Water – Sourcing

Water is something I’ve taken for granted all of my life. When we started out here we had a well which had been mostly unused for some years and needed cleaning. As I write these words we have a faucet with running water next to our front door. We still have a journey to make until we have running water (hot and cold and drinkable) in the house. We thought this would be resolved much faster but there were/are many details involved.

This is intended to be the first of a series of articles about the installation of our water infrastructure. Yet before I get to the technicalities and lessons learned in our process I feel that it is important to dedicate this first post to the most important aspect of water supply – making sure you have it available to you.

Having lived (when we moved out to the village) for a couple of months with water carried in a bucket from the well and then with a single running faucet outside the house I no longer take water for granted. It should be one of the primary considerations when selecting land. You need to have a source of water before you can do anything with it. We had hoped to have a natural source of running water on our property but that didn’t work out. A natural source can be a spring or a river. It is preferable to have a source that is higher (the more the better) from the location where you intend to live as that will provide you with, to some degree, with a gravity-driven flow of water (no pump required) and potentially an option to generate hydro-electricity.

The next option was to have an accessible water-table, flow and good water.

    • The water-table indicates the level of water beneath the surface – this can change throughout the seasons of the year. Ours seems to be about 4m below the surface (where the well is located at the lowest point of our property … this can change in different location on the property). A next door property – slightly elevated from ours where one of the two wells has been known to dry up during drought summer weeks.
    • Flow indicates what volume of water a well can hold. Our well is round and about 1 meter across. When we had it measured it was ~1.7m deep. That means that we have about 1.3 cubic meters of water in it which is about 1300 liters of water. When we had the well cleaned (next post in the series) that water was pumped out in less then 30 minutes. Near the bottom of the well there is a spring which fills it and it took the spring about 2 hours to fill back up.
    • Drinkable water is a complicated subject that covers a diverse range of things including chemical, biological and mineral composition. Many things can effect the quality of water. Our well seems to be well known in the village to have good water and our neighbors were using it slightly.

We were fortunate to arrive at a property where there was an existing well – which made assessing some of these things easier. If you arrive at a property that does not then you should be prepared to do some tests to assess these things. This also meant that we did not have to deal with drilling a well (though we may need to in the future – depending on where and what we choose to build). So we have no practical experience with drilling and I won’t be addressing it in this series.

Yesterday we did something worth noting … but I couldn’t get an Internet connection and was too tired to figure out why … and now after another tiring day I don’t remember what happened yesterday …

Today was cold and in the morning it even rained a bit … a dreary day. Not very inviting to exit the house … but exit we did. We started with a visit to the rocket stove model. We were able to get a good though not consistent enough side-burn going … I think the burn tunnel was too long considering the diameter of the vertical burn chamber. I started playing around with it but then our wood order arrived and that became the theme of the day.

6 cubic meters is a lot of wood. We purchased it as a long term investment … as it will naturally dry and eventually (and gradually) we will have dry wood … which was impossible to find. Anyways … moving 6 cubic meters is a huge task … the first half (or so) was moved into the barn attic … the second half (the heavy half) only made it into the barn itself … slowly we will work to move it up into the attic. We are dead tired.

Food is ready, house is warm … remembering that 6 cubic meters of wood is not only a lot of work but also pure abundance … looking forward to working with it in the coming weeks … creating much needed furniture to carry us through the winter and then some 🙂

This day started earlier then usual when we went out to meet the second truck of stones for our section of road. I thought we would have spare stones left over but there was just barely enough (we could use a few cubic meters more to fill a few weak spots). The really friendly and professional tractor driver (from our village) called us back soon after the stones were delivered (just in time!) and a couple of hours later he was here to flatten the piles of stone into what looks more like a road. We now have a relatively rain-proof access road – how wonderful!

We took advantage of the tractors visit to also bury a couple of large tractor tires that were lying around (we arranged them as a small two level pond – Andreea’s brilliant idea – our first constructive landscaping intervention), to pull out a few large cement and wood posts that were stuck in areas we had already cleared, to close a part of the water supply pipe that was still open (there is still more to be closed … long story) and to dig a shallow ditch for rerouting the electric cable that goes to the pump towards the main house (where we hope to soon have a decent electric panel).

I did some more wood chopping … then Andreea and I continued to work around our new pond. Rains are expected this weekend and it would be great if we could already channel that water into the ponds.

I drove out the village to change some euros but both banks were closed so instead I got us some ice-cream … made the trip worthwhile 🙂

Tomorrow we are heading out to the city to do some shopping (materials for the rocket stove, a rain-water collection barrel to feed the ponds, etc.) … Friday evening we are expecting delivery of our wood order … which we will have to stow away promptly to keep out of the rains.

Oh … and I forgot to mention that the day before yesterday we had a surprisingly fruitful visit from the long-expected Internet provider technician. He was surprisingly useful and constructive (not typical of Romanian service providers) and if all goes well we will have last-mile-wireless (we don’t have any communication cables that reach our place) Internet sometime during next week. They will be setting up an antenna in the town center, a second antenna on an electric pole along a road that leads to our place and from there there should be the required line-of-sight to place an antenna on the roof of our house … so all in all … almost everything is coming together and it looks like (given a lot more work still ahead of us) we are heading comfortably into winter.

Wrapping up an odd day. Started with a visit to the market … mostly for some local cheese but we picked up a few other things – including three! kinds of tomatoes. The prices of food are ridiculous here … it is a huge value gap between the value of food in our lives and the amount of work that goes to growing and making it. I am reminded again and again that I would happily grow and process my own food but given the value gap I am not very likely to do so for anyone else.

