Thursday, July 5, 2012

Going Without

I can deal with microwaves, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators breaking down, but the two things I absolutely cannot go without are the septic system and well water.  Ever since I started living in rural communities, my homes have been on septic and private wells.  Each time one of them fails, it's beyond just being a short-term inconvenience.  It throws us into survival mode and is often times so costly to repair that it depletes our pocketbook so that one of us has to get a second or third job. 

It had been over 24 hours since our water stopped being pumped into the house, and I could not get anyone to help us.  I called around to every well pump and drilling company in the area and either they weren't returning my calls, or they told me they are out of town for the holiday, or they told me that they no longer repair well pumps.  The one responsive person I found, immediately transferred me to another guy's mobile phone, and his phone recording told me to call the office if it is an emergency.  I had just called the office and the lady transferred me to him, so I had to leave a message with him.

Every toilet in the house needed flushing, but in order to be able to flush and use them again, we had to bail some water out of the horse troughs and pour it into the toilets.  That's less water for the horses to drink, and they had already depleted 2 and two halves of their five water troughs in just two days.  Bombay and Gabbrielle were getting destructive by trying to break the de-icers in the bottoms of the troughs when the water got low, and throwing empty troughs around, so I had to keep running outside and dragging empty water troughs out of the barn or closing gates so that the horses can't access them.  I know I should remove the de-icers, but someone threw out the original plugs.  Even if I ordered new plugs, I'm not sure they would fit, because in some cases we had to file down the openings to get the de-icers to fit.

Our neighbors work all day, so no one was home to give us permission to use their water, and I'm pretty sure we would have to buy more hoses to get the water to reach that far.  My husband has bought three new hoses in the past month and we still don't have enough for a situation like this.  The neighbor to our south actually had a plastic tank strapped to a flatbed trailer, and he picks up his own water with it, so I know we would have had to pay him for whatever we used.

None of us had showered since Wednesday morning.  I was starting to get an eye infection and zits from all the grease and dirt on my face.  The house stunk to high heaven because since everyone was home when the well pump crashed, we had a lot of dirty dishes.  We were running out of dishes to eat from and would have to start eating off paper plates with plastic utensils or out in restaurants soon, although I was a little leery that we may have been turned away because we looked and smelled so unclean.  Our diabetic dog had peed on the tile floor, so we were tracking dried sticky sugar piss all over the house and couldn't mop it up.  She also peed on the carpet during the night, and we couldn't scrub the stain out. 

Water is definitely our most precious resource.  We drink it to stay alive, we bathe in it to stay sanitary, we use it to clean other things to keep them sanitary, we use it to cook, we use it to stay cool, we use it to stay warm, we use it to clean and treat wounds, we use it to water plants and animals that we can eat, and it gives us power.  If you've ever had to go without it, you get the full understanding of just how important it is that we protect our water resources.  I don't think I go for more than two waking hours without needing access to water for one reason or another.

Every time I go through one of these experiences, I become much more diligent about keeping all the water troughs and the dogs' water bowls full, knowing that we can lose our access to water at any minute.  I feel privileged just to be able flush a toilet and wash my hands.  I take much shorter showers.  I wear clothes longer between washings.  We stock up on bottled water for the next disaster.  We just didn't have much when this problem hit, because we have been so completely consumed with the moving process, the new job, building the horse facility, and making all the other repairs on the two houses. 

Anyway, just when I couldn't take the gross feeling of swimming in my own stubbly, sweaty armpits for another minute, and my daughter was packing to leave, and I was contemplating moving into my daughter's recently rented apartment by the university with her, she came into the room and said, "Did you get a hold of a well pump company?  There's a truck outside and some men are working on our well!"

I jumped for joy, but was totally confused because no one had returned my calls and I did not leave my address in any of my messages.  I went outside to talk to them.  It turned out that they got a hold of my husband at his office and got the address from him.  The pump was not broken, which is good, and the well was not empty, which is great, but the entire control box needed to be replaced.  He told me that no one could use the water for at least two hours after he left, because that tank needed time to fill.  Ugh.

Those two hours felt like an eternity and even after that time passed we still didn't have decent water pressure.  Three hours passed and still no water pressure.  I called the company, and they didn't know who they sent out to my house.  They gave me a name and number, I called it, but it wasn't the man who came to my house.  I had to call my husband to have him look at his received calls list on his mobile phone to find the number of the contractor who came to our house.  I called him, and he insisted that he fixed our well and I just needed to wait longer for the tank to fill.

I waited another hour and still no water pressure, so I called him back.  Again, he insisted that he fixed it.  I insisted that he come out and see for himself.  He said he would stop by sometime later in the afternoon.  In the meantime, I was desperate to take a shower and use the toilet, but couldn't, and I really didn't want to have to drive somewhere to use public toilets.

I received a call that part of my hay was on its way to be delivered.  Gah!  Another huge expense I forgot about.  I had been trying to avoid going outside and working up an even bigger sweat, because I didn't want to smell worse than I already did, but with the hay delivery on the way, I needed to move my existing bales out of the way.  By the time I was done doing that, my clothes were completely soaked through with sweat.  I may as well have jumped in a lake fully clothed.

The hay delivery arrived, but I forgot to tell them to just go straight back to the hay barn and not to ring the doorbell since it makes my dogs go nuts.  If people can give me an exact time when they plan to arrive, I can lock the dogs in a back room, but in this case I only had a window of time.  I couldn't get control of the dogs to answer the door, so I just pushed them out of the way with my foot and squeezed my way outside, apologizing for not being able to let the visitor in.  I walked out to the barn and chatted with my new friends about Arizona weather patterns and hay and whatnot, and then the well repairmen arrived.  They ran some tests and said everything was fine.  I said, "I think you need to come in the house and take a look at our water pressure.  We can't do anything with what we have."

