I can never understand the wind distorted village announcements warning us of these happenings.....but so far, unlike with Ayak, it has only ever been turned off for a few hours at a time. Hope DH is doing well. J.

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    1. I thought of Ayak when i watched the tap run dry, Janice. :-) Luckily for us the water was only off for hours, not weeks. I love the thought of your local water board meetings, well lubricated with wine, making surte that your shared supply worked well for everyone. That's real local community co-operation.

      We're on an excellent mains supply in both Scotland and France and have only once had a short interruption to our supply in France, which was notified to everyone by letter, as our tiny commune doesn't run to a loudspeaker communication system and in any case our house is outside the bourg. :-)

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  26. Janice and Ayak beat me to it - but I too thought of the difficulties Ayak had recently without water. I'm sure she wouldn't wish that on anyone! So glad yours came back quickly. If we lose electricity - which we do quite regularly but not for long - we lose the water too as it's pumped into the house. We do have a big tank but when the electric is off, we have to go outside with our buckets to bring it in manually. Luckily for us, the children are big enough to help! All makes for an unboring life...:-) Axxx

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    1. You're absolutely right, Annie. No-one would want the problems Ayak has had recently with water. At least we don't live in a hot climate and this time the difficulty was quickly solved. We're lucky to have a very stable electricity supply and I can't remember the last time we had a power cut here in Wales. Your problems when the power goes off make me grateful that our water tank is gravity-fed, even if it does mean horribly low water pressure.

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  27. Tough out in the country we're on mains and so far it has always flowed freely. there is a good well we could tap in times of utter emergencies but we'd have to get the kit to pump the water up.

    Our electric supply is a little more erratic! Every so often EDF/ERDF do switch it off for several hours at a time without telling us so you have to phone a number to check whether it is a planned 'rupture' or not.

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    1. Typo!

      Though out in the country ....

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    2. LOL, Antoinette! Talk about a Freudian slip.... I may keep that for the title of a future post. :-)

      We're on mains in France too, being not far outside the bourg, and I've yet to meet anyone in our area who relies on a private water supply. We have a well in the garden, but it was capped off when the mains came and now we couldn't use it anyway, because it's too close to the fosse septique. All that free water for the garden, Sigh....

      Because we're in France only in the summer, our electricity supply has always been OK except when we have the occasional thunderstorm, but I guess it could prove to be less reliable if we were there year-round.

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  28. Dear Perpetua - there is never a dull moment for you - something usually crops up to keep you forever young.
    Do hope that DH is making good progress, and that everything is now on course for your eye surgery.
    I do realise now that I take my running water rather for granted.

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    1. Rosemary, I sometimes think the chance of a dull life would be a fine thing. :-) To be honest i take the water for granted too, until it isn't there.

      DH is doing very well now, thanks, and my cataract operation has been rescheduled for November 5th, which is only just over a fortnight away. Soon be done and (hopefully) dusted.

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