It has been a busy 9 days here on Piney Mountain – little of which included normal life activities.
It started the evening of Saturday, Jan 27th when Marie went to take a shower and found we had no water. No water at all. Our water comes from a well over by my workshop. It was not cold enough for a line to have frozen, so I checked the breaker switch — that was fine. So it was not something easy. Little did I know how “not easy” this was going to get.
I called Newport Ace Hardware, which is owned by a good well service guy: Keith Williams. But it was late and he was gone. I would not be able to get hold of him until Monday.
We keep gallon jugs of drinking water on hand in case of power failure (which means no well pump, which means no water) and several 3 gallon jugs of water to be used for washing dishes and flushing toilets. We filled up some extra jugs when we went to church on Sunday, in case this turned out to be not a simple fix. Since they almost never are.
Monday Mr. Williams and his assistant came out and tested the power lines and pressure switch (the easy things) and found them to be fine. That means the problem is down in the well. This could be bad wiring or a burned out pump motor. Either way he needed to pull the well pump and all the pipe up out of the ground. He would have been happy to do that right then, except I had done something stupid.
When I was a furniture-maker and using lots and lots of hardwood lumber, I built stacks of lumber in the driveway (that we didn’t use as a driveway) outside of my shop, so there was no way to get his big well truck in where it needed to be. The truck has a crane on it that is used to pull the pipe and pump up out of the ground, but that crane needs to be over the well head.
So I have a LOT of lumber to move as quickly as possible.
I spent a day and half moving two lumber stacks and an afternoon preparing to move a third. The fourth pile consists of white oak dimensional lumber and beams. Those beams are HEAVY! And at this point I was already feeling mighty sore and stiff and starting to wonder if I’m going to get through this without doing serious injury to myself. But Marie had a suggestion.
A few days prior to this we had contracted with G & B Services to have our driveways repaired. Junk hauling and clean-up are among the services they list. So I called them and asked if they could help me out with the rest of this project. Here’s how I described the work to be done:
They said, “sure!” and came out early the next day to help move the remaining lumber, remove the dock and haul away scrap lumber and debris. We were finished by mid-day, and Newport Hardware Well Service was just finishing up a service call and could be at my place in a half-hour. Great timing!
Well repairs consumed most of the afternoon as he pulled 260 feet of water pipe out of the ground, 20 feet at a time, striping off the electrical wires, removing each section, and pulling up another. The process reminded me of video I’ve seen of working an oil well.
The determination was that the wiring had rubbed through the insulation and blown out and the pump motor was shorted. Even if the motor had not shorted, I’d have had it replaced because it’s been down there soldiering along for 26 years!
The worn wiring is caused by the motor/pump twisting from torque as it starts up. Even though the wires are taped to the pipe every ten feet or so, this twisting can pull some of it down, causing it to bow when the motor stops and rub against the steel well casing. Especially the stiff, three strand twisted wire they used when the well was put in.
He broke out a new well pump, wired it in, and began reassembling the water pipe as he lowered it back into the ground. He also fixed a problem we’d had.
When the well was installed, the owner cut the well pipe off below ground and buried it. Not only does that make it difficult to find when you need to service it, but it allows muddy ground water to seep into your well when it rains hard, polluting the water.
He used a large rubber collar to attach a plastic extension pipe to bring the well head back above ground, where it belongs. Hopefully this will end those bouts of orange tap water after an especially hard rain.
With water restored, it was time to take a much needed shower and turn our attention to driveway work.
G & B Services arrived the next day (Thursday) to start grading and rocking the driveway. They started with the long drive that goes up to my workshop (where the well pump project took place) because that drive was in TERRIBLE shape: badly rutted and washed out and muddy.
Cochise about exhausted himself doing battle with the dump truck. They worked until late morning then decided rain was heading our way, packed up their toys and called it a day.
This drive had never been anything but a graded dirt path with crusher run gravel spread on it. Without a proper base layer under it, it washed out easily. Especially when a needed drainage ditch clogs up and pours extra water into the drive. So the plan was to grade it as smooth as possible, install a good layer of #4 (3 inch) crushed rock, then lay crusher run over the top of that. The large rock should allow water to flow through it, and under the crusher run. That should handle normal run-off — as long as the big ditch contains the flow from higher up the mountain.
It never did rain here that day, but it did rain most of the weekend. Gerald and Noah returned on Tuesday Feb 6th to finish up. Cochise was not pleased. More so that I did not let him out to try to chase the interlopers away.
By mid-afternoon they were done, we walked the job together, and I paid the bill. Their work looks good. We’re expecting a hard rain tonight, so I’ll get a chance to see how well the new driveway design works.
This concludes this test of the emergency job works system, we now return to regularly scheduled life events.