Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What It's Like to Have a Pumphouse

Nobody told me anything about this small odd-shaped wooden structure with a midget door except that in deep lengthy cold I'd better put a heater in it. Nobody said what was inside, or what kind of heater. Soon I learned this structure just outside my kitchen door was a pumphouse. I never opened the small door to see the actual pump because bees by the dozens crawled in and out of cracks in the wood as if the pumphouse were a beehive. Eventually ivy grew and twined it shut.

Bit by bit it taught me. It's an electric pump, so outages mean no water. Therefore I keep a few gallons of bottled water, and when storms threaten, I fill pans. Calcium-rich well water will encrust every faucet and etch every glass, and the dishwasher erodes dishes until one day they crack, just like your skin, and it gives all your clothes, not just jeans, a lovely stonewash; and the fix is to add vinegar or clean with vinegar, and buy new glassware when too embarrassed to explain to guests that the glasses are not dirty, just cloudy; and that if you keep drinking from cloudy glassware it'll abrade and split the corners of your lips; and soon I learned I had to filter the drinking water or else be just as stonewashed on my inside. (To install a water softener is too expensive, and the salt would affect the creek.) Wash the car with this water and it'll dull the surface and leave dry white calcium hickeys.

The water tastes fine and fresh to me, but people do remark that it's different from city tap water. Only once did the pump freeze up, the first winter here, '98-'99, for a short time only; good thing because I had no heater for the pumphouse and no place to plug one in. And while hosing down the garden during long droughts it'd pump for ten minutes, dribble, and then quit, such was the local demand on the water table. It taught me (and sometimes I still remember) that I live on a planet. Water direct from the outdoor spigot is so cold it's painful. When people worry about the world's water supply I don't worry.

That said, the pump has never failed, but the pumphouse roof was rotted, so the handyman came and opened its door and tore off the roof to replace it, and for the first time I saw that the pump is a simple gray cylinder about the size of a propane barbecue cylinder. Why such a sizeable pumphouse then? For insulation. Behold a real "pump house" that is not a bar or restaurant.

No comments: