In the bleak midwinter

photo 1There’s nothing like working on a rural water system in 15-degree temperatures. But it could have been a lot worse. There was no real crisis, only my chronic worrying about whether the water well pit on the farm would get cold enough to freeze––a situation which would cause all kinds of damage.

I meant to insulate it properly earlier this fall, but it didn’t happen. And it wasn’t supposed to get this cold this soon. So on cold nights I’ve been waking up in my suburban bed thinking about that pit, which wasn’t very well insulated, having only a metal lid over it. I tried to remember if my father had worried about it during the winters of my youth. Nothing came to mind. Was it simply one of those things he took care of without needing to share the details with others?

So, worry being what it is, I went to the farm this weekend prepared to battle the elements. The pit containing the water lines and pressure tank is four feet deep. I covered the opening with two inches of rigid foam insulation then topped that with good old fiberglass batts, and then the metal lid over that. Before closing it up I dropped a remote temperature sensor into it.

The next morning, with the outside temperature around 10 the pit was 40 degrees. The next morning, with an air temp of zero, the pit was a toasty 39. Success! I suspect it would have been close to that even without my insulation, however. Not being forced to take physics in high school, I’d missed the discussion about the earth staying 40 to 50 degrees year round just a few feet down. But I like to think I helped a little bit with my effort. And now I’m free to worry about something else.

That would be gutters. The original antique half-round rain gutters were disappeared off the two houses on the property some years ago, probably. I suspect they were copper and were either stolen or sold by the owner for scrap value, which would have been considerable. I don’t know for sure whether they were copper because I had never seen them when they weren’t covered in house paint. (Make of it what you will that I am descended from people who painted over copper.)

Anyway, all that water coming down right next to the foundation year after year without gutters has caused the basement walls to begin to tip in on the smaller house, which was my grandfather’s. So I’m on the hunt for free or very cheap used guttering. Another fun winter job. Another puzzle to solve. And I think I volunteered for this.

I did manage to procure us a Christmas tree despite the cold. I cut a western red cedar down below the pond and brought it home on top of the Volvo, ala Norman Rockwell. We erected it on the patio. An indoor tree is out this year because of our young cat which we’re pretty sure would climb to the top of it. The outdoor tree is pretty, and a bonus is that I didn’t have to assemble it limb by limb.

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