Weather Report – February 2012

I am not sure this post will be of much interest to others readers. It is intended more of a short documentation of weather patterns for us to reference in future years. I am writing it now because we are seeing a clear transition into spring and it seems worth noting.

Winter started early with a 2+ week wave of frozen tempretaures (everything outside frosted white) in late October. It was very cold and dry – we didn’t get much rain neither in the summer nor in the autumn. At first it felt like we skipped over autumn directly into winter but then the temperatures went up again – drastically. It was surprsinginly pleasant outside and we were gifted with more days of work … we worked all the way up to Christmas eve … and still there was no snow.

There were only occassional days of sunshine in December and January, more, though still relatively few, in February. I do not recall how it was during November.

Snows came in January and while other of Romania were covered by snow we had a pleasant snowfall. I think that in the open undisturbed fields it accumulated to ~70cm.

Spring emerged suddenly a week ago (~Feb 21) when we awoke to windows without any ice and drastically warmer temperatures. At first with some sunshine and on the 3rd day we had full sunshine.  We were told that temperatures reached as high as 10c. There were signs of snow-melting all around. Then, after the sunshine, came two frozen days … ice on the windows and on the door handle.

Today we had partly cloudy weather and it became windy. The levels of accumulated are definitely coming down. Most of the south-facing land is already completely melted and the view that was white is now brown. All of the rest of the fields are still snow-white and areas around the house are a mixture of snow, slush and mud.

 

24 Hours of … I Kid You Not

Yesterday we had a city day. We went to pick up the chainsaw that was finally fixed and to do laundry (and shower 🙂 at Nora’s place (no running water at home). The day started out with doubts about going it. We had a fresh snowfall and I wasn’t keen on testing the car and my driving skills in fresh snow. The forecast was that even more snow as expected in the coming days so after going back and forth about it we decided to head out.

The car was fine as was my driving. The most difficult part is the 200 meter road immediately leaving Bhudeva, the next though less difficult part is the road after that (another kilometer or so) and after that its pretty much smooth sailing. The main roads are kept clean and driving on them is fine. We made two or three small stops to get a few things then collected the chainsaw and then headed to Nora’s place. Two washing machines, two showers and about 6 hours later we headed back home. The drive back was OK (we took longer then we had hoped for so we drove back on the dark) because there wasn’t too much snowfall that day.

When we got home I tried to pull in to the driveway, as I usually, do in reverse. That’s when things started to take a turn – my instinct is to say “for the worse” … but I don’t really feel that way. After a bit of back and forth and trapping the car in the snow we decided to give up and get back to it next morning, in daylight. We left the car literally blocking the road to Bhudeva – no one could enter or drive past us (not that anyone does).

Andreea went ahead to open the house while I started carrying some things inside (mostly the wet laundry we wanted to hang to dry and not leave in the car to freeze during the night). Inside Andreea realized that once again, divine intervention was working for us. The wood on top of and next to the rocket stove had burned completely – only ashes were left. We keep as much wood as close as possible to the rocket so that it dries before we use it. This has never happened to us while we are at home. This is 2nd time it happened. The previous time it was minor, this is time is was more drastic. It can only be divine intervention that prevented more damage to the house or its contents.

However we had a smoke filled house. Needless to say our plans for hanging laundry to dry and a quiet evening went out the door – as the door was open so that smoke would leave and fresh air would enter. Everything in the bedroom is covered with a thin dark film of I don’t know what. All of our remaining clothes now reek of smoke and some of them (the top ones in every pile) are also dirty. We went to sleep with watery eyes and heavy breath. Sleep isn’t really the right word here … as the entire event had an entire mystic context that went on throughout the night and does not have a place in this blog post.

We got up the following morning … dazed. We started to get things in order and had plans to go visit with our neighbors Ildi and Levente. At one point I walked past the car and noticed that one of the tires looked a bit flat. I kept an eye out on it until it became clear we had a flat tire … well not yet flat … but definitely heading in that direction. So we paused everything and headed out to the village to get the tire fixed. There are to tire-repair shops in the village. One was closed because its owner broke his leg. The other was closed because the owner was away for the winter months working in another country.

