Outdoor Tales: Country living at its finest


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Aug 29, 2002
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Outdoor Tales: Country living at its finest

By AL KALIN, Outdoors Writer

Thursday, August 12, 2004 2:33 PM PDT

When you live in the country, there's stuff you have to do for yourself.

Being sure you have water is one of them. In other words, you become your own water company. If you run out of water, it's because it's your own fault.

So at 5 a.m., when I turned on the shower and hot air whooshed out, I knew I'd screwed up. That's when I remembered that I'd turned on the sprinklers last night and forgot all about them.

There's nobody to call because I'm the manager of my own water company. That also means there's nobody else to blame, particularly when I'm the water company's only employee.

Oh, I've tried to hire other family members. I've even told them they could be the CEO of the company, but when words such as water pump, suction line, foot valve, pressure tank and filters are mentioned, their eyes glaze over and they stare off in directions 180 degrees from the water system.

This time we ran out of water because the pipe that runs from the district's ditch to the cistern plugged up with roots, clams and muddy moss. At least that's what came squirting out when I hooked a high-pressure gasoline-powered pump to the line at first light this morning.

I suspected there was a problem a few weeks ago ... OK maybe a few months ago, but who's keeping track when it's this hot? It's just too dang hot to mess with things like that in August. Matter of fact, there's lots of things you shouldn't be doing in August, but when you run out of water the rules change, especially when you've got a wife, a mother-in-law and kids who aren't particularly happy when hot air whooshes out of the faucets.

Luckily the pressure switch on the water pump worked like it was supposed to and turned off the pump when the water pressure dropped below 20 pounds. There have been times in the past, though, when it didn't function properly and the pump burned up without any water to pump. That can be expensive.

A country water system is a perfect example of Murphy's Law, which more or less states, "Whenever you don't want something to happen, it will." Murphy must have had his own water system out in the country when he came up with his "law."

Here are some truths that I have discovered about water systems and Murphy's Law:

When you leave on vacation without taking the mother-in-law, you will always run out of water.

When you leave the family and go off with your fishing buddy for a few days of relaxation, you will always run out of water.

When you go to water the dog and get called to the phone and forget to turn off the water, you will always run out of water. You aren't supposed to run out, but that's if everything is working. Murphy's Law says different. Last time it happened my wife even commented how she wished that dog would stop barking. Completely forgetful, I told her it was probably a coyote or raccoon messing around his pen. The dog's hole he dug under the eucalyptus tree was filled with water and he wouldn't look at me for a week.

When all your relatives are staying at your house for your daughter's wedding and everyone is getting ready, you will always run out of water.

When your water starts to smell like a dead raccoon, it usually means one removed the cover on top of the cistern and fell in.

When your water starts to smell like a dead fish, it probably means there's a catfish stuck in your intake pipe in the district canal. Sometimes it's just half a fish.

One of the most memorable smells that came out of the family faucets was when we all returned from a summer vacation, including the mother-in-law, and yellow, foul smelling, icky thick water drooled out of the hot water faucet.

We'd left the outside light on over the cistern while we were gone, thinking it would keep the burglars away. I can't say if the theory worked or not. I do know we didn't get robbed. What did happen, though, was that the light attracted all bugs from a hundred miles in all directions, including a billion crickets that ended up dead in our cistern.

Now Murphy's Law states that a 1-foot thick layer of crickets floating on top of the water in your cistern usually means there's also a 2-foot layer of them at the bottom of the cistern. And when your trusty water pump sucks up the resulting soup and pumps it into your hot water heater for further processing, it is not a good thing. Neither is hot chlorine and cricket puke when you try to flush the unholy mess out of the pipes. We burned a lot of candles over that mistake and our clothes smelled for months.

The cistern should be full enough to prime the pump by now. Wish me luck.

>> When not messing with his damn water system Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at al@kalinlures.com

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