……she thinks it’s for the best. I didn’t argue. It’s ’cause of her yoga, you understand……? Let me explain……………
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.
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).
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.
Pouring rain didn’t help in an ironically cruel backdrop kind of way.
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.
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.
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.
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….?