Water is an essential ingredient for any farming operation. Crops need it and so do livestock. That’s why farms like the one I live on often owe their locations to the proximity of a reliable water supply. In fact, there are so many springs on this farm that my great-grandfather used them to found a local water company that supplied a small town with water from around the turn of the 20th century until the 1970s.
The importance of water was brought home to me by a recent water-related issue. Looking back on it now, it reminds me of an old story about cooking a frog — though why anyone would want to do that in the first place is a mystery to me. At any rate, this tale says that, if you want to cook a frog, you don’t throw him into a pot of boiling water — he’ll just jump right back out. Instead, put him in a pot of cold water and slowly bring it to a boil; this way, the frog supposedly won’t feel the need to escape from this gradually heated watery grave.
I don’t know if the premise of that story is true or not, but I do know that, when problems develop gradually, it can be harder to diagnose them than issues that come about more suddenly. Take the water for our beef cattle, for instance.
Their water is pumped from the well at our farmhouse to the barn. There’s an automatic waterer located in the barnyard, but when you have a whole herd, more than one animal gets thirsty at the same time, and they’re not good at waiting in line. Thus, we have a few 40-gallon rubber water troughs that we fill using a hose twice per day.
Our problem started so slowly that, like the frog in the foregoing fable, it took a long time to realize there was a problem. I’d go out to the barn every morning and refill the water troughs while I was doing other things like feeding the cats or giving hay to the beef cattle. If I got done with these tasks before the troughs were filled, I’d sit on an old porch chair under our forebay and read the morning newspaper or check messages on my phone. Sometimes Zane the cat would jump up on my lap and wait along with me.
A Slow Trickle
All was well until I started feeling like my mornings were getting shorter and shorter. There used to be plenty of time to return to the farmhouse and catch up on things there before lunchtime rolled around, but gradually that changed. It felt like I no sooner got back inside than it was time to start making lunch. Afternoons soon became my only time to tackle other items on my agenda. Was it old age, I wondered? Was I just getting slower and slower?
I started to notice some other oddities as the weeks went by. It seemed like it took forever to do a load of laundry. Then one day I noticed the sprayer at the kitchen sink didn’t have much oomph when it came to rinsing dishes. The last straw came after exiting the shower one day and trying to brush my teeth shortly thereafter. The stream of water from the washbowl faucet wasn’t even sufficient to wet my toothbrush. What was going on?
I decided a trip down to the cellar was in order to check on the water pump. I found the pump was running, and running, and running. The cattle must be using the automatic waterer, I thought. It seemed like the pump was working fine, but then I spied its water filter. It was an uninviting shade of dark brown. I couldn’t recall the last time the filter had been changed, but a plastic bag holding clean white filters was lying near the pump. Eureka! If that was the issue, it wouldn’t be difficult, nor expensive, to fix, I thought.
There was only one problem — neither Dennis nor I could figure out how to access the water filter. The clear plastic cover over the filter looked like it should just unscrew, but it didn’t. I called the plumber for a tutorial, but it turned out a house call was necessary to demonstrate for us how to do the replacement.
The change in our water flow was immediate and amazing. I could fill three water troughs in the barnyard in about one-quarter of the time it had been taking. How could I not have noticed this? Like the frog, I’d been brought to a boil slowly.
Now my laundry cycles only take half the time as they had previously. Water practically gushes from the kitchen faucet and, although our water pressure is never great on the second floor, the shower has enough force to feel like a massage. Our slow-flow problem is resolved and I have added precious minutes to my days. I also look forward to a lower electric bill when the water pump is no longer working overtime.