Monday, October 31, 2011

Well, well, well.

Very busy month or so since I last wrote here. Let’s see, my father died (which was a good thing, very good - the poor guy was very beat up by ill health and seriously not enjoying himself), four friends from Europe arrived for a month - two weeks of which were spent at the Farm, the main house well broke and was out of commission for two weeks, and oh yes, thirty inches of snow on Saturday two days ago. Lots of other things transpired as well, but those stand out.

The friends were great. One pair had visited before but not since 2008, and the other pair had never been here. I have become accustomed to the place - what I see around me are the tasks not done, mostly. These four pairs of foreign eyes helped me see all over again what I first saw - an amazing place. Beautiful house, perfectly situated and private, great equestrian physical plant, safe and lovely. Plus, the four of them pitched in beyond expectations - Pierre did all the minor electrical repairs which were beyond my scope but not to the level of requiring (if I could find one) a professional electrician to come in. Patrick mowed and weedwacked (he called it “strimming” because he is English) everything in sight - it took him days. Babette cooked from the garden at least once a day, and Valerie helped with evening chores every night (when she wasn’t also cooking). This was good, because of the well situation which coincided with their visit.

There are two wells here - an old one and a new one. The old one is 80 feet deep and the well original to the farm for the past few generations. It always flowed just fine in spite of how shallow it is, but in 2007 (a very dry summer) it began to sputter a bit. So I had another well dug across the street as a backup which then became the baseline well - it is 240 feet deep with a huge flow. By means of very deep ditches in every direction, water lines were put in to service the house and all the barns, including far-flung frost-free hydrants in the outlying pastures. A great system, which really beat the former task of hauling 400 feet of hose up the hill to the upper barn, connected to a spigot on the front of the house which if it weren’t buried in snow, was as often frozen as not. The water pressure at that point was so compromised that it took almost an hour to fill two 100 gallon water tubs.

So, life was good with the new well, plus it was engineered so that with the closing of one valve, the whole system could switch back to the old well, which would then water every locale in its turn. Great idea, since we have a generator and could run the old well in the event of a power outage. One contingency wasn’t planned for - a break in the underground water lines.

A few weeks ago, the well guys were going to come back to check on the new pressure tank, and next thing I knew there was a rapping on the door and I hurried with them to the new barn where the pressure tank was empty, the new deep well had drained dry so that the pump was sucking air, and water was gushing up around the outside hydrant and a new hole in the middle of a dry pasture walkway was also flowing. Also the hydrant in question came up out of the ground when pulled up with your hand - NOT a good sign. We flew to turn off the pump electricity and disconnect everything, then went to the basement to see about switching things over - but alas, the system could not work as planned since it was clear that water going anywhere but to the house and the cupola barn was just draining into the dirt in some secret underground place. So out came the hoses connected again to the front of the house, snaking hundreds of feet in every direction to reach the far horse tubs and into the new barn for daily bucket filling. What a complete pain! The only good news was that we had a backup well with good water (even though it hadn't been used in several years), and the break didn't happen in February. It took two weeks to coordinate both a backhoe and the well guys to dig where we thought the problem was, and mirabile dictu there it was. Fortunately we had sited the hydrant in a pickle barrel stuffed with insulation about four feet down, so it was easy for them to expose the trouble - which was that the lowest connector housing at the bottom of the hydrant had snapped right off, for pete’s sakes. No idea what caused it, unless the rogue water table had put enough stress on it to do the damage. It is fixed now, thank the lord, and I am newly appreciative of water which appears when you turn a faucet or lift a hydrant handle.

Also seriously appreciative that this was fixed last week before this weekend’s THIRTY INCHES OF SNOW, which appears to have put Plainfield on the national map for perhaps the first time ever. I will draw the veil of merciful oblivion over the events of the past two days (since whining doesn’t make good copy) except to rejoice in never having lost electrical power.

Life is good.