So we had two options. One was to change the tire to a spare (which I had never seen, let alone knew its condition) and the other was to drive to the next closest repair shop – just outside Cluj – a 30km drive. We were bummed by having to drive almost all the way to Cluj because we already had plans to go back to Nora to do a whole day of laundry (complete with drying). Levente suggested we come to his place to change the tire so he can (a) help and (b) if things didn’t work out with the spare – he could take the tire and get it fixed as he was planning to go to Cluj the next day or the day after.

So we decided to go to Ildi and Levente. However I accidentally took out of the car a bag with some flour they asked us to bring for them from our visit to Cluj the previous day. So we drove back home, picked up the flour and I changed into work clothes … and we headed back out.

Now remember we have a tire that is slowly flattening out. As you read through the next events try to keep in the back of your head a hissing sound … it was as imaginary to me as it will be to you … but the tire was slowly losing air and we were asking it to pull us in 4×4 mode through snow.

We neared a junction where we needed to make a kind of u-turn. As we neared the junction we saw two large carriages drawn by horses both carrying huge loads of hay. I paused at the junction to (a) choose if I wanted to start maneuvering this turn or to just continue straight and turn later on where there was a convenient place to do so and (b) decide if I want to start maneuvering before or after the horse-carriages arrive at the junction. I decided against maneuvering and drove ahead of the carriages.

We were moving along OK until a few seconds later Andreea noticed someone lying in the snow on the side of the road. We stopped to see what was going on and if we could offer help. We found an old man who fell in the snow, so drunk (which is why he fell) that he had no idea what was going on.

By the way … can you still hear the hissing sound?

We helped him up (it took the both of us) … he wasn’t to good at staying up. We asked him where he lived and he pointed in the general direction which we were planning to go (still the opposite direction – since we had not yet turned around). So Andreea invited him to get in the car and a ride home. I think he accepted … but it doesn’t really matter. What did matter was that we couldn’t get him in the car. Andreea tried to help him in, he went in head first, had one knee on the floor of the car … and that’s as far as we got.

Fortunately, by now the horse-carriages arrived and Andreea asked for help. The guys laughed … apparently this isn’t the first time this old man is found fallen drunk in the snow. One of them was large and strong enough to lift the man and place him in the car. Then they told us with better approximation then “there” where he lived. We thanked them and all went our way. We continued a few more seconds to the place where we planned to turn around … and surprisingly that worked out fun.

hiss …

We started driving back in the direction we wanted to go. We past the horse-carriages one more time, this time heading in the opposite direction, and waved a greatful goodbye to them for the last time (today). Abotu 30 seconds later we arrived in the vicinity of the man’s house. We found a partially plowed road/path that led in the direction of the house. I hesitated to take it … but take it we did. Shortly AFTER we passed a foot path that led to the house he told us that we passed the house. Now this is barely a one way path – turning around really isn’t an option.

hiss …

So we continued with the path until we reached it’s end … which was the house of the plumber we didn’t hire because of his high prices. The only promising place to turn around was right next to his house where there was a small driveway. We drove in only to find the drive way was occupied. We started heading back out in reverse … hoping to be able to make a forceful turn around. By now the plumber had come out and was looking at us.

hiss ….

We headed back in and Andreea went out to speak to him. He came to the car, looked at the old man and smiled. Yep, he is a regular. He told Andreea exactly which house we were looking for, went inside, came back with his car keys and backed his car out so we could turn around … and we did. We reached the foot path and stopped.

Andreea helped him out of the car and began walking him home. I took over and Andreea went ahead to see if anyone else was at home with him to take over. At this point the old man decided to strike up a conversation with me in Romanian. I told him I don’t speak much Romanian, but that didn’t have the desired effect. He asked me where I was from, I said Israel. A few seconds later he asked me if I was from Spain.

hiss …

While I was having this non-conversation with a drunk old Romanian man Andreea reached the house. She stopped at the gate because of a dog and called out. It took some time until the door opened. At the door appeared a man which looked even older then the one I was escorting. He quickly figured out what was going on … though he didn’t move away from the door. Finally as I was nearing the gate he too came to the gate and we handed the old (younger) drunk man to him and were on our way.

