Cabin Adventures (aka Can I Get Some Water, Please?!)

For the second edition of cabin adventures, I would like to share the saga of the water.  It all started, well, the day I moved in.  When my moving helpers and I first arrived at the house, one of the girls needed to use the restroom.  However, it was quickly determined that there was no running water.  Now, I am savvy enough to check whether a place has running water before I rent it, and I knew it had when I came to look.  So, I called the landlord and asked if I need to go turn it on somewhere.  He told me how to go down to the pump house and turn on the valve for the cabin.  No problem.  To continue this story, I really need to go backwards.  See, when I came to look at the place, he was telling me that the cabin and the other house on the property used to both run off of well water.  However, this past summer, what with our drought and all, the well ran dry.  So, to supply water to his renters (he rents out both the house and the cabin), he had gotten a 550 gallon tank, which he left on a flatbed trailer.  He would hook the trailer up to his truck when the tank ran out, drive it down to the city water supply, fill it up, bring it back, park it by the pump house, and then hook the well pump in such a way that it would pull the water from the tank.  I knew this sounded like trouble, but he had already started the process of getting the city water run to the property, so I figured it would be a short run on the possibility of running out of water, and him saying he couldn’t go get it just now or something of that nature.  But, back to the story at hand….

He tells me how to go turn the water on down at the pump house, but then says something like this:  “You probably noticed that extra toilet sitting in the cabin.”  (Ummm, yes, sitting in the middle of the floor in the one room of my cabin.)  “Well, see, your toilet has a leak, so if you don’t mind, just until I can get that new toilet put in, if you could go down to there to the pump house and turn the water off when you’re not using it, and definitely when you go to bed or leave for work or anything, that would be great.  The leak in the toilet will drain the tank in a night if your water is left on, and I’m in Colorado right now.” 

Greeaaaaat.  You can imagine my follow-up question.  “Can’t I just shut the valve at the base of the toilet off to stem the tide?” 

“No, no, that valve doesn’t work.  You’ll just have to go down to the pump house and turn it off when you’re not using it or else you’ll run out of water.”

Which also means that I will have to go down to the pump house to turn it ON when I DO want to use it.  ***Sigh***

Did I mention that my landlord said he was in Colorado because he had a relative dying of cancer?  I’m not really feeling like I should push the issue right now. 

OK, landlord, I can handle this until you get the toilet fixed.  So, imagine me, after getting ready for bed, bundling up (it was already cold by then), walking the 100 feet or so down my driveway by the dark woods with my flashlight to the pump house to turn the water off for the night, opening the door to the dark and scary pump house only to have a bat fly out at me.  A bat, indeed.  I fell down and dropped my flashlight, it scared me so badly!  From that point on, I opened the door, and stood back before I started sticking my head in the door! 

Then, if I wanted to shower or wash dishes, I had to run down to turn the water on, then back down to turn it off afterwards.  I mean, I really preferred not to run out of water, and was, therefore, trying to abide by this rule. 

Let’s just say that I got really good at doing everything that I needed to do with water at one time.  I would come home, turn the water on when I drove up.  Fill up my handy dandy Berkey water filter so I had enough water to drink, fill up a few pitchers for use during cooking, etc., shower if I chose, and so on, and then go back down and turn it off.  In the mornings, I did not even usually turn it on before I left for work.  I would have enough water ready to make coffee and pitchers to wash my face and brush my teeth.  Running down to the pump house was just too much to ask in the mornings! 

Because of the fear of running out of water, I began filling up jugs of drinking water as my Berkey filtered it.  Just in case, you know.  And then one morning, after about three days of being here, I noticed that the tank was quite low, and called my landlord (still in Colorado) to tell him that I was pretty sure we (meaning me and the people in what I have dubbed “the big house”) were going to run out of water that day.  He called me back, and left me a message saying he put calls out to a couple of people who had hitches and could haul the trailer down to get the tank filled back up for him.  Well, I did run out of water, approximately an hour later.  Of course, this was the day that I had pre-planned to be home all day and work on un-packing.  Which I still did, just with the little hitch of having no running water!  I had enough drinking water put aside for the day, and enough to brush teeth, etc.  One of the people he had called filled the tank back up at around 10 PM that night.  Whew. 

