Simple Yurt Luxuries

Of all the sounds in the world, running water is one of my favorites.  In spring (or near spring, as we have seemed to drop back into winter for a few days here in Central Vermont), the sound and sight of flowing water means thaw.  It means birds returning and snow melting and damp pasture grasses revealing the gold bodies of their autumn blades.

Inside the yurt, though, the sight of flowing water brings me to my feet and has me whooping with excitement.

I came home last night to see Edge’s body half submerged in the hole under our sink, where a line connects a hand pump to our shallow-dug spring.  Last winter, the line froze, and in an attempt to thaw it with a torch, the line ended up with a hole in it.  Come summer, we always found ourselves too busy, with the water line at the bottom of our to-do list (and hauling water in the summer isn’t so hard).  Come winter, we figured it’d freeze again anyway.  When the March snows softened, hauling water suddenly became a drudge with east post-hole step uphill.

So it both excites me and relaxes me to say, our hand-pump is working.  It may not be the turn of a faucet, but that water sure does look like its running as it pours into the sink.


The Weight of Water

RWS_0055The weight of water.  How heavy it feels when I lug it up the hill.  And how heavy it feels when it’s gone–the sinking realization that the well has run dry.  Two years ago when we moved onto this land, we found a spring and developed it as a shallow well–10 feet down was all we dug and it has kept our thirst (and the animals and vegetables) quenched.  But when the overflow stopped a few weeks ago, Edge forgot about it and I didn’t even notice.  And we’ve had just enough single days of rain sprinkled through the last few weeks to disguise the dryness of late summer.  And then there’s this fact: we use up to 400 gallons of water per harvest day to wash the vegetables, though our well’s storage is 300 gallons.  And so we look to ourselves, at the ways we could have conserved if only we had thought to have foresight.

There have been countless times I’ve been thankful for our water, for the fact that it is gravity fed to the barn and that we don’t rely on electricity to run a pump.  I once moved into a house during a wind storm that caused a three-day power outage, and aside from what we bought, we had no water until the electricity came back on.  This kind of system has always seemed so fragile to me.  I’ve laughed with a friend who also hauls water at the reactions we get from those that can simply turn a faucet–how we each think the other is crazy.  You mean you carry all your water?!  You mean your water source is gone if the power goes out?  Now I wish for a deep well and a pump, when simplicity and a shallow well feels fragile.

I am kicking myself that we hadn’t thought of this possibility and made plans for it sooner.  If we didn’t need potable water to wash our vegetables with tomorrow, we might mull over the solution a bit longer–the animals can drink the pond water, and we have enough water reserved from Monday’s harvest to water the seedlings–but the fact is we need more than a few 5-gallon buckets of potable water by tomorrow.  So today: buy a 1000 gallon tank, pay for a bulk water delivery.

We live in a state where floods have filled the disaster headlines, where the word drought brings up images of California, not our own farms, and so perhaps I have taken it for granted that water will always flow out of the well.  For all the inconvenience of the situation, though, I am grateful that we can buy water, that the restrictions we face are nothing compared to seriously drought-stricken areas of the world.  Given the forecast is accurate, tomorrow it will rain, with a chance for more on Saturday and Sunday.  With the rain, and with patience, comes replenishment.  Until then, I’ll feel the weight of water that’s run dry.



Buckets of Water

bucket of waterI love buckets.  Buckets of water, hauling water.  Buckets are great.  When I need water I go down there to fill them up, and then I bring them up here, and I have water.  It’s so simple.  I don’t pay anyone to get water, I don’t pay anyone to fix any pipes when they stop working.  It’s great.”

Edge declared his love for hauling water as he filled up a pot on the stove to heat dish water.  We’ve been hauling 5-gallon jugs from the greenhouse, where our frost-free hydrant is, up to the yurt for over a month.  The line attached to our indoor hand-pump froze in the first round of -25° weather, and in the subsequent arctic vortexes that have washed over us, we’ve not gotten it thawed.  So we wait for spring, and in the meantime, we haul water.

In our last yurt, where we lived on Applecheek Farm, hauling water was our only option, and in Alaska, where we met, water-hauling was the norm.  In fact, in the four years that Edge and I have known each other, we’ve only lived with running water for about three months.  Lately, I’ve been pining for the ease of a faucet and shower, but not Edge.  He loves buckets.

And I admit, there is something I love about them, too.

Last Tuesday I stayed home from work, in need of a mental health day, and after spending the morning writing and then taking a walk in the woods, I did the sheep chores, filled and hauled water back up to the yurt, and then chopped and stacked a pile of maple Edge had pulled from the woods.  When my mom drove up to drop Waylon off, she got out of the car and said, “You’re working hard for a mental health day.”

“Chop wood, carry water,” I replied. So much of our mental health is tied to our physical health, and the strain of my muscles working in these simple acts allowed my mind to clear and find peace in the rhythm of the chopping and the splash of the water.

Aldo Leopold, in his book A Sand County Almanac, wrote, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”  Indeed, anyone who harvests, chops, and stacks wood knows that heat is generated in each act, long before the wood ever reaches the stove, but even hauling water from the barn to the yurt warms my body.

A deep appreciation is cultivated through the act of hauling water.  I know the energy it takes to fill a glass, to fill a basin for washing, to pour a cup of tea.  So much of the connection is lost with faucets–the energy it takes to spurt water from the pipe becomes a distant memory too easy to forget.  But fill a bucket, carry it inside, and you will pause when you pour that water out.

Enjoy the pause, drink in the moment.

Tonight, our buckets are full, and I am thankful for the water they hold.  So let us drink, and in the morning, we will haul them again.