The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Filling up milk jugs with water

Looking down into our wellAlthough people used to live on our farm during the Depression, the farm's only drinking water supply is a shallow, hand dug well that tested positive for coliform bacteria.  Granted, many people drink from shallow wells and springs just like this around here.  You build up a tolerance and tend to do just fine, but if you give water to unsuspecting visitors, they get sick.

To avoid this problem, we spent our first year or two lugging drinking water back to the farm.  My mom would rinse out empty milk jugs and save them for me, then we'd fill them up at her house when we went to visit.  Other times, we'd fill up our milk jugs at various other friends' houses closer to the farm.  Sometimes, we were able to haul the jugs of water back to the trailer in our four wheel drive truck, but a lot of the time the truck wasn't working and we'd just carry them in --- it's not too hard to haul a jug of water in each hand while walking Lucy in the morning.

Water feels more precious when the supply is limited.  We cooked and drank the special water, going through about a gallon a day between us.  For everything else, we used creek water, treated with some bleach when we did dishes, but plain for other tasks.

Drinking water treatment systemThen we splurged on our water filtration system and were blessed with unlimited, safe drinking water.  I felt like we'd moved from a third world country to a second world country!

The only flaw is that we still haven't quite gotten our water line all the way buried since my wrists can't take much heavy digging and I tend to set Mark on tasks that seem more important.  So this week we fell halfway back to our third world country.  I dragged all of the old milk jugs out of the barn, rinsed them out, and filled them up with our treated water.  By Friday, the freeze set in and we started dipping into stored water.

It's funny to read on other peoples' blogs about disaster preparedness --- people filling up empty milk jugs just in case the world comes to an end or a heavy storm knocks out their power for days on end.  It doesn't really feel like a disaster to be pumping our drinking water during thaws and drinking out of jugs during cold snaps.  I guess it's all a matter of perspective....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.



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