Apparently they are brothers. When the at-home brother saw me helping his brother home he said to Andreea that he keeps hoping that one day his brother would fall in the snow and just stay there. So there you have it.

So we headed back out and made it safely to Ildy and Levente. Levent came out to greet us, Andreea went inside and we stayed and played mechanic. We dug away an area of snow so that again I could get the car turned around. We found the well-hidden car-jack and how to release the spare from under the car. The jack refused to work at first (it is a fancy-shmancy jack that uses compressed oil). Levente got it to work and we managed to change the tire. Great relief.

We are back home, on an improvised bed – the sheets on it reeked of smoke, other sheets were in the clost and also well-done, the only clean ones are half frozen since they came from the laundry but were not yet dry. The rocket stove is running fine. Soon there will be tea. Tomorrow we will be going to Nora again and doing Laundry all day (with a stop to fix the tire). The day after we will continue to clean the after-math of the almost-fire … and … well we’ll see what comes.

Water – Pump Installation

Finally we get to the point – installing the pump. This just goes to show you how long a journey it was … at the end of this post there will be an image of joyous water flowing 🙂

However as I write these words we are are at the peak of winter (soon the hardest part of winter will be behind us) and we have no running water due to freezing problems. I will try, in this post, to address what we did, what should have be done and what we will be doing to fix this problem so that hopefully, next winter, water will continue to flow.

What We Did

The pump was installed on the concrete stage set for it in the concrete box. It was bolted down (though we’ve seen been advised that it is enough to place it on the screws without actually bolting it down – it was a pain to close the bolts and a pain to open them when we had to take the pump out for thawing). The pump is bolted to an expansion tank.

A ribbed flexible hose runs from the well, through a mechanical filter to keep debris from going into the pump. The pump outlet drops to the floor where it is hooked up to a 3-way flow junction. One (the only one connected at this point) goes to the main house, another is designed for a future connection of the barn and a third is for a water supply in the field.

What We Did Wrong

This is easier to demonstrate with a diagram.

 

The frost-depth in our area is 80cm. When we did the digging we went to somewhere between 100cm and 110cm. We thought that would be enough margin – and it was. However it you look at the diagram you will see that the physical characteristics of the pump bring it to way above the required depth for frost protection. The pump itself sits on top of the expansion tank. Its inlet is at its mid-height (the expansion tank and then some) and its outlet comes out on top and reaches even higher then the pump itself. The result is such that water reaches as close as 40cm from the surface … way too high to be protected from frost.

Once frost gets hold in one component of the system it quickly sucks energy out of the entire system and ice spreads throughout. The entire system froze: the pump, the plumbing next to the pump, the entire pipe running from the bottom of the well to the pump (even though the water in the well has not frozen), and some of the pipe (we don’t know how much) leaving towards the house.

What We Should Have Done

We should have taken into account the pump itself. We should have dug deeper (at least another 50cm) so that the pump inlet would be at just above floor level and inline with the passage-hole of the pipe  from the well into the concrete box. This would have kept everything below frost depth.

 

In addition it would have reduced the need for bending the pipes. The less bends and the softer the bends are – the better flow there will be through the pipes.

Junction Box

A similar problem exists in the junction box – the 2nd concrete box (please excuse image quality).

The main supply is split into two flows – one for unfiltered water in the field, the other for indoor use. Indoor water is passed through a filter (for hard-water deposits – not yet to our satisfaction) and then split into three valves – one of which is currently used and goes to the house. Here most of the plumbing is at floor level – so it should be frost resistant (however since the system has been out of use for a couple of weeks it too has frozen). However the filter is installed again way too high – way into the frost depth risk.

