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Water - the Lifeblood of any Homestead

10/30/2013 9:12:00 AM

Tags: Urban Homestead, Gardening, Water, Wells, Drought, Erin Sheehan

Erin SheehanWhen my grandparents built their house, they chose the building site to take advantage of a strong, clear-running spring that they had piped into the house. Nowadays the bank providing the mortgage would probably prevent such a thing, but back then I suppose it wasn’t so unusual. I remember in the winter at Grandpa’s house, there was always water running hard in the laundry room sink. Otherwise, the pipe leading from the spring into the house would freeze up and they wouldn’t have water until it warmed up enough to thaw out. 

Because we live in an urban area we are on metered city water. But even for us, water is an issue. Last year’s drought was so severe we were watering the garden nightly. We knew that if we wanted to avoid a sky-high water bill we’d have to come up with an alternative to using the city water. As it happens we have an old well on our property. The original use of the well is a mystery to us. It is a cement tube about 3’ in diameter and 28’ deep sunk down into the ground. If anyone has an idea of what a well like this might have been used for, please write a comment!

Our backyard well

Our Backyard Well

One of the advantages of our urban neighborhood is how helpful and fantastic our neighbors are. A neighbor lent us a large pump and helped Jim hook it up. Within a few hours we had free water coming out to the garden!

Our groundwater is generally quite high and the area where the well sits is sometimes even squishy to walk on. Nonetheless, we managed to drain over 23’ of that well dry using our soaker hose night after night. It was at that point that the drought went from being a bit of a novelty to being almost scary. We know that some areas had it even worse than we did, but it felt like Dust Bowl days to us.

Once the well ran dry, we resorted to conservation methods around the house. We brought cooking water out to the porch for the container plants and dumped the dehumidifier water on the porch plants as well. We were fortunate that we had both the old well and city water. We had family members (on wells only) with crop failures due to the lack of rain.

Dealing with such severe drought and remembering the cold, pure water coming out of that long-ago spring has reminded us of the importance of finding property with a reliable water source. Of course, our area has suffered from more than one “100-year flood” in recent years as well, so springs and ponds trump creeks as we peruse real estate for our future homestead. We’re grateful to be renting as we learn lessons like this one!



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Post a comment below.

 

HomespunLifeInTheCity
11/7/2013 8:15:59 AM
Hi Dave - great that you can get water so close to the surface at your house. We've really loved using the well. Didn't need it so much this year - we had a lot better weather. But you never know from year to year!

HomespunLifeInTheCity
11/7/2013 8:04:35 AM
Hi Mary - thanks for the comment. I've learned a lot about water from my parents' properties - one time they had a stream that was GREAT - they could run a hose from it to water the garden, but then they had a flood and it took out their driveway and nearly their garage as well! Now they have no water outside of their well so they cannot water the garden. It's a huge issue for sure!

NebraskaDave
11/3/2013 8:51:57 AM
Erin, first off thanks for following my facebook antics and leaving comments. It's always great to hear from other gardeners. The property that will receive all the bags of leaves actually has a spring in the back of the property. One of the projects on the garden list is to some how develop that spring into a viable garden watering system. This year I just dug out a hole in the ground and used a five gallon bucket to water the plants. It's better than hauling water like the year before when I hauled about 300 gallons a week to keep the garden growing during the drought. ***** I'm not sure what your well would be used for other than just what you are using it for. It's great that you have revived the well and it's water to good use. ***** Have a great ground water use day.

Mary
11/2/2013 8:35:25 AM
Hi, Erin! Mary, again, from Old Dog, New Tricks! That was not only a good blog, but so VERY IMPORTANT. #1 thing to check out when buying land is WATER!!



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