My hay farming friends came over and played the role of my advocates, trying to get the well repairmen to dig a little deeper into the problem.  Then they needed to leave, so I suggested that the well repairmen and hay farmers come inside so that I could pay for the hay and show the repairmen our water pressure at the same time.  The repairmen wanted to try out the hose on the porch first, so I went inside and grabbed my checkbook and called out to my son to get control of the dogs, let the repairmen into the house, and show them the water pressure.  My son looked at me confused, so I repeated what I said.  He still looked confused, and the dogs were trying to get out the door to the people on the porch, so I just shut the door, hoping he'd eventually figure out what I was telling him to do.  I was paying for the hay when one repairman wanted to go inside the house, so I opened the door for him and ordered the dogs back because I wasn't sure where my son went.

Then I heard a yelp and knew that something bad happened.  My son told me later that Scrappy bit the repairman on the leg and wouldn't let go, so he had to pick him up and pull him off, and that's when the dog yelped.  The guy did say ouch like the dog broke some skin, but he didn't say anything to me about my dog biting him.  I was very upset when my son told me about the biting incident, because the only reason why that happened was because I was juggling two sets of visitors and couldn't be in two places at once.  Even though everyone was in a hurry to leave, I should have just made them wait while I put the leashes on the dogs and shut them in a back room.

The only smart decision I seemed to make was that when my friend complained about the heat, I was going to open the gate and let her into the shade of the barn, but then saw that she was wearing flip-flops.  I knew that the horses would crowd her and I didn't want to risk them breaking her feet, so I offered to let her in the house instead, but she declined.  Of course, had I let her in the house before putting the dogs in a back room, she probably would have been bit, and she was wearing shorts.  At least the other guy who did get bit was wearing jeans.

The well repairman said to wait another two to three hours for the tank to fill up, and I have yet to know if it's going to make a difference.  I had already waited six hours from the time he "fixed" it, and he originally said I should only have to wait two hours tops.  Last I checked, the tank still was not to its highest level despite us not using any water for several hours.  I said, "Screw it," and filled up three of the horses' water troughs with what was in there, because by then they were down to just one trough that had some old, cruddy water in it and a lot of dirt blown in by the last two storms.  Now I have to wait several more hours to get that shower I so desperately need.

Anyway, I showed the well repairman some paperwork from when the well was dug, and he said that the well wasn't deep enough for our area and was running out of water after pumping it into the tank after about 30 seconds.  He also said the pump was too big and powerful for the depth of the well.  Our well is 380-feet deep and it should be 500 to 600-feet deep.  I was pissed, because the seller told us the well was dug much deeper than most wells in our area, and it should never run out of water.  Now I'm furious and seriously want this lady's real estate license revoked.

The hay farmers left and then I realized that I had told them that I would find something that they could sweep the loose hay into after the bales were unloaded.  I never got a chance to do that because I was busy with the well repairmen, so they had to just sweep it into a pile where they could.  They were so kind to deliver as far out as they did to me.  All other hay farmers in their area won't do that, but they made an exception for me because they had a relative who lives nearby me who they could visit when they brought my hay.  They were so sweet that they even offered to loan me one of their flatbed trailers so that I could pick up some grass hay from another farmer in their area.  They only grow alfalfa, and I like to feed a mix of grass and alfalfa, so I need to buy from two different farms, unless I can find one farmer who grows a mix.

We did have one pleasant surprise on the evening of the 4th.  After not seeing fireworks for years because the launch sites were always too far away and too crowded, we stepped outside to find a fireworks display that we could easily see right from our front porch.  I was standing there thinking about how hard it was to watch this technically-advanced form of entertainment when my family didn't even have its most basic need for water met.  We were all too tired to stand and watch the whole thing, so next year we'll plan ahead and set out some chairs and drinks, and hopefully, we will have water then so that we can be worry-free and enjoy the show.


Mikey said...

O.M.G. I would think that would be grounds to sue for the cost of redrilling the well. She should have disclosed this to you. Yes, 500-600 ft is the norm out here. I just can't believe that!! The things you have to go through... I just am in awe.
But know you're not alone. This week I've had the alternator go out in the big truck, cost of $300 to replace. Now my mom's AC in her house is out. I don't even know what that will cost, but I'm calling someone tomorrow, since it's going to hit 110 again in the next few days.
Will pray it gets better for you. That's just not good at all :(

Cheryl Ann said...

500 to 600 feet is also the norm at the horse ranch where I board my horses. A couple of her neighbors have had their wells go dry, but hers goes down to 800 feet, so...knock on wood...hers is okay. I've seen drillers on two neighbors' property last summer. Wouldn't that be fraud if the realtor misrepresented the depth of the well?

Anonymous said...

Things sound bad for you and I am sorry, it just goes from one thing to the next it seems. That makes it hard to enjoy the things that go right. It is very hard to go without water and we don't even think about it when we have plenty. At least your family is healthy and you have two beautiful kids and three very nice horses, think postive about the good things going on, even if they seem few right now.

Reddunappy said...

GAww Nuzz!!!

You know, at least it was just the controller on the well, ours went out last year and it was the controller too, cost $600. to replace. We had to put a 1700 gal water tank next to our well. (when we put the house in for my inlaws, we have two houses on the property.) our well is only 8 gal a min, supposed to have 10-12 min normally. Just an option to think about, putting a tank in, maybe??cheaper than drilling deeper.
Crazy girl, crazzy crazy stuff you deal with!!!!

achieve1dream said...

I was going to suggest a tank too. That's how we're going to solve the water pressure problem at my parent's house. I'm so sorry you went through all of the misery and trouble. I'm so pissed at that stupid real estate woman!!!