The Saga of the Struggle


It all started last Wednesday when the pipes in the house froze. Well, it started before that if you count (AND I DO) the days of sub-zero temps when the hydrant at the barn (plus the creeks) froze and I had to carry buckets (and buckets) of water to the barnyard from the house for the animals. You ever carry water for cows? It’s a lot of buckets. Cows can slurp down a five-gallon bucket without blinking. This area hasn’t seen those kind of temperatures, without a break, in years. It’s not normal here. I thought things couldn’t get worse, but then there was Wednesday.

Ross was still here, so at least I had help that day. We got buckets (and buckets) from my neighbor Andy’s house for the animals, and also borrowed a heater from Andy. I used the heater (from outside) to blow air into the opening to the crawl space under the house. Eventually, this actually thawed at least the cold water line to the house. Everyone was so excited!

And then water started pouring out from a pipe in the cellar. I had to turn off the water main at the farm. The next day, my neighbor Jim came over and fixed that pipe. We could turn the water main back on! We were all excited.

And then water started gushing up out of the hole where the main is located. My water main on the farm had frozen and broken. I called the water company. Miraculously, they actually got out here the same day (by then it was Friday) and repaired it. Turned the main back on. There was a new, different leak in the cellar.

Next day, my neighbor Jim came over and fixed the other leak. I asked him why pipes running to the house were in the cellar at all. He explained that it was fairly common around here to run pipes to a house through a cellar house or pump house, that in the old days, people were leery of having the pipes coming in to the house directly into the house. I don’t completely understand that, but apparently it’s not unusual. This whole setup with the pipes was here when I got here. Over the past couple of years, I’ve made a lot of improvements to the plumbing, and the majority of the plumbing lines are new, but I haven’t changed all of it. It is a massive job to completely re-do plumbing on an old place like this with a vast array of mysterious plumbing lines. There are some pipes in the cellar that I don’t even understand where they go, but slowly as each old one that’s left breaks, I do find out where it goes. (Side benefit, if you can call it that.)

So, with that leak fixed, we turned the main back on. Exciting!

And then I realized I had no hot water in the house. The hot water was still partially frozen.

Aside–at this point, still scared of my icy driveway, I got my neighbor Andy to come over and take my car to the bottom of the driveway. Ross was gone, so I had no way out if I couldn’t get my car parked at the bottom. I went to the feed store, came back, parked at the bottom again, and a few hours later, discovered my car in the middle of the road. Luckily, there’s not a lot of traffic on my road. My car slid out, in Park, on its own, into the middle of the road. That’s how icy my driveway was.

Aside aside–I went out one more time that day, to a real estate office, where I signed the papers that finalized the sale of Stringtown Rising. For a variety of reasons, this deal that came in last fall took several months to be finalized. Stringtown Rising now belongs to a couple from England. I always said it would take someone from out-of-state to be crazy enough, and not know enough about West Virginia winters, to buy that place. Well, it took more than someone from out-of-state. It took someone from OUT OF THE COUNTRY. Good luck to them….. A lot of time has passed and I was way past being sad about it. I was just glad it was over.

I also stopped at the store and bought a heater that I’ll be using in the cellar for freezing nights to hopefully put a stop to the issues in there.

BACK TO THE WATER. Jim came back over to finish re-hooking the dishwasher up in the studio so I could turn the valves to the studio back on and at least get a hot shower over there. He did that, told me to wait for the glue to dry, then turn the water back on. Exciting! I was so ready for a hot shower. I sent Jim away with a big pan of sour cream enchiladas and a coconut-oatmeal rum pie to thank him for all his efforts.

And then when I turned the valves to run water back into the studio lines, I discovered yet another break in those lines and had to shut the valves off again. This was Saturday night.

By this time, I’d been carrying water for a week by the bucketful for cows, had had water shut off in the house much of the last few days, and hadn’t seen hot water in several days. I was worn out, exhausted, stressed out, and I just went to bed and cried.

When I woke up Sunday morning, I had hot water running in the house. Finally. The barnyard hydrant was unfrozen and the creeks were thawed. I was happy. And exhausted. And I took a shower, ran some water in the barnyard without lifting a bucket, told the animals to have at it, went back to bed and spent most of the day in bed, just watching TV and being glad I didn’t have to carry buckets.

After a month of water problems, furnace problems, car problems, and weather problems with more water problems, I was plumb wore out from the never-ending struggle to just survive. (Which happened to involve a lot of physical labor and stress.)

Today, we just have rain. School is closed again–for flooding, I assume. But no snow here so far this morning. And nothing is frozen. And there’s no ice on my driveway.

I’m calling it good.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on February 3, 2014  

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18 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 2-3

    Wow, Suzanne, that was a lot to handle. Glad you are through it. And I know you are thankful for good neighbors and your lovely though contrary farm. I cannot imagine how awful things would have been at Stringtown Rising.

    Nice to see you have internet access!

