homestead thinking big

Grey Waters

“The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.” ~Prasad Mahes

“When you can’t have a shower, everything sucks, everyone is stupid, and nothing will get better ever.” ~Me

Our first year here there was a record-breaking drought in Ontario. So we found ourselves pretty immediately in the deep end of country life (but at least it was dry). Neither of us understood yet the practical realities of living on well-water. We knew nothing really about how wells worked, what a “trickle-tank” was, what were “good” and “bad” numbers on the pressure gauge, recovery time…

But you sure can learn fast as your hair gets greasy and your personal stink begins to build up.

There are only two of us here, plus animals, so our demands on the well are low. In that first year though, it was difficult to find a low that was low enough. In the end, our well performed pretty miraculously. It went dry one time, but rallied within the day. Though we didn’t actually know that at the time, because we didn’t know how to reset the pump after the emergency low-level shutoff kicked in. My poor brother and brother-in-law were visiting at the time, and I played good host by hand-pumping buckets of toilet flushing water from the rainwater tank outside. Our yelp reviews are flawless.

The well continued to empty but then slowly refill, keeping us in extremely carefully managed water while each of our neighbours’ wells went dry in turn, and they had to buy in tanks of water. We took our laundry to the laundromat in town, but otherwise army-shower and mellowyellowed — why, why must that term be so gross — our way through it.

It was a character-shaping and humbling experience, and kicked us into permanent water-wareness. The rainwater catchment system the house came with — a buried septic tank outside with a submersible pump, caching water from the roof — very quickly went from a nice-to-have to a thank-god-they-put-that-in.

Our house does not officially have a “proper” greywater system, but we have created at least a half dozen greywater mini-systems — each one a little bodge-job that saves a surprising amount of water. Together they’ve taught us that any home can have a greywater system. Invent your own! It doesn’t have to be fancyschmancy pants to make a real difference. If you have a bin in your sink to catch the water as you run the taps to get them hot, then you have a greywater system. If you turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth, then you are practicing water management. And that puts you solidly on Team Blue Gold, you water-saving warriors.

Here are a few of the things we do around here to stretch our water:

* The Red Jug
* Bathtub Reservoir Pond
* The Big Ugly Flushing Buckets
* Chicken Gardeners
* Roofs for Days
* Plant the Rain

Over the next few posts, we’ll share the details of these little hacks — what we do to save the rain and stretch the well. Best to share them, because the more ideas the better! Enough drops of water, and you’ll have an ocean.

One reply on “Grey Waters”

Water is connected to so many things. Everything actually. Looking forward to planting rain!!

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