Having the filter indoors would have protected it from frost and would have made it easier to maintain – however we would then filters in other future stuctures where the water supply may go.

What We Will Do

I don’t expect that we will be redigging the bottom of the concrete box – as that may destabilize the concrete itself.

The entire well assembly was taken apart. The pump and plumbing attached to it was brought indoors to thaw.They have since been returned to their place and properly insulated with mineral-wool. A sheet of mineral wool covers the entire pump and will be removed in spring to prevent overheating.

Using rags soaked in hot water I’ve managed to defrost at least the beginning of the supply pipe that exits the well assembly. However since water does not flow out of it I am assuming that it is still frozen deeper inside. I don’t know what to do about that.

The long pipe running from the well has been pulled out and is slowly thawing indoors.

The junction box, after it’s thawed out, will also be insulated with mineral-wool – all the plumbing and the filter.

Pump Doesn’t Pressurize

When the pump is unable to pressurize (when its main valve is shut so that it’s isolated from the supply line) there is a very good chance that the problem is with a no-return valve which should be installed at the end of the pipe that is lowered into the well. This valve keeps the water from flowing back into the well (gravity) when the pump is inactive.

We purchased a special set of pipe with a fitted valve – and the valve failed. When it leaks the pump loses its priming (=when it is initially filled with water until the entire pipe down to the water level is filled with water) and cannot pressurize properly.

I would suggest keeping a spare valve at home  – this seems to be a relatively common problem (I guess they don’t make valves like they used to).

Pipe, Stay

Finally, we had a problem keeping the pipe running into the well properly oriented and in the water – it got twisted (because it was too long) and floated. So, first thing is to get it to the right length – general wisdom seem to be that it should be ~60cm above the floor of the well.

The anchoring solution came from our neighbor – tried and true Romanian villager know-how.

He first destroyed one of our buckets by drilling holes in it. Then he placed a rock in it. The hose itself is tied to the two sides of the bucket. This way the supply pipe will never touch dirt, will always be immersed in water and will always be properly oriented. How cool is that? 🙂

Great joy came when we finally had water flowing from a pipe near the entry of the house 🙂

Next up is getting the water into the house 🙂

Land, Water & a New Economy

Yesterday morning, after charging the car overnight, we got is started and when on a small treasure hunt (we spoke to a person, who sent us to another person who sent us to another person) to a neighboring village to purchase up a small electric stove (from a villager who brings small batches of them from Bucharest) which is going to make our life much better.

We then stopped at one of the village bars where we had a conversation with the owners (who we know). We talked about this and that … sustainability, land, water. There is a once-fertile area in the south of Romania that has been gradually transformed into a desert. It is now covered with 3 meters of snow … housed are buried in snow (I can’t help but see that nature will always come around like a bumerang). We have a relatively comfortable winter (except for the freezing temperatures).

We talked about land. They admitted there is a soil-fertility problem but there’s nothing to do about it. We disgareed and explained that our approach is going to be based on the understanding that soil-fertility comes before everything else. They still don’t think it’s possible.

We got around to water because we asked their permission to fill a few large water bottles with water from the main water supply (comes from the city of Cluj). There is a freely accessible faucet nearby but it is now frozen solid. Romanians who have running water (many villagers don’t – they carry water in buckets from a well) are extremely wasteful with it. They still think it’s an endless resources that can be exploited carelessly. Yet everyone knows that water tables are dropping. A large area on the way to our property was once a lake. Wells are drying up … and yet no one admits that there may be a problem.

We then headed out to visit neighbors. On the way we saw a woman pulling (uphill – from her house towards the road) a small cart with two large aluminum containers (usually used for delivering milk) on it. She has a small flock of goats. We stopped to say hello and to ask about goat milk. There isn’t any now … there will be some around April/May. The containers were empty – she was carrying them to a public well (at least another 200 meters from where we were) because the two wells on her property were dry. Yeah … there’s no water problem.

