Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Homestead Well Woes

It's not very often I say this, but THIS DARN STROKE! At times, frustration gets the better of me. As usual, it is costing me money too because I can't do something because I'm having to hire someone else to do it.

I said this before when the door handle busted on my vehicle and I couldn't maneuver the working side of my body to fix it. That ended up costing me a few hundred dollars. This time it's our water well.

It's not rocket science diagnosing and fixing a problem with a well. If you've done it once, you can do it again. I've done it several times over the years. Everything from drilling a shallow well for the garden to installing and fixing all components that go along with it. I was lucky enough to have a father that didn't mind teaching me the ropes. He was a certified welder, electrician, plumber, heating/air conditioner tech and auto mechanic. He is a Jack of all trades and is aptly named Jack. Or, Poppa Jack to all his abundant grands and great-grands. But I digress.

Here at the Cockeyed Homestead we had no water in the house. Having just replaced all the pipes from the well to the house wasn't the cause. At first, we thought it was because of the hard freezes we'd had. I honestly thought that burying the pipes deeper would help with this. They were 2 1/2 feet deep and it's well below the freeze line, or suppose to be. To say I was irritated at this point would be stating fact. Well, it was two days before the temperatures rose above freezing. The daytime temperatures was a little above but not much. I was biding my time. We keep four 5-gallon water jugs filled in the stores building for just such occasions. They aren't light when filled but the new deck and ramps make it easier to move into the house.

By day three, the temperatures rose well above freezing. Still no water. I knew at this point that the problem was with the well or one of the components. Mel and I start trouble shooting the well. The first issue I have is the well itself. I told y'all how the previous owners had Jerry rigged the door. It gets better. The whole bladder tank, well pump, switches, and well, everything is cockeyed and Jerry rigged. In all my days on earth, I've never seen anything like it. A nightmare post Christmas. If ever there was a convoluted way of putting things together...this was it. Pipes and wires spliced, glued, and screwed into a mess. All housed in a 4'x4'x3' building. There was no way to move let alone get into the building short of laying on your back or squatting. I might mention here that they did use roofing nails in the 1/2" plywood roof. Half an inch or so of the nail points came through the plywood and shingles inside the roof and they were nice enough to leave them in tact for anyone trying to work inside the well house. It was a Machiavellian's torture chamber's delight if you got too close to them. Oh, there is an actual old time well (the kind you drop a bucket into) in the building covered by a concrete lid too. The well pump assembly sits on top of it.You just can't get to it let alone remove the lid. There's no room!

So you get the picture right? Now imagine little, old, impaired self me trying to troubleshoot this thing. It was a comedy of errors at every turn. Mel had always called a plumber before being a city girl and all. But I had the knowledge and hands on experience to fall back on. I powered on the well. I tend to troubleshoot the highest cost to lowest cost repair that way I can be relieved when it isn't costly. Actually Mel did this because the power switch was up at the house a couple hundred feet away. We are playing relay with cell phones. Good news, the well pump kicked on. I reached around various pipes and wires to touch the pump. Not hot after it ran for a few minutes cycling off and on. That's a major cost savings. Well pumps can run a couple hundred dollars upwards. To replace this size would have set me back $360. Whew! But still no water inside the house.

Next pricey item is the bladder tank. While usually filled with compressed air and water, it makes a particular sound when the bladder inside has ruptured. I'd had to replace on of these before. When the bladder ruptures the vessel fills with water and depending on the size of the tank, it can be quite heavy. The well pump also tries to keep running which in turn burns out the pump motor. I know this from experience too. I picked up the pipe wrench and git the side of the metal tank. Ping. I hit it again to be sure I heard what I heard. The old measure twice and cut once. The tank was full of water and the bladder was blown. That will set me back $140, but that's still better than having to buy the pump motor. I could reach the bladder tank, but it's actually called a pressure tank. But I've  seen it called both. So I ran to my local Lowes to pick one up. It would have been cheaper to go through the plumbing supply house, but I didn't think about it. I was too thankful that the tank was just inside the shed. Other than the connection of the water line and a few wires, it would be an easy fix once Mel remove the old one.

THIS WAS MY FIRST BLUNDER.

I went to Lowes and actually got a fully powered wheelie cart. You just don't understand how rare this is in the big box stores in this town. Most times, the cart dies halfway to your first item. So I'm still in a thankful mood as I grab a sales associate to carry the box to the cash register and put it into my van. I get the tank home. It was only a 20 gallon tank instead of a bigger, more costly one. By this time, it's getting dark. I decide to leave installation until the morning. The box with the tank isn't heavy, but too bulky to pick up one handed easily. I got a two handed Mel for that. Yes, it's the laziness of two again. But I wanted to teach Mel how to do it. What's the use of experience if you can't teach it?

So morning arrives, Mel  cuts the fittings and tips the old bladder tank on its side and starts to disconnect everything. The dirt floor of the dirt is now red clay mud. Everything is underneath with this type tank. Trying to break the seals around the fittings was a nightmare. The couplers actually broke opening a whole new can of worms and another trip to the hardware store. A union would have great if the previous owner had installed one. If only I could have gotten in there with my two hands, but would have been better than trying to explain how to do it. It also would have been easier if the assembly hadn't been on the dirt. But the piping was finished after another run to the hardware store for more couplings. Next came the wiring. But once, again dusk is falling and Mel was exhausted. With no light in the well house, working on wiring was impossible. But it was still light enough to see an electricians nightmare of different colored wires attached wire nuts snaking around, coiled and spliced here and there from the well pump, to the pressure switch just behind the well pump at the back of the shed. At least they used wire nuts, right? We'd have to disassemble everything to reach it.

At this point, I'd had enough! I called my handyman. I couldn't do it. Mel was exhausted to tears. I just didn't want to struggle with it anymore. I just wanted running water in my house and a hot shower instead of birdie baths after heating the water on the wood stove! It was time to make it all somebody else's problem.

By the next afternoon, my handyman showed up. He'd had to complete another job first. Our handyman ain't cheap at $65 an hour, but he is good. For this reason, I don't call him very often. But he's the only one I call. He believes as I do...do it right the first time and it'll be easier the next time. When I explained our problem, he felt certain that he could finish in an hour. This was over the phone, mind you. Seeing is believing. He arrived and saw the same mess I did. He changed his estimate to two hours.

MY SECOND BLUNDER.

The first thing he did was install a circuit breaker mini panel to cut the power to the well in the well house and a light. Doh! I'd already figured to do this when we actually had water in the house. But that's okay, it's done now. He untangled the mess of wire and all those wire nuts to see what was what. Instead of trying to go through everything to get to the switch, he simply cut around it from outside the building and pulled it through. Then he installed the pump switch closer to the door because he couldn't work inside the pump house either. In my mind. I'm hitting myself in the forehead. I could have done that. I was so frustrated that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. It turned out that the switch was burned out so it was replaced too.
We finally have water in the house. Yippee! It was well worth the money I paid him. I got my hot shower. But as you know I'm a Murphey and well versed in Murphy's Law. I noticed another problem. The water pressure wasn't what it should have been. By process of elimination, there's only one other ting it could be...the foot valve at the bottom of the well. It means pulling the pipe out of the well and replacing that pump. That means tearing down the pump house and rebuilding. But, I'd already decided to so that this coming summer or fall after dealing with the pump house during this calamity. So we'll be building a 8'x8'x8' pump house. We'll be raising the bladder tank off the dirt too. We're getting too old to play in the dirt and mud. With this new building and the rain catchment system in place, we should have any water woes in the near future, but if we do, we can fix them.

Y'all have a blessed day.

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