So, all this time, the landlord is really appreciative of me not putting up a fuss about stuff, and keeps reassuring me that the city water would be hooked up soon and so on.  I could see where they were laying the pipes along the road, so I mean, there was definitely progress going on.  Finally, the day comes when the city water is run to the cut-off point at the street, and my landlord attempts to hook it all up, only to find that there is some sort of break in the line (on his end, not the city’s), which must be fixed before the city water can be utilized.  However, now the landlord just runs a water hose from the city hook-up at the street to the 550 gallon tank, and I can run down to the hook-up at the street and turn it on myself to fill up the tank.  No more waiting on someone to haul the tank back and forth.  That’s a relief.  At least I won’t run out of water again. 

WRONG.

 A few days after this wonderful breakthrough, and having control of how much water I can use without having to worry about rationing, I start to note that it seems I am having to fill up the tank far more frequently than it used to have to be filled, say, like twice a day instead of every three days or so.  I’m just thinking that the people at the big house are going crazy on water usage now that it’s not limited.  The tank and the pump house are closer to the cabin than the big house, so I thought that maybe they didn’t know how often I was having to go down and refill it.  Then I find out that they have called the landlord because they are having to fill it so frequently.  So, if we both think we’re having to fill it way more often than we should, obviously something is wrong.  One of the underground pipes has apparently sprung a huge leak somewhere. 

The landlord, in the meantime, had at least fixed my toilet so that I wasn’t having to go down and turn the water off and on in order to conserve it, although it was approximately one month after I moved in. 

So, now, because of the leak, I run out of water all the time.  Run down to the street to turn it on and fill the tank up, go turn it off, use the water I need, and a few hours later the tank is empty again.  I’m thinking this is going to equal a massive water bill for the landlord!  After enough calls from me and the people at the big house, the landlord finally just tells us we can just leave the water running where it fills up the tank so that no one will run out.  So, as its gushing out in the ground wherever the leak is, at least it is re-filling the tank at the same time. 

However, before he decided this, I had a group of friends over.  This was at the beginning of when we noted the constant filling of the tank, but the water had been working steadily for several days.  Until that day.  The day I was going to have people over, of course.  I got home to find there was no running water.  We went down to the tank, and it had water in it.  We couldn’t figure out why if there was water IN the tank, it would not be working in the house.  I called the landlord, but could only leave him a message.  My boyfriend went to the store and bought gallons of water, figuring it was only polite to offer guests use of water to drink, wash hands, flush toilets, etc.  So, I had my party with no running water.  No one seemed to mind.  🙂 

We figured out later that it was not working because the leak was hemhorraging so fast that the pump could not hold any pressure even when there was water in the tank, which is what makes it kick in when you turn the faucet on.  This was when the landlord finally conceded that we could just leave it running. 

Well, he has since found the leak in the ground, so it is not running constantly any more.  However, I am still having to go down and fill up the tank when it empties (but only every few days or more if the people at the big house do it also), and re-prime the pump if the tank has run all the way down so that the pressure will build back up.  And, he installed a valve up by the tank, so I don’t have to walk all the way out to the road to turn it on anymore, but just down to the pump house again. 

It was funny to me that when the landlord would come out to work on something, he would turn the water on, call up to my house and say, “Hey, I’m down here working and turned on the water for you, so use as much water as you want, take showers, whatever!”  I wish you could hear his tone of voice…it was almost like a kid being proud of doing something good, like a landlord is being magnanimous to allow his tenants the use of all the water they want, which, I suppose, in some cultures would be true!  He’s the kind of guy it’s tough to be mad at, because he always seems like he’s really trying.

So, this is me, eagerly awaiting and grateful for the consistency of a city water line.

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4 Comments

  1. jody said,

    January 2, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    that is crazy! 🙂

  2. zephaniah317 said,

    January 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I finally called my landlord to come and fix my two lighting situations over the Christmas break. (1) The lights in my entryway/going down through my basement wouldn’t work, even after I changed the bulbs. (2) the Fluorescent light in my kitchen wouldn’t come on all the way, only giving about 20 watts of illumination. Turns out (1) the repairman/carpenter guy just wiggled with the connections in the light fixture and both started working againg, and (2) one bulb was out, and the other was dying.

    Different situation (my laziness), but I’m just sayin… 🙂

  3. ariahfine said,

    January 7, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    wow, that was quite the story. You should definitely write a book about your experience. I hope the cabin continues to be worth the struggles.

  4. Big Berkey said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Yea, that’s a crazy story. At least you had the Berkey as a backup. That doesn’t do you any good without access to a water source though…lol.


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