We continued to oue neighbors and had a wonderful discussion about an initiative we call Cutia Taranului (Romanian for Peasant Box). We hope that by this spring their produce will be sold directly to families in the city instead of through the abusive and inefficient city-markets. This is an experiment with one peasant family which we hope will be adopted by many others. More to come on that soon 🙂

Water – Electricity

Despite the irony of the title – electricity was an inevitable next step in the water infrastructure. The basic needs was to get an electric outlet for the pump. However I decided to take it one step further and install additional power outlets that would be available in the fields (so that I wouln’t have to stretch out long extension cords). So I set out to put in power adapters in both the flow junction concrete box and in the pump concrete box.  Though it should have been a straightforward task I did run into a few difficulties and learned a few lessons worth mentioning.

Electric Cable

We purchased a 200 meter roll of three wire cable. I don’t remember the exact specification – but I do remember we chose the one with thicker diameter wires (also more expensive) that were rated for a higher current. I would have wanted to put in more then one supply cable – but the cost was prohibitive.

Much later I learned that there is a 5 wire cable which is usually used for three-phase electric installations. However, I believe it can used as if it were three separate electric cables bound into one. The ground and zero wires are shared and then there are three current supply wires.

I don’t have a specific short-term need for this in mind, however it isn’t every day that you dig a 60 meter long, 1 meter deep trench on your property. So there’s that 🙂

Burying Electric Cable

The cable was buried alongside the water pipe. To protect it we purchased a ribbed plastic tube (2×100 meters length) meant to protect it.

The cable was a perfect fit in the protective tube. As a result, getting the cable into the tube was hard work. Rather then going into the details of how we did it (hint: using a pull-wire and cutting the protective tube into manageable segments) I would suggest getting a more spacious tube. I thought about this when we purchased ours but I thought that a tight fit would offer better protection to the cable. I still think that too large a tube, with too much free space, may collapse under the pressure of the earth and may give out sooner.

Modularity

For the better part of a day I struggled in vain to get the electric-accessories (splitter box and sockets) installed. I wired them together indoors and then headed out to fit them into the concrete walls. Remembers this is work done in a confined underground space. I failed … completely. I couldn’t get is assembled in place.

After a long and mostly fruitless day I realized I had been going about this the hard way. It dawned on me that I could do most of the assembly work inside if I were to simply mount the electric-accessories onto a wood panel and then simply mount that panel on the concretewalls. So, the next day I tried this and it worked like a charm. I predrilled the panels in place and then worked comfortably on them indoors. These are the two panels prepared for installation.

The only electric fitting I had to do underground was to connect the ends of the buried cabled to these boxes. In the image below you can see that I left empty sockets on the left hand side – so all I needed was a screwdriver and a few minutes of work.

Since our electricity infrastructure is outdated and partially improvised this entire supply line is simply plugged into an existing power outlet.

 

Water – Installation Materials

If, like us, you are a complete beginner then figuring out what materials to use that this can be an annoying  obstacle. I was learning about these materials in English and then we (mostly Andreea) had to track them down in Romanian – so it was not just a technical barrier but a language barrier too. What follows are our choices based on the materials that are available here and within our budget limitations. We ended up going with the parts and materials typically used. There are other to choose from … but for all the right and wrong reasons we went with the typical stuff.

Outdoor: HDPE

Above and underground we used 32mm HDPE pipes (in Romanian PEID). This is a robust black pipe of which we purchased a 200 meter roll.  The fact that comes in a roll can be misleading as it is not very flexible – it can go around large corners but it definitely not flexible enough for you to bend to your will.

It was very difficult to lay in the long trench in the ground – as the roll is large and heavy. The  workers who helped took the entire roll to one end and rolled it out – very difficult. In retrospect I think that (a) the rolled pipe should have been placed on the ground at one end  of its path; (b) one person should have rotated the roll while (c) another person pulled the free end out and away from the roll and towards the other end of the path. I think this would have resulted in much less of a struggle. But I haven’t yet had an opportunity to try this 🙂

Easy to use T and corner joints and adapters are available – they are twisted open and closed by hand – you won’t need any tools to hook these up. There are also adapters to make the transition from HDPE to standard metal (aluminum / bronze) plumbing parts. The T and corner joints themselves come in different variations (male, female) which include the adapter connections. Please note that these joints and adapters are not too expensive but not too cheap either. You will need more of them then you think and they can add up to a substantial cost.

