Sunday, April 5, 2015

First Trip Down the Well of the Year

This year has been our best for water yet.  We managed to keep it flowing into the sauna through the entire winter, even if it did take quite a bit of effort with pouring many kettles of hot water onto the pipe to thaw it before we could turn on the pump.

As we all know, the line between the sauna and the cabin froze early and only recently thawed.  It actually refroze since I initially reported it flowing again, but then a few days ago we managed to run the generator for a day and get it thawed again.  I am very hopeful and optimistic that it will remain flowing this time around though, as we are not to have daytime high temperatures below zero again for the foreseeable future.

At the beginning of this day I noticed that as the pump put water into our tanks, it was very dark coloured and silty.  We ended up having to just dispose of the contents of both tanks as they were too dirty to use.  I went up into the sauna loft and scrubbed the insides of the tanks and then tried to lift them to drain as much of the yucky water as possible.  Later that day was when the line finally opened to the cabin.
Hide yo dirt!  I'm up in yo loft, scrubbin' yo tanks!

These things are remarkably challenging to lift and drain!

Towards the end of the day we did get it flowing again. We pumped into the tanks until no more water flowed.  This has not been an unknown event as the water level in the well has been insufficient to completely fill the tanks from empty.  We chalked it up to an empty well and called it a day, content that the water at least could move from the tanks to the cabin once the well recharged.

The next day though, it became obvious that the pump still wasn't producing water.  I opened up the well and turned on the pump.  While I could see that it was consuming the usual amount of power, there was no sound or movement in the water.  Sigh.

I grabbed the hook from the sauna I normally use for hanging laundry and took it down to poke at the pump and hose.  This did nothing.

Calling Maier Hardware, I had them set aside a replacement pump for the next morning.  I dutifully arrived to purchase it, as well as discuss future plans with Dave Green.  He's always super helpful!

I brought the new pump home and Grandpa arrived soon afterwards to assist in me heading down into the well to replace the old one.

We had previously chipped through the ice with his ice breaker, and this time after I was down the well he helpfully pulled the ladder out.  I was a little bit nervous standing on the ice in the well, worried that if it gave way I would be in for a miserable time, but to save any tension I can report now that it held fine throughout.
Assessing the situation.

Kenny and Grandpa prepare the insulation.

The old pump looking a bit dirty.

Not that experienced putting on panty hose.

Closing up the waist.

Back into the briny deep for you!

That smug look that comes from a completed job!

First up I pulled up the old pump and cut away the heat cable and power cable.  I then disconnected the old pump, as well as the secondary heat cable we had installed in the fall that appeared to have had no benefit.  No sense in having an extra load there if it wasn't needed.

The old pump was lifted away, and then I installed the new one.  I applied cable ties along the length of the pipe to remount the heat cable and power cables, and then this time I added in a length of pipe insulation to try to increase the efficiency of the heating cable.

I pulled up the small tub that the pump normally rested in and Grandpa rinsed it out with snow to try to clean off some of the silt that coated the sides of it.

As an added attempt to keep the more gritty silt to a minimum, I managed to jam the tub and pump into a pair of women's pantyhose - size "queen plus".

I cable tied the waist shut around the pipe and put the tub back into the hole in the ice.  Bubbling gently, the pump sank beneath the surface and came to rest fully submerged.

Grandpa lowered the ladder back into the well and I climbed out and headed up to the sauna to turn on power to the pump.  I only had to walk partway back to the well head to hear from Donna that she could in turn hear the pump running.  Grandpa said he was pretty sure that he could see the water level dropping and when I got a good look for myself it was obvious that we were pumping water!

So Donna spent the next day washing load after load of laundry, interspersed with trying to keep Kenny's creative juices flowing and taking the occasional picture of me bringing in the last of the winter wood before the bush trail gets too sloppy.

It's an awesome feeling to have empty laundry baskets and clean underwear again!  And brushing my teeth in the bathroom rather than the kitchen sink is a real treat.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adding the Last of the Cedar Panelling to the Sauna

With warmer weather came a more open attitude towards doing work in unheated areas.  The first one that came to my mind was the sauna - yes it was warm when we had spent a few hours heating it but, in the meantime, it was generally only a few degrees warmer than the ambient forest.
I had managed to put up the vapour barrier in the form of aluminum foil in the fall, but then we had spent the winter sitting in a plastic chair in the steam room while waiting for me to finish off the remainder.
Another factor contributing to the slow pace of work was the lack of available cedar paneling.  I had managed to get some 4" v-joint, but because I had already done half the sauna in 6", I was reluctant to change part way through.  (The 4" my father put up in our bathroom, making it look fantabulous.)
Finally some 6" was available and I picked up 43 pieces.  I had guesstimated that I would need 36.
Grandpa dropped by that morning shortly after I had set up the cutting table and offered to help out.  I gave him the required lengths and he cut up the nicest looking pieces as required.  We managed to bang out the first wall before lunch!  The second wall was slightly trickier, as this was the wall with the stove and my new-fangled metal shield around it.

The first wall looks good!

We loosened the nuts on the bolts as we went, and I slipped about an inch or so of the panelling in behind the edges of the steel transition.

The transition around the stove looking good!

This turned out better than I expected, and looks really good.  When I tightened down the nuts again, the transition came on nice and tight to the wall.  It looks better on the inside AND outside now.  We worked our way up and had the entire steam room panelled by midafternoon.
On a roll, I proceeded to light the stove, and then put up our benches.  No more sitting in a chair by ourselves!  Kenny and I could go back to our extensive conversations about Minecraft and the other video games that he was imagining should exist.

I decide to install the benches right away.

Much more conducive to real sauna conversation

In the end, through Grandpa's judicious cutting techniques around the stove and windows, we only needed 29 pieces, so I returned 14 to Howie's.
Slowly but surely little things get finished around here.  As summer approaches the hope is that the pace will increase, but we take life as it comes.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Water is Flowing!

Sorry it's been awhile between updates - I've been having lots of trouble with my ankles for a few weeks now, and it has held me back from accomplishing much more than treading water here at the homestead.
Things had warmed up considerably in March, with temperatures beginning to bump against 0 and I think even surpass it a few times!
A few days ago we had two overcast days in a row, so I chose to run the generator - what a difference it makes to run the generator when it isn't almost 20 below.  It starts up on the third pull, and runs nice and smooth.
Anyway, having made the decision to run the generator for a few hours, I also opted to switch on the heating cable between the cabin and sauna tanks - it was mostly as a lark, but lo and behold, after about an hour, suddenly water began to pour out of the kitchen faucet!

Donna was in the city working on a personal project, so Kenny and I did our happy dance, tested the bathroom to confirm, and then enjoyed an afternoon of doing load after load of previously procrastinated laundry.

All winter we had schlepped water from the sauna to fill the washing machine, then for the rinse.  Not to mention washing dishes, cooking and drinking (hmmm, I guess I just DID mention it...)
Anyway, it is so totally thrilling to have water flowing here again.  The simple things in life I guess!