My beautiful day went gradually to hell.

All yesterday morning’s lovely sunshine was hidden behind thick overcast by ten. The batteries got a little help but not the nice deep charge I like to see. Still it was a nice quiet day, no unexpected visitors, no emergency chores. I roasted some of the pork stored in Ian’s freezer for lunch, Torso Boy and I feasted, and then I very domestically prepared to wash dishes…

…and that’s when things went sideways, because there was hardly any water pressure at all. My first thought was of course a busted pipe under the Lair because that’s the most uncomfortable and unpleasant thing it could be, even though it really hadn’t been cold enough yet to fear that. But all seemed well under the floor. I checked the tap again, like maybe the laws of hydrodynamics were just having a little joke at my expense, and this time the tap just gurgled.

Huh. Okay, that meant no water in the pipe at all. I’ve mentioned how proud I’ve been of myself that I’ve developed the habit of checking the tank level so this sort of thing couldn’t happen to me again? Heh – yeah, hubris is a hoot. It’s been maybe two weeks since I checked it, which is no time at all, given my rate of water consumption, unless something went wrong.

A new snowstorm was brewing and I was full of pork and wine but there was nothing to do but suit up and trudge all the way up the ridge to see what the hell was wrong. No big puddles anywhere but the tank was dead empty. I went to the pump house half-hoping to find it flooded, because that’s always easy to fix. Nope – everything there seemed fine. I flipped the pump power switch and not to my surprise nothing happened because there wasn’t any sunlight. Whatever emptied the tank put my sink and toilet out of commission until the other side of the encroaching sloppy weather even if I could find the problem, which so far I could not.

I worked my way downhill to see if I could find where all my water went. This meant checking all over the inside of Ian’s Cave, because if something broke in there and dumped 2500 gallons of water inside there was nowhere else for it to go and I would have to figure out how to clean up a helluva mess in that impossible to ventilate space before mildew made it uninhabitable. It never freezes in there, even though in the case of a huge pipe leak ice might be a blessing.

But nope – everything was fine in every part of the Cave. Which left – nothing, really. We used to get big breaks down where we tried to raise fruit trees several years ago but that branch was closed off years ago. I was heading back up to the pump house to check a hunch about the one-way valve when something really bad happened.

I’ve had my current prosthetic foot for a little over ten years, with very few complaints. Oh, the foot-shaped cover that allows you to put a boot on it was poorly engineered and almost promptly wore out against the carbon fiber keel that does the real work and that set up an extremely annoying squeak with every other step; but I wasn’t planning to sneak up on any sentries so it’s just personality. But the real point is that I’ve walked on this thing thousands of times a day for over ten years and I know how it feels, how it behaves. And so when I say I suddenly got a new noise and a sensation of flexibility on a new and unwanted coordinate you’re just going to have to take my word for it, I guess. I was suddenly alarmed in a way the loss of my cabin water couldn’t accomplish.

In a perverse sort of way the loss of my cabin water at this particular moment was almost good news. I have plenty of Plan B water, I have no wife to bitch at me about the toilet and sink, (no offense at all meant to my Faithful Readers of the female persuasion but my experiences along those lines left bitter memories,) and I am heading into a period, if the forecast is to be believed, of extended cold where my greatest worry would have been broken pipes. That worry is now removed. Whatever is wrong with the water is fixable and in the fullness of time will be fixed, and in the meantime the damage has already been done, can’t be undone in any case, and I can live with it.

But the thing with my foot was big-B Bad. The last time something like this happened, many many years ago on an entirely different leg, it was a structural failure that couldn’t be permanently fixed and required replacing the whole thing. Not really an option right now and anyway I was hundreds of yards from the Lair over steep broken ground and if the foot completely failed I was going to be crawling through snow to get home. It was a long slow anxious trip but I did make it home without incident. Removed and field-stripped the leg and found to my delight that it was just a loose setscrew. I didn’t even have to go out for tools. Easy fix, and after that relief I was practically jolly at the prospect of a week without running water. I went out and got the Plan B chair from behind the powershed, washed my dishes with drinking water, and took the rest of the evening off.

I can already hear Big Brother’s I Told You So, since this would have been a supurb opportunity to test his theory with that huge water pressure gauge I never took the time to install. There are several water system mods I want to make in Spring, and I’m convinced: that definitely will be one of them.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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4 Responses to My beautiful day went gradually to hell.

  1. Mike says:

    I’m glad the prosthetic issue was easily solved.

    Good luck with the water issue, it had to have gone somewhere if the tank is empty. I wonder if the foot valve is leaking? That’s the valve that prevents the back flow of water on the bottom of the pump. BTW, I’ll admit freely that this is not my area of expertise and it is just a guess based upon the lack of water in other locations.

  2. Joel says:

    Mike, that valve failed and emptied the tank years ago. I replaced it with an inline valve which should be incapable of failure – it’s a clunky bronze thing with only moving part which, if it freezes, should freeze closed. But it’s my best guess as well and the first thing I’ll check when the weather breaks.

  3. Paul Joat says:

    Whenever you talk about problems with your foot I think of this story cheap functional feet for anyone not in the US, because access to affordable prosthetic options in the US is bad for some reason. I can’t imagine they are as good as one of the more expensive prosthetics but they would be a lot better than hopping.

  4. Mike says:

    During February of our fifth year here, a check valve in our well went south so the pump would not shut off. There I was in minus 20 degrees weather with a tripod hauling the pump assembly up. After taking the valve off the pump, I went to the place where the plumber who installed it had got it. I remember when I showed it to the parts guy I received a “I’ve never seen one of those fail.” Then as I watched, the parts guy called a few others to come look and there was a chorus of “I’ve never seen one of those fail.” Joel as I learned from experience in dealing with hard water issues, things that should be incapable of failure can still fail. I suspect that with the hard water you have to deal with, it’s even worse then what I have to deal with.

To the stake with the heretic!