Rural Life in the UP of Michigan Some stories about life on 160 rural acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

January 20, 2014

Well Well

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:47 pm

I recently returned from a trip downstate to visit family, and to attend the annual meeting of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association (MMSA) in Clare. Getting away in the winter is not without its challenges. Keeping house and home going requires experienced and capable caretaking. This became clear to me when I got a call 2 days into my trip.

“The pipes are frozen,” said my long suffering, experienced, and capable wife.

We have a routine in place for such an occurrence. Heat tapes have been permanently installed on the pipes most likely to freeze, and these are controlled by a switch in the kitchen. I asked if the heat tapes had been switched on.

“Yes, about 4 hours ago.”

Hmmmm. It can take an hour or so for the pipes to thaw when the heat tapes are turned on, but never in my recollection had it taken 4 hours. As we talked things over on the phone, it became clear to me that what was wrong with the water was not related to frozen pipes. We prevailed upon our generous and knowledgeable neighbor to stop by after work and look the situation over.

“Your pump is blowing fuses,” was the verdict.

Shoot. Being without water for several days is more than I wanted to put Alice through. I began the process of cancelling my trip to Clare, and my attending of the annual meeting of the MMSA. In the meantime, we’d asked a local well driller to come out and look our situation over. As I was packing up to catch the bus home a couple of days early, he called and told me that he’d gotten things working again. He’d replaced the capacitor, the fuses, and by opening and closing the pump shutoff, managed to run water and get the pump to come on and off several times. I asked Alice if she was comfortable with things as they stood, and she said yes. So I un-cancelled my cancelled plans.

At the end of the MMSA conference, I called home to see how things were going. I learned the water was not working again. Since I couldn’t leave until 8:00 pm that night, we’d just have to wait until I got home to work through this latest problem.

When I got home, I determined the shutoff itself was suspect. Now these devices are fairly uncomplicated. The insides remind one of the Dr. Frankenstein movies where the current is applied to the circuits with old-fashioned knife switches. Besides this switch, there were a couple of fuse receptacles, and a metal box to house the whole contraption.

shutoffThis being the most likely culprit, I drove to town this morning and picked up a new shutoff, and spent a chunk of the afternoon installing it. And I’m happy to report that our well is again producing water to our faucets. Had we have learned our pump was shot, a lot of work would have been involved to plow a road from the driveway into our back yard where the well casing is located. The pump lives 75′ below the surface in the well casing, and getting it out involves an extensive operation even in good weather. Doing a job like this in single digit winter weather is possible, but to be avoided at all costs.

Alice wisely failed to mention until I got home that the track lights above the dining room table also stopped working while I was gone (not wanting to overwhelm me you understand.) In case the problem was a defective dimmer, I picked up a dimmer module in town this morning, and unscrewed the old dimmer switch so I could see what was going on. I looked inside the box and saw one of the wires had somehow came out of its wirenut. About 5 minutes of effort were required to nut the two wires back together, and we now have working lights above our table.

So, inquiring minds want to know. Do these things just wait to happen until I leave for a few days, or do such things routinely happen, and the repair of them is so automatic that I don’t notice? My scientific mind tells me it is just a random series of events, but a part of me believes the house saves these events up until I’m at least 100 miles away.


  1. Of course! Your house loves you, and wants to know that you love it, too!

    Comment by Dina Ariel — January 22, 2014 @ 5:08 am

  2. It sounds like you have a very patient wife! And you sound pretty handy yourself. Glad you got your well working again. Dealing with the mountain of snow and ice is a task enough. You don’t want to be without water, too, in these winter conditions. Stay toasty! Thanks for sharing your rural experiences.

    Comment by Patricia Ann — January 27, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

  3. Ted , Thank you for keeping us informed on the good life up there. Your reflections are truly inspiring.

    Comment by Ken Craft — January 30, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

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