Monday, September 12, 2011

We Have More Than Lives to Repair

I know I’m blessed to live where I do and to have the life I have. Since I thrive on drama, I do tend to inflate small problems just to get the adrenaline rush my brain demands. Mainly I live vicariously through virtual friends who have very real, very terrible problems and offer what support I can, recognizing each second we are all only an ill-timed moment away from devastating accident or injury, or a wrong word whispered into the wrong ear away from the loss of friendship and trust.
I isolate myself here on my little farm. I make it a game to see how long I can go without driving into town, which is only about 10 minutes away. Still, despite what these ducks, Roo-Boy the rooster and Rowdy the goat seem to believe, life isn’t always serene at Rainbow’s End.

First, we all have to be vigilant against predators. Last week the guineas put up a fuss mid-day and I found a coyote napping under a tree. The guineas were in a pasture on one side of the fence, the coyote on the other. He was encouraged away, first by me then by the dogs who were caught napping themselves.
Then there are the repairs. The back of the feed shed opens up into the goat yard. The walls of the shed are simple sideboard, which doesn’t seem to hold up well under the head butting of a bored goat.
"Who, me?"
Yes, Lucy. A little water damage softened the wood, but the rest was all you.

I have sheet metal in both red and white left over from the last barn I had built, and my intent was to side the back of the shed with the red sheets. I figured metal would at least be harder for goat horns to tear up. When I started sawing a long sheet in half, though, the number of sparks scared me. We’ve been in a drought and I’m even afraid to start a mower engine for fear of dead grass catching fire. Plenty of wildfires in the area have taught me to be cautious. So I found two pieces of metal short enough to use without sawing. They, of course, are white.
I hate repairing things. I’d much rather build from scratch. I did a reasonable job in taking care of the hole in the wall, but the door no longer hangs/closes as well as it did, and I had to improvise the trim at the top to keep rain out.  The repair is merely serviceable, much like most of my work around here.
The dirt gathered from being in the field will wash off if we ever get any rain. And with the way the trim on the door is being abused by goat horns, looks like I'll be replacing, instead of just rehanging, the door next. Building a new shed would probably be far easier in the long run...

Then, too, the drought has been cracking the ground, opening deep and wide crevices that can easily catch an unwary horse leg. I’ve seen a distracted Ricky back up without looking and have one of his legs slip into one of the crevices. Fortunately, although he was over knee-deep in the hole, he didn’t panic and quickly extricated himself. Should that happen at speed when he’s chasing Cody or playing tag with Bonita and not watching himself, I shudder at the possible consequences.
My foot on the left, Cody's on the right for a size comparison.
Yes, that's a Halloween spider on the canvas shoe. Please do not judge.
(R) Me stepping into one of the many, many crevices criss-crossing the pastures.

The moving ground also plays havoc with the water pipes carrying water through the fields to the house.  Ten-foot sections of PVC pipe are held to each other with a connector and glue. When the glue dries out too much, it cracks, then the earth moves and the pipe sections shift, causing them to leak. To repair, the offending section has to be sawed out and a special coupling that can withstand the water pressure inserted. When it’s textbook, it’s not difficult, just time-consuming.
I spent Sunday morning doing my 6th or 7th leak repair this summer. Around sunset, just before I was going out to put the beasties to bed, I turned on the water and nothing came out of the tap. That meant one of two things: a MAJOR leak on my property or a leak somewhere upstream and the water company had shut the water off completely. It turned out to be my problem. A piece of pipe buried 18 inches underground had suddenly broken apart and the two sections had shifted about ½ an inch away from each other. It was a wide-open faucet underground. Luckily I noticed it before thousands of gallons had been lost. What was really eye-opening was that the hundreds of gallons that did leak out traveled through underground crevices that only here and there cracked up to the surface. It was amazing that there was a major leak in the middle of the pasture and the only outward sign was a circle of damp ground about 3-feet across.
After the sun had risen a little less than 12 hours later I went out to repair the line. Overnight, the ground had sucked up those hundreds of gallons of water and everything was desert dry. Usually when I have to dig down to the pipes, it’s through sticky wet clay that clings to everything it touches and I have to bail water from the hole I dug. The dirt this time was barely damp, even around the gaping hole between the two sections of pipe. If you had told me several bathtubs worth of water would simply disappear overnight I wouldn’t have believed you. Incredible.
Fortunately the dry ground worked in my favor and the repair went like clockwork. Now I’m just hoping there aren’t any more breaks before my next trip to town when I can pick up another spare coupling.
I didn’t get pictures of Sunday’s repair, but here’s a section of pipe I repaired earlier this summer and have left open because it was a tricky repair and I’m afraid if it were to leak again I wouldn’t notice quickly enough. You can see the deep fissures leading away from the water line as well as those opening up underneath the pipes themselves. The sheet metal covering simply keeps the horses from accidentally stepping into the holes and tearing the pipes apart.
(R) A double repair with the special couplings needed to connect inline pipe sections after the pipe has already been laid.
The horses aren't actually grazing. They're scarfing up grain and alfalfa pellets I've strewn over the ground to prolong treat time. There's still a bit of grass to be had, but none of it is very nutritious right now.
 In the grand scheme, though, most of my emergencies have been reparable with a cost of time and elbow grease and a few dollars for parts. Aside from a hen lost to a coyote at the beginning of the summer and a rooster who died quickly from something akin to a heart attack, the animals and I have all done well these past few months. Partly because of the unrelenting heat, I have been slow to get to some of the normal maintenance; I’ve none but my conscience to answer to on that account.

Still, as I look around at many of my friends and share in their varied hardships, I come full circle back to the fact that I am truly blessed right now. While that can turn in a heartbeat as I know only too well from my dad’s unexpected heart attack and stroke a couple of years ago and my own scare with cancer a dozen years back, at this moment I can make a lot of noise and rattle the sabres as a big bluff. Because I know when true tragedy strikes, it’ll come in the quiet of the night with a whisper of fear and a paralysis of self and a long, dark slide into a river-deep chasm where true heartache lies.  I’m hoping THAT day is a long, long time away.

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