Well – finally – minus 33 this morning at my house! Winter hasn’t let me down after all 🙂 Minus thirty is the magic number for letting the cook stove die out and lighting up the wood heater. The cook stove can manage the job, but we have to fire a lot of wood in it fairly often to get it to keep up to the task, and when we come home from work it’s generally out. As far as cooking, I have a choice – I can jockey pots and pans around on the heater by lifting the cover and cooking on the steel, or I can re-light the cook stove and quickly make dinner – gets brutally warm in here if they’re both going at the same time.
There are rules to abide by when it’s this cold out – the biggest one being, there is no ‘just running out to grab something’ in your plaid and your crocs. You get dressed. Parka. Winter boots. Gloves. The theory of course, is if you happen to slip and fall and knock yourself unconscious – and you’re laying there like an idiot in your plaid and your crocs with your jammies still on, you are likely going to freeze right to death before anybody finds you. There are other rules – if either of us is outside feeding animals or splitting firewood by ourselves, there is an internal clock ticking away in each of our heads. If Bruce isn’t back in the house in xyz time, I bundle up and go look for him. If I’m not back in the house in xyz time, he bundles up and comes looking for me. Just common sense sort of stuff. Minus 33 isn’t really all that cold, when you consider it can get to minus 45 here….. mind you that hasn’t happened for a few years now.
Regardless, I’m a happy camper at the moment…..the sun is beaming away, the sky is a gorgeous blue, the horses are dozing out by the hay round, the cow is lazing about with the geep next to her own pile of hay happily chewing her cud. The cats aren’t stupid, they all bail into the barn to snooze around the wood stove out there, the geese and ducks simply act like winter is no different than summer, the dogs shun their hay filled houses for a spot on the snow in the sunshine, and the goats, though inside their own barn, are contentedly dozing away in the sun coming in the windows. It always interests me now animals are so adaptable compared to us thin skinned humans.
So – in the previous post, we were well on our way to a lagoon, and had Old Ignaus come and ‘witch’ our well. We also had a raven with a scrambled brain staggering along the back of my couch trying to rewire the circuitry in his head well enough to at least feed himself. I will say, there was definitely nothing wrong with his bowel – fortunately I had found a huge roll of shop towel – every half hour to an hour I’d ‘reline’ the sofa with it and toss out the old stuff, kept a careful eye on his condition because seriously – the house was getting pretty high. The minute I figured he could manage on his own I was going to pack his carcass back out to the goat shed – genius talking raven or not – there’s no keeping a bird like that in the house. Raven excrement is noxious!
We had set out to and finally managed to find a drilling company that was willing to come drill our well – the biggest issue really, was that where Old Ignaus had pinpointed the spot to drill, wasn’t accessible to any of the big rigs most drillers use. Bruce, is a ‘thinking ahead’ sort of guy – as in “when I’m 80 I don’t want to have to walk five hundred yards to the barn to feed animals”. As a result, he built everything close to the house. As a result, we have a ‘courtyard’ of sorts, surrounded by a barn, chicken shed, goat shed, cabin, house…..you get the idea.
Enter: Old Rainey and his derelict drill rig.
Now Old Rainey, much like Old Ignaus, has been up here forever – and has spent more time than I’ve been on this planet, standing at the back of an old hammer drill, listening to the scream of the diesel engine on the derrick deck, the ka-bang ka-bang of the casing hammer, going next to deaf in the process, and studying shovel loads of mystery rock as he tries to decipher whether or not he’s close to hitting water. He’s short, stocky, surprisingly good humored considering the monotony of his chosen profession and was happy to tackle the job of drilling us a well. Before we can blink, he’s ricocheting around lagoon man’s equipment, cranking hard to the left and full throttle through the courtyard with a five ton truck stocked with many hundreds of gallons of water for the drill, and many hundreds of feet of steel drill casing. He managed to stop just short of the old smoke house, jumped out and made for the drill rig at the end of the driveway. Putting the rig into position proved a little trickier because he had to back up to the big X we had spray painted on the grass – but again, some determined throttle, some bumper car steering and voila!