The pipe can be cut fairly easily with a hacksaw.

Indoor: PEX-AL-PEX

PEX tubes are a very popular indoor piping system. PEX is a kind of plastic tube. Pex-Al-Pex is a three layer pipe made up of a layer of aluminum sandwiched between two layers of PEX. They can be used for both hot and cold water supply and are fairly easy to work with. There are numerous brands of these  pipes and we chose (based on a recommendation from a professional plumber) to use 20mm “Henco” pipes which are better and easier (more flexible) to work with.

The connectors and adapters are fairly simple to use. The pipes need to be cut straight and clean (either with a specialized cutter or with careful attention using a standard utility knife). Then the end needs to be expanded slightly (either with a specialized tool or with an ad-hoc tool that fits tightly inside the pipe) and after that it is all you need is a wrench to lock it tight. The pipes are flexible and easy to work with.

To the best of my knowledge there are “systems” of PEX tubing which are assembled with pressure joints – this includes joints and adapters into which the pipe is inserted and pressed using a special tool. This is excellent for do-it-yourself work because it creates a perfect seal every time (no leak worries). We still haven’t come across such a system here in Romania. Though, from searching for the images above, it seems that Henco also has a pressure-fitted system – so we will definitely look into that in the future.

PVC

We used 40 mm PVC pipes for collecting and evacuating the water from the house. We have a fairly simple system where all the elements are close together and are collected to one exit point. PVC is pretty cheap and very easy to work with.

The pipe comes in lengths of 1, 2 or 4 meters. One end of the pipe is designed for connecting pipes – it has a slightly wider diameter and holds a plastic washer to achieve a good seal. Two important things to remember about PVC pipe are (1) that the up-stream pipe always goes into the down-stream pipe and (2) since they are usually gravity operated they should be set a 2 degree angle – which is about a 2.5cm drop for every meter of length.

If, for example, you need a half meter pipe you can of course cut it from a longer pipe, however the left over pipe-section will no longer have the connecting/sealing end. However you can work around this – a trick a local plumber taught me. You heat the end of the pipe for a few seconds until is softens and then insert into it another pipe which creates the shape of an adapter end:

Metal Adapters and Valves

The plumbing works included metal joints and accessories. There are quite a few of these and you will discover your way around them and how to use them. I don’t yet know enough about the variety to give a guided tour but there are a few things I can point out.

There are aluminum parts and bronze ones. The bronze ones seem much better in resisting corrosion – the aluminum ones are not very impressive. Yet some parts seem to be available only in aluminum and others only in copper – I don’t know why that is. I am also not sure what are the consequences of coupling them together (which we had to do).

Connecting them takes some effort – you need at least two decent monkey/pipe wrenches and you will need to learn how to work with them. I’m still a beginner. You will need some lining material  (silicon based thread or hemp strings). The most mysterious, to me, aspect about connecting them is when you want to achieve specific orientation. On the one hand they should be tightened all the way to get a good seal yet sometimes that will end up in awkward positions that don’t work out for the connections you want to make. My only solution was to use a good amount of lining material and tighten them as much as possible but not beyond the position in which I wanted them to be (I found that going past the preferred end position and then backing up a bit is a recipe for a leak).

You are going to need valves – probably more then you think – and this, like the HDPE joints and adapters, is going to pile up to a substantial cost. Basically you need valves to give you control of the system when something goes wrong and maintenance is required. The end result of good planning seems to be that  both ends of a pipe are typically controlled by a valve enabling you to isolate the section of pipe between the two valves. This is especially important in long pipes that may contain a large amount of water.