Oh and we were lucky to run into a market seller who had only cauliflowers … large ones … and we purchased another batch to cut up and freeze for the winter. We missed the local produce so we were happy to run into him.

We also picked a package I ordered with a good saw and a couple of quality chisels for wood working … great to finally have these tools at hand. They arrived just in time for the wood that should be arriving any day.

I did some wood chopping after two days of rest. We then proceeded to build a first simulation of our intended in house rocket stove. We did not yet have the materials for the burn chamber and without that there’s no point in testing it. We stuck in an old metal pipe for kicks and that did part of the trick.

We finally put in the order for stones to pour over the road to our property and a first truck arrived. Unfortunately the brought wrong size stones – they brought small pebbles and we need  larger river-bed rocks. So the first truck went back and another one came back later and poured stacks of rock down the path. Tomorrow a second truck will come and then we need to fin a tractor to level the road for us and that will be done … finally … and it looks as if just in time because long awaited rains are expected this weekend.

Indy tried to kill Harry again and that really puts a veil of agitation over us … only now the nervousness is beginning to fade. We aren’t doing what we should be doing to keep the dogs in check. Even Loui (the puppy) is starting to act up … also showing aggression towards Harry!

Finally we went on a short walk to pick up from fresh milk (still warm from the cow) … back home … warm stove and warm soup await us.


Rest … today was a much needed and much appreciated day of rest.

Yesterday we finished the last 2 Zakuska … the last of the big cooking efforts.

We were extremely happy to not-cook today.

We’ve been having a hard time finding a steel barrel … so we’ve decided to build our rocket stove from almost all firebricks. I spent some time at the computer redesigning the rocket stove … and it’s looking good. We now need to get ~60 more firebricks, two steel pipes and a steel top plate … and we are good to go.

I hope the wood we ordered arrives soon … I’d like to get back to working on the things we need. It’s already October, fall is in the air … then November gets cooler and December is freezing. It feels like there isn’t much time left and still plenty of work to do.


Goodies from Bacau

So, the purpose of our road trip was to visit Andreea’s aunt in a village called Bacau, an hour+ drive south from her home town of Piatra Neamt. Her aunt had prepared some things to get us started in our new village life and though we weren’t crazy about the long trip involved we decided to go ahead and make it. We spent a first night in Piatra Neamt and the next night in Bacau and then headed back home.

There were sacks of flour, corn (full seeds + roughly ground + thinly ground into corn-flour):

We had some plants including mint and garlic:


We had ten week-old chicks:

We had 7 ducklings and a mother duck:

… and more (there was a small gas tank …). When we got home we found one of the sacks had punctured. In the past I would have been infuriated at this … now I just scratched my head and moved on (over coming weeks we would add cement and dog hairs to the mix):

When we got home we had to improvise a temporary shelter for the chicks and ducks:

Which soon after led to my first wood-working project – a mostly improvised cage to keep them together and safe.

which included a small bowl of water with a ramp leading into … that one of the ducks was quick to use:

At nights we moved the chicks into an cold coop that we had used until recently and in the days we moved them out into the cage. The ducklings were comfortable to usher in and out because they stayed close to their mother – so wherever she went they did too. The chicks were more unruly (and still are) because they were hatched in and incubator and did not have a mother hen to guide them – making things more difficult for us.

On the way back from Bacau through Piatra Neamt we made a stop to freshen up and see Andreea’s father again shortly. As I was waiting for Andreea in the parking lot I looked in wonder at the contents of our car. 18 months before I was standing at the same place (during my first visit to Romania) and I could not have imagined then that I would be back and in this situation. Yet there I was … crumbling bread and pouring water into a small plastic container to feed chicks and ducks!


All these past days we’ve been very busy still making food preservations … we’ve finished with the tomato sauce (~40 liters of it), made another batch of the miraculous winter salad, a failed Zakuska which will hopefully keep is a nice complementary dish to cooked rice, prune compote and jam, more pickles (this time of cauliflower, carrot and peppers).

Today we decided to start the day with a bit of movement before sitting down for more cooking … so we went and harvested walnuts from three trees on our property – one tree nice and and large nuts, a second young tree with a little medium sizes nuts and a third large tree with many but small nuts. We hope to have time to do some pruning and coppicing of many trees this autumn and to see if/how they come to life. We’ll probably be using a lot of the wood for constructing our first large raised beds.

I spent the better part of the day splitting open the green shells of the walnuts – my hands are well stained (though we have quite a few experiments planned t actually use the stain for numerous applications!) and the shells accounted for about half the volume and weight … but still have a very nice crop of nuts for the winter. At some point I also started taking care of more eggplants and peppers that were roasting on the rocket stove. Andreea was busy expanding our next-year-seed-reservoir by adding eggplant, garlic and thyme seeds … we already have tomato, peppers and basil set aside (all from fresh crops).

We’re starting to see the end of the winter food preservation process … still planning to make another batch of prune jam, pear compote and jam, two more Zakuska (both of which we started preparing for today) … oh and we finally got a 120 liter plastic barrel we are going to fill with pickled cabbages.

It has been called attention that we have some kind of wood-infestation in the house … mostly in the older furniture we haven’t tossed out (though we will soon) and (unfortunately?) a bit in some of the visible beams. It seems to be slow acting … but we do need to look into it. We finally ordered a large batch of wood for furniture and construction (long story I will tell in detail) … should be delivered in the coming days … so I am looking forward to picking up with more carpentry … there are quite a few more things we need to get done for winter.