Of Water Wells and Family Ties

When you buy a house, you hire a home inspector and expect them to know what they’re doing and tell you if you’re in for big trouble down the road. However, don’t be an idiot (like me). Research every single thing on that checklist for yourself. Today, I want to spin the saga of what can go wrong when you don’t cross check the important things. Today, we tell the tale of a lonely water supply well in the middle of a horse pasture that no one checked the details on.

Once, there was a well, a hand dug well, next to a house. The owners of the house had animals across the property that they loved dearly. When the hand dug well apparently ran dry from the approximately 1,000 ft of hose pipe that fed the barn with the dearly loved animals, the owners dug a new well. A mechanically drilled well. Near to the barn, and had piping run all the way back to their house. 1,000 ft away.

Here you see the lonely mechanically dug well. When we purchased the property, it was covered with an old dog house and we have since (kind of) upgraded to the fake rock cover. My dream one day is a nice 10×10 shed.

Then, one owner (the husband who had the well put in) was deported/ran away to South America due to his attempting a murder (another story that doesn’t play in here, except to say he was not available at closing to explain how all this worked) and after a long time, the house was sold. To us. The idiots. The home inspector saw a hand dug well in the front yard, noted that the house had water. 2+2=4. Good to go. Except at closing, the ex-owner’s ex-wife explained that both wells are plumbed into the house. There is a switch under the house to change which one you pull on. We were at the closing table. We didn’t go check. Why would she lie. Who lies about that? She may not have lied on purpose, but I have spent some quality time under that house and have yet to find any switch valve.

Life was fine for one whole day, maybe as many as three. Once we got our bed set up and sorted out the pantry, we started working outside clearing brush and the yard that could’ve been used as a hay field. After starting a stick fire one day when we had been in the house less than a week, I found there to be no water from any of the spigots at the house. The fire was small so it wasn’t the end of the world. However, we soon learned that the pump hadn’t been used in so long that it had developed a habit of cutting off and you had to manually go to the well house and toggle the connector switch to jump start the well.

Keep in mind, it is approximately 1,000 ft from the house to the well. Up hills and down valleys. And as the saying goes, round is my shape. So it is a fair step to achieve any greatness with this well. Knock on wood, the connector switch hasn’t needed jump starting in quite some months. A friend looked at it soon after we moved in and moved some wires about I think and life was good after that.

After we sorted out where the well was, we had to sort out how power is fed to the well. Our property is at the corner of two country roads, it’s not big. It is however, bisected by two power company jurisdictions.  So the barn (and well) is fed power by one company with its own bill, and the house is fed by another company with its own bill. We were able to transfer the power to our name before it was cut off for non-payment. However, being on two separate lines can be somewhat convenient. If we have a power outage on one end, there may not necessarily be on the other.  Now, the meter for our only source of water was stored in a dilapidated old hay barn with no roof. I am shocked that the power company did not long ago require it to be moved or turn the system off.  That meter box was going to cost over $1000 to run underground from the last pole to any structure we created, so we opted to just rehab the barn where it stood (another long, painful tale).

Follow the power line in. The meter was right there. And this was recently mowed in the front, I bet my buttons the meter man hadn’t been able to find the box for years.

At this point, we did not know how the water actually got from the barn to the house, but just assumed it was done correctly, below the freeze line in the ground, and came up under the house. Then, one day, when we were clearing fence lines, I found a garden hose. Not even a GOOD garden hose, the cheapest one you can get. Laying like a snake and running a straight line toward the direction of the house from the direction of the barn. Complete horror gripped us. Is THIS where our water comes from? My husband said he didn’t want to know. Not to touch it. But I couldn’t help myself, I had to find out. I followed the hose and followed it, until finally, it was broken in a section and no water was gushing out. We think, that is the hose that used to feed from the hand dug to the barn.

Later, we did find the water pipe that feeds the house from the barn. With a shovel. At night. In November. Thank God for my daddy, he knew exactly how to handle it and picked out everything we needed at Lowes just as they were about to close for the night. The line is buried 2 ft deep and runs under the wall of the barn. How, why, I do not know.

Not a bad patch job, if I say so myself. (I had no part in this except as the Lowe’s driver)
Riiiiiggghhhhtttt there’s where the water line is buried. Toby marks the spot!

Early the next year and in the same winter, it became bitterly cold. Single digits cold. For years it seemed like. I had a less than a year-old horse in the pasture and I was certain he would become a popsicle. I was already a popsicle. One evening, the water stopped working. The well pump had frozen, which was not a huge ordeal. Slap in a heat lamp and we’re good to go. For a few days. It got colder, and we were once again without water. This time, we had water in the well house, we had water at the barn, we had water in the spigot about 2/3 of the way to the house. We had no water at the house. Cue panic, because clearly, since we have no idea where that line is run into the house, it must be frozen underground somewhere.

We crawled under the house and I realized my mistake.  The old hand dug well (you remember him, a few paragraphs ago) had been plumbed into the front side of the house, and I had always seen those lines as the current piping system. However, the way to the barn is from the back of the house, and I finally realized that it didn’t make sense for those lines to be from the new well.

I need to take a time out and explain that when we purchased this house, there was a 24’ aboveground pool, huge deck, and pool house off the back side of the house. The deck was rotting, the bath house was scary, and I have a lab mix dog. We did NOT need a swimmy pool. The deck demo had been a drawn out procedure and I was in the middle of it that winter. We finally realized that when the new water line was installed, it had been day lighted under the pool house and hung in suspension from there under the deck for 45 feet prior to entering into the much warmer crawlspace. How that pipe had never burst, I will never know.  After yet another late night last minute trip to Lowes for heat tape, we wrapped all 45 feet of exposed piping and miracle of miracles, we had water again. 

Here you see the half demolished pool deck and bathhouse. I should have paid attention to all those pesky plumbing lines, but that seems like too much work.
And here you can see the black water line that was hidden under that deck. Know what to look for people!

Marketing idea: Lowe’s should have an all-night emergency counter where there is one employee who will go into the store and get what you need at any hour. It will cost you double, but you’ll get it. Or I should stop working after 6pm to avoid catastrophes.

The next summer, we finished removing the pool deck and bathhouse, and then broke up all the concrete from underneath the old deck. For some reason, the entire underside of the pool deck (as well as under our almost wrap-around porch) had been poured over with concrete. Some of it was egg shell thin; some, not so much. After the way was cleared, we dug an almost two ft deep trench and routed the water line under the house the rest of the way and underneath the footer of the house. Again, thank you to my dad, he dug from the inside, I dug from the outside of the footer, and we FINALLY met in the middle. Everyone else was stuck digging the rest of the trench (they don’t let me play with mattocks).

Other than one small instance where we murdered a well spigot in the middle of the front yard with a truck and trailer in a snow storm and had to run to Lowes (in the snow, right before closing) to get a pipe cap, thus ended our water saga. Until this week.

We have a spigot at the barn that feeds our water troughs that is now sucking air somewhere and it has reduced our water flow at the barn from a gallon every 14 seconds to a gallon every 36 seconds. Fun fact, that means it takes about 55-minutes to fill 100-gallons of water. I have 600-gallons worth of water troughs.  This time at least, we know what the issue is, we just need to replace the frost free spigot in the ground. Which means more digging. And more concrete. I know they concreted it all the way down. I just know it.

Ugh. Hopefully we get more rain to soften up the ground for our digging! Never mind the ratchet strap. That’s another story.

But guess what, do you know who has pipe wrenches and has replaced a spigot before? Daddy.  And guess who just so happens to be coming into town next week? You got it.

And if you look closely, you’ll see the hero of our story on the roof to be.

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