Things done, things yet to do

Putting in the well pump was an ordeal. The house water was off for 2 days. Many people here do not have any indoor plumbing, but I am a sissy, I need water from faucets inside. For 2 days I improvised with difficulty. Pam and Joee who live across the street have never had indoor plumbing; they have a system and a routine for living life without it. They keep a large bucket of water on the wood stove for hot water. Pam says she hauls 5 gallons in every day. I suppose one becomes careful with the use of water indoors, does not get hands dirty or wash them often, saves on getting dishes dirty, and develops a routine for washing and rinsing them. Pam and Joee have an old ringer-washer outside for doing laundry and they go to the Washeteria to take showers: not every day. One doesn’t ask how often.

While the indoor water was turned off Jerry and I put water in buckets for flushing the toilet and and jugs of drinking water from the town well (that water is filtered). We ate dinner on paper plates and I washed pans in a plastic dish pan with water heated on the stove. I rinsed them in another plastic dish pan. The water in both pans got kind of dingy. There were no showers and our hands were not always clean.

The first pump installation day was occupied with taking out the old pump. The well is 86 feet deep and the old pump was about 70 feet down, suspended by 70 feet of heavy galvanized iron pipe. Jerry had rigged up a support, attached to the house, on which he hung a length of chain attached to a come-along (I suppose everyone knows what that is — although I was totally ignorant of such devices until I knew Jerry). The chain was attached to the top of the well pipe and the pipe and pump were ratcheted up, about 4 feet at a time, with the come-along. When it got to the top of the support, the come-along had to be reattached at the well level and the process repeated. There were 3 21 foot lengths of pipe, so when each length was exposed, and the pipe was towering in the air, I went outside to help  steady it as Jerry unscrewed it (with difficulty — it was old, rusty and stiff) from the next piece, then together we lowered it to the ground. When he got to the part of the pipe that was in the water the pipe was covered with more rust and black slime. Jerry said the slime was zinc oxide. I resolved never to drink the water from the well. It was late in the day when he got to the pump. After some time spent messing with detaching it from the house pipe connection which is about 6 feet down the narrow well caseing he finally hauled it out of the well. It weighs about 50 pounds. It was wine time.

The next day was for putting the new pump in. Jerry had already wired all the components, both inside and out. The new pipe was plastic, in 10 foot lengths, and much easier to handle. Everything went well until mid-afternoon when he got to the point of attaching the well pipe to the house pipe in that 6 foot deep opening in the well caseing. The connection and the hole it has to fit into are both square. At one point Jerry came in and asked me to Google something he called a well bittles. I found nothing useful. I tried a lot of variations of “bittles” without success, but I came up with a diagram of well pump connections and he discovered that the thing is called a “pit-less”. It showed how the pipe-house connection works. Both of us went back outside to the well. I held a light (we tried a bulb on a wire and a flash light. Neither worked very well. We could just barely see where the hole was, but trying to maneuver the heavy pump with its square side connection into a hole we could hardly see looked as if it was going to defeat us.

Jerry said if he couldn’t get it in it would be a disaster. We would have to come back next summer and dig up all the pipe from the well to the house. Plus, I thought, we will have to be here for 2 more weeks with no running water. I have never known Jerry to fail to accomplish something he set about to do, but I began to lose heart. It just looked impossible. It was a chilly 25 degrees F. I decided that my standing around in despair was not helping, so I went inside the house to try to compose myself and become reconciled to weeks without water and a summer trip here — when mosquitoes are swarming.

Ah, me of little faith! After I had moped about the house for about an hour Jerry came in with a satisfied look on his face. He said, I think I got it in. I was incredulous. You did? Yes, he said quietly. In few minutes he had a hose connected under the kitchen sink, run out the door and over the porch railing. He turned on the water and brown water squirted out of the hose. He said it would clear up soon. Not long after that we had hot and cold water from faucets in the kitchen and bathroom and the toilet flushed!

It was a lovely evening. We had steak for dinner which we ate on real plates (my mother’s old everyday china, pretty). I cleaned up all the kitchen surfaces and washed the dishes in nice hot water from the tap.

Since we were back to normal with plumbing, the next project was to finish painting and lay carpet in the new tiny downstairs bedroom. That was accomplished in the next couple of days. Now there is soft green carpet under our feet when we get up in the middle of the night. This is the nicest little house ever!

I turned my attention to painting a picture for the new bedroom to hang over the bed. I picked out a photograph of the Alaska house taken in the snow, late in the afternoon. I liked the light. Jerry was in the picture carrying the old pan he uses to empty ashes from the wood stove. I spent a morning laying out the building and the figure on the canvas. At lunchtime I realized that the building was all wrong and I smeared out the whole thing. After our nap I repainted the main areas, this time correcting the errors in shape of the building parts. Jerry came in from trimming weeds around the house and said he liked the picture. That’s unusual from Jerry. I was encouraged, and I liked it too. A couple of days later I had finished it in time to hang it up before Pam and Joee came to dinner. Jerry and I both enjoyed showing off our new bedroom. There are still wall cabinets to be finished on the wall opposite the bed, but that’s a project for next year.

I have had a lot of positive response to the picture, and that makes me happy, but it also has the peculiar effect of making me think I can never paint one that good again. It helps to tell myself that it isn’t really that great. It is difficult to evaluate one’s own work. I know my work is conventional and literal. I hope it has some element of originality. I don’t want to just copy.

A painting of our Alaska house in winter

Now we are getting ready to leave Manley in a couple of days. Jerry is stowing and sorting tools, I am washing, cleaning and deciding what food can be left (it has to withstand freezing–we can leave vodka but not wine) and what can be taken to Pam and Joee. Pam gave us a lot of moose hamburger and we didn’t use it all. But I did pretty well planning food. There’s not much excess.

There is snow now in the woods where we walk. We look for animal tracks and have seen many mouse tracks, a fox and some grouse.

I am sad to leave, but pleased to be traveling and to be taking the ferry.  I will be glad to see my Lummi house and friends and my garden. My lawyer daughter tells me that the lettuce I planted before we left is up and there are beets and carrots to be harvested.

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8 Responses to Things done, things yet to do

  1. Martha says:

    That’s a great painting, Anne! Wonderful lighting and the image of Jerry is quite realistic. I think your paintings are getting better with each one, and I’ve enjoyed all of them.

  2. Tabor says:

    First amazing that you can live in two places and still maintain a garden. Second the painting is very emotive and tells a lovely story. There is some non-literal stuff in the tones of the colors. Third, you are the people I want to live near if the world has a disaster as you have the energy, talent, determination and patience that most of us do not have! I like hot and cold running water as well.

  3. Randy Smith says:

    Can’t we figure out a way to clone Jerry?

  4. Rain Trueax says:

    Good on the pump and even better on having a handy husband. I like your painting of the house. Warm and inviting with the suggestion of what it takes to keep it that way.

  5. Brighid says:

    Wish there were more Jerry’s out there… I like your painting, it’s a keeper for sure! You are an inspiration to keep on keeping on…

  6. ernestine says:

    Love your painting
    your lifestyle
    and Jerry is a blessing…

  7. annie says:

    I just spent some time catching up on your last several posts! So glad you went back to Manley, its seemed after last year you might not. Yea for Jerry, so glad the well is fixed, and I do love the painting also. I wanted to tell you that I spent 8 days on San Juan and Orcas Island earlier this month (October). I fell completely in love with the islands. The weather, the pace, the wildlife and birds; everything is green and alive. It was my first trip, and I am sure I will return frequently. I can see why you are so happy there. I was happy there too.

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