Now Old Rainey knows about clay. He knows if you stand in one spot too long you will simply become mired in the stuff and likely sink all the way to China. It was too late for the casing truck, it was already sitting a foot lower in the ground, but the rig, he wisely planted the stabilizers on large chunks of wooden beams to try and keep it above ground, rather than below. We were pretty excited by now – the idea that in a few days, maybe a few more, we’d have water of our own – negated the certain mess we’d have to deal with once he was gone. Old Rainey left with a promise to return early the following morning and start drilling.
Now I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – actually, I’d never really given much thought to the process of drilling for anything – so of course when he arrived the next morning, we were outside with our coffee’s ready and waiting for the big event. Up up up went the derrik and all of it’s parts. Chug chug vroooom ROOAAARRR went the diesel on the deck. I backed up a few steps – I wasn’t expecting that kind of volume – closer inspection made me realize that the muffler on the diesel having long since rotted out, had been replaced by a large aluminum beer keg stuffed with I’m not sure what, to keep the noise ‘muffled’. Sure. Old Rainey grinned, waved, switched on the welder, hooked up the hose for the water from the casing truck, attached the head to the drill, hung a length of steel casing under the hammer and Ka- Bang!! Ka-Bang!!! The ground literally shook – the house shook – I’m not kidding. I made a quick trip back into the house to make sure all of my dishes were still in the cupboards, refilled my coffee and ventured back outside.
So the process of drilling goes, in simplified terms, something like this. As the hammer is pounding the casing into the ground, the drill is drilling down the center of it, the water is pouring onto the head for lubrication, the pump is pumping the slurry up and out to be sprayed wherever it is aimed to spray. Once a piece of casing is about half buried, another piece is hauled and hung into place, the welder gets fired up, that casing gets welded to the casing below, the diesel goes from idle to scream – and the hammer starts hammering again, the drill starts drilling again, the water pumps and the slurry sprays. And repeat. And repeat.
The novelty of the whole thing wore off in very short order. Still, I kept my game face on – I hauled a chair out to the patio, fished around and found my earplugs for shooting, armed myself with fresh coffee and went and sat. And sat. And sat. Bruce came and sat too. I decided to try and count how many casing lengths he was welding together, one after another, trying to get an idea of how far he’d drilled, how far he might have to drill. After a couple of hours I gave up. After a few more hours I was really hoping for water at sixty feet. Several more hours after that, it became clear that we weren’t going to have water at sixty feet.
Thankfully, Old Rainey was of an age the didn’t feel the need to prove anything to anybody by working an eighteen hour day – he shut the rig down to an idle and broke for a late lunch. Finally able to hear each other, we talked about this and that, he mentioned he was thinking of retiring ‘one of these days’ – ‘lotta years standing behind that rig’. I made mention that it would be nice if he could direct the ‘mud/gravel’ slurry to an open-ish area between the outhouse and the goat shed, he made mention that ‘it kinda sprays wherever it sprays’. Fair enough. Lunch done, he stood and fired the rig back work, I went back into the house and pushed the dishes back as far as I could on the shelves, moved some knick knack sort of stuff onto the counter so I wouldn’t get brained by an errant do-dad while making dinner. In all honesty, I didn’t think I could stand the noise and the constant shaking and pounding for very many more days. I was actually looking forward to work on Monday.
Now we had enough money in the kitty that we had figured on a plan. If the well came in at x feet, it would cost x amount. Then if you allowed y amount for the hydrant, the pump, the wiring to the pump, we would have z left over for what I had been wanting since we moved into this house. A new cook stove. The old cook stove was serviceable, but it was OLD. It took kindling size wood, the legs had long since buckled causing it to lean rather alarmingly rearward, the fire brick was cracked, the insulation over the oven was long gone. On a trip to pick up the wood furnace, the second winter we were here, Bruce had come across the Cadillac of cook stoves. He brought home a brochure – I wanted it no question. It’s plain – no frilly dilly nickel trim, no fussy trivets, it’s BIG, it has a water reservoir, it can accommodate a water jacket in the firebox should one want to hook it to a range boiler and have running hot water. It had two huge warming ovens, a good sized oven for baking, a drawer in the bottom for whatever, and best of all the firebox was huge. It takes regular sized firewood, loads from the end, has a big glass door to see the fire through, and even better, it was air tight and CSA approved – meaning we could at last get fire insurance. So – as much shaking and rattling and rolling as Old Rainey was creating out in the yard – my biggest worry was we wouldn’t have enough to get the stove – and that stove wasn’t cheap to get.
