It was -21°F with wind chill this morning…again. There was frost on the INside of the yurt door…
Josh decided to make banana bread, just to add some more heat:
How do you get a stick of butter to “room temperature” in this place? Everything but the woodstove is about as cold as the inside of the refrigerator.
These were the kind of days that I expected would be the hardest when not having any plumbing. Because not having plumbing means we must venture outside no matter the weather. As Josh brought in more firewood this morning, I carried out the 5 gallon bucket of dishwater, then pumped and carried in 13 gallons of fresh water for drinking and washing. And as I pumped that water I thought how not only is this still okay, it is great. The cold gets into your breathing and your fingertips start to turn cold even through your gloves… But the air is so very fresh outside, everything crisp and beautiful. And it feels good to be moving instead of cooped up inside. I do look forward to it warming up, certainly. But this weather doesn’t have me regretting our lack of plumbing…yet.
In the beginning of our dreaming about a move we never imagined we’d ever not have plumbing. Because, really, that seemed ludicrous living in these times. Way back when we first contemplated the idea we were met with straight out incredulity. Why would anyone, without being forced to, go without the comfort and convenience of water running from faucets, into and out of toilets, into and out of bathtubs, into and out of washing machines?
We didn’t take a straight line away from our last house with 3 bathrooms, kitchen sink, dishwasher, refrigerator water dispenser, showers, bathtub, washing machine, outdoor hoses. The first step we took in deciding if we could simplify was considering life without a dishwasher. And that might have been the biggest step, the first tipping point. Wasn’t the dishwasher such a huge timesaver? We go through so many dishes… How could we possibly do without it? But somehow, inexplicably, the idea grew on us. I love to wash dishes, to feel the warm water and systematically take a pile from dirty to clean. Many times the dishes that came out of the dishwasher had to be recleaned, had scarring on them, or soap residue stuck to them. Yes, we could do without a dishwasher.
And then the house we stayed at while waiting for our house to sell, the house Josh’s grandfather had built 25 years ago, had more to teach us about plumbing. We witnessed the septic system failing, the leach field becoming a swampy, foul-smelling mess, a washing machine overflow and break down, a toilet leak and stop flushing, the well pump going kaput and being replaced, pipes bursting when the heater failed… These “conveniences” were causing an awful lot of inconvenience that required myriad expensive people who knew how to fix them to get involved.
Of course this isn’t a usual year in most modern houses, this many things failing at once. But it was enough to push us over the edge into thinking that a year or two without plumbing just might be okay…
The first step was making a humanure-style compost toilet (more on this later). The next step was getting a water source on our land. Even if we didn’t have plumbing run into our temporary yurt, we still needed a way to get access to water. We decided to have a well drilled and planned to put a Bison hand water pump on top. I was nervous that we might have a problem with the well being too deep for a hand pump to work. So to add any possible advantage, we went out to the land one day with dowsing rods in hand… We all took a turn dowsing, and the rods kept crossing in the same spot for all of us. So we put a stake in and the well company came out and drilled in that very spot.
It’s possible the dowsing worked too well… We did not have to worry about the well being too deep. Instead, we had water constantly pouring out the top of the well! Apparently it was a true artesian well, where the pressure from underground causes the water to be forced up to the top. This seemed like it might be a good thing, too much water, until we realized that a hand pump could not go on top of such a well or the water that was above ground would freeze. Not to mention that the ground all around the well was becoming a muddy mess with the water constantly flowing out.
So a trench was dug and a pipe attached to the well under frost level to run the excess water off down the hill.
This was the water source we used when we first moved into the yurt. I always wanted to turn it off after filling our buckets, but the water just keeps coming. And now the deer are constantly in our yard, gathered where this water flows to drink. We don’t really know what to do with it at this point, but are hoping this summer’s permaculture course provides some ideas. The children are lobbying for a duck pond.
Once the overflow was diverted, we were then able to put the Bison hand pump on top of the well.
Josh built a cedar platform around it (circular of course…)
And this is where we pump water from every day, many times a day! The Blue Hill Co-op gave us several food grade buckets that get filled and stacked in the kitchen. We use them to fill a ceramic crock that sits by our kitchen sink, complete with a spout for “running water.”
Water from the kitchen sink goes down the drain and collects in a five gallon bucket that gets taken outside when filled.
We fill our Big Berkey water filter for our drinking water.
We fill an enamel pitcher and a little copper pitcher in the bathroom for wash water.
Water goes into and gets hauled back out of the galvanized bath tub.
Water coming in and out, in and out, day after day. I imagined it’d get old quickly, especially in this kind of weather. Not yet. I’m not sure why, whether it is the simplicity of it, the rhythm of it, the way it forces us outside, stronger arms, the empowerment of it… There will never need to be a specialist called in at this point. No part of it can “fail” unless we fail to bring in water or bring it out again. Or from user error on our part, like when someone poured water into the kitchen sink without the drain stopper in while someone else was outside in the process of pouring the bucket out…