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Three Month

Entry and Exit
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

Part One, of “Life, Death, and Birth – in Three Short Months”

Water Woes, and a Burial

The Cottage Water System
(...that refused to work)

Last year, in September, guests using our cottage discovered a leak under the sink.  There was nothing for it but to ask them to turn the water pump off, and carry lakewater up to the cabin for the remainder of their stay.  I returned to the lake myself, in October, to close up for the winter.  Looking for the leak, I found that the kitchen tap assembly had completely given up the ghost.  If my guests had not turned off the water pump, the cabin floor would have been flooded, end to end.  However, I could not, for the life of me, remove the broken tap unit from the sink, without specialist plumber tools.

So I went into town; spoke to a plumbing firm, and bought a brand-new assembly.  Unfortunately, no plumber was available to come to the cabin during the time I was there, so I was forced to abandon the whole thing until the next season – in other words, until this summer.

I had “running water” – of a sort.  It was “running” in the good old fashioned sense that I would “run” down to the lake with a jug, fill it with water, and “run” back up to the cabin with it.

This spring, one of my friends at the lake – my neighbour, Ken, who has a key to my cabin – saved me a bunch of money by successfully removing the broken tap assembly from my sink (he has sophisticated tools!).  He then installed the new one that I had bought in October.  Thus, when I arrived at the lake on July 2 this year, he announced that I had running water once more.

Well, running water... in theory.  He did not actually start the water pump.

So, as soon as Heather and I had unpacked, and settled in, I went down to the pump, primed it, and started it.

Uh-oh.  It didn’t work.

I primed the pump again, and again, but it never seemed to have enough water to start pumping.  Large jugs of lakewater were poured in, but, when I turned on the pump, the water just gurgled, and soon the machine was pumping air, and would stop.

I began to think that the “foot valve” at the underwater intake must be malfunctioning.  A foot valve is a metal fitting that allows water to be pulled into a pipe, and sent up to the cabin’s plumbing, but once the pump has reached the proper pressure, and has stopped, this valve prevents water from flowing back down into the lake.  The priming water that I had been pouring into the pump was probably just flowing straight out at the underwater end!  All of which was confirmed when I hauled the intake pipe out of the lake – and found that the foot valve wasn’t broken, it was gone – probably broken off by winter ice – and was now somewhere at the bottom of the lake.

Well, foot valves are easy enough to replace.  I would just have to buy one when I next went into town.  Until then, we’d have no running water – despite the fine new taps in the sink!

I made the trip the very next day, and bought a new foot valve, plus a goodly length of PVC pipe (in order to extend the reach of the intake further into the lake).  But when I got back to the cabin, the new pipe was just a tiny bit larger than the existing one, and didn’t fit.  My friend Ken, once again being super helpful, gave me an adapter, and both Heather and I were quite relieved when it worked... but the connection broke apart later the same day.

Ken’s adapter was made of the same material as my pipes.  In other words, it’s a strong but flexible plastic.  No matter how tightly I clamped things together, they would slip apart after an hour or two.  I needed a steel adapter, one that went inside the two misfit pipes, rather than gripping them from the outside.  But on my next trip to town, all the hardware and plumbing stores that I tried, were out of stock on the piece that I needed.

So I returned to the other kind of “running” water, and daily hauled containers up to the cabin.  Which is okay for doing dishes and the like, but doesn’t work too well for taking a shower!

We ended up going twenty days without running water.

Cottage time is not only for doing chores.  People come to visit, and we have friends in the region that we like to see.  During those twenty days, we sometimes accepted overnight visits with those friends, just so we could get a shower!  This wasn’t a hardship, because we love our friends – but it was weird to be near our cabin, yet spending our days in a city-type home, about 70 kilometres away.

Of course, we could always go swimming at the lake, in order to keep body odour at bay – but you DON’T use soap and shampoo while swimming!  Heck, our lake water is officially drinkable, and we want to keep it that way!

So, we stayed at the cabin as much as we could, and tried to be normal.

One of the visitors we had was a man with whom I had worked in 1969, and haven’t seen in fifty years!  Earlier this year, Laurie Rubin and I re-connected through FaceBook.  In mid-July, as he and his spouse were making a trip across Canada, they decided to drop in on us, for an overnight, there in the forests of Québec!  It was a memorable reunion, hampered not in the least by the lack of running water!

Eventually, the part I needed was re-stocked at the store.  It was July 23 when I was able to buy it, and put it on.  And, finally, there was water in our taps, and in our goofy shower setup.  All of which worked flawlessly for the rest of the summer.

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