31 January 2006

Don't Worry About Your Bretheren, It's Your Cistern That Needs Watching

Okay, the wind has subsided, the sun is hot, and the boat is bobbing in the bay, calling to me so clearly that I need to put my hands over my ears. I know what Odysseus went through with the Sirens.

So where am I at noon, the heat of the day? In a damp concrete underground box, 18 feet long, ten feet wide, and seven feet high. That's where. This tomb is where the water from my roof goes when it rains. Of course, leaves, and whatever else the critters with which we share this planet have put or dropped on the roof, goes into the cistern too.--not to mention an occaisional critter itself. If you are mathematically minded, the cistern is 45 cubic meters in volume, which means it holds 45,000 liters of water. And we do not drink a drop of it. It all goes to wash dishes, clothes, and us--and to flush toilets. ( On some level of my consciousness, I know that it also makes our ice cubes, but then again, I have ice cubes only when I drink alcohol, so I ignore the bird poop issue.)

Ah, asks the wise son, why on this first day after the vents de Noel have subsided, is this jerk in this concrete box? Because the cistern is being cleaned and inspected for leaks, because we are consuming more water than any family of 12, and we ran out of cistern water last week, and we had to switch over to "city water", and the harsh government masters are not pleased with our taking their water, and they show their displeasure by imposing harsh taxes for each and every liter we use, that's why. The wise son also inquires what great sin the jerk-in-the-concrete-box has committed to have earned this plague of critters. (It really is getting biblical. Dofie reluctantly told us we had some small frogs in the cistern. It seems they live in the drain pipes, and get washed through in the heavy rains.) The only sin I can think of is RETIREMENT. It must be a sin. It is simply too good not to be.

Now it's not that I don't have Dofie to do all this work for me while I am out fishing. He is doing this. With a crew of three as a matter of fact. But surely you did not expect me to give up a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the inside of a cistern, my cistern, no less. And while I was there, the least I could do was give him some advice as to how the job should be done if it were to be done properly.

So how is it done? Easy. You remove the 3 foot square hatch cover, lower a pump, and empty the 9,000 liters still in the cistern. You put some of this water in the swimming pool overflow basin, some in the irrigation cistern, and the rest in a tank Dofie brought from home. ( Can you imagine Dofie's backyard? The man has every toy ever invented.) When the cistern water gets to about six inches deep, the other end of the drain hose is moved to empty into the bushes, because the guys down there are now using brushes to get all the gunk at the bottom into solution so it will pump. As you watch the clear plastic 2" drain hose, the water changes from clear to dark brown. My ice cube water? Forget my ice cubes. Pinks, who if I let her, would spend five or six hours a day in her new laundry room, would never wash anything again if she saw what had been sitting on the bottom of the cistern. Of course, the cistern-hose never reaches that muck, but still ... .

When the cistern is reasonably clean, we used a light to look for cracks, seams, etc. Nada. No leaks. So why are we using so much water? Right now, the prevailing theory is the Gardener Did It. I have called an all-hands meeting Saturday morning with the gardener, the plumber, Dofie, and Dawn, to see what I can learn and how I can fix the problem short of drinking warm scotch. Hey, the Brits do it, non? It is certaintly clear that the no-ice-cube remedy has a higher place on the probability list than cutting down on the number of washing machine loads per day.

And blaming the gardener is painless, because when you explain it to him, and tell him to reduce the irrigation load, he smiles, nods his head up and down, shakes your hand, and departs in his truck, never having understood a word you said.

I do not want to frighten all who might drop by Villa Stella Maris for a drink. In fact, the pick-up hose that ends six inches off the bottom of the cistern has a screen, so no frogs get pumped into the dishwasher, and there is a filter in the pump room that screens out all but microscopic particles so there are no visible insect parts in the ice cubes. Finally, the walls and floor of the cistern have now been washed down with chlorine bleach , so we should really be in good shape.


A bientot.

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