Most people take water for granted – just turn on the tap. Not so at our backroad Athens Co. home.
My wife Amy and I moved into our rundown, 100 year old farmhouse in November, 1974. It had no plumbing, water or heat and the roof leaked. We were city kids ill-prepared for the rigors that faced us. But we learned fast.
There was no water line on our road, still isn’t. The only water source was the old 30-foot-deep, hand-dug well just outside the back door. That is how the original settlers got water – they dug a deep hole. But the well had been neglected for years. There was no pump and someone had thrown trash down it.
At first we carried buckets of water up the hill from an old spring. But we had to clean out that well. I went down the well on a ladder and Amy, with a bucket and rope, hauled out dirty water and trash. Once cleaned out it refilled with clean water. With the advice of our 80-year-old neighbor George, we fit the well with a hand pump. Voila – we had water. And we still use it for drinking and cooking.
The other source of water was rain, which we got from the roof. We needed a cistern to catch the rainwater. There may have been one once, which had since been filled in. A cistern had to be underground so that it would not freeze, so I set in digging.
Amy had a teaching job and I stayed home to babysit and work. I would put Willie on a blanket outside and dig until he crawled into the the dirt pile and I had to catch him before he fell in the hole. It was slow going. We ordered a 1,000-gallon cistern, and it was put in the hole, which was just behind the kitchen.
We installed a pitcher pump (hand operated) on the kitchen sink and connected it to the bottom of the cistern just outside. Yeah! We now had running water in the house. Rainwater is naturally soft water, so it is good for washing.
This system served us well for some 35 years. Finally we got around to putting a real bathroom and running water in the house. To provide the water, another cistern was needed, so we put one in to catch rainwater off the barn roof. This time we hired a backhoe to dig the hole and a plumber to fit the new bathroom (which I built) with water. A submersible electric water pump was installed in the new cistern.
We have had the conventional running-water system for about 10 years now. But we still use the old 30-foot well with a hand pump for drinking water and the hand pump on the kitchen sink. Water is not taken for granted in our house.
Ed and Amy have lived in their old farm house for 45 years.