Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

If there’s one thing about farming that makes it adventurous, it’s the wide variety of skill sets required, often on short notice. For example, a recent morning’s maintenance emergency here at Wunnerfitz Farm called on my very limited plumbing skills before I’d even had time to make the bed, brush my teeth or comb my hair.

Overnight there had been a rare serenade of noisy mooing coming from our pasture. It was so loud, even Dennis was awakened, and I could only imagine what the neighbors might be thinking. We looked out the window, but saw nothing that caused alarm. The mooing continued only intermittently, so we weren’t too concerned that anything required our immediate attention.

Upon arising the next morning, I saw an email from Dennis, who was already at work 35 miles away. He mentioned that he’d heard the water pump running in the basement when he left for work and he hoped there wasn’t a problem. Alas, the water pump was also running when I took a listen. I hoped it might just be the cattle having their morning drink. However, the pump continued running and when I flushed the commode and heard the toilet tank refilling slowly along with the gurgling of air in the line, I knew something was amiss.

My first thought was that perhaps the stock tank’s float had failed, so I donned muck boots and drove up to the muddy pasture. A brief hike through the mire from recent rainfall took me to the watering trough. It sat surrounded by pooled water, leading me to believe there was a float problem; however, the float sat high and dry and the deep trough had only about a foot of water in it.

After a call to Dennis, we agreed I would walk the lengthy surface run hose feeding the trough to see if there were any leaks. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to discover that the steers in our smaller pasture near the house had been up to mischief and, in the process, the coupling on one end of a hose had snapped off, leaving water flowing freely onto the ground.

My first thought was to shut off the pump before it burned itself out; however, the dogs were still (hopefully) asleep in their basement crates, just out of sight of the pump switch, so some stealthiness was required. I lowered myself from halfway down the cellar steps onto the couch below, then gingerly opened the door to the pump area and flipped the switch, before reversing the process to get back upstairs. The dogs were none the wiser — which made me wonder what kind of watchdogs they are.

I returned to the small pasture, closing the gate that splits it so I wouldn’t have the three steers looking over my shoulder as I analyzed the problem. Instead, they stood just on the other side of the dividing fence and at one point, one of them started munching on my jacket where it poked through the wire fence.

The situation required several more phone calls to Dennis, as well as emailing some photos of the problem. We obviously needed a replacement hose connector, so Dennis told me where to find some leftover connectors from previous water problems. Unfortunately, none of them was the proper configuration, but the bigger problem was that, tug as I might, I couldn’t get the two hose ends that needed connecting to meet each other.

Plan B was to disconnect the faulty hose and replace it with another hose in use at the barn. This seemed like a good plan until it became obvious, sort of, that the barn hose was significantly shorter than the hose with the broken end. I say sort of, because between weeds grown over the faulty hose and multiple old defective hoses of various hues still lying in the same area, it was difficult to discern exactly where the faulty hose might’ve connected to the next hose.

Long story short, Plan C was me running to the nearest hardware store to buy a new length of garden hose and a replacement hose connector — actually two connectors because, by the time I got there, I couldn’t remember whether I needed a male or a female connector. In the end, as the nosy steers continued nibbling on my clothes, I was fortunately able to stretch the existing hoses to meet after the sun warmed them up a bit. Then I cut off the broken hose end, inserted the male hose connector and finally got the water system back in business once again.

I must say, it gave me a whole new appreciation for the plumber who works on our outdoor water system when our limited skills can’t get the job done.

Dennis was delighted to hear he didn’t need to return home to deal with the cattle’s lack of water. Otherwise, his main concern was that I had missed my exercise class that morning. I told him not to worry, I’d gotten plenty of exercise with multiple trips to both of our pasture areas, scaling fences and running back and forth to the house.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.