Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

We woke up to our insulated water pipes frozen by the overnight temperatures in the teens.  This little discovery was especially frustrating because we thought we had the pipes weatherized well enough that we wouldn't be dealing with this issue.  At first we thought it was only a water hose from the 55 gallon storage barrels to the mobile that had frozen, but as the hours wore on we realized that the pipes in the house were also frozen. 

My Man stayed home from work to help trouble shoot and attempt to thaw the hose while Columbus grumbled that he was just sick of our water system.  In the last couple of weeks we did get a third power supply for our pump and that one died within 24 hours just like the other two did, so we are back to powering our water pump with a battery charger and we have no idea why they keep dying. 

In the mean time the barrels must be filled twice a day to get our whooping 200 or so gallons of water for the day and each time the hose from the well must be attached, then unattached and coiled back up and put in with the wood stove so that it doesn't freeze.  And then there are the clogs that must be unclogged, though we did get a new strainer that appears to be helping keep the clogs down.  And all of that is after living through months of hauling water from town, then the upgrade to the hose through the window with the garden sprayer on it for months more, until we finally got running water and then hot running water.

And you want to know what....a neighbor stopped by today to see if we wanted a 50 pound bag of rice that he didn't need (which was very nice of him) and while chatting he mentioned that he finally had running water and then started talking about his and another neighbors water systems and they are both getting water from hand dug wells.  The other neighbor is getting 25 freaking gallons an hour from digging a hole on their property....and here we are, the ones with a $3000.00 well and we can't get anywhere close to that many gallons in a day.  My Man and I both just stood there feeling like idiots as the neighbor went on to tell us that he had a 300 gallon water storage tank that is full of water and the other neighbor has two of them. 

Both My Man and I are feeling pretty stupid right about now.  Like there is some magic trick to this whole water thing that everyone but us gets.  We've paid the money, and our dues, for water and we're still struggling our way through, and then they just come along with a shovel and bam have more water than they know what to do with? 

I know that we shouldn't compare ourselves to them, but it's hard not to.  It's hard to watch them get something so important with what appears to be relative ease while we are sitting here with frozen pipes for the limited water that we do get.   It just makes us feel like we are doing everything all wrong and the hard way. 

After the neighbor left my doctors office called to tell me that my white blood cell count is actually higher than it was last week and so that they are putting me on a new prescription of antibiotics.  That was just another slap in the face because I am tired of being sick and I really thought I was better enough that I was on the road to recovery and in a few days would be back to normal. 

And so today we are feeling stuck in the land of winter with frozen pipes and limited water, and I am feeling trapped inside of a sick body.  It is 4:00 and 26 degrees outside, so I doubt we will be seeing any hot water today.  I can't do laundry and every time I turn on the space heater it trips the breaker. 

My Man took all of the kids to town with him to pickup my prescription and after they left I took a minute to think of all of the things that I am thankful for.  It was hard at first, because in the moment it feels like we are all standing on a suspension bridge and our combined weight exceeds the bridges limitations and so there is really nothing to do but hang on for dear life and then brace yourself.  And then I thought of yesterday as My Man and I walked into Walmart.  He took my hand into the warmth of his own, his grip tight, and I knew that he had me.  Not just in that moment, but inside of himself so deeply that right then, on the blacktop of a box store, I wasn't sure where he ended and I began.  And that's when I told myself to keep calm and carry on.


  1. Could it be possible that your neighbor has impacted your well in some way? If your properties are close enough they may be drawing on the same water. Just a thought.

  2. I would be sending Columbus and the Man over to the neighbors with a pen and paper to take notes on their setups. Seems as if what works for them should work for you also. Wells are funny things. Around here you can dig a dry well and then move over a few feet and hit all the water you need. Are your exposed pipes wrapped with heat tape? Are the underground pipes below the frost line? We can get down to -40 and not have frozen pipes. My a$$ freezes, but the pipes do not.

  3. I had the same thought. Maybe the neighbors are getting water before it gets to you.

    Maybe you need a water witch with a diving rod. Got a dowser nearby?

    I think it is normal and reasonable to compare yourselves to the neighbors when it comes to water. It is not like you are comparing their car and yours. Water is important! I can respect your comparing your experiences with the neighbors'.

    I think you need a well inspection from a professional. Maybe the well construction is the problem.

  4. I'm setting here shaking my head, really! I should have informed you (long ago); people in "these parts" like to be asked for help.

    Hope you have running water real soon, and lots of it.

    Aunt D.

  5. Hi, I'm new here but I have read your whole blog and really enjoyed it. You are amazing! I've been thinking about something that might help you but it may be totally off base so I'm just going to throw it out there.

    Has your man read up on RV water and plumbing systems? My husband and I live and travel in a motorhome and it occured to me that our motorhome is smaller than your trailer and yet we have a very good, self contained water system. I'm not saying that to be snooty at all. I just got to thinking that some of the answers to your water and plumbing problems might be found in the RV world instead of in the traditional home world. I know our plumbing and water system isn't terribly expensive but it's very efficient and versatile. For example, we can hook up to city water when available or fill our on board tank to have water when we are camping without hook-ups. I lived on a boat for a while, too, and it had a similar system.

