Spring (and a new well)!

It’s early June and the weather has been consistently in the mid-70’s for a few weeks. It’s wonderful! We’ve had an inordinate amount of rain recently, so the hills are bursting with color. Every shade of green grass, bright yellow balsamroot, blueweed… I’m even happy to see the dandelions.

Early June.

John and I have kicked it into high gear because we know in a month the temps will be in the 90’s and, although we’ll still be working outdoors, we won’t be enjoying it near as much. For now, though, the windows are wide open, the birds are singing and I’m running around making everything “pretty” like a girl is prone to do in springtime.

In our time together, John has built me three pergolas at our different houses (I’m a sucker for pergolas!). Naturally, a pergola is something I have been wanting (and occasionally mentioning) since we moved here, but there have been far more vital tasks to tackle (like water, power, bathrooms, greenhouses…).

In mid-May, we had a new well dug because our old well was down to only 1/16th gpm (gallon per minute). Ideally, you want at least 5gpm or more which is a far cry from what we have. We make do.

When the crew began digging the new well, they hit water at about 120′ but it was only 1/2 gpm (only slightly better than the old well). They kept digging to 600′ but, sadly, it didn’t get much better. That’s the bad news.

The good news is the new well produces about 3/4 gpm (which is better) and the water column is 600′ with a 20′ static level so that creates a large reserve in the well itself. Because the well is not ideal, though, we decided to mitigate with some additional reserve tanks.

John added two more 1200-gallon reserve tanks in the hill above our house. Our friend Willie, who happens to have lots of heavy equipment, helped dig out the hill and level the tanks, then John manifolded the tanks together. This gives us 3600 gallons of reserve in the hill.

Each tank has ventilation and John even installed a shut-off value in the mainline that leads from the main tank to the house, just in case we ever need to turn all the water off. This is just like the main water shut off a house in town would have, usually by the street.

The blue pipe is the shut off valve.

John and Willie also trenched a 4′ deep line from the new well to the tanks, as well as a shorter trench to direct-bury power from the new well to the existing switchbox at the old well head.

John installed a toggle switch at the old well head so we can continue to use the old well, too, and just switch between pumps as we like.

Just yesterday, we had a 1.5hp pump installed in the new well. In case you didn’t know, digging a well and having a pump and the associated hook-ups installed is separate. Fortunately, we’re able to do a lot of the work ourselves – like laying the underground pipe and wire and hooking up the pump, control panel and pump saver.

Old well head.

I’m not much use when it comes to electrical and digging trenches so, while all this was going on, I decided to paint the house. As I mentioned, springtime activates some deep-rooted feminine impulse to beautify things and our house definitely needed beautifying!

When we were looking for an off-grid property, one of the last things on our minds was beauty. Functionality reigned supreme. First: Can we live the kind of life we want here and make it work? Much farther down the list: Does the house have character we can work with?

I think our little house had character (the earthy orange kitchen reminded me of Tuscany), but its character was buried under a lot of wear and disrepair (and too much orange).

The kitchen in 2020, before we remodeled.

The exterior is cement (kind of like stucco) so it’s rough surface was holding the dust and mud of 20 years. Time to get to work…

Choosing a color (we went with #4, Behr Red Pepper)
Before and After Paint, Pergola and Shutters
Before and After

I don’t think either of us realized how terrible the house had looked until it was finally finished. What an amazing difference! Over the past couple years, we’ve been busy improving all the invisible parts of our home’s infrastructure. We haven’t had any time to purposefully create beauty (except if you count the chicken window!). But beauty resonates with the soul; it’s refreshing. No wonder spring brings with it the urge to beautify.

So, once I finished painting the house, we could more readily visualize the pergola. Inspired, we decided to put off building the deer fence for a couple weeks and focus on the pergola and adding shutters. We drew it out, like we do, handing the drawing back and forth until we finally had a plan. Then…

Pergola beginnings.
Our design evolved to include planter boxes with lattice for honeysuckle.

Finally, we built and added shutters selectively around the house (and a window box for the bedroom).

After

And, of course, as a Thank You for my fourth new pergola, John got an apple pie…

Next on the list is the garden fence – an 8′ fence to protect the garden from deer and our own dogs. We’re grateful for the new water supply, and the gravity well we use to water the greenhouses and our field. Did I mention we built a second greenhouse? Sometimes I can’t keep up with the projects happening around here…

There is always so much to do, but it feels wonderful to have made a space to relax, have a glass of wine and listen to the birds. Beauty reminds us to stop and appreciate our surroundings; it recharges us and reminds us why we work so hard to live here.

Apple trees are blooming!

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