"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Free hot water — what’s not to love!

By on July 25, 2020 in Columnist with 1 Comment
Carolyn Black

By Carolyn Black

There are some schools of thought and science that almost no women and only a few men took back in the ’60s. 

The farm we bought and moved to offered endless chances to experiment with many of those schools of science. 

It was an old house, built by the owner himself (back in the ’40s) and the biggest plus to my husband was that it was located “off the grid,” meaning we didn’t have to pay the electric company for what he saw as excessively high fees. 

It was a struggle for this city kitty to adjust, but then married life calls for a lot of give and take. 

My husband worked for a survey company that did lots of subdividing sections of forest land and that meant they had to cut trees down to save time… much of it ended up in the back of his truck, and we used that to heat the house. 

In the kitchen, next to the propane stove fed by a large tank, sat a small “trash burner” that was used for just that, burning of all the trash one is mailed, unwrapped from packages, homework etc. I used it daily to warm the kitchen and keep the tea kettle hot enough for tea. 

While one of my husband’s friends lived with us (he got a job working with my husband) chores around the farm seemed to get done faster with the two of them there. 

Next on the farmhouse to-do list seemed like a job cut out for them — to install coils in the trash burner to “pre heat” the water before it went into the propane hot water heater downstairs where the large wood burning furnace lived. 

Trash burners can burn up all those little pieces of wood, too tiny to bother putting into the furnace.

Our water supply came from a dammed spring, across the road, and up a hill. 

Water pressure was very low. One could turn on the tap to fill the bathtub, go out to the living room and read another chapter by the light of the Coleman lantern before the tub had a reasonable depth to bathe the kids in. 

The two men struggled with the task, bending the copper pipe, installing it in the fire box, soldering all the many joints for the “inflow and outflow” to save us money on propane for the water heater by preheating the water. 

Finally it was all connected, and no leaks appeared after the valve was opened, and the water flowed where it should have. Life was good. 

It wasn’t until the next day that we realized something very strange happened with the heated water, the very low water pressure, and the use of the pre-heater water. 

In the magic science I never understood, the heated water backed up into the system, causing lots of hot water to be stored in pipes where it shouldn’t have been. 

We adults got up before the kids, using the toilet and all the cooler water in the system. By the time the kids arose, the fill tank on the toilet was being warmed to the point, their little legs, hugging the bowl were almost scalded. 

There is something called a “back flow” valve, it just hadn’t been installed, and another trip to the hardware store was in order.

The challenges of living “off the grid” seemed endless. 

Now I watch the latest popular TV shows and wonder if those people, so proud of “living off the grid” will tell a slightly different story a few years from now. 

The hot water was one thing, but having to light a gas-powered light to do homework and late-at-night chores like canning and always having to have dry wood and kindling caused us to look forward to when the power company cleared the path for the necessary lines and poles to be placed. 

I love being able to flip a switch, turn a knob, set a timer for the sprinklers, even turn on a tap and see lovely hot water come gushing out.

Being a farm

wife (farmette really) was a lot of fun, but I’m no longer young, eager,

energetic and brave, so city life suits me fine.

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  1. Sonia Herman says:

    I love your stories Kari, keep them coming. Proud of you.

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