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Candid Thoughts on Living Without Running Water

I’ve often said that living without running water is the hardest thing about living off grid. Reaching for the faucet and expecting water to flow out of it, is so ingrained in us that for many it seems impossible to imagine a life without that luxury. Yesterday water flowed into my kitchen sink for the very first time. As I watched that first gush of water overflow the spout of my pitcher pump, I did not expect the flood of emotions that came with it. Tears of excitement and gratefulness welled up in my eyes as I saw that water. That’s pretty weird, right? Normal people don’t cry when they see water come out of their faucets!

But I guess I’m not normal because everywhere I go I get questions about water. It seems that everyone marvels at my fortitude of living so long without running water. They want to know how I do it. I often find myself answering their questions by explaining the logistics of life without working faucets. I tell them how we heat water on our wood stove in the winter and in our solar oven in the summer. I explain how we have a bucket shower on a rope and pulley attached to the ceiling above our bathtub. But what I’ve come to realize is that their questions aren’t even remotely related to logistics. What they really wonder about is my commitment. They are really asking HOW could I find it in myself to spend three years carrying water?!

well-pump

I struggle with answering that question. It’s what brought on those tears at my kitchen sink yesterday. Many people think I’m crazy and will never understand why I do what I do because they have a very different worldview. I’m willing to work my butt off and carry water for as long as necessary because I’m committed to living a self-sufficient life with my family. If carrying water for any length of time is what is needed to live an agrarian life and not depend on what the “system” has to offer, then I’m going to do it. It’s about what I’m willing to give up to get to where I want to be.

“Often the hardest thing is not actually the physical work, but the mental work of forgetting what we have always been used to.  The mental work makes the physical work possible.”

The keyword there is I. Me. I am the one constant. No one can do it for me. I understand why people have a hard time understanding why I would carry water for so long because I have asked all their same questions to myself over the years. And I’ve had my ups and downs with battling my own motivation in my head. How long am I going to do this? Did I sign up for this forever? Wouldn’t it be nice to have more time in the day for other things? And the BIG question that I never actually let myself ask, “Remember how things used to be so much easier?”  Often the hardest thing is not actually the physical work, but the mental work of forgetting what we have always been used to.  The mental work makes the physical work possible.

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In my best moments, I have felt empowered and strong as I’ve carried out my water chores as a way to serve my family. In my worst moments, I’ve felt frustration beyond anything I would have ever imagined. On one particularly trying day, I remember sinking to the floor and crying tears of incredible futility as my toddler had once again scattered my empty water containers around the room. He came and sat with me on my lap as I cried and prayed to find the strength to continue my work. But that’s just the way life is, isn’t it? We will always have ups and downs with whatever work we are given to do. But I truly believe that seeing the benefit of our hard work and passing that lesson on to our children is worth the struggle.

I find myself feeling that it is the end of an era. Water at my fingertips. It really is a miracle. I’m really proud that I lived without it for three years of my life. It has proven to me that I don’t give up easily! I’ve heard stories about others “quitting” their off grid lives because it is so much harder than they expected it to be. When the glamour of a simple life wears off and the nitty gritty, day in and day out of the hard work sets in, it’s really easy to let your commitment waver.

I’m grateful I didn’t quit. Now, I have water in my house with no water bill and no power bill! That’s pretty amazing! And I did it. I carried all that water for three years. It was kind of like running a marathon and I think any marathon runner can relate to my tears of pride and joy shed at the finish line.

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When it comes to living off grid, “one size fits all” absolutely doesn’t work. Everyone’s situation is different. This is especially true for water. Some may have enough solar power to set up an electric water pump from the very beginning of their off grid adventure. Some may have the advantage of topography that makes a gravity fed water system workable. Some may choose to pour their energy into creating rain water catchment systems. In our case, we have always had abundant water from our well. Our goal has been to get that water into our homes using an autonomous system. One that requires no labor from us to operate.

We have a 1500 gallon tank full of water sitting behind our house. Our plan is to fill it in the long term using a solar panel to power the battery used to operate the electric motor for our “Simple Pump”. (In the short term, we currently fill the tank with a gasoline powered transfer pump using water from our 19th Century “open” well.) The water flows out of the tank with gravity and through a pipe buried in the ground all the way to our house. From here, a manually operated pitcher pump pumps the water up and into the kitchen sink.  It’s a beautiful sight!

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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13 comments

  1. Good things come to those who wait!
    I’m sooooooooooooooo happy for you.
    What an adventure.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I love all your stories.
    I’m truly inspired.

  2. Why would I do this thing that you are doing?
    For many of the very same reasons you guys are.
    Currently we have to haul our water in from the city in 55 gallon barrels. We fill up a 400 gallon food service container.
    If we have a spring, we ain’t found it yet! Most likely we’ll be going to a cistern based water solution.
    Love you guys!
    Keep going.
    Prayers always that you succeed in every venture.

