Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Installing our Well Pump, Testing our Wood Stove

The other morning dawned just a bit too chilly for us, so I offered to fire up the wood stove for the first time as a test run. Donna didn't put up any significant argument, so I headed out to rustle up some dry wood. 

There were a few slabs just outside the yurts from the construction of the floor and support beams, so they were the first on my list - they had been drying out for the past couple of months in direct sun, and had been cut thinly enough that I was confident they were no longer green.

 

I also included a number of small cubes and off-cuts of lumber, as I felt they too would be in the same state. I bunched up some old papers, lit the match, and voila! Time for a second match... And then a third, but that was the magic number :). We had fire, we had heat!

 

Donna even pointed out that we had smoke, and it was coming from the stove pipe, not the stove itself! This was great news; the stove seemed to have really good draw.

 

As Donna perked her coffee, and I sat at the table basking in my warmth and reading up on cooking on a wood stove, I started to detect an off odour. Just as I stood up to investigate, Donna opened the door, revealing the inside of the yurts to be churning with smoke. Sigh. We opened up everything, and I was at a loss to understand - the stove pipes were drawing well, and no smoke could be seen coming from any part of the stove. After a few minutes of puzzling, I decided it must be the stove pipe itself that was smoking from the first application of heat. Some research on the Google revealed that this is so common as to be trivial. Second examination also showed that the stove pipe closest to the stove was no longer a shiny blue/black, and had instead faded to a dull grey/black. It still looked good, and it was nice to have the mystery solved in a way that required only patience and ventilation.

 

Grandpa dropped by to complete his wood shed. He really can take credit for the entire thing - I can't express enough my gratitude at his efforts! Kenny and I wanted to christen it right away, so we took the tractor out and loaded up almost two wagon loads of wood that Grandpa had declared burn-worthy this coming winter. He feels that if we fill the shed, that should be enough to get us through the winter. That's our ambition. I will also have to make some sort of crib and cut up my large (to me) slab pile at the sawmill.

 

After Grandpa left, I unloaded the equipment to pump water to the yurts. After some discussion at Maier Hardware, I opted to switch from a sand point attached to 1.25" pipe, with a large jet pump at the yurts, to a sump pump, attached to a 1" pump. Due to concerns about freezing, I would have had to install the jet pump inside the yurts, or at least carried it outside every time we wished to pump. Instead, with the sump pump, as long as the well doesn't freeze, we should be okay. Once it finishes pumping, I will try to have the line on a continuous slope so that the water simply drains back into the well. This solution also allowed me to use a smaller, less expensive pipe and pump, at the cost of having to run electricity down to the well. At first I thought that would be a dealbreaker but as it turns out, it wasn't.

 

I attached the fittings to the pipe and with Kenny's help created a 200' long extension cord from a nearly full reel of 12/2 outdoor grade wiring.

 

Grandpa returned and together we attached 100' of 1" poly pipe to the pump. I lowered the pump into the well, inside of a small rubbermaid tub. That was Grandpa's idea and it was awesome! I drilled holes all around the tub and that allowed us to isolate the pump from the rest of well, which still had some sand and mud in the bottom.

We plugged in to my power station which reported a 500 watt load as I guesstimated it should, and then, with a dramatic pause and lots of gurgling, water started gushing out at the 100' mark, not quite halfway to the yurts both horizontally or vertically.


Unplugging the pump, we connected up the next 100' hose and repeated our experiment. There was a longer pause, more gurgles, and then gushing water again! We were within a stone's throw of the yurts - only about 20' further. Then the final hurdle - could it pump high enough to fill an elevated cistern/ storage tank? I held the pipe up as high as I could, and it still was coming at a decent flow!

I had a celebratory ice cream at Mummu's, then returned with my masonry hammer and hammer drill to punch a hole between the tiles for a more permanent entry for my hose and wiring. It took a little more digging than I expected to reach the seam between the tiles, which was a good thing as it showed how much covering there was over the seam. The hammer drill worked very hard, and I think it did very little. It was my wailing with the hammer that made the fastest work of chipping through the crack.


We reinserted the wiring and the hose which I attached with a 90 degree adapter, and then I grudgingly returned to town to purchase some patching cement and another length of pipe to actually get water into the yurts. I plan on installing a faucet directly through the coupler so I don't have to come up through the more challenging floor. It also has the advantage of being able to directly support the faucet, and the hose can be mounted on more of an angle as it enters the coupling, rather than low if it comes up under the floor.

Kenny and I mixed up two small batches of concrete using his sandbox toys, and we applied patching on both the inside and outside of the well. I should also point out that I wrapped the hose and wiring in some aluminum flashing where it passed through the tiles to reduce worries about wear from the concrete.

While we waited for the concrete to set up a bit, Kenny and I headed up the road to a spot where we knew someone had dumped some crushed rock. We scooped up four pails full of the rock and returned home where it became a family project to transfer the rocks from the pails to our mesh wagon. This allowed us to winnow out the twigs and leaves that were mixed in with the stone.

As I monitored the water level, we pumped out the well again and Donna filled our pails with the effluent. Once the pails were full she rinsed the rocks over and over again. At last the well was empty and I sent Kenny running up the trail to tell Mama to unplug the pump.

With the well pumped down to about six inches of water I went back in, and with Donna and Kenny helping out we formed a bucket brigade to haul out a bit of the muck in the bottom. This is nasty business, let me assure you. It is cramped within those confines with a ladder, pump, wiring and hoses to contend with. Once my patience expired, we reorganized our brigade and started transferring our rock to the bottom of the well. That worked great! I could quickly feel the difference in the base of the well, and am very hopeful that this will help with the water quality. We failed our first test of our well water - too high a coliform count - which is apparently always the case and not cause to panic. I skimmed the top of the water to remove some remaining sticks and leaves, and called it a day.

Job one today will be to pump out the well again. I'll do this twice a day for the next few days to get the water clarity back up; after all the activity down there it gets really turbid. Then we will test it again, and I'll report the results!

 

1 comment:

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