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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Home the Land Built: Week 13

A-burstin’ and a-gushin’!
That’s the prairie, right now.  And some would say that’s me at times.  Unfortunately it was also, and quite literally, Home the Land Built.
Returning home from a wonderful Minneapolis overnight, we opened the door and r-r-r-r-ow-oh-oh-oh! Kirby cat is howling.  Then, above his screams of terror, we hear another noise.  Ph-sh-sh-sh-sh.  “Its coming from the cellar,” Linda yells.  Down we go.  And in the 5 seconds it takes me to descend, my overly active mind races to imagine every conceivable horror.  Our cellar, after all, is like main engineering on Starship Enterprise.  Except I’m no Geordi La Forge.    I reach the cellar and what do I see?
A-burstin’ and a-gushin’!  Water spewing like a geyser from the foot of the hot water tank.    In a split second I deduce that the spewing water is not dangerously hot (the solar heated water in the tank is often a scalding 150F this time of year); no steam.  A hose had burst.  I reach my hand through the geyser and turn off the valve.   Thank my lucky stars, it stopped.   I fume.  “It’s that damned work-around.”  We’d installed a tankless water heater as backup to the solar and it’s been the bane of the project.  It refuses to heat any water that’s been pre-heated by the solar.  So the plumber installed a hose, bypassing the hot water tank which we use whenever the hot water tank is too cool (100F or less).   And that hose had now burst.
There’s water all over the cellar floor, soaking into the wood framing, the sheet rock.  I hate leaks.  Always have.  Yet before even I react to this thunderbolt, a second---and far more terrifying sequence of realizations---sears my mind.  How long has this been going on?  How long has the pump been running?  How much electricity has it consumed?  Have our batteries been depleted so low (less than 50%) that they’re permanently damaged?  How much water remains in our cistern?  I start channeling Geordi La Forge. 
I rush to the invertor, to its Mate3 display unit, the next best thing to a holo-deck.  “We’re all right!”, I yell to Linda.  The battery is still at 91% charge.   Then a few button presses and voila: a graph of power consumption over the last day.  “The hose burst at 2:00,  4 hours ago.”  This I surmised since the power jumped to 1000 watts, the combined draw of the cistern pump and septic pump. 
But what about the cistern?  How much water do we have left?  I run upstairs and outside to the rainwater harvest cistern.  Last weekend’s torrent had filled it to its 5400 gallon capacity.  But what now?  The concrete manhole cover screeches as I strain to slide it up and off.   Dark as it is down that hole, I can see the shining surface of water.   I sigh in relief.  “We lost about a third, 1500 gallons.  We’ve still got maybe 4000 gallons.”    We’re alright, a little mopping, a drying fan, a glass of wine on the porch, perhaps a second.   
Wow!  Architect Paul, you’ve certainly succeeded.  We asked you to design us a house that enables the Connection---to the Land, to our friends and family, to the Divine---and you did it.  For a brief minute we experienced the terror of finite resources.  Finite electricity.  Finite water.  Not that electricity and water aren’t always finite, but Home the Land Built makes it very obvious.   Transparent.  And tonight---for that one brief and amazingly Connecting minute---it felt painfully transparent.  Lightning out of a clear blue sky.
“I’ll call Electrician John.  Maybe he can rig us a failsafe that shuts off the pump if it runs too long.  20 minutes maybe?”  I needed to get practical, bring the problem down to something bitesize.  The magnitude of what we’d done here---this whole new Land-Connecting system---overwhelmed me.  There was only one thing to do:  wine walk. 
We strolled up to the high spot and out into the prairie, where the first of the pale purple coneflowers had just begun twirling their pink skirts.  Here they were, these most gorgeous of earthly creations---born of the finiteness of water and sun---and yet they dance, seemingly.    I listened for their advice.  How should I move forward?
A-burstin’ and a-gushin’!

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