Sal’s in the bush….

……she thinks it’s for the best.  I didn’t argue.  It’s ’cause of her yoga, you understand……?  Let me explain……………

Ready to Head Out to Walk the Line

Sally heading out to walk the line

Every year our water system clogs up once, twice, sometimes a few times.  When that happens, we climb the hill, clean out the pick-up for the downhill pipe and then wait a few hours for the new flow to show up at our site almost a kilometer away. Our site is at elevation 70′ and the pick-up is at elevation 120′ and that head difference of fifty feet gives a nice flow into our cistern.  When it is flowing….

But, it is NOT QUITE that simple.  The kilometer long pipe lays along the stream bank and, of course, has joins.  Sometimes the joins freeze and break and then the pipe leaks.  The pipe has a few turn-off valves so that we can test one section versus another and, in freezing weather, sometimes they freeze and crack. But the freezing threat has been all-but-eliminated these past few warming-up years so any problems we have encountered usually come from something else.

The boat moored in the bay as we head up the hill

The boat moored in the bay as Sally heads up the hill–the stream cannot be accessed from our place by land

And therein lies the rub.  “What else could possibly go wrong?”

Our water has been off for over a week but we had plenty in the cistern so Sal decided to wait and take a peek after yoga on Wednesday.  On Wednesdays, she is already in the boat and dressed for the occasion.  She’s also more limber and flexible than me (a water buffalo is more limber than me).


Sally walks up the easy part of the trail

She first clambered around this end of the property to see if there were any slipped joints, burst pipes or fallen trees messin’ things up.  But, after climbing up and down steep gullies in heavy bush carrying her repair tools she determined that this end was good.  Then she headed up hill to clear the pick-up and it was clogged so she thought she had it fixed.  But water still was not flowing.


The trail gets rougher…

Pouring rain didn’t help in an ironically cruel backdrop kind of way.


…and rougher

The second effort  (the next day) is to cruise the pipe as it is strung on the cliff (much of it impossible to get to) and to listen for water escaping. Difficult to hear a leak in a rainstorm.   Last summer, some mice or squirrels chewed through a length of pipe and that leak was discovered by listening and then seeing water spouting out.

But the second section seemed intact.  So, Sal took her boat further in to the bay and monkeyed her way through thick bush and slimy rocks to one of the valves and opened it.  That was the bottom-of-the-system valve and could be used to determine which side of the pipeline was at fault.  Water was in the system but NOT flowing after a few minutes.  The upper section was at fault.

She came home.  I made her hot chocolate.  Her hands were like ice.  She was soaked.  “I should get changed and go out again, do the top half.”

“Don’t do it.  We have water.  Tomorrow, I’ll go with you.  If it is a top half problem, it is either the pick-up which you just cleaned the other day or else it is a tree having fallen.  I’ll bring the chainsaw.”

“You’re right.  It’s already 4:00 pm.  I’d be up there in the dark.”

As it turns out, the top half is the easier half when it is just the pick up being clogged but, if it is something else, it is a real challenge.  The slope is steep and completely overgrown encumbered with dead-fall and half-in, half-out of the stream. It is awkward, tiring and even in the summer, you get soaked.

In the winter, you get frozen and soaked.

“I climb better than you.  I also wouldn’t want you on the slimy rocks.  They are treacherous right now.  So, I’ll figure out what the problem is first and, if we need you to chainsaw, then you can make your way up there.  OK?”

She took her walkie-talkie.  I have mine.  She is bushwhacking slowly up the ‘hard section’ as I write. I may have to join her.  I may not.  Maybe just another hot chocolate to make, maybe a schlep and a chainsaw….we’ll see.


Heading into the bay where the stream is, in Sally’s little Whaler

Epilogue: I joined her.  It was the third effort for her on this problem.  My first.  But she had found the break on the last effort but it was in an awkward spot deep in the jungle.  Brute, dumb strength was required.  So, dragging my knuckles and grunting, I went along to be carefully supervised by the more ‘experienced’ of us.  That does not always work.


Getting ready to cross the stream


Elephants and whales occasionally show their sentience.  But we generally obey. And why not?  My mahout is pretty good.  Rarely gets carried away with the stick.


Fixing the damaged water line–crushed by a fallen tree

Sal’s also eligible for her old age pension early this next year.  I am thankful they don’t pay that stipend judged on physical ability. She wouldn’t be eligible at this rate for another twenty years.  Maybe…..not even then….?


Looking upstream from where we fixed the water line

21 thoughts on “Sal’s in the bush….

  1. At the logging camp water was collected with a pipe much like yours placed behind a low dam. The dam was perhaps a foot high that kept the intake pipe submerged all year around. The camp was in snow country but the small stream never was frozen. It was high enough up the hillside that good water pressure was maintained. You are so fortunate to have a Sally!