  2. 2-3

    Suzanne, so sorry to hear about all your winter problems.
    I thought of you when I read this quote online last night: “Everything is all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.” Hope it’s THE END of your water problems!
    And, congrats on finally selling Stringtown Rising.
    Here’s a question…what do you do with your ashes from the wood stove? You can sprinkle them on the icy driveway. It will help with traction, and help melt some of the ice. My Grandpa used to do that with our loooong driveway back in the day. Of course sand is better but who has that sitting around, unless you live in Maine?
    Anyway, you have POWER! That’s a big plus.
    Hae a wonderful day today…

  3. 2-3

    Look out again, it’s coming down in the form of SNOW. :hissyfit:
    I live in Jackson County and had a rough commute until I reached Tuppers Creek on I-77 South. I heard your schools are closed, as are Jackson Co., due to snow. I don’t know about everyone else but I am soooo ready for some :sun:

  4. 2-3

    Glad to hear stringtown is sold and you survived this lonnng bad patch!

  5. 2-3

    Suzanne, I dont know if this will help or not, but stores such as Lowes sell long tubes of foam that just snap around your pipes, they are very inexpensive and do offer some added protection against freezeing. I have used them in all of our homes, not for the freezeing issues but they help hot water pipes be more energy efficent, they also will help with water pipes that are in the house but on outside walls.

  6. 2-3

    Yes, I do have insulation on the pipes, and I also run water in the house when it’s below freezing. Sometimes nothing helps! I’m trying a heater for next time it gets that cold.

  7. 2-3

    Congratulations Suzanne on the sale of the old farm. The last five times I have moved I bought a new place before selling the old one. Four out of five times the new one sold to the first or second person that saw it. The first time though, it took a year! My friends were between homes and they agreed to stay there for me and do the upkeep so it all worked out. But, until those final papers gets signed, it’s a nail biter. Getting one more thing off your mind is always a blessing…until the next one comes along. Such is life!

    While reading this post I thought man, I wouldn’t want to be Suzanne’s neighbor :no: and then I got to the part about the enchiladas and pie. :hungry: I wonder if your neighbor is sabotaging the plumbing for the food? :yes:

    Another up side of al that bucket carrying…no need to do arm curls! Stay warm and dry! :wave:

  8. 2-3

    Oh Suzanne…. what an ordeal. I was wondering how things were going…. I am glad you finally got through it all and had a well-deserved day off in bed with the telly. Stay strong! And congratulations on finally selling Stringtown Rising. :snoopy: Forward, ever onwards!

  9. 2-3

    I want to cry with you! So glad that is behind you and I hope the heater works. Actually, if I’m hoping, I hope the below freezing temps are over. :D

  10. 2-3

    Moved in with my daughter just over a year ago and so far since Thanksgiving, we in N Central Texas, have had 4 big freezes and 4 water breaks! I’ve got plenty of plumbing stuff to fix breaks at my house but we’ve found that most of the lines in this house are galvanized, not PVC. Might know it! I think this is the coldest winter we’ve had (consistent freezes with a few warm-ups) I can remember but after last summer’s over 100 temps for months, I’d still rather battle the freezes! I feel for you, though! WAITING for someone to come fix a leak is the absolute worst!

  11. 2-3

    Glad you finally got to take a shower! I’m sure Morgan was thrilled to have a shower too. Sorry that it’s back to snowing. We may be having some snow here in Dallas this week. Parts North and West had some bad sleet/ice over the weekend. Luckily it didn’t visit my house.

  12. 2-3

    Congratulations on finalizing the sale of Stringtown Rising. Hopefully, no more frozen or broken pipes and you will get a break from carrying buckets of water. 45 days till the 1st day of Spring.

  13. 2-3


  14. 2-3

    If anyone deserved a good cry and a day in bed, it was you! I do hope the plumbing issues are behind you. Glad you got the Stringtown sale finalized.

  15. 2-4

    Congrats on getting that albatross (stringtown rising) off from around your neck.

    To your remark” . There are some pipes in the cellar that I don’t even understand where they go, but slowly as each old one that’s left breaks, I do find out where it goes. ”

    I live in a 112-year-old building with a basement full of pipes put together like TinkerToys. While changing my kitchen ceiling light for a ceiling fan, electrician discovered the old gas line for gas lighting was still active!!!!! Thank goodness he wasn’t smoking while he was working. We went into the basement and I played one potato, two potato to decide which pipe to cut and cap. I was dumb a## lucky.

  16. 2-4

    Suzanne, that’s just too much. TOO MUCH! :hug:

    As you identify what pipe goes where, you might think about making a rough sketch labeling them. Sometimes you think that once you know, you won’t forget, but then when 10 or 15 years have gone by, it’s easy for the memory to get hazy.

  17. 2-4

    “you might think about making a rough sketch labeling them”. Good idea, whaledancer. Or maybe label each pipe with a hang tag, magic marker and duct tape, or something that won’t wear off.
    I have all my electrical cords labeled with bread tags, and a chart for my electric circuit breaker box. It won’t take me 10 or 15 years to forget, maybe a month is more like it!

  18. 2-5

    God BLESS YOUR HEART. You have been through it this winter. I pray there is no more for you this winter and that God will show you what to do to prevent any more of that happening again for a very long time. Sometimes prayers are deeper in crying.

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