Valves come with different male/female fittings which you can use as you see fit. The long-handled valves are easier to operate HOWEVER they can be more cumbersome to install, especially in more complex assemblies. Remember that as you connect the pieces you will need to rotate them – so they need to be arranged in such a way that you CAN rotate them.  Also, if you purchase a vale with asymmetrical fittings (one side male and the other female) then that limits you in how you can connect it – so you may find yourself with a valve oriented the wrong way. This may sound stupidly obvious … but I put myself into a few tight corners by choosing the wrong kind of valve. So I’ve said what I have to say 🙂

 

Purpose Guides

Today the sun went into hiding and snow came falling down. Still very cold, and I decided to leave all the malfunctions and stay inside where its warm and cozy (though I did place some warm rags on our drain pipe exiting the house). But a neighbor came by to try and help me get the car started.

He came with a raggedy looking converter which connects to the power grid and outputs 12v DC … and it is hooked up the car battery to charge it … we decided to leave it until tomorrow morning and see if it helps. It has very loose connections so I need to keep an eye out on a small indicator light telling me its working – when it goes out I need to go and shake some wires around 🙂

He also took a look at our water situation and it is dire. He encouraged me to completely take out the pipe going into the well … and it is completely frozen (over 5 meters of ice). It is now in the pantry where we keep the temperature to a few degrees above zero … so it should defrost. But that is not the end of the freezing problem … nor is describing it the subject of this post.

The thought that we may not have running water until spring when everything thaws out (2 months at least) is disquieting. So is the thought of not being able to start the car (and drive to the city to pick up our chainsaw that is in repair). I have so far managed to contain the turmoil. Today I was reminded of how.

Just when our neighbor was arriving Andreea called on a break from her course (we barely manage to talk because my cellular phone is dying too and our cellular Internet connection blocks Skype).  She is in Bucharest teaching her 2nd Doula course in Romania. We spoke shortly because I needed to go out and meet our neighbor (the dogs were giving him a less then pleasant welcome). She was filled with joy and energy. 13 women made an effort to participate in the course … some had to travel with babies long distances by trains, in freezing temperatures and at the mercy of snow-storms. All the women made it, some at the last minute. They came to learn how to assist other women (and themselves) during birth.

This is why we are here. This is a powerful energy that we embraced into our lives and has carried us into this new (freezing, waterless, car-less) life. A few seconds on the phone with Andreea confirmed this. We are fulfilling our purpose. Personal frustration, worry and discomforts are brought into context by having a purpose and staying true to it. From afar it tells us which direction to take, from close up it supports and strengthens us.

Don’t get me wrong, I am dying for a hot shower and a flowing sink to do dishes in and not having to carry water from the well in these freezing temperatures. But, I was much less comfortable in a life where these comforts were obviously available and life was devoid of  purpose.

I’m off to  cook a simple dinner of rice with lentils and peppers. I’ll use only one pot so there isn’t much washing up to do … and it will be a delicious meal sprinkled with our secret ingredient – purpose.

Thursday - February 2, 2012

today felt like the coldest morning so far … very subjective .. but there you have it

it took longer then usual for the rocket to warm up the room …

I went out after 10:30 to feed the dogs and release the flock and ran back inside … I went out again only around 12:30 … by the sun had overcome the freezing temperatures  – probably brought them up to ~10deg celsius again 🙂

The guy with the milk arrived and tried to help me start the car with his battery but that didn’t work either … still local wisdom says its the freezing temperatures and so … we’ll see … another neighbor will try to come out to see if he can help me get the car started 🙂

So I spent the day cutting up more firewood from the scrap pile … and did some planing on boards that will become our bedside dressers … it isn’t an urgent project … especially in this cold … but the planer-dust/shavings are a bit urgent  as we are running low and need them for the composting toilets.