Day two brought more of the same. Ka-bang!! Ka-bang!!! There was no conversation to be had, you simply couldn’t hear yourself think. About mid afternoon, Old Ignaus made an appearance. Turned out Old Ignaus and Old Rainey knew each other well – and after some hugging and laughing and back slapping, he settled in next to Old Rainey and watched the drill drill, the hammer hammer and the slurry pile up and begin to coat the outhouse and the trees next to it. As two mostly deaf old-timers, they had their own language of signals and managed, from what I could tell, to have a lengthy conversation as they studied a shovel load of slurry, picked through the gravel in it like they were mining for gold, and turned back to the rig to ka-bang some more. Eventually Old Ignaus left with a wave and a smile and no information on how close he thought we were to water.
Sixty feet came and went. We went back to work. Each night we’d get home to a rig still standing, silent except for the tick tick tick of metal cooling down, a few less casing on the casing truck, a few more feet of slurry that was now decorating the goat shed – and no water. Come the weekend, I geared up again – earplugs, coffee, this time a good book to read while I kept an eye on Old Rainey and his rig – looking for any sign on his weathered face as he studied yet one more skiff of gravel from the slurry pumping out of the hole. We survived the weekend. Two hundred feet came and went – I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper and began to calculate just how far he could drill before there would be no cook stove to be had, how far he could drill before there would be no pump to be had, how far he could drill before we could just pay for a hole in the ground. I was beginning to get nervous. We went back to work.
Come Tuesday, we arrived home to an alarming sight. The derrick was no longer standing – it was laying flat on the truck as if for transport. Now we knew he hadn’t hit water, there was still a half length of casing sticking out of the ground, everything was as it had been – excepting for the derrick. We were about to make a phone call when Old Rainey returned in his truck.
“Shear pin broke.” he pointed at the derrick. “I was standing here shootin’ the breeze with Old Ignaus and she started rockin’ and shakin’ – Old Ignaus gave a yell and I shut her down!”
Sure enough – one of the large shear pins that joins the derrick to the rig was missing completely – and apparently though he’d managed to ‘shut her down’ – he wasn’t able to do so before the pin sheared – the entire derrick simply tipped back and slammed down onto the truck with a mighty bang – the cab was a little shorter, but other than that, both men were injury free and the rig was repairable. He assured us he’d have it up and running again in the morning.
Wednesday we came home to an even more alarming sight – the rig was still standing, but the entire yard was a mine field of used well casing. We probably stood utterly stupefied for a good five minutes before we started wandering amongst the debris. In another ten minutes we found it. A half piece of twisted broken casing. This – was not good. I wondered if Old Rainey was going to choose this moment to retire. Bruce made the call – it was as we suspected. The previous day, as the shear pin weakened and the rig started rocking, the hammer hammered down one too many times on an off angle before Old Rainey managed to hit the switch. As soon as he repaired the rig and started drilling again, he knew – somewhere down that hole was a piece of casing that hadn’t survived. He tried. He finessed the next piece, he changed the angle of the rig, he figured if it hadn’t split the whole way round he could maybe tweak it along until it was in a more solid section of ground. It was not to be. He spent the rest of the day pulling casing. Pull casing up, cut the weld, toss casing aside, pull casing up, cut the weld, toss aside, repeat. And repeat.
Now what. Cement, that’s what. There’s no leaving an open hole in the ground like that – it’s illegal, it’s dangerous. Bags and bags and bags of Portland got poured down that hole until there was no more hole to pour it into. I suspect it wasn’t the first time Old Rainey had run into this particular issue……once the hole was filled, he simply fired the truck up, backed up about ten feet and raised the derrick and started drilling again. Ka-bang!! Ka-bang!!! No wonder the man was nearly deaf. No wonder he wanted to retire.
