Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To Pee or Not to...

Deep Thoughts
...That is the Question. Apologies to the Bard, but this has been a week of delayed satisfaction.  As we wrote last week, over the last couple weeks we have been working on the issue of farm water.  More specifically, getting drip irrigation to the hopsyard and farm buildings (tractor and packing sheds).  By law, and for our own sanity, the farm must have a functional restroom. This required a complete overhaul of the dilapidated bathroom in a corner of the tractor shed. 

Definitely, not functional
Face mask required
Like the rest of the building, the bathroom had been neglected by humans and taken up by cats and squirrels for about 30 years. The closest comparison to this bathroom would be the one in the movie Trainspotting.  Getting it back to a place you’d want to sit with The Sonnets has taken over 40 hours of hard labor, along with drills, shovels, power sprayers, respirators, Brillo pads and enough Comet and Lysol to level a college dorm.  

Despite clogged drains, moldy walls, rusted pipes and a massive squirrel nest that fell on Rich, the process was straight forward. We removed the appliances, cleaned and sprayed mold barrier on the walls, unjammed the window, installed drywall, painted the walls and ceiling, spread concrete and tiled the floors, and finally installed new water pipes and working fixtures in the toilet and sink.  At the same time, we trenched and laid irrigation pipe to both the hopsyard and test garden.  Overall, we felt quite proud of our handywork.
Teaching plumbing

But, just as we were putting the Charmin’ in place, the old farm threw us a curve. On our first attempt to open the pipes, three geysers spouting from split pipes in the packing shed showed us exactly what water can do when it is left to freeze in pipes over the winter.  Just when we thought we fixed the problem, we lost all water pressure. Then, we found a 50-foot long bubbling swamp that had surfaced near the garden, about 200 yards from the shed. Upgrading things around a 180-year-old farm is never going to be easy.

Undeterred, we leapt into action. First, we would locate the leak in the underground pipe and then figure out how to fix it. We fired up the backhoe and started digging. The water had spread to cover 700+ sq. feet of the lawn. We started at the highest wet spot. About three feet down, we found a pipe. Ah, here it is!

We were just going to clear off 10 feet or so, find the leak and fix it. Nope. When we turned on the water to locate the leak, water bubbled up elsewhere. We’d uncover those and it would bubble from another spot, three feet away. “No, it can’t be,” we thought, “How is the water coming from beneath the pipe?!”  So, we dug another two feet down. Aha! Another pipe!  Completely rusted through and spraying water in every direction.  

Finding the second pipe, nearly 5 feet underground
We have no idea what the first pipe was used for. Or why the water pipe is beneath it.  Apparently, in the intervening century and a half, Rich’s ancestors simply put down a lot of pipes, some over the others, turning some off and others not. As we were digging, we found an old plow blade, a silver spoon and several chunks of coal - a trip for Rich the former archaeologist.
Getting pipe to the garden

At the end of the day, we opted for our own modern temporary fix – we ran a PVC pipe above ground from the house to the buildings, hops field and garden. (Until next summer, when we’ll trench it underground and hook up our rain barrel system.) The pipes will supply irrigation to the garden and hopsyard and go to the sheds. This will significantly minimize the hours we spend hand watering. Also, it will help us regulate watering for the garden vegetables and hops. From what we’ve read on this garden blog and this one, tomato problems we’ve been having, like Blossom End-rot, splitting and slow-to-ripen, can be prevented with a regular watering schedule.

But, by far the best upgrade is that, with ersatz juggling and a few chosen words, our lovely bathroom will be in business, with an affirmative answer to Mr. Shakespeare.
Renovated bathroom, with tractor-print curtains to match :-)


  1. This is hilarious - love the title. Aside from your great sense of humor, your hard work, determination and indefatigable spirit shine through. If hops don't work out, you have a second career as handyman/woman.

  2. So very, very proud. Keep the adventures coming!

  3. Well done team! Your blog is so fun to read and shows off your accomplishments, piece by piece. =)

  4. awesome guys, super witty and fun to read!!

  5. Thank you, friends, it's so fun to share our adventures with you! This one was a real doozy

  6. hi from sunny Orlando!! My name is Laurie, I am Steve Carveth's daughter, Josie woodbridge's niece and I was browsing the web for a history of my very great,great uncle Joel McCollum (who my brother Joel is named after) and found you!! This is such an awesome project, I am so thrilled with what you are doing. I wish I had known about it sooner, my Mom, Anne Carveth- Hillman peaceabley passed away at Lockport Odd Fellows 3 weeks ago. I drove by the farm and (what once was) my Grandmother's home on North Adams Street,then went onto Aunt Josie. I would love to hear from you and we might actually be related. kind regards, Laurie Carveth Chase:

  7. Hello! Cool project. Laurie: I believe you may be my great-aunt. I would love to learn if, I too, am related to you all!

    1. Hello Nicolina - thank you for the post! We really like that posting this project online might reconnect relatives.