Went inside, feeling nice, got organized to do the dishes … still thankful that the plumbing carrying out of the house is still working … nearly got the washing done … until water started to backup … the exit pipe has frozen too (though I don’t know why … it’s exposed and lifted from the ground where the water flows out) – too late for that tonight … I’ll try to defrost it tomorrow 🙂

mucho mucho patience 🙂

rocket stove is burning and whispering, soup is warming up, dog food mashup is cooking, going to watch the other half of the movie I fell asleep on last night and relax … maybe do some more writing later … maybe not 🙂

Wednesday - February 1, 2012

It’s been cold here … physically and emotionally … the day before yesterday began with -17deg (celsius) and yesterday with -23. Peak temperatures, with a clear and sunny sky, have been -10 – though in the sun it can be quite pleasant.

Just to give you an idea of how cold … this is what the handle on the door to the house (leads into our unheated hallway / kitchen) looks like in the morning … an excellent lesson in thermal conductivity – metal conducting heat out and coolth in

and in that hallway/kitchen there were  two buckets of water (see below for explanation of why they are there) … the one on the tiles has already developed a thin layer of ice … the one on the carpet took a while longer:

Yesterday the car wouldn’t start when I wanted to go and pick up guests from the village. They had a pleasant walk instead. Then when they left the car changed mood (or got warmed up!?) and decided to start and ran quite fine. Today it wouldn’t start again and stayed that way … I had a long walk with Andreea as she had began her journey to Bucharest (where she will be teaching her second and sold-out doula course) … it wasn’t very pleasant because we were carrying bags, slippery ice is everywhere  and we set out as the sun was going down and temperatures come crashing down. For me it was a two way trip … on the way back I managed to almost strike up a conversation with a neighbor.

A few days ago we lost water pressure in the morning. After some fishing around it seemed that the pump was running but not getting up to pressure. First diagnosis is a failing return valve … we decided to call an excellent and friendly plumber … he came the next day and by then the pipes going in and out of the pump were frozen solid. So it probably isn’t the valve. He pulled the pump and parts of the piping that can be taken out and we placed them in the house to next to the rocket stove to thaw. He then instructed me us on how to get it back in working order (more on that soon) then told us that he wasn’t in the plumbing business anymore … so it was really kind of him to come out and help anyway (he is a really pleasant and positive individual). He has moved into the milk business … running a family business of 9 cows which takes all of his time. So we are now buying milk from him.

Actually he was supposed to deliver our milk tomorrow at the village bar. But we called him and said the car was not starting and asked to delay our order for next week. He said no problem, he will be coming over to deliver the milk tomorrow and will bring cables to help me start the car (it’s probably a run down battery issue in this cold weather). How super-uber-cool-and-friendly is that?

Today I spent the day getting the pipes next to the wall to thaw. I made some progress … managed to clear out the parts of the pipes close to the pump … but not complete. There is still ice in the pipe from the well to the pipe … I don’t know what’s happening further down the pipe going from the pump towards the house. I was busy all day wrapping the pipes with warm rags and pouring into them hot water. I insulated all the pipes, placed the pump back in place and covered it with insulation … then covered the  whole concrete box with hay. I tried to prime the pump with warm water but it wouldn’t go into the pipe going down into the well. I called it a day … we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

And finally our chainsaw has been in repair for over a week and the guy still hasn’t even looked at it. We really enjoyed purchasing from him but his service has been quite a bummer of an experience. It’s cold and we need to cut wood for heating and that’s hard to do without a chainsaw. Instead I’ve been working through our scrap wood pile … slow and unpleasant work …  lot’s of nails, odd shaped pieces … messy … but thankfully we have it available to us (we’ll be much better organized with wood for next winter).

I’m pretty pleased we didn’t get snow chains … that would have been an expensive insurance policy. It seems though that it would have been a good idea to get a car-battery and charger for these cold cold days.

I’m also trying to empty/arrange the garage so I can move the car inside … and I was looking forward to a restful winter 🙂

So no car, no running water and no chainsaw … and I am alone at home for almost a week … and … I am proud and happy to say that though there is some discomfort … all is good and well and for the most part there is a smile on my face 🙂

 

 

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One dollar, one vote. The industry cares now a whit about our tender feelings for the environment: The dollar we plunk down at the supermarket checkout is first and foremost a vote – for more of the same.