Come Saturday, Old Ignaus made another appearance. He took a look at the rig, a look at the casing strewn about and shook his head. He was very, very disappointed. The fact that Old Rainey was drilling not ten feet from the original ‘X marks the spot’, in his mind we were way off the mark. No telling when we were going to get water now……
Ka-bang!! Ka-bang!!! It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear it anymore, or feel it shake my house, or rattle my dishes, but at some point you have to become numb to it – that or throw yourself into traffic. We don’t have enough traffic out here to make the effort, so I simply gave up, pretended it wasn’t that big of a deal, pretended that really – if all we got was a deep hole in the ground and nothing else, well – at least we had a hole in the ground. Come Sunday, Ignaus arrived with his wife. I’d never had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Ignaus as of yet, but she was a dear of a woman, promptly pulled up a chair a few feet away and politely tried to make conversation around the Ka-bangs!! as Ignaus went and got the low down on the condition of the slurry/gravel mess that by now, had coated everything in a thirty foot radius, including the ground, with several inches of dried muck. It mattered little that the weather was cooperating, that the sun was shining – the yard had taken on the menacing look of a nuclear wasteland. I couldn’t fathom how we were ever going to clean it up. So there we sat, Mrs. Ignaus and I, politely making what conversation we could over the racket, she would say something, I would lean close to try and catch enough of it to appropriately nod or smile, and she the same.
“Ignaus is pretty disappointed we had to move the rig!” I shout at her. “It’s not where he witched now!”
“Oh yes!” she nods. “Ignaus has witched three or four wells at our place! Still haven’t found water! We’re on the community system you know – they brought it down our road just last year!”
I nod. My smile is absolutely frozen into place. I was trying very very hard not to break out into hysterical laughter – worried that if I did so, I might be unable to stop.
“Would you like a cup of tea!?” I manage to stand and wait for her polite nod and smile before heading into the house to put some water on.
Ka-bang!!!!!! I was ever so happy to have a job to go to on Monday – I really didn’t know how Old Rainey could stand it. For the next week we came home with no small amount of nervousness, hoping all was still well, the rig still standing, no broken shear pins, busted casing – hoping he hadn’t run into a boulder the size of Texas down there somewhere, hoping we got water before he had to drill to China.
It was the following weekend, Saturday I think, when weary of trying to read, weary of rearranging dishes and knick-knacks to keep them safe, I gave my earplugs a good shove and wandered outside. The rig was idle for a moment, I supposed Old Rainey was breaking into his lunch. I made the patio and waved. He hollered something and waved back. I sat. He waved at me again – I realized he wanted me to come over to the rig. I made my way over, took my earplugs out.
“That’s your water!!” he points to the murky looking slurry being pumped from the hole.
I stare at it for a moment – trying to comprehend what he just said. “What!?”
“That’s your water – don’t worry – it’ll clean up in a minute or so!!” he fiddles with some levers on the rig, banging the drill up and down for a bit. “I’m just loosening up the gravel at the bottom! Clearing out the mud! Think you have about ten, maybe fifteen gallons a minute!!”
“How many feet!?” I finally think to ask.
“Four hundred and two!!!” he says with a big grin, happy to give me the news.
Four hundred and two feet. Water. Another few hundred feet and we’d have been clear down to the Fraser River. Not that I was complaining……
It was another few weeks before the pump was in, the thing wired to the breaker panel, the hydrant installed. Bruce was adamant that we run the hydrant and simply fill the existing cistern for the house – his theory – if you hook it directly to the house, every time you turn on a tap, the pump has to switch on and off and on and off….. in his mind, considering the cost of the pump (the deeper it has to pump from the more expensive the pump) it made sense to just turn it on once, fill the cistern, the barrels for the animals etc., and if there was a pump to pack it in, the jet pump in the house could easily be replaced for just a few hundred dollars. We’re still using the hydrant today – on one hand, the pump has never failed. On the other hand, it is a bit of a pain in the winter to drag the big hose out and fill all the water up once a week. I’ll take that though, over having to pay for a pump that costs four thousand dollars.
The lagoon got finished, the tank pumps wired in, we were finally able to hook up the toilet – very strange being able to ‘flush’ – Bruce and I are both so hard wired to conserve water it took us months to get over feeling bad for flushing five gallons of water into the lagoon.
The cook stove? Well, there wasn’t enough to pull that off – we did however, manage to scrape up enough to get it anyway, some months later.
Squishy – made a good recovery. Once he decided to attack the rosemary plant on the window sill behind the couch, I marched him over to the goat shed – better for him to scheme things someplace other than my house. His eye cleared up, and aside from the original issue of not being able to fly, he does just fine.
Next up? I’ll come up with something 🙂 Stay tuned…..