    I am far from being an expert on this stuff and I know none of what I said has anything to do with your well problem. In fact, I don't think I'm expressing myself very well. I guess I mainly wanted to suggest a possible alternative to standard house-hold water and plumbing solutions. I just thought it might be worth having Columbus or your man research RV systems to see if there is anything in their set-up that might be helpful since they are designed for off-grid living. You'd still need a good water source but I thought there might be things in the RV world that could help you get the most out of the water you do have.

    Anyway...what a long first post! I hope you find something that works for you. I admire you so much and think you have a beautiful family. I wish you all the best.

    1. Hi Pam,
      Thanks for the comment and for reading the whole dang thing:)

      Your thinking on the RV stuff is good - we are actually using a 12v pump that is often used in RV systems. It was the easiest and cheapest way to get water going. Right now we're just waiting for warmed weather to get a better system in place. You expressed yourself very well and I didn't think you were being snooty at all - I appreciate your input:)

      Have a great day - Michele

  6. I'm not sure how you have your grey water discharge hooked up, but would it be possible to run a line from that into a barrel and do a drip or slow run on your faucets at night, so the incoming hoses and pipes don't freeze up?
    I know around here (Texas) when it freezes we all drip the faucets so the pipes don't freeze.

  7. If your neighbors are at the bottom of the hill/mountain....their water table could be much shallower than on top of the hill/mountain.

    Also Kerosene heaters are great for keeping warm. Just have to crack a window an inch if you run them overnight.

    Northern Tool has a 10,000BTU radiant unit on sale now for $87 that has high reviews. and only uses about 1/2 gallon in 8 hrs. No high or low setting, just "on".....lasts for years. We have 2 of these and they work fine. Some folks get wigged about the slight kero odor when you start them up and shut them down, but no odor while running. But Kero can cost $8 or more per gallon, maybe less in your area. No elect needed.

    They make a 20,000 BTU unit also (several manufacturers) but they sit in the middle of a large room....but these burn more fuel.

    Just my opinion.

  8. Being sick not only gets you down physically, but mentally too. When you have a life with so many responsibilities it is not easy to get enough rest. Do you have friends or family that could take the younger children for a week or so? Or someone who could come and help out on a daily basis. Maybe people from you church? Someone to bring in meals? That way you could rest and the older kids and your husband could keep the homestead humming. Just an idea. Will keep you all in my prayers.

  9. Electric blankets are wonderful for keeping warm. I used to wrap one around me while sitting on the couch or chair. It gives almost immediate warmth. I picked mine up (queen size) almost brand new at the thrift store for $3.50.

    FYI we had a kerosene heater once. Gave me headaches and I could smell the kerosene all.the.time. No one else could.

    Hope you are feeling better.

    1. I used a kerosene heater for about three years and developed chronic bronchitis. I was ill for about six months out of the year from the kerosene. With pneumonia, I don't think kerosene heating would help you recover. Besides, you don't need children ill right now.

      Kerosene smell pervades any building I enter that uses kerosene for heat. If I am near one, like 40 feet away, I develop a raging fever within the hour.

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  12. Hey there,
    I know I am way late in catching up. Sorry about that. Just hit the part about neighbors hand digging their wells. OMG My mind just went wandering about. Digging one of those wells that is big enough for a man to stand in and big rocks coming up at the top with a bucket. When I was little I loved little house on the prairie books. The images in my mind are still so vivid. The hand pumps bringing up icy cold water. We had neighbors up north in Michigan that had a hand pump. But wasn’t for a necessity anymore. Just reminder of the work load as it was when they started out. I have no idea what your neighbors have. Doesn’t matter. What matters is what you have done in a relatively short time frame. Parts of homesteading must be very rewarding. You work very very hard but you can see your accomplishments. And thanks to the internet you can communicate with others that have been or are currently in your same situation. I think you are amazing. You have more than enough on your plate to get overwhelmed. And it would be hard to see what to be thankful for when it become too much. So let me be a little cheerleader. You have made absolutely amazing progress. Started with the little tin can you called home far longer than most could fathom. You have significantly more space, a source of heat, a source of water that does not involve carrying it up from the artesian spring. You can clean your clothes without driving forever to get to a laundry. Water is running in your home to keep clean instead of heating big pots of water and taking sponge baths. An office was built as well as many other structures needed. Your home is welcoming and warm. That did not happen on its own, you have creative vision and the passion to work and attain a dream. And you have done it while raising 10 little ones who are on track to be just as wonderful as you and your man. Even the two naked 5 years olds! Your stories of their antics make me smile. I would not say you have gone soft, you have just had so much on your plate that priorities have to be set. I was always intimidated by the concept of having more than two children – I would be outnumbered! LOL

    1. Amy, thank you so much for this comment. It really made my day:) The comments that were deleted before yours were equally as passionate about ripping us a part, so you really have no idea how much YOUR comment makes up for all of the horrible things they said. I don't let the haters get to me, but to even have to read it to delete it is.....well, more than I want to have to deal with. So, thank you, like - really, really THANK YOU!! <3 Michele

    2. You know you have made it to the big top when the haters and spammers find you.

    3. ROFL....you seriously made me laugh at that!! The spammers have been bad for months, but the filter gets most of them. The haters have only reared their ugly heads in the last month or so, and I'm here to tell you they are BRUTAL. They have no problem telling you exactly what they think about any and every thing. And they write really bad, like they just vomit on the keyboard. Actually, here on the mountaintop we say they "took a dump on the front porch" it would be funny if they weren't just being so mean about it. Anyway, I guess it is a sign of growth - now I just need some paid ads.