Friday, December 05, 2008

Rhythm & Roots

We rely on a spring for water. After four years of drought, we don’t have any. Our creeks still ran even in the driest part, so we didn’t have to worry about the livestock. And the garden has a pump that pulls from a branch just below it. But the springs that fed the house water system have been dry for months now.

We decided to design a water system around those springs because they never went dry and it was a lot cheaper than digging a well and we could do it ourselves. For many years, they ran year round. The only problem then we ever had was if a pipe that ran from the springs to the cistern would get plugged, we could sometimes run the cistern low before we noticed. But the springs, they ran.

I don’t remember which year was the first that we took to bathing in the creek in late summer but it was sometime in the late 1990s. The springs still ran as I remember, just not enough to allow us to wash clothes or to bathe. We could do dishes and flush. And in late summer, bathing in the creek is really a pleasure, not a chore. We became used to late summer conservation of water. After October the water would returned full force.

But this year, for the first time ever, after four years of severe drought, the springs went dry. Bone dry. Not a drop, not a drip. And it is December and they still are not back (although they are beginning to be wet on the bottom!). We have been on water conservation in the house since at least June. Since the springs went dry, we’ve hauled water from the garden pump to put into the cistern so that we can still wash dishes and sponge bath ourselves. Then we save that water to flush with.

Now it is so cold that the pump in the garden is frozen. So we’ve taken to getting water by the barrel out of the creek and hauling that to the cistern. It is actually easier to do this so that we might well be able to haul enough extra water for everyone to get to take a bath. The reason it isn’t our first choice is that the little branch below the garden is the cleanest water that we trust the most.

I wrote all that, really, to get to this:

Husband and elder daughter had business in town today. It was also today that we realized we were going to have to resort to the creek method to get water instead of the garden pump so the routine of how to do that would be new to us. After sending husband and daughter off, the rest of us bundled up and went to work. It was cold today. The truck was already in the front but the barrel was up here so we walked down carrying buckets and rolling the barrel. Every cat on the place went with us. Younger daughter and elder son dipped fifty gallons of water out of the creek one bucket at a time and I tipped it all into a barrel in the back of the pick-up. Younger son helped sort out the buckets and herd the cats.

While I said this before, it was cold today. And working in water was even colder. But there wasn’t a complaint. The sun was shining. The cats were funny. Daughter found it easier to dip without gloves on and son found it easier to tote without his coat on and I froze for them. The kittens evidently hadn’t been to the creek before and rock hopped and batted and sometimes made mistakes in their calculations. Noses and fingers turned red.

We had the best time.

When I hauled the truck up to the cistern, found the old hose, and tried to siphon the water out, I quickly gave up. I laid it down and went to check to see how low exactly the cistern was. 37 inches down. And daughter hollered, “Mom! It’s dripping!” and sure enough, it was so I took my end of it over to the tank and let gravity do its work.

Fifty gallons gives us about a day and a half of regular conservation use water. A little later I will go down to make sure it siphoned all right and also add a cup of bleach to the cistern. I will move the truck so the sojourners can get all the way home undeterred. I will finish the cheese and make a fresh loaf of bread and sweep the floors and dream of a bath. The kids will do their chores and resume their lives and dreamings. The sojourners will return with some treat for us probably.

We’ll feed the fires and stand around the stoves and warm our bums.

And tomorrow, we’ll do most of it again.


Walker said...

I'm amazed by your life and by your energy.

Do you have a Christmas tree? How do you decorate it?

Cielo said...

Tam can herd cats.....why am I not surprised????

CG said...

Walker, we don't have a Christmas tree . . . yet! We're cleaning the spot for it, and the kids are scouting for "the" one for this year, and then when we do get it, we always take a photo dragging it in. As to decorations . . . a little dab of everything . . . we have some old lights (wouldn't I love some of the new LED ones!) and some hand made ornaments and some not hand made ornaments and we always hang candy canes.

And yes, Cielo, he can herd cats and about anything else. Tonight daughter who was in town brought him a treat back of a sucker in the form of a paint brush with powdered "paints", and he created a tongue painting studio and painted all our tongues!

Kitt said...

Sounds like a good day! But I would've gone to bed achy and dreaming of hot springs.

Here's hoping your spring comes back.

J said...

I can smell the cold air and feel the cold tip of my nose while listening to the creek water gurggling and watching the kitties play along the creek bed.
It brings a lot of memories back to me. We didn't get ours out of a creek but we did have to walk about half mile to a spring stuck back into a hill. In some places the path was just a cow track on the edge of the hill. Most of the path had blue clay in the dirt and when it got wet...wheeew eee was it slick!
Why is it that I remember all the good things and have mainly forgotten the hard cold work that winter brought?
Wishing for Blessings for you and yours and for the creeks to fill.

Annette said...

Blessings to you! Your life and resourcefulness sound wonderful - the stuff that dreams and good memories are made off. I wish a bountiful Yule to you and the return of spring fed cisterns (without human intervention).

PocketsoftheFuture said...

This "unplugged" sort of life is so wonderfully conducted by intimate family members. And especially when those family members include cheerful, imaginative children, you learn (or remember) so much about the life sustaining meaning and rhythm of materially participating in your own life and in the lives of the ones you love.

I am frequently grateful for and inspired by our children's ability to make anything into a game and the intense interest they take in the activities of daily life. Living in such a way is a sure route to freshness and heightened awareness. I am glad we are always together so that I am constantly reminded.

I hope you enjoyed your hot bath and that you got a nice treat from the sojourners!


annetteinalaska said...

Not hauling water is something that has actually taken me a while to adjust back to. I remember knotting gallon jugs to my backpack straps and traipsing down the third of a mile or so to my cabin every day, and from time to time, when I didn't have groceries or laundry or library books or some other load to bring down with me as well, I'd haul a five gallon jug.

I enjoyed it. Being responsible for procuring and lugging what I used. Having a bit of a distance to haul things, giving me time to appreciate that what I had, I really wanted, because otherwise, why haul it in. The daily routine of evaluation, contemplation, and simple work.

But I will say... I'm glad that my cabin was slightly down hill going in. ;-)

CG said...

The daily routine of evaluation, contemplation, and simple work. Yesyesyesyesyesyes.