despite the ridiculous cold
Sunday, January 25 2004
Last night I'd built a little tent over the well head using a sawhorse, a blanket, and some plastic sheeting. Under this I'd placed an electric radiant space heater. The idea was to thaw out the ground enough for the water to begin flowing again. This was a ridiculous idea, of course, because whatever was frozen was probably three feet underground, below the reach of a week of August heat. Meanwhile outside that tent, temperatures lingered at five degrees below zero Fahrenheit until nearly noon. It was the coldest day yet.
After waiting until early afternoon for the weather to "warm up" to about seven degrees, Tony showed up with his big well rigging truck. It had a small crane and all the things one needs to do what needed to be done. This included detaching the well supply pipe from the side of the well casing and hoisting it up out of the way. The supply pipe is a very long piece of pipe that extends hundreds of feet down into the ground, ultimately reaching the pump motor and the water table. There was no way to hoist its entire length out of the way without disconnecting its segments, but that was unnecessary just so long as Tony could reach around to the horizontal pipe from which it had been hanging.
That horizontal pipe was about three feet below the surface, a depth designed to avoid freezing. Tony said that this particular winter is a freakishly cold one and that most of his work these days consists of thawing out frozen well systems, most of which had never frozen before. He blamed it on a combination of persistent extreme cold in concert with thin snow cover (snow normally insulates the ground in winter).
I didn't envy Tony the well man as he did his business out there in the cold. He had the right clothes and equipment, but none of that kept his face out of the arctic. He threaded a thin plastic line sideways down the pipe leading from the well to the house and encountered a blockage about five feet away. It was against this blockage that he directed a steady stream of hot water. Eight or nine gallons later, he'd clear a path all the way to the house.
The $300 I paid to have running water again was worth every penny. So as to avoid paying this cold tax again in the future, I left a tap running in a downstairs bathroom.
Later in the evening, despite the ridiculous cold, I was out in the yard playing around with water, hoping through various cargo-cult-science rituals to increase the temperature of the soil through which the well water flows. The first thing I did was soak the ground with water from a hose. Since well water is always about 49 degrees Fahrenheit, it seemed like a good idea, even as most of it drained off the frozen soil without any visible effect.
Then I tried making artificial snow, you know, to insulate the soil against further cold weather. Using a drill, I adapted the screw cap of a tonic water bottle into a shower head and then used it to spray a mist of water vertically over the area needing snow insulation. Strangely, though, almost no "snow" formed. The water didn't seem to be freezing before it landed, so it just drained away as if it was falling on an exposed reef of rock.
Hanging out in the living room near the fire today:
From left: Sally, Clarence, and Eleanor. The painting is of Sally. Note the thin snow outside.
From left: Eleanor, Mavis, and Clarence.
Clarence watches Tony the Well Guy working on the well while Eleanor snoozes.
Clarence and Eleanor rough housing while Sally keeps her cool.
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