  3. Nice article, We have been living without running water for 20 years now. We are fortunate as our well over flows and fills a cistern for us and the overflow runs down to our livestock watering trough. It is truly a wonderfully blessed life.

    • I recently completed a basement refinish for a client in Rossford Ohio. The home was built in the 1880’s and when I initially did the tour and estimate I was surprised to see a walled off part of the basement with drainpipes into the walled off area. I asked the owner if he wanted me to demo the wall and expand the living area. He smiled and said ” No, that’s our water cistern. My great great grandfather had it built in case of drought.” “but you don’t use it” I said. He replied that he was confident that if the SHTF and the water gets turned off for whatever reason he will be able to cook, clean and have water to drink. Dang! Our ancestors were are smart bunch!

      Best,

      Snake Plisken

  4. You and your family are inspiring! I took me a bit to come to agreement with my husband’s plan for off-grid living, but we are now in partnership in the planning and actions toward that goal.
    Congratulations!

  5. A very inspiring article! We do have running water here at the house but being the prepper i am we have contingency plans if and when the water cuts off.

    The plans include:

    A wheel barrow which can be loaded with water in containers from the crik 60 yards from our home.

    Pool shock or the capability to boil the water in order to kill the bugs.

    Collection of rain water from the gutters but still keep in mind that sterilizing the water is a must because of bird poop that may enter your water containers.

    We also have several 2 gallon plastic heavy duty bags that campers use to cleanse themselves using gravity to do the work of showering yourself.

    we also have several water bags with built in water filters. I guess they are OK but I opt on the side of safety and would still treat the water with pool shock or boiling after filling the containers.

    The biggest problem here in Northern Ohio is pesticides and herbacides the farmers use around here. We live in a fairly rural area surrounded by corn and soybean fields ( please don’t get me wrong, I love living here!) but I worry about good clean water that doesn’t carry any chemicals for drinking or cleansing your self.

    Water is life. But, water ( if not treated properly ) will provide the organisms to possibly kill you or your kids.

    This a very serious issue and needs some serious consideration.

    Peace out and Happy Holidays!!!!!

    Snake

  6. Congratulations on the running water to your kitchen. All that hard work and time you invested has really upped the appreciation I’m sure. What will you do with those extra minutes in your day?

  7. Wicked Jealous……..One of the nicest pictures i have ever seen

  8. I live in a float cabin on a lake so fresh water is available 24/7. My kitchen sink has a similar pump (except mine is blue) and I use it to draw water as needed for use throughout the house. Like you, we heat our water on the woodstove (in winter) or on the propane stove in summer. Our bathroom has a compost toilet as well and the water for the tub comes in from pots on the stove. We find the tub is easier than a shower and a good soak after a hard day outdoors is nice. Of course, in summer we use the lake itself. We are very careful with our gray water because we drink the lake water after boiling. We’ve done that for fourteen years without a problem. That’s good because we would have to haul water by boat from town otherwise. But this lifestyle is worth it. – Margy

  9. So very happy for you Jamie! How deep did you dig the water line from the tank (to keep from freezing in the winter)? Think of all the life lessons you are teaching your children by your ATTITUDE. If we haul water and hate it and grumble all the way, every day what are we teaching them? But to embrace the work with the lifestyle with a determined smile and an attitude of servanthood for the betterment of your family, that will be ingrained in their minds when they are faced with challenges (especially physical ones). Again I say, I am so happy for you!

  10. Hello,

    We have been enjoying your videos which we just discovered three days ago with Roku. It has been a blessing to us as we are preparing to live off grid also so that we can live a better lifestyle whereby we can keep the law, statutes and commandments of the Most High. We are currently looking for land to purchase and are preparing by watching videos like yours to give us wisdom on what to do on the journey. Everything you are doing is a great help to our family. Todah for all and congratulations on your water. Shalom

  11. So proud of you and total respect. Love the videos giving in site into the life of a homesteader. I have leaded a lot. God willing I will be able to go off grid one day. Please keep the videos coming..

  12. Zach, im proud of you sir. I was told something many years ago, and i have never forgotten. I call it “The Heart of a Champion”. EVERYONE falls down sometimes, but the difference of those that make it and those that do not make it is “The Heart of a Champion”; That heart NEVER quits, some times it questions, sometimes it falters, and falls, but the tenacity that wins the race is the “Heart of a Champion” Sir i perceive you have that heart. Jamie is blessed to have you and likewise you sir to have her.
    Remember to Be not weary in well doing Zach & Jamie for in due season you SHALL REAP “IF” you faint not..
    Your Brother Barry – Yah Bless

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