A Dry Run

23 thoughts on “A Dry Run”

    1. My last tenants were wonderful people and I miss them. We’re still in touch now that they’re back in their hometown in Canada. Finding equally good folks to occupy the house will be difficult.

  1. I lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 2 months last year as an intern with an NGO to supervise and develop a report on the 200 Health Centers under construction the organization had been granted money to build. After chartering UN flights & LandRovers into the bush to check the progress of some centers, I was then stationed in Kananga, a city of ~500,000 with no running water or electricity. There were three completed centers in the city and I was to gain feedback from patients, clinicians, doctors, etc. to improve the design & functionality of the Health Centers to be build.

    I started in mid-May (the ending of the wet season there) and found that life in a city with no running water adds a lot of daily labour & time that could be freed up for greater economic/social purposes. A hike down the valley ridge ‘to the source’ (i.e. a stream or small river) and back up with a full bidon (carried on top of the head) provided roughly 5 gallons of water and took about +/- 1 hour R/T. This hardly seemed an efficient use of time so many places relied on cisterns with water collected from the roof. My house had one off the rear with a quickly depleting water supply, just weeks into the dry season.

    How were the larger/newer cisterns holding up at the three completed centers, I wondered? They looked very much like the size and capacity of the one in your photos above. Sure enough, by late June the cisterns were dry in the three centers, leaving another 3-4 month run through the dry season. It certainly took much labour and time to acquire bidons of water for daily drinking/cleaning/bathing needs within a home, but how would an 18 bed health center function when the water supply ran dry? Well, let’s just say it makes puts a financial and labour strain on the center just to perform quotidian tasks. If the goal was sustainable building and operating of the centers, then the NGO was missing an opportunity. By how much, exactly? 50%. With some deep investigation (I’m being facetious) I found that the centers were build with only one cistern to collect rainwater from exactly half the pitched roof! Gutters were added to the other, non-cistern half, with missing downspouts “to add a cistern at a later date.” My suggestion to the NGO was to invest the upfront labour and money to complete the other cistern so that centers could run more efficiently & economically throughout the dry season. Excess water during the wet season could be sold to help fund the construction.

    So yeah, “I like gravity. Water never fails to flow downhill. I like something made of sheet metal and springs. If it breaks you can fix it..”

    1. I love this comment! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

      I’ve spent enough time in places like India that I know what life is like without basics like clean drinking water. One of my concerns about the U.S. is that we’re now so far removed form such concerns that we take running water for granted and don’t even know where our water comes from or how easily these systems can fail – so we don’t even attempt to plan for disruptions. That’s a mistake and Americans are going to find out the hard way what happens when you let things slide for too long.

  2. Well, what do you say to anyone who says “But I’ve diabetes/another chronic disease which requires a hefty sum to live with”

    For me, the localization of medicine and its absence is quite a mystery

  3. Great post! Very informative. Also a well thought-out “Plan B” on your part. Congratulations!

    Nice house as well. I have the gardening ability of a wildfire. I admire those who can handle that stuff.

  4. How come you had him come after hours if your rainwater would have lasted you well over a weekend? Did you want to provide hot water for your guests?

  5. I like something made of sheet metal and springs. If it breaks you can fix it with a screw driver and some common sense. We’re well in to the age of diminishing returns on advanced technology.

    Amen. Washers, dryers, dishwashers used to have manual timers that could be replaced for a few bucks by someone with above-average household skills if they failed. Furnaces had electro-mechanical relays. Now they have microprocessor units that are susceptible to voltage spikes and brownouts and electromagnetic pulses (solar flares and atomic bombs cause these).

  6. Love the big rainwater tank. We used to use a lot of rain water when we lived in AL. Now I live in Maine and everything freezes so rainwater is difficult unless you keep it inside or bury it. In terms of complexity I have two worries for my own home, the hot water on demand system which is so complex my mind boggles and the our solar array. In a pinch I can heat with wood so if I can’t personally fix the boiler at least I won’t freeze to death but the inverter and power controller that make my electricity useful are basically, for me at least, mysterious magical items. My guess is that in fact they are composed of components that must be replaced and not repaired. In a real disaster I’d be without power and water since my well pump is electric. Goal is to add a back up outside buffalo hand pump, made in Maine, but they are quite pricey.

    1. I’m currently working on a second large tank that will hold well water on the surface. I’ll install it closer to the front of the house (higher up than the tank in the back yard which is lower than the house) so in a power failure water will flow by gravity into the house. The pressure won’t be great, but it will be an improvement over carrying buckets. In winter I can heat water on the wood stove if need be. I’m trying to figure out a solar thermal water heater arrangement that doesn’t require electricity. A simple black tank inside a glass box will work, but it needs to be in a sunny spot and low enough that water doesn’t need to be pumped up to the tank. The only place that would work is the side of the garage, but the house is already up against the side set back (as per municipal codes) and it may not be legal to install such a thing in that location. We’ll see…

    1. The “folding guard” on the stove is a shelf for ladles, spoons, spices, egg timers, cooling pies, etc as well as a fireproof backing to keep wooden walls from being splattered with grease and becoming flammable.

  7. Yes, I agree, why do we need computers in all sorts of things now – washing machines, microwave ovens etc. Managed perfectly well with manual dials for years. Just more to go wrong

    1. I am seeing a lot of pushback against the so-called ‘internet of things’. I used to think it was generational (i.e. ‘Get off my lawn!’) but it almost seems to be a general outbreak of good sense.

      1. Electronics is not all that’s bad in new appliances. I bought a new top-loader washer July 2016 that vibrated so badly in spin cycle that I was worried about the trusses in the floor under it. Warranty repairman said it was running “as designed”. Perhaps the shaking is to better wash the clothes with less water? Long story short: the same warranty repairman recommended another brand (commercial-grade) top-loader washer – one of the last w/all-mechanical controls – and I got one of these in January 2017. The replacement washer runs like it’s on rails; no shaking. The warranty repairman serves an area where there are still real farms, with clothes that get real dirty, and the “fancy” washers just don’t cut the mustard for those customers. I’m for high-efficiency, but not at the expense of reliability and with bad side effects.

      1. yup! some of the big ones will eat the mangoes that fall on the ground, but I have a butterfly/hummingbird garden that is pretty much pest free. Also butterfly and hummingbird, free, unfortunately 😦

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