    • I think so, too. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. But, the way she sees it, it is NOT ME having a Sally at all…it is HER following her own choices in a place she loves. If I expired before my best before date, Sal would continue on because Sally loves this life. She LIKES hiking the stream. She loves quilting and gardening and boating. She is truly in her element being in the elements. And I do the dishes now and again. Admittedly, I AM lucky. But she thinks she is, too.


  2. You’re bang on, we’re lucky to have a Sally (even if that’s not my Sal’s real name). I’ve got a similar water situation. Dam is 1200 ft (okay if I use Imperial?) up the draw, elevation change is 60 feet. Got a 3 inch polyethylene pipe which terminated in a half inch garden hose discharging into the fish pond. Two dudes from Enviro whatever came out and informed me that ‘you can’t draw water from a stream’. And ‘you need a water license’ (to not draw water from a stream?) (My water license APPLICATION was four years old….)
    Anyway, that was two years ago and I’m still watering my fish. Please don’t use my real name in case they decide to come after me. And all YOU have to contend with is leaks!


    • They will come after you. Here’s what you do:. SELL your property to say, me. $1.00. I’ll sell it back at the same moment. Don’t register the sale tilthey come back. When they do, show them I am the new owner. By the time they find me, I’ll show them the paper indicating I sold it back. By the time they get back to you, we will both have passed this mortal coil.


      • I like it but…’they’ will insist that the transfer be at ‘fair market value’ and they’ll nail each of us for property acquisition tax, thereby generating more revenue than all oil, gas and mineral royalties charged in the province. Then ‘they’ll’ start charging for water….
        Think I’ll buy a large padlock, or a dog.


        • That is the VERY reason you do NOT register the sale. Just create the paperwork. My brother and I did that back in the 80’s when cars were being pulled over for ‘inspections’ and we both had TR3’s. Sold ’em back and forth to each other a few times. But we DID do the registering because, back then, we could sell to ‘family’ for a dollar. Never had to get an inspection. Which was good because we were so poor I once drew ‘tread’ on my tires with marker pen in case a cop looked at them.


  3. Guess there something to be said to live five feet over your water source that never freezes. We do have to go underneath the cabin and pull the intake pipe up and clean the filter once in a while, but we save that as a summer chore when the water doesn’t make your fingers go numb. The hand pump in our kitchen sink is our only water source, but with such a small cabin it’s plenty. Need a bath? Draw some water, heat it on the woodstove. We like it simple. – Margy


  4. Grandparents had a similar system on their farm. A beaver gnawed a tree down on their water line…….
    That was the end of Mr Beaver
    Any beaver on the island?


  5. A friend of mine wrote me an e-mail:

    A couple of months ago our kitchen faucet developed a leak. There were two possible causes. I hiked to the computer, looked up the 800 number for the North American supplier. Hiked to the phone, called, explained the situation, and because there’s a lifetime guarantee, they offered to send both parts. UPS delivered them three days later right to our door (I didn’t have to go out in the rain). I fixed it in five minutes – the part just snapped into place. Three days, the same as you. That’s my story.


    • LOL. LOL. It is impossible to beat that. My buddy can phone for pizza, too. Groceries get delivered. I know his place (been there). No stairs.
      Never gets caught out in a storm either. Never bothered with sawdust or dirt, doesn’t clean fish or shuck oysters… worries about outboards……that’s his story and it is impossible to beat that.


  6. Sure glad our well is only a hundred feet or so uphill from the house. Not nearly as much pipe to check out if it freezes. We have creeks on the property as well, but they are officially non-fish-bearing, and at the moment are seasonal, so drawing water from them is a possibility, if only in the winter. Last winter, before we had a pipe set up from a well, we hand bucketed water from the creek. Hard work, but simple, with very few pieces to go wrong (except us).


    • We hand-bombed water, too. For our first year. That grew old fast. But we may have been doing it longer if our neighbour didn’t decide to do something about it while we were still a-building. He strung the km of pipe. He joined it all up. He scrabbled the cliffs even falling in to the sea on one occasion. All we had to do was tap into the pipe and send it another 500 feet of it up to our place. Quiet heroes – best kind.


      • quiet heroes, you mean unlike the self proclaimed ‘hometown heroes’ running around with bumper stickers, all civil service suck ups. Thot we were going to have some bomb throwing around here


        • Unlike them….more like the guy who takes boy scouts camping, fixes cars for widows and is generally available to anyone in need. And does it all without fanfare. I occasionally help others but then I write a book about it, conduct interviews and blog. I am NOT a quiet hero.
          Sal is tho…that’s why I applaud her work. How else would anyone know?
          Btw, what kinda ‘hometown’ ninnies you talkin’?


          • Maybe you don’t get to town enuff, it’s a US style yellow ribbon kind of thing, from what I gather it’s a shout for more recognition for firefighters and cops etc etc , I see these bumper stickers around Victoria so I suspect there must be a self aggrandizing group around here could be some of our warrior dnd bunch, dunno just relating to your tag ‘quiet heroes’ there is some stuff on google if you care to look further ,,, as u say ‘just sayin’


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