Past meets the present

I like history. It’s one of my favorite genres in literature, non-fiction, and film. I thoroughly enjoyed the PBS historical ‘reality’ shows – Colonial House, and Frontier House, for instance. Like those of you who watched Survivor (which I’ve never seen but have heard about) I’ve wondered how well I would do in such circumstances. Would I be able to put up with the privatizations, make edible meals out of limited unprocessed ingredients using primitive cooking facilities, haul water to heat over a fire for cleaning, cooking and even drinking, stay warm without central heating?  Would I be up to the demands of the physical labor? Could I stomach the disgusting toilets? Could I live without my internet connection?

I no longer wonder about these things – our living situation here has given me some insight into how well I would fare on the frontier.  We are not, by any means, living the life of the early settlers.  We have electricity for example.  But we have been, and currently are, faced with some of the same difficulties, notably acquisition of water.  Our water arrangement is not working well.  To put it plainly, most of the time we don’t have running water. The 1000 gallon cistern may have settled unevenly or perhaps cracked during our extreme cold weather.  The foot valve might not be seating securely interfering with the pressure the pump needs to move the water.  The pump fittings might not be firmly attached and air might be bleeding into the mix making the pump run irregularly and shut down frequently.  Whatever the issue is (I’m no plumber and I can’t afford to have a real one come fix things) it has been exacerbated by the cold weather which has contributed cracked pipes to the mix.

Dealing with this issue nearly constantly for the past month has given me the answer to the question above.  And that answer my friends is No. No, I am not cut out for the pioneer lifestyle. I am not stalwart, strong and resourceful. I’m no MacGyver, able to construct or repair all manner of things with bailing wire, duct tape and a Swiss army knife. I’m no Pollyanna, able to remain positive and upbeat during set back after set back. I’m no Superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound either. If I were it would make hauling water so much easier. Truly I think the only thing I have going in my favor is that I’m tenacious.  That and out of choices!

I wear down and I wear out. Priming and restarting the pump (an act that requires one to crawl in the cold mud under the trailer, unscrew the wooden cover to the pump box, unfasten the cap that must otherwise be screwed on as tightly as possible, and pour water down a pipe while simultaneously doing something similar 50-feet away at the cistern) three times a day because there is something wrong with the pump hookup and it regularly drones on without providing water and undoubtedly doing internal damage to itself is trying.

Hauling a wagon load of 15 gallons of water up hill on a muddy and rutted dirt, sometimes covered with snow, road is tiring (great for the calves but hard on the rest of me).  But what really exhausts me is knowing that those 15 gallons will be gone in a less than a day of dish washing, cooking, drinking, flushing toilets and cleaning and I’ll be heading back down the hill with the empty bottles to do it all over again.

Of course water is merely one of the challenges that face me on a daily basis.  The rest are much more 21st century however, like kids that need to be chauffeured hither and thither, lessons that need to be planned, tests that need to be graded, and animals that need to be fed and cared for, topped off with a car that needs new brakes (again, didn’t I just get brakes?), bills that are overdue and a bank account with less than $100 in it.  If this were a reality show I’d have this to say, “Vote me out!”


This entry was posted in blogging, frugal living, history, home repairs, housing, reality shows, septic, setbacks, survivor, water. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Past meets the present

  1. bogart says:

    Oof. A close friend used to coordinate a program for foreign scholars from developing nations at our state U and would arrange activities to allow them to explore our state, including camping trips. Some went on them and enjoyed them, but others declined; as one asked, “I come from a developing country! Why would I want to go … camping?”

    You’re astoundingly tough, and I hope warmer weather (and a higher income!) will show up and make parts of this easier, but yes — that sounds really, really hard and tedious.

  2. Maja says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that owning a house is just one expensive maintenance/repair job after another. We had a series of plumbing issues, the waste pipe kept blocking up every few months filling our showers and baths with waste water (turned out to be a huge tree root that had broken into the pvc pipe and kept growing back in after it was cleared out by the plumber). Then our intake water pipe was breached by tree roots and had to be relocated at great expense. Our house is cracking and cornices are coming away from the walls in nearly every room due to the lowering of the water table and shrinking of the sediments the house is built on (it hasn’t rained here in over 2 months). Our ceiling started falling down in the living room and had to be rescrewed. Fences needing repairing after twenty years in the sun. I can only imagine what’s next (probably water heater).

    Going without running water so long in the freezing weather has to be so much worse. Sounds like you will have to dig the whole thing up when the weather gets better. Necessity will get you through these times. I hope it warms up there soon.

  3. Lynda says:

    I feel for you! Our well just went down a week ago…hauling water, too! With the drought every well drilling firm in the state is booked up…don’t know when we’ll get the new well…and we have the money to pay for it!!

  4. Lynn says:

    From what you have said, the right answer is you COULD do it, because you are. But you’d hate it. I imagine most if not all of the people on “Survivor” are not enjoying it, either. They also have a couple of advantages; the one that comes first to mind is that they don’t have little kids who will refuse to eat the iguana on a stick with wild fern sauce, and they only have to keep themselves alive. It’s a limited term. They are getting paid big bucks. And there is no real danger–the camera crew and director are right there and staying in a nice hotel nearby. You are doing great–I don’t think I could do it at all. Your kids are thriving. There is a book in here somewhere, when you finally get the time.

  5. Jean says:

    I often wonder how the pioneers did what they did. I’ve come to the conclusion that they didn’t know any differently and didn’t have a choice if they wanted to survive. Not sure how long I would last. Probably not as long as you.

    How long ago did you get brakes? Are they under a warranty? I had that happen with brakes once – didn’t last 6 months. Very frustrating.

    Spring is coming – one of these days. Hopefully then you’ll be able to get everything in working order. This was a tough winter.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Thanks for letting me have a gripe fest – it helps to restore my equilibrium and my meager store of patience! It’s just that some days I feel like I’m in my own version of Groundhog Day! Being broke and behind on bills makes me stressed, which causes insomnia, which makes me irritable. Sigh, I dream of that winning lottery ticket and a long vacation on a warm beach!

      • Rachael says:

        Hey- venting is awesome! Like the mile-long blue streak that comes out of my mouth when I stub my toe, it makes the pain magically bearable. Ha!

        I have thought of you often this horrible long cold winter. It’s a little trick for when I feel miserable; imagine how it could be worse. I don’t have to haul water.. When I was a single mom with 3 kids and no job/no phone/no car and outside of the range of public transportation, I would think of the mothers in Bangladesh. Whose homes washed away each year. I know it sounds horrible, but it gave me strength. If those mothers could continue on, well, so could I. You, you are the epitome of fortitude and perseverance (and I know you *have to* be all that, and people do what they have to do!) but please: take the compliment. I think so highly of you. Not to put you on a pedestal.. but you are kinda up there in my book. Really.

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