Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Squeamish? Read no further . . .

Living in the country is not for the squeamish.

Here on the hill, our water comes from a hole in the ground, a.k.a. a well. Rainfall – or lack thereof – is a constant concern. Our well held out over the summer, but we know the supply is limited.

We try to conserve water in a variety of ways. Have you heard the expression, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down”?  Those on wells in drought-prone areas have.

Not for the squeamish.

Occasionally, we outpace the well’s ability to refill, despite our best conservation efforts. Several years ago our local well guru installed a mechanism to shut off the pump when no water is available, and turn it on again 30 minutes later. Occasionally we trip that shut-off.

About midway through December, I got careless and cleaned two bathrooms consecutively. The pump shut off. No problem, right? Just wait 30 minutes.

But this time, the refill took a few days, with the pump shutting off repeatedly. Even when the  pump was on, the water pressure was low in certain faucets. Husband Dan was puzzled; when you’re on a well you either have pressure or you don’t (unless you are running water somewhere else, which we weren’t). The well was refilling at a much slower pace, but why the low pressure?

I called the well guru (“Oh wise well guru, come to our aid in this time of duress”). He determined that we had, indeed, run the well dry. He suggested that we walk three times around the well head, pausing each time to sprinkle herb de Provence and sea salt over the top. Then the entire family should join hands in a circle around the wellhead and pray to Poseidon for life-giving liquid.

Alternately, he recommended installing a 2,500-gallon holding tank, so the well could pump at a more leisurely pace. Also, the tank could hold trucked-in water, should the well go dry. Many of our neighbors have these.

As it was two weeks before Christmas, I voted for the first option; my family refused to cooperate. We are still considering the second proposal.

A week later, my husband stood fuming in the shower under a teeny trickle of water, trying to understand this situation. Why was the water pressure so low? He got out, dried off, and unscrewed the shower head . . . and found a clump of dead ants.

Ants, full of ANTagonism toward humans. They are not thirsty now
with all the recent rain. In fact, their mounds have flooded down below
so they have pushed them above ground.

He roamed the house, unscrewing other slow faucets. They were likewise clogged with ant carcasses. This included the kitchen faucet.

Are you feeling squeamish now?

My theory: In the drought, the ants were desperately thirsty. They crawled down into the well seeking water. Some fell in and drowned – over time, lots of them. When I ran the well dry, the water level dropped to the pump, and the dead ant bodies floating on the surface of the water were sucked into our system.

We consoled ourselves with the fact that these ANTibodies might protect us from the fire ant ANTigens we encounter. Maybe we have received ANTivenin for ant bites, or perhaps it will just serve as an ANTidote to their stings. Either way, this incident did reinforce the ANTipathy we already felt for fire ants.

Was this disgusting? Oh, yes. But we survived. I guess we're not too squeamish for the country.

Favorite spot in the garden:

Actually, this spot is on my kitchen windowsill. My mother-in-law brought some sprigs of flowering quince from her garden. When I stand at the sink and try to look out the window, my eyes are drawn instead to these lovely blooms. They seem somehow Asian – simple, lovely. In her garden, this looks much redder. On my mustard windowsill in fluorescent light, it became salmon-hued. It's lovely no matter the setting!


  1. I'm voting for the holding tank! (Not paying, just voting!)
    Since the recent rains, I've stopped saving indoor water for outside usage. It feels odd (wrong) to pour the dishwater down the drain, but my back appreciates the vacation.
    I like the way you've decorated with paintbrushes! Maybe I should try that...

    1. I think you assume more thought goes into these pictures than really does! But you should definitely use "my idea." I'm still saving drinking water leftovers for watering pots. Just a habit, I guess.

  2. Well, I hope you've at least solved the problem of your low water pressure, and that you don't run the well dry again! Love the quince, too!

    1. So far, so good! I love that stuff, too. Maybe I should look into growing it for myself.

  3. That is quite a story. Our son, in Dripping Springs, is on a well. I'll have to tell them to look out for this.
    They do have a holding tank. It doesn't help them not to worry about the well going dry. Two years now, neighbors have had to dig deeper wells. Not an inexpensive thing to do.
    Let's hope this summer isn't as bad as last.

    The quince is lovely. And, it does have an Asian look to it. Do deer like quince? Always a consideration for us out here in deer country.

    1. Cross your fingers - lots of rain so far! I don't know about deer and quince. My M-I-L's garden is fenced. I think I saw this blooming somewhere nearby. The plant book mentions a "Texas quince" - maybe we should look for that!