Work Wednesday—Well Water


We’ve all heard about “additives” in municipal water supplies, or lack thereof . . . Many people assume well water is perfectly safe. And most of it is.

When we rented a 200-year-old house on a cattle ranch in Texas, we had well water. It was kind of gray and smelled like sulphur. The owner told us it was perfectly fine water, that he’d been raised on it.

I shrugged it off until we were cleaning the place before we actually moved in. I added bleach to a bucket of that water, and it turned yellow. Pee yellow.

I was NOT drinking that water.

So we had bottled water for drinking and cooking. No one wanted to take a bath in it either, so the kids started showering instead. No big deal.

Fast forward to the farm.

The well here is located near the old house, the one we had torn down. I suspect it’s been in use since the early- to mid-1900s, but we have zero information about it. Last year, after closing, I ran a simple home test.

Everything came back negative. Good to know.

We’ve been using that well for everything, drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes and dishes. No problems.

I read an article in the local paper that said you should test your well annually, which made sense, especially during drought.

Then, a week or so later, I read you should test after periods of heavy rain.

We’d had both, so I bought another home water test.

It came back positive for bacteria. A 48-hour test, and the sample stayed purple (good) for 36+ hours, then turned yellow (bad).

I thought maybe it was a fluke, a bad test, or user error, so I ordered a two-pack of tests.

The first one was positive again, for bacteria.

This time, I called the health department. They said they had a kit and I could collect a sample, which would then be sent off to Jeff City, and I’d have results in a week to ten days. Then they said if we weren’t sick, it was no big deal.

At this point, I’m using bottled water for drinking and cooking.

I keep forgetting about teeth-brushing, though . . . oops.

I called the manufacturer of the test. We determined that maybe I should have put the sample in a dark place. Now, this wasn’t an issue before, but the gal said she’d send me another test, so I went ahead and used my last pack.

Kept it in the dark. Yellow after 36+ hours. Weird.

I called a well company. This is good on several levels:

  1. They will check the pump and assorted components
  2. They’ll tell us how deep the well is and how many gallons we’re getting
  3. They’ll run a test for bacteria and find out what it is
  4. They’ll shock the well

We can do the last, we know how, theoretically, but my husband wants a professional the first time. And one of the things I learned during all this is that, before 1987, in Missouri, you weren’t required to report a new well. After that, the state has records of what company drilled it and how deep, etc., etc.

Also, this gives me a good idea of how much water we actually use. The common consensus is that you should have enough water on hand for any “duration” of one gallon per day per person.

This is crazy. For two of us, I’ve used at least that much per day just for cooking and drinking and prepping foods. Factor in working outdoors and washing hands often, not to mention showering, one gallon per person per day is the absolute minimum for survival—not for regular, daily activities.

So, the well guys finally got here yesterday afternoon. Mostly, the delay means that I don’t know for sure what’s in the water until tomorrow. Here’s what I learned:

Our well is about 190 feet deep; the pump sits at 147 feet. The water level is 80 feet down.

The well was most likely put in in the late 60s, but could have been an extension of a hand-dug well going back a few decades or so.

The pump is about 20 years old, but everything is working just fine at the rate of about 7 gallons per minute.

They did replace a couple sections of pipe, and took the water sample first before everything was stirred up.

So now we wait. And while we do so, the front fence is progressing:

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Prep Monday—Security


I know I’ve talked about this often, but you really can’t have too much security around your homestead. Okay, maybe some things are a little over the top, but just like anything else, you have to construct, implement, and practice on a consistent basis.

We have had some fencing from the beginning, nearly the entire property. All but one side has been mostly fenced at one time, but two sides need repair and the front had huge gaps—most obviously by our gate.

Today, that changed. Four-strand barbed wire is now in place.

See, this has been on our list for some time and last week we bought materials. But when our neighbor called yesterday, and we were on the road about 30 miles away, to tell us someone had simply zoomed AROUND our closed and locked gate and gone to the house, I’ll admit that I panicked.

A bit.

He texted back soon after that it was the mail carrier. Still pisses me off. Who the hell drives around a locked gate?? Mail delivery or not!

So we stepped up our timetable.

Our purpose in buying materials when planning to put up the fence “soon” was because, well, you never know what’s going to happen and you certainly don’t know if any wire or posts will be available for purchase. So we planned ahead.

Yes, I know security is crucial and it should have been done sooner. The point is that nothing happened—although it could have—and now we have one less worry.

We’ve also installed a small security system and will be adding to it. It’s quite simple: motion detectors with a receiver that sounds in the house.

Honestly, it’s annoying as hell when one of us goes to the barn or gate and we forget to turn it off . . .

But it also sounds off by gate and is guaranteed to scare the crap out of anyone wandering around up there.

Additionally, we have a mobile receiver in case we’re not actually in the house and someone enters the property—by the gate as well as other points along our boundaries.

Overkill? I think not. You can’t stand in the middle of the farm and see everything, after all.

Let’s not forget neighbors—if ours hadn’t been paying attention and been able to contact us, and, of course, if it was someone besides the mail carrier, we’d have been in trouble.

And I can’t stress this enough: lock up at night and when you leave the property; maybe even when you’re out and about working on site. It really depends on your personal situation.

Around here, there aren’t many people that have business on our road; it’s a dead end and besides the neighbor across the road, there’s only one other family past us that normally accesses their property from here. Anything new or different, someone will notice and check it out.

Basic security—perimeter is first and depends on deterrence. Deterrence hinges on on ease of access: a gap versus barbed wire and heavily wooded property versus a cleared and clean look. You need some kind of alarm to tell you that perimeter has been breached, which allows for your second line of defense.

And that is often up to you.

Around here, I suspect the ETA of any deputies, or perhaps highway patrol, is at least 20-30 minutes by road. It could be less, sure, particularly if a LEO happens to be on a county road or state highway nearby. Still, we’re looking at probably close to ten minutes in that case.

That, too, is assuming there IS law enforcement. During SHTF, there probably won’t be.

Your home, it goes without saying, should be defensible and you should have backup plans for even that.