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:







Prep Monday—How to be a Prepper

For many, this is a no-brainer: be prepared for an emergency, right? But where do you start, and how? And how expensive is it, really?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about different aspects of prepping and how exactly one goes about getting prepared for . . .

See, that’s part of the problem—you don’t know what that emergency is going to be until it happens. But I promise, if you follow along here, you’ll be a lot better off than most people.


Food and Water

The first rule is “don’t talk about it.” If there’s a problem and people around you have no food and water, but they know that you do, what do you think will happen? They may not be violent, but at the very least they’re going to—intentionally or not—prey on your kindness and sympathy. And you’ll be in trouble.

The second rule is to find a spot for storage: a cabinet, a closet, a couple boxes in the garage or storage unit or barn or wherever you can fit things. Maybe it can’t all go in one location, but it should be easily accessible. To you. Not to anyone else.

Third, you’ll need a gallon of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and washing. Water is heavy and takes up space, but it’s the most important item you’ll need.

Fourth, you’ll need food of course: protein, carbs, fruits and vegetables, and even sweets. Remember that you need to buy and store things you actually like and things that are easy to prepare. Don’t think about the folly of purchasing full-course dinners, just do the basics.

Fifth, food doesn’t last forever but it often stays good well beyond the expiration date. If you buy food that you like, you can easily rotate your emergency supply on a regular basis.


How much to purchase?

How much do you eat? How many are in your household or would you expect to hole up with you in an emergency? How many are you prepared—no pun intended—to help out?

This part requires some thought and a lot of list-making. First, you need to determine the time period for which you’re prepping: one week, one month, six months or longer?

We do six months. For three people. Well, two and a half, but I rounded up. The kid will be in college soon, but within driving distance if it comes to that. And he’s sort of a junior prepper anyway . . .

Here are some things we store: 


Peanut butter

Canned dinners like stew, ravioli, etc. (don’t forget a can opener)


Cookies and crackers


Jelly and honey

Sugar, flour, oats, other baking ingredients

Tomato sauce


Dried and frozen vegetables

Dried and canned fruit

Dried and frozen eggs

Dried and frozen meat


You may notice that I didn’t mention bread—I do a lot of baking, and we grow or will be growing much of our food supply. However, crops can fail for any number of reasons, and so I store some of these things, but less than someone else might.

After you’ve made your list, try to figure out how much of each item you would use during the time frame for which you’re prepping. This is where it gets tricky. Let’s take peanut butter, for example. We have four large jars and six small ones in our supply closet. We could probably eat peanut butter sandwiches every day for three months—which is half our timeframe. But we have other items with protein, so we don’t have to do that.

Look at your food list by group instead of by item. In this case, write down the proteins that you like. Me, I don’t like tuna. Or any fish, really. But we have some because my husband and the kid like it. I might be eating a lot of peanut butter . . .

Your list will be very individualized. Try to always buy on sale, check the ads each week or however often you shop, and pick up a few extra items each time. Since you’ll be rotating your supplies, this won’t be wasted money if you buy things you like.

Think of it as grocery shopping ahead of time.