Saturday, December 15, 2012


Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
—from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Coleridge (1798)

It was a rainy winter morning in northeast Missouri today. With outdoor temperatures in the 40s, it was lovely sitting snug inside, next to the wood stove at Moon Lodge—Ma'ikwe's house at Dancing Rabbit—drinking coffee, and visiting with Ma'ikwe's brother, Mark, who's visiting from Fennville MI for three days. 
I was reminded of Coleridge this morning because outside there was water running everywhere, and inside there was none. Though Ma'ikwe has been living at Moon Lodge since Halloween 2009, all the water in the house has been hauled in buckets and jugs (in a stretch, you could say we regularly run to get it, but it's really more like walking).
Today, however, all that changed. Ma'ikwe, Mark, and I conspired to devote the last three days to eliminating the final barriers standing in the way of being able to manifest running water when you turn the faucet at the kitchen sink. The picture tells it all.

Ma'ikwe and I think of it as an early Xmas present to ourselves. While there's still tile work to complete the work surface and back splash around the kitchen sink (which means we'll have to disconnect the water and pull the sink), that's not very difficult. With any luck, we'll have that wrapped up before it's time to plant broccoli seedlings (in February).

There remains plenty of work in the bathroom, too, where there will be both a sink and and a shower, but enthusiasm for completing the bathroom (more tile work) is tempered by the fact that running hot water is still two-plus years down the road, requiring the construction of an additional building. While cold showers may be fine if you're a teenage boy, or in the navy, it takes a very warm day to choose that experience over a shower where you can mix hot with the cold.
Here's why the hot water tortoise is going to be so far behind the haring cold. Ma'ikwe shares with neighbors Bear & Alyssa a plot of land (called a "warren" in DR argot, extending the rabbit theme) that they lease from the community. Both have homes on the warren and both are designed to be principally heated with hydronics—radiant floor heating. As it's cheaper (and more communitarian) to share utilities, they've conceived of building a separate Power House on the warren that will include:
o  A wood-fired boiler to supply hot water both for domestic use and for the hydronic systems.
o  The batteries and master panel for their solar photovoltaic power system.
o  A washing machine.
o  A small rental housing unit, the income from which will cover their warren fees. As the ecovillage is growing at a steady clip, housing is always at a premium and they anticipate an easy time finding renters.

The main drawback to this plan is that they don't expect Power House construction to start sooner than 2014. Of course, the good side of such incremental improvements is that they get to savor each one as it comes along. (Think of how many people miss the chance for that particular pleasure by moving into a house that's completed built!)

As the electrician on the team, it was a somewhat embarrassing and anticlimactic moment this afternoon when we finally had everything hooked up and I had everyone pause while I dramatically flipped the switch… and blew a breaker. Hmm. My nightmare thought (which flashed in my brain in a nanosecond) was that I'd failed to make a watertight connection when wiring the submersible pump and I was going that have to wade into four feet of 42-degree water to fish that sucker out. Ugh.

However, there were other things to try first, and my spirits were buoyed when I isolated the pump from the circuit via an outdoor cut-off switch, reset the breakers, and tried again—only to blew the breakers a second time. Aha! That meant the problem was before the pump, and by studying how I'd wired the pressure relief box I realized that I'd done it wrong. Whew. That was an easy fix, and after reconfiguring the wires, the next time we actually got water (and no blown breakers). Eureka!

Like many things in life, plumbing and electrical work are both quite easy when you do them right. The corollary to that adage is that plumbing and electrical work can be quote humbling when you mess them up. Today we got a bit of both. But the main thing we got today was running water.

No comments: