The Colonel’s Plan – Well-Covered

November 1st, 2018

Dear Daddy –

This morning I insulated the well. I’ve written about the well before, and how you and your father installed the pump yourselves all those years ago. I believe I also said that the supervisor on the job of replacing it this Spring reflected that he had seen designs like yours many times… in Florida.

The supply line that draws water out of the ground comes up out of the ground, at which point it’s galvanized steel. It makes its connection to the house line (also galvanized steel, I believe, because the Verizon crew was able to find it easily with a metal detector) above ground, and then the whole thing goes underground again to the house.

While writing this, I realized that I had no idea what galvanization actually is (other than a word that is drattedly hard to type correctly on the first try!). I know galvanized metal when I see it, and you taught me the word. I inferred that it was a protective process. So I just looked it up, and I was correct in my assumption. Galavanized pipe is steel pipe dipped in zinc to prevent rust. I learned something else, courtesy of the American Vintage Home website, which seems to specialize in talk about old houses in the Chicago area.

Apparently, galvanized pipe rusts badly on the inside after decades, because the insides aren’t zinc-coated. That must be why we have a two-thousand-some dollar quote to replace all the galvanized pipe between the well and the basement water tank. Well, that and the fact that your Florida-friendly, above-ground design is subject to freezing. It also explains why, every time I turn on the hose, the closest faucet to the well intake, I get really rusty water for a few seconds. And possibly why, beyond a pretty massive sediment filter, the toilet bowls still need to be scrubbed twice a week.

Now that I think about it, is that hose faucet actually in line between the well and the water tank? Hmmmm….

Anyway, when we replaced the well pump, we tore apart the well box you had constructed of styrofoam sheeting, and threw away the single sheet of R7 fiberglass insulation with which you had covered the well cap. It’s been sitting since, protected only by an upside down plastic storage bin.

Now, mind you, we were more decorative than to leave just a storage bin on it. This past Summer, Christian worked as an intern for the Chesapeake Shakespeare Theater. They’re a Baltimore-based group, with a huge theater on Calvert Street downtown. But, every Summer, they do a play in Ellicott City, in the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute, a girls’ school which I always assumed had burned at some point, because it’s just a stone structure with no floors or roof. Turns out that, when a Doctor bought it in 1958, intending to turn it into a nursing home, the County required that all wood be removed to prevent fires. The doctor removed the wood and just left it that way.

The County bought it the year we moved here. I remember that your father visited it and was fascinated by it. It was a girls’ school, a hotel, a World War I hospital, and a private home in its time. Now it’s a County park, and outdoor venue for Shakespeare.

This Summer’s play was, appropriately, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For the pastoral setting, Christian built and decorated a rustic well, made of plywood, chicken wire and canvas. When the production ended, he asked if he could have it for our house on Simpson Road. It rode home in your 2012 Ford F150 truck, which had been pressed into service throughout July to haul materials to build sets.

And now, there it sits, surrounding the well cap, open at the top. This morning I tipped it out of the way, cleared away a little of the decorative grass that you hated so much, and that you and I shouted at each other about a couple of years ago, and exposed the pipes and wires. I wrapped them with five pieces of sheet insulation, two over the top in different directions, one ten-foot piece wrapped around the base a few times, plastic wrapping to keep dry, then two more sheets of insulation over the top, and more plastic. I replaced the well structure, lined the bottom with foam rubber against drafts.

I need to cut a 40″ cover for the opening at the top, and I think I’ll fill the entire inside with either sheets of foam rubber or old blankets, depending on what we have. That should have at least as much insulating power as your construction did and should get us through the Winter. If it gets bitterly cold, I’ll open it back up and add a pipe warming strip.

I suppose I should just have the whole thing re-done, but it’s been an expensive year. I’ve met with a financial advisor and have a strategy for keeping everything going. But I can’t do it all at once.

Ethan and I also cleaned out part of the basement last night—we cleared all the junk off the old train tables, so that we might start using them to have a hobby night now and then. Life has been too busy. You liked it that way, I think, until you didn’t. I don’t want to get to the “until I don’t” part, so Renee, Jessica, Ethan and I have agreed to have one night a week to either build things (I have a lot of models saved up and puzzles I have not worked) or play board games. Building things will be in the train table room. Board games will be at my house on Hunt Club Road. Renee and I don’t want it to be forgotten.

Christian is absent from that plan, for now, because he’s at school. And he’s still in the “too busy” phase, taking 19 credits, doing a play and looking for a job.

Anyway, I hope the well doesn’t freeze. It’s a miracle that it never has.



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