Bringing Water to the Cabin – Part I

By JohnyMac

This is the first of a three-part series of articles concerning bringing water to the cabin at the redoubt on the cheap. Remember, I am of Scottish heritage. My wife calls me a “Swamp Yankee” known south of the Mason-Dixon line as a “Red Neck”. Whichever, I saved a $10,000.00 drilling fee with my little $329.00 project.

Part 1

For the first four years at the family redoubt we brought cooking and washing water from home using 5-gallon potable water containers. For showers, filling toilet bowl tanks (when the log cabin was completed), watering the garden, we used water from 55 gallon barrels strategically placed around the cabin (s) fed by rain water runoff from the roof of the bunkhouse and later the roof of the new log cabin. If we ran out of potable water in the middle of our stay, we just filled the jugs at the neighbor’s house or at a local spring in town. We thought this would work just fine until we had the money to drill for a well.

In the summer 2011 the farmer across the road from our cabin told me that he found a wet spot up the hill from his house above his well. His suggestion was for my brother and I to dig a little and see if the wet spot was a spring. If it proved to be a spring, he would take his backhoe up the hill and dig a 4-foot wide by 10-foot deep hole which we could drop a cement culvert into to create the sides of the well. This would supply spring water to our cabin.

One day coming back from town after filling our potable water buckets, I got a burr under my saddle to start digging the aforementioned wet spot up the hill. Armed with a pick and shovel I stared digging. About 6-inches down I found some old boards. Pried the boards up and what I found was an old well underneath. The well was about 6-feet deep and was 4-feet wide – Lined with blue stone. The farmer wasn’t surprised with my find and told me that the water supply to his house was from a well he dug about 25-yards downstream from this one.

Figuring that Newton’s law could play a part in bringing water to our cabin with no electricity used, I did some reading and put together my mise en place for the project. Figuring the well was about 250-yards from the cabin as the crow flies, I would need 300-yards of poly pipe. With all of the bends the pipe would have to take – I could not go straight from the well head to the cabin – to be on the safe side I walked off the planned route of the pipe and determined it was more like 1,200-feet.

Then off to town I went, to get all of the parts for my project.

1,200-feet 3/4″ Irrigation PVC pipe (Polyethylene Pipe). Comes in 400-foot spools. $67- each section Total $268-
Assorted hose clamps, PVC 90-degree elbows, straight barb connectors, et cetera $15-
4-foot long steel fence post $7-
An outside all weather 3/4-inchbrass faucet $18-
One-way foot valve $18-
Home Depot 5-gallon bucket $2.50

All prices above, 2011

The well with 5-gallon bucket sunk in the center

Once home, I laid out 400′ of pipe from the bottom of the well towards the cabin. Took a post hole digger and dug out as much sediment in the well as possible. With that task done, I put some rocks into the 5-gallon bucket and sank it to the bottom of the well. This would serve to be my first filter so to speak from the sediment that will accumulate in the well. Plugged up the pipe at the lower end of the 400-foot run and then filled up the pipe with water from the well. Attached the one-way foot valve to the water filled pipe and plunged the valve and pipe into the center of the submerged bucket. Walked down the 400-feet to the plugged up bitter end and pulled out the plug and viola’. I had running water. Newton and suction had not let me down.

Pipe with one-way valve foot attached just before it went into the submerged bucket

While the water was running free, I ran out another 400-feet of pipe. Once that was
done I inserted a barbed connector, 2 hose clamps and then stuck the two pipes together and
tightened the hose clamps. I continued adding pipe till I arrived at the proposed outside faucet site located about 20-feet from the cabin.

Attached 2-lengths of pipe

According to my GPS our cabin is at 1,420-feet above sea level. Using the same GPS, I took a reading at the well and it was 1,534-feet above sea level. This drop gave us a nice 5-gallons of water per minute when all was said and done. The pipe runs about 600-feet down from the well to our dirt road. Then along the road in the gutter to a drainage pipe that goes under the road. The pipe runs through the drainage pipe to our faucet outside the cabin. All told about 1,150-feet of PVC pipe.

Part of the 1,200-foot run. Surveyor’s tape marks where the pipe connects with barbs. Easy to identify when the snow and forest debris covers the trail

At the planned outside faucet location, I pounded into the ground the 4-foot metal fence post I had purchased earlier in the day.  Drilled a 1″ hole through a 4-foot long, 4″ x 4″ stud I had laying around and screwed the 4″ x 4″ stud to the metal fence post. Inserted a 90-degree barbed elbow and 2 hose clamps into the pipe coming from the well and other end into a 3-foot piece of PVC pipe followed with another 90-degree barbed elbow.

In order to install the 90-degree elbows and faucet I disconnected the pipe at one of the barbed connectors further up the line. Then I re-hooked everything back up. Voila! We had running water at our cabin.

Viola’ We have water. 5-gallons a minute I might add

Before the winter arrived, I added a “Y” valve to the faucet and connected a garden hose to one of the outlets. The “Y” valve had on/off controls so that I could run both of the outlets simultaneously or separately. I hooked up a garden hose to one of the “Y” valve outlets and ran that off to a dry creek bed. Once the temperatures consistently remain at or less than freezing throughout the day, usually by the end of October, I let the water run 24/7 into the dry creek bed. I do not run the water 24/7 in the summer as the well has gotten dangerously low when I have done this.

As written, we run the water 24/7 throughout the winter which allows us to get water during the coldest days. By mid-December the temps at night drop to zero. By January they remain below zero for weeks at a time. Only once has the water ever frozen in the pipe coming down from the well. One November morning while trying to retrieve water, I discovered that the whole length of pipe was frozen. Checked out the length of pipe and discovered that the one-way valve had come loose from the pipe in the well. Apparently, the draw of the water without the valve was so fierce, it had sucked parts of a frog down the whole length of pipe to the first 90-degree bend at the faucet. The pipe starts to be buried in snow mid-November or so. This acts as insulation which helps in keeping the water flowing during the coldest part of the year.

At first MrsMac was hesitant drinking the water from the well. To appease her concerns, I sent off a sample to Penn State University to have it checked. All was good however, we were warned that something could change those results at anytime. For example, if a critter died close to the top of the well or the spring came from a new underground aquifer. To minimize this possibility and to stop other debris from getting into the well, I built a roof over the well several years back. Last, we have a gas well across from our property and the gas company tests our water twice a year. So far all is good.

Until we ran pipe into the cabin for 24/7 water there, we filled 5-gallon buckets from the other outlet of the “Y” valve as needed usually twice a week; to drink, bath, cook and flush toilets. At some point, probably while retrieving water during a driving snowstorm, I decided to bring the water into the cabin and have a pressurized system just like city folk. Maybe even warm water for a shower too. More on that in Part 2 of this series of Bringing Water to the Cabin.

Freedom Through Self-Reliance©

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